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UK Govt Loaning Troops to Oman to Prop up Dictatorship

The United Kingdom keeps dozens of army operatives — “respectable mercenaries” in its own words — to help prop up the Omani dictatorship, a new report from the investigative team at Declassified U.K. has found. Rooted in half a century of covert cooperation between the two countries that receives virtually no public attention, 91 British operatives, paid for by the Sultan of Oman, wearing Omani uniforms, but still remaining part of the British military, hold key positions, training and leading local forces to help the monarchy stay in power.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to inform parliament on what the rules of engagement are for these secret soldiers, leading to increased speculation, particularly over the roles of the air force pilots in the country flying the 12 extremely costly, British-made Typhoon fighter jets Oman purchased in 2012 for 3.75 billion U.S. Dollars. Neither Britain’s Royal Air Force nor arms manufacturer BAE Systems would tell investigative journalist Phil Miller, who broke the story, if the pilots were contracted to fly the planes at times of conflict.

In 2019 the United Kingdom overtook Russia to become the world’s second largest arms exporter, capturing around 19 percent of all international sales. After Johnson defeated Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in the December general election, shares of British weapons manufacturers rocketed on the expectation of increased sales. Corbyn, a lifelong anti-war activist, had promised to halt arms transfers to Middle Eastern dictatorships, the destination for nearly 80 percent of British arms sales. According to data from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Oman is the United Kingdom’s third largest customer, behind only Saudi Arabia and the United States, buying $1.5 billion worth of hardware since January 2017. Considering its tiny population of under 5 million people, however, the country is by far the most loyal customer London has. Aircraft, including drones, are the number one purchase, in terms of value, followed by small arms and ammunition.

Virtually the entire Omani military comes equipped with some form of British weaponry. Apart from the Typhoon, the Air Force also flies BAE Hawks. Oman also sails three Khareef class corvette warships, built in Portsmouth, England, and commissioned between 2013 and 2014. Meanwhile, the Army continues to field 38 BAE Challenger II battle tanks, vehicles that cost them almost $400 million.

Scottish journalist Adam Ramsay has described Oman as, “effectively, although not formally, part of the British Empire,” suggesting that in any future offensive against Iran, the country would play an “absolutely vital role” in it, (even though the two states have maintained cordial relations). Situated just across the Strait of Hormuz from Iran, Oman is home to both U.S. and U.K. military sites, including newly built army and navy bases.

The neocolonial relationship between the two nations stretches back at least 50 years. In 1970, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said came to the throne in a British-backed coup. Qaboos was very much Britain’s man, having grown up and been educated in England. Entering the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst at age 20, he even served in the British Army for a year. With the help of U.K. special forces, he managed to suppress a socialist uprising in the southern region of Dhofar. He would go on to rule with an iron fist for 50 years until his death in January this year when flags across Britain were lowered to half mast in mourning. In their obituary, The Guardian, the outlet marking the left-wing extreme of the U.K. corporate press, described him as a “relatively benevolent and popular absolute monarch,” who transformed his country for the better.

Qaboos also used his British weaponry to violently suppress the 2011 Arab Spring in his country, sending troops in to fire live ammunition at demonstrators. To this day, public gatherings of 10 or more people remain prohibited. The U.K. government immediately expressed its concern – not at the suppression of human rights, but that they might lose a valuable client ruler. Prime Minister David Cameron rushed to the Middle East, offering new shipments of weapons. Since then, the sultan’s newly bolstered police and military received anti-riot training in the U.K.

In discussions of problematic regimes that abuse human rights, Oman is almost never brought up, precisely because, in the eyes of the West, it is behaving itself, making the world safe for Western oil companies. To many in Washington, D.C. and London, they are the only ones whose rights matter.

Feature photo | In this photo made available by Oman News Agency, Oman’s new sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, right, receives Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson after his arrival to attend an official mourning ceremony for the late Sultan Qaboos, in Muscat, Oman, Jan. 12, 2020. Photo | Oman News Agency via 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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Partisan Media Coverage of Epstein Masks His Links to Both Sides of the Political Establishment

The Jeffrey Epstein saga continues to rumble on. Earlier this month, the deceased sexual predator’s longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested and charged with luring and grooming children into his sex ring. Epstein, who died in prison in suspicious circumstances last August, was connected to huge swaths of the global elite, counting billionaire business owners, hotshot lawyers and professors, members of the royal family, and foreign leaders among his closest acquaintances.

Perhaps the two most important and notable, however, given their enormous influence, are former President Bill Clinton and current President, Donald Trump. Clinton, already infamous for the numerous women accusing him of sexual misconduct (including rape), is known to have flown all around the world with Epstein on his private jet, the Lolita Express, which he used to ferry girls to his private Caribbean island where he allegedly imprisoned and raped them. Locals report seeing the former president there.

President Trump also has deep ties to the disgraced New York fraudster. “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy,” he said in 2002, “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it.” Like Clinton, Trump was also a flyer on the Lolita Express, Epstein claiming both that it was he who introduced him to his wife Melania and that Clinton “owed him some favors.”

The office of the president of the United States is the most powerful in the world. Epstein is known to have cajoled and blackmailed his powerful associates. Did the two presidents’ connections to him influence U.S. public policy? If we do not investigate, we cannot know.

We rely largely on the corporate press to carry out such investigations, shaping our understanding of the world in the process. However, the great majority of what we consume comes mediated through ultra-partisan outlets pushing a clear agenda. The two most widely viewed networks in the U.S. are Fox News and MSNBC, both of which have clear party loyalties, Fox to the Republicans, and MSNBC to the Democrats. Unfortunately, as well shall see, they are both spinning the Epstein story hard to shield their champion from blame while simultaneously demonizing the opposing president. As Liz Franczak from the Epstein-focused TrueAnon podcast said, the story, “so perfectly encapsulates and implicates both sides of the ruling class and yet you have these polarized sides, team red, team blue, pulling out what they want for their own purposes and refusing to understand, see or even admit that this crosses both. This encapsulates everyone.”

Media have already been under the spotlight for their poor coverage of the affair. Epstein is known to have had connections to influential media figures like George Stephanopoulos, Katie Couric, Charlie Rose in addition to some of the media’s biggest sponsors, such as Bill Gates. Last year, ABC News anchor Amy Robach was caught on a hot mic lambasting network executives for killing her investigations into his network — precisely because of his connections — allowing him to remain at large for three more years. Yet the only one facing consequences was the producer accused of leaking the clip in the first place, not those who protected, “ the most prolific pedophile this country has ever known,” as Robach described him.

In order to gauge the level of partisan coverage, this study analyzed all articles or show transcripts from MSNBC.com featuring the words “Jeffrey Epstein Donald Trump” or “Jeffrey Epstein Bill Clinton” and all results appearing under the “Jeffrey Epstein” topic on FoxNews.com, counting the number of articles mentioning each president’s links to the deceased sex offender. The date range was July 6, 2019 (Epstein’s arrest) to July 13, 2020 (the first day of data collection). Full documentation can be found here.

The results were exactly as Franczak suspected, with both networks showing a strong bias (an over 2:1 ratio) towards associating the opposing party to the pedophile, while downplaying their own candidate’s incriminating ties to him. 19 MSNBC articles or segments mentioned Clinton’s links to Epstein, as opposed to 45 for Trump. But Fox News flipped that on its head, associating Epstein far more with Clinton (78 times) than with Trump (37 times).

While these findings already reveal a great disparity in the coverage, they actually undersell the level of bias in reporting because they do not take into account the quality and context of the references. On the MSNBC show, “The 11th Hour,” a former federal prosecutor reacted to the news of Epstein’s arrest by saying “I’m a lifelong Democrat. If there are Democrats in there, let it come out. If there are Republicans in there, let it come out. This should not be about politics. This is – if anybody abused those girls, it ought to come out and they ought to be prosecuted and I’m for it.” Host Brian Williams responded: “Yes, hear hear, I think most thinking individuals would agree with that.”

But the media didn’t do that. MSNBC constantly stressed Trump’s connections to Epstein, downplaying Bill Clinton’s own links. Indeed, on July 17, 2019, five separate MSNBC shows centered around the Trump-Epstein connection, but only one noted any link to Clinton, and even that was merely when a guest began listing a number of powerful people he had ties to, and was not brought up again, the show going back to discussing at length Trump’s complicity. Nevertheless, this counted as one hit for Trump, and one for Clinton.

A painting of Clinton that allegedly hung in Epstein’s New York mansion. Photo | New York Academy of Art

Meanwhile, Fox News did the same but in the opposite direction, putting great emphasis on the former president’s ties to the notorious sexual predator, and rarely discussing the current president in relation to him. Many of Fox’s mentions of Trump were included merely as a sentence of background information, for example, a July 8, 2019 article noting, “Epstein, who once counted as friends former President Bill Clinton, Britain’s Prince Andrew and President Trump, was arrested Saturday after his private jet touched down from France.”

In its “Five Details to Know” article on Epstein, Fox included a section called the “Bill Clinton Connection” where it (accurately) described their long history, his multiple trips on the Lolita Express, and meetings they had in New York. But it did not mention any connection to Trump whatsoever. Indeed, the network appears to have gone to some lengths not to implicate the president, earlier this month cropping Trump out of a photo of Epstein and Maxwell it used to illustrate a segment.

Fox constantly detailed and centered the Clinton-Epstein relationship, one article beginning with the sentence, “Former President Bill Clinton insists he never visited the notorious “orgy island” of his late ex-pal Jeffrey Epstein – but now a second person begs to differ.”

Host Jesse Watters began a TV segment in January by stating:

Bill Clinton flew many times on Jeffrey Epstein’s private jet. A private investigator told us that one of the co-pilots said Bill Clinton flew on the plane without secret service a few times and while young girls were dressed up as candy stripers. Now, new photos have emerged showing the former President on Epstein’s plane and with Epstein’s alleged madam. Here he is with Ghislaine Maxwell, who is under FBI investigation for engaging in alleged underaged sex trafficking. Ghislaine Maxwell also attended Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.”

Watters went on to show viewers a number of incriminating pictures of the ex-president. On Epstein, Tucker Carlson stated that, “He got away with it because he was affluent and he had many powerful friends like Bill Clinton.” Yet Fox was far more likely to miss an opportunity to impugn Trump. In dozens of articles detailing Virginia Roberts’ allegations against Prince Andrew, Fox often highlighted how Roberts accused Clinton of staying on Epstein’s private island, but only two mentioned that the 16-year-old Roberts was working for Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort when she was trafficked by Maxwell.

MSNBC was just as likely to play down unhelpful Epstein connections. Only ten minutes into a segment called “Why Trump’s White House is linked to Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case” did host Brian Williams mention Clinton’s connections to Epstein, before quickly returning to Trump. Likewise Chris Hayes began a report on Epstein’s arrest with the words, “A notorious convicted sex offender and friend of Donald Trump, a man whose escaped serious accountability for years seemingly thanks to it as enormous wealth and social connections is now behind bars.” He later went on to say that “Epstein is connected to some of the most powerful people in America in the world including Bill Clinton, Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew, and yes President Donald Trump – about which more in a bit,” before launching into a long discussion of the Trump-Epstein connection. Both these examples were coded as one article mentioning Trump and one for Clinton, despite the obvious disparity in emphasis. For this reason, the study also counted the number of articles and segments specifically centering on each president’s relationship to the billionaire criminal.

These findings give a more accurate assessment of the level of partisan coverage, with 15 MSNBC pieces targeting Trump, but only 2 for Clinton, whereas Fox News was its opposite, with 13 on Clinton but only one for Trump.

Much of the time Clinton was brought up on MSNBC it was as an accusation made by Trump, which hosts and guests quickly challenged. On the August 13 edition of Hardball, for instance, Clinton was only mentioned in connection to Epstein because Trump had the “chutzpah” to “trash his name,” according to host Chris Matthews, his guest Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor, immediately turning the attack back on him, stating:

I think Donald Trump is trying to deflect. If Bill Clinton has exposure then so does Donald Trump. Bill Clinton’s social lies with Epstein. So did Donald Trump. Bill Clinton was on the private plane. so was Donald Trump. The fact is that Mr. Epstein took his own life. He died while he was in the custody of the Trump administration. Bill Barr directs the Bureau of Prisons, and they allowed, in so ways that facilitated Mr. Epstein`s suicide.

Thus, both networks did their level best to maintain the illusion that their champion remained relatively taint-free, while the other president was deeply implicated in the scandal, feeding into a climate of extreme polarization, where each side believes that the other is hopelessly implicated, while theirs remain relatively blameless. Regular viewers of each network would routinely be presented with great details about the enemy president’s crimes, but, if relying solely on that network for information, would be largely clueless about their own president’s profoundly suspicious links. Indeed, MSNBC has not mentioned Clinton with regards to Epstein since last September.

The Epstein story should not be a left-right issue. Instead, it exposes how so many of those at the top of society belong to a sordid network of extremely wealthy and powerful people, sharing far more in common with each other than they do with the rest of us. His connections to all manner of business tycoons, royals, celebrities and politicians from both sides of the political spectrum expose the system as rigged and fundamentally corrupt. Yet corporate media, who we rely upon to inform us and curate our reality, have managed to make even Epstein a partisan affair by constantly emphasizing only one party’s connections to the pedophile. Hats off to them: it was not an easy achievement.

Feature photo | From left, Donald Trump, then-girlfriend Melania Knauss, Jeffrey Epstein, and Ghislaine Maxwell pose at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, February 12, 2000. Photo | Davidoff Studios

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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Portland: “Wall of Moms” Mobilizes to Protect Protests From Police Violence

Despite a widely-condemned federal crackdown, Portland’s anti-racist police brutality protests show no signs of abating. Last night a group of local moms dressed in white and yellow tried a new tactic; placing themselves between law enforcement and protesters in order to prevent more violence. Chanting, “Feds stay clear! Moms are here!,” groups of women congregated at the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other locations in Central Portland. They were met with tear gas, flashbangs, and pepper round bullets, injuring many.

Jesus Christ feds came out of the courthouse in Portland and fired a flash bang at the moms against police brutality. At least one of these mothers is pregnant.

pic.twitter.com/4qajHKtvaq

— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) July 19, 2020

I am a 49 year old mother with a Masters in Education and I just got gassed by my own government. We were peaceful. I think I stood in the middle of the gas for longer than i should have… #wallofmoms #PortlandMoms #PortlandProtest #Teargas #BLM

— Jen (@UnderAGraySky) July 20, 2020

Oregon’s largest city has been the site of particularly intense struggle over the past week, as the Trump administration has tried to neutralize ongoing demonstrations that began in late May. Last week, federal agents were deployed to that end. Viral video shows masked, anonymous units emerging from an unmarked minivan and seemingly abducting people off the street randomly. A disabled veteran, Christopher David, was also attacked, federal officers beating him with clubs and macing him at point-blank range. “They just started wailing on me,” David told The Independent, after images of the attack hit social media, turning him into an overnight local celebrity.

Washington’s move to bring in federal agents to Portland was roundly condemned, especially by local politicians, including the mayor, who deemed it irresponsible and escalatory, demanding that they be withdrawn. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has justified its actions, claiming that “violent anarchists” have taken over and destroyed the city, although the only examples of destruction it provided were stone throwing, graffiti, and a broken fence, leading to questions of whether a federal intervention was truly necessary.

Nevertheless, the DHS has declared the move a successful one, its acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli telling NPR that he intends to take the tactic nationwide:

With as much lawbreaking [that] is going on, we’re seeking to prosecute as many people as are breaking the law as it relates to federal jurisdiction. That’s not always happening with respect to local jurisdiction and local offenses. But, you know, this is a posture we intend to continue not just in Portland but in any of the facilities that we’re responsible for around the country.”

Portland, USA:

Police bull rush, tear gas and fire projectiles on #BlackLivesMatter protesters.

The state of Oregon has sued the federal government for using federal agents to detain protesters

Had this happened in China, Congress would have already passed sanctions. pic.twitter.com/ZJ1V2SzhiM

— Going Underground on RT (@Underground_RT) July 20, 2020

In June, Portland temporarily suspended the use of tear gas by police and blocked police from using physical force on journalists. However, federal agents are not subject to the same laws. On Saturday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced it was taking the Trump administration to court over its actions. “Federal agents are terrorizing the community, threatening lives, and relentlessly attacking protesters demonstrating against police brutality. This is not law and order. This is lawlessness — and it must be stopped,” they announced, adding that they should be removed from the city. The lawsuit is aimed at stopping the feds from wantonly attacking journalists and observers.

“I’ve been documenting violent and militarized police responses to protests in Portland for more than four years, but nothing prepared me for the unrestrained brutality I’ve witnessed and experienced in recent days,” said the ACLU’s Doug Brown. “While some federal officers had already been in the streets, we now have additional militarized special ops officers occupying the streets of downtown Portland, bent on inflicting pain and terror on people who believe Black Lives Matter.”

In June, the Scottish parliament voted 52-0 to ban the sale of tear gas, rubber bullets and other weapons of oppression to the United States. Nevertheless, police in Portland continued to use near-lethal force. Last Saturday, police officers shot 26-year-old protester Donovan LaBella in the face from close range. Labella survived but needed facial reconstruction surgery, including the insertion of a titanium plate into his face.

The immediate spark for the protests was the police killing of unarmed black man George Floyd on May 25. Footage of a Minneapolis police officer choking Floyd to death for over 8 minutes went viral, causing a worldwide protest movement. Hundreds of cities in all 50 states launched their own demonstrations. Polls show that the majority of Americans disapprove of Trump’s decision to confront rather than co-opt the protests. Despite this, the order to move federal agents into Portland appears to be an intensification of the conflict rather than an attempt at de-escalation.

Feature photo | Black Lives Matter protesters gather outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, July 19, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Noah Berger | 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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The Hopelessness Discourse: How Palestinian Pessimism Could Spark a Much-Needed Rebellion

In a recent TV discussion, a respected pro-Palestine journalist declared that if any positive change or transformation ever occurs in the tragic Palestinian saga, it would not happen now, but that it would take a whole new generation to bring about such a paradigm shift.

As innocuous as the declaration may have seemed, it troubled me greatly.

I have heard this line over and over again, often reiterated by well-intentioned intellectuals, whose experiences in researching and writing on the so-called ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’ may have driven some of them to pessimism, if not despair.

The ‘hopelessness discourse’ is, perhaps, understandable if one is to examine the off-putting, tangible reality on the ground: the ever-entrenched Israeli occupation, the planned annexation of occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, the shameful Arab normalization with Israel, the deafening silence of the international community and the futility of the quisling Palestinian leadership.

Subscribing to this logic is not only self-defeating but ahistorical as well. Throughout history, every great achievement that brought about freedom and a measure of justice to any nation was realized despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Indeed, who would have thought that the Algerian people were capable of defeating French colonialism when their tools of liberation were so rudimentary as compared with the awesome powers of the French military and its allies?

The same notion applies to many other modern historic experiences, from Vietnam to South Africa and from India to Cuba.

Palestine is not the exception.

However, the ‘hopelessness discourse’ is not as innocent as it may seem. It is propelled by the persisting failure to appreciate the centrality of the Palestinian people – or any other people, for that matter – in their own history. Additionally, it assumes that the Palestinian people are, frankly, ineffectual.

Interestingly, when many nations were still grappling with the concept of national identity, the Palestinian people had already developed a refined sense of modern collective identity and national consciousness. General mass strikes and civil disobedience challenging British imperialism and Zionist settlements in Palestine began nearly a century ago, culminating in the six-month-long general strike of 1936.

Since then, popular resistance, which is linked to a defined sense of national identity, has been a staple in Palestinian history. It was a prominent feature of the First Intifada, the popular uprising of 1987.

The fact that the Palestinian homeland was lost, despite the heightened consciousness of the Palestinian masses at the time, is hardly indicative of the Palestinian people’s ability to affect political outcomes.

Time and again, Palestinians have rebelled and, with each rebellion, they forced all parties, including Israel and the United States, to reconsider and overhaul their strategies altogether.

A case in point was the First Intifada.

When, on December 8, 1987, thousands took to the streets of the Jabaliya Refugee Camp, the Gaza Strip’s most crowded and poorest camp, the timing and the location of their uprising was most fitting, rational and necessary. Earlier that day, an Israeli truck had run over a convoy of cars carrying Palestinian laborers, killing four young men. For Jabaliya, as with the rest of Palestine, it was the last straw.

Responding to the chants and pleas of the Jabaliya mourners, Gaza was, within days, the breeding ground for a real revolution that was self-propelled and unwavering. The chants of Palestinians in the Strip were answered in the West Bank, and echoed just as loudly in Palestinian towns, including those located in Israel.

Palestinian protesters hurl rocks and bottles at armed Israeli troops in Nablus, Occupied West Bank, on Dec. 13, 1987. Max Nash | AP

The contagious energy was emblematic of children and young adults wanting to reclaim the identities of their ancestors, which had been horribly disfigured and divided among regions, countries and refugee camps.

The Intifada – literally meaning the “shake off” – sent a powerful message to Israel that the Palestinian people are alive, and are still capable of upsetting all of Israel’s colonial endeavors. The Intifada also confronted the failure of the Palestinian and Arab leaderships, as they persisted in their factional and self-seeking politics.

In fact, the Madrid Talks in 1991 between Palestinians and Israelis were meant as an Israeli- American political compromise, aimed at ending the Intifada in exchange for acknowledging the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a representative of the Palestinian people.

The Oslo Accords, signed by Yasser Arafat and Israel in 1993, squandered the gains of the Intifada and, ultimately, replaced the more democratically representative PLO with the corrupt Palestinian Authority.

But even then, the Palestinian people kept coming back, reclaiming, in their own way, their importance and centrality in the struggle. Gaza’s Great March of Return is but one of many such people-driven initiatives.

Palestine’s biggest challenge in the movement is not the failure of the people to register as a factor in the liberation of their own land, but their quisling leadership’s inability to appreciate the immense potential of harnessing the energies of Palestinians everywhere to stage a focused and strategic, anti-colonial, liberation campaign.

This lack of vision dates back to the late 1970s, when the Palestinian leadership labored to engage politically with Washington and other Western capitals, culminating in the pervading sense that, without US political validation, Palestinians would always remain marginal and irrelevant.

The Palestinian leadership’s calculations at the time proved disastrous. After decades of catering to Washington’s expectations and diktats, the Palestinian leadership, ultimately, returned empty-handed, as the current Donald Trump administration’s ‘Deal of the Century’ has finally proven.

I have recently spoken with two young Palestinian female activists: one is based in besieged Gaza and the other in the city of Seattle. Their forward-thinking discourse is, itself, a testament that the pessimism of some intellectuals does not define the thinking of this young Palestinian generation, and there would be no need to dismiss the collective efforts of this budding generation in anticipation of the rise of a ‘better’ one.

Malak Shalabi, a Seattle-based law student, does not convey a message of despair, but that of action. “It’s really important for every Palestinian and every human rights activist to champion the Palestinian cause regardless of where they are, and it is important especially now, ” she told me.

“There are currently waves of social movements here in the United States, around civil rights for Black people and other issues that are (becoming) pressing topics – equality and justice – in the mainstream. As Palestinians, it’s important that we (take the Palestinian cause) to the mainstream as well,” she added.

“There is a lot of work happening among Palestinian activists here in the United States, on the ground, at a social, economic, and political level, to make sure that the link between Black Lives Matter and Palestine happens,” she added.

On her part, Wafaa Aludaini in Gaza spoke about her organization’s – 16th October Group – relentless efforts to engage communities all over the world, to play their part in exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza and ending the protracted siege on the impoverished Strip.

“Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists outside are important because they make our voices heard outside Palestine, as mainstream media does not report (the truth of) what is taking place here,” she told me.

For these efforts to succeed, “we all need to be united,” she asserted, referring to the Palestinian people at home and in the diaspora, and the entire pro-Palestinian solidarity movement everywhere, as well.

The words of Malak and Wafaa are validated by the growing solidarity with Palestine in the BLM movement, as well as with numerous other justice movements the world over.

On June 28, the UK chapter of the BLM tweeted that it “proudly” stands in solidarity with Palestinians and rejects Israel’s plans to annex large areas of the West Bank.

BLM went further, criticizing British politics for being “gagged of the right to critique Zionism and Israel’s settler-colonial pursuits”.

Repeating the claim that a whole new generation needs to replace the current one for any change to occur in Palestine is an insult – although, at times, unintended – to generations of Palestinians, whose struggle and sacrifices are present in every aspect of Palestinian lives.

Simply because the odds stacked against Palestinian freedom seem too great at the moment, does not justify the discounting of an entire nation, which has lived through many wars, protracted sieges and untold hardship. Moreover, the next generation is but a mere evolution of the consciousness of the current one. They cannot be delinked or analyzed separately.

In his “Prison Notebooks”, anti-fascist intellectual, Antonio Gramsci, coined the term “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

While logical analysis of a situation may lead the intellect to despair, the potential for social and political revolutions and transformations must keep us all motivated to keep the struggle going, no matter the odds.

Feature photo | An old man tries to clear his eyes and catch his breath after he was hit by a cloud of tear gas in Khan Yunis, in the occupied Gaza Strip, during a the first Palestinian Intifada, Jan. 10, 1987. Dieter Endlicher | 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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Mike Pompeo Delineates Atlanticist Playbook To Target China, Russia and Iran  

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down for a teleconference Q&A with Hudson Institute senior fellow, Marie-Josee Kravis at the Economic Club of New York; a think tank founded at the start of the 20th century, which broaches issues surrounding “social, economic and political questions.” The organization is currently chaired by the President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and counts several corporate leaders from some of the country’s most important institutions on its board of trustees, such as Mastercard, Goldman Sachs, PayPal, and many others.

On the occasion of the 548th meeting, the top American diplomat was lobbed a number of canned questions regarding the “state of U.S.-China relations” by Kravis. He immediately brought up Henry Kissinger’s secret trip to Beijing in the 1970s when Nixon’s secretary of state set up the eventual ‘opening’ of China, asserting that the last four decades of “dialogue-at-all-costs diplomacy” has failed to achieve “the outcome that I think Dr. Kissinger hoped [for].”

Pompeo, the “official face of Trump administration thuggery” claimed that China has shown a pattern of persistent “unilateral aggression” over the years and “thievery” of intellectual property that has subverted the “good work done by American businesses” and directly blamed the Chinese for the evisceration of the American middle class; an accusation that rings especially hollow coming from a Koch-sponsored politician, but is nothing more than the State Department’s chief mouthpiece executing the narrative dictates of the U.S. National Security Council, which long-ago established a strategic policy to thwart the PRC’s drive to become a self-reliant economic powerhouse and its inexorable encroachment on the West’s designs over Eurasia.

After a few remarks about the recent policy change regarding the South China Sea, Pompeo went on talk about the “fairness and reciprocity and security” that president Trump is ostensibly trying to obtain for “the American people” via the ongoing trade war with China, but instead of tackling the issue directly, framed it as a matter of China’s disrespect for the “rule of law” and international institutions in regards to the “virus [that] broke out in Wuhan” and “what they did with respect to the World Health Organization”, regurgitating long-held narratives of China’s supposed interference in the WHO’s response.

 

NATO’s shifting role

Once the anti-Xi Jinping stage was set, Kravis turned the conversation to broader Atlanticist perspectives from the point of view of the U.S. State Department’s attempts to bring the EU into stricter alignment with U.S. goals in the region. She asked about the call Pompeo held with recently-installed EU chief diplomat, Borrell, and 27 EU foreign ministers two weeks ago, in which a “distinct bilateral dialogue focused on China” was suggested.

Pompeo argued that the “tide has turned” on the EU’s resistance to take a hardline approach to China, claiming that Europe was now open to it as a result of the “work that we have done to demonstrate to the world the threat that the Chinese Communist Party poses to them.” He provided two examples that were meant to buttress his point, but neither were from the EU itself. One centered around the UK’s decision to exclude China from its implementation of 5G technology, and the other was India’s move to excise 50 Chinese information applications that were operating in that country.

The call with the EU ministers also comes on the heels of big changes at NATO, as Germany assumes the presidency of the EU and the Chairmanship of NATO’s National Reserve Forces Committee, even as Trump plans to slash its troop numbers in the pivotal nation – a plan that has garnered some resistance from both the Pentagon and Congress.

 

Bipartisan sanctions, unilateral edicts, and COVID

The subject of China’s relationship with Iran and Venezuela was touched on towards the latter part of the interview, in which Pompeo warned about the end of the JCPOA, known colloquially as the Iran Nuclear deal; stating that it “would be tragic” and represent the imminent transformation of Iran into “the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.” He said that he hoped the arms embargo could be extended diplomatically and that the UN Security Council – presently headed by China – could be persuaded to go along with it, but cited Democrats Kerry, Sherman and former president Obama to express the bipartisan will to “unilaterally reimpose (sic) all of those sanctions” in case they didn’t.

The topic of Venezuela’s gasoline sales to Iran was touched on briefly, as was the static situation with North Korea before returning to China and WHO, specifically. Kravis posed the question of which “institution or organization or format, process” would be best to “replace the WHO in terms of sharing of information, sharing of data, sharing of research.” Pompeo touted PEPFAR, President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, as precedent for a U.S. action in response to the “last time the WHO failed with respect to a pandemic,” and praised Deborah Birx – head of Trump’s COVID-19 task force – whose medical license has been expired for a decade.

The top American diplomat expressed hope that the U.S. would be able to “build a coalition” around this issue, as they had done when a “Chinese candidate” was about to lead the “World Intellectual Property Organization” and had successfully built a “coalition” to insert the State Department’s preferred candidate in the position. The softball Q&A ended on an ironic note when Kravis asked Pompeo about diversity in the State Department. “We don’t have enough Mandarin speakers here.” he conceded.

Feature photo | Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the National Constitution Center about the Commission on Unalienable Rights, July 16, 2020, in Philadelphia. Brendan Smialowski | AP

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

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State Department Credits Pandemic with IT Privatization

In a text-book application of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s infamous quote of never letting “a serious crisis go to waste,” the State Department’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), Stuart McGuigan, credits the COVID-19 pandemic with spurring the “modernizations” that are currently taking place in the IT infrastructure at the U.S. Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM).

The IRM is responsible for maintaining a global, information exchange network comprising more than 275 diplomatic missions around the world. “In the span of three months, we probably advanced the state of IT modernization to a degree that normally would have taken up to four or five years,” said Principal Deputy CIO Michael Mestrovich.

The changes had already started taking place a year ago when the department began moving to cloud services following the creation of the Cyber and Technology Security (CTS) Directorate in 2017 and prior discussions over how to best deliver “a secure infrastructure and platform to the department,” which ultimately resulted in the implementation of Microsoft’s 365 platform and CISCO Webex.

The oldest branch of the U.S. Executive today has “107,000 technology users, including foreign service, civil service, contractors, and local staff – both domestic and overseas.” The scale of the change is easily grasped by the fact that in February when the Department of State initiated its “pandemic footing,” the number of teleworking employees barely numbered in the hundreds. Up to that point, remote work was considered an “accommodation” rather than the norm.

 

It’s going to cost you

Stuart McGuigan was appointed as the Department of State’s first permanent CIO in March of 2019 after fifteen months of that position sitting vacant. McGuigan comes off a seven-year stint as CIO for Johnson & Johnson and former CIO of CVS Caremark prior to that. His ties to big pharma run deep with a previous role as Director of Information Planning at Merck.

McGuigan was installed at the State Department after an executive order by Trump gave government CIOs authority over hiring and budget. Among the first things McGuigan did was establish an IT Executive Council (ITEC) to oversee the effort to “evaluate the needs of each bureau and office” in regards to IT.

The pandemic will see State emerge “from this a really technically enabled, fully collaborative department,” according to McGuigan. State Department employees who will now mostly log onto a browser to log into Microsoft’s Office 365. The costs associated with putting identity management and collaboration systems on private cloud services are high. “Now, you pay for that,” says former DIA official Mestrovich. “You’re paying for consumption costs and paying extra licensing costs. But, if you want to talk about flexibility and ease of expansion, we let the cloud platforms do exactly what they did best.”

 

A captive, insecure market

Most of the State Department’s $2.2 Trillion-dollar IT budget was put in the hands of McGuigan after Trump’s executive order and the breach of its unclassified email system a few months earlier conveniently exposed a ‘problem’ that had to be solved. McGuigan stepped into his first government role from the private sector and has proceeded to deliver fat contracts to Microsoft and Cisco, among others.

The pitch we’re given is about scalability and adaptability. Jared Kushner, head of the White House Office of American Innovation asserted that the “true answer to modernizing government technology is to build the capacity to conduct change on an ongoing basis.” Empowering CIOs through Trump’s EO, he continued, “is a critical step forward in building that change management capacity.”

McGuigan summed up his goal at State as that of creating a “living, breathing prioritization and planning mechanism” to unleash the ‘untethered diplomat’ who could perform their work anywhere, “whether it’s a coffee shop in Maine, an embassy in Sudan or a field outside Kabul.”

But, how secure can such private enterprise networks really be? Especially considering the slew of backdoors that are known to exist in such software and the ties to Israeli intelligence agencies, that have been exposed by MintPress News, such as the Leidos-Lockheed Martin IT hybrid, which provides “a litany of services to the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence.”

Microsoft, which also has deep ties to Israeli intelligence and is now handling most State Department communications, has “partnerships with election technology suppliers responsible for more than half of the voting machines sold in the U.S.” and is selling its “ElectionGuard” system developed with a $10 million-dollar investment from DARPA to various states around the country.

It is increasingly becoming apparent that the “market-driven” initiatives like the IT restructuring being conducted at the State Department and other agencies of the U.S. government are simply cover for a wholesale transfer of the government, itself, directly into the hands of the very corporations that will soon enough drop the pretense of democracy altogether.

Feature photo | Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) poses with the head of the Bureau of Information Resource Management, Stuart McGuigan. Michael Gross | State Department photo

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

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Aid Groups Call for Worldwide COVID-19 Bailout Amid Fears of Mass Hunger

The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have already devastated the world. Over 14 million people have tested positive for the virus, and nearly 600,000 have died since it was first identified in December. And cases continue to rise: yesterday saw 248,998 people test positive – an all-time high. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the crisis is “not even close” to being resolved.

But the human cost from the economic fallout could be worse than the virus itself, as the world plunges into a deep and possibly prolonged recession which will lead to disease and starvation across the global south.

That is why international charity Oxfam is calling on the international community to agree to its proposal of an “Economic Rescue Package for All.” The package entails six key features that it hopes to lay out across the world, including:

  1. Mass cash grants to all that need them – The plan does not call for a universal basic income, but does stipulate that mass subsidies may be needed to keep the poor from hunger, keep the self-employed afloat, and more.
  2. A responsible business bailout package – In contrast to the 2008 bailout that saw large corporations rewarded for their recklessness, the plan states that small businesses should be given priority, that the funds must be used to primarily meet payroll, and that companies involved in fossil fuel extraction should not be bailed out at all.
  3. The suspension and cancellation of debt – After 2008, poor nations were forced into implementing harsh austerity measures to meet their payments. This cannot be allowed to happen again.
  4. Issue Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) – The International Monetary Fund created SDRs as a means to give countries more leeway to spend money on vital public services. They should be used here too.
  5. A new international aid package – Many of the poorest countries desperately need international aid to help them overcome the current medical and economic crisis.
  6. Emergency wealth taxes – To pay for this, new levies on financial transactions, luxury goods, excess corporate profits and private wealth should be implemented.

The consequences of inaction will be extremely serious; “As many as 12,000 people could die every day from COVID-linked hunger, which is more than those dying daily from the virus itself,” warned Abby Maxman, President of Oxfam America. On Monday, the United Nations released its 2020 edition of its State of Food Security and Nutrition report, estimating that a minimum of 83 million extra people, and possibly as many as 132 million worldwide will go hungry as a consequence of the coronavirus-related economic collapse that will disrupt commerce, supply lines and economic activity. The number of hungry people in the world has increased by around 60 million in the last five years, and the United Nations’ goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger by 2030 appears increasingly impossible.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF also expressed deep concern over the “alarming decline” of children’s immunization programs over the past four months, with three-quarters of all countries surveyed reporting disruptions in their immunization drives. “COVID-19 has made previously routine vaccination a daunting challenge,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, warning of potential epidemics of preventable diseases due to the disruption, “we cannot trade one health crisis for another.”

Many see the disruption caused by the pandemic as an opportunity to redesign society for the better, implementing more sustainable forms of food production and mass transit. Oxfam describes the moment as a “once in a generation chance to build a fairer world.” However, it appears that currently, the pandemic is being used by those in power to further their own agendas. 82 percent of the benefits of Trump’s CARES Act, for example, went to those already earning at least $1 million per year, with less than three percent going to the great majority earning under $100,000 annually. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, total billionaire wealth has increased by $584 billion since the lockdown in mid-March. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is also taking the opportunity to force through “revolutionary” change in the state’s public schools, his plan sounding very much like a privatization drive. Which direction the world will ultimately take remains to be seen.

Feature photo | A homeless man in India eats discarded eggs from a garbage bin during lockdown on the outskirts of Jammu, India, May 10, 2020. Channi Anand | 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 Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Saudi Coalition Attack on Yemen Wedding Party Leaves Over 30 Civilians Dead

AL-JAWF, YEMEN — A wedding anywhere in the world is a happy occasion for couples and their families celebrating a new shared life, Yemen is no exception. Weddings traditionally include thousands of guests gathered in large halls or houses, but not since 2015, when the war began and the Saudi-led coalition began turning Yemen’s weddings into veritable slaughterhouses.

On Wednesday, a wedding party that was supposed to bring happiness to Mabakhuwt Marzuq Marei, his bride, and his guests, instead became the scene of a deadly attack. Gathered at his home to celebrate, dozens of women and children were packed under one roof when Saudi warplanes turned the celebration into a scene of carnage.

At least 31 women and children were killed and dozens were injured when at least one Saudi warplane dropped a bomb on the Marei family home in the Almasaeifeh District, situated in the Al-Hazm Directorate of the rich-oil province of Al-Jawf. Marzuq Marei told reporters that the wedding was publicly announced and they specifically informed the Saudi Coalition of the time and place of the ceremony in order to avoid an attack.

The scene of the attack described to MintPress by witnesses was tragic; violent explosions were heard in the village, red fires mixed with dust and smoke illuminated flying rubble. The bodies of wedding-goers fueled fires and ornamental furniture was strewn about as screaming and crying could be heard from those who survived the initial onslaught. In one of the homes near the wedding ceremony, a woman watched and provided a morbid chorus to nearby rescue workers with her shouted curses at the Saudi regime.

 
Despite the fear of additional strikes, rescuers pulled the bodies of dozens of women and children from the rubble, most still wrapped in their traditional wedding clothes. They were transferred to the Al-Thawra Hospital in Sana’a, the Ma’rib Hospital and the Al- Hazm hospital. The death toll is expected to rise, as many of the wedding attendees who were rescued from the rubble are still in critical condition.

“We are celebrating, not fighting, and the Saudis know that,” Marzuq Marei told reporters gathered at the scene. “I lost my loved-ones in a Saudi airstrike, not from COVID-19,” he said, calling the attack an “American gift in the time of Corona,” referring to the weapons allegedly used in the attack.

 

Shocking, even by Yemeni standards

United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths called for a transparent investigation into the attack and wrote in a post on his official Twitter page, “We deplore yesterday’s airstrikes in al-Jawf… A thorough & transparent investigation is required.” The attack came just weeks after the UN, in a highly contentious move, took the Saudi regime off its list of child killers.

According to counts from Yemen’s Ministry of Health based in Sana’a as well as from local hospitals, some 21,000 civilians, including 4,270 children and 2,370 women, have been killed and around 26,100 injured since the beginning of the Saudi-led war in 2015.

Yemen’s governmental and non-governmental bodies and institutions condemned the attack and called for an end to U.S. arms sales to Riyadh. For their part, Yemen’s tribal leaders called a consultative meeting in Sanaa on Thursday and Ansar Allah promised to intensify strikes on Saudi-led coalition countries in response to the airstrike.

The attack on the wedding ceremony came just three days after another attack that killed at least ten civilians and injured others when a Saudi warplane dropped a U.S.-made bomb on the home of Naif Mejeli in the Woshahah District, located in the country’s northwestern Hajjah Province. The bomb used in that attack, which completely destroyed the home, was a Raytheon Mark-82 jointly manufactured by U.S. weapons companies Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.

As with other weapons provided to Saudi-led coalition, the MK-82 has been dropped on a funeral hall, schools and hospitals, factories, heritage buildings, and other facilities, and has a gained a reputation among Yemenis who know it as the “stupid bomb” due to its ability to cause collateral damage. The MK-82 was used in the school bus attack in Dahyan on August 9, 2019, that left 40 schoolchildren dead and was also used on a funeral in 2016 which left over 140 dead and 525 wounded.

Even by Yemeni standards, where dozens are killed every day by Saudi Airstrikes, this week’s attacks came as a shock. And not only because of the killing of women and children but because of the timing of attacks, when people are struggling against COVID-19, hunger, and a spat of diseases that are spreading throughout the country.

Like Marzuq Marei, Al-Jawf’s residents have long known that the natural resources and strategic location of their province were more of a curse than a blessing, today the sincerity of their predictions is manifesting as they watch plumes of smoke flow not from gas flares emanating from the stacks of lucrative oil wells and refineries, but from burning farms, cars, and family homes set ablaeze by near-constant Saudi airstrikes.

For three months, the Saudi-led coalition, local mercenaries, and allied Salafi extremist groups, and have been fighting a fierce campaign to reoccupy the Al-Jawf, which holds most of the country’s reserves and enjoys a unique status as a neighbor to two oil-rich regions of Marib and Saudi Arabia. However, the Saudi-led coalition, equipped with the latest U.S.-supplied weapons, has been unable to advance as local residents fight to free their homeland, whatever the sacrifice.

Feature photo | A screenshot from video obtained by MintPress from the Ansarallah Media Center shows drone footage of the site of a Saudi airstrike on a wedding party in Al-Jawf, Yemen.

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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 Portland  Mayor Condemns Masked Federal Agents Abducting Protesters

Anonymous masked federal agents in military uniforms jump out of unmarked minivans, abducting seemingly random people on the street in Portland, frightening new viral videos show. Officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC have been sent to the city to tamp down of 49 days of continuous demonstrations against racist police brutality. The move appears to be the Trump administration’s latest tactic to crush the nationwide protests that erupted in late May over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police.

Is it happening in any part of Central, South America?
Nope.
It's Portland, USA. https://t.co/U2mpTloyd6

— Carlos Latuff (@LatuffCartoons) July 17, 2020

One video shows individuals in battle fatigues pull up beside a small group of people on a deserted Portland street, arresting one man without identifying themselves or saying anything and putting him into the back of a minivan. “It sounds more like abduction. It sounds like they’re kidnapping people off the streets,” said Juan Chavez, director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center, who has been working on issues of police brutality on protestors for weeks. “It’s like stop and frisk meets Guantanamo Bay,” he said, adding that he found the new events “terrifying.”

Repressive tactics have increased since Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf began involving himself and his department in the protests, with federal agents firing tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators. Homeland Security has justified its invasion, claiming that Portland has been “under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city. Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property.” The DHS claims that “violent anarchists” have wrecked the city, although the examples of destruction they give, such as graffiti and throwing rocks, appear trifling in comparison to abduction. Wolf himself arrived in Portland recently, declaring that, “Our men and women in uniform are patriots. We will never surrender to violent extremists on my watch.”

Wolf’s actions have received strong condemnation from demonstrators, human rights groups, and even local politicians who have unequivocally told federal agents to leave. Mayor of Portland Ted Wheeler claimed that, “This is clearly a coordinated strategy from the White House. It is irresponsible and it is escalating an already tense situation. Remove your heightened troop presence now,” adding that the city neither needed nor wanted their help. Local congressman Earl Blumenauer was similarly forthright, placing the blame for the violence on government forces. “Chad Wolf just arrived in Portland. Here’s my message: go home Chad and take your unlawful DHS agents with you. The Trump admin has no place occupying and inciting violence in our community,” he tweeted late last night.

The demonstrators can also count on the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, who issued a statement reading, “Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland are being assaulted — shot in the head, swept away in unmarked cars, repeatedly tear gassed — by uninvited and unwelcome federal officers. We won’t rest until these federal officers are gone.”

A peaceful protester in Portland was shot in the head by one of Donald Trump’s secret police. Now Trump and Chad Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well with right-wing media.

— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) July 16, 2020

The “shot in the head” comment refers to the case of Donavan LaBella, a 26-year-old protester shot outside the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland on Saturday. LaBella was holding a speaker over his head when police shot him in the face at close range with a rubber bullet. Video shows him instantly collapse on the street. Even as others retrieve his body, a large pool of blood is already noticeable where he fell. LaBella’s mother confirmed he survived the incident, but that he needed facial reconstruction surgery, with doctors inserting a titanium plate into his head.

If you've been shrieking about tyranny over masks and lockdowns but you're fine with masked anonymous feds invading Portland and kidnapping protesters into unmarked vans, you have replaced your brain with a political party.

— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) July 17, 2020

Portland has been a hotspot of protest since the police killing of George Floyd on May 25 and has seen seven weeks of nightly demonstrations. The Trump administration decided to confront the protests with force rather than negotiate or co-opt them, the president infamously suggesting the National Guard should shoot any “looters.” A recent poll found that two-thirds of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement. Thus, it is unlikely that the new escalation of violence will win the president many new supporters, something he may need come November’s election.

Feature photo | Police stand as protesters gather during a demonstration, July 16, 2020 in Portland, Ore. Beth Nakamura | The Oregonian via 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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Desperate Times, Desperate Measures: It’s Time to Dump the Democrats

New York City (BAR) — Kamala Harris might be the perfect lens to reveal who the Democrats really are. A good run-down on her track record  highlights her assertion that “It is not progressive to be soft on crime.”  As a San Francisco social worker, I sat on the school district committee that met with families of chronically truant students.  Once, when we asked a student why he didn’t go to school, he said there was too much police tape and shootings at his school bus stop.  Harris, as California Attorney General, was putting parents and caregivers in jail if their child was chronically truant.  Also as Attorney General, she denied a DNA test to Kevin Cooper, a very likely innocent man who came within hours of execution in 2004.  Such positions certainly furthered her political career as a tough-on-crime, prosecution-friendly politician, as well as garner political and financial support from police and prison guards.

My recent article “Seize the Time or Face Fascism” elicited revealing comments, such as “How do we seize the time?  It must be incremental.”  Only the privileged, not the dispossessed, could still advocate for incremental change. Until we accept that the Democrats will never deliver, we will not look at alternatives and are likely to face fascism in the near future.

So what are some alternatives? After the DNC cheated Bernie Sanders twice, many of his supporters launched the Movement for a People’s Party: “Polls show that a large majority of Americans want a major new party, support progressive policies, and want money out of politics. That means that it is both possible and necessary for us to build a corporate-free, progressive populist party.” It is astonishing that Bernie, on his working-class contributions, raised more money than Hillary Clinton in 2016 and all other candidates in 2020.

The US has elected over 150 Green Party candidates. Green Party Gayle McLaughlin was twice elected mayor of Richmond, California, defeating two Democrats in 2006, reelected in 2010, and elected to City Council in 2014 after completing her second term as mayor. With a population of over 100,000 people, it was the largest US city with a Green mayor.

Socialist rabble-rouser Eugene Debs received nearly one million votes for president in 1920 — 3.5 percent of the popular vote — as simply “Convict No. 9653.” The Socialist Party was once a powerful third party in the US, capturing the hearts and minds of millions of working-class people who supported a serious challenge to the status quo.

The US is the only country with an absolute two-party system and an electoral college that can change the results of a popular vote, creating a winner-take-all that prevents any meaningful challenge to the duopoly. Some countries, such as the UK, have two major parties that dominate elections, but there are viable third parties, which win seats in the legislature. Germany, with a voter turnout of about 80 percent, has a coalition government where minority parties can unify and outvote the majority party. American voter turnout in presidential elections is usually barely in the mid-50 percent. The US doesn’t only have low voter turnout because so many people are uninspired by either party, there are also significant hurdles to voting in the US, such as more complicated registration, or voting being on a workday instead of on a weekend, as well as the increasing prevalence of giving out provisional ballots, which are almost never counted. Various studies have shown that the casting of provisional ballots correlates with high shares of racial minorities and non-English speakers in a particular area. It’s no wonder so many people would rather watch Netflix than vote.

Caitlin Johnstone’s article “Biden and his Ventriloquists Keep Out-Hawking Trump” sends shivers down my spine as much as Trump’s racist rants. The pervasive belief in “anybody but Trump” shows that Trump Derangement Syndrome is real, and should be a diagnosis in the DSM. Such people believe all progressives and leftists must not only vote for Biden but get out the vote for Biden — assuming there are elections. They aren’t open to considering the effect of that position on long-term politics and the ideological struggle. Case closed.

Among the many fallacies to that argument is that if people live in a consistently blue “safe state,” such as CA, NY, and MA, there is no reason to vote for a demented war-hawk candidate, especially with Republican stalwarts like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Colin Powell urging votes for Biden.

But even more concerning is the Democrats out-flanking Trump from the right in foreign policy. While we face both a public health and unemployment crisis, as well as a sustained protest movement against police abuses, a massive $740.5 billion military spending package was approved last week by the Democratic-controlled House Armed Services Committee. The Democrats voted to impede the Trump administration from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and blocked the White House’s plan to remove 10,000 troops stationed in Germany.

Military families were a large part of Trump’s base in 2016 as he was seen as less war-like than Clinton. The Democrats’ belligerence, calling Trump “presidential” when he dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan in 2017, will continue to drive military families to Trump.

Biden certainly needs a boost to beat Trump. As in 2016, you’d think it would be easy to beat the Orange Menace, but the Democrats are challenging him with somebody even worse than Clinton, a man in steep cognitive decline. Likely to run with him is Harris, who would allow the DNC to use a Black woman prosecutor to legitimize the mass incarceration plague in this country. They are locking up Black men in shameful numbers, and, until the uprisings, giving cop-killers get out of jail free cards, which is why we have continuous uprisings.

We already see the beginning of the psychological effects of the virus. Domestic violence, child abuse, suicide, and alcoholism have all increased. A friend, who is a counselor in the Bay Area, works with at-risk families. Caregivers/parents more frequently ask if they can have their child institutionalized. The children are not in need of being institutionalized, so locked-in families must cope with the trauma of the pandemic on their own.  Bankruptcies, evictions, and foreclosures have barely begun. The only thing worse than being kept inside is not having a roof to sleep under. The unraveling has barely begun.

My concern is that we are not equal to the task before us. As a feminist for over half a century, I found that sexism is alive and well in a national political organization I started working with.  In response to a woman saying she doesn’t think women are treated with equal respect, an elder activist white man said, “Well, it wasn’t intentional.” Still unclear on the concept. The same group has trouble writing an agenda, let alone developing a position on the upcoming election. The serious, disciplined study of the Black Panthers and their 10-point program is a distant memory.  Political disinformation is as prevalent as information when discourse is limited to Twitter. And of course, given social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, organizing is much more difficult, with the inadequate substitute of seeing faces and hearing electronically modulated voices on Zoom.

I have lived with urgency ever since growing up in the 1960s. As a red diaper baby raised on the Bolshevik, Chinese and Cuban revolutions, I was always concerned with inequality, peace and justice. All of the previous crises were urgent, but this one feels exponentially more ominous. More and more people are resigned that we are in the sixth extinction. Instead, I try to hold on to Antonio Gramsci’s advice to practice pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

We need to take ourselves seriously. Fascism will not be the FBI coming to our door. It will not look like fascism under Hitler, Mussolini, or Franco. But it is coming. Are we ready?

Feature photo | Vice President Joe Biden visits the North Korean border at Observation Point Ouellette in 2013. Chris Church | DVIDS

Riva Enteen is a lifelong peace activist, social worker, lawyer, advocate for justice and editor of “Follow the Money,”  a collection of Pacifica Radio’s Flashpoints Interviews.

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How Civil Asset Forfeiture Could Undermine Efforts to Defund Police

Shadowproof —Between 2001 and 2017, the federal government seized $40 billion from ordinary people and high profile criminal defendants, including major corporations, through asset forfeiture. The money was funneled into the Assets Forfeiture Fund (AFF), a trust founded in 1984 through the Comprehensive Crime Control Act as part of the War on Drugs.

Asset forfeiture is potentially a major hurdle for the Black Lives Matter movement. Since the burning of the third police precinct in Minneapolis, the mainstream conversation around policing has shifted from reforming to defunding departments. However, the public has little direct control over the budgeting process, and no control over external revenue sources like asset forfeiture, which massively contribute to the expansion of the carceral apparatus.

In 2012, for example, following a joint investigation between Rhode Island police departments and federal law enforcement against Google for advertising illegal pharmaceutical businesses, the AFF transferred two-hundred thirty of the $500 million settlement across five Rhode Island law enforcement agencies through the equitable sharing program.

The equitable sharing program, also founded through the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, allows 7,000 state and local police departments to profit from federal seizures.

From 2000 to 2016, 86 percent of equitable sharing forfeitures were civil, meaning the property was legally seized without a charge or a conviction. Criminal forfeiture seizures are intended to be punitive and take place after a conviction.

The North Providence and the East Providence Police Department were awarded sixty million dollars each, a figure eight-to-ten times the size of their regular budgets, while $45 million went to the state police.

Rhode Island officers personally profited from the AFF, with over 100 million dollars going into their pension plans and millions more into overtime pay. Departments used the money to purchase tasers and guns, a new firing range, dozens of vehicles, upgrade technology, and build new facilities, and still had tens of millions left over.

Meanwhile, North Providence had to take out bonds to build a new middle school, despite millions leftover from the Google settlement.

Twenty organizations calling for the abolition of the equitable sharing program, including the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild, say civil forfeiture exacerbates existing inequalities.

“Victims of civil forfeiture have no right to an attorney in forfeiture cases and are overwhelmingly those least able to afford representation to defend themselves which worsens the economic struggles that already plague low-income communities,” they wrote in a letter to the Attorney General in 2016. And since the carceral system disproportionately targets marginalized communities, criminal forfeiture is similarly unjust during an already expensive legal process.

The Justice Department argues that the AFF and equitable sharing use “statutory authority to support a wide variety of law enforcement programs that would not exist but for the fund.”

“These state and local officers, often deputized as federal agents, act as a critical force multiplier in helping to achieve the law enforcement mission of our federal agencies. The AFF pays for officer overtime and a variety of critical equipment needs, including life-saving ballistic shields and helmets necessary to ensure officer safety,” according to the Justice Department.

From 2000 to 2016, the Justice Department gave more than 6.8 billion dollars to local law enforcement through the AFF, while the Treasury Department handed over 1.9 billion dollars. The Federal Prison Program received over one billion from the fund over the past five years.

Although the “Pentagon’s hand-me-downs” are primarily responsible for police militarization, equitable sharing payments contribute to the phenomenon.

The BearCat armored vehicle used by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to evict the Moms4Housing campaign in Oakland earlier this year, for example, was partially funded through the county’s federal asset forfeiture trust fund.

Through the “adoption,” route of AFF, a local agency can seize assets, then ask a federal agency to adopt the property for forfeiture under federal law in order to circumvent increasingly strict state laws.

For years, California agencies relied on the adoption route, since California law required a criminal conviction before the state could seize assets under $25,000. But in 2016, California passed SB 443, which closed the loophole by limiting equitable sharing payouts to criminal forfeiture.

Local and federal law enforcement argue in favor of the AFF and equitable sharing, with the Justice Department claiming that “asset forfeiture has the power to disrupt or dismantle criminal organizations that would continue to function if we only convicted and incarcerated specific individuals.”

Yet, the DOJ describes the AFF as a “permanent indefinite fund,” which contradicts its supposed image as a tool for harm-prevention.

An Institute of Justice analysis supports the idea that forfeiture is, in reality, a fail-safe for stabilizing police budgets.

“When local economies suffer, equitable sharing activity increases, suggesting police make greater use of forfeiture when local budgets are tight,” they write. “A one percentage point increase in local unemployment—a standard proxy for fiscal stress—is associated with a statistically significant nine-percentage point increase in equitable sharing seizures.”

They concluded that increased forfeiture funds had “no meaningful effect on crime-fighting,” but was “strongly linked to worsening economic conditions.”

This finding suggests local and state police departments in jurisdictions with some of the more successful, militant demonstrations—Seattle, Portland, New York City and St. Louis, for example—could supplant dwindling budgets with seized funds.

Only abolition and alternative community accountability structures guarantee that the system will stop expanding itself.

Feature photo | Police in riot gear stand around an armored vehicle as smoke fills the streets, Nov. 25, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Charlie Riedel | AP

Ella Fassler is an independent writer and researcher based in Rhode Island. Her work has been featured in The Nation, The Appeal, Slate, OneZero, Truthout and elsewhere.

The post How Civil Asset Forfeiture Could Undermine Efforts to Defund Police appeared first on MintPress News.

Lee Camp: The Life-Saving COVID-19 Drugs You’ve Never Heard Of (and Why)

The American profit-based healthcare system impacts us in more ways than just our gargantuan bill at the excretion end of an emergency room visit. Right now, our lovable idiotic inhumane healthcare system is acting as a hurdle to the manufacture and procurement of the right drugs to treat Covid-19.

One of the drugs currently trumpeted as our savior is Remdesivir. Despite sounding like the name of a Hobbit in Middle Earth, some reports from the corporate media make it sound like the drug will thrust us face-first into a fresh world of happiness — water parks and restaurants and random no-holds-barred make-outs with strangers. A world where when someone sneezes, we don’t dive under our desk with an adult diaper strapped on our face as a makeshift mask.

There’s only one problem. The big pharma company that owns Remdesivir, Gilead, has already made clear their plans to profiteer from this pandemic. As The LA Times put it –

Drugmaker Gillead says it’s doing you a favor by setting the price for its pending COVID-19 treatment, Remdesivir, at more than $2,000 for government agencies and over $3,000 for private insurers.”

How does the CEO of Gilead, Daniel O’Day, justify this disgusting price point? He claims they’re under-pricing Remdesivir. He said, “In normal circumstances, we would price a medicine according to the value it provides. …Earlier hospital discharge would result in hospital savings of approximately $12,000 per patient.”

The value it provides?? So, if a doctor saves someone’s life with heart surgery, then that guy owes the doctor the entire worth of the rest of his life? Millions of dollars? Maybe he should become the surgeon’s butler or wet nurse.

Saying something should cost even close to the value it provides ranks up there as one of the stupidest arguments ever spoken. (Second only to when the people at Mountain Dew argued that human beings would love a Doritos-flavored soft drink named “Dewitos.”) So, for a dude taking Viagra who can now get it up, he owes the makers of Viagra – what? – sex with his wife? Or does he just owe them 300 orgasms? Or perhaps he owes them the child he’s able to produce while taking the pills. (“Dear Cialis Folks, I’m emailing to ask for a mailing address to send you my 2-year-old, Robbie. Fair is fair. I want to give you the value of your goods. Just be careful – he bites a lot. And he’s already totally racist. Not sure how he picked that up so young.”)

But there’s another catch to Gilead’s price-gouging shenanigans. They didn’t create Remdesivir. We did. You and me.

Public Citizen revealed that Gilead raked in over $70 million from taxpayers. Plus, federal scientists ran the team that found out Remdesivir also worked against Coronaviruses. And, “The National Institutes of Health ran the trial that led to Remdesivir’s emergency use authorization, and public funding is supporting clinical trials around the world today.”

You and I paid for the creation and research behind Remdesivir. There is absolutely no reason we should fill the pockets of Gilead’s preposterously rich CEO and its board. Most countries realize this. Most countries don’t behave this way. Most countries have some tiny modicum of respect for the lives of their citizens. …America is not most countries.

Back to the LA Times, “Nearly all other developed countries limit how much pharmaceutical companies can charge for prescription meds. …The U.S. doesn’t operate like that. We allow drug companies to charge as much as they please…”

Perhaps prescription meds that cost the same as landing a man on Mars (in a pair of Jimmy Choo heels) are the reason 42 percent of new cancer patients have their entire life savings wiped out within two years. The average amount drained from a patient is nearly $100,000, and the entire medical costs for U.S. cancer patients per year is $80 billion. Why ever change a system that piles such bulbous mountains of cash in the vaults of those running the show?

Apparently most other national governments don’t want to ruin the lives of every cancer survivor. As to why not, one can only guess.

But this story gets crazier. Not only is Remdesivir way over-priced, we’re not even sure it does much. Some studies show it achieves almost nothing. Meanwhile, according to the Intercept

[A]nother Covid-19 treatment has quietly been shown to be more effective. …A three-drug regimen offered a greater reduction in the time it took patients to recover than Remdesivir did. …People who took the combination of interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin got better in seven days as opposed to 12 days for those who didn’t take it.”

However, I have yet to hear of a mad rush to hoard those drugs. Why is that? Probably because those drugs don’t have colossal marketing campaigns that would make Coca-Cola blush. In fact there appears to be no marketing campaign whatsoever for the more effective drugs. To figure out why that is, one simply must follow the money.

[E]ach of the three drugs in the new combination is generic, or no longer under patent, which means that no company stands to profit significantly from its use.”

Must cut-throat late-stage capitalism always be so predictable?

Only the ridiculously profitable drugs are worth hyping. Only the money makers deserve 80,000 commercials telling every consumer to irrationally demand them. The cheap drugs that simply – save lives – those are garbage. What’s the point of saving a life if you can’t make a bundle from it? I’ve always said, “A life saved without extracting a shitload of money from it, is a life lost.”

I don’t know that this last part needs saying, but I’m going to do it anyway. When a society has a system built on profit, run by sociopaths, based on the manipulation of lizard-brain impulses, then it will always end up in a race to the bottom. With unfettered capitalism we inevitably find ourselves with the worst drugs, priced at the highest amounts, hoarded by those who need them the least.

… Unless we’re talking about recreational illegal drugs. Those are cheaper than ever.

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Feature photo | A lab technician works at the Eva Pharma facility in Cairo, Egypt, July 12, 2020, where Remdesivir is being produced. Nariman El-Mofty | 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 standup 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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Good News from Washington: AIPAC, Israel Losing to Progressive Democrats

While the US administration of President Donald Trump remains adamant in its support for Israel, the traditional democratic leadership continues to employ underhanded language, the kind of ‘strategic ambiguity’ that offers full support to Israel and nothing but lip service to Palestine and peace.

Trump’s policies on Israel and Palestine have been damaging, culminating in the outrageously unfair ‘Deal of the Century’, and his administration remains largely committed to the trend of growing affinity between the Republican establishment and the Israeli right-wing camp of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The views of the Democratic leadership, represented in the presumptive Democratic challenger in the upcoming November election, Joe Biden, are still those of a bygone era when the Democrats’ unconditional love for Israel equaled that of Republicans. It is safe to say that those days are drawing to an end, for successive opinion polls are reaffirming the changing political landscape in Washington.

Once upon a time, America’s political elite, whose politics diverged on many issues, wholeheartedly agreed on one single foreign policy matter: their country’s blind and unconditional love and support for Israel. In those days, the influential pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) ruled the roost, reigning supreme in the US Congress and, almost single-handedly, decided on the fate of Congressmen and women based on their support, or lack thereof, of Israel.

While it is too early to proclaim that ‘those days are over,’ judging by the vastly changing political discourse on Palestine and Israel, the many opinion polls, and the electoral successes of anti-Israeli occupation candidates in national and local elections, one is compelled to say that AIPAC’s tight grip on US foreign policy is finally loosening.

Such a statement may seem premature considering the current administration’s unparalleled bias towards Israel – the illegal US embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the dismissal of the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian Refugees, and the administration’s support of the Israeli plan to illegally annex parts of the West Bank, and so on.

However, a distinction must be made between support for Israel among the ruling, the increasingly isolated clique of politicians, and the general mood of a country that, despite numerous infringements on democracy in recent years, is still, somewhat democratic.

On June 25, a whopping number of nearly 200 Democratic House members, including some of the most staunch supporters of Israel, called, in a letter, on Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials to scrap their plan to illegally annex nearly 30 percent of the West Bank.

“We express our deep concern with the stated intention to move ahead with any unilateral annexation of West Bank territory, and we urge your government to reconsider plans to do so,” the letter said, in part.

While the wording of the letter was far from being dubbed ‘threatening’, the fact that it was signed by stalwart Israeli allies, such as Florida Congressman, Ted Deutch and Illinois Congressman, Brad Schneider, speaks volumes about the shifting discourse on Israel among the center and even conservative corners of the Democratic Party. Among the signers were also prominent figures in the Democratic establishment, like Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer.

Equally important, is that the influence of the younger and more progressive generation of Democratic politicians continues to push the boundaries of the party’s discourse on Israel, thanks to the tireless work of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues. Along with a dozen Democratic lawmakers, Ocasio-Cortez issued another letter on June 30, this time addressed to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Unlike the first letter, the second one was assertive and markedly daring. “Should the Israeli government continue down this path (of annexation), we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in US military funding to Israel to ensure US taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way,” the letter read, in part.

Imagine if this exact wording was used by Democratic representatives in July 1980, when the Israeli Parliament unlawfully annexed East Jerusalem in an action that was – and remains – contrary to international law. The fate of these politicians would have been similar to the fate of others who dared to speak out at the risk of losing their seats in Congress; in fact, their political careers altogether.

But times have changed. It is quite unusual, and refreshing, to see AIPAC scrambling to put out the many fires ignited by the new radical voices among Democrats.

The reason that it is no longer easy for the pro-Israel lobby to maintain its decades-long hegemony over Congress is that the likes of Ocasio-Cortez are, themselves, a byproduct of the generational and, likely, irreversible change that has taken place among Democrats over the years.

The trend of polarization of American public opinion regarding Israel goes back nearly twenty years, when Americans began viewing their support for Israel based on party lines. More recent polls suggest that this polarization is growing. A Pew opinion poll published in 2016 showed that sympathy for Israel among Republicans morphed to an unprecedented 74% while falling among Democrats to 33%.

Then, for the first time in history, support for Israel and Palestinians was almost equally split among Democrats; 33% and 31% respectively. This was a period in which we began seeing such unusual mainstream news headlines as, “Why Democrats are abandoning Israel?”

This ‘abandonment’ continued unabated, as more recent polls have indicated. In January 2018, another Pew survey showed that the Democrats’ support for Israel dwindled to reach 27%.

Not only are the rank-and-file of Democrats walking away from Israel as a result of the growing awareness of Israel’s relentless crimes and violent occupation in Palestine, young Jews are also doing the same.

The changing views on Israel among young American Jews are finally paying dividends, to the extent that, in April 2019, Pew data concluded that Jewish Americans, as a whole, are now far more likely (42%) than Christians to say that President Trump was “favoring the Israelis too much.”

While many Democrats in Congress are increasingly in touch with the views of their constituencies, those at the helm, such as Biden, remain stubbornly committed to agendas that are championed by AIPAC and the rest of the old guard.

The good news from Washington is that, despite Trump’s current support for Israel, an incremental, but lasting structural change continues to take place among Democratic Party supporters everywhere and throughout the country. More sobering news is that Israel’s traditional stronghold over the country’s Jewish communities is faltering – and quickly so.

While AIPAC is likely to continue using and improvising on old tactics to protect Israel’s interests at the US Congress, the long-dubbed ‘powerful lobby’ will unlikely be able to turn back time. Indeed, the age of total dominance of Israel over the US Congress is likely over, and hopefully, this time, for good.

Feature photo | Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. speaks at the 2019 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, at Washington Convention Center, in Washington, March 26, 2019. Jose Luis Magana | 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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New Tech Company Partnership to Offset Responsibility for Public Safety and Health onto AI

The transition from a manned police force into an AI-assisted panopticon through which populations are monitored 24/7 is occurring at breakneck speed as tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft pour millions of dollars into a New York-based startup called RapidSOS, which “transmits data from 911 callers to emergency responders.”

Now that startup has partnered with ZeroEyes, an artificial intelligence software company that uses video analytics technology to identify weapons in video footage. The AI startup bills itself as a group of patriotic “US military veterans, consultants, and technologists” who claim to have “lived through countless active shooter situations” and are committed to “empowering safety & security professionals.”

The partnership with RapidSOS will allow ZeroEyes to send its data directly to 911 personnel. RapidSOS already had more than 3,500 agencies using its platform in the United States and the world at the time of its last cash infusion last year and boasts data-collection and transmission from over 250 million devices on its website. Among the devices are vehicle integrations, wearable tech, sensors, security cameras, and mobile apps.

With ZeroEyes’ AI-enabled weapons detection software, companies like RapidSOS will oversee the transition away from human policing and emergency response methods into an Orwellian grid of programmatically-controlled public safety mechanisms in which situations like the senseless police killing of George Floyd and other unarmed civilians, as well as any sort of misapplication of justice or medical malpractice, will be reduced to an executable script running silently in the background of our collective dystopian nightmare.

 

Moving on up

ZeroEyes was founded by Navy veteran, Albert “Al” Shore, a former NATO cryptologist and expert on predictive analysis capabilities. The company’s current CEO, Mike Lahiff, is a former Navy Seal who used to be a director of digital program management for Comcast until he was tapped by another Navy Seal to join ZeroEyes. The company, which has partnerships with Dell and Nvidia, is modeled on a previous iteration of weapons detection technology called ShotSpotter, which used sound sensors to identify gunshots used by more than 90 cities.

ZeroEyes’ partnership with RapidSOS puts the company on a whole new level, which will go far beyond what Lahiff’s hopes will be a reduction in “emergency response times” for active shooter situations. Among RapidSOS’ business partners are not only tech giants like the aforementioned Google, Apple, and Microsoft, but also Mark 43; a “public safety software” company whose list of advisors and investors reads like a who’s who of the mass surveillance tech and defense community.

Founder and CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos and former CIA director and retired General, David Petraeus, who once quipped that “we’ll spy on you through your dishwasher,” top the list. Perhaps more revealing is the presence of venture capitalist, Roy Rothrock, who has sizable investments in an Israeli startup called Toka, which claims to offer “a one-stop hacking shop for governments that require extra capability to fight terrorists and other threats to national security in the digital domain” through IoT devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Echo.

 

Rapid adoption opportunities

As with many other tech startups, the COVID-19 crisis has opened the door for widespread adoption across the healthcare sector and RapidSOS is no exception. Now counting over 4,700 public safety agencies among its network, the company is now expanding its data platform by launching the “Emergency Health Profile” together with the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, and Direct Relief to profile people associated to their mobile phone number.

Claiming to be the “world’s first emergency response data platform that securely links life-saving data from connected devices,” people can create their own “Emergency Health Profile” on emergencyprofile.org to provide emergency first-responders with the critical information they need “during these uncertain times”.

RapidSOS is at the forefront of the re-engineering of the “nation’s 911 infrastructure” that has been in place since the 1960s and is now, along with law enforcement models, being supplanted with digital technologies and algorithms.

RapidSOS is at the forefront of the re-engineering of the “nation’s 911 infrastructure” that has been in place since the 1960s and is now, along with law enforcement models, being supplanted with digital technologies and algorithms, that are moving society towards a place made less for people than for the machines designed to enslave us.

Feature photo | A dispatcher works at a desk station with a variety of screens used by those who take 911 emergency calls in Roswell, Ga. Lisa Marie Pane | AP

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

The post New Tech Company Partnership to Offset Responsibility for Public Safety and Health onto AI appeared first on MintPress News.

UN Warns COVID-19 Fears Leading to “Alarming” Decline in Immunizations and Hospital Visits

United Nations agencies are warning that the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to trigger famine and outbreaks of other diseases that could prove far more deadly than the coronavirus itself.

Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed grave concern over what they described as an “alarming decline” of children’s immunization programs in the past four months. Three-quarters of the countries surveyed reported disruptions in their immunization drives. At least 30 measles vaccinations campaigns are at risk or have already been canceled. Meanwhile, the rate of children immunized against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis has dropped for the first time in 28 years. “COVID-19 has made previously routine vaccination a daunting challenge,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, warning of potential epidemics of preventable diseases due to the disruption, “we cannot trade one health crisis for another.”

The data suggests the problem is most severe in Latin American, African and Asian countries who have less developed healthcare infrastructures. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that “the avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunizations could be far greater than COVID-19 itself.”

Generalized concern over catching the deadly virus that has already claimed over 580,000 lives is keeping seriously ill people away from hospitals. New research shows that more than half of people suffering heart attacks worldwide did not seek emergency medical treatment for fear of catching the virus. “The risk of dying of a heart attack is much greater than that of dying of COVID-19,” said Professor Barbara Casadei, President of the European Society of Cardiology. “Moreover, cardiac death is largely preventable if patients with a heart attack come to hospital in time to get treatment. What we are witnessing is an unnecessary loss of life. Our priority must be to stop this from happening. We must continue to save the lives we know how to save.”

UNICEF also warns that progress made in the fight against AIDS could stagnate or even reverse if patients are unable to access services because resources have been reallocated to fight the coronavirus. “4.2 million children, adolescents and pregnant women living with HIV globally require uninterrupted access to life-saving treatment, with 89 per cent living in sub-Saharan Africa – COVID-19 threatens to put them all at risk,” it wrote.

While the continent has officially only suffered 630,000 infections and 13,820 deaths, the lack of testing kits put Africa’s COVID-19 figures in doubt. Even South Africa, which has tested more of its citizens per capita than any other major African state has only done so at one quarter the rate of the United States. Preparing for a pandemic and the possibility of famines and other outbreaks of disease, South African authorities are digging over 1.5 million graves as a precaution, fearing the worst.

 

Famine of “biblical proportions”

The 2020 edition of the UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition report was released on Monday and makes sobering reading. Despite the advances China has made, the number of hungry people worldwide has increased by nearly 60 million people in the last five years; 19 percent of Africans, eight percent of Asians, and seven percent of those living in Latin America and the Caribbean are undernourished. The report estimates that a minimum of 83 million more people, and as many as 132 million around the world, will go hungry this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the worldwide economic collapse it is bringing with it.

The World Food Program similarly cautions that those in Yemen and the Horn of Africa will be particularly affected. “I must warn you,” said David Beasley, the World Food Program’s Director-General, “we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months.”

Whatever the outcome of COVID-19, the UN is calling for a transition to a more sustainable system of food production, featuring far more locally-produced, small scale agriculture, something it suggests would greatly improve diets and life expectancy, including in the West, and would save the world trillions of dollars in medical expenses every year.

Feature photo | Dr. Adriana Coronel stands inside the room of a COVID-19 patient at the Eurnekian Ezeiza Hospital on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 14, 2020, during a government-ordered lockdown. Natacha Pisarenko | 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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Texting App with Ties to Trump Campaign to Be Repurposed for Contact Tracing

A P2P mobile app developed by a Ukrainian military veteran and funded by American hedge fund magnate and close associate of Cambridge Analytica backer, Robert Mercer, has been rebranded and repurposed to serve as a contact tracing tool in the “fight” against the COVID-19 pandemic and public safety emergencies, such as hurricanes and other natural disasters.

The rollout happens at a time when ‘health-related’ data-collection technology, such as this and other apps, is sparsely regulated and when the country is undergoing an unprecedented health crisis, effectively railroading the public into mass adoption of digital products created by companies with questionable track records.

uCampaign, as the original app was called, had been built for Donald Trump’s 2016 successful run for the presidency. It brought in “more results and had a bigger impact than Clinton’s smartphone app, and for far less cost to the campaign,” according to Thomas Peters, founder of the company which developed the app. Peters parlayed his success into contracts with the NRA, Ted Cruz’s own presidential campaign, and Brexit.

But it wasn’t until the summer of 2017 when Peters became aware of the P2P messaging app used by the Bernie Sanders campaign and developed by an Obama campaign strategist called Hustle, that he decided to re-tool uCampaign and apply the lessons learned through peer-to-peer communication technologies in order to “perfect” the Democrat’s innovation.

The new app, called RumbleUp, has now been accepted into the “FirstNet App Catalog,” a library of “secure applications that can be used by more than 12,000 public safety agencies” which enables first responders “to directly text people on the ground in support of COVID-19 testing and contact tracing efforts”.

 

Cambridge Analytica Redux

Privacy concerns have been raised by the British parliamentary committee, which looked into the Cambridge Analytica “Facebook scandal” in its “Disinformation and ‘fake news’ report” and mentions uCampaign’s very “‘liberal’ attitude to sharing the personal data of app users.” The app was utilized by the Trump campaign to go “absolutely granular,” in the words of uCampaign founder Peters. “If users download the App and agree to share their address books, including phone numbers and emails”, stated a Business Insider article from 2016, “the App then shoots the data [to] a third-party vendor, which looks for matches to existing voter file information.”

RumbleUp, the next-generation version of uCampaign, enjoys the advantages of all such P2P technologies in that FCC regulations have yet to catch up to modern times. The 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act fails to account for smartphones and because of the nature of P2P messaging, opt-in consent requirements that govern activities like auto-dialers do not apply.

This loophole has been a boon for companies trading in data and a detriment to the people whose data is being harvested and used for all kinds of undisclosed purposes. RumbleUp’s privacy policy makes no bones about it, stating outright that virtually any users’ data will be collected “including, without limitation, names, telephone numbers, emails and social media handles,” in addition to “geolocation information as provided by your phone or other mobile device.”

All data collected will also be provided to “third parties to perform functions on our behalf,” of which they cite only a few examples.

 

Public-Private Shakedown

Peters says that the “spark behind the company’s work to join the FirstNet application catalog” was motivated by Hurricane Michael, which devastated parts of the Florida panhandle in 2018. He “swiftly” partnered up with the Florida GOP to text over 70,000 displaced individuals in the aftermath of the storm. The information gathered was shared with FEMA and other local relief organizations, but also took advantage of the situation to extend “assistance filling out absentee ballots” and other voting-related help, which Peters claims resulted in a 10 percent increase in voter participation.

It was at this point that Peters’ company began talks with FirstNet to be included in the list of “approved” mobile tools for first responders. FirstNet (First Responder Network Authority) was authorized by Congress in 2012 as an independent authority within the Department of Commerce, that is currently run by billionaire investor, Wilbur Ross. The network was built through a public-private partnership with AT&T and includes more than 100 products that cover everything from “dispatch functions, internet of things, drone and body-worn camera solutions, emergency medical and telehealth capabilities”, as well as tools to manage and collect the information.

Given the fact that there is still no regulatory framework that covers P2P communications or many of the new technologies being aggregated under this recently-created agency, apps like RumbleUp and their direct ties to political power is enough to be concerned about. It is especially concerning, however, that these unregulated technologies are being rolled out on a national level under the guise of public safety in the midst of a pandemic – using fear to facilitate adoption and delaying any limitations on corporate power until the system is firmly in place.

Feature photo | A counter-protester wearing a hat that reads “Trump 2020” uses a mobile phone to take photos as others take part in a protest against family separation at the border and other immigration-related issues, Aug. 1, 2019, outside ICE headquarters in Seattle. Ted S. Warren | AP

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

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Trump Fires Latest Salvo in US-China Sanctions War

In a speech at the White House Rose Garden yesterday, Donald Trump announced new sanctions on China due to their “interference” in their own Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. The president said that he was placing “massive tariffs” on Beijing and that Hong Kong would now be treated the same as mainland China, with “no special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies.”

Trump’s new law, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, unanimously passed Congress, and places mandatory sanctions on officials or organizations (including businesses) that the White House views as helping Beijing clamp down on political freedoms.

Earlier today, China’s foreign ministry said it “firmly opposes and strongly condemns” the new law interfering in its domestic affairs, adding that it would “definitely hit back,” by taking, “necessary responses to protect its legitimate interests, and impose sanctions on relevant U.S. personnel and entities.”

 

A new Cold War?

The move is merely the latest chapter in the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Washington and Beijing. Even before taking office, Trump was demonizing China as an enemy and the reason for America’s flagging economy. He has also taken every opportunity to frame the COVID-19 pandemic as the “Wuhan China Virus,” even committing the United States to pull out of the World Health Organization for refusing to censure Beijing.

In 2012, President Obama announced the U.S.’ new “Pivot to Asia” strategy, beginning to build up military forces in the region to surround China and Russia. The 2021 Pentagon budget explicitly focuses on an upcoming war in the region, requesting an increase in funding as a result.

Along with the political and military conflict brewing, Washington has also been prosecuting an information and trade war against China on the world stage. The Trump administration is attempting to convince other nations to restrict Chinese company Huawei from controlling the worldwide 5G network while mulling over a total ban of popular Chinese video app TikTok. “It’s something we’re looking at,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week. Last month a U.S.-government funded think tank also managed to convince Twitter to delete over 170,000 pro-Chinese accounts. American military analysts have publicly advocated that the U.S. should bombard Asia with “Taiwanese Tom Clancy” stories, where Beijing is the enemy, as part of a new Cold War.

 
The U.S. has also been funding and supporting what it calls “pro-democracy movements” across China and Hong Kong, including the famous protests that have engulfed the city for over a year. Official figures show that the National Endowment for Democracy has spent over $29 million bankrolling anti-Beijing efforts since 2014. China’s newly passed national security law criminalizes subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, leading many of the protest leaders to immediately fly to the United States or Great Britain. Despite the new law, Hong Kongers’ support for the protests remains relatively high, at 51 percent, although that number is dropping.

 

The history of a city-state

The insatiable British thirst for tea began to develop in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the Chinese empire would accept only gold or silver for their valuable crop, which they maintained a monopoly over. The trade was beginning to bankrupt Britain, so it used its military to force the Chinese to cede Hong Kong to it, from where it flooded the country with opium, devastating the society. By the end of the 19th century, around a third of China was addicted, further weakening the empire, which was forced to sign over the region to the British for a further 99 years in 1898. The British used Hong Kong to swap tea for opium. At the same time, they stole the plant and began cultivating it in northern India. The innumerable death toll and the loss of sovereignty contributed to what the Chinese still call the “century of humiliation.” While Hong Kong was handed back in 1997, the city maintains a 50-year agreement with Beijing called the “One Country, Two Systems” policy, which gives it an amount of self-autonomy, something which protesters today say is under threat.

Pro-Trump protesters stage a rally outside the US Consulate in Hong Kong, Dec. 1, 2019. Vincent Thian | AP

While its local economy boomed when China was relatively closed off from the West, economically, Hong Kong began to decline in the 1980s and 1990s due to increased competition from other Chinese regions. After 1997, it largely became just another city, and was outpaced by new powerhouses like Shenzhen and Shanghai, leading to economic malaise and a declining or flat-lining quality of life for many residents, adding fuel to the current protests. Many protesters have flown the colonial British flag because they associate it with a more prosperous time.

 

Bi-partisan consensus

In his briefing yesterday, Trump also took shots at his opponent for president, Joe Biden, whose “entire career has been a gift to the Chinese Communist Party,” he claimed, adding that, “it’s been devastating for the American worker.” Trump also suggested that Biden loved China more than the United States. For their part, Biden’s foreign policy team claim their number one priority is “dealing with authoritarian governments” like China, hinting they would welcome a new war with Beijing.  Biden himself has tried to one-up Trump, condemning the president for supposedly being “soft” on China, suggesting he would take a tougher line.  He currently holds a 9-point lead on Trump in combined polls for November. Regardless of who wins, increased conflict with China seems likely.

Feature photo | Pro-China supporters step on an effigy of US President Donald Trump outside the U.S. Consulate during a protest, in Hong Kong, May 30, 2020 over a series of US measures aimed at China as a rift between the two countries grows. Kin Cheung | 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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Propaganda Will Not Be Enough to Win Joe Biden the White House

New York City (BAR) — “Biden will win in a landslide.” “Trump will quit before election day.” These are just some of the tropes being spread by Democratic Party propagandists. It is true that Joe Biden can defeat incumbent Donald Trump in the November 2020 presidential election. However, the rosy scenarios painted by the corporate media don’t take into account the vagaries of the election process in this country. They are intended to give the appearance of an inevitable Democratic Party victory, a plan which failed miserably in 2016.

Like George W. Bush in 2000, Trump won in 2016 not because most voters preferred him, but because of the very undemocratic electoral college. Republicans use voter suppression and outright vote theft to dilute the impact of black voters, whose support for the Democrats remains in the 90% range. Hillary Clinton failed to target her campaign outreach accordingly, or frankly to do much outreach at all. She needed only 78,000 more votes in three key swing states in order to win. If Biden succeeds where she failed he can win the presidency. There is reason for the Democrats to be optimistic, but their effort to sell the lackluster and problematic Joe Biden involves telling some outright lies.

The propagandists give the same assurance in 2020 that was given in 2016. They announce with great fanfare that polls show Biden winning. They don’t explain how these polls differ from the 2016 polls which showed Hillary Clinton winning all the states she needed. They don’t explain what went wrong in 2016 or analyze the challenges that Biden faces.

The biggest threat to his chances is the continuing suppression of black votes and the refusal of the Democrats to do anything about it. Voter identification requirements, felon disenfranchisement, voter enrollment purges, and simpler schemes such as sending fewer machines to polling places in black neighborhoods all diminish the franchise. This year the COVID-19 pandemic will mean more voting by mail. But paper ballots are as problematic as electronic voting machines can be. There is a hodgepodge of rules which determine how and if  paper ballots are counted, with differences varying even within the same state.

Most importantly there is no constituency that will increase its turn out for the sake of Joe Biden. He will get 90% of the black vote, but it is unlikely that he will benefit from the tremendous increase in that cohort that helped Barack Obama when he ran in 2008 and 2012. If the Biden campaign team doesn’t outperform Hillary Clinton’s lackluster get out the vote effort, Trump can squeak through a second time.

But there is something else going on among the propagandists masquerading as journalists. Instead of dispassionately reporting on Trump’s chances they peddle a dubious kind of psy-op. Even Fox News jumps on that bandwagon with stories of “major players” and “Republican insiders” saying that Trump will quit  before election day. These stories are accompanied by unflattering photos of a seemingly dejected Trump or reports of rallies that are sparsely attended. These anonymous insiders are as real as the “intelligence sources” who claim that Russia is paying the Taliban to kill Americans.

The subterfuge is intended to boost Biden, who is strangely absent in the midst of Trump’s failure to handle the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. States that failed to shut down public activity and decrease opportunities for the virus to spread are facing an upsurge in infections, hospitalizations and death. Biden ought to be much further ahead in the wake of Trump’s bumbling. But we don’t see him very often because his handlers don’t want him to be seen. Biden clearly has a health problem which has not been disclosed, but his inability to speak coherently and his penchant for strange outbursts means that he must be kept under wraps at the very moment that Trump is on the ropes.

Election day is in less than four months. In that time an economic downturn, a worsening spread of COVID-19 or a debate performance can make the difference. There would be greater certainty for Biden if he would campaign on an issue that the voters want. A new study  indicates that 5 million workers have lost their health insurance since March. But Biden opposes a plan to give Medicare to all. Just in case anyone was fooled by his claims of being a progressive, Biden steadfastly refuses to consider what is a surefire election winner.

At this juncture, no one should claim they know who the next president will be. Phony stories and wishful thinking won’t get Donald Trump out of the White House. Predictions of his political demise are rather premature.

Feature photo | President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden pose for photographs with members of law enforcement during a ceremony to honor the 2014 National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) TOP COPS in East Room of the White House in Washington, May 12, 2014. Photo | AP

Margaret Kimberley is a Black Agenda Report editor and senior columnist.  She blogs at Freedom Rider and lives in New York City.  She can be reached by e-mail at Margaret.Kimberley@BlackAgendaReport.com.

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How Two Seemingly Unrelated Events Laid Israel’s Racism Problem Bare

Two seemingly unrelated items hit social media recently and both received a lot of attention. The first was an article by Peter Beinart that was published in the New York Times where Beinart claims he no longer believes in a Jewish State and calls for a binational state with equal rights in Palestine. The other, a video clip showing an Israeli family riding in a car when two children approach them. The car window opens and we hear the father ask the children in Hebrew, “Who wants to feed a Bedouin?” While these two seem unrelated, there is something equally disturbing about both of them.

 

A Jewish home in Palestine

One might think that the epiphany experienced by yet another liberal Zionist, and one that has access to the mainstream media, should be celebrated. After all, another well known Jewish American has reached the conclusion that Palestinians deserve equal rights in their own country. However, as we read this article there are several disturbing elements that dampen the excitement.

Beinart shares with the readers, “I knew that Israel was a source of comfort and pride to millions of other Jews.” He explains that this is why he believed in the Jewish state. One could argue that slavery was a source of comfort and pride for millions of white Americans, yet to support slavery is still abhorrent.

Peter Beinart, center, talks to people after speaking at the University of Washington Hillel, October 23, 2014. Photo | Joe Mabel

He goes on to describe a sentiment that hears from many liberal Zionists. “One day in early adulthood, I walked through Jerusalem, reading street names that catalog Jewish history, and felt that comfort and pride myself.” Jerusalem was an Arab city for over a thousand years. In 1948, Palestinians in Jerusalem were subjected to a total and complete ethnic cleansing, and not a single Palestinian was allowed to remain in the city. Jerusalem then became the capital city of the state of Israel and the street names, which used to catalog the long and magnificent Arab history of the city, were changed.

“I knew Israel was wrong to deny Palestinians in the West Bank citizenship, due process, free movement and the right to vote in the country in which they lived.” What about the rights of millions of Palestinians languishing in refugee camps? This country that gave him, and Jews like him, such pride is denying millions of Palestinians their right to return to the lands and homes from which they were expelled.

“But the dream of a two-state solution that would give Palestinians a country of their own let me hope that I could remain a liberal and a supporter of Jewish statehood at the same time.” That was precisely what the scam of the Two State Solution was set to do. To allow liberal Zionists to support the crimes of Zionism and the creation of a racist state in Palestine while still feeling good about themselves.

The idea that the Two State Solution would give Palestinians “a country of their own,” is puzzling. Palestinians have a country of their own, it is Palestine. According to historian Nur Masalha, it has been Palestine for thousands of years before the establishment of the Zionist state on May 15, 1948.

The epiphany experienced by liberal Zionists who suddenly realize they can’t have it both ways is really not an epiphany at all. It is a compromise that allows them to continue to justify their patronizing attitude towards Palestinians. Beinart is not unlike another liberal Zionist, Avram Burg. Burg, a staunch Zionist who served as speaker of the Knesset and chairman of the Jewish Agency, and in between, profited greatly from peddling Israeli weapons. He is a Zionist through and through, and yet, he too claims it is time for a single state. In a piece he authored in 2018, he writes, “Since 1967 Israel had occupied Palestinian territory.” Not unlike Beinart, he sees only the West Bank as Palestinian territory.

 

To feed a Bedouin

A disturbing video clip was recently shared on TikTok by Roy Oz, also known as Roy Boy, an Israeli entertainer who hosts various programs for children. In the clip, an Israeli family is driving comfortably in what appears to be an SUV, with young children in the backseat and the parents in front. The father, Roy Oz, is driving. As they drive, two young children approach the car. The children in the car are white, the children outside are brown. The landscape is barren, like a desert, and we can safely assume it is the Naqab region in southern Palestine.

An Israeli family films itself "feeding" two Bedouin children as if they were animals in a zoo. The dehumanization of Palestinians by Israeli Jewish society is so much more totalizing than anyone here wants to admit or imagine. This is the face of the Jewish state in 2020. pic.twitter.com/PRVayf5QtQ

— Edo Konrad (@edokonrad) July 11, 2020

The father opens the window and hands a cookie to the children outside and says to his children in Hebrew, “Who wants to feed a Bedouin?” He speaks to the children outside in Arabic and then turns to his children again, asking in Hebrew, “You don’t want to feed a Bedouin, Ariel?” One of the two children outside is older than the other and hands the cookie to the younger child. Then, the father turns the camera, showing his children’s faces and asks again, “Do you want to feed a Bedouin? You don’t?” We hear him also saying to himself, “they are so cute,” referring to the children outside.

The father then turns to the children outside and asks in Arabic how much money they want. “One thousand shekel?” He asks. “No, just ten” one of the children answers. “Only ten?” The father asks at which point the mother reaches out of the car and hands one of the children a coin.

 

Expressions of Shock

Expressions of shock came fast from Palestinian communities, who demanded an apology and an explanation. Some even said this was the worst expression of racism they had ever seen. But there is nothing shocking about this clip because this was a normal Israeli middle-class family expressing what countless Israelis express all the time. The appalling racism and patronizing colonial attitude toward Palestinian Bedouin children, as we see in the video, is the foundation upon which the state of Israel was established and exists throughout Israeli society.

Protesters attend a rally against Israel plans to annex parts of the West Bank, in Tel Aviv, June 6, 2020. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

Without structural, systemic, deeply ingrained racism, Israel would not exist. Furthermore, without this white supremacist attitude, no Israeli pilot would be able to push the button that releases the bombs which then burn and rip Palestinian children in Gaza to shreds. No sniper would be able to pull the trigger and kill and maim Palestinians. It is an essential part of Zionist education.

Many Israelis had expressed their displeasure at this expression of racism. However, their displeasure aside, this is nothing new or abnormal. It is not unlike the incident where an Israeli army medic, who is charged with saving people’s lives and had taken an oath to do so, executed a wounded Palestinian laying on the ground. The incident was caught on video and went viral, resulting in the medic being court-martialed and receiving a slap on the wrist. This medic also acted as he was trained, as he was taught, that a Palestinian life does not matter.

Recognizing that Palestinians have rights within a Zionist construct is a symptom of Zionist racist supremacy. This racism is what allows a family to drive by Palestinian children and treat them like animals in a safari. It is how the state of Israel is able to continue the Naqba, the systemic, catastrophic destruction of Palestine and its people for close to one hundred years.

Feature photo | Beinart speaks at a 2012 event in Atlanta after being banned from a Jewish book festival over his criticism of Israel. David Goldman | 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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Exporting Toxic Chemical Waste to Poor Countries Must End, Says UN

The practice of dumping banned, toxic chemical waste on poorer societies by big corporations in rich countries must end, say experts at the United Nations Human Rights Council. “In nearly every case there is no legitimate public interest justification,” said Baskut Tuncak, a Turkish-American UN special rapporteur on the environment and the disposal of toxic waste. “These loopholes are a political concession to industry, allowing their chemical manufacturers to profit from inevitably poisoned workers and communities abroad, all the while importing cheaper products through global supply chains and fueling unsustainable consumption and production patterns. It is long-overdue that States stop this exploitation.”

While stricter regulations apply regarding dumping in regions like Europe and North America, they are often virtually non-existent in African, Asian or Latin American countries. Last year, at least 30 rich countries exported locally-banned toxic substances to poorer states, primarily to save money and resources, allowing corporations to write off their costly waste as an externality, transferring the costs on to some of the poorest people on earth. “The ability to manufacture and export toxic substances banned from use domestically is one, albeit large, element of how states have institutionalized externalities through discriminatory national laws and an outdated system of global governance for chemicals and wastes,” added Tuncak.

 
The Agbogbloshie dump in Ghana is a prime example of the relationship between rich and poor nations. 10,000 workers shift through millions of tons of Western electronic waste that pollutes the air, land and water for miles around, burning plastics and melting metals, hoping to find small amounts of valuable minerals, drastically reducing their own life expectancies. “When I was a small boy, I used to be a footballer — but not anymore,” said 28-year-old Abdullah Boubacar, who makes a living burning plastic insulation off wires to salvage copper. “[Now] I have stomach ulcers and I run out of energy very easily.”

There are usually far fewer regulations against harmful substances in poorer countries, often because their governments have been deposed by Western ones, with institutions like the World Bank imposing extreme forms of neoliberalism governance on them, forcing them to deregulate and privatize their economies. The U.S. government made glue manufacturer H.B. Fuller remove a dangerous and addictive additive in one of its adhesives. However, the company continued to sell the same product across Latin America, despite knowing that tens of millions of children were sniffing it to alleviate pain or hunger, leading to terrible health consequences, including death.

When multinational corporations pollute in rich countries, governments have the power to stand up to and punish them. But this is usually not the case with poorer states in the global south. After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Department of Justice imposed a fine of over $4.5 billion on petrochemical giant BP. Yet when Ecuador attempted to punish Chevron-Texaco for the massive destruction of its Amazon jungle — spilling 80 times the amount of oil BP dumped in the Gulf of Mexico, they simply refused to pay. Furthermore, Chevron-Texaco has managed to get a New York court to prosecute Steven Donziger, the lawyer representing over 30,000 poisoned Ecuadorians. Since then he has had his accounts frozen and has been under house arrest for successfully standing up to the corporation. The court’s decision was condemned by 29 Nobel laureates.

The UN position strongly clashes with that of the World Bank. In 1991, the Bank’s Chief Economist, Larry Summers, argued that his organization should be “encouraging more migration” of pollution to the poorest countries. “I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted,” he wrote, adding that, in his opinion, “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” Summers also bemoaned the fact that the United States and Europe could not export their transport emissions. Summers is now a key advisor to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Activist groups such as Greenpeace and the Working Families Party are attempting to convince Biden to remove him from his position, citing his abysmal record on economics, the environment, and on gender.

On the issue of toxic dumping, some progress is being made. France recently prohibited the export of domestically-produced toxic chemicals, while 25 African countries made it illegal to export to them any substances forbidden from use in their country of manufacture. These laws, however, should not be necessary, according to the experts, who noted that exporting banned chemicals is already illegal under international law. “Failing to address this longstanding exploitation is discrimination, pure and simple,” they concluded.

Feature photo | Young men burning electrical wires to recover copper at Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana. Sept 02, 2019. Photo | Muntaka Chasant | CC

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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