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Mutated States: An Israel Neither Jewish nor Democratic

Extreme, Extremer, Extremest
by Uri Avnery  - CounterPunch

January 22, 2016

As is well-known, Israel is a “Jewish and democratic state”. That is its official designation. Well… As for Jewish, it’s a new kind of Jewishness, a mutation.
 
For 2000 years or so, Jews were known to be wise, clever, peace-loving, humane, progressive, liberal, even socialist. Today, when you hear these attributes, the State of Israel is not the first name that springs to mind. Far from it.
 
As for “democratic”, that was more or less true from the foundation of the state in 1948 until the Six-day War of 1967, when Israel unfortunately conquered the West Bank, the Gaza strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan. And, of course, the Sinai peninsula which was later returned to Egypt.
 
(I say “more or less” democratic, because there is no completely democratic state anywhere in the world.)
 

A Lasting Contango in Oil: When Will This Market Bottom Out?

When Oil Will Bottom: The Most Important Column I've Ever Written 
by Inside Investor with Dan Dicker - Oilprice.com
 
January 22, 2016
 
Everyone’s now pretty well convinced that the collapse in oil prices is a disaster for stocks, something I’ve been trying to convince people of since late in 2014. So, nothing is more important for investors than figuring when oil might bottom out, but even more, when it might turn constructive again.

I think I can tell you that now – making this possibly the most important column on oil I’ve ever written. But I’m warning you: It’s a wonky column, so proceed at your own risk.

As an oil trader engaged in this market since 1983, what’s struck me about the recent action in oil has been the parallels to other oil ‘silly seasons’ – much of the action downwards today looks almost exactly like the action I saw to the upside during 2007 and into the Spring of 2008. 
 

WE Making Terrorism

How the West Creates Terrorism
by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

January 22, 2016
 
Terrorism has many forms and many faces, but the most terrible of them is cold cruelty.
 
We are asked to believe that terrorists consist of dirty lunatics, running around with bombs, machine guns and explosive belts. That’s how we are told to imagine them.
 
Many of them are bearded; almost all are “foreign looking”, non-white, non-Western. In summary they are wife beaters, child rapists and Greek and Roman statue destroyers.
 
Actually, during the Cold War, there were some white looking “terrorists” – the left-wingers belonging to several revolutionary cells, in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. But only now we are learning that the terrorist acts attributed to them were actually committed by the Empire, by several European right-wing governments and intelligence services. You remember, the NATO countries were blowing up those trains inside the tunnels, or bombing entire train stations…
 
It “had to be done”, in order to discredit the Left, just to make sure that people would not become so irresponsible as to vote for the Communists or true Socialists.
 

Carrying Costs: Salish Sea and the Environmental Impact of Proposed Energy and Shipping Projects

Value of the Salish Sea revealed in new report: Holistic examination needed of coastal energy and shipping projects
by Raincoast Conservation

January 20, 2016

Sidney, BC/Coast Salish territories - Raincoast Conservation Foundation released a new report today encouraging federal, provincial/state, local, and indigenous governments and residents of the Salish Sea to fully consider what is at stake from a host of proposed coastal energy and shipping projects.

The report demonstrates how the value of the region’s biological diversity –its plants and animals- reflect our values, have shaped our cultural identity, and are linked to economic benefits in the billions of dollars.

Yet many of the habitats that provide these benefits are under significant stress. This situation will only be  exacerbated by the combined effect that proposed energy and shipping projects have, including oil spills. No one is examining these proposals from the perspective of their cumulative impacts, and how they affect our economies, cultures, and values of the Salish Sea.

“As governments and citizens across the Salish Sea line-up to recommend the National Energy Board reject Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain proposal, we urgently need to start a broader conversation about the true value of this unique ecosystem – and that’s much bigger than 50 jobs from Kinder Morgan,” said Raincoast’s Misty MacDuffee, lead author on the report.
Add a comment Add a comment Read more: Carrying Costs: Salish Sea and the Environmental Impact of Proposed Energy and Shipping Projects

UN Iraq Human Rights Report Mum on US-caused Death and Atrocity

“Staggering” violence in Iraq: The legacy of US war and occupation
by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

21 January 2016
 
Describing current levels of killing and mayhem in Iraq as “staggering” and “obscene,” two United Nations agencies released a report Tuesday that recorded at least 55,047 civilian casualties between January 1, 2014 and October 31, 2015. The total included at least 18,802 civilians killed and another 36,245 wounded.
 
The report added that over roughly the same period, a total of 3,206,736 civilians, including over 1 million school-age children, have been driven from their homes by the violence.
 
The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein said the report failed to reflect the full human toll inflicted by the conflict in Iraq. The numbers reported killed or wounded, particularly in areas under ISIS control, undoubtedly fell well short of the real level of carnage. Moreover, many more had “died from lack of access to basic food, water or medical care,” he said.
 
The high commissioner added that the report “starkly illustrates what Iraqi refugees are attempting to escape when they flee to Europe and other regions. This is the horror they face in their homelands.”
 

Father of Killed American Presses Kerry for Answers on MH-17 Jet Shootdown

Kerry Pressed for MH-17 Evidence
by Robert Parry - Consortium News

January 21, 2016

The father of Quinn Schansman, the only American citizen to die in the 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, has asked Secretary of State John Kerry to release the U.S. data that Kerry cited in claiming precise knowledge of where the suspected anti-aircraft missile was fired.
 
One of the mysteries of the MH-17 case has become why the United States – after asserting that it possessed information implicating ethnic Russian rebels and the Russian government – has failed to make the data public or apparently even share it with Dutch investigators who are leading the inquiry into how the plane was shot down and who was responsible.
 
Quinn Schansman, dual U.S.-Dutch
citizen killed aboard Malaysia Airlines
Flight 17, July 17, 2014. (Photo Facebook)
 
Quinn Schansman, who had dual U.S.-Dutch citizenship, boarded MH-17 along with 297 other people for a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014. The 19-year-old was planning to join his family for a vacation in Malaysia.
 

Progress of Denial: Pentagon Not Through with Iraq Yet

The Pentagon’s Progress: Will American “Successes” Lead to More Iraqi Military Failures?
by Nick Turse - TomDispatch
 
There’s good news coming out of Iraq... again. The efforts of a 65-nation coalition and punishing U.S. airstrikes have helped local ground forces roll back gains by the Islamic State (IS).

Government forces and Shiite militias, for example, recaptured the city of Tikrit, while Kurdish troops ousted IS fighters from the town of Sinjar and other parts of northern Iraq. Last month, Iraqi troops finally pushed Islamic State militants out of most of the city of Ramadi, which the group had held since routing Iraqi forces there last spring.

In the wake of all this, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter touted “the kind of progress that the Iraqi forces are exhibiting in Ramadi, building on that success to… continue the campaign with the important goal of retaking Mosul as soon as possible.”
 
Even more recently, he said those forces were “proving themselves not only motivated but capable.”
 
I encountered the same upbeat tone when I asked Colonel Steve Warren, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, about the Iraqi security forces. “The last year has been a process of constructing, rebuilding, and refitting the Iraqi army,” he explained. “While it takes time for training and equipping efforts to take effect, the increasing tactical confidence and competence of the ISF [Iraqi security forces] and their recent battlefield successes indicate that we are on track.”
 

Two Faces of New York Times' Nuclear Coverage: Damning Iran, While Praising US Arms Program

The New York Times’s Double Standard on Iran’s Nuclear Program
by Matt Peppe  - CounterPunch

January 19, 2016

As the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified over the weekend that Iran has completed the measures necessary to comply with the nuclear deal reached last July with the P5+1 governments, the New York Times Editorial Board proclaimed “the world is now safer for this.”
 
They lauded the deal as a “testament to patient diplomacy” and President Barack Obama’s “visionary determination to pursue a negotiated solution to the nuclear threat.”
 
The Editorial Board takes for granted that Iran presents a threat. Iran has always maintained it has never intended to build nuclear weapons, and that it’s nuclear program was strictly meant to use nuclear technology as a source of energy production.
 
 

High and Dry in Mordor City: Detroit Water Activists Go to Trial

Water Resistance Trial Underway in Detroit
by Bill Quigley - HuffPost

Nov 20 2015

Mordor eyeA jury trial is underway in Detroit for human rights activists arrested for blocking trucks which were going to cutoff water to low-income families.
 
On July 18, 2014, dozens of people successfully blocked the trucks of the Homrich Inc., a private wrecking company that the City of Detroit contracts with to carry out water shutoffs. The trucks were leaving to cutoff water for Detroiters who were more than $150 past due on payments. After an eight-hour blockade nine people were arrested.
 
Those on trial said civil disobedience was their only option to address the grave public health crisis of mass water shutoffs, since the City of Detroit was under emergency management, which effectively strips all elected officials of decision-making power.
 
One of the people on trial is Bill Wylie-Kellermann, pastor of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Detroit.
 
He told The Detroit News, "It was, at the time, the last vestige of democracy in the city."
 

TPP's Roshomon Tale: Raw Deal for Canadian Log Exports, Or Not?

Ambiguity in TPP side letter about raw log exports to Japan
by Peter Ewart - 250 News

January 20, 2016

Rashomon” was a film made back in 1950 by the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. The film revolves around the murder of a samurai warrior and various characters’ accounts of it. According to their own interests, each of the characters has a very different interpretation as to how and why the warrior was killed.
 
And so it goes with the issue of raw log exports from Canada to Japan under the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal. In the negotiations, a side letter was agreed upon between the two countries that addresses log exports (1).

The Canadian government negotiators claim that this letter protects existing restrictions on these exports. However, the Japanese side appears to interpret the letter differently (2).

For example, the Japan Forest Products Journal (Oct. 23) claims that Canada has “agreed to ease” restrictions on raw log exports (3). According to a translation done by the Private Forest Landowners Association of BC, the Japanese Trade Journal (Oct. 10) has claimed the same thing. For its part, the Japanese government suggests that the TPP agreement will improve log export regulations and that this will result in higher prices for logs in Canada.
 
On the other hand, Rick Jeffery, CEO of the Coast Forest Products Association (which includes companies that export raw logs) says that the side letter maintains the status quo and does not involve lifting log export restrictions.
 

A Fed Facilitated Market Free-Fall

The Fed’s Role in the Stock Market Slide
by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

January 19, 2016
 
Dow Jones January 2016When the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and S&P peaked in May 2015, investors were still confident that the Fed “had their back” and that any steep or prolonged downturn in stocks would be met with additional liquidity and a firm commitment to maintain zero rates as long as necessary. But now that the Fed has started its long-awaited rate-hike cycle, investors aren’t sure what to expect.
 
This growing uncertainty coupled with flagging earnings reports have factored heavily in Wall Street’s recent selloff. Unless the Fed is able to restore confidence by promising to take steps that support the markets, stocks are going to continue get hammered by economic data that’s bound to deteriorate as 2016 drags on.
 
For the last few years, investors have relied on the so called “Bernanke Put” to prevent significant stock losses while the real economy continued to sputter and underperform. The moniker refers to the way the Fed adds liquidity to the markets during periods of stress to put a floor under stocks.
 
 

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