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To We Who Remain: Death of the Liberal Class

Oct 27, 2010 David Swanson
The Living Dead Liberal Class by David…

Obama's Human Rights Record pt. II

Jan 26, 2010 The Real News
Obama's human rights record Pt.2 by…

US Troops to Uganda - Is It the Oil?

Oct 27, 2011 The Real News
US Sends Troops to Uganda - Is It About…


Black Legacy for Black Site Abetting: Poland and Lithuania Haunted by Involvement in CIA Torture Prisons

Poland and Lithuania Haunted by Their Involvement in Hosting CIA Torture Prisons
by Andy Worthington
In the long search for accountability for the torturers of the Bush administration, which has largely been shut down by President Obama, lawyers and human rights activists have either had to try shaming the US through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or have had to focus on other countries, particularly those that hosted secret CIA torture prisons, or had explicit involvement in extraordinary rendition.

Successes have been rare, but hugely important — the conviction of CIA officials and operatives in Italy, for the blatant daylight kidnap of Abu Omar, a cleric, on a street in Milan in February 2003, and the court victory in Macedonia of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen kidnapped in Macedonia, where he had gone on a holiday, and sent to a CIA “black site” in 2003 until the US realized that his was a case of mistaken identity. In the UK, the whiff of complicity in torture at the highest levels of the Blair government led to pay-offs for the British nationals and residents sent to Guantánamo.

Court cases were also launched in Spain, although they were suppressed, in part because of US involvement (under President Obama), and currently there are efforts to hold the US accountable before the the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for its use of Djibouti in a number of cases involving “extraordinary rendition” and “black sites.”

Perhaps the most enduring of the ongoing investigations is in Poland, one of three European countries that hosted CIA “black sites,” the others being Romania and Lithuania. A long-running prosecutor-led investigation in Poland has led to three “high-value detainees” at the Polish site, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah and Walid bin Attash — being granted victim status, and the prison’s existence continues to nag at the consciences of those in Poland who are appalled that a torture site on Polish soil — at Stare Kiejkuty, in the north east of the country — was used from December 2002 to September 2003, and was the place where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times.

In December, the determination of those seeking accountability paid off when the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg held a hearing to examine the role of the Polish authorities in the extraordinary rendition, secret detention and torture of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. A ruling on that is expected sometime this year.

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Preserving the Peace: Food for the Future Family Day Rally Feb. 10 Victoria

Food for the Future - the Family Day Rally for Farmland
by PVEA/Sierra Club BC
Ken and Arlene Boon will be forced off their productive family farm if the proposed Site C dam on the Peace River goes ahead. Site C would permanently flood 7,841 hectares of some of B.C.’s best farmland, marking the single largest deletion in history of land from B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve!
Agronomists say the Peace Valley could produce fruit and vegetables for a million British Columbians, yet the B.C. government is about to sacrifice the only prime farmland north of Quesnel for an $8 billion dam whose power is not needed for domestic consumption.
Please join us for Food for the Future
the Family Day Rally for Farmland
Feb 10 at 12:00 noon on the Legislature lawn. 
Stand with Ken Boon and other B.C. farmers!

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Ten Steps to Successful Activism

Ten Principles to Guide the Young Activist
by Ramzy Baroud - Dissident Voice
In a recent radio interview with a National Public Radio affiliate in Juneau, Alaska, I was asked if I had advice for a 16-year-old Palestinian student, Haitham. He had just arrived in the US as part of a school exchange program, and, admirably began reaching out to his peers in his and other schools to teach them about Palestine, its people and its ongoing struggle for freedom and rights.
There was not enough time to convey much to Haitham, whose voice expressed the personality of a gentle, smart and driven young man. And since I have been asked that question on more than one occasion, mostly coming from young people in Palestine, here are a few thoughts that are an outcome of my own experiences, and nothing else.

Kurd Export Deal Seeks Crude Independence from Iraq

Iraqi Government Threatens Action Against Kurds as Oil Exports Set to Begin
by Nick Cunningham -
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs firmly stated the central government will take action, "including fiscal measures," if Kurdistan begins exporting oil without coming to an agreement with Baghdad. The remarks came as Minister Hussain al-Shahristani spoke at a conference in London on January 28. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) announced in mid-January that oil had begun to flow through a pipeline towards Turkey and that exports would officially start by the end of the month.
Shahristani argues that Kurdish oil must be exported through the State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO), a government-owned entity responsible for marketing Iraq's oil. He reiterated that oil extracted from any region of Iraq, including Kurdistan, is the "property of the Iraqi people," meaning that it is owned by the central government.
The tough statement follows similar threats from other Iraqi government officials in recent weeks as the Kurds prepare to export oil to Turkey.

Obama's Pacific Ambitions and Abe's Pivot

Is Abe Starting to Treat the Obama Administration as a Lame Duck? And is Joe Biden the Designated Whipping Boy?
by Peter Lee - China Matters
There has always been an implicit contradiction between Shinzo Abe's declared desire to "bring Japan back" and the US wish to lead "Free Asia". The divergence of aims has been obscured by the eagerness of the US defense establishment to encourage Japan's increasing heft as a "security" "defense" "active pacifist"; well, let's just say "military" power, in order to add to the credibility of US hegemony in the Western Pacific, and Japan's awareness that US military backing - if properly exploited by invoking the US-Japan Security Treaty - can give Japan a significant leg up in its confrontation with the People's Republic of China.

The Abe administration has performed exactly as desired by American military strategists, both in its willingness, nay eagerness to build up its military and endorse the concept of "collective self defense", and on the highly contentious issue of shoving the Futenma airbase relocation down the throats of the resisting Okinawan people by a combination of financial blandishments and crude political pressure.

However, there are signs that the are tensions in the US-Japan romance, largely because the Obama administration is serious about exploiting the potential of its "honest broker" role to carve out a role for itself as the even-handed interlocutor between Japan and China - a role that the PRC is encouraging in order to drive a wedge between Tokyo and Washington - and is therefore not giving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the full-throated support that he believes he needs and deserves.

Also, the Abe administration may consider the current moderate Asia policy of President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry to be a fleeting, transitory dream of an administration entering its lame-duck phase, to be carefully defied in expectation of a more militant and pro-Japanese successor.

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Foisted on One's Own Pivot: What Obama's Pacific Strategy Means for America

The Pacific Pivot: Why America’s Strategic Rebalance is Really Just Retreat
In a future update of The Devil's Dictionary, the famed Ambrose Bierce dissection of the linguistic hypocrisies of modern life, a single word will accompany the entry for "Pacific pivot": retreat.

It might seem a strange way to characterize the Obama administration's energetic attempt to reorient its foreign and military policy toward Asia. After all, the president’s team has insisted that the Pacific pivot will be a forceful reassertion of American power in a strategic part of the world and a deliberate reassurance to our allies that we have their backs vis-à-vis China.

Indeed, sometimes the pivot seems like little less than a panacea for all that ails U.S. foreign policy. Upset about the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan? Then just light out for more pacific waters. 
Worried that our adversaries are all melting away and the Pentagon has lost its raison d'être? Then how about going toe to toe with China, the only conceivable future superpower on the horizon these days. And if you’re concerned about the state of the U.S. economy, then the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the regional free-trade deal Washington is trying to negotiate, might be just the shot in the arm that U.S. corporations crave.
In reality, however, the “strategic rebalancing” the Obama administration has been promoting as a mid-course correction to its foreign policy remains strong on rhetoric and remarkably weak on content.

So Long Pete and Toshi

So Long, Pete and Toshi Seeger, It's Been Good to Know You...
by Harvey Wasserman
Toshi and Pete Seeger defy description except through the sheer joy and honor it was to know them, however briefly.
Their list of accomplishments will fill many printed pages, which all pale next to the simple core beauty of the lives they led.
They showed us it’s possible to live lives that somehow balance political commitment with joy, humor, family, courage and grace. All of which seemed to come as second nature to them, even as it was wrapped in an astonishing shared talent that will never cease to inspire and entertain.
Pete passed on Monday, at 94, joining Toshi, who left us last year, at 91. They’d been married nearly 70 years.
Somehow the two of them managed to merge an unending optimism with a grounded, realistic sense of life in all its natural travails and glories.
Others who knew them better than I will have more specific to say, and it will be powerful and immense. But, if it’s ok with you, I’d like to thank them for two tangible things, and then for the intangible but ultimately most warming.

An Enduring Appeal: Propaganda 21st C.

Propaganda: 'The Dominant Grand Narrative of Our Time'
by David Cromwell  - Media Lens
'Propaganda' sounds like an old-fashioned word from a bygone era. It evokes images of the Nazis in WW2, particularly Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, or Soviet leaders in the Cold War and dictators in 'Third World' countries. Propaganda is something spewed out by official enemies of the West, and surely not a vile practice indulged by 'our' politicians and business leaders. This is a convenient illusion that serves powerful Western elites very well indeed.
The Russian-born filmmaker Andre Vltchek, who has travelled the world extensively in making his documentaries, relates his experience of appearing in the media in different countries. He observes that when he speaks in China, he does so uncensored:
'I was on CCTV – their National TV – and for half an hour I was talking about very sensitive issues. And I felt much freer in Beijing than when the BBC interviews me, because the BBC doesn't even let me speak, without demanding a full account of what exactly I am intending to say.' (Noam Chomsky and Andre Vltchek, On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare, Pluto Press, London, 2013, p. 31)
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BCHydro's Shifting Rationale for Site C Dam Damaging Credibility

Site C Dam Story Changes Again - Now It's About Powering California
by Damien Gillis - The Common Sense Canadian
The $10 Billion proposed Site C Dam could provide power for export to California, BC Hydro representatives told the Joint Review Panel examining the project on the final day of public hearings, last week in Fort St. John.
A last-minute change to the story that keeps on changing, the new rationale for the dam confirmed the suspicions of some the hearings’ observers. ”We thought we didn’t need the energy,” said the Peace Valley Environment Association’s Andrea Morison, “but we hadn’t heard from Hydro or any other credible source for a long time that it was for the U.S., and we just found out it was for California.”

Hope and Geneva II

The Syrian Team in Geneva
by Franklin Lamb - CounterPunch
Damascus - As a new workweek begins here is Damascus many citizens across a fairly broad spectrum appear to be backing, and even exhibiting a kind of pride for their diplomatic team at the Geneva II conference. It might appear flippant for this observer to suggest that returning to Damascus after recent events in his neighborhood of Haret Hriek in Dahiyeh, South Beirut sort of feels like one has arrived in a peaceful holiday local rather stress free, but others have told me the same thing once they crossover from Lebanon. Damascus is currently the most quiet and ‘normal’ appearing that I have found this historic city for more than two years.
Damascenes to a person it appears, despite differing political views, are hoping for breakthroughs that just might bring an end to the carnage that has left virtually no one unaffected and has driven 9.5 million people from their homes, killed close to 140,000 and with more than 18,000 missing. These and many more tragedies creating a major humanitarian crisis both within Syria and among this birth place of civilization’s neighbors.
At the Set al Cham (Grandmother of Damascus) a home style cooking small restaurant around the corner from the Dama Rose hotel, close to where a rocket hit 30 yards outside the front entrance of the five star hotel last week and ignited half a dozen cars and shattered windows in this ‘security zone’, there are currently animated conversations about the Geneva II conference. They focus on the prospects for a ceasefire which all here apparently agree is the first essential step to ending the carnage ravaging this country for the past three years. The apparent imminent release of women and children from the more than 500 families who have for many months been trapped in the old city of Homs, Syria’s third largest city, has created some inchoate hope.

Laundering Sharon's Legacy

Ariel Sharon: War is Peace
by David Edwards  - Media Lens
Readers will recall the famous perceptual illusion in which the brain switches between seeing a young girl and an image intended to represent an 'old crone'. The picture of course remains the same, but our minds flick between the two interpretations, unable to perceive both images at the same time.
The 'mainstream media' - that curious collection of elite-run, profit-maximising business interests sometimes known as 'the free press' - performs a similar perceptual trick. In reviewing comparable crimes by the West and its official enemies, it is able to flick between perceiving virtue in 'our' criminality where only wickedness is found in 'theirs'. Indeed, though 'our' crimes may be as bad, as cynical, or worse, 'their' crimes are consistently perceived as being far uglier.
Not that 'our' crimes are completely ignored. A Sunday Times editorial reviewed the life and career of former Israeli prime minister and general Ariel Sharon, who died on January 11:
'His Unit 101 slaughtered 69 civilians in the Jordanian town of Qibya in 1953 and as defence minister he was blamed for the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Israel's Christian Phalange allies in 1982. He was forced to resign from his post.' (Leading article, 'The old warrior who turned to peace,' Sunday Times, January 12, 2014)

The Sunday Times described these as mere 'black marks', much as 9/11 and Halabja were 'black marks' against bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, perhaps. Otherwise, Sharon was one of Israel's 'great nation-builders', 'a military hero'; 'He leaves an important legacy.'