Yarmouk Palestinian Camp, Damascus - At the Palestine Embassy in Beirut recently, a young lady showed this observer a video of a gentleman in Yarmouk camp in Damascus. The video showed the man killing and eating a cat. Food ran out in Yarmouk weeks ago, and nearly 18,000 refugees are facing death from starvation and other conflict-related causes. This siege has been ongoing since July 2013, and it has become viciously lethal.
The Palestinians living here have been targeted. They are part of the quarter million people—children, women, and men—trapped and dying from hunger and illness all across Syria as a direct, predictable result of using the siege of civilians as a weapon of war.
It isn’t just Yarmouk. Throughout Syria, neighborhoods are being blockaded. Residents are running out of supplies, unable to get basic services. Among the Syrian towns under siege at this time are Nubul and Al-Zahraa in Aleppo province, the old city of Homs, and the towns of Eastern Ghouta, Daraya and Moadamiyet al-Sham in rural Damascus.
WE MagazineInterview with Sharmine Narwani The last thing the Middle East needs is another conflict. But Lebanon looks set to once again become the battleground for larger powers vying for regional supremacy. Today this fight has become existential – and Lebanon may be viewed as a last chance to deal a fatal blow to the "Resistance Axis" Iran, Syria, Hezbollah.
The conflict between Sunnis and Shiites seems to deepen in Lebanon. Who is fueling this divide and why?
I am wary anytime I hear about Sunni-Shia conflicts in the Mideast. While there are historic tensions between these two groups, the region is aflood with Sunni-Shia marriages, particularly in those countries – Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria, Iraq – said to be suffering most from Sunni-Shia strife.
I always prefer to say that the real conflict is between “sectarians” and “non-sectarians” – this is a more accurate description because there are Sunni and Shia on both sides of that divide. Those in the “sectarian” grouping are the minority opinion in their own communities, but they are loud and aggressive, so we think there are many of them.
It is very easy to get drawn into the narrative of constant Shia-Sunni discord – it blares from the headlines in all our papers. But at this point in a rapidly destabilizing Middle East, it befits us to dig deeper.
Why are Christie and the Kochs in my driveway? - It’s time to subpoena the Committee for Our Children’s Future
by Greg Palast - Truthout Far more insidious, more corrosive and dangerous than the Governor of New Jersey playing traffic warden is the story of Gov. Chris Christie's secret meetings with a gaggle of billionaires –– and the legality of the spending by the front organization set up following these hidden hugger-muggers.
In 2012, a tax-exempt “social welfare organization” called Committee for Our Children’s Future, CCF, ran a series of TV ads telling America that Governor Christie has performed more miracles in New Jersey than Jesus did with loaves and fish. The New York Times found some old college chums who said they set up the “Children’s” crusade for Christie. But the ads cost about $6 million. The Times didn’t ask how Christie’s buddies, not wealthy guys, found the six big ones.
They operate in the green glow of night vision in Southwest Asia and stalk through the jungles of South America. They snatch men from their homes in the Maghreb and shoot it out with heavily armed militants in the Horn of Africa. They feel the salty spray while skimming over the tops of waves from the turquoise Caribbean to the deep blue Pacific. They conduct missions in the oppressive heat of Middle Eastern deserts and the deep freeze of Scandinavia. All over the planet, the Obama administration is waging a secret war whose full extent has never been fully revealed -- until now.
Since September 11, 2001, U.S. Special Operations forces have grown in every conceivable way, from their numbers to their budget. Most telling, however, has been the exponential rise in special ops deployments globally. This presence -- now, in nearly 70% of the world’s nations -- provides new evidence of the size and scope of a secret war being waged from Latin America to the backlands of Afghanistan, from training missions with African allies to information operations launched in cyberspace.
The Dark Mountain Manifesto: Part 1 of 3 - The Realization
by Ray Grigg - Shades of Green
Failure is difficult to accept, particularly for those who are committed to a cause so obvious and important. But failure is the reluctant conclusion reached by a small group of dedicated environmentalists in the United Kingdom who, for years, have been active in innumerable local, national and international campaigns against everything from climate change and deforestation to overfishing and habitat destruction.
Their admission of failure is lucidly captured in a document called The Dark Mountain Manifesto, written in part by Paul Kingsnorth, a fifteen-year campaigner, journalist and former deputy editor of the Ecologist, one of the leading publications in its field.
Kingsnorth's poignant and searching reasons for writing The Dark Mountain Manifesto were given in an April 29, 2010, edition of the Ecologist. If the reasons seemed justified four years ago, they seem even more justified now. His words give clarity to a dawning realization and a deepening feeling that many others have found difficult to confront and articulate.
by Wikileaks Today, 15 January 2014, WikiLeaks released the secret draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Environment Chapter and the corresponding Chairs' Report.
The TPP transnational legal regime would cover 12 countries initially and encompass 40 per cent of global GDP and one-third of world trade. The Environment Chapter has long been sought by journalists and environmental groups. The released text dates from the Chief Negotiators' summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013.
The Environment Chapter covers what the Parties propose to be their positions on: environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in 'environmental' goods and services. It also outlines how to resolve enviromental disputes arising out of the treaty's subsequent implementation. The draft Consolidated Text was prepared by the Chairs of the Environment Working Group, at the request of TPP Ministers at the Brunei round of the negotiations.
Win Today, Lose Tomorrow: Why Republicans Protect the "Honor" of Offensive Team Names
byJeremiah Goulka - TomDispatch Every once in a while a small controversy comes along that helps explain a big problem. This National Football League season has provided such a controversy. The name of Washington D.C.'s football team, the Redskins, is under fire. "Redskins" is an offensive term and therefore inappropriate for the team representing our nation’s capital. That's kind of obvious, right?
Most Republicans don't think so. They defend the name, as they do other Native American-based team names, such as the college football champion Florida State Seminoles, calling them tokens of "honor." They claim that the names celebrate a "heritage" and "tradition" of "bravery" and "warrior-spirit," and they publicly wonder: What's the problem?
The Onion, that fine news source, captured it in one neat, snide sentence: "A new study... confirmed that the name of the Washington Redskins is only offensive if you take any amount of time whatsoever to think about its actual meaning." So what's keeping Republicans from thinking about it?
The decision means that Enbridge and Kinder Morgan – which formally filed its own pipeline application on December 16, the same day the NEB memo was made public – will no longer need to obtain permits from DFO to alter habitat for their projects.
“Fish and fish habitat along those pipelines is now the responsibility of the Alberta-based, energy friendly National Energy Board,” notes Robin Rowland of Northwest Energy News, who broke the story yesterday.
Russia May Hit Back at Saudi Arabia for Volgogard Attacks
by Finian Cunningham - Press TV Russian intelligence has now reportedly obtained solid proof that Saudi Arabia was directly involved in the twin terror attacks on the city of Volgograd. The attacks killed more than 32 people and injured over 100 others. Most of the victims were civilians.
According to an informed Russian official source, reported by the Fars News Agency, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has informed President Vladimir Putin of the Saudi link to the Volgograd massacre.
This will come as no surprise to Putin. The Russian leader was warned by the Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar Bin Sultan during a heated four-hour private meeting back in July that Wahhabi-sponsored terrorists based in the North Caucasus region of Russia would be targeting the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The Sochi Games are due to open on February 7. Volgograd is a key transport hub linking Moscow with the southern Russian territory and the Black Sea resort city of Sochi in particular, where the Winter Olympics are to be held.
Why the Washington Post’s New Ties to the CIA Are So Ominous
by Norman Solomon - War Made Easy American journalism has entered highly dangerous terrain. A tip-off is that the Washington Post refuses to face up to a conflict of interest involving Jeff Bezos -- who’s now the sole owner of the powerful newspaper at the same time he remains Amazon’s CEO and main stakeholder.
The Post is supposed to expose CIA secrets. But Amazon is under contract to keep them. Amazon has a new $600 million “cloud” computing deal with the CIA.
The situation is unprecedented. But in an email exchange early this month, Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron told me that the newspaper doesn’t need to routinely inform readers of the CIA-Amazon-Bezos ties when reporting on the CIA. He wrote that such in-story acknowledgment would be “far outside the norm of disclosures about potential conflicts of interest at media organizations.”
But there isn’t anything normal about the new situation. As I wrote to Baron, “few journalists could have anticipated ownership of the paper by a multibillionaire whose outside company would be so closely tied to the CIA.”
by Peter Van Buren - TomDispatch The debate Edward Snowden envisioned when he revealed the extent of National Security Agency (NSA) spying on Americans has taken a bad turn. Instead of a careful examination of what the NSA does, the legality of its actions, what risks it takes for what gains, and how effective the agency has been in its stated mission of protecting Americans, we increasingly have government officials or retired versions of the same demanding -- quite literally -- Snowden’s head and engaging in the usual fear-mongeringover 9/11.
They have been aided by a chorus of pundits, columnists, and present as well as former officials offering bumper-sticker slogans like "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear," all the while claiming our freedom is in direct conflict with our security.
It’s time to face these arguments directly. So here are ten myths about NSA surveillance that need debunking. Let's sort them out.