News Items – 02.15.17

Reuters: “Trump knew for weeks that aide was being misleading over Russia: White House

Here’s the latest Permafrost War (a Cold War that never thawed) interview with Stephen Cohen — professor emeritus of Russian history and studies at Princeton University and New York University. (More from the American-Committee of East-West Accord)

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Benn Norton: “U.S.-backed Saudi War in Yemen Fuels ‘Largest Food Security Emergency in the World’

“Since March 2015, the U.S. has supported a Saudi-led coalition that has bombed Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. With tens of billions of dollars worth of American and British weapons, more than 1,000 refueling sorties by U.S. planes and intelligence and guidance from the American and British militaries, Saudi Arabia has carried out thousands of airstrikes, at least one-third of which have struck civilian sites.

The Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition has also intentionally targeted food production and the agricultural sector in its bombing campaign in Yemen, in what a leading expert has described as a ‘scorched-earth strategy.’ In August, the United Nations reported that more than 10,000 Yemenis had been killed, with an average of 13 civilian casualties per day, in a U.S.-fueled war that has gotten little attention in the U.S. media and which received virtually no mention in the entirety of the 2016 presidential campaign.

The war has plunged Yemen into what the U.N. has characterized as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Yemen already suffered from widespread food insecurity before the coalition launched its bombing campaign and implemented a blockade 21 months ago. Since then, the U.N. has repeatedly reported that more than half of Yemen’s population is going hungry and that millions are on the brink of famine. In a report released in December, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network warned, ‘Conflict in Yemen is the primary driver of the largest food security emergency in the world.’

[…]

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network gauges the severity of a hunger crisis on a five-point scale, in which IPC Phase 5 is ‘Famine’ and IPC Phase 1 is ‘Minimal.’ In Yemen, at least 2 million people are in IPC Phase 4: Emergency. They ‘face an increased risk of mortality’ from hunger, the monitor says. An additional 5 to 8 million Yemenis are classified in IPC Phase 3: Crisis, and ‘in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.’ The whole western half of Yemen, the more populated part of the country with the large urban centers, is in IPC Phase 3: Crisis, according to the monitor. A large strip on the western coast, including the major cities al-Hudayda and Taizz, is in IPC Phase 4: Emergency. … More than 14 million Yemenis are already food insecure, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in a population of 26 million. The World Food Program is providing assistance to an average of 3.5 million Yemenis per month, but the Famine Early Warning Systems Network warns this ‘is not sufficient to meet Yemen’s current needs.’

[…]

Human rights groups have documented a vast array of atrocities committed on both sides of the war. The U.N. has nevertheless repeatedly reported that the Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition is responsible for nearly two-thirds of civilian casualties, whereas the Houthis and allied pro-Saleh militias have been responsible for less than one-fourth. The rest of the atrocities have been committed by extremist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, which have been strengthened by the U.S.-backed war.

The U.N., Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have on several occasions accused the coalition of carrying out apparent war crimes, documenting Saudi-led bombing of a slew of civilian sites, including hospitals, schools, homes, weddings, funerals, and refugee camps. Cluster munitions, which are banned in much of the world, provided by the U.S. and U.K. have also been used in civilian areas. Research conducted by Martha Mundy, a professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, has shown how the coalition is deliberately bombing targets that are part of the system of food production and agricultural sector in Yemen.

A blockade the coalition imposed in early 2015 has also fueled the humanitarian catastrophe. The blockade was ostensibly created in order to prevent foreign actors from arming the Houthis and pro-Saleh militias. Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have accused Iran of arming the Houthi-Saleh forces. The extent to which Iran is involved in the conflict is debated, nonetheless, and has often been exaggerated. Before the war began, Yemen imported 90 percent of its food; the blockade has thus plunged the impoverished country into even worse hunger. The U.S. Navy has helped to implement the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade since it was first established.

The war has led to the displacement of more than 3 million Yemenis. Since the summer of 2015, humanitarian groups have warned that more than 80 percent of Yemen’s population has been in desperate need of aid, in the form of food, water, medicine, and oil. The war has also totally decimated the poorest country in the Middle East’s fragile economy. In November, the New York Times reported that the coalition has been ‘systematically obliterating Yemen’s already bare-bones economy.’

[…]

Every week, more than 1,000 Yemeni children die due to preventable diseases — an average of one child every 10 minutes — according to UNICEF. Thousands are perishing from malnutrition, diarrhea, and respiratory infections. More than 2.2 million Yemeni children need urgent care, and at least 462,000 are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, at risk of starvation, a 200 percent increase since 2014. … Cholera, which had nearly been eradicated, is also on the rise on Yemen. In its December humanitarian bulletin, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that it had documented 122 confirmed cases of the disease in 12 governorates, with 7,700 more suspected cases.”

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ACLU: “FAQ on Government Access to Medical Records

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Robert Reich — Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley; former professor at Harvard University and Brandeis University; and former US Secretary of Labor — via Alternet:

Robert Reich Lays Waste to Trump’s Rudderless White House: ‘The Sloppiest Management I’ve Ever Seen’

Robert Reich: The Real Reason Republicans Want to Repeal Obamacare

Robert Reich: The White House Mess Exposes Donald Trump’s Long Con

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On the Road to Another Watergate?,” by Tim Weiner — a veteran New York Times investigative journalist and author of detailed histories of both the FBI and CIA.

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Why Israel’s capture of Eichmann caused panic at the CIA,” by The Guardian:

“On May 23 1960, when Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion announced to the Knesset that ‘Adolf Eichmann, one of the greatest Nazi war criminals, is in Israeli custody,’ US and West German intelligence services reacted to the stunning news not with joy but alarm. Newly declassified CIA documents show the Americans and the German BND knew Eichmann was hiding in Argentina at least two years before Israeli agents snatched him from the streets of Buenos Aires on his way back from work. They knew how long he had been in the country and had a rough idea of the alias the Nazi fugitive was using there, Klement.

[…]

Washington and Bonn failed to act on the information or hand it to the Israelis because they believed it did not serve their interests in the cold war struggle. In fact, the unexpected reappearance of the architect of the ‘final solution’ in a glass box in a Jerusalem court threatened to be an embarrassment, turning global attention to all the former Nazis the Americans and Germans had recruited in the name of anti-communism. Historians say Britain and other western powers probably did the same, but they have not published the evidence. The CIA has. Under heavy congressional pressure, the agency has been persuaded to declassify 27,000 unedited pages about American dealings with former Nazis in postwar Europe.

[…]

In Bonn, the immediate fear was what Eichmann would say about Hans Globke, who had also worked in the Nazis’ Jewish affairs department, drafting the Nuremberg laws, designed to isolate Jews from the rest of society in the Third Reich. While Eichmann had gone on the run, Globke stayed behind and prospered. By 1960 he was Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s national security adviser. … Globke was the main point of contact between the Bonn government, the CIA and Nato. ‘Globke was a timebomb for Nato,’ Mr Naftali said. At the request of the West Germans, the CIA even managed to persuade Life magazine to delete any reference to Globke from Eichmann’s memoirs, which it had bought from the family. But it was not just Globke. When Eichmann was captured the CIA combed files it had captured from the Nazis to find information that might be useful to the Israeli prosecution. The results caused near panic among the CIA’s leadership because, unknown to the junior staff who had looked through the files, a few of Eichmann’s accomplices being investigated had been CIA ‘assets.’

[…]

Otto Albrecht von Bolschwing – who also had worked with Eichmann in the Jewish affairs department and was later Heinrich Himmler’s representative in Romania – frantically asked his old CIA case officer for help. After the war Bolschwing had been recruited by the Gehlen Organisation, the prototype German intelligence agency set up by the Americans under Reinhard Gehlen, who had run military intelligence on the eastern front under the Nazis. … One of the networks, codenamed Kibitz-15, was run by a former German army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Kopp, who was described by his own American handlers as an ‘unreconstructed Nazi.'”

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Academic study: “Global Burden of Armed Violence 2011

Abstract: “Global Burden of Armed Violence 2011 takes an integrated approach to the complex and volatile dynamics of armed violence around the world. Drawing on comprehensive country-level data, including both conflict-related and criminal violence, it estimates that at least 526,000 people die violently every year, more than three-quarters of them in non-conflict settings. It highlights the 58 countries with high rates of lethal violence, accounting for two-thirds of all violent deaths, and shows that one in four violent deaths occur in just 14 countries, seven of which are in the Americas. New research on femicide also reveals that about 66,000 women and girls are violently killed around the world each year.”

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Michael Wala — professor of history at University in Bochum, Germany — writes in the Journal of Intelligence History, 2016:

“American intelligence organizations set up stay-behind operations, equipped and trained a secret irregular army in early post-war Germany collaborating with a large number of former members of Schutzstaffel (SS) and German Wehrmacht. During this cooperation, knowledge became a commodity to be exchanged for protection from prosecution and for future job opportunities. Intertwining different and differing communities of practice and knowledge, they constructed a shared Cold War paradigm that served as the foundation for a transatlantic security architecture.” (PDF via Sci-Hub.io)

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Here are updates on Florida’s medical marijuana laws:

Tampa Bay Times: “Sen. Jeff Brandes files competing medical marijuana bill

Tampa Bay Times: “Lobbyist muscle will be major force in medical marijuana fight

Miami Herald: “Hundreds speak out on medical marijuana, and they don’t like the rules

Associated Press: “Florida Officials Clash With Voters Over Medical Cannabis Rules

University of South Florida: “The Medical Marijuana Gray Area In Florida

Miami Herald: “Broward law would regulate medical marijuana dispensaries

Leafly: “Where Are the Medical Marijuana Doctors in Florida? We Mapped Them.

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Miami Herald on the slow Puerto Rico-ization (the transforming from natural island paradise to US-European vacation colony) of Cuba:

Carnival Cruise Line is sailing to Cuba from Tampa this summer

Oceania cruises adding more Cuba trips from PortMiami with multiple stops on the island

First Five-Star Luxury Hotel to Open in Cuba’s Old Havana

Norwegian adding 25 more Cuba cruise sailings through December

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Leafly: “DEA Drops Inaccurate Cannabis Claims From Website

“In a remarkable about-face, the US Drug Enforcement Administration on Monday removed inaccurate information about the purported dangers of cannabis from the agency’s website. The change came after the nonprofit advocacy group Americans for Safe Access filed a legal petition calling for the DEA to remove the incorrect claims. Filed on Dec. 5, the petition argues that the misleading statements—among which that cannabis can cause psychosis, lung cancer, and permanent cognitive damage—violate the federal Information Quality Act, designed to ensure integrity of information published by federal agencies.”

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Here are academic papers on NATO’s ‘stay-behind’ armies at the Swiss Institute for Peace and Energy Research (SIPER), founded by Daniele Ganser — professor of history and future energy systems at St. Gallen’s University, Switzerland; former professor of conflict analysis at Basel University, Switzerland; former Swiss Foreign Ministry expert on civil peace and human rights promotion; and whose doctoral thesis at ETH Zurich (Albert Einstein’s alma mater) was the indispensable book, “NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation GLADIO and Terrorism in Western Europe.” (The one in the cover photo is here.)

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Trump Intends to Follow Up Botched Yemen Military Raid By Helping Saudis Target Civilians,” by The Intercept:

“Donald Trump’s first concrete decision as commander in chief was a major fiasco that killed nine children, eight women, and a U.S. soldier in a botched raid on al Qaeda in Yemen. The operation — which Trump reportedly approved over dinner — also failed to catch its reported target and severely damaged a local clinic, mosque, and school. It’s hard to imagine Donald Trump making the situation worse in Yemen, but he did. Impoverished to begin with, Yemen is two years into a civil war that has killed 10,000 people and displaced millions. A U.S.-supplied bombing campaign has turned schoolshospitalsessential infrastructure, and ancient heritage sites into rubble. And a U.S.-backed blockade is preventing the trade of food and basic goods, starving a country that previously relied on imports for 90 percent of its food.

[…]

As a result, the United Nations this week declared that Yemen is on the brink of famine. Officials held a news conference Wednesday to announce that 19 million Yemenis — more than two-thirds of the country’s population — need some form of humanitarian assistance, 7.3 million people do not know where their next meal will come, and more than half of the country’s medical facilities have closed.

[…]

And signs are that Yemen is in for more suffering at Trump’s hands. Trump’s Defense Department is reportedly considering a proposal to designate Yemen a formal battlefield in the war on terror, which would allow for an ‘intensified pace of operations, rather than one-off raids or drone strikes.’ Yemen is one of seven countries included in Trump’s immigration ban. In New York City, Yemeni-Americans have led strikes and large protests against the ban, which separates many from their extended families. And the Washington Times reported on Wednesday that the administration is set to approve an arms transfer to Saudi Arabia that the Obama administration denied to them on human rights grounds. The shipment contains hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons guidance systems that would allow Saudi Arabia to convert dumb bombs into precision missiles.

[…]

The U.S. has been a silent partner in the kingdom’s campaign against the Houthis, refueling warplanes, supplying targeting intelligence, and resupplying the coalition with more than $20 billion in weapons. Since the beginning of their campaign, Saudi Arabia has destroyed vital civilian infrastructure including farmsfisherieswater infrastructureroads, and hospitals. Other targeting decisions have sparked global outrage: the bombing of a children’s school and a school for the blind, and the October attack that turned a funeral at a community center into a ‘lake of blood.’

[…]

The Saudi-led bombing campaign has also allowed al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate — the target of Trump’s botched raid — to grow exponentially in personnel and finances. According to State Department reports, the group quadrupled in size the year that Saudi Arabia started bombing. The same year, al Qaeda seized a prominent port city, which netted them an estimated $5 million a day off customs tariffs and smuggled goods. Al Qaeda in Yemen is also fighting the Houthis.”

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Financial Backers of EPA Pick Scott Pruitt Have Faced Hundreds of Pollution Actions,” by The Intercept

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The Independent: “Trump missed his main target in Yemen raid that killed 30 civilians and one US Navy SEAL” (More)

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Reuters: “Yemen cancer patients struggle to survive war shortages

Reuters: “Mexican ‘DREAMer’ nabbed in immigrant crackdown

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New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice: “Non-Citizens Are Not Voting. Here Are the Facts.

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Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post: “Flynn’s firing is a scandal. But his hiring was, too.

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Here’s the latest from George Washington University’s National Security Archive blog, Unredacted.

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Brazil’s Two Largest Newspapers Forced by President and Judge to Delete Reporting; We’re Publishing It Here,” by The Intercept.

“Major assault on basic press freedom occurred today in Brazil, perpetrated by the government of President Michel Temer, his wife, Marcela, and a Brazilian judge. As a result, the nation’s two largest newspapers — Folha de S.Paulo and O Globo — were forced to delete a news article that each had published about a matter of great public interest. Because one of the goals in creating The Intercept was to defend and vindicate press freedom around the world, we are publishing the censored materials so that the public can see them (see below). Few things are more dangerous than politicians and courts joining to tell newspapers what they can and cannot report, and we will do what we can to rectify that attack on the public’s right to know.

[…]

We do not do this out of affection for Folha or Globo. Both of those news outlets themselves regularly attack the press freedoms of other outlets. Indeed, the association they control has filed a lawsuit seeking to deny press freedom to outlets like the BBC Brasil, El Pais Brasil, BuzzFeed Brasil, and The Intercept, by urging courts to rule that we are not permitted to report in Brazil. And, ironically, both media outlets agitated for the impeachment of the democratically elected president, Dilma Rousseff, which is what empowered Temer in the first place.

Instead, we do this in recognition that attacks on the press freedom of any media outlets — even Globo and Folha — pose a threat to everyone’s press freedoms. We are publishing in defense of the right of media outlets generally to report free of state censorship, as well to inform the public of vital information about their leaders that they have the right to know.”

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MuckRock: “Preparing for Standing Rock, North Dakota governor requested ‘chemical munitions launcher,’ riot squads, and cops with active shooter training

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Here is one of the latest investigations by Suddeutsche Zeitung — the German newspaper that received then shared the Panama Papers via ICIJ — of Turkish power players and their links to the Panama Papers and Erdogan. And here is one about Panama’s President and his obfuscation/hampering of investigations into the Panama Papers, as well as Merkel’s acquiescence to it.

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Chomsky’s teaching a course this year at the University of Arizona and giving a lecture at the University of Reading. Here’s commentary at Alternet of his 1967 New York Review of Books classic entitled “The Responsibility of Intellectuals.”

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This is an essay at TomDispatch by Rebecca Gordon — professor of political philosophy at the University of San Francisco.

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TED Talk by Loretta Napoleoni: “The intricate economics of terrorism”

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Here’s an interview with Matt Taibbi of the Rolling Stone on Donald Trump & Company’s PR(opaganda).

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Spyware’s Odd Targets: Backers of Mexico’s Soda Tax,” by the New York Times:

“The discovery of spyware on Mr. Cabrera’s phone prompted digital rights activists to warn more journalists and activists in Mexico to look out for similarly suspicious text messages. In the process, they uncovered a new class of targets: nutrition policy makers and activists, some of whom were government employees. Each had been targeted by NSO’s main product, a tracking system called Pegasus, that could extract their text messages, contact lists, calendar records, emails, instant messages and location. It turned their phones into recording devices and secretly captured live footage off their cameras. Its full range of capabilities was detailed in an NSO Group marketing proposal leaked to The Times last year. In interviews and statements, NSO Group — whose headquarters are in Herzliya, Israel, but which sold a controlling stake in 2014 to Francisco Partners, a San Francisco-based private equity firm — claims to sell its spyware only to law enforcement agencies to track terrorists, criminals and drug lords. NSO executives point to technical safeguards that prevent clients from sharing its spy tools.

[…]

The NSO emails leaked to The Times referred to multimillion-dollar, continuing NSO Group contracts with several government agencies inside Mexico, and the Mexican government has been an enthusiastic buyer of foreign spy tools. Mexico was listed as the biggest client of Hacking Team, the Italian cyber-surveillance firm, which was itself hacked in 2015. Hacked internal documents published online showed that at least 14 Mexican states and government agencies had paid $6.3 million to Hacking Team for its spy tools since 2010. Mexico’s Interior Ministry, which operates Cisen, the civil national security intelligence service, was listed as Hacking Team’s highest-paying client. Other clients included the Mexican Navy, federal police and attorney general’s office, as well as several Mexican states. The leaked Hacking Team emails also revealed that the firm was increasingly facing competition from NSO Group to procure contracts with Cisen, the Mexican attorney general’s office and Sedena, an acronym for the office of Mexico’s secretary of national defense. The health researchers did not discover their phones had been targeted with NSO spyware until August. That month, SocialTIC, a Mexican digital security nonprofit, and R3D warned its contacts to look for suspicious messages. A subsequent forensics investigation by Citizen Lab of the messages sent to Mr. Calvillo, Dr. Barquera, Mr. Encarnación and others confirmed that they were laced with NSO Group spyware.”

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Kremlin-Baiting President Trump (Without Facts) Must Stop,” by Stephen Cohen — professor emeritus of Russian history and studies at Princeton University and New York University. (More from the American Committee for East-West Accord)

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New Declassified CIA Memo Presents Blueprint for Syrian Regime Collapse,” by Brad Hoff — former US Marine that participated in then spoke out about US war crimes in Iraq.

 

 

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