News Items – 02.24.17

Should the Palestinians seek justice at the International Criminal Court?,” by Richard Falk — Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law and Practice and Professor Emeritus of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University; former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine; former professor at the Universities of Harvard and Ohio State; and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

Here are a series of here’s-how-absurd-Trump-is stories from/about his recent comments on Sweden by The Local Sweden (The Local is a great English-language news source, with one for each major western European nation):

February 2nd: Swedish neo-Nazis held over Gothenburg refugee centre blast

A thousand to mock Trump with Copenhagen ‘Pray for Sweden’ vigil — LOL: “The event, which nearly 3,000 people have expressed interest in and which which has been viewed by more than 250,000 people, has been cleared with the Copenhagen Police. ‘Please remember to bring fake flowers,’ Artpusher, the Danish prankster behind the event, told The Local.”

Minister blasts Sweden Democrats’ Wall Street Journal op-ed: ‘They’re lying about Sweden’ — “Sweden’s justice and migration minister has accused anti-immigration party leaders of lying about Sweden after they wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Donald Trump was right in his comments about immigration. He spoke hours after Sweden Democrat bosses Jimmie Åkesson and Mattias Karlsson wrote in an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that ‘Mr Trump did not exaggerate Sweden’s current problems’ when he falsely suggested that immigration had sparked a rising crime wave in the country. … A total of 112 people were victims of deadly violence in Sweden in 2015, according to the National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå). Deadly violence has decreased since the 1990s. … Riddled with factual inaccuracies (some of which were debunked by The Local), filmmaker Ami Horowitz’ report on the US network was heavily criticized by many Swedes earlier this week, including two police officers featured in the video who said they had been misled and their quotes taken out of context.”

Six claims and facts about Sweden: a closer look at Ami Horowitz’ report

Analysis: Why Trump’s false claims are bad news for Sweden — “Trump later clarified his comments, but not before causing major confusion after a fairly quiet Friday in the Nordic country, where some of the biggest stories had included a man setting himself on fire for unknown reasons in Stockholm, talk about Eurovision try-outs, and a picture of an elk humping a wooden elk. … Reported rapes rose by 13 percent in 2016. However, the number dipped by 12 percent in 2015, the year of the refugee crisis. Some stats: In 2016 there were 67 reported rape incidents per 100,000 people, 60 in 2015, 69 in 2014, 63 in 2013, 66 in 2012, 69 in 2011, 64 in 2010 and 2009, 59 in 2008 and 52 in 2007. The 2016 figures are preliminary statistics compiled by Brå. It is hard to see when in the past few years this “absolute surge” took place. In fact, deadly violence in Sweden is still around 1 per 100,000 people, compared to 5 per 100,000 in the US, according to an FBI cited by the TT newswire. But as history shows, once a lie sticks, it is hard to get it unstuck. In the 1960s, Dwight D Eisenhower claimed in a speech that Sweden’s welfare policies had contributed to a high rate of suicide, thus starting a still oft-quoted myth that Sweden has the highest suicide rate in the world (it doesn’t). … In the Fox News interview, it is also claimed that ‘Sweden had its first terrorist Islamic attack not that long ago.’ It does not specify what that refers to, but a suicide bomber did try to launch an attack in Stockholm in 2010 – years before the refugee influx of 2015. He managed to kill only himself. The far-right sword attack on a school in Trollhättan in the autumn of 2015 was far more deadly, but does not get a mention in the Fox News clip. There have not been any other terror attacks linked to Islamism in Sweden in recent years. An incident at a Malmö mosque last year – which was claimed by Isis but not considered a terror attack by a Swedish court – caused only minor smoke damage to the building.”

Why Sweden is NOT the ‘rape capital of the world’ — Research methodology 101: “Enrico Bisogno is the chief of data development and dissemination at the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). He says that variations in how different countries record different crimes can play a ‘huge role’ in influencing the results of these comparisons. ‘Differences in reported crime data across countries are usually related to different reporting rates by victims (and/or detection by the police), different definitions of criminal offences by countries, and different counting rules,’ he explained. ‘For example, countries can count one “case” or every single episode. This can make a big difference, especially in cases of domestic violence: is every episode of violence between partners counted, or only the report made by the woman/wife?’ In Sweden, each case of sexual violence is recorded as a separate incident. So for example, if someone says they were raped by a partner every day for a fortnight, officers will record 14 potential crimes. In other countries the claim could be logged as a single incident. Sweden also significantly broadened its definition of rape in 2005, which means the word ‘rape’ can be used to record acts which would be called assault or bodily harm in other countries. That led to an increase in the number of rapes reported in the country in the years following the law change, which since appears to have levelled out.”

Juan Cole — Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan — “Trump invents Sweden Terror Attack, Lies about Immigrant Crime

Associated Press: “DHS intel report disputes threat posed by travel ban nations“: “Analysts at the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence arm found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Donald Trump’s travel ban pose a terror threat to the United States. A draft document obtained by The Associated Press concludes that citizenship is an “unlikely indicator” of terrorism threats to the United States and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria’s civil war started in 2011.”

Bloomberg: “First China-U.K. Freight Train Departs as Xi Seeks to Lift Trade

CNBC: “Brexit is a ‘God-given opportunity’ to steal trade from UK: Wilbur Ross” (Wilbur Ross is Trump’s billionaire Secretary of Commerce.)

Financial Times: “Russia’s rouble outperforms major currencies” (The ruble is “up more than 21% against the dollar to ruble.”

In regard to Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, Donald Trump, etc on their neo-Orientalist/Crusader “clash of civilizations” policies/views (which are very similar to that of Daesh (IS/ISIL/ISIS), this is who the first victims of the Crusades were: German Jews. Here it is from McGill University, Canada: “The German Crusade of 1096 is that part of the First Crusade in which peasant crusaders, mostly from Germany, attacked Jewish communities. Although anti-Semitism had existed in Europe for centuries, this was the first organized mass pogrom. In some cases, authorities and religious leaders attempted to shelter their Jewish subjects.” (h/t to Deepa Kumar — associate professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers Univeristy; more on the Arab perspective of the Crusades from Al Jazeera.)

My Political-Financial Road Map for 2017,” by Nomi Prins — former managing director at Goldman Sachs, senior managing director at Bear Stearns in London, strategist at Lehman Brothers, and analyst at the Chase Manhattan Bank. Here are the 10 topics covered in the post:

1) Watching the Artisans of Money (Central Banks); 2) Volatility for Stock Markets; 3) Rising Corporate Defaults and Oil Prices; 4) Turmoil in South America; 5) First Half: Rising Dollar/ Sideways Gold, Second Half: Reverse and Cash; 6) Power Shift from West to East through China and Japan; 7) More Anti-EU sentiment and economic hardship in Europe; 8) Upside for Russia; 9) Angst in the United Kingdom; 10) The Trump Effect Will Accentuate Unrest.

Hindustan Times: “Four famines mean 20 million may starve in next six months: UN

World Food Programme chief economist Arif Husain: “In my not quite 15 years with the World Food Programme, this is the first time that we are literally talking about famine in four different parts of the world at the same time.”

teleSUR English:

UN: 7 Million Yemenis, One-Third of Population, Face Starvation

Eight People Flee U.S. Border Patrol to Seek Asylum in Canada

Dutch Far-Right Leader [Geert Wilders] Vows to Rid Nation of ‘Moroccan Scum’” (More on this dude can be found here.)

The New York Times: “Hate Crime Is Feared as 2 Indian Engineers Are Shot in Kansas

White House Bars Times and 2 Other News Outlets From Briefing,” by the New York Times:

“Reporters from The Times, CNN and Politico were not allowed to enter the West Wing office of the press secretary, Sean M. Spicer, for the scheduled briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer allowed in reporters from only a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed to attend. Organizations allowed in included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended. Reporters from Time magazine and The Associated Press, who were set to be allowed in to the briefing, chose not to attend in protest of the White House’s actions.”


Trump vows military build-up, hammers nationalist themes“: “President Donald Trump said he would make a massive budget request for one of the ‘greatest military buildups in American history’ on Friday in a feisty, campaign-style speech extolling robust nationalism to eager conservative activists.” (This is even though we spend more on our military than the next 8 nations COMBINED. Somehow this is branded as “small government,” which is really “the only okay government programs are ones that can kill you or others.”)

Global corporate defaults hit 150 for 2016, most since financial crisis“: “The number of firms worldwide that have defaulted this year has reached 150, up more than 40 percent year-on-year, making 2016 the worst year for corporate stress since the height of the global financial crisis, ratings firm Standard and Poor’s said. S&P data showed that two defaults last week by U.S.-based firms had brought up the milestone and taken the U.S.-only count to 99, or two-thirds of the overall total. Just over 40 percent, or 63, had been by oil and gas firms, with 50 of those also in the United States. Emerging markets had accounted for 28 defaults overall, followed by Europe on 12.”

Islamic State car bomb kills more than 50 in northwest Syria

After seven years of bailouts, Greeks sink yet deeper in poverty” (the Troika should’ve listened to Yanis Varoufakis)

Here’s news about Israel’s ongoing occupation and new discoveries of atrocities against Jews during WWII (Haaretz is Israel’s leading daily newspaper, about 30 years older than Israel itself, and is maybe the best newspaper in the Middle East/North Africa region):

Haaretz: “Israel Vows No More Visas to Human Rights Watch After Years of Activity

Haaretz: “Israel Tortures Palestinian Children, Amnesty Report Says

Haaretz: “Despite Hundreds of Complaints of Shin Bet Torture, Israel Yet to Launch Single Investigation

Amnesty International: “Israel: flurry of settlement announcements show ‘brazen’ disregard for international law

Amnesty International: “Trump must push for end to illegal Israeli settlements during meeting with Netanyahu

Haaretz: “The untold story of the Jews forced to work in Nazi death factories

Haaretz: “‘Orgy of murder’: The Poles who ‘hunted’ Jews and turned them over to the Nazis

Yuli Novak — executive director of Israeli whistleblowing group Breaking the Silence and former Israeli Air Force operation officer: “A place where breaking the silence is illegitimate [ref: Netanyahu and Likud despise and want to ban Breaking the Silence] – is not a democracy.

Al Jazeera’s UpFront: “Israeli minister: The Bible says West Bank is ours

Andrew Bacevich — retired US Army Colonel; Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at Boston University; and former professor at Johns Hopkins University and US Military Academy at West Point: “It’s Time for David Brooks to Reckon With David Brooks: The New York Times columnist once worshipped at the altar of American ‘greatness,’ too.”

Danny Sjursen — former U.S. Army strategist and professor of history at the US Military Academy at West Point: “The Misuse of American Military Power and Mideast Chaos


Guatemala army blocks Dutch boat offering abortions

Kim Jong-nam killing: ‘VX nerve agent’ found on his face

Deepa Kumar  — associate professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University:

In Search of Monsters to Destroy

Constructing the Muslim Enemy From the Crusades to 9 11

Can a single region in Florida show the state how to adapt to climate change?,” by Karen Vella (Queensland University, Australia) & William Butler (Florida State University). This is crucial because two of the top ten global cities most vulnerable to rising sea levels are Miami and Tampa, according to the World Bank in 2013.

CNN: “Iceberg the size of Delaware to break off from Antarctica

Red state rural America is acting on climate change – without calling it climate change,” by Rebecca Romsdahl — associate professor of environmental policy and communication at the University of North Dakota.

Study: “Planning for climate change across the US Great Plains: concerns and insights from government decision-makers,” by Rebecca Romsdahl (University of North Dakota), et al. in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 2013:

The study findings indicate a need to reframe the discussion away from climate change skepticism, toward a focus on possible impacts within current resource management priorities such as drought, so that proactive planning can be addressed.

Americans don’t accept climate change, regardless of facts, but they still support clean water and air; thus the need to reframe climate change towards that; in fact, it’s already successfully being done.

‘Wag the Dog,’ Revisited,” by Melvin Goodman — former CIA Office of Soviet Affairs Division Chief and senior analyst; former State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research senior analyst; adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University; and former professor at the US National Defense University.

Here are more articles on climate change from the New York Times:

In America’s Heartland, Discussing Climate Change Without Saying ‘Climate Change’

Jimmy Carter Makes a Stand for Solar, Decades After the Cardigan Sweater“: “Nearly 38 years after Mr. Carter installed solar panels at the White House, only to see them removed during Ronald Reagan’s administration, the former president is leasing part of his family’s farmland for a project that is both cutting edge and homespun.”

Automakers Call on E.P.A. Chief to Ease Fuel-Efficiency Standards“: “Two lobbying groups representing auto manufacturers have written letters urging the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, to reverse a decision last month by the Obama administration to move forward with tougher fuel-economy standards that carmakers are supposed to meet by 2025. Automakers contend the gas-mileage targets will be difficult and expensive to hit and will force them to produce more high-mileage cars at a time when most Americans are buying sport utility vehicles, trucks and other roomy models that are less fuel-efficient and more profitable.

The Pruitt Emails: E.P.A. Chief Was Arm in Arm With Industry“: “As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Scott Pruitt, now the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, closely coordinated with major oil and gas producers, electric utilities and political groups with ties to the libertarian billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch to roll back environmental regulations, according to over 6,000 pages of emails made public on Wednesday. The publication of the correspondence comes just days after Mr. Pruitt was sworn in to run the E.P.A., which is charged with reining in pollution and regulating public health. …  although the contents of the emails were broadly revealed in The New York Times in 2014, the totality of the correspondences captures just how much at war Mr. Pruitt was with the E.P.A. and how cozy he was with the industries that he is now charged with policing. … As soon as this week, Mr. Trump is expected to announce at least two executive orders directing Mr. Pruitt to begin rolling back and weakening a set of Obama-era E.P.A. regulations aimed at limiting emissions that cause global warming, and at pollution in the nation’s rivers, streams and wetlands. … In his new job, Mr. Pruitt will regulate many of the companies with which he coordinated as attorney general of Oklahoma. From that perch, Mr. Pruitt took part in 14 lawsuits against major E.P.A. environmental rules, at times in coordination with energy companies such as Oklahoma Gas & Electric, whose executives held a fund-raising event for Mr. Pruitt, while he joined with the company to challenge a rule that would require it to upgrade or replace certain coal-burning power plants. … The most frequent correspondence was with Devon Energy, which has aggressively challenged rules proposed by the E.P.A. and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, which controls drilling on federal lands. In the 2014 election cycle, Devon was one of the top contributors to the Republican Attorneys General Association, which Mr. Pruitt led for two years during that period. … In another example, Mr. Pruitt’s office coordinated with the oil and gas lobbying group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers in petitions against two E.P.A. regulations: one mandating production of renewable fuels and another limiting pollution of smog-causing chemicals.”

2004: “Rise of the terrorist professors,” by Kevin Toolis — a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award documentary filmmaker:

“To understand today’s counter-terrorism industry, we need to look back to the 1970s. Then, the PLO carried out a series of terrorist acts, including the killing of 11 Israelis at the Munich Olympics and several plane hijackings. The most significant incident was the 1976 Entebbe hijacking, in which Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Netanyahu, brother of the future Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, was killed when the Israeli army staged a successful operation to rescue the hostages. The Entebbe rescue, made into two Hollywood films and several books, was hailed as a model counter-terrorist strike.

Binyamin Netanyahu, one of the most significant figures in the creation of the ideology of counter-terrorism, founded the Jonathan Institute in memory of his brother and organised two seminal international anti-terrorist conferences.

The first was held in 1979 in Jerusalem and, according to Netanyahu, ‘exposed . . . the full involvement of states in international terrorism, and the centrality of the Soviet Union and the PLO in fomenting and spreading it.’ He quoted the former chief of Israeli military intelligence General Shlomo Gazit, who revealed that ‘Arab terrorists participated in 50 different military schools, some 40 in the Soviet Union itself.’

These observations, from Netanyahu’s introduction to a 1986 collection of papers, Terrorism: how the west can win, perfectly encapsulate both the ideological roots of latter-day counter- terrorism studies and the uses of supposed intelligence material to shore up a subjective, factually spurious, premise. As we now know from the WMD fiasco in Iraq, ‘intelligence’ is rarely detached from the aims of the political leadership that controls its public dissemination.

Netanyahu, a vivid, brilliant propagandist and player on the Washington diplomatic circuit, sought to convince American conservatives that the sectional interests of the Israeli state were identical to those of the western democracies. He was largely preaching to the converted. Many of the names of contributors to the second Jonathan Institute conference, held in Washington in 1984, reappear as neoconservatives in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war. They include Jeane Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Ledeen and Bernard Lewis.

As prime minister, Netanyahu adopted counter-terrorism as the ideology of the Israeli state. Every Palestinian act of resistance to Israeli occupation was characterised as an act of terror. Every Israeli brutality was justified as a necessity in the war against terror. ‘Terror’ became an abstract noun, an entity to be crushed by military force, not a people to be negotiated with. Today, Israeli government spokesmen use the same language to justify killings of Palestinian civilians in military operations.”

China Suspends All Coal Imports From North Korea,” by the New York Times:

“Last year, China imported 22.5 million metric tons of coal from North Korea, an increase of 14.5 percent on the amount in 2015, according to Chinese customs statistics. In December, China imported about 2 million tons of North Korean coal. Mysteel, a Chinese industrial analysis firm, estimated that under the limits imposed by the sanctions, the coal quota would be used up by April or May. In 2015, China’s cumulative imports of North Korean coal reached 7.5 million metric tons by May. The coal suspension also followed the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, on Monday at an airport in Malaysia. The Malaysian authorities are continuing to investigate the case. South Korean officials have suspected North Korean involvement in the killing of Mr. Kim, who had been living in Macau, the Chinese gambling enclave. Some analysts have speculated that the killing may have infuriated Beijing because Mr. Kim was considered a pro-Chinese candidate to replace Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, should the current government in North Korea fall.”

Greenpeace Links Beijing’s Air Pollution Surge to Steel Factories,” by the New York Times:

“Despite promises to cut steel overcapacity, China actually brought more steel production online last year, resulting in a surge in air pollution in northern China, especially around Beijing, according to a report released this week by Greenpeace East Asia. The growth in operating capacity was more than twice the total steel making capacity of Britain, the report said. The increase in steel production, which is powered by the burning of coal, also means that levels of greenhouse gas emissions from that sector almost certainly grew last year, compared with 2015 levels. Greenhouse gases are the main factor behind the acceleration of climate change. The steel industry is the second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas; the first is power generation, which also relies mostly on coal. China is the biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, ahead of the United States. The report, released Monday, shows how powerful state-owned enterprises and local officials have acted to keep steel companies operating out of economic self-interest despite a serious overcapacity problem in the industry. And as China’s economic growth slows, local governments feel rising pressure to support factory jobs to avoid domestic unrest. The report said 10 Chinese provinces increased their operating steel production capacity. The greatest increases were in Shanxi and Hebei, which are close to Beijing and have some of the most toxic air in the world. Only six provinces had a net decrease, the report said.”

Steve Bannon (head of National Security Council and Trump’s strategic advisor) to the Hollywood Reporter: “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

Waking the Mexican sleeping giant,” by Stephen Kinzer — senior fellow at Brown University and former New York Times journalist in 50+ countries:

“We don’t pay much attention to Mexico, but it is one of the most important countries in the world to us. Our economies are integrated, with annual trade exceeding half a trillion dollars. Our cultural ties are deep. Mexico gives the United States vital help in areas ranging from drug control to immigration — turning back 150,000 Central Americans trying to reach the United States in the last year alone. Most important, Mexico’s friendship helps keep us safe because it means we have no strategic threat on our southern border. All of this may now begin to change. Mexicans have plenty of reasons to resent the United States. To begin with, there’s the little matter of the war in which we seized half of Mexico in the 1840s. For most of the time since then, we have treated Mexicans as subjects to be disciplined. Unlike us, however, they vividly remember aggressions we have forgotten, like our bombardment and occupation of Veracruz in 1914 and our failed military campaign to capture the rebel hero Pancho Villa soon afterward. President Woodrow Wilson declared that American intervention would continue until the Mexicans learned to ‘elect good men.’ Mexicans heeded that warning. For generations, guided by a corrupt political autocracy, they have chosen leaders we consider ‘good men.’ That means, above all, leaders who accept the subservience that comes with living near a great power. The current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has dutifully followed this pattern. Suddenly, however, pro-American politics are anathema in Mexico.


The first beneficiary may be Mexico’s leftist firebrand, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He lost the last two presidential elections — most recently by a narrow margin possibly provided by fraud — but suddenly he has risen from the political ashes and claimed the mantle of Mexican patriotism. In campaign speeches, he rails at Trump for treating Mexicans ‘like dirt,’ vows to end his country’s ‘subordination’ to the United States, and brings crowds to ecstasy by shouting, ‘Everything depends on strengthening Mexico so we can confront aggression from abroad!’ Imagine a version of the late President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, the most outspoken anti-US leader to emerge from Latin America in this century, on our southern border. The rising generation of Mexicans is educated, globalized, and as likely to consider itself North American as Latin American. Suddenly, thanks to Trump, it is rediscovering its anti-gringo identity. This could mean that for the first time in history, Mexico will pull away from the United States. An anti-American president, backed by a population increasingly angry at the United States, will weaken our security. During World War I, Mexico refused an offer to ally with our overseas enemies. Modern nationalist leaders may not be so deferential. They might even decide that since the United States so eagerly pushes its military power to the borders of unfriendly countries, Mexico should play the same game. Inviting a Chinese ship to refuel at the Manzanillo naval base, or hosting a Russian military delegation, would show Americans how it feels to live with provocative saber-rattling next door. It might also set off a serious US-Mexico confrontation.”


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