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The Missing Step

Lew Rockwell - Tue, 2019-05-21 11:01

In Sweden, prosecutors have applied to the Swedish courts to issue a warrant for Julian’s arrest. There is a tremendous back story to that simple statement.

The European Arrest Warrant must be issued from one country to another by a judicial authority. The original Swedish request for Assange’s extradition was not issued by any court, but simply by the prosecutor. This was particularly strange, as the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm had initially closed the case after deciding there was no case to answer, and then another, highly politically motivated, prosecutor had reopened the case and issued a European Arrest Warrant, without going to any judge for confirmation.

Assange’s initial appeal up to the UK Supreme Court was in large part based on the fact that the warrant did not come from a judge but from a prosecutor, and that was not a judicial authority. I have no doubt that, if any other person in the UK had been the accused, the British courts would not have accepted the warrant from a prosecutor. The incredible and open bias of the courts against Assange has been evident since day 1. My contention is borne out by the fact that, immediately after Assange lost his case against the warrant in the Supreme Court, the British government changed the law to specify that future warrants must be from a judge and not a prosecutor. That is just one of the incredible facts about the Assange case that the mainstream media has hidden from the general public.

The judgement against Assange in the UK Supreme Court on the point of whether the Swedish Prosecutor constituted a “judicial authority” hinged on a completely unprecedented and frankly incredible piece of reasoning. Lord Phillips concluded that in the English text of the EWA treaty “judicial authority” could not include the Swedish prosecutor, but that in the French version “autorite judiciaire” could include the Swedish prosecutor. The two texts having equal validity, Lord Phillips decided to prefer the French language text over the English language text, an absolutely stunning decision as the UK negotiators could be presumed to have been working from the English text, as could UK ministers and parliament when they ratified the decision.

I am not making this up – you will find Phillips amazing bit of linguistic gymnastics here on page 9 para 21 of his judgement. Again, it is impossible that this would have been done to anybody but Julian Assange; and had it been the outcry from the MSM against the preference given to French wording and thus French legal tradition would have been deafening. But given the state’s unhidden animus against Assange, it all was passed quietly with the law simply amended immediately thereafter to stop it happening to anybody else.

The law having been changed, this time the Swedes have to do it properly and actually go to a court to issue a warrant. That is what is now happening. As usual, the Guardian today cannot resist the temptation to tell an outright lie about what is happening.

The main headline is completely untrue. Sweden has not filed a request for arrest. Sweden is going through its judicial processes – which it skipped the first time – in order to decide whether or not to file a request for arrest. This gives Assange the opportunity to start the process of fighting the allegations, which he strenuously denies, in the Swedish courts. However at present his Swedish lawyer cannot access him in Belmarsh high security jail, which is typical of the abuses of process to which he is subject.

It is not political correctness which prevents the UK mainstream media from investigating the extraordinary nature of the allegations against Assange in Sweden. In the case of Nafissatou Diallo, for example, the entire UK mainstream media had no compunction whatsoever in publishing the name of the alleged victim from the very first moment of the allegations against DSK, and the likelihood or otherwise of the entire story was raked through in detail by every single national newspaper, and extensively by the BBC.

I have never heard anybody even attempt to explain why it was OK for the MSM to look in detail at Diallo’s accusations and use her name, but Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen must never be named and their story must never be doubted. The answer is not the position in Swedish law – the Swedish law states that neither the accuser nor the accused may be named, which law has been gleefully broken in Assange’s case every day for nine years. When it comes to Assange, he is simply to be reviled. He is probably treated differently by both state and MSM at all points. It does not matter to them that his arrest warrant was not from a judge, or that the media apply entirely different rules to investigating his case, enforced by a feminist mantra they do not believe or uphold in other cases. He is simply to be hated without question.

Why has there never been a documentary in the UK like the brilliant “Sex, Lies and Julian Assange” from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship Four Corners programme? Please do watch if you have not done so already. Watch here.

Julian Assange revolutionised publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes. Contrast, for example, the Panama Papers which, contrary to promises, only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM intermediaries. Or compare Wikileaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to the Guardian and the Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.

There is an interesting parallel with the reaction to the work of Reformation scholars in translating the Bible into vernacular languages and giving the populace direct access to its contents, without the mediating filters of the priestly class. Such developments will always provoke extraordinary venom from those whose position is threatened. I see a historical parallel between Julian Assange and William Tyndale in this respect. It is something worth bearing in mind in trying to understand the depth of the State’s hatred of Julian.

Reprinted with the author’s permission.

The post The Missing Step appeared first on LewRockwell.

Unlawful Arrests of Venezuelan DC Embassy Protectors

Lew Rockwell - Tue, 2019-05-21 11:01

Activist embassy protectors were invited into Venezuela’s Washington diplomatic facility by its legitimate ruling authorities in Caracas.

According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the premises of embassies, consulates, and other diplomatic facilities are inviolable territory — no one permitted inside without head of mission permission.

The illegal seizure of Venezuela’s DC embassy and arrest of activist protectors were unprecedented acts of US diplomatic piracy.

The Bolivarian Republic’s Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Ron denounced what happened, calling the Trump regime’s action a flagrant international law violation, adding:

“We do not authorize any of the coup leaders to enter our embassy in Washington DC. We call on the US government to respect the Vienna Conventions and sign a Protecting Power Agreement with us that would ensure the integrity of both our embassy in Washington, DC and the US Embassy in Caracas.”

Activists David Paul, Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, and Professor of Anthropology Adrienne Pine were unlawfully arrested and charged with  “trespassing and interfering with the US Department of State’s protective functions (sic),” adding:

“The individuals were arrested on a criminal complaint charging them with a violation of 18 USC § 118, Interference with Protective Functions of the Department of State (sic), for knowingly and willingly obstructing, resisting, or interfering with a federal law enforcement agent engaged, within the United States (sic)…”

Activists charged face possible imprisonment for up to one year and a $1,000 fine — for lawfully defending the diplomatic property of the Bolivarian Republic, living in the embassy at great personal risk from April 10 until unlawfully arrested on May 16. 

President Maduro, Foreign Minister Arreaza, and other Venezuelan officials thanked them for courageously supporting the rule of law the US repeatedly flouts.

On Friday, the four activists appeared before Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Conditionally released, their next court date is scheduled for June 12.

US attorney Danielle Rosborough is prosecuting the case for the Trump regime. Zeese said he and fellow activists intend “mak(ing) the case that there is a legitimate government, that the Vienna convention was violated, that this was an inappropriate and unlawful arrest,” expressing confidence of exoneration.

In Police State America, due process and equal justice under law don’t apply when US ruling authorities want their way enforced. 

Still, Trump regime hardliners may not want the unlawful embassy takeover and arrests to become a rallying cry for greater activism against their anti-Bolivarian actions.

They may not want the incident to get greater publicity than already, perhaps agreeing to drop charges, subject to conditions imposed. 

On Thursday in court, they were ordered to stay away from 10 Venezuelan diplomatic missions controlled by imposter Guaido’s US representatives.

This and other restrictions may be the price for avoiding imprisonment and a fine when prosecutorial proceedings begin.

Though given Trump regime toughness against Chelsea Manning, nothing is certain when the activists return to court in June. 

Manning was reimprisoned last week for again invoking her constitutional right to remain silent, refusing to give grand jury testimony, saying she “cannot be coerced,” stressing:

“The government cannot build a prison bad enough, cannot create a system worse than the idea that I would ever change my principles,” adding she’d “rather starve to death” than violate them.

In response to the arrest of Venezuelan embassy protectors, Pine said the following:

“As a scholar and educator, there are times when standard tools of teaching, publishing, and public speaking aren’t enough. There are times when we need to put our bodies on the line” for justice, adding:

“A successful coup in Venezuela would have even broader consequences than those I have witnessed in Honduras. It would lead to civil war, and would most likely quickly escalate to a global conflict.”

“If, by trying to protect the Venezuela embassy, I can help my government from leading the world into this nightmare scenario, it will be well worth the potential damage to my career.”

Pine is a Honduran expert. Under US installed fascist rule, she witnessed firsthand what she called “invisible genocide” in the country.

She called the Honduran “militarized capitalism/neoliberal fascis(t)” model devastating for the rights, welfare, and dignity of its long-suffering people.

A state of siege exists in the country. Human and civil rights violations are horrific. Killings, beatings, disappearances, intimidation, and torture are commonplace. 

Human rights workers, trade unionists, independent journalists, environmental activists, and other regime opponents are targeted for elimination.

What’s happening in Honduras and other nations run by US installed despots is coming to Venezuela if the Trump regime’s coup plot succeeds.

The same fate awaits Iran and other nations on the US target list, wanting tyranny replacing the sovereign rights of their people — what the scourge of imperialism is all about.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Reprinted with permission from Stephen Lendman.

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Gun-Loving Swiss Agree to Harsher Firearms Controls

Lew Rockwell - Tue, 2019-05-21 11:01

In a national referendum, Switzerland overwhelmingly voted to approve tighter gun control measures and bring them more in line with stricter EU rules following a number of terrorist incidents across Europe.

Residents of Italian-speaking Ticino canton were the only ones to reject the stricter rules on handling firearms after 63.7 percent of the country voted to amend the nation’s relatively liberal gun policies, which in the past somewhat mirrored gun laws in the US.

Switzerland, whose population owns roughly 42 guns per 100 residents, allows adults to purchase semi-automatic rifles and hollow-point ammunition for hunting through easily obtainable weapon acquisition permits, but requires special permits to buy automatic weapons, suppressors, and laser sights.

Following Sunday’s referendum, which witnessed 43.9 percent turnout, ownership of semi-automatic weapons will now require mandatory regular firearm training and serial numbering of gun parts to track them. Weapons will also have to be registered.

Over 875,000 weapons were registered in Switzerland by August 2017 to 279,000 owners, while it is believed that civilians are in possession of between 2.3 million and 3.4 million firearms. Despite the massive presence of firearms in a country of just under 9 million people, the gun homicide rate in Switzerland is very low, with 0.5 cases per 100,000 people.

Despite the exemplary gun heritage, Switzerland, which is not part of the EU but part of the Schengen visa-free travel zone security agreement, was urged by the EU to tighten its laws in line with rules adopted by the bloc following the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.

Prior to the referendum, the Swiss government warned voters that a rejection of this new legislation could result in the exclusion of the country from the Schengen zone. Opponents slammed the government’s drive for stricter gun control, arguing that “EU-dictated” measures amount to “disarming” Switzerland through “useless, dangerous, un-Swiss”requirements.

“With no effect on the fight against terrorism, it will only hit honest, law-abiding citizens who possess legal weapons (so, us!),” Jean-Luc Addor, a Swiss People’s Party lawmaker, wrote on his website. “It’s the epitome of injustice.”

“Too bad that the population has followed the argument of fear with Schengen. It’s a bit unfortunate, but we accept the result,” Olivia de Weck, vice president of lobby group ProTell, said.

“Today, I am sad because our freedoms have declined,” Jean-Luc Addor, MP from the Swiss People’s Party, said, noting that the new rules will “push back the freedoms and advance the police state.”

The strong firearms culture in Switzerland is closely linked to the country’s national defense service. Most men between the ages of 18 and 30 are subject to compulsory military service for three weeks a year and are allowed to keep the weapon assigned to them once they go home. Gun ownership is so ingrained in the Swiss DNA that any national aged 10 or older can shoot rifles at any federal range free of charge.

Reprinted from RT News.

The post Gun-Loving Swiss Agree to Harsher Firearms Controls appeared first on LewRockwell.

May 20 Is World Bee Day

Lew Rockwell - Tue, 2019-05-21 11:01

Two years ago, in December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 20 of each year as World Bee Day.1 The resolution was the result of an initiative started in 2015 by the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association in an effort to raise awareness about the importance of bees and other pollinating insects, all of which are threatened with extinction thanks to a wide range of toxic human activities.2

As explained by the U.N.,3 May 20 was chosen because it “coincides with the birthday of Anton Janša, who in the 18th century pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia and praised the bees for their ability to work so hard, while needing so little attention.”

While bumble bees might be the most well-recognized, there are in fact between 25,000 and 30,000 different species of bees across the globe. On the Center for Food Safety’s website4 you can find a listing of some of the most common species, such as sweat bees, digger bees, carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, long-horned bees and many more.

More than 75% of the world’s food crops depend on these and other pollinators, either wholly or in part, as do 90% of wild flowering plants.5 What’s more, in the past 50 years, there’s been a 300% increase in the volume of crops being produced that are dependent on pollination.6

As such, “Caring for bees and other pollinators is part of the fight against world hunger,” the U.N. says.7 It’s also important to protect and maintain biodiversity among bee species to ensure agricultural resilience.

Report on Global Biodiversity Warns of Troubling Times Ahead

The first report8 on “The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture” by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture., issued in April 2019, warns that biodiversity is dwindling across the globe, thereby threatening global food production and human survival.

All forms of life — animals, plants and microorganisms necessary for food, feed, fuel and fibers — are losing diversity. As reported by worldbeeday.org:9

“Of around 6,000 species of agricultural plants, fewer than 200 contribute to global food production, and just nine of them account for 66% of total crop yields. World livestock production is based on approximately 40 animal species, with just a handful providing the vast majority of meat, milk and eggs. The catch quantity is being exceeded for a third of fish stocks, while more than half have reached their limit of sustainability …

At the meeting of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture the European Region proposed that the results of this report be included in the strategy of biodiversity being drawn up by FAO.

Several countries proposed that countries should respond to the main conclusions of the report by including the findings and content in national policies, legislation, programmes and projects in the area of biodiversity in agriculture, forestry and food, in line with their capacities, while there is also an urgent need to formulate further measures to implement the conclusions from the report.

The report will also be important for discussion on the global framework for biodiversity as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity after 2020 and for achieving the sustainable development goals of Agenda 2030.”

Another global assessment report10 on pollinators, pollination and food production, released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in 2016, found an estimated 16% of the vertebrate pollinators around the world are threatened by extinction, as are 30% of island species. According to IPBES vice-chair, Sir Robert Watson::11

“Wild pollinators in certain regions, especially bees and butterflies, are being threatened by a variety of factors. Their decline is primarily due to changes in land use, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, alien invasive species, diseases and pests, and climate change.”

Bee Species Declining Across Northwestern US

Similarly, researchers at the University of New Hampshire warn there’s been a “dramatic decline” of 14 wild bee species needed for pollination of applesblueberriescranberries and other crops grown in the Northwest. 12 Sandra Rehan, assistant professor of biological sciences, told Science Daily:13

“We know that wild bees are greatly at risk and not doing well worldwide. This status assessment of wild bees shines a light on the exact species in decline, beside the well-documented bumble bees. Because these species are major players in crop pollination, it raises concerns about compromising the production of key crops and the food supply in general.

We found that wild bee species that once greatly populated more southern areas near sea level are now in decline. While up north in more mountainous areas, like the White Mountains, those same species persist which is an indicator of how climate change is affecting certain populations, especially in the Seacoast area.”

Using museum data stretching back 125 years (1891 through 2016), the researchers analyzed the prevalence of 119 wild bee species that are native to New Hampshire but also widespread across the Northeast and North America as a whole.

Fourteen of the species were found to have significantly declined while eight species have significantly increased. Out of the 14 species in decline, 13 are ground nesters and one is a cavity nester. Overall, both declining and increasing species have been migrating northward over the last 125 years, suggesting changes in climate are a driving factor.

‘Bee Safe’ Pesticide Is Harmful to Bees, Research Shows

Buy honey and other hive products from local beekeepers to help keep them in business.

Teach your children about the importance of bees and beekeepers.

Set up a beehive.

Preserve meadows and sow wildflowers in your garden, making sure the wildflower mix you choose contains flowers native to your area. Non-native plants do not contribute as much toward the care and feeding of local insects, as they are not able to adapt and feed on whatever is available. Hybridized plants also do not provide proper nourishment, and can be likened to “junk food” for insects, as they do not provide much in terms of nourishment.22

Wait to cut meadow grass until the nectar-bearing plants have finished blooming, so as not to rob bees of crucial nourishment.

Avoid using toxic pesticides and herbicides. Even when using a nontoxic product, make sure to spray it when there’s little to no wind, and either early in the morning or late at night, when bees are not actively foraging.

Blooming plants and trees that must be sprayed with pesticides should be mulched before spraying to avoid attracting bees.

Sources and References

The post May 20 Is World Bee Day appeared first on LewRockwell.

Love Dogs?

Lew Rockwell - Tue, 2019-05-21 11:01

Being a dog-lover is not a choice, it is in your DNA.

This finding from a team of researchers in Sweden and England sheds some light on how man’s best friend came to be and found being a dog owner is may be genetic.

A study of twins found that getting a dog is influenced by an individual’s genes and may even be inherited.

It is impossible to say which genes are involved from the study but identical twins agreed far more than non-identical pairs on whether they would have a pet pooch.

Previous research found if we had a pet as a child we are more likely to like animals and own a pet in adulthood.

But it was unclear if genetic differences between families contribute to this association.

Lead author Professor Tove Fall, of Uppsala University, said: ‘We were surprised to see that a person’s genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog.

‘As such, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times.

‘Although dogs and other pets are common household members across the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health.

‘Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others.’

Researchers studied the heritability of dog ownership using information from 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry.

It compared the genetic make-up of twins to determine whether dog ownership has a heritable component.

Read the Whole Article

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Iran Says Uranium Enrichment Quadrupled, On Pace For Weapons-Grade Levels

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Tue, 2019-05-21 10:45

It appears Iran is following through on its prior warnings issued to European leaders that it's ready to surpass enriched uranium production limits previously agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA). News that Iran has "quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium" comes as rhetoric between Tehran and Washington has reached new belligerent heights, with President Trump tweeting Sunday that US attack would be the "end" of Iran.

Crucially, on Monday both the semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies cited Iran's nuclear agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi to say the country would reach the 300-kilogram limit set by the nuclear deal merely “in weeks” — in what appears counter-threat signalling to Washington. Iran has also for months complained the EU is failing to hold up to its end of the bargain under the JCPOA to provide sanctions relief. 

The AP notes of the Iranian media statements that "While the reports said the production is of uranium enriched only to the 3.67% limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran reached with world powers, it means that Iran soon will go beyond the stockpile limitations established by the accord" if it continues on this pace. 

Image source: AFP

Kamalvandi's statement made clear this didn't mean Iran increased the number centrifuges in use — a key requirement of the deal — however, The Wall Street Journal cited European diplomats two weeks ago who said they were informed by the Iranians of thier intent to ramp up research efforts into centrifuges that could produce highly enriched uranium faster.

Amid renewed US pressures and military build-up in the Persian Gulf of late, Tehran has little confidence that the EU is capable of facing US sanctions, and despite some meager past efforts, such as the attempt to establish a 'SWIFT alternative,' EU initiatives to salvage the deal have been too little too late.

Assuming war is not triggered by then, the Iranians have issued Europe an ultimatum to come up with new terms by July 7th or else weapons-grade levels of uranium will be enriched, per the AP

Iran has said it would begin backing away from terms of the deal, setting a July 7 deadline for Europe to come up with new terms or it would begin enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels. Tehran long has insisted it does not seek nuclear weapons, though the West fears its program could allow it to build them.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told journalists in Geneva that Iran should not doubt the U.S. resolve, warning that “if American interests are attacked, they will retaliate.”

Hunt also noted how easily both sides are blundering their way into war: “We want the situation to de-escalate because this is a part of the world where things can get triggered accidentally,” he added. 

Meanwhile, after Trump's ultra-aggressive Sunday tweet putting Tehran on notice that "If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran" and to "never threaten the United States again," an Iranian military commander did just that

On Monday Iranian General Ali Hajilou told a military ceremony Tehran would have a "crushing response" to any armed confrontation with the US. 

"The enemies of Islamic Iran are incapable in operation fields and have resorted to media warfare because of their fear of Iran's military power," he said according to Tasnim. "We have not invaded any country and will not do so but we will give a crushing response to [any] aggression by enemies."

Following this, late Monday, President Hassan Rouhani restated in public remarks that Iran's position remains that “current conditions are not conducive to negotiations with the United States but to resistance and steadfastness.”

Study Identifies Hundreds Of Coordinated 'Anti-Trump' Instagram Trolls

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Tue, 2019-05-21 10:25

When it comes to electoral interference on Facebook platforms, Congress has tended to focus on ads linked back to the nefarious and mysterious Internet Research Agency, which purportedly carried out a campaign to 'sow discord' with memes meant to inflame racial tensions (and stoke both anti-Clinton and anti-Trump sentiment).

Well, a new study has been released this week by an independent research agency called Ghost Data, which claims to have ferreted out a next of interconnected profiles numbering roughly 350 that spout a circular ring of anti-Trump memes and vitriol, and appear to be acting with some degree of coordination. Of thousands of politically active Instagram accounts examined by the researchers, posting patterns and other indicators suggest that these accounts are mostly 'bots' - perhaps employed by forces allied with Beijing - programmed to smear the president.

"Our study focused on a dataset comprising ~350 Instagram accounts whose content is scorning, mocking or generally negative about Donald Trump. We further identified a subset of 19 suspicious accounts that appear to lead such dataset in this posting activity," the researchers said.

Imaging software showed that one of the accounts, purportedly set up by a young American woman, was actually using the profile photo of a Russian woman taken from a Russian social media site. Another account used an image of a Ukrainian woman.

These anti-Trump 'bots' are hardly alone: GhostData estimated that another 95 million bots are active on the platform posing as real users.

But even more amusing than the transparent fakeness of the accounts is the quality of the memes, which are reminiscent of the low-quality ads attributed to the Internet Research Agency.

Here are a few of our favorites included in the report:

Moving on from the images, one of the charts included in the GhostData report broke down the "vulgar words" used by anti-Trump trolls identified by the study.  Some of the violent imagery might even qualify as hate speech, the researchers pointed out.

Of the Trumpland figures targeted by the trolls, it's probably no surprise that Trump was the most frequently mentioned by far, with 89% of the mentions. After Trump, the second most frequently mentioned was Ivanka, with 3.2% of mentions.

In summary: Facebook might care about rooting out 'Russian trolls', but it clearly hasn't prioritized rooting out 'anti-Trump' trolls.

Saudis Claim Intercept Of Iran-backed Houthi Missiles Headed For Mecca

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Tue, 2019-05-21 10:05

Authored by Ahmed Abdulkareem via Mint Press News

Saudi Arabia has claimed that its air defenses shot down two ballistic missiles over the city of Taif, just 65 kilometers east of Mecca, in the early hours of Monday morning. Saudi officials claim that another missile was intercepted over the Haddah in western Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi newspaper Okaz reported the missiles were intercepted as residents were breaking their day-long Ramadan fast. The paper claimed that the attempted attack was evidence that Yemen's Houthis had no regard for the safety and security of Muslim pilgrims visiting Mecca during the nights of Ramadan. The Houthis have unequivocally denied any involvement in the attacks.

The Ka‘ba in Mecca, via British Museum blog

Mohammed AbdulSalam, a spokesman for the Houthi political wing Ansar Allah, said in a statement, “We avoid targeting civilians as well as holy places, and this [accusation] is Saudi bankruptcy,” adding “Saudi Arabia fabricated the Houthi threat [to Meccia] in order to mobilize official and popular support.”

The Yemeni army, which is allied with the Houthis, said in a statement in the wake of Saudi accusation: “This isn’t the first time the Saudi regime has accused us of targeting Mecca. The objective of these accusations is to gain support and approval for their monstrous aggression.” An army spokesperson noted that the Houthis have never denied previous military maneuvers, saying “We do not hesitate to announce our military operations.”

The Houthis did claim responsibility for last week’s attack on two Saudi oil pumping stations in the provinces of Dawadmi and Afif near the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

High-ranking officials in the Yemeni army, as well as the Houthi Political Council, told MintPress that the pumping station attack was not part of a regional effort to stir up tension between Iran and the United States, and was planned before those tensions came about.

The attack was carried out with domestically manufactured Houthi drones and reportedly caused a four-meter rupture in one of the station’s main oil pipes, in turn resulting in a 1000-square-meter leak in the area surrounding the facility.

Qatari television network Al Jazeera released satellite imagery showing the extent of damage to Saudi energy giant Aramco’s Pump Station 8 following the drone attack.

An aerial view of Saudi Aramco Pump Station 8 after (left) and before (right) Houthi drone strikes. Source: Al Jazeera

The Houthis have said that the attack on Saudi pumping stations was the start of an operation that will target 300 vital military and economic targets, including military headquarters and facilities inside Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Saudi-led Coalition military targets inside Yemen.

Long-distance drone strikes have served as a breakthrough for Yemen’s civilians and Houthi-allied military forces alike. They have served as an equalizer against one of the most well-funded and -equipped military forces in the region.

Yemen’s Houthi-allied military says the drone weapons are a necessary tool in the war and can serve as a means to finally reach peace — further pointing out that Yemen poses no threat to any country outside of the Saudi-led Coalition and has no aggressive intentions against its neighbors or U.S. interests in the region.

“We have no choice, we are being killed every day and our suffering has slid into oblivion in the rest of the world,” Amar Faress, a father who lost his entire family when Saudi airstrikes targeted his home in 2015, said of the Houthi strikes on Saudi Arabia. “Maybe the world will care about us if their interests are compromised.”

Meanwhile, a spate of Saudi Coalition airstrikes across Yemen this weekend into Monday took a predictably heavy civilian toll. Local witnesses told MintPress that at least four civilians were killed and 11 others injured when Saudi aircraft targeted a vehicle as it was traveling along a road in the Mustaba district of Hajjah province on Monday afternoon.

Over the weekend, three civilians were killed and a young girl sustained injuries when militiamen loyal to the Saudi-led Coalition shelled a home in the Qa’atabah district of the southwestern Yemeni province of Dhale.

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis remains the worst in the world and shows no sign of ending. UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore said that around 360,000 children now suffer from severe acute malnutrition, and half of Yemen’s children under five (2.5 million people) have stunted growth — an irreversible condition. More than 2 million of Yemen’s children are out of school.

Fore added that famine still threatens millions, and a new cholera outbreak continues to spread, claiming almost as many victims in the first four months of the year as in the entirety of 2018. Cholera has affected 300,000 people in Yemen this year alone, compared with 370,000 during the whole of 2018.

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said during a speech to UN Security Council members, “Ten million were still in need of emergency food assistance, while the specter of famine still looms.”

40-year Anniversary of Taiwan Relations Act Adopted by USA

New Eastern Outlook - Tue, 2019-05-21 09:59

The global rivalry between the two world powers (the USA and the PRC) is multi-faceted in nature. But recently, it has manifested itself especially acutely and most noticeably in the sphere of bilateral trade.

The frenzy created by global media outlets about this subject within the context of the Sino–US relations is understandable, as the state of world economy will, to a great extent, depend on the direction the trade war between the United States and China will take.

Far less attention is focused on other spheres of the US–Chinese relationship, but equally dramatic developments are happening within them too. And these have the potential of having a profound effect on the nature of not onlythe bilateral ties but also on the situation world-wide.

Unquestionably, the “Taiwan issue”, whose various aspects have been discussed in the New Eastern Outlook on a fairly regular basis, can certainly become that influential. The last time we wrote about it was in the article describing the foreign tour, embarked on by the Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen, to a number of Pacific Ocean nations at the end of March of this year.

At the time, the upcoming anniversary on 10 April 2019, which marked 40 years since the United States adopted the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA-1979), was to signal yet another turn for the worse in the Sino–US relations. Both Washington and Taipei undoubtedly intended to use this date to stage some events, meant to illustrate the strength of the current bilateral relations between the two nations and their willingness to continue developing these ties. But it was still unclear what shape these events would take.

We would like to reiterate that TRA-1979 is not recognized by the PRC as an international Act. Instead China views it as a document for internal use in the USA that is not worth giving due consideration to. After all, for Beijing Taiwan’s status is not controversial. The island is an integral part of “one-China”, which means that any laws enacted by other nations in relation to Taiwan are not legally binding.

Notably, TRA-1979 was adopted three months after Washington had established diplomatic ties with the PRC (simultaneously severing such relations with Taiwan). At the time, the United States had to acknowledge the “one-China” policy and the fact that Chinese people live on either side of the Taiwan Strait.  Still, for Washington TRA-1979 remains a vital document, which the United States uses to formulate its strategy on relations with Taiwan, and also, to a great extent, with China itself.

From a practical perspective, the Six Assurances, affirmed by the former US President Ronald Reagan in June 1982, play an equally important role. The aforementioned assurances substantially broadened the scope of TRA-1979 when it came to providing various forms of support to Taiwan, for example, by selling American weapons to the island nation.

The previously mentioned developments at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s were a direct consequence of the Cold War, an era when the United States needed to ally itself with the PRC in the battle against its key geopolitical rival, the USSR. In order to achieve this feat, the USA needed to make tactical sacrifices with respect to the “Taiwan issue”.

The author of this article has come across a number of noteworthy statements (i.e. alternative history theories), made by American experts. What all of these comments are essentially saying is that, if, at the end of the 1970s, the USA had known about the upcoming collapse of the USSR in 10 to 15 years’ time, it would have never chosen to sever diplomatic as well as military and political ties with Taiwan, which was and still is de facto one of most trusted allies of the United States in APAC (the Asia-Pacific).

We would like to reiterate that TRA-1979 does not exclude the possibility of maintaining “quasi-intergovernmental” ties between Taiwan and the United States, which speaks to the mastery of the authors of this document. The writers managed to reconcile seemingly incompatible original bargaining positions in one document, which allowed for necessary concessions to be made to the PRC with respect to its “One-China” policy and the “Taiwan issue”, and, which, at the same time, left enough room for Washington to maneuver between the “shores” of the Taiwan Strait.

In its complex game with Beijing, the United States has used TRA-1979 on more than one occasion, as for instance, during the so-called Third Taiwan Strait Crisis (1995-1996). The USA sent two carrier battle groups to the conflict zone under the guise that China was supposedly prepared to use military force. And, according to the aforementioned document, Beijing was required to avoid such measure at all costs.

The importance of TRA-1979 began to increase rapidly starting in the middle of the last decade, when the possibility that the PRC would transform into the second world power became a reality. Hence, something needed to be done. An attempt to “fit” China into the US-centric world within the Group of Two (G-2 or G2) concept, proposed by Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, by the start of Barrack Obama’s second presidential term failed.

China will become a geopolitical rival to the United States. But it is still unclear what shape the confrontation between the USA and the PRC will take. What is certain is that Washington has already mobilized all of its available resources as it continues its dealings with China (to ensure it is prepared for any possible scenario).

The “Taiwan issue”, which remains de facto under Washington’s thumb, is a very promising means of pressuring Beijing, and the USA has been taking advantage of this on the basis of the (quasi) legitimate document, TRA-1979. The 40-year anniversary that marked the date the Act was adopted was an appropriate occasion to stick the knife into China’s most painful political wound.

At first, the author believed that Washington would choose to apply light but firm pressure on Beijing since the future of the bilateral ties between the two nations does not seem completely hopeless at present. The main issue (in the sphere of trade and economics) is still seemingly on the negotiating table. The US President has not so subtly hinted that a one-and-a-half fold increase in tariffs on half the imports from China may not be permanent if negotiations with the PRC are successful.

Still, one month before the anniversary suggestions were made to stage something large-scale, as, for example, an international conference in Taipei to celebrate the 40-year birthday of TRA-1979. There was talk of the possibility that someone from the presidential administration would attend this event. Fortunately, one year earlier, the US Congress approved the so-called Taiwan Travel Act, which allows high level American and Taiwanese officials to make official visits to each other’s nations.

If such an event had been held in Taipei, on, to make matters worse, the territory of a newly constructed building complex, which de facto functions as the US embassy in Taiwan, with invitees including President Tsai Ing-wen and members of her administration, this would have surely resulted in fairly serious (and possibly irreversible) consequences for the Sino–US relations. And again we cannot say that this relationship is in crisis as yet. However, China continues to endure jabs in the form of, for example, regular (monthly) passages of American warships through the Taiwan Strait. Still, at the end of the day, these vessels remain in international waters and China has, seemingly, become accustomed to such developments.

The anniversary celebration did indeed take place but in Washington DC and not in Taipei. It was a notable event, organized by one of the leading American foreign policy think tanks, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that saw participation of no less reputable Brookings Institution and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Richard Armitage, one of the key architects of US foreign policy in APAC, was the moderator at this conference.

It is not easy to answer the question “Did officials from the United States and Taiwan take part in the conference?” It seems that only former members of the nations’ administrations were present, and they included Richard Armitage. However, for more than an hour participants of the plenary session had an opportunity to listen to no other than the current President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, who was seen on the screen in the conference room. She gave a fairly noteworthy 45-minute speech, and answered questions from conference attendees via a live video feed from Taipei.

This development has forced the author to re-evaluate the impact of the conference, which took place on 10 April of this year to mark the 40-year anniversary since TRA-1979 was adopted. The USA did not simply apply light but fairly heavy pressure on China’s biggest political wound.

This assessment is further supported by the fact that the bill entitled “H.R. 2002: Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019” almost unanimously passed in the House of Representatives on 8 of May of this year. In essence, this document includes all the key provisions of its predecessors, i.e. TRA-1979, the Six Assurances and the Taiwan Travel Act.

The following parts in the 2nd and 3rd sections of the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019 are indicative of the overall tone of this bill: “The security of Taiwan and its democracy are key elements of continued peace and stability of the greater Indo-Pacific region… Taiwan is a vital part of the United States Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy… the United States should conduct regular sales and transfers of defense articles to Taiwan in order to enhance its self-defense capabilities.”

Without a doubt, the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019 will pass in the Senate and will be subsequently signed into law by President Donald Trump. And this step will become an important development in the process of erecting barriers between the two leading world powers not only in the sphere of economics but also that of politics.

Vladimir Terehov, expert on issues in the Asia-Pacific Region has written this article exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

Crowley Joins Board Of Cannabis Firm After Historic Loss To AOC

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Tue, 2019-05-21 09:45

Since losing a historic primary race to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, it appears former Queens Congressman and Democratic Party Boss Joe Crowley has moved on to, uh, greener pastures.

Like former Speaker John Boehner, Crowley has joined the board of a promising cannabis-focused investment firm (Boehner joined the board of Acreage Holdings back in 2018. The company has since gone public in Canada).

Both Crowley and another once-prominent Democrat, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, will join the board of Northern Swan Holdings, which is focused on hemp and marijuana cultivation in Colombia.

Crowley - who famously lost the Democratic Primary for New York's 14th Congressional district to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - will help Northern Swan "try to win regulatory approval to export medical marijuana and CBD into Europe, Canada and possibly the US."

Tom Daschle, Joe Crowley

Northern Swan CEO Kyle Detwiler worked at both Blackstone Group and KKR,  before co-founding Northern Swan. The firm has been ramping up production in Colombia, where medical marijuana is legal and companies are allowed to export cannabis oil. In Colombia, the company can produce a gram of weed for 20 cents, far less than the cost of production in Canada.

"Because we view smart cannabis investing as smart regulatory investing, I think it was important to bring to bear some seasoned experts around Washington to help us expand our business," Detwiler, 36, said in an interview.

Like other cannabis firms, Northern Swan is broadening its focus beyond the US, Europe and Canada, and focusing increasingly on Latin America, which has begun easing its marijuana laws.

Northern Swan, which is based in New York, has raised $100 million and hopes to go public later this year, or in early 2020. The company is trying to gain regulatory approval to export medical marijuana to Germany.

We doubt Crowley and Daschle will be the last formerly prominent politicians to find comfortable perches in the cannabis industry.

How The US Regime Uses Sanctions To Soften A Country Up For Invasion

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Tue, 2019-05-21 09:25

Authored by Eric Zuesse via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

On May 13th, Reuters headlined “Iran insists on ramping up oil sales to stay in nuclear pact” and reported that “EU officials … estimate Iran needs to sell 1.5 million bpd to keep its economy afloat. A drop below 1 million bpd could bring hardship and economic crisis.”

Prior to US President Donald Trump’s cancellation of the nuclear deal with Iran and re-imposition of economic sanctions against Iran and against any companies that trade with Iran, Iran had been selling around 2 million bpd (barrels per day).

Furthermore:

Once Europe’s biggest supplier, Iran has seen its exports gradually cut off from European buyers.

China – Iran’s largest oil customer with imports of 475,000 bpd in the first quarter of this year – has also stopped buying from Iran after Washington chose not to renew sanctions waivers.

Therefore, companies both in Europe and in China are terminating trade with Iran. The likelihood is consequently that Iran will be forced back into its nuclear program, and that things will be like what they had been before Obama had struck his deal with Iran. Here’s what that was like:

On 22 April 2010, the Congressional Research Service reported to Congress that:

Iran’s economy is highly dependent on the production and export of crude oil to finance government spending, and consequently is vulnerable to fluctuations in international oil prices. Although Iran has vast petroleum reserves, the country lacks adequate refining capacity and imports gasoline to meet domestic energy needs. Iran is seeking foreign investment to develop its petroleum sector. While some deals have been finalized, reputational and financial risks may have limited other foreign companies’ willingness to finalize deals.

Trump seems likely to exceed the hostility toward Iran that had been in effect during Obama’s and Bush’s Presidencies. If Trump is trying to force Iran to retaliate, then the goal is to use such retaliation from Iran as an excuse for the US military to move in — to invade.

The Reuters article says “One year after Washington quit the deal, Iran announced on Wednesday steps to relax some restrictions on its nuclear program.”

So: that is already restarting.

OilPrice.com bannered on 22 April 2019, “Iran Threatens To Block Key Oil Chokepoint If It Can No Longer Export Crude” and reported that, “Iran will block the world’s most important chokepoint for global oil trade, the Strait of Hormuz, if Tehran is barred from using it to export its oil, Navy Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), said.”

A year ago, on 13 May 2018, Dr. Arshad M. Khan had headlined at Modern Diplomacy, “The Eclipsing Iran Deal: Truth And Consequences” and stated that,

Iran commands the Strait of Hormuz and a blocked Persian Gulf could see a quadrupling or more in the price of oil, bringing the current economic and stock market boom to a crashing end. Missile attacks from Iran and its ally Hezbollah would cause havoc in Israel’s cities; asymmetric warfare in Syria and Iraq would cost American lives.

On 5 July 2018, Britain’s Guardian headlined “Iran threatens to block Strait of Hormuz over US oil sanctions”, and reported that,

Tehran threatened to block the Gulf passageway in retaliation for Washington’s looming sanctions against Iranian oil exports – a threat the US military said would be immediately countered. … Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guards commander, was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim news agency as saying: “We will make the enemy understand that either everyone can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.”

Iran’s fear here is that those “looming sanctions against Iranian oil exports” will be accompanied by a US military blockade in order to enforce the economic sanctions militarily, and not merely by sanctioning both Iran and any company that trades with Iran. That would then be a physical blockade in addition to the economic blockade. In a sense, it would be like what the US and Saudi Arabia and UAE are doing to the residents in the Houthi area of Yemen.

The Trump regime is clearly hoping for an excuse to invade Iran, and if Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz, then Trump and his friend Netanyahu will have their wish, their excuse to invade that country.

Iran is being abandoned now, not only by America’s allies such as in Europe, but even in countries that had formerly been friendly toward Iran, such as China. Trump and Netanyahu are having their way. Iran is apparently trapped by the two fascist regimes in US and Israel.

The US regime is also trying this strategy against Venezuela, of economically strangling the country with sanctions as a way to soften it up for an invasion. The excuse for an invasion there will probably be ‘humanitarian’, in order to stop the shortages of food, medicine and other necessities, which shortages are being caused by America’s economic sanctions against Venezuela and against any company that trades with Venezuela.

If Russia abandons any of its allies, such as Iran and/or Venezuela, then the US regime will have discredited Russia in the eyes of any remaining allied or even just friendly country, and this too could be part of Trump’s strategy.

These examples show how economic sanctions against a country are the first stage of war by the US regime, an unofficial declaration of war against that ‘enemy’ country, and the preparatory stage for a coup, or, if the coup fails to work, then for an invasion.

DHS Warns That Chinese-Made Drones May Steal Data

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Tue, 2019-05-21 09:05

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a Monday warning that Chinese-made drones may be sending sensitive flight data to their manufacturers in China, according to CNN, citing the alert. 

The drones are a "potential risk to an organization's information," the alert from DHS's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency states. The products "contain components that can compromise your data and share your information on a server accessed beyond the company itself."

The report does not name any specific manufacturers, but nearly 80% of the drones used in the US and Canada come from DJI, which is headquartered in Shenzhen, China, according to one industry analysis. US local law enforcement organizations and infrastructure operators have grown to rely on drones in recent years. -CNN

"The United States government has strong concerns about any technology product that takes American data into the territory of an authoritarian state that permits its intelligence services to have unfettered access to that data or otherwise abuses that access," reads the alert. 

"Those concerns apply with equal force to certain Chinese-made (unmanned aircraft systems)-connected devices capable of collecting and transferring potentially revealing data about their operations and the individuals and entities operating them, as China imposes unusually stringent obligations on its citizens to support national intelligence activities." 

The warning over drones comes after President Trump signed an executive order last week effectively banning US firms from using telecom equipment made by Chinese firm Huawei, which has raised similar national security concerns over alleged spying. 

Nothing new

In 2017, the US Army issued a ban on DJI drones, alleging they shared critical law enforcement and infrastructure data with the Chinese government. Another report that year an internal intelligence assessment by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) in Los Angeles concluded that DJI was "selectively targeting government and privately owned entities within (the US. critical infrastructure and law enforcement sectors) to expand its ability to collect and exploit sensitive US data."

Users are warned to "be cautious when purchasing" drones from China, and to take precautionary steps like turning off the device's internet connection and removing secure digital cards.

"Organizations that conduct operations impacting national security or the Nation's critical functions must remain especially vigilant as they may be at greater risk of espionage and theft of proprietary information," the alert states. -CNN

DJI's most popular drone is the "phantom." Introduced in 2013, it is the top-selling commercial drone on the market. 79% of US and Canadian drones are made by DJI, while they make 74% of commercial drones sold worldwide. The company reported $2.7 billion in revenue in 2017. 

According to the report "industry experts say the drone's easy-to-use software combined with sophisticated cameras and advanced technology allowed DJI to take over sales in the US for hobbyists, as well as professional organizations." 

"A lot of companies found out that using a drone to inspect a roof or to inspect industrial facilities is a really good way -- you save a lot of people climbing ladders," said Drone Industry Insight CEO Kay Wackwitz, whose company focuses on the commercial drone market. 

Why Is The Bilderberg 2019 Location Still a Secret?

Activist Post - Tue, 2019-05-21 09:03

By Aaron and Melissa Dykes

We’re just weeks out from when Bilderberg normally holds its annual meeting, and so far, nothing has officially been announced regarding where the meeting will be held, who will be in attendance, or what topics they plan to discuss this year. The group typically meets at the end of May or beginning of June, but this year they have not even announced on what days the secretive elite confab will be taking place.

This is unprecedented in modern times; last year the date and location was announced in late January for the June 7-10 meeting in Turin, Italy. In many years, the location and date are posted on the official website at least by April or early May. All we have at this point is a fake location in California announced by a parody website (one that takes shots at “conspiracy theorists,” just by the way).

The big question is, what is so different this year that the group has stated they won’t be announcing until mere days before the event?

Considering how completely unprecedented last year’s meeting was, how few independent journalists even covered it, this year’s meeting is more important than ever.

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Aaron & Melissa Dykes are the founders of TruthstreamMedia.com, Subscribe to them on YouTube, like on Facebook, follow on Twitter, support on Patreon.

Watch their mini-documentary Obsolete here and their full-length documentary THE MINDS OF MEN here.

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Categories: News for progressives

City Steals Elderly Man’s Home for Having a Cluttered Yard, Fines Him $60,000

Activist Post - Tue, 2019-05-21 08:58

By Matt Agorist

Norco, CA — Ron Mugar never committed a crime, never harmed anyone, yet he’s found himself in the middle of a government-sponsored thievery ring designed to separate citizens from their money. Now, Mugar is currently facing an uphill battle against thieving bureaucrats in his city who are attempting to rob him through immoral and unconstitutional legislation.

Because the city of Norco, California assumes the right to tell people what they can and can’t have on their own property, Mugar was targeted by predatory bureaucrats over minor ‘code violations.’ According to the city, Mugar had too much stuff in his yard. The city claimed this stuff was an imminent danger to the community and so they went after him. In reality, however, no one was in danger, and when the city asked him to clean up his yard, Mugar did just that. But it was too late.

Mugar became a victim of what the Institute for Justice refers to an increasingly common practice in California called “health and safety receiverships.”

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“Traditionally, receiverships allow a city to take temporary ownership of a property to fix an imminent danger to a community, like a structurally unsound building. The owner then would receive a bill for the work done. The bill is attached to the property in the form of a property lien. If the homeowner cannot pay the bill, the receiver can sell the property,” IJ reports.

The organization points out that these receiverships are now being used in a predatory manner to enforce even the most minor code violations. The city of Norco has hired law firms like Dapeer, Rosenblit & Litvak LLP, who go after people like Mugar in an attempt to steal their property to rake in millions.

When the city takes temporary ownership of property and then charges the homeowner for work they didn’t consent to having done, many times, the homeowner is unable to pay for it. At this point, the city takes full ownership of the property and flips the house, making huge profits in the process.

Just to defend himself from these thieves, Mugar was forced to use all of his life savings to pay for an attorney to fight the city and to clean up his property. Luckily, this successfully won him his home back after the city stole it. However, last November, likely angry at the fact that they’d been beaten, the city sued Mugar for attorneys’ fees to pay the law firm that helped them try to steal his home.

As IJ notes,

State statutes and local ordinances allow municipalities to seek fees for the cost of prosecuting nuisance violations. The city explained its request for over $60,000 by alleging that Ron had engaged in “obstructive tactics”: that is, he tried to defend himself in court. Ron asked the court to reconsider the receivership because it wasn’t necessary. And he disputed some of the city’s allegations. For defending his property rights, Ron now owes tens of thousands of dollars.

One would think that government organizations — who claim to be in place to protect citizens from the likes of thievery and extortion — would not be so overt when committing these acts of thievery and extortion. Sadly, however, as Mugar’s case illustrates, this is not the case.

For defending himself from thieves who stole his home, Mugar is now being forced to pay those very thieves. A travesty of justice indeed.

The good news is, according to IJ, is that “while Norco’s predatory practices are immoral and wrong, they are also something else: unconstitutional, under both the U.S. and California Constitutions. That’s why Ron has teamed up with the Institute for Justice to fight for his property rights and his First Amendment rights, and to fight against financially motivated prosecutors. Prosecutors should not profit from going after property owners in court—especially property owners who successfully defend themselves.”

We agree.

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor at Large at the Free Thought Project, where this article first appeared. Follow @MattAgorist on Twitter, Steemit, and now on Minds.

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Categories: News for progressives

Why Students Are Fleeing The Humanities

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Tue, 2019-05-21 08:45

Authored by Phillip Magness via The American Institute for Economic Research,

University faculty as a whole have made a sharp ideological turn toward the far left in the past two decades - a pattern that is extensively borne out in survey data. In a very short period, professors who self-identify on the left grew from a stable plurality of around 40–45 percent of the academy to a clear majority of 60 percent.

The skew, however, has played out unevenly across academic disciplines. Subjects that do not engage very heavily with political content such as the hard sciences, math, engineering, and many professional degrees still have a relatively balanced faculty. But faculty in subjects that do engage in political content — especially the humanities and social sciences — skew much further to the left than the rest of the academy.

While an ideological skew is not necessarily a problem in itself provided that the faculty teach and permit discussions of a broad diversity of viewpoints, the recent leftward shift of the professoriate may actually be taking its toll on academia in another way.

Students are currently fleeing the humanities and many of the social sciences in droves. Although professors in these subjects are apt to blame their woes at attracting majors on budget cuts and a weak job market, a fair amount of evidence shows that undergraduate humanities degrees are highly fungible for obtaining entry-level jobs after college (with the exception of those that require a very specific skill set). There are still substantial salary differentials depending on what major one chooses, and many of the humanities end up on the lower side of the distribution. But humanities employment data also point to a broad array of career paths beyond the specific subject area, with the largest share actually going into managerial roles.

So why are humanities and closely related social science degrees in such dire straits these days? That’s a complex question that likely has many components related to rising tuition and shifts in student preferences about what they want to study. The politicization of these fields, however, may play an under-recognized role in the decline of student interest.

We may see some evidence for this thesis in the chart below.

The horizontal axis contains the overall trend in the number of majors by discipline since 2011, as reported in a recent study by the American Historical Association. The dashed red line indicates a score of 1.0, or no change in the patterns of majors since 2011. Disciplines to the right of the line have all gained majors in this period, while disciplines to the left are all in decline.

Measuring faculty ideology by discipline is a bit more tricky, although we have two main sources that both show the same pattern. The first is the above-linked survey by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), which shows how faculty identify themselves politically. The second approach takes the ratio of Democrat and Republican party registrations by college faculty as found in public records. The most recent data of this type come from a 2018 study by Mitchell Langbert, which focuses on elite liberal arts institutions across the disciplines. Party registration is in some ways an imperfect proxy for ideology, but Langbert’s results closely match the nationally administered but less fine-grained HERI survey.

To construct the vertical axis of the chart above, I took the log of Langbert’s party-identification ratios to create a comparable index of ideological skew for each discipline. (In a few instances Langbert discovered the skew was so heavy as to exclude any Republican registrants from the sample. For these cases, the measure accordingly represents the observed Democratic totals set as a ratio to one hypothetical Republican.) Since all academic disciplines lean left by this measure, the index is actually representative of how severe the skew happens to be. Accordingly, the faculty in some fields such as engineering and the physical sciences only slightly tilt left, while others in the humanities are severe.

In total, these two data sources can be matched across 25 academic disciplines. The results show a clear pattern. Most of the academic disciplines in decline are also more heavily skewed toward the political left. Among the severely skewed disciplines, only two — communications and music — have shown any growth in the number of majors since 2011. And that growth is modest, indicating that they are only treading water. The remainder of the most politically imbalanced disciplines show moderate to severe drops in majors. These include English, foreign languages, history, philosophy, anthropology, and religion.

As a substantial caveat, these findings only point to a pattern of students avoiding the most politicized disciplines. They do not show that ideological skew is the cause of the decline, or that non-leftist students are being excluded from these fields. But it is also not difficult to see how libertarians, conservatives, or even moderates might feel unwelcome in an ideologically unbalanced major.

Many faculty in the most imbalanced departments seem to enjoy the echo chamber of ideological homogeneity that their areas of study have become over the last two decades. Ironically, that imbalance may end up undermining the long-term viability of the same fields. If enough students find the hyper-politicized classroom offerings in the humanities and social sciences to their disliking, they will eventually vote with their feet.

Tesla Buffalo Plant Exporting Most Solar Cells To A "Large Asian Buyer" As Solar Roof Demand Plummets

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Tue, 2019-05-21 08:25

The "great majority" of solar cells being produced at Tesla’s factory in West New York aren't being used in the company's "Solar Roof", as was pitched to win hundreds of millions in subsidies. Rather, they're being exported and sold overseas to "a large Asian buyer", according to a new report from Reuters

This unexpected shift in strategy, comes after New York state granted Tesla $350 million to build its factory, along with $274.7 million for equipment and $125.3 million “for additional specified scope costs,” according to Tesla disclosures. The subsidy requires that Tesla employ 1,460 people in Buffalo and spends $5 billion in the state over a decade. The factory employs only about 800 workers now. 

While the plan was to mass produce cells for the "Solar Roof", Tesla has only "sporadically" purchased solar cells produced by its partner in the factory, Panasonic.

Furthermore, a Panasonic letter to U.S. Customs said that the rest of the cells are going "largely to foreign buyers". The letter to customs was dated last October and was sent with a "request to produce the cells in a foreign trade zone within the Buffalo plant that would allow Panasonic to import certain parts tariff-free because the finished cells would be sold overseas, not domestically."

It's a far cry from how the partnership was originally pitched:

When the two firms announced the partnership in 2016, the companies said they would collaborate on cell and module production and Tesla would make a long-term commitment to buy the cells from Panasonic. Cells are components that convert the sun’s light into electricity; they are combined to make solar panels.

Tesla planned to use them in its Solar Roof, a system meant to look like normal roof tiles. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk billed the product as a cornerstone of the strategy behind the acquisition - selling a low-carbon lifestyle to eco-conscious consumers who could use the power from their Solar Roof to charge their Tesla electric vehicle.

But the company has installed them on just a handful of rooftops nationwide so far after production line troubles and a gutting of Tesla’s solar sales team.

“We believe Tesla will use Panasonic cells when it mass-markets the Solar Roof,” the company had previously said. It shares floor space in the Buffalo plant with Panasonic. The relationship between the two companies has soured in recent months. 

California data shows that only 21 solar roof systems were connected by the state's three investor-owned utilities as of February 28. Only a "few others" are connected elsewhere in the U.S., according to a former Tesla employee. Tesla, not surprisingly, decided not to comment, despite the fact that Musk once called the acquisition of Solar City a "no brainer". 

Panasonic spokesman Alberto Canal confirmed that Panasonic was seeking to use Buffalo to fulfill demand for U.S.-made solar cells from foreign buyers, but he didn't comment about the company's sales to Tesla. We wonder why. 

Reuters had previously reported that Panasonic was selling traditional solar panels produced at the plant to other buyers due to "lower demand" from Tesla. In Q1, Tesla reported a 36% slide in overall solar sales. Since the purchase of SolarCity, installations have dropped more than 76%.

Source: @TeslaCharts

And despite the volatility, clueless New York lawmakers responsible for giving Tesla the subsidies still couldn't be more pleased.

Pamm Lent, spokeswoman for Empire State Development, said: “We have two of the leading clean energy companies in the world in Buffalo at the RiverBend facility. Tesla produces their innovative solar roof tiles ‎largely for development and testing with the goal of full scale launch in the future. Panasonic is now the largest producer and employer at Riverbend with a customer base independent of Tesla.”

Little does she know, Tesla doesn't even seem to be part of the equation at the factory. One employee told Reuters: "Everybody wants Tesla to succeed, but we are operating completely independently from them right now.”

This investigative news-report is a masterpiece:

Washington's Blog - Tue, 2019-05-21 08:19

This morning, I sent this article from former British Ambassador Craig Murray to all major news-media in U.S., UK, and Canada, requesting them to republish it. I think it’s a masterpiece of investigative journalism; so, I also am posting it here:

——

https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2019/05/the-missing-step/

The Missing Step

20 May 2019  in Uncategorized by craig Craig Murray

In Sweden, prosecutors have applied to the Swedish courts [ https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/may/20/julian-assange-sweden-files-request-arrest-rape-allegation ]  to issue a warrant for Julian’s arrest. There is a tremendous back story to that simple statement.

The European Arrest Warrant must be issued from one country to another by a judicial authority. The original Swedish request for Assange’s extradition was not issued by any court, but simply by the prosecutor. This was particularly strange, as the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm had initially closed the case after deciding there was no case to answer, and then another, highly politically motivated, prosecutor had reopened the case and issued a European Arrest Warrant, without going to any judge for confirmation.

Assange’s initial appeal up to the UK Supreme Court was in large part based on the fact that the warrant did not come from a judge but from a prosecutor, and that was not a judicial authority. I have no doubt that, if any other person in the UK had been the accused, the British courts would not have accepted the warrant from a prosecutor. The incredible and open bias of the courts against Assange has been evident since day 1. My contention is borne out by the fact that, immediately after Assange lost his case against the warrant in the Supreme Court, the British government changed the law to specify that future warrants must be from a judge and not a prosecutor. That is just one of the incredible facts about the Assange case that the mainstream media has hidden from the general public.

The judgement against Assange in the UK Supreme Court on the point of whether the Swedish Prosecutor constituted a “judicial authority” hinged on a completely unprecedented and frankly incredible piece of reasoning. Lord Phillips concluded that in the English text of the EWA treaty “judicial authority” could not include the Swedish prosecutor, but that in the French version “autorite judiciaire” could include the Swedish prosecutor. The two texts having equal validity, Lord Phillips decided to prefer the French language text over the English language text, an absolutely stunning decision as the UK negotiators could be presumed to have been working from the English text, as could UK ministers and parliament when they ratified the decision.

I am not making this up – you will find Phillips amazing bit of linguistic gymnastics here on page 9 para 21 of his judgement. Again, it is impossible that this would have been done to anybody but Julian Assange; and had it been the outcry from the MSM against the preference given to French wording and thus French legal tradition would have been deafening. But given the state’s unhidden animus against Assange, it all was passed quietly with the law simply amended immediately thereafter to stop it happening to anybody else.

The law having been changed, this time the Swedes have to do it properly and actually go to a court to issue a warrant. That is what is now happening. As usual, the Guardian today cannot resist the temptation to tell an outright lie about what is happening:

“Julian Assange Sweden files request for arrest over rape allegation”

The … headline is completely untrue. Sweden has not filed a request for arrest. Sweden is going through its judicial processes – which it skipped the first time – in order to decide whether or not to file a request for arrest. This gives Assange the opportunity to start the process of fighting the allegations, which he strenuously denies, in the Swedish courts. However at present his Swedish lawyer cannot access him in Belmarsh high security jail, which is typical of the abuses of process to which he is subject.

It is not political correctness which prevents the UK mainstream media from investigating the extraordinary nature of the allegations against Assange in Sweden. In the case of Nafissatou Diallo, for example, the entire UK mainstream media had no compunction whatsoever in publishing the name of the alleged victim from the very first moment of the allegations against DSK [Dominique Strauss-Kahn], and the likelihood or otherwise of the entire story was raked through in detail by every single national newspaper, and extensively by the BBC.

I have never heard anybody even attempt to explain why it was OK for the MSM to look in detail at Diallo’s accusations and use her name, but Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen must never be named and their story must never be doubted. The answer is not the position in Swedish law – the Swedish law states that neither the accuser nor the accused may be named, which law has been gleefully broken in Assange’s case every day for nine years. When it comes to Assange, he is simply to be reviled. He is provably treated differently by both state and MSM at all points. It does not matter to them that his arrest warrant was not from a judge, or that the media apply entirely different rules to investigating his case, enforced by a feminist mantra they do not believe or uphold in other cases. He is simply to be hated without question.

Why has there never been a documentary in the UK like the brilliant “Sex, Lies and Julian Assange” from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship Four Corners programme? Please do watch if you have not done so already:

https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/sex-lies-and-julian-assange/4156420

[Neither of the Swedish women had voluntarily participated in charging Assange with rape. The Swedish Government was forced by the U.S. Government to do this. Australia’s Government provided the required cooperation in order to refuse to provide Assange any protection to an Australian citizen.]

Julian Assange revolutionised publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes. Contrast, for example, the Panama Papers which, contrary to promises, only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM intermediaries. Or compare Wikileaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to the Guardian and the Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.

There is an interesting parallel with the reaction to the work of Reformation scholars in translating the Bible into vernacular languages and giving the populace direct access to its contents, without the mediating filters of the priestly class. Such developments will always provoke extraordinary venom from those whose position is threatened. I see a historical parallel between Julian Assange and William Tyndale in this respect. It is something worth bearing in mind in trying to understand the depth of the State’s hatred of Julian.

How to Survive the Journey Ahead: A Graduation Message for a Terrifying Age

Activist Post - Tue, 2019-05-21 08:17

By John W. Whitehead

“No matter who you are, no matter how strong you are, sooner or later, you’ll face circumstances beyond your control.” — Cersei Lannister, Game of Thrones

Those coming of age today will face some of the greatest obstacles ever encountered by young people.

They will find themselves overtaxed, burdened with excessive college debt, and struggling to find worthwhile employment in a debt-ridden economy on the brink of implosion. Their privacy will be eviscerated by the surveillance state. They will be the subjects of a military empire constantly waging war against shadowy enemies and government agents armed to the teeth ready and able to lock down the country at a moment’s notice.

As such, they will find themselves forced to march in lockstep with a government that no longer exists to serve the people but which demands they be obedient slaves or suffer the consequences.

It’s a dismal prospect, isn’t it?

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Unfortunately, we who should have known better failed to guard against such a future.

Worse, we neglected to maintain our freedoms or provide our young people with the tools necessary to survive, let alone succeed, in the impersonal jungle that is modern America.

We brought them into homes fractured by divorce, distracted by mindless entertainment, and obsessed with the pursuit of materialism. We institutionalized them in daycares and afterschool programs, substituting time with teachers and childcare workers for parental involvement. We turned them into test-takers instead of thinkers and automatons instead of activists.

We allowed them to languish in schools which not only look like prisons but function like prisons, as well—where conformity is the rule and freedom is the exception. We made them easy prey for our corporate overlords, while instilling in them the values of a celebrity-obsessed, technology-driven culture devoid of any true spirituality. And we taught them to believe that the pursuit of their own personal happiness trumped all other virtues, including any empathy whatsoever for their fellow human beings.

No, we haven’t done this generation any favors.

Based on the current political climate, things could very well get much worse before they ever take a turn for the better. Here are a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help those coming of age today survive the perils of the journey that awaits:

Be an individual. For all of its claims to champion the individual, American culture advocates a stark conformity which, as John F. Kennedy warned, is “the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.” Worry less about fitting in with the rest of the world and instead, as Henry David Thoreau urged, become “a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.”

Learn your rights. We’re losing our freedoms for one simple reason: most of us don’t know anything about our freedoms. At a minimum, anyone who has graduated from high school, let alone college, should know the Bill of Rights backwards and forwards. However, the average young person, let alone citizen, has very little knowledge of their rights for the simple reason that the schools no longer teach them. So grab a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and study them at home. And when the time comes, stand up for your rights before it’s too late.

Speak truth to power. Don’t be naive about those in positions of authority. As James Madison, who wrote our Bill of Rights, observed, “All men having power ought to be distrusted.” We must learn the lessons of history. People in power, more often than not, abuse that power. To maintain our freedoms, this will mean challenging government officials whenever they exceed the bounds of their office.

Resist all things that numb you. Don’t measure your worth by what you own or earn. Likewise, don’t become mindless consumers unaware of the world around you. Resist all things that numb you, put you to sleep or help you “cope” with so-called reality. Those who establish the rules and laws that govern society’s actions desire compliant subjects. However, as George Orwell warned, “Until they become conscious, they will never rebel, and until after they rebelled, they cannot become conscious.” It is these conscious individuals who change the world for the better.

Don’t let technology turn you into zombies. Technology anesthetizes us to the all-too-real tragedies that surround us. Techno-gadgets are merely distractions from what’s really going on in America and around the world. As a result, we’ve begun mimicking the inhuman technology that surrounds us and have lost our humanity. We’ve become sleepwalkers. If you’re going to make a difference in the world, you’re going to have to pull the earbuds out, turn off the cell phones and spend much less time viewing screens.

Help others. We all have a calling in life. And I believe it boils down to one thing: You are here on this planet to help other people. In fact, none of us can exist very long without help from others. If we’re going to see any positive change for freedom, then we must change our view of what it means to be human and regain a sense of what it means to love and help one another. That will mean gaining the courage to stand up for the oppressed.

Give voice to moral outrage. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” There is no shortage of issues on which to take a stand. For instance, on any given night, over half a million people in the U.S. are homeless, and half of them are elderly. There are 46 million Americans living at or below the poverty line, and 16 million children living in households without adequate access to food. Congress creates, on average, more than 50 new criminal laws each year. With more than 2 million Americans in prison, and close to 7 million adults in correctional care, the United States has the largest prison population in the world. At least 2.7 million children in the United States have at least one parent in prison. At least 400 to 500 innocent people are killed by police officers every year. Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist. On an average day in America, over 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams. It costs the American taxpayer $52.6 billion every year to be spied on by the government intelligence agencies tasked with surveillance, data collection, counterintelligence and covert activities. All the while, since 9/11, the U.S. has spent more than $1.6 trillion to wage wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and police the rest of the world. This is an egregious affront to anyone who believes in freedom.

Cultivate spirituality, reject materialism and put people first. When the things that matter most have been subordinated to materialism, we have lost our moral compass. We must change our values to reflect something more meaningful than technology, materialism and politics. Standing at the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City in April 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. urged his listeners:

[W]e as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motive and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

Pitch in and do your part to make the world a better place. Don’t rely on someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. Don’t wait around for someone else to fix what ails you, your community or nation. As Gandhi urged: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Say no to war. Addressing the graduates at Binghampton Central High School in 1968, at a time when the country was waging war “on different fields, on different levels, and with different weapons,” Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling declared:

Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats. Love your country because it is eminently worthy of your affection. Respect it because it deserves your respect. Be loyal to it because it cannot survive without your loyalty. But do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history—even if history points this up by its repetition. That men die for causes does not necessarily sanctify that cause. And that men are maimed and torn to pieces every fifteen and twenty years does not immortalize or deify the act of war… find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow-man.

Finally, prepare yourselves for what lies ahead. The demons of our age—some of whom disguise themselves as politicians—delight in fomenting violence, sowing distrust and prejudice, and persuading the public to support tyranny disguised as patriotism. Overcoming the evils of our age will require more than intellect and activism. It will require decency, morality, goodness, truth and toughness. As Serling concluded in his remarks to the graduating class of 1968:

Toughness is the singular quality most required of you… we have left you a world far more botched than the one that was left to us… Part of your challenge is to seek out truth, to come up with a point of view not dictated to you by anyone, be he a congressman, even a minister… Are you tough enough to take the divisiveness of this land of ours, the fact that everything is polarized, black and white, this or that, absolutely right or absolutely wrong. This is one of the challenges. Be prepared to seek out the middle ground … that wondrous and very difficult-to-find Valhalla where man can look to both sides and see the errant truths that exist on both sides. If you must swing left or you must swing right—respect the other side. Honor the motives that come from the other side. Argue, debate, rebut—but don’t close those wondrous minds of yours to opposition. In their eyes, you’re the opposition. And ultimately … ultimately—you end divisiveness by compromise. And so long as men walk and breathe—there must be compromise…

Are you tough enough to face one of the uglier stains upon the fabric of our democracy—prejudice? It’s the basic root of most evil. It’s a part of the sickness of man. And it’s a part of man’s admission, his constant sick admission, that to exist he must find a scapegoat. To explain away his own deficiencies—he must try to find someone who he believes more deficient… Make your judgment of your fellow-man on what he says and what he believes and the way he acts. Be tough enough, please, to live with prejudice and give battle to it. It warps, it poisons, it distorts and it is self-destructive. It has fallout worse than a bomb … and worst of all it cheapens and demeans anyone who permits himself the luxury of hating.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the only way we’ll ever achieve change in this country is for the American people to finally say “enough is enough” and fight for the things that truly matter.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your political ideology is. If you have something to say, speak up. Get active, and if need be, pick up a picket sign and get in the streets. And when civil liberties are violated, don’t remain silent about it.

Wake up, stand up, and make your activism count for something more than politics.

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  is available at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Publication Guidelines / Reprint Permission

John W. Whitehead’s weekly commentaries are available for publication to newspapers and web publications at no charge. Please contact staff@rutherford.org to obtain reprint permission.

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Categories: News for progressives

US Gov’t Trained ISIS Commander — Did It ‘Burn’ Him Later?

Activist Post - Tue, 2019-05-21 08:08

By Brandon Turbeville

After his death was announced by ISIS in 2016, the name Abu Omar al-Shishani has largely faded from news reports regarding Iraq and Syria. However, at one time, one of the top commanders of ISIS was known throughout the geopolitical community. In 2015, the US State Department even offered $5 million as a reward for information leading to his capture.

However, for all the alleged desire to capture or kill Shishani on the part of the United States, it was the United States who trained him as a matter of record when he was fighting against the Russians in Chechnya and again during the Georgian war.

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In an article from September, 2015 entitled, “One of ISIS’ top commanders was a ‘star pupil’ of US-special forces training in the country of Georgia,” Jeremy Bender wrote for Business Insider,

Aside from ISIS’ ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Georgian ex-commando Omar al-Shishani might be the most recognizable and popular of the powerful militant group’s leaders.

Sporting a recognizable red beard and happy to pose for photos, Shishani has acted as a very public face for some of ISIS’ most notorious successes.

It was Shishani who posed with the stolen US Humvees that ISIS had seized from Mosul and brought back into Syria.

And it was Shishani who had led successful ISIS military campaigns throughout Syria as well as a blitz through western Iraq that put the group within 100 miles of Baghdad.

These military successes are not simply the result of any innate military capabilities. Instead, Shishani spent years conducting military campaigns against the Russians, first as a Chechen rebel and then as a soldier in the Georgian military. During Shishani’s four years in the military, from 2006 to 2010, his unit received some degree of training from American special forces units.

“He was a perfect soldier from his first days, and everyone knew he was a star,” an unnamed former comrade who is still active in the Georgian military told McClatchy DC. “We were well trained by American special forces units, and he was the star pupil.”

“We trained him well, and we had lots of help from America,” another anonymous Georgian defense official told McClatchy about Shishani. “In fact, the only reason he didn’t go to Iraq to fight alongside America was that we needed his skills here in Georgia.”

In 2008, when Russia and Georgia briefly went to war over the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia, Shishani reportedly was a star soldier. Although Russia quickly won the war, Shishani and his special forces unit caused asymmetrical damage to the invading Russian forces, including the wounding of the Russian commander of the 58th Army.

Shishani was eventually arrested by the Georgian military and jailed for 15 months for illegally “harboring weapons.” After his sentence was over in 2012, he fled to Syria via Turkey. Interestingly enough, in 2015, TASS reported that the US Army had captured Shishani, a report that was corroborated by field commanders in Kirkuq at the time. However, it was later reported that he escaped his captors.

Notably, Shishani was also connected to former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, a man who had also done yeoman’s service in the name of the Western empire and who was rewarded for that service by being placed in power in post-coup Ukraine.

Bender continues describing Shishani’s skill as a fighter, a skill that was no accident since the United States Special Forces provided him with such intense training. Bender writes,

However, his history of asymmetrical fighting against the Russians in the Caucasus, both before and after having received American training, has played a key role in defining Shishani’s military and command style.

“Shishani is somewhat unique among ISIS’s commanders. Shishani is fighting like an insurgent,” Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Musings on Iraq. “He’s using a complex style in Anbar [province in western Iraq], relying on a very small force … Shishani’s forces emphasize speed and agility.”

“They’ll hit multiple targets on the same day, and engage in harassing attacks to try to draw out the enemy, the Iraqi Security Forces or the Sahwa [Sunni tribes aligned against ISIS in Iraq]. Then he loves trapping the people he’s able to draw out that are in pursuit of him.”

These tactics have worked extremely well for Shishani throughout Iraq. Despite US-led coalition airstrikes and the combined forces of the Iraqi Security Forces and Iranian-backed militias, ISIS has continued to seize territory and embed itself deeper into Iraq’s Anbar province.

Shishani was reported to have been killed five times in 2014 and four times in 2015 (see here, here, here, and here). He was also reportedly killed in March, 2016 before eventually before the U.S. government claimed to have killed him in July, 2016.

Shishani – More To The Story?

However, many researchers believe there is much more to the story of Shishani (aka Tarkhan Batirashvili) than meets the eye, at least insomuch as the story is presented in the Western press. For instance, Seth Ferris, in his New Eastern Outlook article, “Effort to Silence CIA Assets Begins with Tarkhan Batirashvili,” presents details hidden in Western media coverage of Shishani. He writes,

Most Chechen commanders have shelf lives, not necessarily in terms of effectiveness on the battlefield but in terms of political usefulness. It seems that another one is about to find out the hard way that Chechens are only there to further objectives they don’t actually hold themselves, not become glorious martyrs able to pass unimaginable wealth on to their families.

There are few secrets about the history of Tarkhan Batirashvili, a former Georgian army soldier who was deemed unfit for service for health reasons, including TB, and booted out. However we know a lot about him because we are supposed to swallow the versions given. Invariably, these revelations are presented as some sort of mysterious knowledge which only experts would have, which others cannot therefore contradict. There is a very obvious reason why we should be encouraged to think that any “non-official” information must be wrong.

From medically unfit to monster

Here is a recent profile of Batirashvili:

Omar al-Shishani aka Tarkhan Batirashvili (Islamic State / ISIS)

Abu Omar al-Shishani or Omar al-Shishani is the most senior military commander of the Islamic State’s (IS) Military Wing in Syria. His leadership position within the IS follows the death of the former commander of IS forces, Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Bilawi al-Anbari, who was killed in Mosul in early June 2014. Al-Shishani is an extremist and fanatical Islamist, uncompromising in his support of the IS which is complemented by experience in warfare (due to his involvement in the wars with Russia in the Caucasus region) [American trained and equipped] which [apparently] has added to the respect and support he had among IS fighters.

Batirashvili is effectively the Minister of Defense for the Islamic State. According to prison records, and sources in Georgia who know him personally, he is also a CIA asset. Analyst William Engdahl has described in detail how ISIS militants have been trained by the CIA in Jordan, and its funding provided by Gulf countries.

As a result of this relationship with the US Batirashvili has enjoyed the proverbial nine lives, having frequently been reported dead, mostly by Russian media sources, but reappearing alive and well like clockwork. On 4th March he was, yet again, reported dead as the result of an airstrike. However, just as this article was going to press the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which claims to have a network of observers within Syria where the air strikes occurred, told news media that he had merely been “seriously injured” by strike, and is now in hospital in Raqqa.

Was Shishani ‘Burned?’

So why would the US train Shishani only to kill him later? Why would the US kill its own asset working so effectively to its aims? Ferris answers this question in his article when he writes,

Recent reactions to a spate of stories about the Pankisi Gorge, where Batirashvili was trained, have got the authorities scrambling to cover themselves with photo opportunities and the like. Batirashvili knows as much as anyone about what has been going on there for a long time, having established the terrorist recruitment process which has seen dozens of young men mysteriously disappear, without passports, and end in fighting for ISIS, according to public records and sources in the Gorge itself.

Russia has also conducted airstrikes against ISIS, despite US opposition. If the Russians get to Batirashvili first they will capture him and get confirmation of all they have been saying for years. The US has to stop that happening, and is more interested in doing this than saving the lives their inserted terrorist commander has taken.

If Batirashvili is dead, the testimony of possible future captures can be rubbished as that of lower level operatives who cannot know the facts. Just like the stories about Batirashvili by those who contradict the official line. It seems being the only superpower has finally convinced the US that everyone who isn’t part of its military-industrial complex really is as stupid as it thinks we are.

“Batirashvili’s handlers are not rogue CIA operatives on the ground,” writes Ferris, “but those at the highest levels of the US administration: exactly the friends anyone who’s in trouble might be presumed to want, until they don’t want you anymore.” The Method

Ferris then turns to the method in which terrorist operatives like Shishani are trained and directed by national governments, specifically the United States and Georgia. He writes,

Of course such a plan needs funds. These have long been provided through a “development funding” mechanism called ACDI/VOCA, in other words, directly by the US government. This is a tried and trusted mechanism, which has funded terrorists in Afghanistan as well as Georgia and provided the initial funding for the operations in Syria.

In Afghanistan it established the ARIES programme. One of the ARIES projects was to “give 80 million USD in microfinance and SME lending to shift people away from opium cultivation”. This succeeded in establishing better protected smuggling routes, and more secure supplies, from an area near Tajik border, an area east of Kabul centred near Jalalabad, the southern war region of Kandahar and Helmand and an area round Herat. The drugs from this region were sold to pay for operations in Georgia and Syria.

In Georgia the same mechanism funded an NGO called Jvari, which was set up by the Georgian National Security Council, unusually for an aid organisation. Batirashvili was trained with funds provided to Jvari. Other graduates of the programme include a number of other Chechens who have documented connections with US-aligned NGOs, such as Umar Idigov, head of the NGO “Foundation of Caucasus Integration” and Imram Akhmadov, who is now living in Turkey under the name Kavtarashvili, using a fake passport purchased with US government money.

There are many similar mechanisms the US uses to fund terrorists. An organisation called WOCCU has been granted about 15 million USD to create about 20 credit unions in Afghanistan. It was established by a former Green Beret Special Operations man, Randall Spears, who has already funded terrorist operations in several countries. ACDI/VOCA itself has directly funded the creation of a number of other “credit cooperatives”, to the tune of 12 million USD. This operation is run by former USDA representative Rusty Shultz, in collaboration with Gerry Anderson, a former CIA point man in Georgia working under the cover of USAID.

“According to a November, 2013 report in the Wall Street Journal,” Ferris concludes, “it was Batirashvili who turned the wars in Syria and Iraq ‘into a geopolitical struggle between the US and Russia’ rather than civil conflicts. That was the objective of the leading neo-conservatives in the CIA, Pentagon and State Department all along.”

Regardless, if Shishani is truly dead, it is unlikely we will ever know the real reason for his killing. It is clear enough that he was used as an asset of the NATO apparatus. It is less clear as to why this asset was eventually ‘burned’ by the government that employed him. However, Shishani’s training and deployment and the record of US involvement in his battlefield exploits is yet one more piece of the puzzle demonstrating the American/NATO control over the same terrorists it is claiming to be fighting against.

Brandon Turbeville writes for Activist Post – article archive here – He is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President, and Resisting The Empire: The Plan To Destroy Syria And How The Future Of The World Depends On The Outcome. Turbeville has published over 1500 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, civil liberties and, most notably, geopolitics and the Syrian crisis. His most recent release is a book of poetry, Dance, Amputee. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found at UCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com. He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

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Categories: News for progressives

Ron Paul Warns Violence Against Women Act Violates Constitution

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Tue, 2019-05-21 08:05

Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

A common trick of big-government loving politicians is to give legislation names so appealing that it seems no reasonable person could oppose it. The truth is, the more unobjectionable the title, the more objectionable the content. Two well-known examples are the “PATRIOT Act” and the “Access to Affordable and Quality Care Act.”

Another great example is the Violence Against Women Act. Passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act provides federal grants to, and imposes federal mandates on, state and local governments with the goal of increasing arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of those who commit domestic violence.

Like most federal laws, the Violence Against Women Act is unconstitutional. The Constitution limits federal jurisdiction to three crimes: counterfeiting, treason, and piracy. All other crimes — including domestic violence — are strictly state and local matters.

The law also forbids anyone subject to a restraining order obtained by a spouse or a domestic partner from owning a gun. This is a blatant violation of the Second Amendment’s prohibition on federal laws denying anyone the right to own a gun. Whether someone subject to a restraining order, or convicted of a violent crime, should lose their rights to own firearms is a question to be decided by state and local officials.

At least the current law requires individuals receive due process before the government can deprive them of their Second Amendment rights. The House of Representatives recently passed legislation reauthorizing and making changes to the Violence Against Women Act. The most disturbing part of this “upgrade” gives government the power to take away an individual’s Second Amendment rights based solely on an allegation that the individual committed an act of domestic violence. The accused then loses Second Amendment rights without even having an opportunity to tell their side of the story to a judge.

This is a version of “red flag” laws that are becoming increasingly popular. Red flag laws are not just supported by authoritarians like Senators Diane Feinstein and Lindsey Graham, but by alleged “constitutional conservatives” like Sen. Ted Cruz.

Red flag laws have led to dangerous confrontations between law enforcement and citizens who assumed that those breaking into their property to take their guns are private, rather than government, thieves.

The House bill also expands red flag laws to cover those accused of “misdemeanor stalking.” Many jurisdictions define misdemeanor stalking to include “cyber” or online stalking. These means someone could lose Second Amendment rights for sending someone an “offensive” Facebook or Twitter message.

Forbidding someone from owning a firearm because of offensive social media posts sets a precedent that could be used to impose legal sanctions on those posting “hate speech.” Since hate speech is defined as “speech I don’t agree with,” this could lead to the de facto outlawing of free speech online.

Instead of addressing concerns over the inclusion of new red flag type laws in the Violence Against Women’s Act, proponents of the bill have smeared their critics as not caring about domestic violence. As Reason magazine senior editor Jacob Sullum has pointed out, these progressives sound like neoconservatives who smear PATRIOT Act opponents as allies of Al Qaeda.

All decent people oppose domestic violence and terrorism. However, the desire to catch and punish wrongdoers does not justify violating the Constitution or denying anyone due process. When government violates the rights of anyone it threatens the liberties of everyone.

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