TBR News February 15, 2015

Feb 14 2015

The Voice of the White House

            Washington, D.C. February 13, 2015: “Readers have wondered why we use so many foreign news sites. The answer is that they are much more accurate than American ones. One of the best is Reuters, another the Guardian, both English. And RT has excellent articles on negative aspects of current American culture that, while accurate, are very rarely seen in the major American media. Once-famous newspapers like the New York Times are falling apart and there is far more important and serious news to be found today on the Internet than in any American newspaper. And the best thing is that the Internet is free. True, is it now stuffed with advertisements for products I would not want in my house lest they frighten small children but one can ignore the obnoxious ads and read an enormous panorama of daily news for absolutely nothing.”



In Ukraine, It’s Putin’s Game

February. 11, 2015

by Andrew Higgins    

New York Times

BRUSSELS — His country’s oil export revenues and currency have slumped. Its economy is shrinking, and some of his own allies in Moscow have questioned where he is leading them. Yet when President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sat down Wednesday in the Belarussian capital of Minsk with the leaders of Ukraine, Germany and France to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine, he still held the decisive cards.

For months now, Europe’s often fractious leaders have spoken with one voice on Ukraine, ruling out a military solution and pleading with all parties to find a way to resolve the dispute diplomatically. But in Minsk, they confronted the reality that Mr. Putin retains the upper hand precisely because he is prepared to use military force to get what he wants in diplomacy.

In a sign of Europe’s commitment to diplomacy, both Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, the Continent’s most powerful political figure, and President François Hollande of France, the leader of Western Europe’s biggest country, traveled to Minsk on Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to revive a moribund peace process begun in September with a truce deal, which was also negotiated in Minsk. They did so despite what Ms. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said was just “a glimmer of hope.”

However, in Minsk, Europe’s faith in a “political solution” — a mantra repeated over the past year at every meeting in Brussels of leaders and foreign ministers — confronted the hard reality created by Mr. Putin, whose support for separatist rebels gutted the last Minsk agreement, empowered their quest for a clear military solution and amplified voices in Washington calling for military aid to Ukraine.

“Putin has got everyone spun up over what he is up to in Minsk, but he is playing a long game,” said Fiona Hill, the United States’ top intelligence officer on Russia from 2006 to 2009. “He plays on multiple fronts. We start talking about a military response, and he starts talking about diplomacy.”

          Ms. Hill, now director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution and co-author of “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” predicted that any new cease-fire accord would “only be temporary like the last one” because Mr. Putin constantly shifts between diplomatic and military options, depending on which he sees as giving Russia the most advantage.

The West, she added, assisted Russia’s tactical maneuvering by making it clear what it wanted while Mr. Putin constantly keeps everyone guessing. “You can win on a weak hand if your opponent is always showing you their hand,” she said.

Speaking in Brussels on Monday during a meeting of European foreign ministers that again reaffirmed the sanctity of diplomacy over force, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, stressed that Wednesday’s talks in Minsk between the leaders of France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists needed to strengthen, not rewrite, September’s so-called Minsk Protocol.

But he acknowledged that fully putting it into effect was no longer an option because of what he called “certain evolutions on the ground,” namely a steady advance by pro-Russian fighters that has extended the territory they control by more than 200 square miles since September.

In the weeks preceding Wednesday’s Minsk summit talks, pro-Russian rebels, fortified by fresh supplies of Russian weapons, seized the ruins of the Donetsk airport and launched a determined offensive against the town of Debaltseve, an important rail junction and the last pocket of Ukrainian-held territory in a wide swath of territory north of Donetsk.

The gap between Europe’s dogged diplomacy and Mr. Putin’s approach to Ukraine, which mixes regular calls for peace with stealthy supplies of Russian weapons and even soldiers to the separatists, has left Moscow and Brussels “playing entirely different games,” said Amanda Paul, a Russia expert at the European Policy Center, a Brussels research group.

“Putin can outmaneuver us because he knows what our limits are. He knows we will not deploy troops. He knows that even if the United States decides to send some arms, Russia is still strong enough to defeat Ukraine,” she added. “But we have no idea what Putin’s limits are. He does not show his cards. The West does. Maybe there is not a military solution, but we should keep Russia guessing.”

While vague on his objectives in Ukraine beyond a determination to block what he sees as a plot by NATO to push deep into former Soviet territory, Mr. Putin has made clear his desire to divide the European Union, reaching out to countries like Hungary and Greece, where a new left-wing government has raised doubts about the wisdom of sanctions imposed on Moscow over Ukraine. So far, however, the 28-nation bloc has managed to stay unusually united, in part because it has stuck to relatively modest sanctions, in step with Washington.

Linas A. Linkevicius, the foreign minister of Lithuania, one of the few European countries that support sending weapons to Ukraine, said, “Diplomatic efforts are of course worthwhile, but we can’t judge whether they are working, even if we get Russia’s signature on an agreement. We have learned that we can only judge events on the ground.”

“We cannot trust a single word of the Russian leadership,” he added. “They are all worthless.”

The last Minsk agreement began to unravel almost as soon as it was signed. There were violations of the cease-fire on both sides, but particularly from the rebels, whose leader at the time, Pavel Gubarev, denounced the accord as a sellout and declared “we want to spit on this ‘peace.’ ”

Since then, the rebels have consolidated their previously fragmented land into a more defensible territory and have vowed to resist any return to a so-called “demarcation line” fixed in September. Mr. Fabius, the French foreign minister, indicatedthat France and Germany, which have taken the lead in Europe’s diplomatic push, would accept revisions to the earlier accord, saying that it would be respected “as far as possible.”

An annual security conference in Munich last weekend was dominated by discussion about Ukraine and debate over whether Wednesday’s peace talks would yield “Minsk plus,” a relaunch of last year’s accord, or “Minsk minus,” a confirmation that the earlier agreement was dead and would be replaced by a new deal that enshrined the rebels’ military gains.

Skepticism was rife about the prospects for a deal that did not reward armed force, and the German government has been deliberately downbeat since, suggesting that the Minsk meeting not even take place and that if it did, hopes of an enduring settlement were slim.

Asked whether it was more likely there would be a “Minsk plus” or a “Minsk minus,” Norbert Röttgen, the Christian Democrat who is chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the German Parliament, said he feared a minus from the Western standpoint.

“I think there will either be nothing, because Putin unfortunately tactically has the upper hand in the short term,” he said. “And Poroshenko only has a limited amount of room to maneuver.

“Or there will be a new cease-fire, a second Minsk, which would include a significant shift of the demarcation line to the West. The violation of Minsk 1 would then be honored in Minsk 2, and whether Putin would then keep to Minsk 2, there are considerable doubts,” Mr. Röttgen added.

Despite growing exasperation with Russia’s meddling and its repeated denials of arms supplies, European nations have strong reasons to reject the idea of arming Ukraine, even with defensive weapons, and to rely solely on economic sanctions.

“The only sector where Putin has nothing to fear is arms,” Paolo Gentiloni, the foreign minister of Italy, said during an interview with The New York Times editorial board on Wednesday. “Russia is weak in many sectors, but very strong in arms.”

Any weapons sent to Ukraine by the United States, he said, might even help Mr. Putin as it “could support his narrative” that Russia has legitimate reasons to fear Western military encroachment on its borders.

Alison Smale contributed reporting from Berlin, and Rick Gladstone from New York.


NYT Whites Out Ukraine’s Brown Shirts

February 11, 2015

by Robert Parry

Consortium News

Exclusive: The New York Times has been more biased on the Ukraine crisis – endlessly promoting State Department propaganda – than when it published false Iraqi WMD stories last decade. Case in point: a story from Mariupol hailing the Azov battalion without noting its neo-Nazi fighters, writes Robert Parry.

In covering the Ukraine crisis, the New York Times continues its descent into becoming little more than a propaganda organ for the U.S. State Department and the Kiev regime, again refusing to acknowledge the role of neo-Nazi militias in the civil war against ethnic Russians in the east.

On Wednesday, the Times published a long article by Rick Lyman that presented the situation in the port city of Mariupol as if the advance by ethnic Russian rebels amounted to the arrival of barbarians at the gate while the inhabitants were being bravely defended by the forces of civilization. But then the article cites the key role in that defense played by the Azov battalion.

Nazi symbols on helmets worn by members of Ukraine’s Azov battalion. (As filmed by a Norwegian film crew and shown on German TV)

Though the article provides much color and detail – and quotes an Azov leader prominently – it leaves out one salient and well-known fact about the Azov battalion, that it is composed of neo-Nazis who display the Swastika, SS markings and other Nazi symbols.

But this inconvenient truth – that neo-Nazis have been central to Kiev’s “self-defense forces” from last February’s coup to the present – would presumably disrupt the desired propaganda message. So the New York Times just ignores it and refers to Azov as simply a “volunteer unit.”

What’s particularly egregious about this omission is that the connections between the Azov battalion and Nazism have been well-documented for months and even acknowledged by officials of the Kiev regime, who knowingly sent these and other extremists into the battle because they are the fiercest fighters.

Even the Times itself has included at least one brief reference to this reality, though buried deep inside an article. On Aug. 10, 2014, a Times’ article mentioned the neo-Nazi Azov battalion in the last three paragraphs of a lengthy story on another topic.

“The fighting for Donetsk has taken on a lethal pattern: The regular army bombards separatist positions from afar, followed by chaotic, violent assaults by some of the half-dozen or so paramilitary groups surrounding Donetsk who are willing to plunge into urban combat,” the Times reported.

“Officials in Kiev say the militias and the army coordinate their actions, but the militias, which count about 7,000 fighters, are angry and, at times, uncontrollable. One known as Azov, which took over the village of Marinka, flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Discovers Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis at War.”]


Not a Mistake


The conservative London Telegraph offered more details about the Azov battalion in an article by correspondent Tom Parfitt, who wrote: “Kiev’s use of volunteer paramilitaries to stamp out the Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk ‘people’s republics’… should send a shiver down Europe’s spine.

“Recently formed battalions such as Donbas, Dnipro and Azov, with several thousand men under their command, are officially under the control of the interior ministry but their financing is murky, their training inadequate and their ideology often alarming. The Azov men use the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel (Wolf’s Hook) symbol on their banner and members of the battalion are openly white supremacists, or anti-Semites.”

Based on interviews with militia members, the Telegraph reported that some of the fighters doubted the reality of the Holocaust, expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler and acknowledged that they are indeed Nazis.

Andriy Biletsky, the Azov commander, “is also head of an extremist Ukrainian group called the Social National Assembly,” according to the Telegraph article which quoted a commentary by Biletsky as declaring: “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”

In other words, for the first time since World War II, a government had dispatched Nazi storm troopers to attack a European population – and officials in Kiev knew what they were doing. The Telegraph questioned Ukrainian authorities in Kiev who acknowledged that they were aware of the extremist ideologies of some militias but insisted that the higher priority was having troops who were strongly motivated to fight.

But a rebel counteroffensive by ethnic Russians last August reversed many of Kiev’s gains and drove the Azov and other government forces back to the port city of Mariupol, where Foreign Policy’s reporter Alec Luhn also encountered these neo-Nazis. He wrote:

“Blue and yellow Ukrainian flags fly over Mariupol’s burned-out city administration building and at military checkpoints around the city, but at a sport school near a huge metallurgical plant, another symbol is just as prominent: the wolfsangel (‘wolf trap’) symbol that was widely used in the Third Reich and has been adopted by neo-Nazi groups. …

“Pro-Russian forces have said they are fighting against Ukrainian nationalists and ‘fascists’ in the conflict, and in the case of Azov and other battalions, these claims are essentially true.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Seeing No Neo-Nazi Militias in Ukraine.”]


SS Helmets


More evidence continued to emerge about the presence of Nazis in the ranks of Ukrainian government fighters. Germans were shocked to see video of Azov militia soldiers decorating their gear with the Swastika and the “SS rune.” NBC News reported: “Germans were confronted with images of their country’s dark past … when German public broadcaster ZDF showed video of Ukrainian soldiers with Nazi symbols on their helmets in its evening newscast.

“The video was shot … in Ukraine by a camera team from Norwegian broadcaster TV2. ‘We were filming a report about Ukraine’s AZOV battalion in the eastern city of Urzuf, when we came across these soldiers,’ Oysten Bogen, a correspondent for the private television station, told NBC News. “Minutes before the images were taped, Bogen said he had asked a spokesperson whether the battalion had fascist tendencies. ‘The reply was: absolutely not, we are just Ukrainian nationalists,’ Bogen said.”

Despite the newsworthiness of a U.S.-backed government dispatching neo-Nazi storm troopers to attack Ukrainian cities, the major U.S. news outlets have gone to extraordinary lengths to excuse this behavior, with the Washington Post publishing a rationalization that Azov’s use of the Swastika was merely “romantic.”

This curious description of the symbol most associated with the human devastation of the Holocaust and World War II can be found in the last three paragraphs of a Post lead story published in September 2014. Post correspondent Anthony Faiola portrayed the Azov fighters as “battle-scarred patriots” nobly resisting “Russian aggression” and willing to resort to “guerrilla war” if necessary.

The article found nothing objectionable about Azov’s plans for “sabotage, targeted assassinations and other insurgent tactics” against Russians, although such actions in other contexts are regarded as terrorism. The extremists even extended their threats to the government of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko if he agrees to a peace deal with the ethnic Russian east that is not to the militia’s liking.

“If Kiev reaches a deal with rebels that they don’t support, paramilitary fighters say they could potentially strike pro-Russian targets on their own — or even turn on the government itself,” the article stated.

The Post article – like almost all of its coverage of Ukraine – was laudatory about the Kiev forces fighting ethnic Russians in the east, but the newspaper did have to do some quick thinking to explain a photograph of a Swastika gracing an Azov brigade barracks.

So, in the last three paragraphs of the story, Faiola reported: “One platoon leader, who called himself Kirt, conceded that the group’s far right views had attracted about two dozen foreign fighters from around Europe.

“In one room, a recruit had emblazoned a swastika above his bed. But Kirt … dismissed questions of ideology, saying that the volunteers — many of them still teenagers — embrace symbols and espouse extremist notions as part of some kind of ‘romantic’ idea.”

So, why did the New York Times excise this well-documented history as it touted the Azov battalion to its readers on Wednesday? Isn’t the role of neo-Nazis newsworthy? In other contexts, the Times is quick to note and condemn any sign of a Nazi resurgence in Europe. However, in Ukraine, where neo-Nazis, such as Andriy Parubiy served as the coup regime’s first national security chief and neo-Nazi militias are at the center of regime’s military operations, the Times goes silent on the subject.

It can’t be because the Times is unaware of what has been extensively reported about the Azov battalion. The Times could even find a brief reference in one of its own prior stories. The only logical answer is that the Times is committed to a propaganda position on the Ukraine crisis and doesn’t want the facts to get in the way of its preferred storyline.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.



A month after kosher market attack, French Jews plan an exodus

February 7, 2015

by Griff Witte

Washington Post

          SAINT-MANDÉ, France — For all her 30 years, Jennifer Sebag has lived in a community that embodies everything modern Europe is supposed to be.

Inclusive, integrated, peaceful and prosperous, the elegant city of Saint-Mandé — hard against Paris’s eastern fringe — has been a haven for Jews like Sebag whose parents and grandparents were driven from their native North Africa decades ago by anti-Semitism.

“I’ve always told everyone that here, we are very protected. It’s like a small village,” Sebag said.

But in an instant on the afternoon of Jan. 9, Sebag’s refuge became a target. A gunman who would later say he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State walked into her neighborhood’s kosher market and opened fire, launching a siege that would leave four hostages dead — all of them Jewish.

A month later, the Jews of Saint-Mandé are planning for a possible exodus from what had once appeared to be the promised land.

In homes, in shops and in synagogues guarded night and day by soldiers wielding assault rifles, conversations are dominated by an agonizing choice: stay in France and risk becoming the victim of the next attack by Islamic extremists, or leave behind a country and a community that Jews say they are proud to call home.

The French government has scrambled to persuade them not to go, aware that if Jews see little future for themselves in Saint-Mandé — where Muslims, Christians and Jews have long lived in harmony — then there’s no chance for the European ideal of interfaith coexistence.

And yet, for a rapidly rising number of Jews, here in Saint-Mandé and across France, the decision has already become clear.

“The question is not will they leave or won’t they leave,” said Alain Assouline, a prominent Saint-Mandé doctor and president of a Jewish community center. “The question has become when they will leave.”

For Sebag, her husband and their three young sons, the answer is within months. After pondering a move for economic reasons, the attack on a market where they regularly shop erased all doubts.

They will travel this summer from the only home they have ever known to Israel, where they have no close friends or relatives, where they don’t speak the language, and where war flares all too regularly. There they will start anew, much as Sebag’s grandparents did decades ago.

“They came here from Morocco and Tunisia because France was a wonderful country,” said Sebag, a cheery real estate agent who lives with her family in an airy, pre­war apartment overlooking one of Saint-Mandé’s chic shopping districts. “They made all sorts of sacrifices, and we’ve had a really nice life here — until today.”

The attack on the kosher market was the last in a three-day series of radical Islamist assaults that traumatized the nation. By the end, 17 victims lay dead, including much of the staff at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

But of all the communities affected, France’s half-million Jews have perhaps felt the consequences most acutely.

French Jews were already on edge by the time Amedy Coulibaly, a 32-year-old small-time criminal and son of Malian immigrants, took hostages at the Hyper Cacher grocery on the border of Paris and Saint-Mandé.

Anti-Semitism had been rising in France, as it had across Europe. In Britain last year, for instance, there were more than 1,100 anti-Semitic incidents recorded, double the number from 2013, according to data released Thursday by the Jewish nonprofit Community Security Trust.

But the fears of rising violence have been especially pronounced in France after a 2012 attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse that left a teacher and three students dead.

The Jewish Agency, which encourages immigration to Israel, says the number of French Jews leaving for Israel each year had been steady at about 2,000 until 2013, when it hit 3,400. Last year, it jumped to more than 7,000 — making France the leading contributor of immigrants to Israel and marking the first time that more than 1 percent of a Western nation’s Jewish population has left for Israel in a single year, according to Avi Mayer, a spokesman for the Jewish Agency.

Since the Hyper Cacher attack, calls to the Jewish Agency’s Paris office have more than tripled, Mayer said, and the agency is predicting that 15,000 French Jews will move to Israel in 2015.

Many others will choose to leave for the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and beyond.

At the kosher butcher’s shop two doors down from the still-shuttered Hyper Cacher one recent day, the talk focused on whether to go, and where.

“My husband’s ready, but not me,” a young woman picking up a chicken told the butcher. “I was in Tel Aviv in July, and I watched rockets fly into the sea. I wouldn’t feel safe there, either.”

The butcher, a 20-year-old named Aaron Sultan, said he and his fiancee are deciding where to start their life together and are leaning toward Israel.

“My parents left Tunisia during the Yom Kippur War [in 1973]. My mom tells the story that they fled for France when the Arabs were at their door, ready to kill them,” said Sultan, who wears a black kippah, or prayer cap, atop his close-cropped dark-brown hair.

Now he is preparing to flee France, but his parents are reluctant. “I’ve asked my mom, ‘Do we wait for the same thing here? Until the Arabs are at our door, ready to kill us?’ ” said Sultan, who spent the afternoon of the attack hiding on the shop floor as the crack of bullets pierced the air a few yards away. “It’s hard to leave, but when we don’t feel safe, we have no choice.”

The government has tried to reassure the country’s Jews by dispatching more than 10,000 camouflage-clad troops to guard “sensitive sites,” including synagogues and Jewish schools and community centers. Three soldiers guarding one such center were attacked Tuesday by a knife-wielding assailant in the southern city of Nice.

Far from comforting, the troops’ presence has become for many Jews a symbol of their vulnerability.

“It’s more stressful than reassuring,” said Sebag, who walks past the troops each day as she drops her kids at preschool. Even with all the threats facing Israel, she notes, soldiers are not regularly deployed to defend toddlers.

And yet, Saint-Mandé Mayor Patrick Beaudoin said, the country also needs to defend its Jewish population at all costs. “They belong to this country. France needs them,” he said.

A mass exodus from Saint-Mandé could be ruinous for a city where about a third of its 22,000 residents are Jewish and where the faith’s roots run deep. The formidable white stone walls of one of the area’s main synagogues have been standing for the past century.

The community has changed in recent years, with the original Ashkenazi Jews — those with European origins — supplemented by an influx of Sephardic Jews from North Africa.

Muslims from North Africa have also begun to make the area home, adding to a national Muslim population of about 5 million, though their community in Saint-Mandé is considerably smaller than the Jewish one. By nearly all accounts, the new arrivals have been welcomed to the city, with Jews and Muslims befriending one another and going into business together. Assouline, the doctor and Jewish community center leader, has two partners in his practice: one Catholic, the other Muslim.

Jewish residents of Saint-Mandé say the problem of Islamic extremism doesn’t exist here. But as they discovered Jan. 9, it’s not far away, either, lurking in the less-salubrious suburbs, where last month’s attackers had their roots.

“We can’t say that these are jihadists imported from Iraq or Syria,” said Marc Krief, rabbi at the Synagogue of Vincennes – Saint-Mandé. “They were French citizens. They grew up in the suburbs. They went to the local mosques. They learned their way of thinking from here.”

Krief said he has told his congregants that if they want to leave France for economic or cultural reasons, they should go ahead. But he does not want them fleeing in fear when the scourge of anti-Semitism is global.

“I don’t see a country in the world that’s safe enough,” Krief said. “In Israel, there’s war. In the United States, there could be another terrorist attack. It wouldn’t change anything to leave.”

And yet, given the lessons of Jewish history, the impulse to leave Europe amid increasingly ominous warning signs runs strong.

“Personally, I have faith in our community. I’m an optimist,” said Assouline, who intends to stay. “But whenever I say that, there’s always someone who reminds me, ‘In 1933, there were two types of Jews: the pessimists and the optimists. The pessimists left and went to the U.S. The optimists ended up in the death camps.’ ”


Cléophée Demoustier contributed to this report.


UK needs to take urgent action over anti-Semitism, lawmakers say

February 8, 2015

by Michael Holden


           LONDON  – Urgent action is needed to tackle a “disturbing” rise in anti-Semitism in Britain including measures to deal with growing “cyber hate” on social media, a group of senior lawmakers said on Monday.

Last week, the body which advises Britain’s estimated 260,000 Jews on security reported that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain had risen to a record level last year.

Many of those incidents were sparked by the 50-day conflict in Gaza that ended in August. Israel launched its Gaza offensive with the declared aim of halting rocket attacks by Hamas. More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed, along with 73 mostly Israeli soldiers.

The rise in incidents prompted a parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism.

“Whilst the Jewish community is diverse and multi-faceted there is a palpable concern, insecurity, loneliness and fear following the summer’s rise in incidents and subsequent world events,” the report by the cross-party group of lawmakers said.

“A more sophisticated understanding of anti-Semitism is needed, together with better defined boundaries of acceptable discourse.”

Across Europe, Jews have warned of a growing under-current of anti-Semitism, fueled by anger at Israeli policy in the Middle East and social tensions over immigration and increasing economic hardship under austerity policies that have helped far-right movements gain popularity.

Those fears have been exacerbated after an Islamist militant gunman killed four people in a Jewish supermarket in Paris last month.

The British lawmakers said the government, police and prosecutors needed to take action “to ensure Jewish communities have the necessary protection from the continuous terrorist threat they face”.

Amongst their 34 recommendations was a call for a governmental fund to pay for security at synagogues and an independent council to be created to monitor trends in anti-Semitism.

They also said prosecutors should review possible action to prevent the spreading of hate online, noting that “Hitler” and the “Holocaust” were amongst the top 35 key words used on Twitter during the summer months of 2014.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday’s report was “hugely important”.

“No disagreements over foreign policy or politics can ever be allowed to justify anti-Semitism or any other form of racism, prejudice or extremism,” he said.

According to a survey last month, a quarter of Jews have considered leaving Britain in the last two years and well over half feel they have no long term future in Europe.

“The threat against the Jewish community is real and anxiety remains high,” said Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

Following the Paris attack, the police said it had stepped up patrols at synagogues and other Jewish venues.


(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)


Netanyahu trip to Congress provokes harsh reaction from US Jewish leaders

Israeli prime minister’s decision to instigate a high-level confrontation with the White House is not winning favor in the Jewish community

February 14, 2015

by David Firestone in New York

The Guardian

 Only one head of government is in the hall of fame of Cheltenham high school, just outside Philadelphia: prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel.

Netanyahu graduated from the school in 1967, when his father was teaching at a nearby Jewish college. But the prize alumnus has angered many members of the large Jewish community in the Philadelphia suburbsby agreeing to speak to Congress next month to condemn Barack Obama’s negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

“Most of the Jews I’ve spoken to, who are very concerned with the welfare of the state of Israel, are not comfortable with Netanyahu speaking to Congress, especially not in the way it’s being done,” said Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, who recently retired after 36 years in the pulpit of Congregation Adath Jeshurun, a Conservative synagogue in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania. “I think most American Jews don’t see this as a constructive act for Israel.”

An editorial last month in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent took Netanyahu to task for angering the leader of Israel’s closest ally.

“At this delicate juncture, a very public spat with the Obama administration does no one good, least of all Israel,” the weekly newspaper’s editors wrote. “President Barack Obama will remain in office for the next two years, and Israel needs his continued support.”

These comments may seem mild, but they are actually exceptional statements from American Jewish voices usually loath to criticize the government of Israel in public. By aligning himself with conservative Republicans in Congress seeking to embarrass the White House and torpedo a nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu has provoked an unusually harsh reaction from many Jewish leaders, and has widened the rift between the community’s liberal majority and its increasingly strident right wing.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the leader of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest and most liberal Jewish denomination in North America, said the speech was “ill-advised”, and called on the prime minister to back out. He was joined by two more centrist voices: Seymour Reich, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who said the planned speech had become “a circus”.

At the same time, rightwing groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition (backed by billionaire Sheldon Adelson) and the Emergency Committee for Israel said Democratic lawmakers thinking about boycotting the speech were handing a victory to Israel’s enemies and promised to “educate voters” about their disloyalty. The Zionist Organization of America compared Foxman and Jacobs to Jewish leaders who tried to play down Hitler’s rise in the 1930s.

By accepting the invitation of House speaker John Boehner to address Congress on 3 March, Netanyahu has forced many American Jews to choose between their support for a liberal Democratic president and their support for a hardline Israeli prime minister. The White House is furious that it did not receive the customary prior notice of the visit, and ruled out any meeting with Obama, though officials insist the reason for the apparent snub was “long-standing practice and principle” that US presidents should not meet foreign leaders during re-election campaigns. More than two-thirds of Jews voted for Obama in 2012, according to exit polls. A Pew Research survey in 2013 showed that 70% of US Jews identified with or leaned toward the Democratic party, while 80% described themselves as liberal or moderate.

So far, there are strong signs that Netanyahu’s decision to provoke a high-level confrontation with the White House is not winning favor in the Jewish community.

Critical editorials have appeared in several American Jewish newspapers, which are usually staunchly behind any Israeli government.

“Someone has to be the grown-up here,” wrote the Jewish Advocate of Boston, urging Netanyahu to at least delay his speech until after the Israeli elections. The Forward said Netanyahu was embracing a political party whose values were at odds with the vast majority of American Jews.

J Street, a Jewish group that supports a two-state solution in Israel and is regularly critical of the Likud government, says it has collected 20,000 signatures on a petition to delay the speech.

“This speech has really threatened the bipartisan nature of American Jewish support for Israel,” said Rabbi John Rosove, co-chairman of J Street’s rabbinic cabinet and senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, a 900-family Reform congregation in Los Angeles. “By meddling in the foreign policy of the United States, and taking a position in our partisan politics, the prime minister has crossed a red line. It makes American Jews very uncomfortable, and I think it’s irresponsible.”

Perhaps the most uncomfortable Jews are the 29 in Congress, only one of whom is a Republican. Though most have only disdain for Boehner and his use of Netanyahu, they fear their absence from the speech would be seen as an insult to Israel and most are planning to attend.

“This was a political trap engineered by the speaker of the House,” said Representative Steve Israel, a Democrat from Long Island who intends to be there. “He is rooting for Democrats not to show up, so he can drive a wedge with voters on the issue of Israel. I know it’s a stunt, so why would I want to give him a victory?”

The congressman, whose district is heavily Jewish, says calls from constituents are about evenly divided on whether he should attend the speech.

Representative John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, Kentucky, said he would stay away in order not to give the impression that he supports Netanyahu’s position on Iran over US foreign policy. Representative Steve Cohen, of Memphis, Tennessee, said he hadn’t decided, not wanting to send a sign of disrespect to Israel but angry that Boehner and Netanyahu are using a joint session of Congress as a theatrical showcase for Republican policies in hopes of pressuring the White House. The publicity will also benefit the prime minister’s re-election campaign, he said, just two weeks before the 17 March Israeli elections.

“We can’t use our floor speeches in campaign ads, but that’s what Netanyahu did the last time he spoke here,” Cohen said. “It’s a political show.”

He joked that he was thinking about going but sitting high up in the visitor’s gallery, “just like women do in Orthodox synagogues”.



Keystone XL, Cold War 2.0, and the GOP Vision for 2016:How Energy Coordination on One Continent Could Bring the Planet to Its Knees

by Michael T. Klare


          It’s a ritual long familiar to observers of American politics: presidential hopefuls with limited international experience travel to foreign lands and deliver speeches designed to showcase their grasp of foreign affairs. Typically, such escapades involve trips to major European capitals or active war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, however, has broken this mold. Before his recent jaunt to London and into the thickets of American vaccination politics, he chose two surprising destinations for his first trips abroad as a potential Republican candidate.  No, not Kabul or Baghdad or even Paris, but Mexico City and Alberta, Canada.  And rather than launch into discussions of immigration, terrorism, or the other usual Republican foreign policy topics, he focused on his own top priority: integrating Canada and Mexico into a U.S.-led “North American energy renaissance.”

By accelerating the exploitation of fossil fuels across the continent, reducing governmental oversight of drilling operations in all three countries, and building more cross-border pipelines like the Keystone XL, Christie explained, all three countries would be guaranteed dramatic economic growth.  “In North America, we have resources waiting to be tapped,” he assured business leaders in Mexico City.  “What is required is the vision to maximize our growth, the political will to unlock our potential, and the understanding that working together on strategic priorities… is the path to a better life.”

At first glance, Christie’s blueprint for his North American energy renaissance seems to be a familiar enough amalgam of common Republican tropes: support for that Keystone XL pipeline slated to bring Canadian tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, along with unbridled energy production everywhere; opposition to excessive governmental regulation; free trade… well, you know the mantra.  But don’t be fooled.  Something far grander — and more sinister — is being proposed.  It’s nothing less than a plan to convert Canada and Mexico into energy colonies of the United States, while creating a North American power bloc capable of aggressively taking on Russia, China, and other foreign challengers.

This outlook — call it North Americanism — is hardly unique to Christie.  It pervades the thinking of top Republican leaders and puts their otherwise almost inexplicably ardent support of Keystone XL in a new light.  As most analysts now concede, that pipeline will do little to generate long-term jobs or promote U.S. energy independence. (Much of the tar sands oil it’s designed to carry will be refined in the U.S., but exported elsewhere).  In fact, with oil prices plunging globally, it looks ever more like a white elephant of a project, yet it remains the Republican majority’s top legislative priority.  The reason: it is the concrete manifestation of Christie-style North American energy integration, and for that reason is considered sacred by Republican proponents of North Americanism.  “This is not about sending ‘your oil’ across ‘our land,’” Christie insisted in Calgary.  “It’s about maximizing the benefits of North America’s natural resources for everybody.”

While North American energy integration may, in part, appeal to Republicans for the way it would enrich major U.S. oil companies, pipeline firms, and some energy-industry workers — the “everybody” in Christie’s remarks — its real allure lies in the way they believe it will buttress the more hawkish and militarized foreign policy that so many in the GOP now favor.  By boosting fossil fuel production in North America, Keystone’s backers claim, the U.S. will be less dependent on imports from the Middle East and so in a stronger position to combat Russia, Iran, ISIS, and other foreign challengers.

Authorization for Keystone XL and related energy infrastructure is important “not just for economic development, not just for jobs and growth,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas declared in January, “but also for the enormous geopolitical advantages that it will present to the United States [by strengthening] our hands against those who would be enemies of America.”

Brace yourself. This combination of fossil fuel optimization and North American solidarity against a potentially hostile world is destined to become the core of the Republican economic and national security platforms in the 2016 presidential election.  It will similarly govern action in Congress over the next two years.  So, if you want to understand the dynamics of contemporary American politics, it’s crucial to grasp the new Republican vision of an energy-saturated North America.


Exxon’s Neo-Imperial Vision


Republican-style North Americanism is, in fact, an amalgam of two intersecting urges.  The first of them involves a quest by U.S.-based giant oil companies to gain greater access to the oil and natural gas reserves of Canada and Mexico; the second, a drive by neoconservatives and national security hawks in Washington to rev up Cold War 2.0, while stepping up combat with both Iran and the Islamic State.

Let’s start with the altered world energy order once dominated by privately owned giants like BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil — a.k.a. the international oil companies, or IOCs.  For most of the twentieth century, these companies controlled a majority of the world’s oil and gas reserves and so almost completely dominated the global trade in hydrocarbons.  In the 1970s and 1980s, however, many of their overseas assets were systematically appropriated by governments in oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Venezuela, and placed under the control of state-owned, national oil companies, or NOCs.  In response, the IOCs sought to increase their production from reserves in Canada and the U.S., as well as in Mexico, which has its own state-owned oil company but was facing declining output.  This led those big companies to believe that, in the long run, Mexico would be forced to open its doors to greater foreign involvement.

Their strategy proved widely successful in the U.S., where the application of new technologies, including hydro-fracking, horizontal drilling, and deepwater drilling, has led to spectacular increases in oil and gas output.  According to the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy, U.S. field production of crude oil jumped from five million barrels per day in 2008 to 8.6 million barrels in the third quarter of 2014.  Over the same period, the production of natural gas similarly rose from 21.1 to 25.7 trillion cubic feet.  The current plunge in oil prices is expected to slow the pace of U.S. drilling, but not prevent further gains.

Stepped-up investment by the big energy companies led to a comparable increase in production from Canada’s tar sands (also called oil sands).  According to BP, Canadian crude output climbed from 3.2 million barrels per day in 2008 to nearly 4.0 million barrels by the end of 2013, thanks purely to those tar sands.  But the producers of all this added oil have run into a major obstacle to its successful commercialization: there are not enough pipelines to transport this particularly carbon-dense crude to refineries in the United States, where it can be processed into usable petroleum products.  Hence, the need for additional pipelines, beginning with Keystone XL.  Indeed, with the recent fall in oil prices, Keystone has become even more important, as other modes of transport, including delivery by rail, are far more costly.

Mexico presents a different set of obstacles. Under the Mexican Constitution, all hydrocarbon deposits are the property of the Mexican people and their exploitation is reserved solely for the state-owned company, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex).  The country’s expropriation of foreign oil assets on March 18, 1937, is considered a pillar of Mexican sovereignty and that day is still celebrated as a national holiday (Día de la Expropiación Petrolera).  As a result, the only way the giant oil companies could gain access to Mexico’s vast reserves of oil and gas would be if its leaders were willing to amend existing laws to allow the involvement of foreign firms in the development of these assets.

In response to such obstacles, the major U.S.-based oil companies and their financial backers have developed a strategy to promote North American energy interdependence, while stressing the beneficial value of increased U.S. participation in Canada’s and Mexico’s energy industries and the elimination of barriers to cross-border pipelines and other transnational energy infrastructure.

Although oil company executives have rarely discussed such strategic planning in public, there was an exception.  In 2012, before the Council on Foreign Relations, Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, gave its North American strategy an unusually candid airing.  “Canada has a huge resource endowment,” he noted.  “The United States has a huge resource endowment; Mexico has a huge resource endowment.”  In that light, he suggested that the major U.S. energy firms coordinate the full-scale exploitation of all three countries’ fossil fuels. “[If] we approach energy policy and energy security from a North American perspective, the resource base, the technologies that are available, and the like-minded policies that could be put in place could rapidly achieve that energy security that we have been in quest of for all of my career.”

Canada and the U.S., he pointed out then, were already moving to embrace such “like-minded policies,” but Mexico still had a long way to go. “We’re hopeful,” he added, “that Mexico, as it continues its pathway to reforms around how it manages its own oil and natural gas resources… will open up opportunities for greater partnerships and collaborations [while] bringing technology to bear on the huge resources that Mexico has as well.”

The task, then, was simply to persuade the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. to harmonize their energy policies.  As Tillerson explained, “It’s my hope that at some point energy security can become a policy issue in our foreign policy discussions with Mexico, Canada, and the United States.”  In this Big Oil view of how North America should work lay the foundations for the new Republican strategic vision that Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, and other presidential candidates for 2016 are going to turn into an overarching political mantra.


The New Cold War


Now, imagine a second river of energy exuberance flowing into Big Oil’s strategic vision.  This would be the reinvigorated Cold War stance of Republican hawks and neocons.  Led by Senator John McCain (now chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee), these advocates for an ever more aggressive foreign/military policy are pushing the idea that a series of foreign adversaries — Russia, China, Iran, and Islamic terrorists — are ratcheting up the dangers for this country and that the Obama administration’s response is woefully feeble.

The president’s failure to effectively resist belligerent moves by Russia in the Crimea and Ukraine, McCain argues, has “fed a perception that the United States is weak,” and for figures like Russian President Vladimir Putin, “vacillation invites aggression.”  Not only has the president’s claimed policy weakness invited further assaults from Russia in Eurasia, but it has also “emboldened other aggressive actors — from Chinese nationalists to al-Qaeda terrorists and Iranian theocrats.”

As McCain, other Senate and House war hawks, and their neocon allies see it, there is only one appropriate response to such threats: a vigorous counterattack, involving beefed-up support for NATO, copious arms deliveries to the Ukrainians, and increased defense expenditures at home.  “When aggressive rulers or violent fanatics threaten our ideals [and] our interests,” McCain typically asserted last November, the country needs “not good intentions, or strong words, or a grand coalition, [but] the capability, credibility, and global reach of American hard power.”

While “hard power” may be the preferred response of such hawks, most do recognize that the direct use of military force by the United States in Ukraine and a number of other places is unlikely, even under a future Republican administration.  Public fatigue over American wars in the Greater Middle East coupled with mounting budget woes and a lack of support from Washington’s allies rules out such moves.  This means another powerful form of pressure is needed — and here’s where energy enters the picture.

As McCain and his allies see it, an energy-based North Americanism could prove to be an effective tool in the new Cold War.  Noting that many of Washington’s NATO allies are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas and so — it is claimed — vulnerable to future political pressure from Moscow, they are, for instance, promoting the production of ever more natural gas via hydro-fracking to ship off to Europe in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG).  This, they insist, should be one of the country’s top future priorities.  “Today, the U.S. has the leverage to liberate our allies from Russia’s stranglehold on the European natural gas market,” McCain and fellow Republican Senator John Hoeven wrote in July.  All that is needed, they insist, is to eliminate government obstacles to drilling on federal lands and the approval of the construction of additional LNG export facilities.


The Republican Grand Strategy


This approach has been embraced by other senior Republican figures who see increased North American hydrocarbon output as the ideal response to Russian assertiveness.  In other words, the two pillars of a new energy North Americanism — enhanced collaboration with the big oil companies across the continent and reinvigorated Cold Warism — are now being folded into a single Republican grand strategy.  Nothing will prepare the West better to fight Russia or just about any other hostile power on the planet than the conversion of North America into a bastion of fossil fuel abundance.

This strange, chilling vision of an American (and global) future was succinctly described by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a remarkable Washington Post op-ed in March 2014.  She essentially called for North America to flood the global energy market, causing a plunge in oil prices and bankrupting the Russians.  “Putin is playing for the long haul, cleverly exploiting every opening he sees,” she wrote, but “Moscow is not immune from pressure.”  Putin and Co. require high oil and gas prices to finance their aggressive activities, “and soon, North America’s bounty of oil and gas will swamp Moscow’s capacity.”  By “authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline and championing natural gas exports,” she asserted, Washington would signal “that we intend to do exactly that.”

So now you know: approval of the Keystone XL pipeline isn’t actually about jobs and the economy; it’s about battling Vladimir Putin, the Iranian mullahs, and America’s other adversaries.  “One of the ways we fight back, one of the ways we push back is we take control of our own energy destiny,” said Senator Hoeven on January 7th, when introducing legislation to authorize construction of that pipeline.

And that, it turns out, is just the beginning of the “benefits” that North Americanism will supposedly bring.  Ultimately, the goals of this strategy are to perpetuate the dominance of fossil fuels in North America’s energy mix and to enlist Canada and Mexico in a U.S.-led drive to ensure the continued dominance of the West in key regions of the world.  Stay tuned: you’ll be hearing a lot more about this ambitious strategy as the Republican presidential hopefuls begin making their campaign rounds.

Keep in mind, though, that this is potentially dangerous stuff at every level — from the urge to ratchet up a conflict with Russia to the desire to produce and consume ever more North American fossil fuels (not exactly a surprising impulse given the Republicans’ heavy reliance on campaign contributions from Big Energy).  In the coming months, the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton’s camp will, of course, attempt to counter this drive.  Their efforts will, however, be undermined by their sympathy for many of its components.  Obama, for instance, has boasted more than once of his success in increasing U.S. oil and gas production, while Clinton has repeatedly called for a more combative foreign policy. Nor has either of them yet come up with a grand strategy as seemingly broad and attractive as Republican North Americanism.  If that plan is to be taken on seriously as the dangerous contrivance it is, it evidently will fall to others to do so.

This Republican vision, after all, rests on the desire of giant oil companies to eliminate government regulation and bring the energy industries of Canada and Mexico under their corporate sway.  Were this to happen, it would sabotage efforts to curb carbon emissions from fossil fuels in a major way, while undermining the sovereignty of Canada and Mexico.  In the process, the natural environment would suffer horribly as regulatory constraints against hazardous drilling practices would be eroded in all three countries.  Stepped-up drilling, hydrofracking, and tar sands production would also result in the increased diversion of water to energy production, reducing supplies for farming while increasing the risk that leaking drilling fluids will contaminate drinking water and aquifers.

No less worrisome, the Republican strategy would result in a far more polarized and dangerous international environment, in which hopes for achieving any kind of peace in Ukraine, Syria, or elsewhere would disappear.  The urge to convert North America into a unified garrison state under U.S. (energy) command would undoubtedly prompt similar initiatives abroad, with China moving ever closer to Russia and other blocs forming elsewhere.

In addition, those who seek to use energy as a tool of coercion should not be surprised to discover that they are inviting its use by hostile parties — and in such conflicts the U.S. and its allies would not emerge unscathed.  In other words, the shining Republican vision of a North American energy fortress will, in reality, prove to be a nightmare of environmental degradation and global conflict.  Unfortunately, this may not be obvious by election season 2016, so watch out.


Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College


Were the Saudis Behind 9/11?

February 7, 2015

by Eric Margolis

Claims that Saudi Arabia was behind the 9/11 attacks on America have been circulating since 2001. The Saudis have denied all such claims even though 15 of the 19 aircraft hijackers were Saudi citizens.

This week, allegations of Saudi involvement reignited as one of the men convicted in the 9/11 plot, Zacarias Moussaoui, reasserted the allegations. Moussaoui, who is in US maximum security prison, charges senior Saudi princes and officials bankrolled the 9/11 attacks and other al-Qaida operations. He may have been tortured and has mental problems.

Among the Saudis Moussaoui named are Prince Turki Faisal, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, two of the kingdom’s most powerful and influential men. Turki was head of Saudi intelligence; Bandar ambassador to Washington during the Bush administration.

These accusation come at a time when there is a furious struggle in Washington over releasing secret pages of the Congressional Intelligence Committee report on the 9/11 attacks that reportedly implicated Saudi Arabia. The White House claims the report would be embarrassing and damage US-Saudi relations.

I have been following this twisted tale since the 1980’s when I was in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Peshawar, Pakistan’s wild border city, I met with Sheik Abdullah Azzam, founder of al-Qaida.

At the time, al-Qaida was a tiny, store-front information bureau supporting the “mujahidin” fighters being sent by Saudi Arabia and the US to fight the Soviets occupying Afghanistan.

Sheik Abdullah, a renowned exponent of “jihad,” told me something that shook me: “when we have liberated Afghanistan from Soviet colonialism, we will go on and liberate Saudi Arabia from American colonial rule.” This was the first time I had ever heard America called a colonial power.

Azzam was assassinated soon after. But his star pupil, one Osama bin Laden, carried on Azzam’s quest to drive western influence from the Muslim world.

At the time, “our” Muslims fighting Soviet occupation were hailed as “freedom fighters” by President Ronald Reagan. Today, in a re-writing of history, they are widely called “terrorists.”

What Moussaoui reportedly said is that the two aforementioned senior Saudi princes, Turki and Bandar, donated money to the Afghan mujahidin during the 1980’s, not to al-Qaida. Many Americans will fail to understand the distinction

Saudi Arabia funneled large sums of money to militant groups in the Mideast, Balkans, Caucasus, Africa and South Asia. The purpose was twofold: first, to keep young hotheads as far as possible from the kingdom; second, to combat Iran’s spreading influence. Washington gave tacit backing.

Iran, gripped by Islamic revolutionary zeal, was sending preachers and teachers all over Asia and Africa, notably so in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Saudis, deathly afraid of the Islamic revolution in Tehran that called for sharing oil wealth with the Muslim world’s poor, waged a long proxy war against Iran that pitted Wahabi Sunnis against Shia. Washington, gripped by anti-Iranian fever, backed the Saudi religious offensive.

In the midst of this religious-political conflict arose the Saudi exile bin Laden. Though his father was one of the kingdom’s wealthiest men, bin Laden opposed the Saudi ruling princes whom he charged were stealing the Muslim world’s wealth and helping enable continued American domination of the Muslim world – what I called in my second book, “the American Raj.”

Having followed bin Laden’s career since the late 1980’s, I am convinced that he had no direct support from the ruling Saudi princes – nor from CIA. The Saudis were even more afraid of him than Iran. But I have no doubt, as I said on CNN back in 2001, that numerous wealthy Saudis and Kuwaitis were giving private donations to al-Qaida and other militant groups.

To the Americans, cutting off al-Qaida’s finances was a primary objective. They never understood – and still do not – that resistance to US influence may be facilitated by money but is not driven by it. The US’s enemies are motivated by ideology and revolutionary fervor, not cash. It’s hard for some westerners to understand that money is not behind everything.

What the media never talks about is that there has long been boiling dissent in Saudi Arabia, perhaps the world’s most rigid, reactionary nation. It comes from both the nation’s second-class Shia as well as the growing numbers of young Saudis who yearn to break out of the stultifying society in which they live. There are even rebels among the kingdom’s 22,000 princes.

A sizeable number of Saudis believe their nation is occupied by the United States. This is no chimera. There are some 40,000 American “technicians” and “contractors” in Saudi serving the oil industry and military. US forces in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Diego Garcia overwatch Saudi Arabia. There are secret US bases in Saudi. Israel is a secret ally of the Saudi royal family.

The Saudi royal family is protected by the America’s CIA, FBI, NSA, and military intelligence. This, however, is not guarantee of absolute security: the same arrangement was in place to guard Egypt’s military dictator, Husni Mubarak, yet failed. In the 1980’s, a full division of Pakistan’s crack army guarded the royal family. “The Saudis don’t trust their own military,” Pakistan’s late leader Zia ul-Haq told me after being seconded to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia maintains two parallel armed forces: a feeble army, which is denied ammunition, and the Bedouin or “White Army,” that protects the royal family. Most of the tens of billions of US and British arms bought by the kingdom sit rusting in warehouses, or are operated by western mercenaries. US mercenary firms direct the White Guard.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason for the Saudi royal elite to have funded Osma bin Laden or the 9/11 hijackers. But the attack was clearly an attempt by Saudi dissidents to strike back at US domination of their country.

In fact, the reasons for the 9/11 attacks have been all but obscured by a torrent of disinformation and hysteria. The attackers were quite clear in their reasons: to punish the US for supporting Israel and oppressing the Palestinians; and for its “occupation” of Saudi Arabia and keeping a tyrannical regime there in power.

The Bush administration claimed the attacks were caused by religious fanaticism and hatred of western values, a false dialogue that continues to this day as we just saw with the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris. Muslims are to have no legitimate political motivations; they are all mad dogs. Even if we attack their homelands, they have no right to attack us.

Saudi Arabia remains at a low boil, as western intelligence services hunt for opponents of its feudal government. The intense US preoccupation with remote Yemen reflects Washington’s deep concern that millions of Yemeni expatriates in Saudi could become a revolutionary vanguard. The bin Laden’s, of course, were of Yemeni origin.

Yes, men and funds for the 9/11 attacks likely came from Saudi Arabia; yes, the royal family knew about this – after the fact – but remains mum to this day; yes, Washington knows the Saudi princes knew, but remains mute and keeps trying to censor Part 4 of the damning 9/11 report. Too many senior US officials and legislators have been on the Saudi payroll.

While in office, Britain’s former prime minister, Tony Blair quashed a major report by the Serious Fraud Office into tens of millions in illicit kickbacks by British arms makers to Saudi royals…for “national security reasons.” Expect the same from Washington.

Few in official Washington want to know that America’s key ally, Saudi Arabia, was involved in 9/11. Even fewer want to reopen the 9/11 investigation which was full of holes and omissions and perhaps likely to raise questions about some of America’s other allies.

The change of ruler in Saudi has so far made little difference. The song remains the same. But behind the scenes, pressure is growing.


Today’s drought in the West is nothing compared to what may be coming

February 12, 2015

by Darryl Fears

Washington Post

          The long and severe drought in the U.S. Southwest pales in comparison with what’s coming: a “megadrought” that will grip that region and the central plains later this century and probably stay there for decades, a new study says.

Thirty-five years from now, if the current pace of climate change continues unabated, those areas of the country will experience a weather shift that will linger for as long as three decades, according to the study, released Thursday.

Researchers from NASA and Cornell and Columbia universities warned of major water shortages and conditions that dry out vegetation, which can lead to monster wildfires in southern Arizona and parts of California.

“We really need to start thinking in longer-term horizons about how we’re going to manage it,” said Toby R. Ault, an assistant professor in the department of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, one of the co-authors. “This is a slow-moving natural hazard that humans are used to dealing with and used to managing.”

Megadroughts are sustained periods of sparse precipitation and significant loss of soil moisture that span generations, about 10 times as long as a normal three-year drought.

Tucson had less than 80 percent of its normal rainfall for long stretches in the 1990s. If that were to last for two decades, “that’s a megadrought,” Ault said.

Based on climate models the researchers used for the study, there is an 80 percent chance that such an extended drought will strike between 2050 and 2099, unless world governments act aggressively to mitigate impacts from climate change, the researchers said.

North America’s last megadroughts happened in medieval times, during the 12th and 13th centuries. They were caused by natural changes in weather that give megadroughts a 10 percent chance of forming at any time.

But climate change driven by human activity dramatically increases those chances. “With climate change, the likelihood of a megadrought goes up considerably,” Ault said.

The other writers for the study were its lead author, Benjamin I. Cook, a research scientist for NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and co-author Jason E. Smerdon, a research professor at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The report was published Thursday in the journal Science Advances.

“We got some exciting, thrilling and important research,” said Marcia Kemper McNutt, a geophysicist and editor in chief of the journal Science. “We are facing a water situation that hasn’t been seen in California for 1,200 years.”

At the study’s presentation, Ault had a word of caution. Weather conditions can vary, climate impacts can be mitigated, and the warnings of the study might not come to pass. A single El Niño weather pattern in the West could interrupt periods of prolonged drought.

Smerdon said the researchers went back over a thousand years’ worth of data to look at conditions that caused drought in North America and observing patterns in tree rings to determine wet and dry periods.

After 2050, there is “overwhelming evidence of a dry shift,” he said, “way drier than the megadroughts of the 1100s and 1200s.” The cause, Smerdon continued, “is twofold, reductions in rainfall and snowfall. Not just rainfall but soil moisture . . . and changes in evaporation that dry out the soil much more than normal.”

The research is newly published, but its findings are not dramatically different from similar studies in the past. Beverly Law, a specialist in global change biology at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, co-authored a study of megadroughts three years ago.

It showed that a drought that affected the American West from 2000 to 2004 compared to conditions seen during the medieval megadroughts. But the predicted megadrought this century would be far worse. Law said Thursday’s study confirmed her previous findings.

“We took the climate model . . . and compared” two periods, 2050 to 2099 and 1950 to 1999, she said. “What it showed is this big, red blotch over Southern California. It will really impact megacities, populations and water availability.”

Law is also co-author of an upcoming study commissioned by the U.S. Geological Survey about forest mortality later this century, and the preliminary findings are disturbing, she said.

According to predictions, the amount of precipitation in Arizona will be half of what it was between 1950 and 1999.

“We have drinking water to be concerned about,” she said. “That area’s really vulnerable.”


Darryl Fears has worked at The Washington Post for more than a decade, mostly as a reporter on the National staff. He currently covers the environment, focusing on the Chesapeake Bay and issues affecting wildlife.


States Consider Increasing Taxes for the Poor and Cutting Them for the Affluent

February 13, 2015

by Shalia Dewn

New York Times

          A number of Republican-led states are considering tax changes that in many cases would have the effect of cutting taxes on the rich and raising them on the poor.

Conservatives are known for hating taxes but particularly hate income taxes, which they say have a greater dampening effect on growth. Of the 10 or so Republican governors who have proposed tax increases, nearly all have called for increases in consumption taxes, which hit the poor and middle class harder than the rich.

Favorite targets for the new taxes include gas, e-cigarettes, and goods and services in general. Gov. Paul R. LePage of Maine, who wants to start taxing movie tickets and haircuts, is also proposing a tax break for the lowest-income families to relieve some of the pressure.

At the same time, some of those governors — most notably Mr. LePage, Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina and John R. Kasich of Ohio — have proposed significant cuts to their state income tax. They say that tax policies that encourage business growth provide more jobs and economic benefits for everyone.

          A new report suggests that these states could be creating financial problems down the road. The strategy of shifting from income taxes to consumption taxes has caused huge budget shortfalls in Kansas and, more recently, North Carolina, which announced a budget shortfall of nearly half a billion dollars.

One reason, according to the report from the Keystone Research Center and Good Jobs First, two left-leaning think tanks, is that just as the tax burden has shifted away from the wealthy, the wealthy have received a huge share of income growth in recent years.

          While the bottom fifth of earners pay more than 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the top 1 percent pays closer to 5 percent, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates. Percentage of income is, of course, only one way to measure the tax burden — in sheer dollar terms, the wealthy pay far more than the poor. Still, the Keystone report’s authors, Greg LeRoy and Stephen Herzenberg, argue that a less regressive tax code is the answer to state budget woes, in what is basically a sophisticated pitch for a millionaire’s tax. “It’s time to have a clear debate about the impact of inequality on public finance,” Mr. LeRoy said.

Taxing the top fifth of earners at the same rate as the middle class would bring in $200.5 billion to state and local coffers, the report says. Taxing just the top 1 percent at the same rate as the middle class would bring in $88.5 billion, 10 times the amount needed to restore five years’ worth of cuts to higher education. The report also breaks it down state by state, saying that Texas and Florida, at the top of the list, would raise about $40 billion each if they taxed the top 20 percent at the middle-class rate, while Kansas and North Carolina would raise about $2 billion each.

“We wanted to connect the dots for people,” said Mr. Herzenberg, an economist at Keystone. “If more money’s flowing to the top, and the top folks are taxed at lower rates, inevitably that’s a problem for state budgets.”












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