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US Obstructing Raqqa Liberation Campaign - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 21:18
US Obstructing Raqqa Liberation Campaign
by Stephen Lendman
Days earlier, US CENTCOM commanding General Joseph Votel secretly visited Syria. He met with Kurdish fighters and terrorist groups to coordinate strategy on preventing government forces from retaking ISIS stronghold Raqqa.
According to retired Syrian Col. Elias Ebrahim, operations to liberate Raqqa were obstructed to save ISIS fighters from being routed, wanting them preserved for future US-planned attacks.
The main reason Washington touts a political solution is to avoid joint US/Russian anti-terrorism operations.
America's demanded political transition is code language for regime change. Assad got a choice. Step down voluntarily or be forced out militarily.
According to Ebrahim, Kurdish forces said ISIS shifting fighters and military hardware from Raqqa to Deir Ezzur and oil-rich areas suggest US-led Western dirty hands manipulating things.
ISIS is transferring large numbers of its heavily armed forces to Eastern Syria, “mainly in Deir Ezzur and Eastern Homs, to save its revenues from smuggling of oil and gas,” according to Kurdish sources.
It “previously made such decisions, including retreating from al-Houl and al-Shadadi in Hasaka where the terrorist group left the battlefields without any resistance against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).”
Its decision to move from Raqqa “is in line with the US policy…which opposes the Syrian government force’ rule and control over the country's energy-rich regions in Deir Ezzur and Homs.”
So far, it transferred “12 Hummer vehicles from Raqqa to Albu Kamal in Deir Ezzur and has deployed several US-made Abrams artilleries to the village of al-Hosseiniyeh Northwestern of Deir Ezzur.”
Government forces together with Kurdish fighters launched a large-scale campaign to liberate Raqqa. Operations began Tuesday. US warplanes are protecting ISIS elements on the phony pretext of combating them.
Civilians are prevented from leaving the city. They’re used as human shields. Conditions on the ground are deplorable - inadequate or unavailable food, water, medical care and safe havens from fighting.
Sergey Lavrov called liberating Raqqa a major anti-terrorism goal. It could have been accomplished earlier if Washington hadn’t obstructed it.
Lavrov believing coordinated US/Russian military operations ahead are possible is wishful thinking. Numerous times, Pentagon and State Department spokesmen ruled it out.
Washington wants joint Russian, Syrian and Kurdish forces defeated, not aided. In 2013, ISIS captured Raqqa, declared its capital the following year.
America and its rogue partners continue aiding their fighters, along with all other anti-Assad groups.
No so-called moderate rebels exist. All anti-government forces are US-supported death squads, imported from dozens of countries.
War won’t end as long as Assad remains president and Syrian sovereign independence exists.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

New Turkish Prime Minister: Longtime Erdogan Crony - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 03:05
New Turkish Prime Minister: Longtime Erdogan Crony
by Stephen Lendman
In early May, former Justice and Development Party (AKP) prime minister Ahmet Davugtolu was ousted in a palace coup, Erdogan removing him to solidify power. On May 22, his tenure ended.
Longtime Erdogan ally Binali Yildirim succeeds him. Previously he served as Transport, Maritime and Communication minister. In 2014 and 2015, he was a senior Erdogan advisor.
Earlier, he was Istanbul Fast Ferries Company chairman when Erdogan was city mayor - before elected to parliament in 2002. 
On May 19, Erdogan’s controlled AKP Central Executive Committee and all 1,405 members of its second Extraordinary Congress unanimously elected him prime minister during its session.
He formed Turkey’s 65th government, officially becoming prime minister on May 24 - chosen to spearhead transition from a parliamentary system to despotic presidential rule under Erdogan.
In his first address as prime minister, he said his “priority is to render the constitution more in harmony with the de-facto situation regarding our president’s ties to the people” - code language for giving him dictatorial powers.
Nine new ministers were named, retained ones known Erdogan loyalists. Yildirim promised to push ahead with his hardline agenda, including war on Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, along his involvement in wanting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad ousted.
“We will increase the number of our friends,” he said. “We will decrease the number of our enemies,” a virtual endless war pledge.
He left no doubt where he stands, calling AKP members “comrades of Erdogan,” saying his “passion is our passion, (his) cause our cause, (his) path our path.”
“The new constitution (Erdogan wants) will be on an executive system.” So-called “anti-terror operations (sic) will end when all our citizens are safe” - when all opposition forces are eliminated.
Independent Cumhuriyet newspaper said he owns at least 28 ships, two super-yachts and 17 companies. At least one family member faced fraud and bribery charges. Earlier corruption allegations against him were later dropped.
His communications ministerial portfolio involved cracking down on free expression online, increasing Big Brother surveillance.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Turkish Refugee Camps: Unsafe Havens, Children Raped, Organs Sold - Wed, 25/05/2016 - 01:36
Turkish Refugee Camps: Unsafe Havens, Children Raped, Organs Sold
by Stephen Lendman
Last month, Germany’s Angela Merkel urged EU support for Turkish refugee camps, saying her country intends providing its own. 
She praised Turkey for “not only…provid(ing) a safe haven for millions of refugees, but also…provid(ing) them with opportunities and perspectives” -  an outrageous perversion of truth.
Her photo-op with former Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu was willful staged deception, covering up regime crimes against humanity against defenseless, largely Syrian, refugees.
European Council president Donald Tusk called “Turkey…the best example for the whole world for how we should treat refugees. Nobody should lecture Turkey on what to do.”
Amnesty International accused EU officials of ignoring horrific abuses refugees receive in Turkey - facilities more like concentration camps than safe havens, hellholes of mistreatment.
Turkish media reported about 30 boys, aged 8 - 14, were raped or sexually abused by a Nizip refugee camp worker - the country’s so-called model facility Merkel and Tusk were shown during their visit last month.
What they were allowed to see was polar opposite reality, an illusory snapshot unrelated to horrors refugees face. Opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Elif Dogan Turkman called child abuse in the camp the tip of the iceberg.
Soldiers obstructed a CHP investigation team member and her colleagues from freely examining camp conditions, he said. They prevented them from speaking to parents of victimized children.
He accused Erdogan’s regime of “tolerat(ing) bribery, poverty, the threat of terrorism, and now, depravity and immorality…”
BirGun newspaper journalist Erik Acarer broke the story of mass rapes at Nizip by one camp worker identified only as “EE.” He was indicted and faces longterm imprisonment if convicted.
How many others like him remain to be outed perhaps in all Turkish camps?
On May 24, Fars News reported on Turkish refugee camps “turned into centers for raping children and selling refugees’ body organs.”
BirGun’s Ankara correspondent Yashar Idan reported on mass rapes and sexual abuse at Nizip, organs of a number of refugees sold for profit.
Ankara knows what’s going on in its “model” Nizip camp, yet does virtually nothing to stop it, EE’s indictment an exception proving the rule.
The Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) in charge of refugee camps turns a blind eye to rape and other crimes against defenseless refugees.
Brussels has no interest in protecting their rights, just keeping as many as possible out of Europe.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Brazil's Coup Plotters Aimed to Block Corruption Investigation - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 21:34

Brazil’s Coup Plotters Aimed to Block Corruption Investigation
by Stephen Lendman
US-supported coup plotters had multiple aims in mind - replacing democracy with tyranny, weakening or ending social justice programs, instituting neoliberal harshness, and undermining corruption investigations involving 303 of Brazil’s lower house members, 49 of 81 senators, and 37 of the 65-member impeachment commission.
Specifically, Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha de Sao Paulo, obtained a taped phone conversation between Senator Romero Juca, now planning minister, and former Petrobras Transporte SA (Transperto, Brazil’s largest oil and gas transportation company) president Sergio Machado.
It took place weeks before President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment proceedings - involving bribery and money laundering Operation Car Wash corruption investigations related to the state-run Petrobras Oil giant.
Machado, Juca, and dozens of other politicians are accused of taking bribes in return for contracts awarded Petrobras at inflated prices. 
“We have to stop this shit,” Juca told Machado. “(T)he easiest solution is to” replace Rousseff with “Michel (Temer).”
Investigations “will never stop” with her in power, he said. The BBC reported he’s stepping down over the leak.
At the same time, he was quoted, saying “I want to repeal the interpretation made by Folha de Sao Paulo…I was speaking of putting an end to the paralysis of Brazil…”
According to the, the taped phone call reveals “profoundly incriminating statements about the real goals of impeachment and who was behind it.” 
“The crux of this plot is what Juca calls ‘a national pact’ - involving all of Brazil’s most powerful institutions  - to leave Michel Temer in place as president (notwithstanding his multiple corruption scandals) and to kill the corruption investigation once Dilma is removed.”
Juca said discussions with Brazil’s military commanders and Supreme Court justices indicated they’d support Rousseff’s removal - and deny action against her was a coup. Only one justice she appointed, Teori Zavascki, refused to go along.
Rousseff’s impeachment has “nothing to do with preserving Brazilian democracy and everything to do with destroying it,” the Intercept said.
Seven of Temer’s newly appointed ministers are being investigated for involvement in Operation Car Wash. He faces corruption charges, barring him from seeking public office for eight years.
Polls show he has near-zero public support. Brazilians want him impeached and removed. Juca admits his taped comments are authentic, while claiming they were taken out of context.
Impeaching Rousseff represents a giant leap backwards. Prospects for reversing injustice are practically nil.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

US Judge Exonerates Killer Cop - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 21:22
US Judge Exonerates Killer Cop
by Stephen Lendman
Unaccountable killer cops nationwide turn US streets and minority communities into battlegrounds - killing 1,000 or more largely innocent victims annually, brutalizing and injuring many thousands more.
On April 12, 2015, six Baltimore cops were involved in Freddie Gray’s murder. He committed no crimes, was arrested on bogus charges, brutalized too severely in custody to save him.
His spine was 80% severed at his neck. He suffered three fractured vertebrae. His larynx was injured.
He lapsed into a coma. On April 19, 2015, he died - a week after his arrest. Street protests followed. Authorities and militarized cops responded violently as expected.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency. A curfew was imposed. 
Around 2,000 combat trained National Guard troops were deployed on Baltimore streets. After ignoring the incident and initial peaceful protests, Obama blamed victims for killer cop violence, urging justifiably angry area protesters be “treated as criminals.”
He's done nothing to address major nationwide grievances affecting America's most disadvantaged - especially persecuted, neglected and exploited Blacks and Latinos.
On May 23, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams (in a bench trial) exonerated officer Edward Nero of all charges in 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s death - including second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct.
He faces a likely whitewash police department administrative review. He was one of six cops involved in Gray’s brutalization and murder. 
William Porter’s trial last December ended in a hung jury. On June 6, officer Ceasar Goodson will be tried, followed by Brian Rice on July 5, Garrett Miller on July 27, Porter’s retrial on September 6, and Alicia White on October 13 - each on charges ranging from assault to manslaughter to murder.
Black Lives Matter figure De-Ray Mckesson twittered “#FreddieGray should be alive today.”
New York Daily News columnist Shaun King minced no words, twittering “(w)ith yet another clearance of an officer in the death of #FreddieGray - the justice system completely fails us.”
The New York Times downplayed Monday’s ruling, saying Judge Williams considered officer Nero “a bit player.” He was an accessory to cold-blooded murder, yet got off scot-free.
Cops in America kill with impunity - protecting privilege from beneficial social change. Freddie Gray’s lawless arrest and cold-blooded killing would never happen to a member of an upscale white community. 
Inner city Black ones nationwide are virtual war zones - as violent and hostile to civil and human rights as Occupied Palestine.
Change is only possible through revolutionary activism. Things are too corrupted to fix any other way.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Known Terrorist Visited Washington - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 21:04
Known Terrorist Visited Washington
by Stephen Lendman
Ahrar al-Sham operates like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. The latter two are Security Council designated terrorist groups.
America, Britain and France blocked Ahrah al-Sham’s inclusion, providing the group with direct support along with likeminded regional ones.
On May 21, McClatchy DC headlined senior “Syrian rebel whose group is linked to al Qaida visited US,” saying he was granted permission to come, “raising questions” about the Obama administration’s choice of regional partners - and credibility for letting a known terrorist visit Washington.
Labib al Nahhas calls himself Ahrar al Sham’s foreign affairs director. Apparently he’s a valued US ally. It’s unknown who he met with.
State Department spokesman admiral John Kirby lied claim no US knowledge of his presence in Washington. He tried dismissing well-known Obama administration involvement with and direct support for terrorist groups in Syria, the region and beyond.
“We don’t discuss visa records,” he said. “In general, US officials have engaged with a range of Syrian opposition groups, including Ahrar al Sham…However, we are not going to get into the details of any such discussions.”
Ahrar al Sham is one of the largest and most ruthless terrorist groups in Syria - used along with likeminded ones as US imperial foot soldiers, Washington wanting Assad ousted, Syrian sovereignty destroyed.
The group was involved in numerous terrorist attacks, massacring defenseless civilians - with full US support and encouragement.
According to McClatchy, Nahhas freely travels to Western capitals. Media scoundrels publish his op-eds, claiming his views are moderate. No regional moderate terrorist groups exist.
Washington’s absurd reason for not wanting Ahrar al Sham designated a terrorist organization is “it would do more harm than good on the ground.”
On May 11, Washington, Britain and France blocked a Russian proposal to include Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh-al-Islam among Security Council terrorist groups.
America and its rogue allies support them in Syria and elsewhere. They undermine peace and stability while claiming otherwise.
They want endless war continued to oust Assad and destroy Syrian sovereign. Russia’s best efforts for diplomatic conflict resolution are unattainable because Washington rejects them.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Chilean Bid to Help Authors Will Chill Audiovisual Content Online - Tue, 24/05/2016 - 09:13

Authors around the world are realizing the benefits of sharing their work in new ways, finding new audiences by refusing to articipate in traditional methods of distribution and licensing.  But a new proposal in Chile could undermine those choices, at least for Chilean creators.

In pursuing copyright reform around the world, we usually stress the need to balance the rights of users with those of copyright owners. But it's also important to balance the rights of authors with those of copyright owners. Many people understandable think they are the same people. But they often aren't.  Authors (including artists, songwriters and filmmakers) routinely give up their copyrights to large companies in exchange for those companies handling the marketing and management of their work. If the terms of this exchange are unfair, because of the company's greater bargaining power, this can leave the author in a precarious position (the story of Little Richard selling the rights to Tutti Frutti for $50 is illustrative).

A current proposal in Chile shows how hard it is to address this tension without trampling on the rights of secondary users and undermining the burgeoning efforts to give authors more choices about how their works might be handled.

Existing Chilean law give the performers of audiovisual works a right to receive compensation when their performances are broadcast, rented or made available to the public. The kicker is that this right to compensation is independent of the copyright—even if the performer transfers their copyright to someone else, they are still entitled to the royalties, and the law doesn't even permit them to waive that right (presumably because they could easily be coerced into waiving it). This, in itself, is problematic, for reasons that we've explained when writing about a similar proposal for U.S. law (though in the case of that U.S. proposal, the right could at least be waived or assigned). The problems with the U.S. proposal that we described also apply to the existing Chilean law:

Performers (or, in many cases, the companies to which they transfer their rights) could create new roadblocks to the creation of parodies, mash-ups or new versions of their performances, independent of copyright. It would further complicate the process of clearing rights to audiovisual works, and cast a new legal cloud of uncertainty over the activities of creators, producers, and journalists who build on audiovisual works in compliance with copyright law.

In Chile's case this much has been law since 2008. But it's about to get a whole lot worse. The House of Representatives of the Chilean Congress recently approved an amendment to the law that would extend the unwaivable right to remuneration to authors of audiovisual works, and require a copyright collecting society to administer those rights.  It would mean that all of the contributors to an audiovisual performance whom the law regards as authors (which includes the music composer, the scriptwriter, the choreographer, and the director) would all be entitled to payment whenever their work is used online, even if they never asked for payment and don't want it. This would apply for the duration of the copyright, and would apply both to local and foreign works.

This might sound like a benefit to authors, but it comes at a very high price for the public and for authors themselves. This change, if it came into effect, would prevent anyone whose work is performed from effectively dedicating that work to the public domain, or licensing it under a free license, such as a Creative Commons license. Yet in the words of the Public Domain Manifesto, "The voluntary relinquishment of copyright and sharing of protected works are legitimate exercises of copyright exclusivity," and should be respected by the law. Why? Because authors very frequently have motivations other than monetary remuneration for creating audiovisual works, such as self-expression, obtaining recognition from their peers, telling a story or teaching a message. Many of these motivations are better served by allowing works to be copied, shared, and modified freely, rather than by locking them away and demanding payment. The proposed amendment to Chilean law would extinguish this option for millions of authors of audiovisual works.

The results won't be limited to individual creators, but will also impact upon online platforms that facilitate access to audiovisual works—indeed, these are doubtless the real intended target of the amendment. If the Senate passes the bill, Chilean collecting societies will soon after present the major audiovisual sharing websites, such as YouTube, with a bill for the remuneration of all of millions of hours of authored audiovisual content made available through that platform. YouTube can probably afford to pay the freight, but smaller sites will not. We can only speculate about how much of this booty would end up going back to the authors, and how much would end up lining the pockets of the collecting society.

This is the wrong solution to the problem of unfair treatment of authors of audiovisual works, because it disregards the wishes of those authors, and restricts access to their content; perhaps even shutting down entire Internet platforms. (We've seen this before, when legislators carelessly brought in new copyright-like rights for a special interest group.) Better solutions might lie outside of copyright law altogether, such as making it easier for authors to challenge unfair publishing contracts.

The amendment bill is currently before the Chilean senate, and we may have as little as two weeks to stop it. If you would like to help, especially if you are Chilean or if you are an author or represent authors who will be impacted by this bill, now is the time to speak up and take action.

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