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Assad Must Go Remains Official US Policy - Thu, 07/01/2016 - 21:24
Assad Must Go Remains Official US Policy
by Stephen Lendman
Russia and America are fundamentally at odds on the future of Syria - US imperial arrogance the fundamental issue, defying international law, wanting Assad replaced with a puppet it controls.
On January 6, AP News headlined “US sees Assad staying in Syria until March 2017,” saying:
“An internal US timeline for a best-case Syrian political transition, obtained by The Associated Press, sets a date of March 2017 for Assad to ‘relinquish’ his position as president and for his ‘inner circle’ to depart.” 
“That is two months after President Barack Obama leaves office and more than five years after (he) first called for Assad to leave.”
International law is clear and unequivocal. No nation may interfere in the internal affairs of others. Russia supports the right of Syrians alone to decide who’ll lead them. 
Washington wants exclusive authority, symbolic of its out-of-control arrogance, waging endless wars to replace sitting governments with ones it controls, serving its own self-interest.
The Obama administration envisions new presidential and parliamentary election in August 2017, effectively wanting Syrians excluded from deciding who’ll lead them.
Assad must go remains official US policy - despite his overwhelming popularity. Syrians won’t tolerate anyone else leading them or foreign interference in their affairs.
In June 2014, Assad was reelected with an 89% majority - in an election independent monitors judged open, free and fair. No one in Syria is popular enough to unseat him electorally. 
Nor does he intend stepping down unless Syrians want new leadership - their exclusive right alone to decide either way, firm on wanting him remaining president. He intends to oblige them.
At his Wednesday’s State Department press briefing, spokesman Admiral John Kirby acknowledged Washington’s document was authentic, at the same time downplaying it disingenuously.
Saying this “kind of work is done here at the State Department all the time” - turning truth on its head claiming it doesn’t represent official US policy, just a potential future political process timeline.
At the same time, saying “(o)ur hope and expectation is that the entire (transition) process will start this month.” US policy on Assad remains unchanged.
Kirby quoted John Kerry, saying “the exact timing of his departure isn’t something that we’re fixated on.”
AP chief diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee challenged Kirby, asking if his “arms (are) a little tired (from holding up) the straw man you put up to knock down?”
Washington won’t “accept North Korea as a nuclear armed state, and yet it is,” said Lee. “You also say this about other things. You say you’ll never accept Crimea as part of Russia.” Reality indicates otherwise.
“Isn’t it time to recognize these things for what they are and not live in (a world of) illusion, or fantasy, where you pretend that things that are, are not?”
Syria is Obama’s war, using ISIS and other terrorists as US imperial foot soldiers. Calling its conflict civil is polar opposite truth.
The vast majority of Syrians want peace, not war. They want exclusive right to choose their leadership and parliamentary members. 
They reject foreign interference in their internal affairs. They want no part of Washington imposing its will extrajudicially - fully supported by Russia, Iran and free people everywhere.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

DHS Issues Process and Privacy Guidance on State and Local Drones - Thu, 07/01/2016 - 08:24

Just before the holidays, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) working group released guidance for state and local agencies using drone aircraft. The document, Best Practices for Protecting Privacy, Civil Rights & Civil Liberties In Unmanned Aircraft Systems Programs, addresses concerns over the implications of high-tech tools that, without rigorous controls and oversight embedded in law and embodied in code, can easily be abused.

Process and substance to prevent predictable abuses

Some aspects of the guidance construct a robust process surrounding the adoption of drones. For instance, it suggests consultation with legal counsel and issue experts, as well as a clear definition of a program’s mission and scope. The guidance also recommends ongoing assessment of privacy impacts and a redress program.

Other more substantive provisions address the use of drones themselves. For instance, the DHS guidance suggests limits on how drones collect data, how the data used, how long it is retained, and to whom and for what purposes it is disseminated.

Strikingly, the working group even calls for accountability when data from drones is used improperly and addresses two contexts in which that has unfortunately recurred.

First, the working group recommended policies to prevent overzealous authorities from undermining the constitutional speech and assembly rights at the core of our democratic political process. It suggests that agencies:

Be attuned to the potential privacy risks…arising from inadvertently capturing images of individuals engaging in constitutionally protected activities, and establish appropriate guidelines and administrative controls to anonymize, destroy, safeguard or prevent the misuse of such data….

Second, responding to long-standing patterns of unconstitutional ethnic profiling by police agencies, the guidance reminds policymakers and agencies that:

Collection, use, dissemination, or retention of unmanned aircraft system-recorded data should not be based solely on individual characteristics (e.g., race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, or gender)….

To see such broad recommendations addressing needs from transparency to civil liberties coming from a government agency is an encouraging sign.

Insufficiencies and ironies

Unfortunately, the guidance also leaves much to be desired.

First, despite nodding to concerns about ethnic profiling, the guidance ultimately fails to address them. DHS suggests that drones not be used to collect data based solely on demographic indicia. It does, however, allow profiling based on a combination of factors, which lends itself to profiling particularly when no specific suspect description connects the target of an investigation to a discrete incident.

At root, the guidance remains advisory, binding neither state nor local agencies, nor even agencies within DHS itself. Longstanding concerns about inadequate transparency and protections by DHS component agencies will remain and continue to mount.

The guidance is also limited to particular settings. The working group said its guidance was “intended for first responders (e.g., emergency management, emergency medical service, fire departments, and security professionals responding  to disasters and other emergencies) and does not seek to provide guidance in regard to investigative use of [drones],” despite the group’s recognition of historical patterns of recurring abuses by law enforcement agencies.

By declining to address investigative uses of drones, the guidance sidesteps an elephant in the room: the constitutional requirement for a judicial warrant. Several states as politically diverse as Illinois and Utah have legislatively reiterated the warrant requirement for drones even for law enforcement purposes.

One might hope that only thoughtful and conscientious professionals could get their hands on powerful tools by working for a public agency. Our Founders expected otherwise and created the warrant requirement to ensure the legitimacy of both criminal and non-criminal investigations by forcing the government to justify them.

One of the most timely aspects of the best practices is their recognition of the value of encryption. Despite self-serving claims by intelligence officials that encryption represents a threat to national security, DHS’ 2015 guidance on drones explicitly advises local and state authorities to employ encryption to ensure the security of data they collect and retain.

By recognizing that encryption enhances security, the DHS guidance could undermine half-baked FBI proposals to subvert encryption by mandating back doors for intelligence agencies and instead reinforce a common sense consensus uniting the tech community and privacy advocates.

Perhaps congressional policymakers less inclined to heed privacy concerns will prove more responsive to the security concerns of DHS officials. Regardless, the department’s recent guidance can help inform the debate, especially where local and state policymakers propose legislation to embody its most helpful recommendations.

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Yemen: A US-Orchestrated Holocaust - Thu, 07/01/2016 - 02:52
Yemen: A US-Orchestrated Holocaust
by Stephen Lendman
Millions of lives are at risk from violence, starvation, lack of vital medical care, and overall deprivation.
A new UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) report downplayed the ongoing catastrophe, shamelessly undercounting civilian casualties since conflict began last March.
It’s likely in the tens of thousands from Saudi terror-bombing heavily populated areas and absence of vital essentials to life. 
Claiming it’s only 2,800, another 5,200 wounded mocks the unbearable suffering of millions of Yemenis, victims of US imperialism.
The world community remains largely indifferent, ignoring an entire population at risk. Millions may perish before conflict ends. Nothing is being done to prevent it.
Fighting shows no signs of abating. Obama’s orchestrated war complicit with Riyadh is another high crime on his rap sheet, major media scoundrels giving it short shrift.
Famine stalks Yemen, around 20 million at risk, children, the ill and elderly most vulnerable. War without mercy continues. 
Secure sources of food, potable water, fuel, electricity and medical care are absent or in too short supply in most of the country - impossible conditions to survive for many.
Malnutrition is rampant, near-starvation commonplace. So are preventable diseases claiming unknown numbers of lives for lack of treatment. Body counts exclude nonviolent deaths.
A phantom mid-December ceasefire ended in the new year. Saudis escalated terror-bombing US selected targets, including densely populated residential areas, hospitals, refugee camps, vital infrastructure and other non-military sites.
A blockade remains in force, preventing vital to life essentials from getting to people in need in amounts enough to matter.
Washington and Riyadh want war, not peace. Ceasefire was more illusion than reality - Houthis irresponsibly blamed for imperial crimes. Yemenis continue suffering horrifically. 
Their country is being systematically ravaged and destroyed - increasingly looking like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. 
US imperialism bears full responsibility, destroying life on earth one country at a time, making things unbearable for survivors.
Last September, a largely Saudi-drafted (US/UK supported) UN Human Rights Council resolution on Yemen excluded an independent international war crimes investigation, whitewashing imperial high crimes.
It authorized only UN provided technical assistance to a Yemeni inquiry headed by illegitimate president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi - US-installed in a 2012 election with no opposing candidates.
Yemen remains a black hole of endless violence and instability, no relief in sight for its suffering millions.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Israel Continues Destroying Palestinian Crops - Thu, 07/01/2016 - 02:39
Israel Continues Destroying Palestinian Crops
by Stephen Lendman
Israel is one of the world’s most ruthless rogue states - a phantom democracy run by fascists and religious zealots, a regional monster, its viciousness unrestrained. 
Its longstanding high crimes include militarized occupation harshness, ruthless persecution, institutionalized racism, and slow-motion genocide - Palestinians collectively punished for not being Jews.
Its latest high crime involves poisoning Gaza farmland, some of its most fertile areas, spraying them with toxic crop-killing pesticides, making them unsafe to eat - part of a scheme against Palestinian agriculture, along with maintaining the Strip under suffocating siege.
An IDF statement lied, claiming “aerial spraying of herbicides and germination inhibitors” along Gaza border areas with Israel “enable(s) optimal and continuous security operations” - preventing nonexistent improvised explosive devices (IEDs), “disrupt(ing) the use of the area for destructive purposes.”
Israel’s lawlessly imposed border “no-go zone” area is now a “no-grow zone,” hundreds of acres of crops maliciously destroyed, the land contaminated to prevent replantings - part of Israel’s slow-motion genocide agenda, including making life unbearably miserable for Palestinians, the world community indifferent to their suffering.
Toxic spraying began last month, continuing into the new year, Israeli drones contaminating increasing acres of farmland, Palestinians losing their crops and and livelihoods.
They’re slowly being suffocated to serve Israeli interests, deprived of vital to life essentials, including food, fuel and medicines.
Farming is hazardous to human life and welfare in Gaza - vulnerable to areas declared off-limits, Israeli land, sea and aerial incursions at its discretion, and now toxic spraying making crops unsafe to eat.
Palestinians are in the crosshairs of Israeli viciousness, notably since its security forces unleashed unrestrained state terror three months ago.
Daily extrajudicial killings continue, along with thousands injured and/or arrested. A virtual war zone exists. Palestinians only choice is committed longterm resistance.
Hamas’ political leader Ismail Haneyya supports it, urging steadfastness against ruthless occupation, saying:
“As we are seeing this blessed intifada that started from the courtyards of the Aqsa Mosque and the streets and alleys of Jerusalem and spread in all West Bank areas and Gaza flashpoints, we believe that our people, who trust in their God and his support, are able to extract their rights, liberate their holy sites and land, and defeat their enemy with the help of the loyal and sincere leaders of this nation.”
He asked regional leaders to support Palestine’s liberating struggle. Mostly they pay lip service only. US-led Western nations one-sidedly back Israel, partnering in its high crimes.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Obama's Indifference to Violence and Human Suffering - Wed, 06/01/2016 - 21:25
Obama’s Indifference to Violence and Human Suffering
by Stephen Lendman
America is the greatest purveyor of violence in world history. No other regime ever matched its barbarity on a global scale over a longer duration, its contempt for human rights and welfare. 
It operates beneath the phony facade of supporting right over wrong, might alone enforced to serve its imperial interests.
Obama is the latest in a long line of rogue US leaders, contemptuous of rule of law principles and democratic values - responsible for global violence and instability, indifferent to cops turning US streets into battlegrounds, licensed to kill with impunity.
According to the Killed by Police initiative, cops killed 1,199 victims last year, mostly people of color, mainly Black male youths, a testimony to US viciousness.
America’s longstanding culture of violence at home and abroad fosters an out-of-control environment, sanctioned at the federal, state and local levels. Nothing in prospect suggests responsible change. Things continually go from bad to worse.
Obama’s thinly veiled scheme “to keep guns out of the wrong hands” belies US proliferation of endless horrendous violence globally, responsible for the loss of millions of lives and unspeakable human misery.
His phony executive action to make US communities safer is a complete hoax, a PR stunt by a rogue leader, responsible for violence worldwide - at home and abroad, waging endless wars, supporting killer cops.
His feigned concern for gun violence victims is duplicitous and meaningless, an insult to family survivors, an initiative accomplishing nothing.
Executive action does nothing to curb America’s longstanding addiction to endless wars and violence on a global scale, indifferent to the human cost.
Anyone wanting virtually any type firearms in America can get them as easily as buying chewing gum or toothpaste - with firepower able to commit wholesale slaughter.
Militarized police use powerful weapons indiscriminately with full support from Washington - gunning down innocent victims threatening no one unaccountably.
Obama’s executive action is a travesty of justice, a scheme steeped in deception, a sham effort to burnish his rogue image, his horrendous rap sheet a testimony to viciousness - contemptuous of everything righteous he claims to support.
New York Times editors reacted as expected, deceiving their readers, irresponsibly claiming his executive action will keep “guns from people likely to use them in crimes, and enforcing gun laws already on the books” - absurdly calling his action “a sensible and proven approach to reduce gun crime.”
Obama achieved no change in America’s longstanding culture of violence - operating extrajudicially, glorifying wars in the name of peace, enforcing police state harshness domestically - a nation unsafe and unfit to live in. 
Today it’s more true than ever. Freedom, equity and justice are four-letter words in a nation exclusively serving its privileged few - all others be damned.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

NATO: Humanity's Greatest Scourge - Wed, 06/01/2016 - 21:11
NATO: Humanity’s Greatest Scourge
by Stephen Lendman
NATO is a US-dominated killing machine, a force for pure evil - a global imperial enforcer threatening world peace, a dagger in humanity’s heart.
It’s the lead instigator of global conflicts, a menace too great to ignore, intending to replace the UN, first as its military wing, then geopolitically.
America funding 75% of its budget is its dominant force, pressuring other members to play by its rules even when harming their own interests.
The Alliance wages endless premeditated wars of aggression in the name of peace. Its strategy and tactics include state terror on an unprecedented scale. Its aim is replacing all independent governments with pro-Western one, especially Russia and China, making the world safe for monied interests, no matter the human toll, world stability or ecological sanity.
As long as NATO exists, the unthinkable looms - possible humanity destroying global nuclear war, destroying planet earth to own it.
Russia knows what it’s up against, calling US-led NATO’s encroachment on its borders a threat to its national security. Saying its aggressive build-up contravenes international law and threatens world peace.
Washington and complicit allies want global dominance, risking greater conflicts than already - fostering anti-Russian hostility and worldwide tensions.
NATO is a US-dominated out-of-control monster, a metastasizing cancer, the greatest ever threat to humanity’s survival.
On Tuesday, its spokeswoman Oana Lungescu turned truth on its head, saying “(w)e categorically reject totally unfounded claims that NATO and its policies constitute a security threat” to Russia or other nations.
“NATO’s enlargement is not directed against anyone. (Each nation) has the right to (decide) whether it joins any treaty or alliance” - referring to recently inviting (or likely pressuring) Montenegro to join” the Alliance, adding another nation to the anti-Russian bloc.
Moscow’s updated national security strategy accuses NATO of violating the “principles of equal and indivisible security” in the Euro-Atlantic, Eurasian and Asia-Pacific regions.
US-dominated Alliance policy shows claims about it posing no threat to Russia or other countries entirely false. 
It’s the gravest one humanity faces, a freedom-crushing monster, a scourge threatening world peace and life on earth.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Monstrous ISIS Atrocities - Wed, 06/01/2016 - 20:58
Monstrous ISIS Atrocities
by Stephen Lendman
ISIS is a US creation, their fighters used as imperial foot soldiers, trained in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and perhaps elsewhere by CIA operatives, Pentagon special forces and their allied counterparts - taught the fine art of committing atrocities.
They include beheadings, mass executions, other types of cold-blooded murder, deliberately targeting civilians, human trafficking, exploiting young girls and women as sex slaves, as well as using sarin and other toxic chemical agents.
Russia has clear evidence pointing to the “very high” probability (virtual certainty) indicating ISIS use of banned chemical weapons.
According to Russia’s Foreign Ministry head of nonproliferation and control over weapons Mikhail Ulyanov:
“Several times we have noted facts of the probable use of chemical weapons by (ISIS) militants and in a broader sense by Islamic radicals, beginning with the attack in Khan al-Assal (Syria) in March 2013 against government forces.”
“Since facts are shown in one direction…we believe the probability that the weapons are being used by militants is very high.”
In mid-December, Turkish Republican People’s Party (CHP) opposition member Eren Erdem accused Ankara of covering up a major war crime, likely direct high-level involvement in smuggling materials used to make deadly sarin gas to ISIS and other terrorists.
Assad is irresponsibly blamed for US-supported terrorists’ high crimes, including use of banned weapons. Turkish officials are directly involved in supplying ISIS and other terrorist groups with sarin and likely other toxic agents - materials smuggled cross-border along with weapons, munitions and various supplies on the pretext of delivering humanitarian aid.
None of this could go on without direct high-level regime involvement, a rogue state partnering with Washington’s imperial enterprise.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) found Syrians (largely civilians) were exposed to sarin and other toxic agents multiple times - incidents reported by Damascus.
On Monday, OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu said “(i)n one instance, analysis of some blood samples indicates that individuals were at some point exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance.”
“Further investigation would be necessary to determine when or under what circumstances such exposure might have occurred.”
Evidence Russia obtained indicates ISIS use. Syria under OPCW supervision destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile. Nothing suggests it was ever used throughout years of conflict. Claims otherwise were Big Lies.
Earlier, ISIS and other terrorists were caught red-handed using sarin and other chemical weapons against Syrian civilians numerous times.
CIA and US special forces trained takfiri terrorists in chemical weapons use, perhaps supplying them with toxic agents to use.
Saudi Arabia was caught red-handed, providing them with toxic agents in containers marked “made in KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).”
Last November, OPCW experts confirmed terrorists’ use of mustard gas and chlorine in Syria with “utmost confidence,” calling perpetrators “non-state actor(s).”
The 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits use of “asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices,” as well as “bacteriological methods of warfare.”
The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and 1993 Chemical Weapons Conventions prohibits their production, storage or transfer.
America and Israel notoriously use chemical, biological and radiological weapons in warfare. Major media report nothing.
Syria was wrongfully blamed throughout years of conflict for using toxic agents - despite no independently verifiable evidence proving it. None 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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine Resigns - Wed, 06/01/2016 - 03:54
UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine Resigns
by Stephen Lendman
Supporting international law guaranteed human rights for Palestinians is a thankless job. 
Its incumbent is subjected to relentless Israeli harassment, vilification and obstruction. Its regime throughout its history has been a collective punishment machine, ruthlessly persecuting an entire population - largely isolated on its own, defenseless against its barbarism, fully supported by Western nations.
In 2014, Indonesian diplomat Makarim Wibisono replaced Richard Falk as UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Palestine. On Monday, his short tenure ended, resigning in frustration over Israel’s preventing him from doing his job. More on this below.
In his book titled “Palestine: The Legitimacy of Hope,” Falk called its unresolved liberation “the last major anti-colonial struggle.” Embracing the vital BDS movement, he explained Israel won’t ever allow Palestinian self-determination, intending permanent subjugation under occupation harshness, expelling a long-suffering people from their land for exclusive Jewish development.
Occupation = annexation, ethnic cleansing Israel’s strategy of choice along with wars of aggression at its discretion and relentless persecution - slow-motion genocide by any standard, an entire population targeted for elimination or ruthless exploitation.
Resistance is the internationally recognized right of oppressed people to challenge foreign military occupation by “all means necessary” said Falk - calling Israel a “regime of state terror.”
Wibisono explained his “efforts to help improve the lives of Palestinian victims under the Israeli occupation (were) frustrated every step of the way.” 
A ruthless regime went all-out to obstruct his best efforts, preventing him from doing his job - denying him “access to the victims in the Occupied Palestinian Territory…”
In June, he called for lifting Gaza’s illegal blockade, saying its “people deserve help and realization of their human rights, not collective punishment.”
He blasted Israel’s shuttering of the Hebron-based Youth Against Settlements - by lawlessly declaring its location a closed military zone.
Israel’s ongoing reign of terror against millions of Palestinians reveals a regime dedicated to barbarism, tolerating no criticism of its ruthlessness - institutionalized racism, fascism on steroids for Palestinians, treating them the way Hitler persecuted Jews.
Commenting on Wibisono’s resignation, Richard Falk said Israel “blocked him from fulfilling his UN mandate” - calling his resignation a surprise “because he should have known from the outset that he was faced with” either doing his job properly or “gaining Israel’s cooperation.”
No in-between is possible. His dilemma showed “the difficulty confronting anyone charged with truthful reporting on the Palestinian ordeal under occupation…”
He was chosen over more qualified candidates, Falk explained - because he lacked relevant background knowledge, making it easier for Israel to manipulate him.
Falk warned him after his appointment of the impossibility of pleasing both sides - explaining during his tenure as rapporteur, he learned making a difference requires “willing(ness) to put up with the heat,” standing firm against relentless Israeli defamatory attacks, refusing to yield to its viciousness, including baseless anti-Semitism accusations.
Victories aren’t won by surrender or suppressing hard truths. Long-suffering Palestinians deserve committed universal support. Justice demands Israel pay for its high crimes - accountability at long last.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

New Year Market Turmoil - Tue, 05/01/2016 - 22:14
New Year Market Turmoil
by Stephen Lendman
Will 2016 be the year the artificially stimulated US economic house of cards collapses? It’s long overdue. What can’t go on forever, won’t. Markets levitate only for so long. Day of reckoning time inevitably arrives.
Fed money printing madness turned Wall Street into a casino - high risk for ordinary people wanting their savings protected along with a reasonable return.
Former Reagan administration Office of Management and Budget director David Stockman warns often of a coming collapse - calling America’s financial system an “unstable, bubble-prone gambling arena that undermines capitalist prosperity and showers speculators with vast windfall gains” on an ocean of easy money.
Last year was the first negative year for the Dow and S&P 500 since 2008, the Nasdaq posting a small gain, a performance perhaps unlikely to be matched ahead. 
The new year began with a near-crash, a rare huge downturn on its first trading day, perhaps signaling rough times ahead, maybe a protracted bear market given weak global economic conditions.
According to Stockman, “the stock market casino has just begun its descent,” how severely remains to be seen. “The Fed and the other central banks are out of dry powder…”
“After two decades of runaway credit expansion and bubble finance speculation,” chickens are coming home to roost. Sell the rally is replacing buy the dip strategy.
A major negative is China’s weakening economy. In December, its manufacturing index fell for the 10th consecutive month. Its latest 48.2 measure indicates contraction. US manufacturing and construction show declines.
According to Chinese economist Xia Le, “(w)e haven’t seen any material improvement in economic momentum. Small and medium-sized companies are under growing pressure. Toward the end of the year, some decided to close down” because they’re not making money.
Economist He Fan said declining  manufacturing shows “the economy is facing a greater risk of weakening.”
China is a major driver of world growth. Its economic slowdown affects global markets adversely. Weak oil and other commodity prices indicate slackening demand.
Stockman believes China may be “heading for a crash landing,” its economy and markets levitating on a $30 trillion debt mountain, 60-fold greater than two decades ago - “the (lynchpin) of the entire credit-bloated and malinvestment-ridden GDP of the planet.”
As China succumbs to its credit bubble, reverberations will be felt worldwide. South Korean exports fell 15% year-over-year. Japan is back in recession. Brazil faces Depression. Virtually all global economies are vulnerable.
Easy money days appear over. “(O)bstacles to organic earnings growth” no longer can be helped by financial engineering, Stockman believes. Junk debt is cratering. No one’s sure how low energy and other bellwether commodity prices will go. 
Artificially generated windfall profits since the 1990s are ending. Sovereign wealth accumulation in parts of the world is over. A “cycle of liquidation…unprecedented in financial history” is replacing it, according to Stockman. 
It’s not a pretty picture, likely to continue until commodity deflation runs its course, he believes.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Western War on Libya Imminent - Tue, 05/01/2016 - 20:32
Western War on Libya Imminent 
by Stephen Lendman
In 2011, US-led NATO ravaged Africa’s most developed country. Libya remains a cauldron of violence and chaos, now threatened by ISIS.
Washington helped it establish a foothold in Sirte, a jumping off point to expand to other areas - with designs on Libyan oil, perhaps just a matter of time before it seizes control without efforts to stop their forces.
Sirte is a gateway to several major oil fields and refineries further east. ISIS fighters targeted them before, gaining control of some. Its propaganda claims “Sirte will be no less that Raqqa,” its self-declared Syrian capital.
In mid-December, rival Tobruk and Tripoli agreed on the formation of unity governance, despite numerous tribal groups left out, a shaky arrangement at best.
Despite Libyan officials rejecting a US-led bombing campaign and/or ground operation, reports indicate plans to deploy about 1,000 UK special forces on the pretext of combating ISIS - to be joined by thousands more American, French and Italian combat troops.
On Monday, Britain’s Daily Mirror headlined “SAS (special forces) spearhead coalition offensive to halt Islamic State oil snatches in Libya,” saying:
“The (pretext) is to halt the advance of 5,000 (ISIS) extremists who have seized more than a dozen major oil fields, boosting their war coffers” - aiming to capture “Libya’s prize oil refinery at Marsa al Brega,” North Africa’s largest, located between Sirte and Benghazi, giving them virtual control over all Libyan oil if successful.
US-led NATO forces intend operating in Libya illegally - without government or Security Council authorization. 
A likely bombing campaign is imminent, involving US-led warplanes, creating greater violence and turmoil than already - supporting, not combating ISIS, replicating what’s ongoing in Syria and Iraq, striking infrastructure and government targets, acting as the terrorist group’s air force, the campaign to begin in weeks or sooner.
A senior British military source lied to the Mirror, saying “(t)his coalition will provide a wide range of resources from surveillance, to strike operations against Islamic State who have made significant progress in Libya.”
“We have an advance force on the ground who will make an assessment of the situation and identify where attacks should be made and highlight the threats to our forces.”
US-led NATO ravaged and destroyed Libya in 2011 - about to become a bloody battleground again, using ISIS to further Washington’s imperial aims. 
The endless ordeal of long-suffering Libyans continues.
A Final Comment
On New Year’s eve, Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Washington of waging phony war on ISIS - “imitating the struggle against” it.
Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said America’s Syrian aerial campaign “for (over) a whole year (failed to notice) convoys of fuel tanker trucks with smuggled oil that feeds the terrorists’ forces.”
“(A)n impression is being created that the US-led coalition is hostage to its politicized approach and is rather imitating the struggle against” ISIS.
“The actions of the US-led anti-ISIL coalition in Syria are in principle illegitimate. The sovereignty of that state is openly violated, as neither the UN Security Council, nor official Damascus gave their permission to bombings of Syria to coalition forces.”
Instead of combating the scourge of ISIS and other terrorist groups, Washington openly aids them - the same scheme now planned for Libya.
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.

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Phony US Neutrality in Saudi/Iranian Rift - Tue, 05/01/2016 - 20:18
Phony US Neutrality in Saudi/Iranian Rift
by Stephen Lendman
Many of the world’s rogue states are close US allies, notably Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States, Egypt, Turkey and Israel.
Washington largely ignores their high crimes, their contempt for fundamental human rights and other democratic values, waging war on fundamental freedoms, stoking conflicts and instability.
State Department spokesman Admiral John Kirby expressing concern about rising Middle East tensions belies longstanding US initiatives fueling them.
Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s extrajudicial execution passed with little more than a meaningless pro forma statement, urging Riyadh “to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all cases” - polar opposite longstanding kingdom policy.
Both nations partner in each other’s high crimes, including efforts to keep Iran isolated, despite last year’s nuclear agreement - a deal Riyadh and Israel continue opposing and may plan schemes to undermine.
Kirby was less than candid about Riyadh and other Gulf States cutting or reducing diplomatic ties with Iran, duplicitously saying “we continue to believe that diplomatic engagement and direct conversations are essential to work through differences” - at the same time Washington intends violating last year’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA nuclear deal) by illegally imposing new sanctions on Iran, a flagrant breach, an indication of likely more hostile acts to come - especially under a new administration and Congress in January 2017.
Kirby claiming America “support(s) moderation, peace and stability” along with “redouble(d) efforts aimed at de-escalating regional tensions” is polar opposite longstanding US policy.
Endless conflicts and chaos serve its agenda. Peace and stability defeat it. Instead of blasting Riyadh’s abominable human rights record and tension stoking rift with Iran, Washington refrained from criticism, creating the appearance of neutrality, showing its support for kingdom policies and longtime hostility toward Tehran.
On the one hand, it wants the nuclear deal preserved on US terms, reinterpreting principles agreed on by planning new sanctions for bogus reasons.
On the other, its longtime objective is regime change, wanting US-controlled puppet governance replacing Iranian sovereign independence - maintaining the Big Lie about Tehran fostering regional terrorism and threatening American and Israeli interests, blasting its legitimate military activities, solely for defensive purposes.
Pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) senior fellow Patrick Clawson claims “(u)nless the Obama administration demonstrates stronger resolve in responding to Iranian aggression (sic), the Saudis and other Gulf monarchies will continue to take vigorous action of their own…”
America is fundamentally hostile to all independent states, notably oil and gas rich ones like Iran. Relations between both countries remain strained at best. 
Will US policymakers invent a pretext to wage war, risking embroiling the entire region and beyond in endless conflict? America’s odious history suggests nothing positive ahead.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Rogue Saudi Allies Cut Diplomatic Ties with Iran - Tue, 05/01/2016 - 04:00

Rogue Saudi Allies Cut Diplomatic Ties with Iran
Stephen Lendman
Saudi Arabia used the pretext of justifiably angry Iranians storming its Tehran embassy over the extrajudicial execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr to cut diplomatic ties with Tehran irresponsibly. 
The action sounds like a premeditated plot against the Islamic Republic - perhaps hatched in Washington and/or Israel, maybe Riyadh aiming to distract attention from its state-sponsored terrorism, supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, along with other regional destabilizing activities - complicit with US-led NATO states and regional rogue partners.
Decades of US-led hostile relations toward Iran continue - the scheme now joined by Bahrain and Sudan along with the UAE downgrading relations.
Will other regional rogue states follow - regimes run by tinpot despots, operating ruthlessly like Riyadh, partnering with Washington’s imperial agenda, waging war on their own people?
Bahrain, Sudan and the UAE coordinated their actions, choosing greater regional destabilization over efforts to resolve things diplomatically - gaining nothing by antagonizing the Islamic Republic.
Oman’s ambassador to Tehran, Saud bin Ahmad al-Barzani, criticized Riyadh’s action, diplomatically calling it “an unwise action conducted through an incorrect method,” adding:
“I believe Saudi Arabia, through its recent measure, is after pressuring Iran and overshadowing (last year’s)  nuclear agreement.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari blasted Riyadh, saying as long as its “policies are based on stirring tensions…we will use all our possibilities in relations with the regional states to block” its destabilizing agenda.
Following Sheikh’s Nimr’s execution, hundreds of Saudis protested publicly - calling for the regime’s ouster, chanting “Down with Al Saud.” Police reacted violently as expected, beating demonstrators, using live fire, making numerous arrests. 
Despotic regimes tolerate no opposition or criticism. Saudi ruthlessness risks open rebellion.
Iranian Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Deputy Commander General Rasoul Sanayee Raad called Riyadh’s action a bluff, projecting its own high crimes on others, saying its action (joined by rogue partners) will accomplish nothing but help expose their regional destabilization aims.
Russia indicated its willingness to invite top Saudi and Iranian diplomats to Moscow to help resolve things diplomatically, saying it supports “mutual understanding between Shiites and Sunnis and unity in the Muslim world.”
An unnamed Foreign Ministry source said Moscow “express(es) sincere regrets over the escalation of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia.”
“Russia has always been in favor of dialogue and constructive contacts. Therefore, if partners in Riyadh and Tehran are interested in our role, we are ready to give mediator services to restore mutual understanding on all issues.”
“We are ready to invite the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers to Moscow. If our partners in Iran and Saudi Arabia are ready and willing (to come), our initiative remains in force.”
Russia’s best efforts aren’t likely to fare better than years of failed diplomacy in trying to resolve Syria’s conflict. 
US-led Western obstruction prevents it, allied with regional rogue states - the same scheme now targeting Tehran.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

EFF Confirms: T-Mobile’s Binge On Optimization is Just Throttling, Applies Indiscriminately to All Video - Tue, 05/01/2016 - 02:49

Back in November, T-Mobile announced a new service for its mobile customers called Binge On, in which video streams from certain websites don’t count against customers’ data caps.1 The service is theoretically open to all video providers without charge, so long as T-Mobile can recognize and then “optimize” the provider’s video streams to a bitrate equivalent to 480p. At first glance, this doesn’t sound too harmful—customers can watch more video without worrying about their caps, most will consider 480p to be adequate quality (especially on a small phone screen), and the harms of treating individual video providers differently are diminished when T-Mobile offers the program to any provider for free.

However, as Marvin Ammori wrote in Slate, there is another “feature” of Binge On that has many customers complaining. Ammori pointed out that T-Mobile is applying its “optimization” to all video, not just the video of providers who have asked T-Mobile to be zero-rated. T-Mobile claims it does this to provide a better experience for its customers, saying that

“T-Mobile utilizes streaming video optimization technology throughout its network to help customers stretch their high-speed data while streaming video”

and that Binge On helps “deliver a DVD quality (typically 480p or better) video experience with minimal buffering while streaming.”

Testing T-Mobile’s Binge On Optimization

We were curious what exactly this optimization technology involved, so we decided to test it out for ourselves. We posted a video on one of our servers and tried accessing it via a T-Mobile LTE connection using various methods and under various conditions.

(If you want to skip the technical details of our testing and jump directly to the results, click here.)

All of the tests were done with an account that had Binge On enabled, in the same physical location and at roughly the same time of day, using the same phone. We ensured the phone had a good 4G LTE connection at all times. For each test, we measured the throughput between our server and the phone for approximately five minutes at five second intervals. The four tests we performed were:

  • Streaming a video embedded in a webpage using HTML5 (“Streaming in Browser”),
  • Downloading a video file to the phone’s SD card (“Direct Download”),
  • Downloading a video file to the phone’s SD card, but with the filename and the HTTP response headers changed to indicate it was not a video file (“Direct Download, Non-Video File Extension”), and
  • Downloading a large non-video file for comparison (“Direct Non-Video Download”).

Each test was done over an HTTP connection, which allowed T-Mobile’s network to observe the content of the connection and perform “optimization” (labeled “Binge On” in the graph below), and over an HTTPS connection, which prevented T-Mobile’s network from observing the content of the connection, thus representing behavior without any sort of Binge-On-related optimization (“Normal”).

Our findings are summarized in the graph below, where we plot the mean throughput for each test, as well as one standard deviation. The units are megabits per second.

Test Results: No Optimization, and Everything Gets Throttled

The first result of our test confirms that when Binge On is enabled, T-Mobile throttles all HTML5 video streams to around 1.5Mps, even when the phone is capable of downloading at higher speeds, and regardless of whether or not the video provider enrolled in Binge On. This is the case whether the video is being streamed or being downloaded—which means that T-Mobile is artificially reducing the download speeds of customers with Binge On enabled, even if they’re downloading the video to watch later. It also means that videos are being throttled even if they’re being watched or downloaded to another device via a tethered connection.

The second major finding in our tests is that T-Mobile is throttling video downloads even when the filename and HTTP headers (specifically the Content-Type) indicate the file is not a video file. We asked T-Mobile if this means they are looking deeper than TCP and HTTP headers, and identifying video streams by inspecting the content of their customers’ communications, and they told us that they have solutions to detect video-specific protocols/patterns that do not involve the examination of actual content.

Our last finding is that T-Mobile’s video “optimization” doesn’t actually alter or enhance the video stream for delivery to a mobile device over a mobile network in any way. 2 This means T-Mobile’s “optimization” consists entirely of throttling the video stream’s throughput down to 1.5Mbps. If the video is more than 480p and the server sending the video doesn’t have a way to reduce or adapt the bitrate of the video as it’s being streamed, the result is stuttering and uneven streaming—exactly the opposite of the experience T-Mobile claims their “optimization” will have.

Given the difference between what T-Mobile implies they do and what we found, we contacted them to get clarification. They confirmed that they don’t do any actual optimization of video streams other than reducing the bandwidth allocated to them (and relying on the provider to notice, and adapt the bitrate accordingly).

T-Mobile has claimed that this practice isn't really "throttling," but we disagree. It's clearly not "optimization," since T-Mobile doesn't alter the actual content of the video streams in any way. Even the term "downgrading" is inaccurate, because that would mean video streams are simply being given a lower priority than other traffic. If that were true, then in the absence of higher priority traffic, videos should stream at the same throughput as any other content. But that's not the case: our tests show that video streams are capped at around 1.5Mbps, even when the LTE connection and the rest of T-Mobile's network can support higher throughput between the customer and the server.

In other words, our results show that T-Mobile is throttling video streams, plain and simple.

Dear T-Mobile: Stop Futzing With Your Customer’s Traffic

Setting aside for the moment the question of when zero-rating constitutes a violation of net neutrality in and of itself (more on that later), it’s pretty obvious that throttling all traffic based on application type definitely violates the principles of net neutrality. It also obviously violates the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which says that ISPs

“…shall not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service…subject to reasonable network management”,

especially since throttling traffic independently of congestion (as T-Mobile is doing) makes it clear that this throttling is not being used for reasonable network management.

What should T-Mobile do instead? One option would be to stop throttling the video of providers who haven’t signed up to be zero-rated in Binge On, regardless of the status of the T-Mobile customer. This would address the complaints of video providers, since only edge providers who actually chose to be throttled would have their videos throttled.

But the best option would be to make Binge On opt-in (instead of opt-out), with clear disclosure that opting in will throttle all video traffic. Many of T-Mobile’s customers don’t realize that Binge On has this unfortunate side effect?especially since T-Mobile has buried the fact that Binge On throttles all video in their fine print. If T-Mobile were to be clear with its customers that enabling Binge On meant all of their video would be throttled, and then ask them whether or not they wanted to opt in, then they could obtain meaningful customer consent.

As an aside, it’s also obvious that T-Mobile is capable of recognizing video streams from providers who aren’t enrolled in Binge On. Given that, we don’t understand why they require providers to enroll in Binge On in order to get their videos zero-rated. If T-Mobile truly wants to be neutral, then all throttled videos should be exempt from customer data caps.  

Of course, this entire argument operates on the assumption that data caps are necessary on mobile networks, since zero-rating only makes sense when there’s a cap for data to be exempt from. And even if you accept that data caps are necessary, whether or not zero-rating is a neutral practice is a completely separate question. Either way, however, we don’t think exemptions from data caps should necessarily be heralded as pro-customer moves—but these are topics for a separate blog post.

The FCC Should Investigate

In the meantime, if T-Mobile doesn’t change its behavior then it’s up to the FCC to follow up. After all, the net neutrality rules aren’t just words on a piece of paper—they’re regulations meant to protect Internet users from precisely this sort of abuse of power by ISPs. We believe the FCC should regulate lightly, but our research suggests this is a significant consumer harm that runs afoul of well-established open internet principles. The FCC can and should step in and hold T-Mobile accountable.

  • 1. To be fair, T-Mobile’s plans don’t have traditional data caps—they just slow down to “2G” speeds once customers exceed a certain amount of data. With that said, a limit on data is still a limit on data—and we’ll call it a cap for the purposes of this post.
  • 2. We determined this by comparing the hash of a downloaded video file to the hash of the same file on the server; in all of our tests, the hash was identical.

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Captured ISIS Terrorist Admits Stolen Oil Arrives in Turkey Daily - Mon, 04/01/2016 - 21:20
Captured ISIS Terrorist Admits Stolen Oil Arrives in Turkey Daily
by Stephen Lendman
Russian surveillance footage, independent investigative journalists and others exposed Erdogan’s oil smuggling racket, complicit with ISIS, refining and selling stolen Syrian and Iraqi oil on the black market - Israel a key beneficiary.
Captured ISIS militant Mahmud Ghazi Tatar provided more evidence of illegal Turkish oil operations. His “commander told us that the group sells fuel to Turkey,” he explained.
Income funds ISIS terrorist activities. “(O)il trucks crossing into Turkey every day carry crude oil, as well as petrol,” Tatar said. Militants have “enough oil to last them a long time” - generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue annually along with other lucrative illicit operations supplying more, up to an estimated billion dollars annually.
Oil is sold through intermediary businessmen and traders, names not revealed. It’s well known Erdogan, his son, and high-level Turkish officials are involved, profiting hugely from smuggling operations.
ISIS gets “lots of supplies from Turkey and Arab countries,” Tatar explained. Ankara’s denials ring hollow. It supplies training, weapons, munitions, toxic agents and safe haven areas for ISIS and other takfiri terrorists to move freely cross-border to and from Syria and Iraq.
Former Iraqi national security advisor Mowaffak Al-Rubaie said Turkey is heavily involved in smuggling and selling stolen Syrian and Iraqi oil.
A Norwegian daily Klassekampen report prepared at the request of Norway’s Foreign Ministry with Rystad Energy, an independent oil and gas consulting firm, revealed large amounts of oil smuggled from ISIS-controlled Syrian and Iraqi areas into Turkey - for black market resale at low prices.
The whole world knows what’s going on despite Western officials and complicit media turning a blind eye to high crime.
ISIS’ strength and ability to flourish depends on foreign support - from Washington, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and other complicit nations.
As long as it continues, efforts to combat its scourge will continue longterm - including in new areas where it establishes footholds.
Putin explained ISIS gets direct aid from around 40 countries, including G20 ones. 
His main concern is preventing its spread to Russia - why he intervened in Syria at the request of its government, making a major difference on the ground, ready to aid other regional nations if asked, urging world unity against a common scourge.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

West Largely Silent About Erdogan's War on Kurds - Mon, 04/01/2016 - 20:13
West Largely Silent About Erdogan’s War on Kurds
by Stephen Lendman
They’re ravaged the way America treated is native people for centuries, exterminating the vast majority of Indian tribe members.
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members are marked for elimination. Earlier attempts for peace collapsed in July. Open warfare followed - Ankara using tanks, artillery, warplanes, attack helicopters and thousands of combat troops in heavily populated areas. Civilians suffer most.
Devastating war on Kurds shows no signs of abating. Urban areas are bloody battlefields. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced.
Combat areas are off-limits to journalists to suppress reports of horrific ongoing carnage. Corpses piling up in streets attest to Erdogan’s brutality.
Cities and towns affected are trapped under virtual siege - without food, electricity, medical supplies and other essentials. Erdogan vowed to eliminate PKK members, freedom fighters wanting local autonomy or independence in Turkey’s southeast, wrongfully designated terrorists.
Erdogan minced no words saying “(y)ou will be annihilated in (your) houses, (your) buildings, (your) ditches which you have dug. Our security forces will continue this fight until it has been completely cleansed” - no matter the cost in human lives and suffering.
Trapped civilians say tanks and artillery fire all day long. They have nowhere to hide. They’re dying in their homes. Their schools, hospitals and vital infrastructure were destroyed. Kurdish areas resemble war-torn Syria and Iraq - endless devastating conflict with no relief.
Human Rights Watch Turkish researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb blasted what she called “ignor(ing) or cover(ing) up what’s happening” to Kurdish communities. Erdogan’s operation has “no limits. (There is) no law.”
One Kurdish citizen spoke for others, saying “(t)he east of the country is burning, and it feels like no one” notices or cares.
Western leaders able to intervene responsibly support their Turkish ally, a valued NATO member, a gangster state masquerading as a legitimate nation run by a megalomaniacal leader bent on eliminating opponents and critics to his iron-fisted rule - risking greater regional conflict, including direct confrontation with Russia.
Turkey’s General Staff said hundreds of PKK members were killed since late December alone. Dargecit businesswoman Melek Gumus said her warehouses and everything inside were destroyed.
“(T)he whole district is like this,” she said. “We were stuck at home for 20 days, and there was nothing to eat. It was torture for everybody.”
“We want freedom. We want peace. We don’t want them to be unfair to us.” Turkish forces are destroying everything. Civilians are targeted like militants.
Snipers man rooftops. Anyone going out after curfew risks being shot. Thousands lost everything. People have no work, many without essentials to survive.
Over the weekend, hundreds of Berliners marched carrying signs and banners, saying: “Stop the war against the Kurdish people!” Protesters compared Erdogan’s ruling AKP party to ISIS.
Kurds are Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, representing up to 25% of the population, according to some estimates, ruthlessly treated for decades.
Earlier, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Ankara for committing high crimes against its Kurdish people since the Turkish state’s 1923 creation - including massacres, extrajudicial executions, torture, forced displacements, arbitrary arrests, ravaged towns and villages, as well as disappeared journalists and regime critics.
Erdogan pursues his own agenda while pretending to be combating ISIS in Syria and Iraq. He’s a major sponsor of terrorism, representing pure evil.
Selahattin Demirtas co-chairs the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party of Turkey (HDP) - founded in 2012, combining several left-wing groups - including supporters of equal rights for women and gays, secularists, anti-capitalists and environmentalists, putting it at odds with Erdogan’s agenda.
He accused HDP of fronting for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Last week, Ankara’s public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into Demirtas, relating to his support for Kurdish self-determination in southeastern Turkey.
The Kurdish Democratic Society Congress (DTK) passed a resolution demanding local autonomy as the only way to resolve things responsibly.
“The rightful resistance mounted by our people against the policies that degrade the Kurdish problem, is essentially a demand and struggle for local self-governance and local democracy,” the resolution said.
Demirtas expressed support, saying “regional autonomy offers a very important opportunity for everyone in terms of living together” - putting him at direct odds with Erdogan’s agenda.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accused him of “treason” for meeting with Sergey Lavrov in Moscow last month, publicly denouncing Turkey’s downing of a Russian bomber in Syrian airspace.
He forthrightly opposes Erdogan’s lawlessness, calling him and ruling party officials “murderers. Your hand is bloody. Blood has splattered from your face, your mouth to your nails and all over you. You are the biggest supporters of terror.”
Erdogan tolerates no opposition or critics, Demirtas a likely marked man. Perhaps he and his party officials are designated for elimination as part of Erdogan’s all-out war on Turkey’s Kurds.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Riyadh Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Iran - Mon, 04/01/2016 - 20:00
Riyadh Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Iran
by Stephen Lendman
On Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran - using the pretext of angry Iranians storming its embassy, expressing outrage over Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s extrajudicial execution.
Iranian diplomats were given 48 hours to leave the kingdom. Saudi ones returned home from Iran over the weekend. 
Tehran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian said “Riyadh cannot cover up its big mistake of executing a religious man by announcing cut relations with Tehran.”
No Saudi diplomats or staff were injured during the embassy storming incident. Police restored order and cordoned off the building to assure security and safety.
“Iran is one of the safest countries in the region, and all diplomats are fulfilling their responsibilities in full security,” Andollahian stressed.
Saudi rulers support regional terrorism and instability. Executing Sheikh Nimr is their latest outrage, largely ignored by Western leaders other than meaningless pro forma statements.
On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said “(w)hile the extremist and Takfiri terrorists have deprived the regional and world nations of security and tranquility and threaten certain regional governments' stability and existence, execution of a figure like Sheikh Nimr who didn’t have any instrument but words to pursue his political and religious goals merely shows (Riyadh’s) depth of imprudence and irresponsibility.”
Longstanding Saudi/Iranian relations are tenuous at best, each nation pursuing polar opposite regional objectives - Riyadh supporting terrorism and instability allied with Washington’s imperial agenda, Tehran forthrightly for diplomacy to resolve ongoing conflicts.
Riyadh previously cut ties with Iran in 1988 after protesters attacked its embassy. In 1991, they were restored but remained irreconcilably strained.
Tehran remain justifiably angry over last September’s Mecca hajj pilgrimage stampede - strongly criticizing Riyadh’s handling of the incident. Over 450 Iranians died.
The kingdom is the epicenter of regional state-sponsored terrorism, instability and contempt for human rights, continuing to exacerbate tensions. 
A war of words risks something more serious in a part of the world ridden with endless conflicts. Jubeir recklessly accused Tehran of creating “terrorist cells” in the kingdom.
Reuters quoted an anonymous source, accusing Tehran irresponsibly of “thumb(ing) (its) nose at the West…continu(ing) to sponsor terrorism and launch ballistic missiles and no one is doing anything about it. The Saudis really don’t care if they anger the White House” by severing relations.
They’ve been irreconcilably hostile for years. Riyadh’s support for regional terrorism, endless conflicts and instability makes normal relations impossible.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Report From the Student Privacy Frontlines: 2015 in Review - Mon, 04/01/2016 - 09:51

This year the fight to protect student privacy hit a boiling point with our Spying on Students campaign, an effort to help students, parents, teachers, and school administrators learn more about the privacy issues surrounding school-issued devices and cloud services. We're also working to push vendors like Google to put students and their parents back in control of students’ private information.

We launched a nationwide survey of schools’ practices and disclosure policies; provided answers to questions about the legal and technological landscape related to student privacy; and created a wealth of resources, including guides for adjusting privacy settings on mobile devices.

We also filed an FTC complaint against Google, hoping to rein in the company’s overbroad data mining of student personal information and its violation of the Student Privacy Pledge. Our investigation found that school-issued Google Chromebooks upload private student data to the cloud by default, including web history. Chromebooks also track students on school-assigned accounts when they navigate to Google-owned services that aren’t segregated as “educational” (non-"educational" products include Google Maps, Google Books, and YouTube). We’re asking the FTC to stop Google from spying on students, and to order the deletion of student data that has been gathered and stored for no legitimate educational purpose.

Beyond EFF’s activities, others took important steps in creating state-specific legislation around educational data. The Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington, DC, found that in 2015 alone, 46 states introduced 182 bills—resulting in 15 states with 28 new laws—to protect student privacy.

At the federal level, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is nearing reauthorization, but failed to include significant student privacy protections or amendments to close the loopholes in existing federal law governing student privacy, according to Education Week. And the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act of 2015 would help protect
the privacy and security of student data in the hands of third parties, but has yet to even be reported by the committee, let alone brought to the House or Senate floor for a vote.

Copyright: Data Quality Campaign; reproduced with permission

We also saw increased attention to student privacy from educational projects, like LearnSphere, a data infrastructure “designed to enable educators […] to easily collaborate over shared data,” while collecting minimal student information and placing a heavy emphasis on anonymity. Time will tell how well the project safeguards student privacy, but its cautionary approach is a step in the right direction. That concern was echoed in an ACLU report released in the fall, which found that “student information systems make it easy for schools to share sensitive student records, including disciplinary information and immigration status, with third-party corporations." Another study this year found that, of the 31 Pennsylvania school districts surveyed, “just 11 had documented procedures for checking that software and applications didn’t violate student privacy before teachers assigned them to students.” 

As more and more school districts around the country adopt digital devices like laptops and tablets—8.9 million devices were sold to K-12 schools and districts this year, half of them Google Chromebooks—protecting children’s personal data remains of paramount importance. Moving into 2016, we hope to see more aggressive legislation to protect student personal information, and to see parents, teachers, administrators, and tech vendors unite to defend student privacy.

This article is part of our Year In Review series; read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2015. Like what you're reading? EFF is a member-supported nonprofit, powered by donations from individuals around the world. Join us today and defend free speech, privacy, and innovation.

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5 Major Hacks of the Year: 2015 in review - Mon, 04/01/2016 - 09:38

Chances are that you didn't go a few days without hearing the word "cyber" last year. It's for good reason. It was a year of data breaches and hacks, impacting the public and private sector alike. Congress used some of these incidents to fear-monger and pass fundamentally flawed legislation, chiefly the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), that didn't even address the basic problem of poor security practices. So as 2015 comes to a close, we thought we would revisit a few.

OPM Hack and Breaches Upon Breaches

Perhaps the most attention-worthy of data breaches of 2015 was the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) hack. OPM was the victim of a breach that exposed the private information of 21 million Americans. But personal data was not the only thing on display—the OPM hack was a perfect demonstration of the government's own weak cyber security practices, and the inadequacy in remedies for individuals affected by the breach.

There were other significant incidents affecting the private sector, most notably Ashley Madison, Anthem, Experian, Hello Kitty, HSBC, Securus Technologies, and VTech.

Android Stagefright

Our personal devices weren't safe either. Researchers discovered a massive vulnerability in the Android operating system affecting millions of devices. The vulnerability, known as Stagefright, was contained deep in the code that handles processing and displaying images. The especially horrific part was that this vulnerability could be triggered simply by sending the victim a specially crafted text message. Google has since released a patch fixing the vulnerability, but many devices could still remain affected and unpatched.

Botnet of Things

The Internet! It's everywhere! More and more household (and non-household) items are being connected to the Internet, a phenomenon known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Unfortunately, with this explosion of Internet-connected devices came equally explosive security vulnerabilities. Hackers demonstrated the ability to remotely control Jeep vehicles, taking over the steering wheel and even disabling the brakes.

Security researcher Runa Sandvik discovered that a wifi-enabled smart-rifle could be hacked to cause it to mis-target. Multiple backdoors in consumer routers were found, and even your refrigerator could be vulnerable. Even the Barbie dolls that you bought for your children for Christmas are not safe. We hope that manufacturers of Internet-connected devices will take security more seriously in the coming year.

Hacking Team Hacked

There was a lot of schadenfreude at the news that the Hacking Team, a known purveyor of spying tools to oppressive regimes, was itself targeted by hackers. The notorious Italy-based spyware vendor had its own servers compromised, with attackers releasing over 400GB of internal data and communications with clients. The releases included revelations of dealings with regimes targeting activists and journalists, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Equation Group

Nation-state actors aren't just using off-the-shelf spying tools by outfits like Hacking Team, but are busily developing their own. Researchers at Kaspersky Labs discovered a family of malware, developed by the Equation Group, that could insert itself in the firmware of a number of different brands of hard drives. This malware could then easily persist on that machine, reinstalling itself from a secret sector on the hard drive even if the operating system was completely reinstalled. Due to the complexity of the malware, it is likely that the Equation Group is state-sponsored, and Reuters quoted anonymous former employees of NSA who claimed that the malware was directly developed by the Agency.

There were more examples of state-sponsored malware attacks. One was a spear-phishing campaign which masqueraded as EFF itself. Another one was discovered on the devices of the late Alberto Nisman, an Argentine prosecutor, and linked by Citizenlab to a larger malware campaign in South America.

State-sponsored malware and attack campaigns highlight the terrifying capabilities of nation-state actors and reinforce the importance of security best practices and rejecting backdoors.

This article is part of our Year In Review series; read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2015. Like what you're reading? EFF is a member-supported nonprofit, powered by donations from individuals around the world. Join us today and defend free speech, privacy, and innovation.

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Categories: Aggregated News

US Evacuated ISIS Fighters from Ramadi - Mon, 04/01/2016 - 02:43
US Evacuated ISIS Fighters from Ramadi
by Stephen Lendman
Before Iraqi forces retook Ramadi last week, Washington was accused of evacuating around 2,000 ISIS terrorists from the city.
Iraqi People’s Mobilization Shiite militia umbrella group commander Hashd al-Shaabi said America delayed the liberation of Ramadi and Fallujah to enable “evacuat(ion) of (ISIS) ringleaders (and fighters) secretly to unknown places” by helicopter.
Fort Russ reported an unnamed high-ranking Iraqi official, saying “(o)ur signals and human intelligence informed the Americans…about ISIS movement(s).”
“We were not allowed to engage against these, and no one in the government can contradict the Americans…The US ordered Baghdad to (permit) free passage (for) ISIS and to reduce the Iranian influence…”
Washington ordered Baghdad to replace heads of antiterrorism, intelligence, military security services and the interior ministry. It wants a US-friendly team serving its interests on the ground.
So far, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi hasn’t requested Russian air support, caving to US demands, even though he knows it’s supporting ISIS and wants Iraq balkanized into a Kurdish north, Shia south and Sunni center.
Washington supports the illegal presence of Turkish forces in northern Iraq. A French intelligence official said “(t)he Middle East will never be the same as before.”
“What is becoming more clear now is that ISIS is a (tool) used by (powerful) players for their agenda and plans to” redraw the regional map.
Death, destruction and human misery haunt millions of Iraqis. Washington’s imperial agenda bears full responsibility.
A UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported 7,500 Iraqis killed and another 15,000 injured in 2015 - a likely gross undercount given raging conflict in much of the country.
Casualties are likely multiples greater than special UN representative for the Secretary-General (SRSG) Jan kubis indicated, saying:
“The year 2015 has seen thousands of Iraqis killed and injured as a result of conflict and terrorism. This is unacceptable. The Iraqi people have every right to live in peace and tranquility. The United Nations continues to deplore this continuing loss of life.”
Ban Ki-moon is a US-appointed imperial tool, failing his sworn mandate “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” oppose force and uphold fundamental human rights.
He’s an instrument of US foreign policy, notably its endless imperial wars. The long-suffering people of Iraq and other troubled countries have no ally in the Secretary-General. He’s done nothing to serve their interests.
Scores die or suffer severe injuries daily in Iraq from violence alone, at times hundreds, civilians mostly affected.
UNAMI admits it’s impossible to verify the precise casualty count, much higher than official reports. No count is kept on numbers perishing from lack of food, water, necessary medical care or overall deprivation.
Nothing in prospect suggests relief, not as long as Washington continues pursuing its imperial agenda, ruthlessly disregarding human lives and welfare.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Russian Sanctions Biting Turkey's Economy - Mon, 04/01/2016 - 02:27
Russian Sanctions Biting Turkey’s Economy
by Stephen Lendman
Erdogan’s act of war against Russia is proving costly. Sanctions Putin imposed bans or restricts Turkish organizations from conducting certain types of activity in Russia.
Effective January 1, Russian employers are prohibited from hiring Turkish nationals. Job security for current Turkish employees is uncertain.
Tourism accounting for 11% of Ankara’s economy is harmed. Charter flights to Turkey are banned. Travel agencies suspended tours. Millions of Russian tourists aren’t coming. Nor are around a million visiting for business and other reasons.
Russian visits were facilitated by visa-free travel, now cancelled. Loss of billions of dollars of trade and investment means harder economic times for Turkey.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said some current and planned joint projects are frozen or cancelled - including the major Turkish Stream pipeline project to deliver Russian natural gas through Turkey to Europe and planned construction of one or more nuclear power plants.
Turkish fruits, vegetables, poultry and other foodstuffs are banned. Lost revenues from frozen joint projects and prohibited new ones are biting. Erdogan picked the wrong fight with the wrong target.
Russia was Ankara’s second largest trading partner in 2014, worth over $30 billion annually. Turkey gets over half its natural gas from Russia. It’s the fourth largest importer of Russian oil and related products.
Economics Professor Erhan Aslanoglu estimates Turkey’s economy may lose around $11 billion this year, more if sanctions continue longer-term or new ones imposed.
If Russia slows, delays or stops natural gas deliveries, the impact will be potentially huge, Aslanoglu explained. Moscow intends replacing Turkish imports with products from Central Asia, Iran and Morocco.
Putin’s promise of “serious consequences” for Ankara following Erdogan ordering the downing of a Russia Su-24 bomber in Syrian airspace is coming home to roost.
He’s losing plenty with little to gain from his recklessness. Confronting Russia belligerently is a fool’s act, clearly complicit with Washington. Nothing in prospect suggests normalizing relations.
Putin accusing Erdogan of back-stabbing him wasn’t a statement made lightly. Mending fences with him in charge is out-of-the-question. 
He’s an untrustworthy rogue actor, supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, complicit with Washington’s imperial agenda, along with waging war on his Kurdish people and imprisoning or murdering regime critics.
Putin is a master chess player, wisely deciding the price he’d pay, hitting him in the economy where it hurts most, giving him pause about challenging the Russian bear - maybe sowing seeds of rebellion among millions of Turks against his despotic rule.
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.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 



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