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Trump Asks Congress to Investigate Obama Over Wiretapping

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Mon, 06/03/2017 - 03:59

Trump Asks Congress to Investigate Obama Over Wiretapping
by Stephen Lendman
On Sunday, his press secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement, saying reports “concerning potentially politically motivated investigations immediately ahead of the 2016 election are very troubling.”
“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016.”
He added neither the White House or Trump will comment further “until such oversight is conducted.
A previous article discussed two reported FISA court requests by the Obama administration last year to monitor Trump’s electronic communications - the first in June denied, the second more narrowly drawn, approved in October.
Obama’s spokesman lied, saying “(n)either President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen.” 
Pervasive spying occurred on his watch - targeting foreign leaders, political enemies, whistleblowers exposing government wrongdoing, ordinary Americans, and Trump if hard evidence proves it.
FISA and other courts require probable cause to issue wiretapping authorization. None revealed so far justifies monitoring Trump’s communications - no apparent probable cause related to criminal wrongdoing, Russia or for any other reason.
Using executive authority against political opponents is abuse of power. If an inquiry reveals Trump’s claim about Obama wiretapping Trump Tower is accurate, potentially he could face charges in a court of law.
On Sunday, deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump is determined to get to the bottom of what happened, adding:
“…I think he’s going off of information that he’s seen that has led him to believe that this is a very real potential.”
“And if it is, this is the greatest overreach and the greatest abuse of power that I think we have ever seen and a huge attack on democracy itself. And the American people have a right to know if this took place.”
If Trump already has hard evidence, he should reveal it. His serious accusation requires proof to show it’s valid.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

US War on Humanity

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Mon, 06/03/2017 - 03:58
US War on Humanity
by Stephen Lendman
Endless US wars rage in multiple theaters, Trump continuing Bush/Cheney/Obama aggression against sovereign independent countries posing no threat to America or any other country.
Civilians are harmed most in all wars. America and Israel consider them legitimate targets, massacring them mercilessly, accountability not forthcoming.
The Pentagon admitted to killing 220 civilians in Iraq and Syria since bombings began in 2014 - a flagrant insult to many thousands indiscriminately massacred by US warplanes in both countries.
A CENTCOM statement lied, saying “(a)lthough the Coalition takes extraordinary efforts to strike military targets in a manner that minimizes the risk of civilian casualties, in some incidents casualties are unavoidable.”
Advancing America’s imperium alone matters, mass slaughter and destruction considered a small price to pay. Pentagon investigations of US war crimes when conducted are routinely whitewashed. Imperial powers never say they’re sorry.
Last year, Amnesty International spuriously claimed only around 300 civilians were killed by US airstrikes in Syria. Thousands were massacred, countless numbers injured, many maimed for life, Iraqi civilians harmed the same way.
The Airwars monitoring group way undercounted casualties from US-led coalition terror-bombing, claiming at least 2,463.
Colin Powell once notoriously said “(w)e don’t do body counts.” He lied. The Pentagon estimates numbers killed, conceals accurate accounts, reveals what it wants the public to know - truth and full disclosure a nonstarter. 
Last month, a Military Times investigation revealed the Pentagon “failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.”
Concealing what’s going on “calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts,” it said.
Since the 1990s Balkan wars, culminating with the 1999 rape of Yugoslavia, to US aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, complicit with Kiev against Donbass, partnered with Israeli wars on Palestine, millions of civilians perished from wars, related violence, preventable and treatable diseases, starvation and overall deprivation.
Coverup and denial conceal the horrors of US imperial aggression - continuing seamlessly under Trump, America’s latest warrior president.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

Trump's Wiretapping Accusation: Part of a Coup Plot if True

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 05/03/2017 - 23:30

Trump’s Wiretapping Accusation: Part of a Coup Plot if True
by Stephen Lendman
Pre-and-post election, pro-Hillary dark forces, supported by media scoundrels, invented reasons to vilify Trump, wanting him delegitimized.
Failing to prevent his electoral triumph, relentless attacks continue. Targeting key administration officials Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Kellyanne Conway and likely others to come is part of a sinister plot to weaken him - ahead of likely aiming to oust him from office for the wrong reasons.
There’s plenty about his agenda to criticize. Instead the Big Lie about nonexistent Russian US election hacking persists.
So do phony allegations of Trump’s links to Russian officials and banks, able to influence his decision-making.
The fake news dossier about his sexual escapades in Moscow sounds like a grade B Hollywood film plot. Endless accusations persist.
Obama denying he ordered Trump Tower wiretapped through his spokesman rang hollow - a statement saying “(n)either President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen.”
Edward Snowden revealed extensive NSA electronic surveillance. So did former Office of Naval Intelligence/Defense Intelligence Agency/NSA analyst Russell Tice.
In December 2005, he accused the NSA and DIA of unconstitutionally wiretapping US citizens. He got national attention, saying: 
"Everyone at NSA knew what they were doing was illegal, because it’s drilled into our heads over and over that it’s against NSA policy, that you do not do that. The choice is to speak out and get fired." 
Bush administration officials sanctioned it. So did Obama’s. Lawless spying is pervasive with or without court authorized warrants - including on foreign leaders, political enemies, ordinary Americans, journalists, and Donald Trump if he’s got evidence proving it.
Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes lied, tweeting “no president can order a wiretap.”
They do it legally through FISA court warrants obtained for reasons of national security and illegally, likely more of the latter than the former unaccountably.
Senator Ben Sasse (R. NE) issued a statement, saying “(t)he president today made some very serious allegations, and the informed citizens that a republic requires deserve more information.”
“If there were wiretaps of then-candidate Trump’s organization or campaign, then it was either with FISA Court authorization or without such authorization.”
“If without, the president should explain what sort of wiretap it was and how he knows this. It is possible that he was illegally tapped.”
If his allegation is true, evidence in FISA court records will show it. Congress should demand an investigation to prove or disprove his claim.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Trump Abandons Cooperation with Russia

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 05/03/2017 - 23:28
Trump Abandons Cooperation with Russia
by Stephen Lendman
Trump’s campaign rhetoric about cooperating with Russia in combating terrorism was bluster without follow-through, according to AP News, saying:
He’s “telling advisers and allies that he may shelve, at least temporarily, his plan to pursue a deal with Moscow on the Islamic State group and other national security matters, according to administration officials and Western diplomats.”
It doesn’t surprise given longstanding US hostility toward Russia, especially during the Cold War and Putin’s tenure.
Trump stacked his administration with defense, national and homeland security hardliners. Reportedly he intends appointing Russophobe Fiona Hill as White House Director for Europe and Russia. She called Putin a “Mafia Don,” said “(b)lackmail and intimidation are part of his stock and trade.” 
In response to candidate Trump urging better relations with Russia, dark forces launched a campaign to delegitimize him. According to AP, Defense Secretary Mattis and National Security Advisor McMaster want tough anti-Moscow policies continued.
“During his first meeting with National Security Council staff, McMaster described Russia - as well as China - as a country that wants to upend the current world order, according to an administration official who attended the meeting,” said AP.
Key European allies urge no softening in US/Russia relations. Trump administration hardliners falsely claimed Moscow violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The Big Lie about nonexistent “Russian aggression” in Ukraine persists.
“The president and his advisers have yet to settle on a formal approach to Russia, and discussions about how to proceed are still in early phases,” said AP.
After firing Michael Flynn, Trump said “(i)t would be unpopular for a politician to make a deal. It would be much easier for me to be so tough - the tougher I am on Russia,” the better.
After only a few weeks in office, he was co-opted to stay hardline on Russia, China, Iran and other sovereign independent countries - indicating no change in imperial recklessness on his watch.
It’s evident from harsh rhetoric by administration officials, continued US aggression in multiple theaters, including Pentagon terror-bombing of Yemen on the phony pretext of combating al-Qaeda Washington supports.
It’s clear from provocatively maintaining thousands of US-led NATO forces on Russia’s borders, challenging China in its own waters, harsh rhetoric on Iran, and Secretary of State Tillerson saying he’ll seek “transition to democratic rule in Venezuela” - code language for plotting regime change.
Hoped for responsible change under Trump was always wishful thinking. Stepping back from the brink didn’t happen.
Endless wars continue, maybe new ones planned. The threat of direct confrontation with Russia and China remain. Trump’s campaign pledge to combat terrorism was meaningless bluster.
On Saturday, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will continue combating terrorism on its own - the scourge Washington created and supports.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

Banning Howard Zinn's Books

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 05/03/2017 - 23:26

Banning Howard Zinn’s Books
by Stephen Lendman
Best remembered as an activist historian, scholar, educator, and author of numerous books, including his notable “People’s History of the United States,” Zinn died in January 2010 at age 87.
He impacted the lives of his students, readers and many others, including my own. He wrote about history too few others teach, never discussed by major media.
He spoke publicly at hundreds of meetings and rallies. When he began teaching, he said he “could not possibly keep out of the classroom (his) own experiences.” 
He “never concealed (his) political views: (his) detestation of war and militarism, (his) anger at racial inequality, (his) belief in democratic socialism, in a rational and just distribution of the world's wealth.” 
He “made clear (his) abhorrence of any kind of bullying, whether by powerful nations over weaker ones, governments over their citizens, employers over employees, or by anyone, on the Right or the Left, who thinks they have a monopoly on the truth.”
“You can’t be neutral on a moving train,” he said, the title of one of his books, explaining “events are moving in certain deadly directions, and to be neutral means to accept that.”
He anguished over endless wars, violence harming millions, poverty, racism, information control through deception, and political hypocrisy.
Successive US administrations reflect new wine in old bottles. People want change, but feel powerless to achieve it, he explained.
Late in life, he said “(w)herever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians.” 
“They didn’t just moan. They worked, they acted, they organized, they rioted if necessary to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.”
In 2012, the Tucson, Arizona Unified School District banned his “People’s History of the United States,” ordering teachers to stop using it.
Arkansas State Rep. Kim Hendren introduced legislation to ban “study books or any other material authored by or concerning Howard Zinn” from state public and charter schools. 
He raised “concerns about some of the approaches (he took) in the books” he wrote, adding he wants to avoid “indoctrination” of one point of view.
The Zinn Education Project aims “to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula.”
It offered a free copy of Zinn’s People’s History to all Arkansas teachers requesting it. More than 250 asked to receive one.
The book was first published in 1980. Enlightened teachers make it assigned reading. More than two million copies were sold in five editions I’m aware of. I bought copies for myself and others.
Book banning doesn’t stop truth-telling. Zinn’s People’s History and other books he wrote remain popular for good reason.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Trump Increasing US Aggression

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 05/03/2017 - 23:25
Trump Increasing US Aggression
by Stephen Lendman
World conditions remain perilously unsafe under Trump. Hope for something better vanished in the early days of his administration.
Major media reports are always suspect. It remains to be seen if two discussed below prove true.
On Friday, ABC News said “(t)he Pentagon has quietly ordered new commando deployments to the Middle East and North Africa amid an unprecedented series of American airstrikes in Yemen,” according to unnamed counterintelligence officials.
Claims about combating ISIS and al-Qaeda are fabricated. Both terrorist groups and others are US creations, used as imperial foot soldiers in Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere.
An unnamed special forces member was quoted, saying “(w)e don’t know for sure what will happen, but the boys really think we’re going to see a lot of action on this deployment because of the new administration.”
CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel said more US forces may be needed in Syria and Iraq. Visiting Baghdad in late February, Defense Secretary Mattis signaled increased US regional military operations.
Saying deployed forces serve as advisors belies their direct involvement in combat - reported casualties occurring in Iraq and Yemen, perhaps others in Syria kept under wraps.
The NYT reported increased US forces near Manbij, Syria, saying “(p)hotographs of American troops in Stryker vehicles and armored Humvees flying American flags circulated on Saturday on social media.”
Pentagon forces in Syria and other US war theaters are part of America’s imperial project, supporting, not combating terrorism, advancing aggression, not deterring it, The Times failed to explain.
Battlefield successes in Syria by government forces, greatly aided by Russian aerial operations, concern Washington.
Commander of US forces in Syria and Iraq General Stephen Townsend warned about government troops advancing to within “rifle range” of (moderate terrorist) Arab fighters supported by Washington.
Russian General Sergei Rudskoi said “Syrian armed…units have been deployed to the territory held by Kurdish self-defense forces on March 3” - close to where Turkish troops are operating illegally.
Government forces and Russian air power continue defeating the US-backed scourge of terrorism in Syria. Increased Pentagon regional militarism may slow progress.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

Trump Tower Wiretapped by Obama?

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 05/03/2017 - 04:17
Trump Tower Wiretapped by Obama?
by Stephen Lendman
According to Trump, Obama wiretapped Trump tower pre-election, tweeting:
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
“Is it legal for a sitting President to be -‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”
“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”
“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
It’s a serious charge if supported by credible evidence. The White House didn’t elaborate on Trump’s accusations. 
Obama’s spokesman denied them. He lied, saying “(n)either President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen.” Edward Snowden’s revelations proved otherwise.
Wiretapping is illegal unless court authorized - based on credible probable cause to believe communications in question are part of criminal activities.
If not, targeted individuals can sue the perpetrator on Fourth Amendment grounds -  prohibiting unjustifiable searches and seizures, unlawful invasion of privacy, and/or theft of information. The amendment states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
According to HeatStreet.com, an Obama administration Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court request to monitor communications by Trump and his advisors was denied last June.
A second request drawn more narrowly was approved in October, permitting the monitoring of Trump’s electronic communications, focusing on a Trump Tower server, alleging his possible links to Russian banks. If true, the action was legal. If gotten on spurious grounds, it’s raises serious questions.
Wiretapping Trump was likely done to benefit Hillary and leak information about him to the media. 
Investigating possible unlawful or improper Trump ties to Russia, the FBI said it found nothing so far.
Witch-hunt investigations continue to delegitimize and undermine him, no other reasons.
Lots more on this needs to come out. Trump needs to get to the bottom of it and fight back. Given relentless attacks on his legitimacy, his best defense is a good offense.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

Deputy NATO Commander Threatens War on Russia

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sun, 05/03/2017 - 04:02
Deputy NATO Commander Threatens War on Russia
by Stephen Lendman
Neocons infest Europe like Washington, eager for wars, deploring peace and stability, threatening humanity with their militancy.
Appearing on state-owned, operated and controlled BBC, deputy NATO commander General Adrian Bradshaw urged “a grand strategy” to counter a nonexistent Russian threat, including so-called “hybrid war.”
NATO Article 4 calls for members to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence, or security of any” is threatened.
Article 5 considers an armed attack (real or otherwise) against one or more members, an attack against all. Collective self-defense is called for.
Attacking Russia could be the war to end all wars, humanity’s survival threatened like never before.
According to Bradshaw, invoking Article 5 is “a political decision, but it is not out of the question that aggression, blatant aggression, in a domain other than conventional warfare might be deemed” justifiable.
He lied, saying Putin may be trying to return Russia to the height of its power geopolitically. No evidence suggests it. Plenty refutes it.
Bradshaw sounds like a real-life deranged general Jack D. Ripper, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove film character. Militant Russophobia in America and Europe risks unthinkable nuclear war.
“The West must respond by using all the tools at its disposal - economic, political, diplomatic (and) military - to deter (nonexistent) Russian aggression,” said Bradshaw.
He wants Article 5 broadened to include pretexts for war beyond an “armed attack.” No credible evidence suggests Russian cyberattacks on America or other NATO countries.
Washington invents reasons for wars, pressuring other countries to support its aggression. Attacking Russia or China would be madness. Possible catastrophic nuclear war could follow.
A Final Comment
According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump vowed to stop North Korea from testing ICBMs, indicating possible military action against its nuclear capability, along with replacing its government with a US puppet regime - naked aggression if he orders an attack, besides Washington’s illegal wars in multiple other theaters.
He called Pyongyang’s recent missile test “absolutely intolerable.” America, its NATO allies and Israel test their own super-weapons, intending them for offense.
Threatened by the West, North Korea needs a strong defense. Throughout its post-WW II history, it never attacked another country. 
In June 1950, it responded defensively to Truman’s aggression, initially using South Korean forces as US proxies.
Attacking the DPRK today could be devastating for East Asia, potentially affecting far more than the Korean peninsula.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

NY City Council Measure Would Require Transparency for NYPD Electronic Surveillance

eff.org - Sun, 05/03/2017 - 01:13

Two members of the New York City Council introduced a bill on Wednesday, March 1 to enact long overdue transparency rules for the NYPD’s procurement and deployment of electronic surveillance technology. It is the latest in a series of similar proposals around the country modeled on a Silicon Valley law adopted in 2016, which was crafted to impose municipal checks  and balances to constrain on executive power and address the metastasis of surveillance.

The Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, introduced by councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Vanessa Gibson, would require important disclosures by the NYPD before it buys electronic surveillance gear. It would also require an opportunity for public comment on its proposed use policies. 

In particular, the POST Act would require the NYPD to publish a use policy for each electronic surveillance platform that it uses, or that it seeks to use in the future. The policy must explain the applicable supervisory guidelines and potential requirements for court authorization, as well as "[s]afeguards or security measures designed to protect…from unauthorized access" of the sort that has plagued federal surveillance efforts. Each platform’s use policy must also include parameters for data retention, access, use, and dissemination, as well as reports or tests about the technology’s potential impact on health and safety.

Informed by the history of executive circumvention of legal limits on surveillance authorities, the POST Act also provides for ongoing auditing by the NYPD's inspector general. That office was created three years ago when the Council—responding to mounting concerns about police accountability—overrode a veto by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who sought to prevent the Inspector General’s office from being established in the first place.

Because of separation of powers principles embedded in the New York State constitution, NYC's POST act is less demanding than the Silicon Valley law on which it was based. Specifically, the NYC proposal lacks a legislative veto over proposed surveillance platforms. The transparency rules proposed in NYC would, however, represent a big step forward from the current baseline.

Transparency, relative to the prevailing practice of secret procurement and unaccountable use, could be effectively transformative. Noting a history of secrecy precluding effective oversight by Councilmembers, Faiza Patel & Michael Price from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU law school explain:

The POST Act is sensitive to national security and public safety needs and does not require the police to stop using cutting-edge tools. Nor does the bill undermine operational secrecy.

It simply requires disclosure of big-picture information about new technologies and their permissible uses — before they hit the street….

New York needs greater transparency, oversight and democratic accountability for local policing. The POST Act is an essential step in that direction that will promote both public safety and the rights of every New Yorker.

Beyond helping secure the rights of New Yorkers, the POST Act could also embolden reform in Congress, which has settled for legislating in the dark by repeatedly authorizing domestic intelligence powers without conducting meaningful oversight.

With a key statutory pillar of the NSA’s Internet spying programs set to expire at the end of 2017, municipal campaigns challenging the ubiquity of surveillance are especially timely this year. As the legislative overseers of the nation’s largest police department, the New York City Council will have a chance to show Congress how to do its job.


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Tit for Tat: Trump Hits Back

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 04/03/2017 - 23:49
Tit for Tat: Trump Hits Back
by Stephen Lendman
Envoys represent their countries abroad, at the UN, or as ambassadors-at-large, serving in various capacities. In foreign capitals, they’re liaisons between their home and host nation.
Their duties involve understanding policies of the nations they’re assigned to, including as they unfold daily, providing important information to their governments back home. 
Interfacing with host country officials is part of their job - including diplomats, legislators, and administration officials to the highest levels. 
Diplomacy works this way. Bilateral relations depend on it. Treaties and other important business can’t be negotiated any other way.
Democrats demanding AG Jeff Sessions’ head for meeting Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, is all about delegitimizing and undermining Trump, a political act, wanting him ousted or too weak to govern effectively.
He struck back, tweeting “I hereby demand a second investigation, after (Senator Chuck) Schumer, of (Rep. Nancy) Pelosi for her close ties to Russia, and lying about it.”
Separately, he tweeted “(w)e should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!”
In September 2003, Schumer welcomed Vladimir Putin to New York on the occasion of Lukoil opening a gas station in Manhattan. 
They had coffee and donuts together. A photo showed them smiling. Schumer said “(w)hen I showed the president of Russia a Krispy Kreme doughnut and he ate it and said it was good, that was one of the more surreal moments I’ve had in politics.”
Pelosi lied when asked if she ever met Kislyak, saying “(n)ot with this Russian ambassador, no.”
A photo showed her and Rep. Steny Hoyer meeting with then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak in 2010.
Numerous congressional members, US diplomats and bureaucrats met with Russian officials over the years, no fuss made of it. Nations deal with each other this way.
Kislyak has been Russia’s ambassador to Washington since 2008. He’s no doubt met many US officials, Democrats and Republicans alike.
On March 2, Senator Dianne Feinstein said “I believe (Kislyak has) been in my office from time to time.” No doubt many others on Capitol Hill. 
It’s his job, what his US counterparts do in their host countries - including Washington’s ambassador to Russia John Tefft.
Sergey Lavrov commented, saying “Kislyak is accused of talking to American politicians who were in opposition to the administration of then-President Barack Obama.” 
“That is the essence of these accusations, to be honest.  We don’t want to and we won’t ape (what’s going on in Washington and America’s deplorable media).”  
“If such a principle has been applied to scrutinize activity of (ambassador) John Tefft and his contacts, we could see quite an ‘amusing’ picture.”
“Relationships are maintained in the form of meetings, talks, contacts with both executive officials and with politicians, public figures, non-governmental organizations. This practice has never been disputed.”
The firestorm is part of continuing efforts to vilify Trump for the wrong reasons, not the right ones. 
It reflects America’s deplorable state no tinkering around the edges can fix - revolutionary change urgently needed. At stake is humanity’s survival.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

Does Trump Want War or Peace in Syria?

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 04/03/2017 - 23:29
Does Trump Want War or Peace in Syria?
by Stephen Lendman
Syria is Obama’s war. It’s now Trump’s. His actions belie his rhetoric so far.
Campaigning last October, he said “I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS and Iran is killing ISIS.” A good thing.
Last month, he said he’ll establish “safe zones” and have Gulf states pay for them. Syria justifiably rejects the idea. So does Russia without Assad’s authorization.
Last month, he said a role for America to defeat terrorism in Syria is only possible with his government’s approval, as part of rapprochement with Russia, adding:
“We are here. We are the Syrians. We own this country as Syrians, nobody else. So you cannot defeat the terrorism without cooperation with the people and the government of any country.”
He insisted Washington lift illegally imposed sanctions as a first step toward a working relationship. 
Instead, the Trump administration, along with Britain and France, introduced a draft Security Council resolution for new ones - responsibly vetoed by Russia and China.
Washington so far failed to participate in two rounds of Astana, Kazakhstan peace talks, as well as Geneva IV negotiations. It’s unknown if it’ll get involved when they’re resumed later this month.
America’s absence shows it wants war, not peace. So do continued terror-bombings of Syrian infrastructure, massacring civilians, and aiding “moderate” terrorists wanting Assad’s government toppled.
Maybe support for ISIS and al-Nusra continue covertly, airdropping them heavy weapons and other material support like earlier.
America can’t be trusted, consistently saying one thing, doing another. In late December, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan minced no words, saying:
“We have never coordinated our actions with the Americans. We will never cooperate with them” on Syria or Iraq. Along with its so-called “coalition” partners, it “has no real intentions” to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups, aiding them instead.
On Friday, Sergey Lavrov accused America, Britain and France of “poison(ing) the atmosphere of” Syria peace talks.
“Without any prior negotiating procedure, (they) hurriedly submitted” a draft Security Council resolution, wanting new illegal sanctions imposed on Syria based on fabricated claims of chemical weapons use, despite no evidence suggesting it - acting “with full understanding that (it) would be vetoed.”
The co-authors want the Security Council “split” on this issue, Lavrov stressed. Irresponsibly acting during Geneva peace talks indicates wanting them undermined.
Trump administration hawks make policy decisions on defense, national and homeland security. They’re warriors, not peacemakers, endless wars likely to continue. Maybe they have a new major one in mind.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

The NYT War on Truth

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 04/03/2017 - 22:48
The NYT War on Truth
by Stephen Lendman
On issues mattering most, The Times features fake news, not the real thing.
On March 1, its editors lied  headlining “Russia Sides With Chemical Weapons,” saying:
“Russia proved again on Tuesday that there is no crime heinous enough to make it turn against Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. It vetoed a resolution before the United Nations Security Council that would have punished Syria for using chemical weapons.”
Fact: Throughout six years of Obama’s war, now Trump’s, using terrorists as imperial foot soldiers against a sovereign independent state threatening no one, claims about Assad using chemical weapons were fabricated - bogus accusations without evidence.
Fact: Plenty of clear evidence proves ISIS, al-Nusra and other US-supported terrorists used CWs numerous times - their elements trained in their use by Pentagon contractors in Turkey and Jordan, Saudi Arabia at times supplying toxins.
Times editors: “The Kremlin’s decision was in keeping with President Vladimir Putin’s vigorous support of the Syrian military in a six-year-long war that has killed half a million people.”
Fact: No mention by Times editors about Washington’s full responsibility for mass slaughter and destruction - NATO, Israel, and other rogue allies sharing blame.
Fact: Syria was invaded by US-supported terrorists, recruited from scores of countries, trained in Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere, responsible for horrific atrocities, mostly against defenseless civilians.
Times editors: “Although Moscow had made clear in advance that it would veto the resolution, (Washington), Britain and France were right to insist on a vote and to expose Russia’s moral bankruptcy.”
Fact: As usual, Times editors turned truth on its head, ignoring US-orchestrated aggression, vilifying Russia’s righteous mission.
Times editors: Mr. Putin’s argument that the resolution interfered with cease-fire negotiations between the Syrian government and the rebels was…not credible.”
Fact: The resolution was introduced to undermine peace talks, apparently wanting endless war continued.
Separately, Times editors claimed White House signals give “autocrats…a green light” to do what they please. What rubbish!
Most of America’s allies are rogue states, alliances formed long before Trump’s ascension to power - notably key NATO ones, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states, partners in US high crimes.
Maybe Times editors forgot.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

America's Major Media: A Cesspool of Misinformation

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 04/03/2017 - 22:23
America’s Major Media: A Cesspool of Misinformation
by Stephen Lendman
The late actor/writer/comedian Ernie Kovacs once said he knew why television is called a medium - “because it’s neither rare nor well done.” 
The same applies to so-called print journalism - like television, featuring fake news, not the real thing.
The deplorable state of America’s media keeps reaching for new lows of misreporting, manipulating readers and viewers, suppressing hard truths, spreading misinformation on vital world and national issues.
At her weekly press briefing, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blasted CNN in response to its irresponsibly calling Moscow’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, “a top (Kremlin) spy and recruiter of spies” - citing the usual unnamed US officials, past and currently.
She called US major media reports “disgrace(ful), a manifestation of media vandalism,” adding:
“I have a question. Is it rock bottom which the US media has reached or is there an even greater depth for them to dive.” 
“They crossed the line far beyond the professional ethics and their competence. They accuse and judge by simply fabricating false information.”
After the briefing, CNN International reporter Matthew Chance approached Zakharova. She refused to answer his questions, saying “Mr. Kislyak is a well-known, world class diplomat, who was a deputy minister of foreign affairs in Russia.”
“He has communicated with his American colleagues for decades in different fields, and CNN accused him of being a Russian spy, or recruiting spies? My god -stop spreading lies and false news.” 
“This is good advice for CNN: Please stop spreading lies and false news.” She walked away with no further comment.
On air, Chance hyped misinformation about nonexistent Russian US election hacking, adding Zakharova “pushed back strongly on the idea that the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, was in any way related to espionage.”
Separately, he tweeted “Russian officials and @realDonaldTrump us(e) similar (lies and fake news) language to deride coverage.”
Only when it’s true, he failed to explain. CNN is cable television’s leading proliferator of fake news - a disgrace to journalism the way it’s supposed to be.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

Trump's Director of National Intelligence Pick Is on the Wrong Side of Surveillance

eff.org - Sat, 04/03/2017 - 06:51

President Donald Trump’s pick for Director of National Intelligence has laid out his vision for the country’s surveillance, and it’s not good for technology users.

In his confirmation in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee this week, former-Sen. Dan Coats, a Republican from Indiana, said there need to be continued conversations about legal authorities to undermine encryption and called reauthorizing an authority that the government uses to spy on Americans’ Internet activities without a warrant his “top legislative priority.”

 

Government Surveillance

Coats made it clear that reauthorizing Section 702—which was created by the FISA Amendments Act and expires at the end of this year—is high on his to-do list. In answers to written questions prior to the hearing as well as during the hearing, Coats repeatedly praised the surveillance authority, calling it “a critical tool” and agreed when Sen. John Cornyn quoted FBI Director James Comey’s description of the authority as the “crown jewels of the intelligence community.”

He also repeatedly defended the programs under Section 702—which includes the NSA’s warrantless copying and searching of Americans’ Internet activity—as being “designed to go after foreign bad guys” and subject to “a robust oversight regime.”

We’ve long argued that the surveillance programs under Section 702 are not targeted, do not have sufficient oversight, and violate Fourth Amendment protections. That’s why we’re calling on Congress to let the authority sunset.

As Congress debates Section 702 reauthorization, lawmakers have repeatedly asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to make good on former Director James Clapper’s pledge to produce a long-delayed report on the number of U.S. communications that are swept up under Section 702 surveillance. When asked by Sen. Ron Wyden if he plans to produce that report, Coats said he will “do everything I can to work with [NSA Director Mike] Rogers and the NSA to get you that number.”

Coats also appears prepared to ask for rollbacks to crucial privacy reforms enacted in 2015.

As a senator, Coats voted against the USA FREEDOM Act, the bill that made privacy-enhancing improvements to the government’s national security surveillance programs, including prohibiting a program involving the bulk collection of Americans’ phone call records. In his written answers, Coats acknowledged that, if confirmed, he “will ensure the [intelligence community] abides by … the changes to the program made as part of the USA FREEDOM Act.”

However, he said he’s prepared to come back to Congress if he sees “deficiencies in the program,” including if telecom companies fail to retain phone records for long enough to be useful to intelligence agencies. Privacy advocates fought hard to keep phone record retention requirements out of the USA FREEDOM Act, and we stand ready to fight if Coats or anyone else tries to put them in place in the future.

 

Encryption

Coats called on lawmakers and tech companies to continue working on the issue of law enforcement access to encrypted data.

While he said he recognized the value of encryption as an essential security and privacy tool, he also said the “ongoing discussion” about the legal authority to access data even when it’s encrypted should continue. “The CEOs of companies that are making devices and guaranteeing their buyers encryption, they worry about their families, … they worry about attacks on the U.S.,” he said. We’ve fought efforts on the Hill to undermine users’ security, and we will continue to push back on proposals to force companies to give law enforcement backdoors to encrypted technologies.

 

Privacy Protections Abroad

Coats tried to quell lawmakers concerns about the Trump administration undermining privacy protections for foreigners, especially in it’s aggressive anti-immigration push.

On Presidential Policy Directive 28 – an Obama-era document that outlines basic privacy protections for foreigners – Coats wrote that he expects the administration is reviewing the policy along with other presidential directives “in the interest of determining whether in their present for they still address national priorities or deserve to be revisited.”

But he noted specifically that European officials relied heavily on the privacy protections in PPD-28 when approving the Privacy Shield, a data deal that lets U.S. companies bring European users’ data across the Atlantic. “For that reason, before any changes to the PPD are made, I believe it important to consider the consequence of any modifications,” he wrote.

Although we’ve criticized PPD-28 as not going far enough to give privacy protections to those located abroad, rolling back those protections would be worse still.


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Categories: Aggregated News

What's up at the W3C: further reading for Reply All listeners

eff.org - Sat, 04/03/2017 - 06:21

The latest episode of the technology podcast Reply All features an excellent summary of some of the issues with the World Wide Web Consortium's current project to create a standard for restricting the use of videos on the web; we've created this post for people who've just listened to the episode and want to learn more.

What's going on?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a standards body: they work to create open standards, rules for connecting up the web that anyone can follow, guaranteeing that anyone can make a web browser, web server, or website.

In 2013, the W3C gave in to pressure from a few entertainment companies and big tech companies to make a new kind of standard: a standard for limiting how people could use the videos that they watched in their browser. These controlling technologies are called "Digital Rights Management" (DRM), and the W3C's DRM standard is called "Encrypted Media Extensions" (EME).

What is EME for?

That's a good question! The companies that want EME say that they need it to prevent copyright infringement. But long experience with DRM has shown, time and again, that it's just not hard to bypass these systems, and once one person figures out how to do that, they can upload un-DRMed versions of the videos to websites where people who want to violate copyright can go (the host of the Reply All episode explains right at the start that he does this when he can't get DRM to work).

If DRM is about preventing piracy, it's not doing a very good job.

OK, so what is EME for then?

We think the real story here isn't the technology, it's the law.

In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which includes an "anti-circumvention" rule that sets out very harsh penalties for tampering with DRM, and is worded so badly and broadly that it has been used to threaten, sue and even jail people who break DRM, even for a lawful reason.

When DRM is deployed, it's never limited solely to preventing people from violating copyright law -- it also stops people from doing things that copyright law permits, but that companies don't like. Companies have all kinds of wishes about how their customers would use their products, but those are just wishes, not law. But when companies use DRM to enforce those wishes, they can turn them into law, because breaking the DRM is against the law.

Take Netflix, one of the companies really eager to see DRM added to browsers. Netflix started out by mailing DVDs to its customers, something the movie studios hated. But Netflix bought those DVDs fair and square, and even though the copyright holders behind those discs didn't want Netflix to mail them around, those wishes were not laws, and so Netflix got to grow into the service we all use today.

Today's Netflix has wishes, too: they want to stop you from recording your Netflix streams to watch later, or to move onto other devices. Those are just wishes too -- the same copyright law that makes DVRs and VCRs legal apply to Netflix streams too. But once Netflix uses EME to prevent you from doing this stuff, it can treat its wishes as laws -- and demand that you do the same.

Are you sure this is just about laws?

Pretty sure, yup! Just to double-check, EFF proposed a solution that would cleanly separate the technology from the broad powers that corporations get from DMCA 1201. Under our proposal, W3C members would agree that they could only use DMCA 1201 to stop people from doing something that was already illegal, like movie piracy.

More than 40 W3C members support this proposal, but the companies that want DRM won't hear of it, and last week, the W3C's Director signaled that he wouldn't listen to the members who want this -- rather, he'll let the W3C be turned into an organization where big companies go to get new avenues for legal control, instead of new technologies.

What will EME mean for the web?

Once a company uses DRM in its product, it can threaten anyone who opens up that product in ways they don't like. The exact boundaries of DMCA 1201 are contested, with prosecutors, rightsholders, and some courts arguing for a very expansive scope. Because the penalties for losing a DMCA claim are so scary -- in some commercial circumstances it could mean a $500,000 fine and a 5-year prison sentence for a first offense! -- few people want to operate in the gray area threatened by DMCA 1201.

There are three important groups in the web ecosystem who will lose their rights thanks to EME:

  1. Competitors: these are the intended targets of EME. Companies, free software projects, and individuals who want to let people do more with the videos in their browsers will need permission from the Netflixes of the world in order to develop their tools. It's a first for the W3C: a standard that's designed to stop people from improving the web in lawful ways.
  2. Security whistleblowers: these are an unintended -- but welcome (for some companies) -- target for EME. DRM advocates have said that merely disclosing defects in products that use DRM violates Section 1201 of the DMCA. The thinking goes like this: "When you tell people about the errors we made in designing our products, you also show them where the weak points in our DRM's armor is." Security researchers are routinely stopped from going public when they discover high-risk defects in widely used products because their institutions fear reprisal under DMCA 1201. Rather than protecting the right of these researchers to make truthful statements about defective products, the W3C is crafting voluntary guidelines to help its members to decide when to censor reports of defects in their products.
  3. People with disabilities: these are also an unintended target of EME. EME includes many adaptations to help those with disabilities enjoy videos, but there are plenty of ways this could be improved. Normally, adapting technology to accommodate disabilities is all about writing code, but because these adaptations would require bypassing DRM, accessibility toolsmiths will need to clear a thicket of permissions before they start work (or risk criminal and civil penalties).

Who else feels this way?

Lots of organizations in the W3C and hundreds of leading security researchers. The W3C members who've gone on record as supporting EFF's position include:

  • Accessibility organizations: Royal National Institute of Blind People (UK); Braillenet (France); Vision Australia and Media Access Australia (Australia); Benetech and SSB Bart (USA)
  • Research institutes: Lawrence Berkeley Labs; Eindhoven, Oxford, Kings College London, Open University, Vrije University
  • Public interest groups: EFF, Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Cryptocurrency, blockchain and security groups: Ethereum, Blockstream, White Ops
  • Commercial firms, webscale projects and browsers: Hypothes.is, Vivliostyle, Brave

Is this just a US problem?

Alas, no: the US Trade Representative has been a busy beaver, convincing almost all of the US's trading partners (with the sole exception of Israel) to adopt rules like this.

But EFF is on the case: we're suing the US government to invalidate section 1201 of the DMCA.


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Categories: Aggregated News

Trump to Appoint Russophobe as White House Director of Europe and Russia

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 04/03/2017 - 04:01
Trump to Appoint Russophobe as White House Director for Europe and Russia
by Stephen Lendman 
Improving ties with Russia was lost when Trump chose Mattis for defense, replaced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn with HR McMaster - perhaps the coup de grace with the expected announcement of Russophobe Fiona Hill as White House Director for Europe and Russia.
She heads the hawkish Brookings Institution’s Center for the United States and Europe. From 2006 - 2009, she served as National Intelligence Council’s national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia.
In her book, titled “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (published by Brookings),” she called him a “Mafia Don,” saying (b)lackmail and intimidation are part of his stock and trade.” 
Last July, her op-ed discussed reasons why he “might want to interfere in the US presidential elections,” saying:
He’d “like to undermine US international credibility by highlighting the deficiencies in American party politics…(One) of his primary objectives is to force Western leaders to back off (from) tr(ying) to bring Russia down.”
She called Russian media “a kind of massive pro-Putin Super PAC…focus(ing) on scandals that underscore the hubris, hypocrisy, and failings of Western political systems.”
He “wants a weakened US presidency.” Like other establishment Western figures, she turned reality on its head, claiming he annexed Crimea, adding:
“A US president who is elected amid controversy and recrimination, reviled by a large segment of the electorate, and mired in domestic crises will be hard-pressed to forge a coherent foreign policy and challenge Russia.”
Separately, she said “(t)he Russians will get all giddy with expectations (of improved relations with Washington), and then they’ll be dashed, like, five minutes into the relationship because the US and Russia just have a very hard time…being on the same page” - failing to lay blame where it belongs.
Hill is a dual US/UK citizen, an establishment Council on Foreign Relations member. She holds a master’s degree in Soviet studies and a doctorate in history.
Her appointment when officially announced may end hoped for better US/Russia relations. It was wishful thinking all along, given overwhelming congressional opposition to more normalized ties.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

Will Trump Try Ousting Venezuelan President Maduro?

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Sat, 04/03/2017 - 03:47
Will Trump Try Ousting Venezuelan President Maduro?
by Stephen Lendman
Previous Bush/Cheney and Obama administration regime change efforts failed.
Washington considered Hugo Chavez a regional enemy. The same goes for current President Nicolas Maduro. 
It wants him toppled, a US-installed puppet replacing him, Bolivarian fairness ended, state-owned enterprises privatized, and control gained over Venezuelan enormous oil reserves, the world’s largest, including heavy and extra-heavy oil.
Since Maduro became president in 2013, Washington waged economic war, wanting Venezuela destabilized, causing shortages of basic goods, harming ordinary people most, high inflation exacerbating things, along with manipulated violent anti-government protests.
On Tuesday, the US Senate unanimously passed “S. Res. 35  - A resolution expressing profound concern about the ongoing political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, urging the release of political prisoners, and calling for respect of constitutional and democratic processes, including free and fair elections” - code language, urging regime change.
The measure heads for certain House passage, Trump sure to sign it, perhaps authorizing US intervention to topple Maduro - incrementally with stiffer sanctions and harsher economic war or swifter measures to remove him.
The resolution affirms support for OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro’s call to invoke the organization’s Inter-American Democratic Charter - principles most of its member states defiled for decades, serving their own interests and Washington’s, playing a dominant role through financial, military and other material aid.
Since its 1948 founding, OAS history has been sordid. Almagro urged taking action against Venezuela last year, demanding Maduro be “immediately” removed from office. Other Latin American leaders accused him of overreach.
S. Res. 35 calls for “provid(ing) full support for OAS efforts in favor of constitutional and democratic solutions to the political impasse and to instruct federal agencies to hold officials of the Venezuelan government accountable for violations of US law and abuses of internationally recognized human rights.”
It barely stops short of urging  regime change - longstanding US practice to replace sovereign independent governments with US vassal ones.
Disturbing conditions in Venezuela were externally created, exacerbated by low oil prices. According to co-resolution sponsor/ranking Democrat Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Ben Cardin, “(t)he longer President Maduro and his government remain intransigent (sic) in their backward, law-breaking positions (sic), the longer the Venezuelan people will suffer.z’
On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a meeting, titled “Venezuela: Options for US Policy.”
The only ones under consideration are slow-motion or more rapid steps for regime change.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

Wanting Improved Ties with Russia Considered Heresy

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 03/03/2017 - 23:26
Wanting Improved Ties with Russia Considered Heresy
by Stephen Lendman
Anti-Russia sentiment in Washington matches McCarthy era witch-hunt hysteria.
It’s more dangerous because of bipartisan hawks infesting Congress and the administration in key defense, national security and intelligence positions.
Instead of Dwight Eisenhower warning of the dangers of the military/industrial complex in his farewell address, chicken hawks Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bush/Cheney, Obama, and now Trump consider muscular militarism a good thing, enormous risks ignored.
Trump is in trouble anyway. Deep state Hillary supporters want him delegitimized, undermined and removed from office - aiming at key officials in his administration, perhaps prelude to replacing him with a more easily controlled figurehead like Pence.
Trump disgracefully fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn over nothing, bowing to opposition forces wanting him out - solely for being soft on Russia, wanting improved relations.
So does AG Jeff Sessions, why he’s targeted for removal, not for speaking to Russia’s ambassador to Washington when a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Undemocratic Democrats and screaming headlines call for his head, wanting no change in hardline policy toward Moscow, virtually certain to get it, one of many broken Trump campaign pledges, more to come while he claims otherwise.
On Thursday, Sessions shamefully recused himself from federal investigations into the 2016 presidential campaign, related to (nonexistent) Russia election hacking - groundless claims with evidence.
FBI investigations so far found nothing, including about allegations of Trump financial ties to Russian pubic or private figures.
Witch-hunt investigations continue, checking phony allegations of relations between Trump aides and Moscow.
In a Thursday statement, Sessions said he “met with the relevant senior career (Justice) Department officials to discuss whether (to) recuse (himself) from any matters arising from the campaigns for President of the United States.”
“Having concluded those meetings today, I have decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States,” he said.
“I have taken no actions regarding any such matters, to the extent they exist.”
In a statement on Facebook, Trump said “Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional.” 
“This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win.”
“The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election and now, they have lost their grip on reality. The real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total witch hunt!”
Sessions remains AG, for how long remains to be seen. Pro-Hillary deep state long knives aren’t through with him. Other administration officials close to Trump are vulnerable.
Will he stick by his people responsibly or throw them to the wolves one-by-one - undermining himself in the process?
What’s going on is clear - an aggressive deep state, media supported, orchestrated campaign to delegitimize Trump, weaken him irreparably, perhaps ahead of removing him from office by impeachment and conviction, resignation or something more sinister.
At the same time, it aims to maintain hostility toward Russia and Vladimir Putin, risking direct confrontation - unthinkable possible nuclear war, madness if launched, threatening humanity’s survival.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

The NYT Wants Trump Delegitimized and Ousted from Office

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 03/03/2017 - 23:14
The NYT Wants Trump Delegitimized and Ousted from Office
by Stephen Lendman
He won. Hillary lost. It should have ended there. Yet nearly four months post-election, rage against him continues - for the wrong reasons, not the right ones. Legitimate criticism is warranted, gratuitous bashing despicable.
He’s targeted for defeating media darling Hillary and rhetorically wanting improved relations with Russia, along with being an outsider elevated to the nation’s highest office, an unexpected winner last November.
The deplorable NYT is one of his leading bashers. Its editors lied, saying Session had to recuse himself - an act of cowardice when he should have held firm. Trump should have insisted. Instead he offered weak lip service support. 
Speaking with Russia’s envoy to Washington as a Senate Armed Services Committee member was nothing out of the ordinary, for sure not an improper act, no reason for criticism.
Not according to Times editors, falsely saying “he had no other real choice, adding (he) was never in a position to serve as an impartial arbiter of any investigation involving Mr. Trump or his campaign” - instead of responsibly denouncing the ongoing witch-hunt over nothing.
Times editors: “Mr. Sessions’ recusal is only a first necessary step. The second must be the appointment of a special counsel - an independent, nonpartisan actor who can both investigate and prosecute any criminal acts in relation to Russian interference, whether by Mr. Sessions or anyone else. That’s the only way an investigation can have credibility with the public.”
Fact: No evidence suggests Russian US election hacking or criminal acts of any kind. Alleging wrongdoing is all about delegitimizing Trump and Russia bashing, nothing else.
Fact: Unwarranted investigations should stop. Getting a special prosecutor involved over nothing is unjustifiable, a despicable demand, solely a way to keep attacking Trump relentlessly until he falls.
Fact: Times editors are bitter over Hillary’s defeat, maybe conspiring with her and Obama for revenge.
According to Britain’s Daily Mail, close Obama aide since his Chicago days, Valerie Jarrett, moved into his new Washington home, two miles from the White House - intended as a “nerve center for their plan to mastermind the insurgency against President Trump.”
An unnamed Obama family source said he intends using his high profile persona as a former president to challenge Trump. “He is going to be leading the fight and strategy to topple” him.
Expect plenty of help from undemocratic Democrats, The New York Times and other media scoundrels.
Perhaps they’re aiming for endless intelligence community and congressional witch-hunt investigations to remove him - the way Richard Nixon was wrongfully targeted.
The Watergate scandal was blown way out of proportion, no justification for forcing his resignation to avoid impeachment and removal from office.
Challenging establishment policies or appearing to do it assures making enemies. 
Trump’s main offenses were prevailing over establishment Republicans, defeating Hillary, challenging Obama’s deplorable legacy, and rhetorically wanting improved relations with Russia.
It made him a target for removal from office - likely either to succeed or leave him too weak to serve effectively, his deplorable agenda so far aside, discussed in other articles with more to come.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

Good, Bad and Mixed News on Syria

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 03/03/2017 - 22:57
Good, Bad and Mixed News on Syria
by Stephen Lendman
First the good. Syria’s military said the historically important, strategically located city of Palmyra and surrounding areas were liberated, ISIS terrorists routed after weeks of fighting.
According to Russia’s General Staff, Main Operations Department head Gen. Sergei Rudskoi, “(t)he city has been fully liberated by now, and the government troops have captured commanding heights north and south of Palmyra and continue advancing in the eastern direction.”
No Russian airstrikes targeted areas with historical monuments vital to the city’s heritage, Rudskoi added.
Now the mixed good and bad news. Geneva IV Syria peace talks ended with no breakthroughs as expected, but no breakdowns.
During seven days of discussions, both sides didn’t talk to each other directly, nor did Washington participate, essential for progress.
None was made other than agreeing on another round of talks - depending on the results of a March 14 and 15 meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan between both sides.
More bad news - Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, saying “no substantial contacts” between Moscow and Washington on Syria occurred since Trump assumed office - other than a get-to-know-you Lavrov/Tillerson short meeting in Bonn, Germany.
Russia alone among major powers continues going all-out for conflict resolution. Indications so far suggest Washington wants it continued.
US terror-bombing still targets Syrian infrastructure. Hundreds of US special forces are on the ground in northern areas, actively aiding anti-government moderate terrorists, maybe ISIS and al-Nusra covertly.
Reports suggest larger numbers may be sent to Syria and Iraq, indicating Washington wants war in both countries continued, not ended.
Syria peace talks can’t succeed without active US participation and commitment for conflict resolution - nonexistent so far.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

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

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