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23.10.2017 – Prague, Czech Republic DiEM25

This post is also available in: Spanish

Czech Republic shifts to the right
Charles Bridge in Prague (Image by Svein-Magne Tunli – tunliweb.no on Wikimedia Commons)

The Czech Republic held parliamentary elections last weekend. Members of our DiEM25 local group (DSC) in České Budějovice recommended a vote for the Greens and Pirates, because these parties have been broadly supportive of DiEM25’s programme and activities in the Czech Republic for a long time (the Pirates signed on to DiEM25’s manifesto soon after our inception in February 2016).

So how did they do? Well, the Pirate Party achieved significant success with almost 11% of the vote. Two DiEM25 members — Mikuláš Peksa and Ondřej Profant — were elected to Parliament! We congratulate them, as well as our friends from the Pirate Party, for their success.

Unfortunately, our friends from the Greens did not get elected — we hope that this failure does not discourage them from their vital work!

But now the bad news: despite these gains, the election brought to power the movement (ANO) of the populist billionaire Andrej Babiš (think a Czech version of Trump with some elements of Berlusconi), with almost 30% of the vote. Babiš wants to “manage the state as a business”; he claims he is pro-European, but is accused, along with others from the movement, of misusing European subsidies. His movement exploited voters’ disillusionment with politicians, and successfully portrayed itself as ‘anti-systemic’ (although it was for four years in government itself).

As members of DSC Česke Budějovice, we distance ourselves from the misuse of politics, parliamentary immunity and the influence of these people in politics and state positions. It is in the public interest that people who have been prosecuted should not be involved in politics. We call on the President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, not to name the accused Andrej Babiš as Prime Minister.

Babiš’ gains were not the only alarming result of the election. The anti-European neoliberal Civic Democratic Party (ODS) and similarly neoliberally-minded but “two-speed” party TOP-09 also made it to the Chamber. Echoing far-right gains in France and other countries, the highly anti-European, anti-Muslim and anti-refugee party SPD got almost 11% of the vote, using fear of migrants (who practically don’t exist in the Czech Republic). A big danger is the possible link-up of ANO and the fascist SPD movement, which would pave the way towards an illiberal and anti-social future for our country.

So in conclusion: the political scene in the Czech Republic has shifted strongly to the right, mainly due to the election of right-wing populist parties. The traditional left has completely failed, and the socially-oriented green politics did not gain any space.

For members and supporters of DiEM25 in the Czech Republic, this situation means there is the opportunity to continue working with the Pirates (whom we recommend remain in opposition) to try to promote the issues that are part of the DiEM25 core platform, like our Manifesto and European New Deal. And we must continue to expand our activities in all possible ways to disseminate the ideas of DiEM25 in the Czech Republic.

Written by Antonin Hořčica and other members of DSC Česke Budějovice

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22.10.2017 – Rome, Italy Human Wrongs Watch

Austrian Elections: The Crisis of Europe Continues
(Image by http://www.marcha.org.ar)

By Roberto Savio

The Austrian elections show clearly that media have given up on contextualising events. To do that, calls for a warning about Europe’s future, as a vehicle of European values is required. Europe has been weakened by all the recent elections, with the notable exception of France. Common to all, France included, were some clear trends, that we will hastily, and therefore maybe imperfectly, examine.

The decline of the traditional parties.

In every election, since the financial crisis of 2009, the parties we have known to run their country since the end of the Second World War, are on the wane (or practically disappearing, like in the last French elections).

In Austria, the far right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) secured 26 per cent of the vote, just a few votes behind the Social Democrats who took 26.9 per cent of the votes. The social democrats have been in power practically since the end of the war.

And the other traditional party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP), won the elections with 31.5 per cent. Together the two parties used to have more than 85% of the votes.

In the Dutch elections held in March, Geert Wilder’s far-right Party for Freedom PVV, came second after the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy VVD, at the expense of all other parties.

And in September in Germany, the far right anti immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) enjoyed historical success, becoming the third party while the two traditional parties, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany CDU and the social democrat Social Democratic Party of Germany SPD, suffered the worst results in more than a half a century. According to polls, next year Italian elections will see a populist movement, with the 5 Stars taking over the government.

Austria is the best example to understand how European national politics have changed. It is important to note that no right wing party was really visible in Europe, (except Le Pen in France), before the financial crisis of 2009.

That crisis brought insecurity and fear and in the same year the Austrian far right, under the charismatic leadership of Jorg Haider, got the same percentage of votes as of today. And the conservative Prime minister of the time, Wolfgang Schlussel broke a taboo by bringing the Freedom Party into the government.

Everybody in Europe reacted with horror, practically isolating Austria. And the FPO, lost all its lustre in the government, going down to 5%, and with the death of Haider even further down. There Are no gasps of horror now in Europe over any far right wing parties getting in to govern.

What has fuelled the decline of the traditional parties

The traditional parties were facing already a loss of participation and trust by the electors at the end of the last century but in 2009 Europe imported the financial crisis which racked the US in 2006. And, 2009 saw hardship and unemployment all over Europe.

And that year Greece became the battleground of two visions in Europe. The Southern countries wanted to push out of the crisis with investments and social relief, while the bloc of Northern countries, led by Germany, saw austerity as the only response.

Germany wanted to export it’s experience: they were doing well thanks to an internal austerity reform started by Schroeder in 2003, and they did not want to take on other reforms at any cost.

Greece was just 4% of the European economy and could have been rescued without problems. But the German line won and today Greece has lost 25% of its properties; pensions went down by 17%, and there is a massive unemployment. Austerity was the response to the crisis for all of Europe and that aggravated fear and insecurity.

It is also important to remember that until the invasions of Libya, Iraq and Syria, in which Europe played a key role (2011- 2014), there were few immigrants and this was not a problem.

In 2010, immigrants numbered 215.000, in a region of 400 millions. But during the invasions, a very fragile balance between Shite and Sunni, the two main religious branches of Islam, collapsed. Civil war, and the creation of ISIS in 2015 pushed many to try to reach Europe to escape the civil wars.

So, in 2015 more than 1.2 million refugees, the majority coming from countries in conflict, arrived in Europe, which was not prepared for such a massive influx. And, if we study the elections before then, we can see that the far right parties were not as relevant as they are now.

Therefore it should be clear that austerity and immigration have been the two main factors for the rise of the right wing.

Statistics and data show that clearly. Statistics also show that immigrants, of course with exceptions, (that media and populism inflates), basically want to integrate, accept any kind of work, and are law abiding and pay their contributions, which is obviously in their interest.

Of course the level of instruction plays a crucial role. But the Syrians who come here were basically middle class. And of course it is an inconvenient truth that if Europe did not intervene in the name of democracy, the situation would be different. NATO estimates that more than 30 billion dollars have been spent on the war in Syria. There are now six million refugees, and 400.00 dead.

And Assad is still there. Of course, democracy has a different value in countries which are closed and rich in petrol. If we were serious about democracy, there are so many African countries which need intervention.

Boko Haram has killed seven times more people than ISIS; and Mugabe is considering running for re-election after dominating Zimbabwe for nearly four decades. But you will never hear much on those issues in the present political debate.

How the far right is changing Europe

Nigel Farage is the populist who led a far right party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which fought for leaving Europe. UKIP received the greatest number of votes (27.49%) of any British party in the 2014 European Parliament election and gained 11 extra Member of the European Parliament MEPs for a total of 24.[55]

The party won seats in every region of Great Britain, including its first in Scotland.[56] It was the first time in over a century that a party other than Labour or Conservatives won the mosti votes in a UK-wide election.

But Farage lost the elections held just before Brexit, in June 2016. His declaration to the media was: Infact, I am the real winner, because my agenda against Europe now is the basis for politics in all the traditional parties. Brexit did follow.

And this is what is happening now everywhere. The Austrian elections did not see only the FPO rise. They also saw the conservative OVP taking immigration, security, borders and others part of the far right agenda of the populist agenda in the electoral campaign. A full 58% of the voters went for the far right or the right, with the social Democrats also moving more to the center.

The new Dutch governement took a turn to the right, by reducing taxes on the rich people, and to companies. The same turn to the right can be expected by the new coalition led by Merkel, with the liberals aiming to take over the ministry of Finance.

Its leader, Christian Lindner, is a nationlist and has several times declared his aversion to Europe. In that seense, he will be worse than the inflexible Schauble, who just wanted to Germanize Europe, but was a convinced European.

And it is interesting that the main vote for the far righ party AfD came from East Germany, where immigrants are few. But in spite of investing the staggering amount of 1.3 trillions Euro in the development of East Germany, important differences in employment and revenues with West Germany remain.

No wonder that the President of South Korea has warned President Trump to avoid any conflict. They have decided a longtime ago, looking at the German reunification that they would not have the resources required by annexing with success, North Korea.

The rocketman, as Trump calls Kim, after the decertification of Iran, can claim that the only way to be sure that US will not intervene, is to show that he has a nuclear intercontinental ability, because US does not respect treaties.

Those considerations done, a pattern is clear everywhere. The agenda of the right wing has been incorporated in the traditional parties; they bring in the governing coalition, like Norway did , or they try to isolate them , as did Sweden.

This does not change the fact that everybody is moving to the right. Austria will now tilt to the Visegrad group, formed by Poland , Hungary, Czech and Slovakia, which are clearly challenging Europe and looking to Putin as a political model ( all the right wing does).

The only active European voice is Macron, who clearly is not a progressist guy either. The real progressist, Corbyn, is ambigous about Europe, because the Labour Party has a lot of eurosceptic.

The new German government has already made clear that many of it’s proposals for a stronger Europe are not on the agenda, and austerity remains the way. Unless a strong growth comes soon (and the IMF doubts that), social problems will increase. Nationalism never helped peace, development and cooperation.

Probably , we need some populist movement to be in the government to show that they have no real answers to the problems. The victory of 5 stars in Italy will probably do that. But this was the theory also for Egypt.

Let the Muslim Brotherhood take the government , and it will be a failure. Pity that the General El Sisi did not let this happen. Our hope is that we do not get any El Sisis in Europe.

If only young people went back to vote, this would change the situation in Europe…this is the real historical loss of the left in Europe.

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

21.10.2017 – New York City Amy Goodman

This post is also available in: Spanish

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar
(Image by Chilean Graffiti)

“I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.” Helen Reddy sang those words in 1972, providing an anthem to the rising women’s movement. Forty-five years later, the song could serve as the score to a movie documenting the abusive rise and abrupt demise of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. If only it were just a movie. Fifty-five women have bravely come forward so far, accusing Weinstein of everything from sexual harassment to rape and propelling the issue of violence against women to the forefront of American life.

The flood of personal statements has gone well beyond Weinstein now, channeled on social media under the hashtag “MeToo,” posted on Sunday by actress Alyssa Milano. “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem,” she wrote, adding, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Over half a million women (and some men as well) have used the #MeToo hashtag, exposing in a few short days how pervasive are the crimes of sexual harassment and rape.

While Alyssa Milano propelled “MeToo” into the public forum, it was founded 10 years ago by Tarana Burke, a longtime African-American feminist who now works as program director at Girls for Gender Equity.

“As a survivor of sexual violence myself, as a person who was struggling trying to figure out what healing looked like for me, I also saw young people, and particularly young women of color, in the community I worked with, struggling with the same issues and trying to find a succinct way to show empathy,” Tarana Burke said on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. “‘Me Too’ is so powerful, because somebody had said it to me, and it changed the trajectory of my healing process.”

Celebrity perpetrators, as well as victims who also are celebrities, can quickly bring an issue to the forefront. But Burke has for decades been working with regular people: “For every R. Kelly or Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein, there’s the owner of the grocery store, the coach, the teacher, the neighbor, who are doing the same things … we don’t pay attention till it’s a big celebrity. But this work is ongoing, because this is pervasive.”

Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, also spoke on “Democracy Now!,” saying: “I first have to just say a deep thank-you to Tarana for creating this space for survivors like myself. Without that space, I wouldn’t be able to tell my story, and thousands and thousands of other people that I know would not be able to tell their stories.” Garza added, “This kind of violence is as American as apple pie.”
In addition to the torrent of accusations Harvey Weinstein faces, new criminal investigations are being undertaken by both the New York City Police Department and Scotland Yard. As the floodgates have opened, Amazon Studios head Roy Price has been forced to resign after allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed a female producer.

This all comes on the first anniversary of the notorious 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape on which Donald Trump is caught bragging to TV host Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women:

Trump: “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Bush: “Whatever you want.”
Trump: “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Two years later, in 2007, Celebrity Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos alleges, Trump sexually assaulted her: “He put me in an embrace and I tried to push him away. I pushed his chest to put space between us … he began thrusting his genitals. He tried to kiss me again, with my hand still on his chest.”

Trump denied Zervos’ accusations, as well as similar allegations from at least a dozen other women who came out last year accusing him of sexual assault. Trump promised to sue them after the election. To date, he hasn’t. Zervos, however, has sued him, charging Trump with libel for using his vast bully pulpit (stress on the word “bully”) to call her a liar. As part of her lawsuit, Zervos’ lawyer has issued a subpoena to the Trump campaign for all documents relating to her and other women’s allegations of his inappropriate or unwanted contact.

After our interview, Tarana Burke took off her leopard-patterned sweater and proudly displayed her black T-shirt. On the front, in pink letters, were the words “me too.” She smiled and turned around. On the back were the words “You are not alone … It’s a movement!”

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

20.10.2017 – Manila, Philippines Karina Lagdameo Santillan

Marawi City Declared Liberated After 5 Months of Heavy Fighting
A building in Marawi City set ablaze by airstrikes carried out by the Philippine Air Force.

As the Philippine military was finally able to gun down the two terrorists leading the rebellion in Marawi City, Mindanao, President Duterte has declared Marawi liberated from terrorist influence. The bodies of Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the bandit group, Abu Sayyaf, touted as the “emir” of ISIS in Southeast Asia, and Omarkhayam Maute of Lanao del Sur’s Maute terrorist clan, were recovered and positively identified after a targeted operation last Monday, October 16. The photos of the slain leaders quickly circulated in social media and drone video shots of the operation were shown on TV, signaling a major turning point in this long drawn-out battle.

 

But this victory comes at a high cost. After months of intense fighting, Marawi, the only Muslim city in the Philippines, lay in ruins. A city burnt to the ground with buildings reduced to rubble, houses riddled with bullets. During the siege, the militants were able to fight off and elude the heavy bombardment and airstrikes coming from the government. This revealed that the terrorist fighters were well armed and prepared. Fighting on the ground was painstakingly slow; going from street to street as the government forces slowly retook portions of the city in an effort to minimize collateral damage. Majority of the residents had to flee, heading towards Iligan City. Since then, 150,000 evacuees have been living in makeshift shelters and centers. The death toll– more than 800 among the militants and 162 from the government’s forces. From the start of the conflict, the terrorists took hostages as they holed up in buildings, houses and mosques. They staunchly fought off the military in a fierce urban war the likes of which has not been seen on Philippine soil for decades. Reports of the terrorists killing hostages and residents unable to flee and caught in the crossfire trickled in as the days passed. There were accounts of women being raped, families separated, houses ransacked. To date, a total of 1700 hostages have been reported as rescued by Philippine forces. The conflict had cost the military at least 2 Billion Pesos and, with the level of devastation levied on the city, officials say more than $1 Billion will be needed to rebuild the city. A new city will have to rise from the ashes, the lives and livelihoods of thousands will have to be rebuilt.

 

The declaration of liberation was a welcome turn of events but Marawi evacuees still have to wait for the go signal to return to the city. Fighting continues as the city has not yet been totally cleared of terrorists. Speaking to The Associated Press (AP), Gen. Eduardo Ano said Duterte’s pronouncement indicated that the terrorist threat was substantially over. “They’re leaderless and they have no more organization,” the Armed Forces Chief of Staff said.  “There are still skirmishes.” According to the military spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., there are still terrorists left in Marawi, including foreign fighters and they still hold some hostages which include women and children.

 

There still remains a part of the network that continues to exist in other parts of Mindanao like Jolo, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and other parts of Lanao as well as Maguindanao and Cotabato, which needs to be addressed continuously for that threat to be managed,” Padilla said. After eliminating Hapilon’s Abu Sayyaf faction and the Maute group, Ano said the military’s next targets would be the other Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu and Basilan provinces, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) operating in Mindanao. “So this will continue. There will be no letup. It’s about time [we finished] these terrorists here in Mindanao,” he said.

 

Martial Law was imposed on the whole island of Mindanao when the fighting ensued. Consultations are now ongoing as to whether Martial Law could be lifted and by when; with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana saying that a decision could be reached before the end of October.

 

The ferocity and length of the war “defied expectations”.

 

What started out as a serving of a warrant of arrest to the long-pursued fugitive, Isnilon Hapilon who was traced as being in Marawi triggered this long drawn-out war. Many were surprised by the number of terrorists who were in the city which included some foreign fighters, armed with sophisticated weapons and all-out ready to take on the government. The military was forced to come in as a decision was taken not to negotiate or hold back-end talks with the rebels. As the days rolled by, it became evident that they were well prepared. They used tunnels under the city to move from building to building. They used mosques as headquarters, knowing full well that the government will comply with international standards of warfare which prohibit shelling places of worship. They took hostages as human shields, looted stores and homes for food and additional arms. They knew how to fabricate bombs from scavenged material. The government had underestimated the “enemy” and the military, more used to fighting guerrillas and bandits in the jungles, had to adjust to urban warfare tactics while taking extreme caution so as not to unduly endanger hostages and expose soldiers to unnecessary harm.

 

To date, cleanup of some of the communities in areas considered as safe zones has begun. The government has been meeting with barangay officials to begin mapping out preparations. But evacuees will have to wait for the go signal as to when they can safely begin returning back to Marawi. Consultations, plans and proposals for the reconstruction of the city are underway.

 

But the fight against terrorists and bandits is not over. Peace still remains elusive. International terrorist experts say that, with ISIS losing ground in the Middle East, the focus of the Islamic state is shifting towards establishing a stronghold in South East Asia. This complicates the historic, decades-long More conflict in Mindanao. The government and all stakeholders need to join forces and work harder to address the roots of the problem and ensure that Mindanao does not become a breeding ground for extremist recruitment.

 

 

19.10.2017 – Athens, Greece Marianella Kloka

This post is also available in: French, Italian, Greek

Trump to Tsipras: You’re one of our best clients!

“I want to thank the Prime Minister and the Greek people for serving as gracious hosts to our US naval forces at Souda bay. I also commend Greece for being one of the few NATO countries currently spending at least 2% of GDP on defence.”.

This is how, the President of the USA confirmed the excellent relationship between the two countries. This is a consequence of Greece’s obligations to NATO and is a policy that isn’t affected by any kind of economic crisis.  And of course this is a policy that Alexis Tsipras would have advocated against with all his power if he were in opposition.

“The real cost of the F16 is €1.1 billion,” said Greek Defence Minister, Panos Kamenos.  Today, Greek twitter users are circulating different ideas about how Greece – in this economic crisis – could have spent this money, putting forward other priorities like education, health and labour.  Our Government though, spends money like this because they expect geopolitical stability with NATO’s intervention in the Aegean and they also provide the USA with an operational center in Souda Bay, Crete for better control of the Middle East.  The government spends our money like this because they’re waiting for the IMF to play a clear role in the period after the 3rd Memorandum, which we are currently under, and finally they’re spending our money like this waiting for future investments from US companies, which of course, if it ever happens, will be with their labour conditions.

We already know that we don’t have a left government in Greece now.  So, we should no longer keep on being surprised every time our Prime Minister betrays himself.  Maybe we’re concerned about the level of his “maturity” as time goes by and he gains experience in Office.  Maybe another reason is that, searching for an alternative in the political spectrum, we can’t find anything “leftier” than this.

Even though – once again – it is bad that we’re such good clients of NATO, with everything that this involves, it is also good because with political movements like this, the abyss between the 300 parliamentarians and the people is getting deeper.  Just one week ago we witnessed the incapability of the opposition to honor its promise and vote in favour of a law about the legal recognition of gender identity.  Today we see the government – which supposedly promotes human rights – kneeling in front of Donald Trump and being praised as good customers in the military expenditure market.

The crisis of formal parliamentary democracy deepens day by day. And because there are always alternatives, it is worth remembering that democracy has other ways of expressing itself and even more direct ones.  And – from what I see – society is already preparing for tomorrow.

18.10.2017 – Barcelona, Catalonia Raquel Paricio

This post is also available in: Spanish, Italian

Forbidden to vote, demonstrate or think: Enough is enough!

Catalonia is experiencing a political catastrophe with repercussions in all areas of society. Mariano Rajoy is preparing the ground to sow Article 155 based on a policy of lies.

The last few months have seen the utmost tension in Catalonia, and by proximity, in Spain and in neighbouring Europe, which is looking the other way while its empire falls.  The PP (ruling party of Mariano Rajoy) and its allies are preparing the ground for implementing Article 155.  Their politics of fear only leaves room to say: Enough is enough!  No more lies!  No more domination!  Stop impeding the right to free thought!  Stop controlling what is already beyond the control of repression.  Because the human species is one in evolution and now is an historic moment for moving forward, to not remain anchored in a past that no longer responds to the needs of people, or their human and spiritual development.  Enough already!

This evening (17th of October), more than 200,000 people demonstrated peacefully and silently with a sea of candles in the centre of Barcelona and in different Spanish cities to demand the release of the two recent political prisoners: Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez.

The government of Mariano Rajoy, supported by the Citizens Party and the Socialists, who are trying to take advantage of the situation as best they can, are making excuses and applying strategies to put fear in our minds.

They’re lying about the educational model in Catalonia (Citizens and PP). They’re lying about sedition cases. They’re applying the law at their convenience.  The greatest swindlers in history, enriched by their privileged position in political office, or by royal kinship, are on the streets.  Their criminal corruption is leading to the silencing of those who have already mysteriously appeared dead, at the gates of trial.  Catalonia is a great way of distracting attention.  They’ve been distracting attention for years.

Arrests and imprisonment:

Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez were imprisoned on the evening of the 16th of October. Unconditional imprisonment without bail for alleged sedition.  Both peaceful representatives and activists of Omnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly respectively, pro-independence organizations, and they have pushed and spearheaded all the demonstrations in recent years in favour of independence, mobilizing millions of people, peacefully and with the purpose of defending a question of identity.

The head of the Mossos d’Escuadra, Josep Lluis Trapero, in charge of an armed body of 17,000 people, with recent international recognition for its efficiency, also charged, but been released on parole, without a passport and prohibited from leaving Spanish territory.

It is clear that the Mossos police force is the main target for central government to control if Article 155 is applied.

According to Judge Carmen Lamela, Cuixart and Sànchez were imprisoned for what they did on the 20th of September at the Economics Ministry.  And what did they do?  On that day, the Civil Guard appeared in 40 government ministries to search them and ended up arresting of 14 people considered participants in the “illegal” referendum on the 1st of October.  At that time, Sanchez and Cuixart were trying to mobilize people to Gran Vía in a protest action against what was happening. At no time did they carry out any act of violence or impede the work of the Civil Guard. This act of search and arrest was not only denounced in a demonstration in Catalonia, but on the same afternoon, Puerta del Sol in Madrid reacted with a demonstration in favour of “democratic freedoms and the right to decide”.

What’s the point of this incarceration?  To Deactivate Omnium and the ANC?  To ban demonstrations?

Lies in the education model:

The education sector has been blazing red since the Citizens party accused Catalonia of practicing “ideological indoctrination” on children at school in Congress and called for measures to monitor the work of teachers who could be fined.  The educational community, one of the most organized and active in Catalonia, has loudly denounced such statements.

With these accusations, another area of control is seen in the event that Article 155 is applied.
And tomorrow, where will the lies be directed?
Enough is enough!

 

18.10.2017 Countercurrents

Iraqi Seizure Of Oil-Rich Kirkuk From Kurds Risks Broader War

By Jordan Shilton

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered an offensive by Iraqi army units and pro-government Shia militias Monday to capture the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and surrounding areas from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). The attack, which reportedly provoked clashes in some areas between Iraqi units and Peshmerga fighters, threatens not only to further destabilize Iraq, but could prove the trigger for a broader catastrophic conflict that could quickly engulf neighboring Syria, drawing in regional and imperialist powers.

The retaking of Kirkuk took place after Baghdad negotiated the voluntary withdrawal of Peshmerga forces aligned with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) faction, which is hostile to KRG president Masoud Barzani and opposed September’s Kurdish independence referendum. The referendum, which returned a substantial majority in favor of independence, was condemned by the regional and imperialist powers, and denounced by Baghdad as unconstitutional.

Barzani declared the Iraqi advance to be an act of war and ordered the Peshmerga under his command to use all available resources to fight back. KRG officials accused the PUK of a “betrayal” for failing to resist the Iraqi advance.

The loss of Kirkuk will be a devastating setback to Barzani’s independence plans. Control of the oil reserves from the area represented an important source of income for the KRG, which established a pipeline to Turkey to bypass Baghdad and sell oil on the world market.

While Peshmerga forces remained in control of oilfields outside Kirkuk Monday, Irbil reportedly had to halt oil supplies to Turkey as engineers failed to report to work. Eurasia Group estimated that of the 600,000 barrels a day shipped by the KRG to Turkey, 450,000 barrels would fall under the control of the Iraqi central government if it establishes a secure hold over Kirkuk and surrounding regions.

While US military figures and the corporate media sought to downplay the scale of the clashes Monday, the Iraqi army’s advance will have explosive consequences and poses the danger of a renewed wave of sectarian bloodletting that could rapidly engulf the entire region. Both sides have not only been armed to the teeth and trained by the US and its imperialist allies over recent years, but are contesting areas which are of major economic and geostrategic significance. Added to this, the extremely fragile situation in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, as the US and European imperialist powers jostle to advance their interests and regional powers like Turkey, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia are drawn ever more closely into a complex web of alliances that are increasingly in flux, and the true extent of the danger posed to the region’s long-suffering population becomes clear.

Kirkuk was a prize possession of the KRG. The oil-rich city and surrounding oilfields have been under Kurdish control since 2014, when Iraqi forces fled before the advance of ISIS. In last month’s referendum, Barzani controversially included the ethnically diverse city in the area considered to be part of an independent state, hoping thereby to seize control of its oil wealth. Baghdad responded furiously, vowing to use the military to restore its control.

Primary responsibility for the ethnic and sectarian conflict lies with US imperialism and its allies, which have systematically encouraged Kurdish regional ambitions in northern Iraq since the illegal US-led invasion in 2003. At the same time, Washington helped establish a Shia-dominated puppet regime in Baghdad that conducted a brutal crackdown on Sunni areas of Iraq, while refusing to countenance any move by the Kurds towards independence.

Having destroyed Iraqi society, creating the political and social conditions within which regional and ethnic conflicts could assume such malignant forms, US imperialism is now hypocritically seeking to pose as a neutral arbiter between Baghdad and Irbil, appealing to both sides to show restraint. Its main goal in this is to prevent all-out civil war in Iraq, since this would cut across Washington’s broader agenda in the Middle East of pushing back Iranian influence and consolidating an alliance with the Gulf states and Israel to secure US dominance over the energy-rich and strategically important region.

However, US actions are the most destabilizing factor. While backing both the KRG and Iraqi central government with financial and military resources, as well as personnel on the ground, Washington is relying chiefly on Kurdish allies in Syria to oust the Islamic State from its rapidly shrinking territory, and, much more significantly from the Washington’s point of view, prevent forces loyal to Iran and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad from emerging in control of eastern Syria. This would facilitate Tehran’s establishment of a land bridge to Damascus, Lebanon and the Mediterranean coast, a development which would be a major strategic blow to the US, and its major Middle East ally, Israel.

Though the Syrian Kurds are not on good terms with Barzani, instead aligning themselves with the Turkish Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), Ankara, Baghdad and Tehran all view the emergence of strengthened Kurdish autonomous areas in northern Syria and Iraq as intolerable. Turkey has once again over recent days sent troops into northern Syria to block the emergence of a contiguous Kurdish territory on its southern border, prompting sharp protests from the Syrian government that its sovereignty is being violated. Further escalating tensions in Syria, the Israeli Air Force carried out a strike on a missile battery near Damascus Monday morning, claiming it had fired at Israeli reconnaissance planes over Lebanon.

Ankara condemned Barzani’s independence referendum and held talks with Iran about a possible military intervention. It has pledged to hand over border crossings between Turkey and the KRG to the Baghdad government. With a Turkish military base in northern Iraq not far from Mosul, Ankara could also be drawn into the fighting if it spreads.

A Turkish government statement praised the Iraqi offensive, claiming that it was necessary to drive out PKK forces which were allegedly being harbored by the KRG. It noted, in what amounted to a threat of a direct military invasion, that Ankara is “ready for any form of co-operation with the Iraqi government in order to end the PKK presence in Iraqi territory.”

This follows the provocative declaration by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the Kurdish referendum that Irbil’s actions could spark an “ethnic war.”

The Iraqi offensive comes just days after US President Donald Trump vowed to blow up the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran, unless the pact is renegotiated to meet Washington’s demands. His announcement not only aggravated tensions between the US and Iran throughout the Middle East, with Washington’s commitment to target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) operations in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, but brought to light the widening rift between US imperialist policy and that of its European rivals.

Should the fighting in Iraq spread, Iran faces the immediate prospect of being dragged into the conflict. Substantial numbers of Iranian military personnel, including members of the Revolutionary Guards, have been embedded in the Iraqi military to strengthen it in its operations against ISIS, a fact which was reportedly important in preventing Trump from designating the IRGC as a “terrorist organization” in his Iran speech Friday.

In addition, the Shia militias which have joined the Iraqi army advance into Kirkuk are under Iranian influence. The Guardian reported that Qassem Suleimani, head of the IRGC’s Quds force, helped direct the offensive.

Unconfirmed reports Monday indicated that ethnic strife has already begun. Kurdish commanders claimed that advancing Iraqi forces had burned villages south of Kirkuk. Large numbers of people were said to be fleeing the city, while the Kurdish governor of the region appealed to everyone with arms to resist Baghdad’s advance.

The Iraqi government has asserted that the Shia militias or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), who are notorious for anti-Sunni and anti-Kurdish attacks, have agreed not to enter Kirkuk itself, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious city including Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds. But already by Monday afternoon, there were reports of two senior PMU commanders entering the city to watch Iraqi flags being raised over government buildings.

Al-Abadi released a statement Monday proclaiming that the military operation sought to “protect the unity of the country” and urged Kurds not to resist.

An indication of the violence in store for the region is given by the fact that the Iraqi advance was led by elite forces from Baghdad’s Counter-Terrorism Force, which led the murderous assault on Mosul that, in conjunction with US air strikes, laid waste to much of the city and claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives.

Originally published in WSWS.org

16.10.2017 Pressenza London

This post is also available in: Italian

Jeremy Corbyn: “Yes, Labour is threatening to destroy the current economic model”
(Image by https://www.facebook.com/JeremyCorbynMP/?fref=ts)

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, speaking at the Cooperative Party Conference last Saturday has touched many important topics about national and international politics. The complete text can be read here.

Here are some of the most significant passages of his speech.

“We need co-operative values at home and abroad” he said. “We live in a world riven by conflict, spurred on by ego and neo-imperial ambition. Never has the time been more important to restate our commitment to the UN Charter, the third clause of which states its aim ‘To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems’.

With the problems facing us of nuclear proliferation, climate change, the global refugee crisis, the humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen and of the Rohingya in Myanmar – a global vision driven by our co-operative principles is more necessary than ever. Whether its Donald Trump or Kim Jong-Un – macho posturing needs to give way to calm, rational co-operation. And across the world co-operatives play such a huge role as a spur to development, empowering women, bringing communities together. And today there are over a billion people worldwide who are members of co-operatives  and I am proud to say that I am one of them”.

He then admitted that, as Philip Hammond said, Labour “is threatening to destroy the current economic model, a system which exploits the many for the profits of a few, that the Conservatives want to defend. They want to conserve the privilege of the few.

I am not going to sit back when their economic model is seeing:

–          homelessness double

–          four million children in poverty

–          over a million older people not getting the care they need

Their economic model is broken. It doesn’t work for most people. Even the International Monetary Fund thinks inequality and low taxes for the richest are harming the economy” he added.

“When we talk about taking natural monopolies into public ownership we’re not inspired by the centralised and remote models of the 1940s and 1950s. We’re determined to create models of ownership that involve workers and consumers based on Co-operative principles, whether that’s at community, regional or national level.

“I believe that we are entering a period of unprecedented opportunity for socialist politics and co-operative principles. New technology is empowering participation, new social movements today are horizontalist rather than hierarchical, networked rather than top-down. That’s why when I ran to be Labour leader I said I wanted our party to be a movement. And today we are with well over half a million members who joined because they want to be involved and want to participate in our movement”.

The top-down model of organisation, whether in politics, the media or in business, is being challenged and is breaking down.

The technology of the digital age should be empowering workers, enabling us to co-operate on a scale not possible before and yet too often it has enabled a more rapacious and exploitative form of capitalism to emerge.

Look at Uber, Deliveroo, and others. The platforms these companies use are the technologies of the future. But, too often, their business models depend not on technological advantage, but on establishing an effective monopoly in their market and using it to drive wages and conditions through the floor.

Digital platforms are opening up huge opportunities for horizontal, more democratic, forms of organisation to flourish.

Imagine an Uber run co-operatively by their drivers, collectively controlling their futures, agreeing their own pay and conditions, with profits shared or re-invested.

This new consensus will reward the real wealth creators – that means all of us. It will genuinely value people and communities – and invest in them. It will create an economy fit for the 21st Century with a state that’s not afraid to act when something goes wrong but, more importantly, also proactive to make sure things work in the first place.

The biggest obstacle to this is not technological but ourselves. We must have the confidence and organisational skill to make it happen.

Co-operatives should be supported by government through access to finance, through legal changes to level the playing field for cooperatives in the market, and through a better government procurement policy, so that public money is being used to support companies that serve the public good.

To prevent just the few benefiting from the “rise of the robots”, we consider higher minimum wages, a shorter working week, profit sharing schemes, or putting the ownership and control of the robots in the hands of those who work with them and come to rely on them.

We don’t have all the answers yet, but are thinking radically about how we can shape the next thirty years to use the power of new technology to make our economy work for the many not the few.

We are inspiring millions.

We are a movement ready to take office and ready to shape our country for the future”.

15.10.2017 – Northeast India Nava J. Thakuria

China’s Myanmar bonanza without responsibility
Myanmar – China pipeline (Image by http://www.minorityvoices.org)

As the world’s media continues focusing on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, its giant neighbour China maintains its aloofness while still fully using the fuel pipelines passing through the trouble-torn Arakan (also known as Rakhine) province of western Burma (former name of Myanmar).

The China-Myanmar gas & crude oil pipelines, connecting Kyaukphyu port of Rakhine – lately in the media for the gory clashes between majority Buddhists and Rohingya Muslim settlers – with the Kunming city in south-west China started operations in May 2017.

The pipeline is designed to shift crude oil from the Middle East and Africa through Myanmar with an aim to feed the world’s second-biggest oil consumer nation. Now the Chinese authorities in Beijing no longer need to depend on troublesome cargo shipping through the South China Sea (around 5,000 km) for its crude oil imports for the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) run refineries in Yunnan.

The 770 kilometre (480 mile) long China-Burma pipelines (inside Myanmar), owned and built by Beijing with a budget of USD 1.5 billion under its One Belt, One Road policy is expected to transfer around 22 million tons of crude oil annually (around 442,000 barrels a day). The pipeline is expected to shift nearly 6% of China’s total imports (as per year 2016 record).

A joint venture of CNPC (with a 50.95% stake) and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE, 49.05%), the pipelines almost divide Myanmar.

The country in desperate need of financial supports can claim a road-right fee of US $13.81 million for both the pipelines annually along with a transit fee of $1 per ton of crude oil under a 30-year agreement. Moreover, Myanmar can take 2 million tons of crude oil annually from the line for its consumption.

The agreement between the two neighbouring countries to build the pipelines from the Bay of Bengal to China’s Yunnan province was signed in 2009 and subsequently the works started the following year. The 793 km (493 mile) natural gas pipeline was already made operational by 2015 with the transmission capacity of 12 billion cubic meters annually from the Shwe offshore field.

The oil pipeline, parallel to it across Myanmar, was also planned to be started in the same year, but because of political differences between the two countries and public resistances its operation was delayed. The activists continue to claim that over 20,000 indigenous people were losing their livelihoods because of confiscation of arable lands for the project.

The early 2017 visit of Myanmar President Htin Kyaw to Beijing witnessed the signing of an operational agreement in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping on 10 April. The most trusted ally of Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi, one who runs the democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government as a de-facto chief, committed to make the oil pipeline operational at the earliest possible moment.

The strategic relationship between China and Myanmar lately emerges triumphant, but it may be noted that both have enjoyed a trusted diplomatic relationship since long back. Burma then a semi-democratic government in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) recognized the People’s Republic of China in 1949 soon after the Chinese Communist Party led by Mao Zedong emerged victorious on all battle fronts. Later on both countries established a formal diplomatic relationship in 1950.

It was followed by the anti-Chinese uprising in 1967, when the agitating Burmese people targeted the Chinese embassy in Rangoon. The Communist Chinese government took a hard stand against the Burmese regime of General Ne Win. Later when the Southeast Asian country went under complete military rule, ties with Beijing had improved visibly by the eighties.

After the eighth of August 1988 (08-08-88) Burmese uprising that collapsed Ne Win’s regime and paved the way for the military junta to rule the country, China became friendlier with Burma as the international community started isolating the General Than Swe led regime. The military dictators rejected the outcome of 1990 general elections, where Suu Kyi’s NLD won a landslide victory and even put the Nobel peace laureate under house arrest.

Slowly Myanmar became more dependent on China and it continued till a quasi-democratic government took power at Naypyitaw (Myanmar’s new capital) in 2011. The former Myanmar President Thein Sein, who took some strong decisions against China including the suspension of the Beijing-owned Myitsone hydropower project in Kachin province, tried to build closer ties with Europe and USA. The relationship survived with the initiative of Myanmar’s State counsellor and foreign minister Suu Kyi again.

Meanwhile, oppositions to the project surfaced as the Myanmar-China Pipeline Watch Committee warned that oil spills could severely affect the land & coastal ecosystem harming the livelihood of thousands of Myanmar residents. The umbrella body of local community-based organizations urged the authorities to adopt efficient measures to prevent oil spills along the pipeline.

The rights body also raised voices for Burmese farmers, who handed over their arable lands to the project authority, but are yet to receive compensation. Both the pipelines are laid in parallel through the under-developed countryside and the affected villagers were assured adequate compensations by the Chinese authorities, but it has not turned into reality, added the forum.

Of course, the CNPC claimed that the project was materialized with an eye kept on environmental protection and land restoration. Moreover, emphasis was given to community development activities like the building of schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, power & water supply, telecommunication arrangements etc., for the benefit of affected families across Myanmar.

Earth Rights International (ERI), a nongovernmental & non-profit organization combining the power of law & people in defence of the environment & human rights expressed happiness that the Chinese investors had succeeded in operating the projects after some delays.

However it argued that ‘there are still some major issues waiting to be solved, such as land compensation to communities, safety concerns, and ecological restoration at the project site’.

“The CNPC as one of the main investors should keep their commitment to health, safety, and the environment and solve these problems with the effective consultation with local communities,” said Valentina Stackl, communications manager of USA based ERI while responding to Asia Sentinel’s queries.

She also added that when Myanmar was under the military government, the affected communities had no choice but to remain silent even when their legal rights were seriously violated. After the election of the NLD, more and more communities have started to stand up for their rights, not just on projects with Chinese investors, but all potential delinquent investors, stated Valentina.

Lately, the justified demands for its own share of benefits has started to be heard when a public representative of Myanmar’s Shan province came out to say that the benefit (in terms of annual revenue) of the pipelines should go to his provincial government too. Shan lawmaker Nang Kham Aye, while reacting to Myanmar minister Tun Naing’s comment about the share of benefits out of the project, asserted that all stake holders should get their dues.

13.10.2017 Countercurrents

This post is also available in: Greek

Trump Puts Israel First With UNESCO Withdrawal
Israel has tried to use UNESCO to legitimize its colonization of Palestinian heritage sites in the occupied West Bank, including Hebron’s Ibrahimi mosque. (Image by APA images)

By Ali Abunimah

Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy was on full display Thursday when the State Department announced that the United States is withdrawing from UNESCO over the United Nations cultural body’s supposed “anti-Israel bias.”

Under President Barack Obama, the US had already cut funding to the agency because of a US law that restricts support to UN bodies that recognize Palestine as a state.

UNESCO head Irina Bokova expressed regret at the US decision.

Bokova has previously bent over backwards to appease Israel, including by echoing its false claims of anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.

The extent to which US leaders are willing to serve Israel is demonstrated by a simple thought experiment: it’s impossible to imagine the US pulling out of any world body citing an “anti-Canadian,” “anti-British” or an “anti-French” bias. Even though they are among the closest US allies, such a move would immediately subject the president to accusations from his virulently nationalistic base of putting foreign interests before American ones.

Yet President Trump is likely to hear much praise, and not only from the more right-wing segments of the American establishment.

In April, all 100 US Senators signed a letter endorsing the myth that the UN has an “anti-Israel agenda.”

This means there is not likely to be much critical examination in such circles of the bogus claims of anti-Israel bias.

Israeli smears

In recent months, Israel and its supporters have falsely claimed that UNESCO resolutions have undermined Jewish connections to heritage sites in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

A year ago, Israel attempted to have Jerusalem’s Old City, the site of the al-Aqsa mosque compound, removed from UNESCO’s list of endangered world heritage sites.

That effort came as groups that call for the destruction of the al-Aqsa mosque and its replacement with a Jewish temple intensified their activities, often with Israeli government funding and support.

The Israeli attempt came two weeks after UNESCO had voted to condemn the myriad well-documented ways Israel violates the rights of Palestinian and Muslim worshippers at al-Aqsa mosque and threatens the architectural integrity of the compound.

Israel falsely claimed that the vote denied a Jewish connection to the al-Aqsa mosque site that Jews call Temple Mount.

As a result of that vote, Israel launched a global smear campaign against UNESCO, even likening it to the Islamic State group, or ISIS.

Upholding international law

Some UN officials caved in to the Israeli bullying and distanced themselves from the resolution.

But in May, UNESCO passed a resolution that, in line with international law, called Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem “null and void” and demanded that Israel halt excavations and other works in the city.

Israel again launched a campaign of smears, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu terming the resolution “delusional” and “bizarre.”

The only thing that UNESCO had done was to reaffirm what the UN Security Council had stated just months earlier: that Israel is the occupying power and must abide by international law.

Months later, Israel’s ire was raised again when UNESCO passed two resolutions again upholding international law.

The resolutions recognized Hebron’s Old City and Ibrahimi mosque as endangered Palestinian heritage sites.

Distorting history

Israel again went on a verbal rampage, claiming that UNESCO promotes “lies” and “fake history.”

“This time they decided that the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is a Palestinian site, meaning not Jewish, and that it’s in danger,” Netanyahu claimed.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs is the name used by Israel for the Ibrahimi mosque, where an American Jewish settler massacred 29 Palestinians in 1994. The site is venerated by Muslims, Christians and Jews as the burial place of Abraham and other prophets.

What Netanyahu did – as Israeli officials often do – is conflate Jewish belief with Israeli control, as if a site cannot be both revered by Jews and located in Palestinian territory. There is, however, no contradiction between a site being Palestinian, on the one hand, and sacred to Muslims, Christians or Jews, on the other.

So what “anti-Israel bias” means in practice is failing to enthusiastically endorse Israel’s distortions and lies aimed at legitimizing its illegal colonization and its attempts to erase any history in Palestine that does not bolster the Zionist colonial narrative.

The US withdrawal comes as UNESCO is set to elect Bokova’s successor this week, a contest that Israeli media have painted as a sectarian battle between a Muslim frontrunner from Qatar and a Jewish candidate from France.

There is little reason to lament the departure of the US from UNESCO. What would be even better is if Israel follows it out too.

Ali Abunimah is Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books. Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.

Originally published in the Electronic Intifada

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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