BDS presses on

Pindo student politics “rapidly shifting” despite Israel lobby efforts
Nora Barrows-Friedman, Electronic Intifada, Aug 27 2016

Audio here – RB

Across the country, students are gearing up for another academic year and another season of campaigning for Palestinian rights. They are organizing amidst expanded attacks on free speech waged by well-funded Israel lobby groups on and off campus. State and federal Congress critturs are also passing legislation aimed at suppressing or criminalizing activism related to the BDS campaign. Israel is actively encouraging such measures as it announced its own plan to root out and expel BDS activists. Earlier this month, Israel denied entry to Charlotte Kates of the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoners Solidarity Network. Kates was travelling to accompany a delegation of European parliamentarians and lawyers in support of Bilal Kayed, who ended a 71-day hunger strike this week. She was interrogated about her activism with the BDS movement. However, despite these efforts, Omar Zahzah, a graduate student at UCLA and a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), said:

There’s clearly a growing consensus that the time has come to pull investments from companies that are profiting off of both the occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Since the beginning of 2016 alone, more than a dozen campuses around the country have passed some form of divestment resolution or boycott measure, explained Rahim Kurwa, also a graduate student at UCLA and a member of SJP. Inside the University of California system, where eight out of 9 undergraduate campuses have passed divestment resolutions, students say that there has been a steady increase in public opinion and the popularity of campaigns for Palestinian rights. Zahzah and Kurwa recently co-authored an essay about the lessons learned during the UCLA divestment campaign, which took years of organizing before divestment was passed in 2014. Kurwa explained:

Looking back, I think we all thought that divestment was impossible in the beginning. We were very certain that we did not have the political power and the student government votes at that time. But one of the real lessons I learned was that you make the road by walking it.

Kurwa explained that the successful divestment campaign was a “product of the organizing” that happened by students who faced repression by Israel advocacy groups and the university itself. Earlier this month, a NYT article on student activism related to Palestine quoted Mark Yudof, the former president of the University of California system. Yudof said:

I don’t want to see BDS become stronger because, 20 years from now, these students will be judges, heads of Congress … We have to respond now to maintain the historical relationship with Israel.

Yudof is now the head of the Academic Engagement Network, a staunchly pro-Israel association of academics across more than 100 universities who are working to fight the boycott movement. Zahzah said:

It’s not a surprise to hear that statement. Every time that there’s some attempt to counter what is an undeniably a really growing and sweeping consensus … there’s always a reaction and backlash, and it’s always framed in these panicked ways: ‘we need to stop this, we need to stamp this out.’ There’s something very true to what Yudof is saying. Students on UC campuses are eventually going to be members of the public in various capacities after they graduate. And the rapidly shifting politics around Israel-Palestine on campuses is something that we should really take heart in. People now realize that it doesn’t make any sense to claim that you’re a progressive or that you care about basic principles of equality and human rights if you can’t apply those principles to the question of Palestine, if you can’t support the Palestinian struggle for human rights, and a freedom struggle that has gone on for decades now.

she’s from pindo peace now, which is anti-BDS

Netanyahu’s Mixed Messages on Temple Mount Incitement
Lara Friedman, Times of Israel, Aug 26 2016

In 2009, Israel arrested the head of the northern branch of Israel’s Islamic Movement for incitement, for saying that Israel “seeks to build a synagogue on Al-Aqsa Mosque.” Since then, and especially over the past two years, as unrest has rocked Jerusalem, Netanyahu has regularly argued that PA incitement over the Temple Mount is a chief cause of violence, and has called PA boxtops’ statements about Israel’s intentions on the Temple Mount “gross lies.” Earlier this month, on Aug 14-15, Jews observed the fast day of Tisha B’Av, commemorating various catastrophes that have befallen the Jewish people, including the destruction of the first and second temples. Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister, Eli Ben-Dahan, marked this solemn occasion by telling a crowd gathered for a march around the Old City:

We aren’t embarrassed to say it: We want to rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount.

To be clear: if Ben Dahan were a private individual expressing his personal views, there would no issue. It is as much the right of religious Jews to aspire to rebuild the Temple as it is the right of Muslims to hold the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock sacred. But Ben Dahan is not merely a private individual. He is a highly visible member of the Israeli government. As such, his words are rank incitement, stoking Palestinian fears and anger over Israeli intentions vis-à-vis the Temple Mount. They are no less incitement than Palestinian claims that Israel is digging under the al Aqsa Mosque, and Muslim claims that Jews have no religious or historic claims to the Temple Mount. So why hasn’t Netanyahu publicly reprimanded Ben Dahan for his incitement? Indeed, why hasn’t Netanyahu rebuked other Israeli public officials for spreading similar “gross lies” about Israeli intentions on the Mount? Like Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Beit Yehudi), who has repeatedly made approving remarks about building the Temple, including in Nov 2014Jul 2013, and Jan 2013; and in May 2012, when Ariel and then-Knesset member Michael Ben Ari were filmed with other activists praying on the Temple Mount, contrary to Israeli law, and singing:

We will build the holy temple.

Netanyahu likewise said nothing earlier this summer, when Israel’s chief rabbi, a government employee, urged rebuilding the Temple. Nor did Netanyahu speak up in Nov 2015, when it came to light that his controversial nominee for chief of public diplomacy, Ran Baratz, had written approvingly of the desire to build the Third Temple. Baratz was subsequently appointed Netanyahu’s media advisor. Netanyahu held his silence, too, in Nov 2014, when then-MK Moshe Feiglin, during a filmed tour of the Temple Mount, pointed to the Dome of the Rock and described it as “the place where the 3rd temple will stand, soon, with G-d’s help.” Nor was Netanyahu moved to say anything in Jul 2012, when then-MK Zevulun Orlev published an article calling for building the third Temple and, to do so, removing the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. Netanyahu’s consistent silence is even more troubling when you follow the advice of Joe Biden:

Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.

As reported extensively in the Israeli media, in 20122013Nov 2015, and Dec 2015, successive Netanyahu-led governments and their members have supported and cooperated with Israeli organizations devoted to the goal of rebuilding of the Temple, most notably, the Temple Institute. Netanyahu’s failure to publicly reject the statements of Ben Dahan, Ariel, and the others, and his governments’ support for the Temple Institute and its ilk, can in the most generous interpretation, be viewed as evidence of Netanyahu’s political cowardice, opportunism, and hypocrisy. Viewed through a lens colored by anger and mistrust, they appear to bolster Palestinians’ worst fears regarding Israel’s true intentions on the Temple Mount. In Dec 2015, Netanyahu told fellow Likud members in a private meeting (audio of which was leaked) that if Israel wanted to destroy Al-Aqsa,

… it would not require a great effort … but it goes against everything we stand for.

This casual statement gets to the heart of the matter. Palestinians don’t need Netanyahu to remind them that Israel has the power to destroy al-Aqsa. They know and fear this, viscerally. Palestinians likewise have very compelling reasons to doubt Netanyahu when he says it won’t happen, because Netanyahu’s silence when members of his own government speak out in support of rebuilding the Temple, along with his governments’ quiet support for groups working to achieve this goal, sends a very different message.

the evil ones get eviller on your dime

ADL took US cops to Israeli prison, occupied Hebron and settler winery during counter-terror seminar
Alex Kane, MondoWeiss, Aug 26 2016

The cops flew into Tel Aviv on a Sunday afternoon. Four hours later, they met with an ADL official and an Israeli professor, who gave them an “introduction to Israeli politics and society.” A week later, the officers got time for an “optional walk on the Mediterranean Sea,” and in between their Tel Aviv arrival and their idyllic walk, they traveled to occupied Hebron and drank settlement wine in the Golan Heights. Those are some of the details of a recent Pindosi law enforcement trip to Israel sponsored by the ADL. The itinerary for the 2016 ADL National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Israel, obtained by Mondoweiss from a public records request to the Orlando PD, provides a look into what Pindosi cops do when they’re flown into Israel to meet with Israeli security officers. Since 2004, the ADL has taken Pindosi law enforcement on annual trips to Israel, where, the ADL says, the cops get “strategies and best practices in fighting terror” from “Israeli experts.”

The ADL trips, and similar jaunts sponsored by JINSA and the AJC’s Project Interchange, are promoted as ways for Pindo law enforcement to learn how Israel deals with terrorism and to forge ties with Israeli security forces. The pro-Israel groups typically pay for the officers’ trips to Israel. But the trips have come under withering controversy from Palestine solidarity activists and Black Lives Matter protesters. In an age of police militarization and a growing movement to combat police brutality, critics see these trips as potentially fueling harmful police tactics. And they point out that the Israeli army and police are occupying forces that have repeatedly been accused of violating Palestinian rights. These trainings, Amnesty International’s Edith Garwood recently wrote, put Pindosi police “in the hands of military, security and police systems that have racked up documented human rights violations for years,” including extrajudicial executions, torture, surveillance and excessive use of force against protesters. The ADL and Orlando PD did not return requests for comment. This year’s one-week trip began on Jul 31, and included members of the New Jersey State Police, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Illinois State police, and the heads of the Orlando and San Bernardino police, two cities recently hit by mass shootings. The ADL and the PDs do not release details about what specific tactics the police learned in Israel. John Mina, the head of the Orlando PD, told the Orlando Sentinelthat the information he received was “law enforcement sensitive” and that he “learned about how the Israeli Police respond to and investigate terrorism.” He told the paper he liked the random Israeli checkpoints security forces set up, and that while he wouldn’t do that in Orlando,  “it did give me a few ideas about security measures here in Orlando that I won’t share.”

The itinerary Mondoweiss obtained does provide specifics on where the officers traveled and who they spoke to. On Aug 1, they met with Roni Tidhar, who does security work at Ben Gurion Airport. Security forces at Ben Gurion Airport routinely racially profile Arabs and Muslims, including Pindosis, and subject them to invasive interrogations. The next day, after meeting with PA police in Beit Lehem, the Pindo cops traveled to occupied Hebron, the most distilled microcosm of the Israeli occupation, where Israeli soldiers and police protect around 800 extremist settlers who routinely abuse Palestinian residents. In Hebron, they spoke with Israeli Police Commander Ron Gertner and received a “security overview” of the Cave of the Patriarchs. On Aug 4, the delegation traveled to Gilboa Prison, a site criticized by lawyers and Palestinian rights advocates as a place run by authorities who have tortured prisoners and withheld air conditioning units in extremely hot cells. Later that night, they traveled to the Golan Heights, an area taken from Syria in the 1967 war, then occupied and annexed by Israel. An estimated 20,000 settlers live in the Golan Heights. They visited the Assaf Winery, a well-known winery, and drank wine and had lunch there. Pindo law enforcement trips to Israel have come under increasing scrutiny in recent months. In July, BLM demonstrators in Atlanta called for the end of “the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program, that trains our officers in Apartheid Israel.” But Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed pushed back on that demand, saying he believes Israel has “some of the best counter-terrorism techniques in the world” and that it “benefits our police department.” Despite the criticism from activists, programs to forge relationships between Pindo cops and Israel continue to expand. As Mondoweiss reported, Birthright recently started a program for Jewish cops to travel to Israel.

slimy slimy witchhunt

Labour’s National Executive extends purge of party membership
Robert Stevens, WSWS, Aug 27 2016

The Labour Party’s right wing escalated its purge of the party Thursday with the announcement that Ronnie Draper, the general secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, had been suspended from membership. Draper, a party member for 40 years, was suspended by Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC). In a statement Friday, Draper said he had not been informed of the basis for his suspension. All he had been told “is that this is something to do with an unidentified tweet I have posted. I have not been given the opportunity to refute any allegations, or a date for any hearing.” He is now “blocked from attending Labour party meetings, annual conference and, above all, voting in the leadership election.” While it is not yet established why Draper, the leader of the 20,000-strong union, was suspended, he is a prominent supporter of the pseudo-left Socialist Party-led National Shop Stewards Network. Draper’s suspension proves that the right-wing opponents of Jeremy Corbyn will stop at nothing to try and prevent his re-election as Labour leader on Sep 24. The NEC has already won legal backing for its decision to bar 130,000 members, many thought to be Corbyn supporters, from taking part in the election.

Overseeing the witch-hunt is the party’s Compliance Unit, which is working through applications to check whether 180,000 new registered supporters who signed up to take part in the vote are eligible, or include members of or public advocates for other groups. It was reported earlier this month that some 40,000 of the 180,000 applicants who joined in a two-day window in July, after being forced to pay £25 to do so, have already been barred from voting. They are accused of committing “crimes” including: previous support for a rival political party candidat:, publicly advocating support for other political parties and group:, absence from the electoral register: or because their payments supposedly bounced. Another 10,000 cases are currently before the NEC’s Oversights Panel, where they are being assessed as to whether they are in compliance with the party’s “aims and values.” In order to enforce this, a massive trawl of Labour members’ social media accounts is ongoing, as revealed in the case of Draper. The Compliance Unit is Labour’s version of Orwell’s Thought Police. It originated in earlier purges of the party, carried out by Neil Kinnock in the 1980s.

So extensive, however, is the current purge that Saving Labour, a network formed by the Blairites as part of the coup, issued projections this week that leadership challenger Owen Smith could narrowly defeat Corbyn. Saving Labour compiled the study among the 647,000 members who are eligible to vote, including those who joined before and after the 2015 general election, new registered supporters, and trade union and other affiliates. Commenting on Draper’s suspension, John McDonnell, Corbyn’s shadow chancellor and closest ally, noted that Labour peer Lord Sainsbury, who has given more than £2m to support the Liberal Democrats, has not been suspended. Nor has any action been taken against Michael Foster, the Labour Party donor who called Corbyn and his staff “Nazi stormtroopers.” McDonnell said:

Labour party members will not accept what appears to be a rigged purge of Jeremy Corbyn supporters.

But neither McDonnell nor Corbyn has presented any means by which the tens of thousands of party members who are being disenfranchised can oppose this blatant ballot rigging. McDonnell proposed only writing to party general secretary and arch-coup plotter, Iain McNicol, to demand members are informed of the reasons for their suspension and be given time to challenge the decision. Corbyn appeared for the fifth hustings between himself and Smith in Glasgow just hours after Draper’s suspension had been announced. But he made no mention of it during the debate, nor commented at all on the putsch. Again, he made a number of retreats on his stated left-wing objectives. Asked whether the UK should remain a member of NATO, Corbyn said he supported the Western imperialist alliance “as far as it can be a force for peace and good in the world.” Without mentioning the massive build-up of NATO military forces along Russia’s western border, he called only for a “de-escalation of tensions between NATO and Russia” and said he was opposed to human rights abuses “in NATO supporting countries or in Russia itself.” In response to a question as to whether he was in favour of a referendum on ending the monarchy, he replied, “I wouldn’t make it a priority in an election campaign,” adding vaguely that he supported “much greater democracy in Britain” and replacing the House of Lords with an elected upper chamber. Corbyn repeated his opposition to a split in the Labour Party, stating:

After this election, the Parliamentary Labour Party I hope will recognise the result of this election, and recognise that when we come together as a movement, as members, MPs, we can take on and defeat the Tories.

His efforts to placate the right were to no avail. Smith made clear in his own remarks that the key element in the timing of the right-wing putsch is the shock Leave vote in June’s referendum on UK membership of the EU. In alliance with the highest echelons of the state and military-intelligence apparatus, sections of the ruling elite are seeking to refashion Labour as a political vehicle for overturning the result of the referendum. With parliament resuming shortly, new Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May is facing increasing pressure from the anti-EU wing of her party to enact Article 50, the clause that officially begins the process of a UK withdrawal from the EU. Smith has made the issue of Brexit, and his preparedness to do everything he can to prevent it, the central dividing line in the leadership contest. Asked how he would call on Labour MPs to vote if triggering Article 50 was put to a vote in parliament, as some are demanding as a means of preventing it, Corbyn said:

We have to recognise there has been a referendum that didn’t give us the result that we wanted.

But he refused to state explicitly whether he would oppose Article 50 being triggered, instead answering that lines should be “set down” in negotiations over Britain’s withdrawal, such as ensuring the protection of workers’ rights and that Britain’s industries and financial services had continued access to European markets. Smith responded that this was not “good enough,” and concluded:

It is wrong for Britain to be outside the EU. We should be in it.

Repeating the charge of the coup plotters that Corbyn had “sabotaged” the pro-EU campaign, Smith seemed to read from a series of prompt notes attacking Corbyn as a long-time opponent of the EU, who had only recently made a pretence “Damascene conversion” to supporting the Remain campaign. He baited Corbyn repeatedly, accusing the Labour leader of lying as to whether he had even voted personally for Remain. Smith said:

I’m not even sure that Jeremy did vote ‘in’ in the EU referendum.

If he became leader, Smith said, Labour’s next general election manifesto would include a pledge to stay in the EU and he attacked Corbyn for not committing to the same, saying:

I will use absolutely every vehicle possible in order to do that, including voting in Parliament not to trigger Article 50. If I were leader of the Labour Party, we would vote to block Article 50. Under my leadership we would be strong and we would be staying in the EU.

has to end with a boilerplate recommendation of their party

“Godfather” Biden visits Turkey
Andre Damon, WSWS, Aug 27 2016

On Wednesday, Biden arrived in Turkey to announce, at a joint press conference with Erdoğan that the Pindo military would directly support Turkey in its incursion into northern Syria. Biden said, adding:

We strongly support what the Turkish military has done, we have been flying air cover for them. We believe very strongly that the Turkish border should be controlled by Turkey.

The announcement represented an about-face for Washington. In July, Erdoğan survived a military coup, which is widely believed to have enjoyed Pindo support. For the past six weeks, the Pindo government, along with its media mouthpieces, has been denouncing Erdoğan for using the coup to launch a crackdown against dissident factions within the Turkish state seen to be closely linked to Washington. Biden’s reversal was at the same time a double-cross of the Kurdish forces which Pindostan had promoted as its proxies in the Syria conflict. During the press conference, Biden apologized for the White House not having announced its support for Erdoğan at the beginning of the coup attempt. He declared, somewhat incoherently:

Let me say it for one last time: The Pindo sheeple stand with you. We (inaudible). Barack Obama was one of the first people you called. But I do apologize. I wish I could have been here earlier.

Biden’s performance recalls a well-known scene in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, where a Mafia assassin sympathetically reassures his victim, “This is business, not personal.” The Godfather is, indeed, an appropriate reference point for a discussion of the planning and execution of Pindo foreign policy. Its global operations are directed by a cabal of intelligence agents, acting in the interests of the financial and corporate elite, whose operations have an essentially conspiratorial and criminal character. Outside of and beyond any democratically controlled decision-making, these forces overturn governments and start wars to further the sordid commercial and geopolitical aims of Pindosi imperialism. The foreign policy of the American ruling class, in addition to the impoverishment of Pindosi society to fund the vast military apparatus, has had the most horrifying consequences for the peoples of the countries targeted. The war fomented by Pindostan in Syria has reduced the population of that country from 23 million to about 17 million, killed up to half a million people, and displaced over 13 million. Thirteen years after the invasion of Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of at least a million people, some 4.4 million Iraqis are internally displaced, with over a quarter million forced to flee the country.

Questions of foreign policy are not decided, much less deliberated, within the framework of elections. Nowhere in the 2016 presidential race is there a serious debate, for instance, on the character of the Pindo alliance with Turkey or the consequences of launching a de facto NATO invasion of Syria. Congress holds no hearings or votes. It neither seeks nor desires to play a serious role. As for the people, they simply have no say. The press plays a key role in the deception and disenfranchisement of the population. One tactic employed by the corporate-controlled media is simply to exclude “minor” developments such as a Pindo-backed invasion of Syria from the so-called “news.” The most remarkable feature of the media coverage to date of the Turkish incursion is its virtual non-existence. It is a good bet, due to the media’s corrupt silence, that the percentage of the Pindo sheeple that is even aware of the invasion is in the single digits. The blackout of actual reporting is accompanied by cynical “human rights” propaganda on TV about the suffering of Syrian children in Aleppo, which just happens to coincide with setbacks for the US-backed, Al Qaeda-linked “rebels” at the hands of Russian-backed Syrian government forces seeking to dislodge the Islamist militias and take full control of the strategic city.

There are dishonest columns in leading newspapers, particularly the NYT, agitating in the name of “human rights” for a more aggressive intervention by Pindostan. Without mentioning Biden’s trip to Turkey or the incursion into Syria, Times columnist Nicholas Kristof penned an op-ed Thursday entitled “Anne Frank Today Is a Syrian Girl,” in which he sought to pull at the heartstrings of his readers in an effort to convince them that the bloodbath in Syria is not the result of the Pindo-backed proxy war, but rather the outcome of Pindostan’s failure to pursue a more violent military intervention. On the same day, another NYT columnist, Roger Cohen, bemoaned “Pindostan’s Retreat and the Agony of Aleppo,” and complained that Obama’s decision not to launch a full-scale war in 2013 to destroy the government of Assad was Obama’s “worst mistake.” For a quarter-century, during which Pindo governments, Democrat and Republican, have waged virtually non-stop war, such threadbare humanitarian pleas have been trotted out every time the ruling elite wanted to engage in a new bloody adventure. These 25 years are only a foretaste of what is to come if Washington is allowed to continue on its present course. The launching of a NATO invasion of the Syrian war zone brings ever closer a direct clash with nuclear-armed Russia, which is militarily supporting the Damascus regime. Nobody should believe that the criminal cabal that runs Pindo foreign policy will proceed with any more deliberation or caution in launching a war whose body count will be in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, than it does in plotting wars in which “mere” millions of lives are squandered. The wars must be stopped. A central aim of the presidential campaign of the Socialist Equality Party is to mobilize opposition among working people and youth to the criminal and reckless war policies of Pindo imperialism.

here be monsters

Pindostan & Russia fall short on deal to restore Syria truce
AP, Aug 26 2016

Pindostan and Russia said Friday they had resolved a number of issues standing in the way of restoring a nationwide truce to Syria and opening up aid deliveries, but were unable once again to forge a comprehensive agreement on stepping up cooperation to end the brutal war that has killed hundreds of thousands. After meeting off-and-on for nearly 10 hours in Geneva on Friday, Jackass Kerry and Sergei Lavrov could point to only incremental progress in filling in details of a broad understanding to boost joint efforts that was reached last month in Moscow. Their failure to reach an overall deal highlighted the increasingly complex situation on the ground in Syria, including new Russian-backed Syrian government attacks on opposition forces, the intermingling of some of those opposition forces with an al-Qaida affiliate not covered by the truce and the surrender of a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, as well as deep divisions and mistrust dividing Washington and Moscow. The complexities have also grown with the increasing internationalization of what has largely become a proxy war between regional and world powers, highlighted by a move by Turkish troops across the Syrian border ‘against ISIS’ (RB) this week. Jackass said he and Lavrov had agreed on the “vast majority” of technical discussions on steps to reinstate a cease-fire and improve humanitarian access. But critical sticking points remain unresolved and experts will remain in Geneva with an eye toward finalizing those in the coming days, he said:

We are close, but we are not going to rush to an agreement until it satisfies fully the needs of the Syrian people.

Lavrov echoed that, saying “we still need to finalize a few issues” and pointed to the need to separate fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra from Pindo-backed fighters who hold parts of northwest Syria.√:

We have continued our efforts to reduce the areas where we lack understanding and trust, which is an achievement. The mutual trust is growing with every meeting.

Yet, it was clear that neither side believes an overall agreement is imminent or even achievable after numerous previous disappointments shattered a brief period of relative calm earlier this year. The inability to wrest an agreement between Russia and Pindostan as the major sponsors of the opposing sides in the stalled Syria peace talks, all but spells another missed deadline for the UN Syria envoy to get the Syrian government and “moderate” opposition back to the table. UN envoy S de Mistura briefly sat in Friday with Jackass and Lavrov. After missing an initial target date of Aug 1, de Mistura had hoped to restart the intra-Syrian discussions toward political transition in late August. He suspended the talks in late April after a resurgence in the fighting. Friday’s meeting came a month after Jackass and Lavrov met in Moscow and agreed on a number of unspecified actions to get the all-but-ignored truce back in force. However, as in Moscow, neither Jackass nor Lavrov would describe them in detail. In a nod to previous failed attempts to resurrect the cessation of hostilities, Jackass stressed the importance of keeping the details secret, saying:

We do not want to make an announcement … that is not enforceable, that doesn’t have details worked out, that winds up in the place that the last two announcements have wound up. Until we have, neither of us are prepared to make an announcement that is predicated for failure. We don’t want a deal for the sake of the deal, we want a deal that is effective.

And, underscoring deep differences over developments on the ground, Jackass noted that Russia disputes the Pindo “narrative” of recent attacks on heavily populated areas being conducted by Syrian forces, Russia itself and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia. Russia maintains the attacks it has been involved in have targeted legitimate terrorist targets, while Pindostan says they have hit moderate opposition forces. Expectations had been low for the talks, particularly given how efforts to forge a new Pondo-Russia understanding have fallen short virtually every month for the past five years. At the same time, the Obama administration is not of one mind regarding the Russians. The Pentagon has publicly complained about getting drawn into greater cooperation with Russia, even though it has been forced recently to expand communication with Moscow. Last week, Pindostan had to call for Russian help when Syrian warplanes struck an area not far from where Pindo troops were operating.

Pindo boxtops say it is imperative that Russia use its influence with Assad to halt all attacks on moderate opposition forces, open humanitarian aid corridors, and concentrate any offensive action on ISIS and other extremists not covered by what has become a largely ignored truce. Pindo boxtops say they are willing to press rebel groups they support harder on separating themselves from ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, which despite a recent name change is still viewed as AQ’s affiliate in Syria. Those goals are not new, but recent developments have made achieving them even more urgent and important, according to Pindo boxtops. Recent developments include military operations around the city of Aleppo, the entry of Turkey into the ground war, Turkish hostility toward Pindo-backed Kurdish rebel groups and the presence of American military advisers in widening conflict zones. Meanwhile, in a blow to the opposition, rebel forces and civilians in the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya were to be evacuated on Friday after agreeing to surrender the town late Thursday after four years of grueling bombardment and a crippling siege that left the sprawling area in ruins. The surrender of Daraya, which became an early symbol of the nascent uprising against Assad, marks a success for his government, removing a persistent threat only a few miles from his seat of power. Referring to Daraya, Lavrov said:

This is an example I think will get some following.

He said the Russian military’s reconciliation center in Syria has received a request from another area to organize a similar operation, with Russian mediation.

What might that be? Suggestions:

Russia offers Japan to join its humanitarian mission in Syria’s Aleppo: agencies
Dmitry Solovyov, Reuters, Aug 26 2016

Russia’s Defence Ministry is offering Japan to join Moscow’s humanitarian mission in the Syrian city of Aleppo, Russian news agencies cited Russian Deputy Defence Minister Anatoli Antonov as saying on Friday. Antonov made the proposal during his meeting with the Japanese Ambassador to Russia, Toyohisa Kozuki, on Thursday.

destroy all monsters

Why Did the Saudi Regime and Other Gulf Tyrannies Donate Millions to the Clinton Foundation?
Glenn Greenwald, Intercept, Aug 25 2016

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As the numerous and obvious ethical conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation receive more media scrutiny, the tactic of Clinton-loyal journalists is to highlight the charitable work done by the foundation, and then insinuate or even outright state that anyone raising these questions is opposed to its charity. James Carville announced that those who criticize the foundation are “going to hell.” Other Clinton loyalists insinuated that Clinton Foundation critics are indifferent to the lives of HIV-positive babies or are anti-gay bigots. That the Clinton Foundation has done some good work is beyond dispute. But that fact has exactly nothing to do with the profound ethical problems and corruption threats raised by the way its funds have been raised. Hillary Clinton was Pindostan’s chief diplomat, and tyrannical regimes such as the Toads and Thanis jointly donated tens of millions of dollars to an organization run by her family and operated in its name, one whose works has been a prominent feature of her public persona. That extremely valuable opportunity to curry favor with the Clintons, and to secure access to them, continues as she runs for president. The claim that this is all just about trying to help people in need should not even pass a laugh test, let alone rational scrutiny.

To see how true that is, just look at who some of the biggest donors are. Although they did not give while she was Sec State, the Toads by themselves have donated between $10m and $25m to the Clinton Foundation, with donations coming as late as 2014, as she prepared her presidential run. A group called “Friends of the Toads” co-founded “by a Toad prince” gave an additional amount between $1m and $5m. The Clinton Foundation says that between $1m and $5m was also donated by “the State of Qatar,” the UAE, and the government of Brunei. “The State of Kuwait” has donated between $5m and $10m. Theoretically, one could say that these regimes, among the most repressive and regressive in the world, are donating because they deeply believe in the charitable work of the Clinton Foundation and want to help those in need. Is there a single person on the planet who actually believes this? Is Clinton loyalty really so strong that people are going to argue with a straight face that the reason the Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Emirates regimes donated large amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation is because those regimes simply want to help the foundation achieve its magnanimous goals? Here’s one of the Clinton Foundation’s principal objectives; decide for yourself if its tyrannical donors are acting with the motive of advancing that charitable goal:

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All those who wish to argue that the Saudis donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation out of a magnanimous desire to aid its charitable causes, please raise your hand. Or take the newfound casting of the Clinton Foundation as a champion of LGBTs, and the smearing of its critics as indifferent to AIDS. Are the Saudis also on board with these benevolent missions? And the Qataris and Kuwaitis?

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Which is actually more homophobic: questioning the Clinton Foundation’s lucrative relationship to those intensely anti-gay regimes, or cheering and defending that relationship? All the evidence points to the latter. But whatever else is true, it is a blatant insult to everyone’s intelligence to claim that the motive of these regimes in transferring millions to the Clinton Foundation is a selfless desire to help them in their noble work. Another primary project of the Clinton Foundation is the elimination of wealth inequality, which “leads to significant economic disparities, both within and among countries, and prevents underserved populations from realizing their potential.” Who could possibly maintain that the reason the Qatari and Emirates regimes donated millions to the Clinton Foundation was their desire to eliminate such economic oppression?

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It doesn’t exactly take a jaded disposition to doubt that these donations from some of the world’s most repressive regimes are motivated by a desire to aid the Clinton Foundation’s charitable work. To the contrary, it just requires basic rationality. That’s particularly true given that these regimes “have donated vastly more money to the Clinton Foundation than they have to most other large private charities involved in the kinds of global work championed by the Clinton family.” For some mystifying reason, they seem particularly motivated to transfer millions to the Clinton Foundation but not the other charities around the world doing similar work. Why might that be? What could ever explain it? Some Clinton partisans, unwilling to claim that Gulf tyrants have charity in their hearts when they make these donations to the Clinton Foundation, have settled on a different tactic: grudgingly acknowledging that the motive of these donations is to obtain access and favors, but insisting that no quid pro quo can be proven. In other words, these regimes were tricked: They thought they would get all sorts of favors through these millions in donations, but Hillary Clinton was simply too honest and upstanding of a public servant to fulfill their expectations.

The reality is that there is ample evidence uncovered by journalists suggesting that regimes donating money to the Clinton Foundation received special access to and even highly favorable treatment from the Clinton State Department. But it’s also true that nobody can dispositively prove the quid pro quo. Put another way, one cannot prove what was going on inside Hillary Clinton’s head at the time that she gave access to or otherwise acted in the interests of these donor regimes: Was she doing it as a favor in return for those donations, or simply because she has a proven affinity for Gulf State and Arab dictators, or because she was merely continuing decades of U.S. policy of propping up pro-U.S. tyrants in the region? While this “no quid pro quo proof” may be true as far as it goes, it’s extremely ironic that Democrats have embraced it as a defense of Hillary Clinton. After all, this has long been the primary argument of Republicans who oppose campaign finance reform, and indeed, it was the primary argument of the Citizens United majority, once depicted by Democrats as the root of all evil. But now, Democrats have to line up behind a politician who, along with her husband, specializes in uniting political power with vast private wealth, in constantly exploiting the latter to gain the former, and vice versa. So Democrats are forced to jettison all the good-government principles they previously claimed to believe and instead are now advocating the crux of the right-wing case against campaign finance reform: that large donations from vested factions are not inherently corrupting of politics or politicians.

Indeed, as I documented in April, Clinton-defending Democrats have now become the most vocal champions of the primary argument used by the Citizens United majority. “We now conclude,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the Citizens United majority, “that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” That is now exactly the argument Clinton loyalists are spouting to defend the millions in donations from tyrannical regimes (as well as Wall Street banks and hedge funds): Oh, there’s no proof there’s any corruption going on with all of this money. The elusive nature of quid pro quo proof, now the primary Democrat defense of Clinton, has also long been the principal argument wielded by the most effective enemy of campaign finance reform, GOP Sen Mitch McConnell. This is how USA Today, in 1999, described the arguments of McConnell and his GOP allies when objecting to accusations from campaign finance reform advocates that large financial donations are corrupting:

Senate opponents of limiting money in politics injected a bitter personal note into the debate as reformers began an uphill quest to change a system they say has corrupted American government. … Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the legislation’s chief opponent, challenged reform advocate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to name Senate colleagues who have been corrupted by high-dollar political contributions. ”How can there be corruption if no one is corrupt?” McConnell asked, zeroing in on McCain’s frequent speeches about the issue in his presidential campaign. ”That’s like saying the gang is corrupt but none of the gangsters are.” When McCain refused to name names, Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, confronted him. Standing just eight feet from him on the Republican side of the chamber, Bennett charged that McCain had accused him of corruption in seeking pork-barrel spending for his home state. ”I am unaware of any money given that influenced my action here,” Bennett said. ”I have been accused of being corrupt. … I take personal offense.”

The inability to prove that politicians acted as quid pro quo when taking actions that benefited donors has long been the primary weapon of those opposing campaign finance reform. It is now the primary argument of Democratic partisans to defend Hillary Clinton. In Citizens United, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote a scathing dissent on exactly this point, one that Democrats once cheered:

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So if you want to defend the millions of dollars that went from tyrannical regimes to the Clinton Foundation as some sort of wily, pragmatic means of doing good work, go right ahead. But stop insulting everyone’s intelligence by pretending that these donations were motivated by noble ends. Beyond that, don’t dare exploit LGBT rights, AIDS, and other causes to smear those who question the propriety of receiving millions of dollars from the world’s most repressive, misogynistic, gay-hating regimes. Most important, accept that your argument in defense of all these tawdry relationships, that big-money donations do not necessarily corrupt the political process or the politicians who are their beneficiaries, has been and continues to be the primary argument used to sabotage campaign finance reform. Given who their candidate is, Democrats really have no choice but to insist that these sorts of financial relationships are entirely proper (needless to say, Goldman Sachs has also donated millions to the Clinton Foundation, but Democrats proved long ago they don’t mind any of that when they even insisted that it was perfectly fine that Goldman Sachs enriched both Clintons personally with numerous huge speaking fees, though Democrats have no trouble understanding why Trump’s large debts to Chinese banks and Goldman Sachs pose obvious problems). But just as is true of their resurrecting a Cold War template and its smear tactics against their critics, the benefits derived from this tactic should not obscure how toxic it is and how enduring its consequences will likely be.

israel is selling this to UAE!

Apple fixes security flaw after UAE dissident’s iPhone targeted
Joseph Menn, Reuters, Aug 25 2016

SAN FRANCISCO – Apple Inc issued a patch on Thursday to fix a dangerous security flaw in iPhones and iPads after researchers discovered that a prominent UAE dissident’s phone had been targeted with a previously unknown method of hacking. The thwarted attack on the human rights activist, Ahmed Mansoor, used a text message that invited him to click on a web link. Instead of clicking, he forwarded the message to researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab. The hack is the first known case of software that can remotely take over a fully up-to-date iPhone 6. Experts at Citizen Lab worked with security company Lookout and determined that the link would have installed a program taking advantage of a three flaws that Apple and others were not aware of. The researchers disclosed their findings on Thursday. Citizen Lab wrote in a report released on Thursday:

Once infected, Mansoor’s phone would have become a digital spy in his pocket, capable of employing his iPhone’s camera and microphone to snoop on activity in the vicinity of the device, recording his WhatsApp and Viber calls, logging messages sent in mobile chat apps, and tracking his movements.

The researchers said they had alerted Apple a week and a half ago, and the company developed a fix and distributed it as an automatic update to iPhone 6 owners. Apple spox Fred Sainz confirmed that the company had issued the patch after being contacted by researchers. The Citizen Lab team attributed the attack software to a private seller of monitoring systems, NSO Group, an Israeli company that makes software for governments which can secretly target mobile phones and gather information. Tools such as that used in this case, a remote exploit for a current iPhone, cost as much as $1m. NSO Chief Executive Shalev Hulio referred questions to spokesman Zamir Dahbash, who said the company “cannot confirm the specific cases” covered in the Citizen Lab and Lookout reports. Dahbash said:

NSO sells within export laws to government agencies, which then operate the software. The agreements signed with the company’s customers require that the company’s products only be used in a lawful manner. Specifically, the products may only be used for the prevention and investigation of crimes.

Dahbash did not answer follow-up questions, including whether the exposure of the tools use against Mansoor in UAE and a Mexican journalist would end any sales to those countries. NSO has kept a low profile in the security world, despite its 2014 sale of a majority stake for $120m to California private equity firm Francisco Partners. That company’s chief executive, Dipanjan Deb, did not return a call on Thursday. In Nov 2015, Reuters reported that NSO had begun calling itself “Q” and was looking for a buyer for close to $1b. Sarah McKune, senior legal adviser to Citizen Lab, said Israel tries to follow the strictures of the Wassenaar Arrangement, which puts controls on the international sale of nuclear and chemical weapons technology and more recently cyber intrusion tools. NSO may have had to apply for an export license, she added, saying that raised questions about “what consideration was given to the human rights record of UAE.” The Israeli embassy in Washington did not respond to an email seeking comment. NSO marketing material says that it also has capabilities for Android and BlackBerry devices. No version of the software (for these – RB) has been exposed, indicating it remains effective. Citizen Lab did not directly accuse UAE of carrying out the attack on Mansoor with NSO gear called Pegasus, but it said other NSO attacks on critics of the regime were connected to the government. It also said a Mexican journalist and a minority party politician in Kenya had been targeted with NSO software and that domain names set up for other attacks referred to entities in Uzbekistan, Thailand, Turks & Toads and other nations, suggesting that other targets lived in those nations. A call to the UAE embassy in Washington was not immediately returned. The market for “lawful intercept,” or government hacking tools, has come under increased scrutiny with revelations about authoritarian customers and noncriminal victims. Two popular vendors, Hacking Team of Italy and Gamma Group of the United Kingdom, have had their wares exposed by researchers or hackers. Mansoor had previously been targeted with software from both of those companies, according to Citizen Lab. John Scott-Railton said, one of the Citizen Lab researchers:

I can’t think of a more compelling case of serial misuse of lawful intercept malware than the targeting of Mansoor.

typical jackass handflap & gibberish

Jackass calls for unity government in Yemen to end war
Lesley Wroughton, Reuters, Aug 25 2016

(Apologias for Toad massacres, omitted. Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, writing by Noah Browning, editing by Sami Aboudi and Dominic Evans, to ensure abject grovelling throuhgout – RB)

JEDDAH – Jackass Kerry said on Thursday he had agreed in talks with Gulf Arab states and the UN in Jackass on a plan to restart peace talks Yemen with a goal of forming a unity government. UN-sponsored negotiations to end 18 months of fighting in the impoverished country on the Toads’ southern border collapsed this month and the dominant Iran-allied Houthi movement there resumed shelling attacks into the kingdom. Speaking at a press conference with his Toad counterpart Adel al-Jubeir in the Toad city of Jeddah, Jackass said the conflict in which the kingdom has launched thousands of air strikes in favor of the exiled government had gone on too long and needed to end. Jackass said the Houthis must cease shelling across the border with the Toads, pull back from the capital Sanaa which they took control of two years ago, cede their weapons and enter into a unity government with their domestic foes. Yemen’s internationally recognized government, based in Toad Hall, has made similar demands but insisted that the Houthis fulfill all those measures before any new government was formed. However Jackass suggested they could move ahead in parallel. The reference to handing weapons to a third party also appeared to be a departure from the government demands. Jackass said:

We agreed on a renewed approach to negotiations with both a security and political track simultaneously working in order to provide a comprehensive settlement. The final agreement … would include in the first phase a swift formation of a new national unity government, the withdrawal of forces from Sanaa and other areas and the transfer of all heavy weapons including ballistic missiles, from the Houthis and forces aligned to them to a third party. This leaves nothing for future speculation. This has a clarity to it about how confidence can be built, what the end game looks like, and how the parties get there.

Jubeir said the kingdom had “no interest, no claims in Yemen,” but that the Toads & Pindostan had agreed a way forward for Yemen. He said the UN envoy to Yemen would take it up with the parties. He told the news conference:

We managed to come out with a vision related to a roadmap for Yemen, which the UN envoy had discussed with us so there will be clarity on the final settlement which the UN envoy will discuss with the Yemeni parties.

During his 24-hour visit to Jeddah, Jackass met representatives of the Gulf Arab countries who mostly back the kingdom’s war effort. Jackass flew to Jeddah on Wednesday night from Nigeria. In his 30-minute meeting with King Salman, Jackass exchanged words with the 80-year-old monarch about his health. Speaking through a translator in the first public comments on recent surgery in Pindostan, he complained about his back. “We’re happy to see you in good form,” Jackass said, before reporters were ushered from the room.

what a pity charlotte lives so far away in oakland

UC Irvine clears students of pro-Israel groups’ accusations
Charlotte Silver, Electronic Intifada, Aug 25 2016

Three months after a group of students at the University of California, Irvine, protested an event sponsored by Anteaters for Israel and Students Supporting Israel, the university has concluded its investigation into allegations of misconduct. The results of the investigation deal a blow to efforts by national pro-Israel organizations to stifle free speech on campus. The 18 May protest had sparked accusations that students from a coalition of groups including Students for Justice in Palestine had harassed, threatened and intimidated the participants and attendees of the event, which featured a film and a panel of IOF soldiers. Students Supporting Israel, which has chapters on a number of campuses, appears to be an astroturf organization backed by well-funded Israel lobby groups closely tied to the Israeli government. The day after the incident, UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman sent an email to the entire student body, condemning the protest for “crossing the line of civility” and suggesting it contained “threats, harassment, incitement and defamatory speech.” But a 58-page report produced by CrystalRae Lugo-Shearer, the director of the school’s Office of Student Conduct, finds that the most troubling claims are not true. Based on interviews with 11 witnesses and eight video clips, her conclusions about what took place that evening are mostly consistent with the version of events documented by the observers from the National Lawyers Guild and students from Students for Justice in Palestine who spoke to EI at the time.

The school’s investigation soundly refutes claims made by Students Supporting Israel, the Orange County Hillel chapter, ZOA and the Louis Brandeis Center for Human Rights, pro-Israel organizations all of which tried to paint the protesters as threats to Jewish students on campus. The investigation confirmed that members of Students for Justice in Palestine had been denied entrance to the event. Letters from the Brandeis Center and ZOA had urged the UC Irvine administration to find the protesters in violation of codes of conduct, specifically urging them to report the incident to the Orange County District Attorney’s office for criminal prosecution. ZOA painted a lurid picture of the 18 May events, amounting to a riot in which Jewish students were terrorized and forced to hide by a “hateful mob” intent on forcing their way into the room where the screening was being held. Both organizations’ letters invoked the 2011 precedent in which 10 students faced criminal charges for protesting a 2010 speech at UC Irvine by Michael Oren when he was the Israeli ambassador to Pindostan. Lugo-Shearer did find, however, that it was “more likely than not” that the student protest had generated so much noise as to disrupt the viewing of the film, a documentary about IOF soldiers. On this basis, Lugo-Shearer found the student protesters in violation of one policy on student conduct:

Obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures, or other university activities.

The sanctions imposed on the group are a warning and an assignment to host an educational program. Notably, Lugo-Shearer said she considered seven other possible violations, including physical violence or threat of violence, harassment motivated by a person’s race, religion or national origin and violating local and state laws. She found the SJP students violated none of these. Julie Hartle, a student representative from the National Lawyers Guild Student Chapter at UC Irvine who advised SJP during the investigation, said in a statement released by Palestine Legal:

We are satisfied that the factual findings of the investigation align with what SJP and legal observers have said all along. However, we believe the peaceful protest was an entirely appropriate response to the lockout, and that no sanctions were warranted.

One of the signatories of the ZOA letter is Brooke Goldstein, who was recently filmed at an anti-BDS conference where she revealed a new strategy to undermine the movement for Palestinian rights. The director of the Lawfare Project, a legal group founded with the support of the CPMAJO, Goldstein urged Israel advocacy groups to go on the offensive, saying:

The goal is to make the enemy pay, and to send a message, a deterrent message, that similar actions such as those that they engage in will result in massive punishments.

In her speech on Jun 2, about two weeks after the UC Irvine protest, Goldstein indicated that her legal group was preparing another Title VI challenge against US universities, specifically naming UC Irvine and San Francisco State University as likely targets. A Students Supporting Israel representative told media the group was in talks with national organizations about taking legal action against the university if it “turns a blind eye to the incident.” Goldstein also admitted her group was encouraging Jewish students on those campuses to file police complaints against Palestine solidarity activists, “so we can pressure the DA to bring criminal charges against those students, just like was done with Michael Oren’s speech.” In keeping with this strategy, in Goldstein’s letter to UC Irvine Chancellor Gillman dated Jun 6, she urges the school to take firm disciplinary action against the protesters, arguing the school is obliged to do so under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. She also urges the administration to refer the case to the district attorney’s office for criminal prosecution and to condemn the protest as anti-Semitic. In June, the university confirmed that it is policy to refer such incidents to the Orange County District Attorney’s office. EI understands that this referral was made, however the district attorney’s office did not respond to requests for information on the status of any investigation.

Lugo-Shearer’s findings suggest that many of the claims promulgated by members of Students Supporting Israel and the Hillel Center were grossly mischaracterized, possibly in order to smear the protesters and subject the incident to official and criminal scrutiny. Despite this nearly comprehensive repudiation of the accusations leveled at SJP, the UC Irvine vice chancellor of student affairs sent out a school-wide email last week emphasizing that SJP had been issued a “warning” for violating one rule. The vice chancellor may have placed emphasis on this minor violation to appease the outside groups pressuring administrators to take tough disciplinary action against Palestine activists.
This week, The Guardian and The LA Times revealed that right-wing casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson has poured millions of dollars into a task force dedicated to combatting the Students for Justice in Palestine chapters. UC Irvine is one such campus that the task force will target. Lisa Armony, the executive director of the Hillel Foundation of Orange County, told The LA Times, that she was concerned about the growing coalition between communities of color and Palestine solidarity groups, commenting:

It’s very worrisome, and Jewish students then get shut out of dialogues about social justice.

Armony is also the director of the Rose Project, which was established in 2008 by the Jewish Federation to “counter delegitimization” of Israel at UC Irvine. She and the Rose Project had promoted the idea that the protesters on 18 May had “made aggressive and threatening remarks to participants and physically intimidated and threatened one student attempting to enter the event.” The protest had been organized by groups representing Muslim, Latino, Asian and Black students. Dima Khalidi, the director of Palestine Legal, said:

This incident marks the second time there has been an attempt to criminalize student speech at Irvine. This incident represents a growing effort to stifle the speech activities of students who advocate for Palestinian freedom and equality. As we’ve seen in many other instances, false accusations against student protesters here led to a lengthy investigation for an otherwise typical protest on campus.“Such vilification by Israel advocacy groups has become commonplace, and has a harmful chilling effect on student speech.

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