Saturday, December 19, 2015

More Than Passing Blind on Turkey's Crimes

A Blind Eye Toward Turkey’s Crimes

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

December 16, 2015

Theoretically, it would be a great story for the American press: an autocrat so obsessed with overthrowing the leader of a neighboring country that he authorizes his intelligence services to collaborate with terrorists in staging a lethal sarin attack to be blamed on his enemy and thus trick major powers to launch punishing bombing raids against the enemy’s military.

And, after that scheme failed to achieve the desired intervention, the autocrat continues to have his intelligence services aid terrorists inside the neighboring country by providing weapons and safe transit for truck convoys carrying the terrorists’ oil to market.

The story gets juicier because the autocrat’s son allegedly shares in the oil profits.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

To make the story even more compelling, an opposition leader braves the wrath of the autocrat by seeking to expose these intelligence schemes, including the cover-up of key evidence. The autocrat’s government then seeks to prosecute the critic for “treason.”

But the problem with this story, as far as the American government and press are concerned, is that the autocratic leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is in charge of Turkey, a NATO ally and his hated neighbor is the much demonized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Major U.S. news outlets and political leaders also bought into the sarin deception and simply can’t afford to admit that they once again misled the American people on a matter of war.

The Official Story of the sarin attack – as presented by Secretary of State John Kerry, Human Rights Watch and other “respectable” sources – firmly laid the blame for the Aug. 21, 2013 atrocity killing hundreds of civilians outside Damascus on Assad. That became a powerful “group think” across Official Washington.

Though a few independent media outlets, including, challenged the rush to judgment and noted the lack of evidence regarding Assad’s guilt, those doubts were brushed aside. (In an article on Aug. 30, 2013, I described the administration’s “Government Assessment” blaming Assad as a “dodgy dossier,” which offered not a single piece of verifiable proof.)

However, as with the “certainty” about Iraq’s WMD a decade earlier, Every Important Person shared the Assad-did-it “group think.” That meant — as far as Official Washington was concerned — that Assad had crossed President Barack Obama’s “red line” against using chemical weapons. A massive U.S. retaliatory bombing strike was considered just days away.

But Obama – at the last minute – veered away from launching those military attacks, with Official Washington concluding that Obama had shown “weakness” by not following through. What was virtually unreported was that U.S. intelligence analysts had doubts about Assad’s guilt and suspected a trap being laid by extremists.

Despite those internal questions, the U.S. government and the compliant mainstream media publicly continued to push the Assad-did-it propaganda line. In a formal address to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2013, Obama declared, “It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.”

Later, a senior State Department official tried to steer me toward the Assad-is-guilty assessment of a British blogger then known as Moses Brown, a pseudonym for Eliot Higgins, who now runs an outfit called Bellingcat which follows an effective business model by reinforcing whatever the U.S. propaganda machine is churning out on a topic, except having greater credibility by posing as a “citizen blogger.” [For more on Higgins, see’s “‘MH-17 Case: ‘Old Journalism’ vs. ‘New’.”]

The supposedly conclusive proof against Assad came in a “vector analysis” developed by Human Rights Watch and The New York Times – tracing the flight paths of two rockets back to a Syrian military base northwest of Damascus. But that analysis collapsed when it became clear that only one of the rockets carried sarin and its range was less than one-third the distance between the army base and the point of impact. That meant the rocket carrying the sarin appeared to have originated in rebel territory.

But the “group think” was resistant to all empirical evidence. It was so powerful that even when the Turkish plot was uncovered by legendary investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, his usual publication, The New Yorker, refused to print it. Rebuffed in the United States – the land of freedom of the press – Hersh had to take the story to the London Review of Books to get it out in April 2014. [See’s “Was Turkey Behind Syria Sarin Attack?”]

The Easier Route

It remained easier for The New York Times, The Washington Post and other premier news outlets to simply ignore the compelling tale of possible Turkish complicity in a serious war crime. After all, what would the American people think if – after the mainstream media had failed to protect the country against the lies that led to the disastrous Iraq War – the same star news sources had done something similar on Syria by failing to ask tough questions?

It’s also now obvious that if Obama had ordered a retaliatory bombing campaign against Assad in 2013, the likely winners would have been the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which would have had the path cleared for their conquest of Damascus, creating a humanitarian catastrophe even worse than the current one.

To confess to such incompetence or dishonesty clearly had a big down-side. So, the “smart” play was to simply let the old Assad-did-it narrative sit there as something that could still be cited obliquely from time to time under the phrase “Assad gassed his own people” and thus continue to justify the slogan: “Assad must go!”

But that imperative – not to admit another major mistake – means that the major U.S. news media also must ignore the courageous statements from Eren Erdem, a deputy of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who has publicly accused the Erdogan government of blocking an investigation into Turkey’s role in procuring the sarin allegedly delivered to Al Qaeda-connected terrorists for use inside Syria.

In statements before parliament and to journalists, Erdem cited a derailed indictment that was begun by the General Prosecutor’s Office in the southern Turkish city of Adana, with the criminal case number 2013/120.

Erdem said the prosecutor’s office, using technical surveillance, discovered that an Al Qaeda jihadist named Hayyam Kasap acquired the sarin.

At the press conference, Erdem said, “Wiretapped phone conversations reveal the process of procuring the gas at specific addresses as well as the process of procuring the rockets that would fire the capsules containing the toxic gas. However, despite such solid evidence there has been no arrest in the case. Thirteen individuals were arrested during the first stage of the investigation but were later released, refuting government claims that it is fighting terrorism.”

Erdem said the released operatives were allowed to cross the border into Syria and the criminal investigation was halted.

Another CHP deputy, Ali Şeker, added that the Turkish government misled the public by claiming Russia provided the sarin and that “Assad killed his people with sarin and that requires a U.S. military intervention in Syria.”

Erdem’s disclosures, which he repeated in a recent interview with RT, the Russian network, prompted the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation into Erdem for treason. Erdem defended himself, saying the government’s actions regarding the sarin case besmirched Turkey’s international reputation. He added that he also has been receiving death threats.

“The paramilitary organization Ottoman Hearths is sharing my address [on Twitter] and plans a raid [on my house]. I am being targeted with death threats because I am patriotically opposed to something that tramples on my country’s prestige,” Erdem said.

ISIS Oil Smuggling

Meanwhile, President Erdogan faces growing allegations that he tolerated the Islamic State’s lucrative smuggling of oil from wells in Syria through border crossings in Turkey. Those oil convoys were bombed only last month when Russian President Vladimir Putin essentially shamed President Obama into taking action against this important source of Islamic State revenues.

Though Obama began his bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria in summer 2014, the illicit oil smuggling was spared interdiction for over a year as the U.S. government sought cooperation from Erdogan, who recently acknowledged that the Islamic State and other jihadist groups are using nearly 100 kilometers of Turkey’s border to bring in recruits and supplies.

Earlier this month, Obama said he has had “repeated conversations with President Erdogan about the need to close the border between Turkey and Syria,” adding that “there’s about 98 kilometers that are still used as a transit point for foreign fighters, ISIL [Islamic State] shipping out fuel for sale that helps finance their terrorist activities.”

Russian officials expressed shock that the Islamic State was allowed to continue operating an industrial-style delivery system involving hundreds of trucks carrying oil into Turkey. Moscow also accused Erdogan’s 34-year-old son, Bilal Erdogan, of profiting off the Islamic State’s oil trade, an allegation that he denied.

The Russians say Bilal Erdogan is one of three partners in the BMZ Group, a Turkish oil and shipping company that has purchased oil from the Islamic State. The Malta Independent reported that BMZ purchased two oil tanker ships from the Malta-based Oil Transportation & Shipping Services Co Ltd, which is owned by Azerbaijani billionaire Mubariz Mansimov.

Another three oil tankers purchased by BMZ were acquired from Palmali Shipping and Transportation Agency, which is also owned by Mansimov and which shares the same Istanbul address with Oil Transportation & Shipping Services, which is owned by Mansimov’s Palmali Group, along with dozens of other companies set up in Malta.

The Russians further assert that Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian Su-24 bomber along the Syrian-Turkish border on Nov. 24 – which led to the murder of the pilot, by Turkish-backed rebels, as he parachuted to the ground and to the death of a Russian marine on a rescue operation – was motivated by Erdogan’s fury over the destruction of his son’s Islamic State oil operation.

Erdogan has denied that charge, claiming the shoot-down was simply a case of defending Turkish territory, although, according to the Turkish account, the Russian plane strayed over a slice of Turkish territory for only 17 seconds. The Russians dispute even that, calling the attack a premeditated ambush.

President Obama and the mainstream U.S. press sided with Turkey, displaying almost relish at the deaths of Russians in Syria and also showing no sympathy for the Russian victims of an earlier terrorist bombing of a tourist flight over Sinai in Egypt. [See’s “Obama Ignores Russian Terror Victims.”]

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman expressed the prevailing attitude of Official Washington by ridiculing anyone who had praised Putin’s military intervention in Syria or who thought the Russian president was “crazy like a fox,” Friedman wrote: “Some of us thought he was just crazy.

“Well, two months later, let’s do the math: So far, Putin’s Syrian adventure has resulted in a Russian civilian airliner carrying 224 people being blown up, apparently by pro-ISIS militants in Sinai. Turkey shot down a Russian bomber after it strayed into Turkish territory. And then Syrian rebels killed one of the pilots as he parachuted to earth and one of the Russian marines sent to rescue him.”

Taking Sides

The smug contempt that the mainstream U.S. media routinely shows toward anything involving Russia or Putin may help explain the cavalier disinterest in NATO member Turkey’s reckless behavior. Though Turkey’s willful shoot-down of a Russian plane that was not threatening Turkey could have precipitated a nuclear showdown between Russia and NATO, criticism of Erdogan was muted at most.

Similarly, neither the Obama administration nor the mainstream media wants to address the overwhelming evidence that Turkey – along with other U.S. “allies” such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar – have been aiding and abetting Sunni jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and Islamic State, for years. Instead, Official Washington plays along with the fiction that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others are getting serious about combating terrorism.

The contrary reality is occasionally blurted out by a U.S. official or revealed when a U.S. intelligence report gets leaked or declassified. For instance, in 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted in a confidential diplomatic memo, disclosed by Wikileaks, that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

According to a Defense Intelligence Agency report from August 2012, “AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq, which later morphed into the Islamic State] supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media. … AQI declared its opposition of Assad’s government because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”

The DIA report added, “The salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria. … The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition.”

The DIA analysts already understood the risks that AQI presented both to Syria and Iraq. The report included a stark warning about the expansion of AQI, which was changing into the Islamic State. The brutal armed movement was seeing its ranks swelled by the arrival of global jihadists rallying to the black banner of Sunni militancy, intolerant of both Westerners and “heretics” from Shiite and other non-Sunni branches of Islam.

The goal was to establish a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria” where Islamic State’s caliphate is now located, and that this is “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition” – i.e. the West, Gulf states, and Turkey – “want in order to isolate the Syrian regime,” the DIA report said.

In October 2014, Vice President Joe Biden told students at Harvard’s Kennedy School that “the Saudis, the emirates, etc. … were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war … [that] they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda.”

Despite these occasional bursts of honesty, the U.S. government and the mainstream media have put their goal of having another “regime change” – this time in Syria – and their contempt for Putin ahead of any meaningful cooperation toward defeating the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

This ordering of priorities further means there is no practical reason to revisit who was responsible for the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack. If Assad’s government was innocent and Ergogan’s government shared in the guilt, that would present a problem for NATO, which would have to decide if Turkey had crossed a “red line” and deserved being expelled from the military alliance.

But perhaps even more so, an admission that the U.S. government and the U.S. news media had rushed to another incorrect judgment in the Middle East – and that another war policy was driven by propaganda rather than facts – could destroy what trust the American people have left in those institutions. On a personal level, it might mean that the pundits and the politicians who were wrong about Iraq’s WMD would have to acknowledge that they had learned nothing from that disaster.

It might even renew calls for some of them – the likes of The New York Times’ Friedman and The Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt – to finally be held accountable for consistently misinforming and misleading the American people.

So, at least for now — from a perspective of self-interest — it makes more sense for the Obama administration and major news outlets to ignore the developing story of a NATO ally’s ties to terrorism, including an alleged connection to a grave war crime, the sarin attack outside Damascus.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Iraq: Air ISIS Strikes Again

‘ISIS Air Force’: US Airstrike Takes Out Battalion of Iraqi Troops Who Were Battling ISIS

by 21wire 

December 18, 2015

ISIS terrorists have often lamented, “if only we had an air force to provide air cover when we are fighting in the field.” Yesterday they got their wish (again).

The dubious US-led ‘Anti-ISIL Coalition’ continues to spiral out of control. As Iraqi soldiers closed in on ISIS terrorists on the ground, a US airstrike struck their column – killing approximately 20 Iraqi soldiers and injuring at least 30 more (see full report below). Additional casualty reports could rise over the coming days.

According to Hakim al-Zamili, head of the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, this latest incident is said to have occurred near Al-Naimiya in the Fallujah province, after the Iraqi troops freed “a strategically important area” from ISIS.

What was the US reaction to this dangerous move? Washington’s answer: “We’re looking into it.”

According to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov:

“If they were not involved in that airstrike, than why are the Pentagon’s representatives, as leaders of the anti-ISIS coalition, hushing up the presence of their allies’ aircraft in the Deir ez-Zor region on December 6? Isn’t it because the [anti-ISIS] coalition air force gets all the information on Islamic State targets in Syria from the Pentagon?” he asked.

Watch a new video of US strikes against Iraqi troops here

This is not the first time the US Air Force has targeted legal military forces fighting against ISIS and al Qaeda on the ground. Two weeks ago, the US did the same thing in Syria. RT International reports:

“Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said four Western coalition warplanes had been spotted over the Deir ez-Zor area in Syria on December 6, when a Syrian Army camp came under attack. An airstrike on a field camp of the 168th Brigade of the 7th Division of the Syrian Army left four servicemen dead and 12 injured. It also destroyed three APCs and four vehicles bearing 12.7mm heavy machine guns.”

Since the US-led Anti-ISIS Coalition began 15 months ago, Washington claims to have been waging war against ISIS, but clearly that has not been the case – as the US-led effort has actually coincided with a massive increase in ISIS-held territory in both Iraq and Syria. One can only conclude here that the real US agenda was never to defeat ISIS and al Qaeda/al Nusra on the ground, but rather to facilitate their growth. The facts on the ground lead to this conclusion. It was only after Russia legally entered the Syrian Conflict on the side of the Syrian government and its army – that ISIS and al Qaeda positions began to rapidly recede in Syria. The facts on the ground lead to that conclusion as well.

It’s already confirmed – beyond any doubt – that US and NATO allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are arming and funding al Qaeda (al Nusra) in Syria – this with the full knowledge and endorsement of Washington DC.

In addition, despite Washington’s denial of the facts, US lethal weapons and support are making it into the hands of ISIS and al Qaeda in Syria, and US ally Israel is also aiding terrorist fighters in Syria too.

Sadly, statements by US officials continue to languish in an imaginary zone of suspended disbelief and outright deception regarding Syria, and terrorist militants on the ground who are benefiting from the so-called US-led ‘Coalition’…
A least 20 Iraqi soldiers have been killed and 30 injured in an airstrike carried out by the US military, Hakim al-Zamili, head of the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, told Sputnik news agency.

“The 55th brigade [of the Iraqi Army] was hit by the US aviation. More than 20 soldiers were killed and over 30 servicemen were wounded as a result of the airstrike,” Zamili said.

The incident occurred near the town of Al-Naimiya in the Fallujah province after the Iraqi troops had freed “a strategically important area” from the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants, he added.

According to the official, who visited the site of the attack and personally talked to commanders and soldiers of the 55th brigade, the death toll may well rise, as many Iraqi soldiers were heavily injured.

The Americans carry out airstrikes with 100% precision… How could have they mistaken by kilometers?” he wondered.

READ MORE: ‘US-led coalition disjointed in fighting ISIS as some members have own plans’ – Iraq’s ex-PM

Zamili said “it’s very dangerous” that the Iraqi forces are being hit by airstrikes and that the country “won’t allow it” to happen again.

The MP called upon the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, to carry out an immediate investigation into the airstrike.

According to the official, Iraq is going to go to court over the incident as “this crime mustn’t go unpunished.”

However, the Iraqi Army’s Command Centre in Baghdad, the capital, said the air the strike had caused fewer casualties and happened due to miscommunication and bad weather.

“We [Iraqi Forces Command] had demanded aerial support from the international coalition air force. The airstrike was launched without an update on the advance of the Iraqi forces and the coalition forces were unable to distinguish between the fighters on the ground due to bad weather,” it said.

According to the Iraqi military, one Iraqi army commander was killed and nine servicemen were injured in the airstrike.

A Pentagon representative told RIA Novosti they are looking into the report.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said four Western coalition warplanes had been spotted over the Deir ez-Zor area in Syria on December 6, when a Syrian Army camp came under attack.

An airstrike on a field camp of the 168th Brigade of the 7th Division of the Syrian Army left four servicemen dead and 12 injured. It also destroyed three APCs and four vehicles bearing 12.7mm heavy machine guns.

The information about two pairs of warplanes, members of the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition, which were operating in the Deir ez-Zor area on the day of the attack, was announced by Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

“If they were not involved in that airstrike, than why are the Pentagon’s representatives, as leaders of the anti-ISIS coalition, hushing up the presence of their allies’ aircraft in the Deir ez-Zor region on December 6? Isn’t it because the [anti-ISIS] coalition air force gets all the information on Islamic State targets in Syria from the Pentagon?” he asked.

The US has been bombing IS positions in Iraq since August 2014. However, according to Iraq’s former PM Nouri al-Maliki, this campaign has been “unbelievably” ineffective in fighting the terror group.

“It’s unbelievable and unacceptable that more than 60 nations comprising this coalition that have the most modern aircraft and weapons at their disposal have been conducting their campaign in Iraq for 14 months and IS still remains in the country,” he told RT’s Arabic-language sister-channel Rusiya Al-Yaum in November. 

READ MORE ISIS NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire ISIS Files

Mumia Federal Court Hearing for Medical Treatment Goes Ahead

Judge rejects state’s arguments to reject case: Abu-Jamal Gets Federal Court Hearing Seeking Order to Treat His Hepatitis-C Infection

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

December 19, 2015

Scranton - It’s always dangerous to try to second-guess how a judge will ultimately rule, simply based on that judge’s comments during a court hearing, or on which side’s attorney has objections over-ruled more frequently.

Photo showing part of the serious skin rash suffered by Mumia Abu-Jamal, traced to his untreated Hep-C infection. Prison lawyers sought unsuccessfully to have it barred as evidence at his hearing, claiming it was 'inflammatory' 
Having said that, Federal District Judge Robert Mariani, during a hearing Friday to consider a request by state prison inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal for a preliminary injunction ordering the state to provide appropriate treatment for his active case of a potentially fatal Hepatitis C viral infection, showed impatience and even annoyance with the state’s efforts, both at the prison and including in court, to continue refusing treatment and to delay any legal hearing on the issue.

The proceeding began in a packed courtroom in the William J. Nealon Federal Building and US Courthouse here with consideration of a motion by Laura Neal, an attorney for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to have Abu-Jamal’s appeal summarily rejected on the grounds that he had allegedly “not fully exhausted” administrative grievance remedies concerning his lack of medical treatment by the DOC and that he had specifically not asked in his initial complaint for treatment for Hep C.

The second in a three-part series on Mumia Abu-Jamal's fight to force the Pennsylvania prison system to treat his active Hep-C infection, and that of thousands of other infected state inmates, and on the raging Hepatitis-C epidemic in the nation's prisons. (Click here [1] for Part I)

Judge Mariani pointed out from the bench that the DOC, despite Abu-Jamal’s displaying grave signs of a mystery skin ailment that had turned the skin on most of his body into what prison doctors described as “elephant skin,” and despite his sudden development of type-2 diabetes, which within a few weeks of onset had raised his blood glucose to a life-threatening level, causing him to collapse into unconsciousness, and despite having known since a prison screening blood test in 2012 that he had contracted Hep C, had not, at that point, even conducted a test to look for signs of the active virus in his blood until May of 2015, well after he had filed his initial complaint.

When Neal continued to insist the Abu-Jamal had not exhausted his grievance option, and later that he had not named the specific doctors involved in his care at the prison, the judge said,

“What he (Abu-Jamal) asserts is a lack of diagnosis and an absence of medical care. If you say that to exhaust (his grievance remedy option) he has to name every doctor involved, that’s a tortured argument.”

When Attorney Neal plowed on, citing three Appeals Court rulings by the Third Circuit (which includes Pennsylvania) in prisoner appeals cases relating to their treatment in prison which had been rejected because of failure to exhaust administrative appeals, Judge Mariani called a recess. An hour later he called court back into session and said that, after reviewing those cases, and also a contrary ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which had found that relevant new information could over-ride the exhaustion requirement, he had decided to reject the DOC’s arguments.

At another point, the judge noted that Neal, in an earlier state court hearing, had acknowledged that Abu-Jamal had exhausted his grievance. He said, “You’ve agreed to that. Would you like me to read back the transcript now?”

“No, your honor,” a chastened Neal replied.

Judge Mariani said, “What we have here ladies and gentleman is ongoing complaints after (Abu-Jamal’s) initial complaint. His needs and condition are so serious that they led to his hospitalization. He has Hep C, of which the hospital is undeniably aware of and which he has not been treated for. Based on my reading, I find that exhaustion has occurred. Let’s move to the preliminary injunction.”

That ruling by the judge paved the way for Abu-Jamal, who has been serving a sentence of life in prison without chance of parole since 1982 death sentence for the fatal shooting of a police officer was overturned on constitutional grounds, to testify about his medical case and the DOC’s alleged willful neglect of his grave condition and his active Hep C infection. It would mark the first time Abu-Jamal has testified in a courtroom since his arrest and incarceration on December 9, 1981.

Abu-Jamal’s case has long been a source of raging controversy. It has seen groups like the Philadelphia local and the Pennsylvania statewide Fraternal Order of Police lobbying for his execution (an effort that for years regularly featured raucous protests by white cops carrying signs saying things like “Fry Mumia!”).

Meanwhile others, including activists, civil liberties organizations and even Amnesty International, have denounced his trial and the entire appeals process as a sham, tainted as it was by judicial bias, prosecution-induced witness lying and even improper interference by several of the state’s successive governors, one of whom, Ed Rendell, had been the district attorney overseeing Abu-Jamal’s initial trial.

In his current struggle to obtain medical treatment, Abu-Jamal, considered in much of the world to be a political prisoner, has won support in the form of resolutions and appeals sent to the DOC’s Secretary of Prisons John Wetzel, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and John Kerestes, the superintendent of SCI Mahonoy, the prison where Abu-Jamal is held. These appeals have come in from such organizations as the San Francisco Labor Council, the United Steelworkers Union Local 8751 in Boston and the New York Metro Local 10 of the American Postal Workers Union, as well as by thousands of individuals around the US and the globe.

Abu-Jamal was not brought from jail to the courtroom to testify Friday. Instead, he was 70 miles away in a room in the SCI Mahonoy prison, where he spoke via video cam, with his image displayed on a screen mounted on the wall to the left of the judge. The arrangement made for some absurd difficulties when the DOC’s attorney tried to ask Abu-Jamal in cross examination about documents she had placed into the record, but which, while supplied to his attorneys in the courtroom, were not available to him. A court clerk would hold a page up to a video cam in the courtroom, and then the judge would ask if Abu-Jamal could read it. Usually the reply was, “I can see the paper but I can’t read it.”

Abu-Jamal’s testimony was clear and steady, even under cross-examination, and even featured some touches of his wry wit, as when he noted, in his response to a question from DOC attorney Neal grilling him as to why he had refused Hep C blood screening tests in 2001, 2003 and 2011, “I never agreed to blood tests while I was on death row, because I didn’t trust the doctors.”

Friday’s hearing moved on to the questioning of an expert witness for Abu-Jamal, a Dr. Joseph Harris from New York City. After Abu-Jamal had begun suffering from his skin rash, his type-2 diabetes, anemia, dramatic weight loss and other unexplained symptoms, Abu-Jamal and his family and attorney had tried to get the state’s prison authorities to permit him to be seen by a private specialist at his own expense. Although there was a precedent for this -- convicted millionaire murderer John Du Pont -- was allowed to be seen by his private physicians -- the state denied Abu-Jamal’s request. But Harris came in nonetheless as an ordinary prison visitor and was able to visually examine and to question Abu-Jamal about his conditions, and based on that said they appeared to be caused by his Hep C infection.

Harris, an New York City internist, asserted that the standard of care for Mumia's present condition is a new antiviral drug for hepatitis C which has a 95% cure rate in persons with Abu-Jamal’s genotype. Harris said that in his opinion Abu-Jamal’s skin ailment is Necrolytic Acral Erythema (NAE), a condition that he testified is emblematic of an active Hepatitis C infection [2]. He also cited evidence that studies showed treating the underlying Hep-C infection had the effect of ending the skin problem. Harris said that Abu-Jamal’s sudden diabetes was also likely caused by his Hep-C.

The hearing will continue on next Tuesday beginning with cross-examination of Dr. Harris by DOC attorney Neal. There will be several other witnesses for Abu-Jamal, after which the state will present its own expert witness, a Dr. Jay C. Cowan.

Abu-Jamal’s legal team may want to question Cowan, if they can, about his role with his employer, Tennessee-based Corizon, the nation’s largest for-profit prison health care contractor. Corizon has been in the news lately for having its contracts cancelled with prisons in a number of states because of concerns about the quality of care provided, including some horrendous cases of medical malpractice and neglect.

Just recently New York City cancelled its contract with Corizon at its giant Rikers Island jail. Dr. Cowan was one of two Corizon doctors who testified in hearings over canceling that contract. Corizon was blamed by the state for at least a dozen “preventable deaths” of Rikers prisoners in its care since its contract with NYC began in 2001 -- including many that involved failures to perform simple and obvious tests that could have saved lives, like a chest X-ray for a prisoner complaining of chest pain. Dr. Cowan is president of Correctional Medical Associates, a unit that provides the actual physicians for prison care, in New York as well as in Pennsylvania.

During New York City Council hearings into Corizon’s contract with Rikers, which ultimately led to termination of the company’s contract, Cowan was accused of being callous towards the prison deaths, and with being “evasive” in responding to questioning by city counsellors.

In 1990, Dr. Cowan and his father, Dr. James R. Cowan, former president and chief executive of the United Hospitals Medical Center from 1982 to 1989, were indicted by the US Justice Dept. According to that indictment, the father and son “conspired to solicit bribes of $87,785 from an owner of Professional Consulting Services, a medical malpractice insurance agency.” The elder Cowan in 1992 pleaded guilty to a count of corporate misconduct in the case and was sentenced to probation and community service and ordered to make restitution of $100,000 to the hospital, according to a 1990 article in the New York Times [3]. It is not known at this point how Dr. Jay C. Cowan’s case was resolved.

Abu-Jamal’s current case before Judge Mariani, if successful in forcing the state to treat his Hep-C infection, could open the door for care being received by many more of the estimated 8-10,000 prisoners in the state who suffer the same infection. So far, Pennsylvania, unlike other states like New York, has refused to provide the medicine, which while costly, at an estimated $84,000 per 12-week treatment, is probably cheaper over time than the costly hospitalization of prisoners who have to be treated for the disease’s side effects or who ultimately die of its ravages.


Hundreds in Hebron March for Return of the Dead: Why Does Israel Withhold Bodies of Those It Kills?

Hundreds in Hebron Demand Return of 21 Bodies Held by Israel 

by Ma'an

Dec. 18, 2015

Hundreds of Palestinians from the Hebron district on Thursday marched in demand that the Israeli government immediately return the bodies of 21 Palestinians who were recently killed by Israeli forces.

Families of those killed, Hebron governor Kamel Hmeid, and a number of Palestinian officials were among crowds that gathered to protest Israel’s policy of withholding the bodies of Palestinians who carried out attacks on Israelis, or who were suspected of doing so.

Participants condemned the use of collective punishment by Israeli authorities, raising photos of individuals whose bodies were being held and demanding their unconditional return.

The 21 Hebron-area Palestinians whose bodies are still being withheld are among dozens of others to be taken and held inside of Israel in recent months.

Israel’s security cabinet announced in October that the bodies of Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces after carrying out attacks on Israelis would no longer be returned to their families.

The decision — one among a series of stringent security measures — was reportedly taken in order to avoid mass funerals that Israeli leadership have termed “nationalistic” events that “incite” against Israel.

The move was initially pushed by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and approved by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s refusal to hand over the bodies ignited protests in Hebron in October that eventually led to the return of the bodies of five Palestinians. A mass joint-funeral following their return drew thousands of mourners.

The policy has made waves among the Palestinian public as well as international rights organizations who argue that withholding bodies punishes family and community members who have not carried out crimes.

Families in the Hebron area — where over 30 Palestinians have been killed and where nearly a third of detentions have taken place since Oct. 1 — have been hit particularly hard by Israeli policies that target the relatives and communities of attackers.

Severe restrictions on movement, mass arrest campaigns, as well as punitive home demolitions are among measures implemented in Hebron by Israeli authorities since the recent escalation in violence in the occupied Palestinian territory.


Christmas Greetings from Occupied Palestine

2015 to 2016

by Mazin Qumsiyeh - 

Throughout 2015 we shared with you general news and action items weekly. As 2015 comes to a close, we wanted to share with you our successes in 2015 and our new year resolutions for 2016 as well as our wishes for you.

As you know the biggest project for us in 2015 was the Palestine Museum of Natural History and Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability at Bethlehem University. This was the first full year of actual operation and we published many research papers and two chapters in books (and one of my books came out in German), we held a science festival, we had over 3000 visitors, gave talks in Palestine and in five other countries that reached thousands more (our email list is now tens of thousands), built our infrastructure (aviary, a greenhouse, an animal room, new asphalt pavement for driveway and parking, beginnings of a botanical garden, bee keeping, animal room etc.).

We hired two team members (one for outside and one for inside), we contracted a management consultant, we applied for funding (to supplement the start up funds we contributed) and received significant donations in money and in-kind, and we added over 2000 specimens and objects to our collection (for research and exhibit) through field work and through networking (see also

Of course we continue to suffer locally and watch suffering globally and we even lost friends and colleagues. But the best preventive cure for despair is action, and we continue to act.

Our plans for 2016 are even more ambitious and we intend to redouble our efforts and expand (with volunteer and student help). I, with help of my graduate students and guest lecturers will be teaching five courses this spring: in biodiversity (at Birzeit University), in eco-tourism and molecular biology (at Bethlehem University), and in research methodology and in conflict resolutions and peacemaking (at Bethlehem Bible College). My own plans are also to get the two books I have been holding backs finally edited and submitted for publications.

Our plans are to have an actual opening of the museum with exhibit rooms and the botanical garden. Our plans also include doing and publishing new research (on clinical areas like cancer and spontaneous abortion, on genotoxicity of Israeli weapons, on decline of biodiversity, on reptilian biodiversity, on birds, on snails, and much more). Our plans are to do further research and development on permaculture and aquaculture and transfer this knowledge to farmers and potential farmers (even those with only a balcony can do something).

We have many volunteers without whom this would not be possible. But we need many more supporters (time, resources, donations etc.) to get to our goals faster and with less pain. So please visit these links to see where you fit Donations:

Many other ways to volunteer and help: and we went ahead and put our video encouraging volunteering on the first or homepage of

Our 2016 New Year resolutions:

We will strive to respect ourselves more, respect others more, respect nature more
We will strive to especially respect women, children, elderly people and handicapped
We will strive to minimize own environmental foot print (reduce, recycle, repair)
We will strive to “think globally and act locally”
We will strive to reaffirm the humanity of all people regardless of their religion or ideology
We will not hate or denigrate anyone but merely challenge oppression
We will refuse to let those who occupy us physically occupy our mind
We will refuse to give satisfaction to those who oppress us by having our obedience
We will strive to love all humans even we do not love or obey their violent actions
We will strive to respect all humans even as we resist the actions of greedy minority
We will strive to honor all lives lost and not just those of the privileged few
We will thus strive to pay more attention to the thousands suffering and dying globally
We will strive to give of ourselves more to help those in need
We will grow more of our own foods
We will work harder for BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions)
We will work harder for ODS (one democratic state)
We will redouble our efforts not only to challenge injustice & war but for justice & peace
We will “comfort the afflicted” and make the privileged greedy a little less comfortable
We will thus redouble our efforts to build even in the middle of horrors *
We will strive to improve ourselves to achieve at least 20% more this year than last
We will use words like “I love you” and “I appreciate you” and “I thank you” more
We will think more positive thoughts and translate them to positive words and positive actions
We will strive to have more “joyful participation in the sorrows of this world”
* our own little projects of a museum of natural history and an institute of biodiversity and sustainability in Palestine is one such example; there are hundreds more.

With utmost love and respect and thanks to all colleagues, friends, and supporters of peace with justice.

Have a Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all who celebrate this or other holidays this season. May 2016 be better for all of us especially those most in need or suffering around the world.

Stay human and come visit us in occupied Palestine.

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University (also Birzeit and BBC)
Occupied Palestine

Hydro Spikes Causing Winter Hardships in Cowichan; Opposition MLA Says He Can't Address It Until Spring

Hydro rates creating big hardships

by Sarah Simpson - Cowichan Valley Citizen

Dec 18, 2015

A Duncan minister is sounding alarms after the recent influx of people to his church seeking relief due to the seemingly ever-increasing BC Hydro rates.

Minister Keith Simmonds painted a bleak picture, this week, of a situation becoming all too frequently told to staff at Duncan United Church.

“Imagine being a single parent, struggling on minimum wage, faced with an unexpectedly high hydro bill because Hydro seems unable to get the equal payment calculation right. If your power is cut off you can no longer heat your home, or refrigerate your food. Cooking is problematic too. You might be forgiven for worrying about interactions with social services, as your children no longer have access to any of the services electricity makes possible,” Simmonds said.
“Imagine you’ve communicated that to BC Hydro and imagine they cut you off anyway, next demanding a hefty deposit (sometimes twice the bill) and a hefty connection fee (sometimes as much as the bill) before they’ll grant you access to power again.
“Imagine going to welfare for help and being told you are not having a crisis, you’re having a planning problem and to go out and beg for help from churches, because your lack of planning is not the government’s problem. Maybe you should have spent more time at the food bank, and less in the grocery store?”

It’s happening, Simmonds said. And not just to single parents but to pensioners, low wage earners and others as well. It’s not a case isolated to our community either, he said. It’s happening in cities, on reserves, in rural areas and beyond.

“Some while ago we decided we would no longer treat Hydro as an essential service. We decided it should be a money earner instead,” he said. “Some time ago we decided the company we owned and the government we operate should treat men, women and children, parents and grandparents without care or compassion or decency.”

Simmonds wants to see that change. He’s calling on the community now to get in touch with MLA Bill Routley and ask that he demand change in Victoria.

“I know the official opposition would see this as a headline issue and would not let up until the government did,” Simmonds said.

Routley’s constituency assistant Doug Morgan said Routley is planning on speaking on the issue at the Legislature but scheduling prevents him from doing so until the spring.

Morgan said Routley is well aware of the problem and that it’s one of the most common issues people coming to the office have. “We’re seeing this a lot,” Morgan said.

Increasingly, women with children are being affected. Morgan handles most of the complaints.

“Since I’ve been dealing with this over the last six years here, this is the worst I’ve seen it. The rates are going up and more and more people are being pushed off the plate towards homelessness,” Morgan said.
 “I’ve got people phoning and saying they’re living with a camp stove and a lantern and their freezers are done because they can’t afford to hook up again.”

Morgan said he understands the United Church has been doing everything it can to help people but “it just got swamped,” he said.

Routley wasn’t available for comment but Morgan said he will be prepared when it comes time to head back down to Victoria.

“He’s going to have a speech on BC Hydro and homelessness and that related area but we can’t get him in until spring now,” Monroe said.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Pennsylvania Court Scandal : Mumia Abu-Jamal Battles For His Life...Again

More Pennsylvania Court Scandal : Mumia Abu-Jamal Battles For His Life...Again

by: Linn Washington  - This Can't Be Happening

December 18, 2015

The big courthouse news in Pennsylvania this week does not involve yet another sordid revelation in the sleazy racist-pornographic email scandal now soiling top justice system officials in the Keystone State that include a state supreme court justice and ranking prosecutors.

This big news is rare courtroom testimony from Mumia Abu-Jamal, the renowned jailhouse journalist considered by many around the world as an authentic political prisoner in America.

On December 18th Abu-Jamal is scheduled to testify during a federal court hearing on his lawsuit attacking medical mistreatment from Pennsylvania prison authorities, and demanding –- negligent treatment that almost ended his life earlier this year. The lawsuit also seeks a court order mandating that he and other Pennsylvania inmates diagnosed with Hep C, a potentially deadly diseased, get treated with medications that, while costly, have a proven cure rate that is quite impressive

Abu-Jamal has rarely testified in court during the thirty-plus-years he’s waged legal battles in criminal and civil courtrooms at state and federal levels. Abu-Jamal spent nearly thirty-years on death row improperly due to calculated error by the judge at his 1982 trial for killing a Philadelphia policeman. Pennsylvania appellate courts cavalierly upheld that trial judge’s error but that error was eventually overturned in federal court leading to Abu-Jamal’s current life-without-parole sentence. Pennsylvania is the state with America’s second largest number of inmates with life-without-parole sentences

This federal court hearing arises from a lawsuit filed over failures of Pennsylvania prison personnel to properly treat medical problems that produced painful rashes and open sores all over Abu-Jamal’s body. Medication given to Abu-Jamal during the mistreatment of those rashes produced dangerous side effects including diabetes, a serious condition that went untreated by the prison medical personnel that also refused to inform Abu-Jamal about the diabetes. Earlier this year that untreated diabetes caused Abu-Jamal to blackout. Prison officials reluctantly rushed him to a hospital emergency room in diabetic shock close to death.

Pressure Abu-Jamal’s far-flung support network put on prison authorities eventually led to a diagnosis that one serious problem Abu-Jamal had was Hepatitis C. However, prison authorities are now refusing to provide a proven medication for treatment of that Hep C. This withhold treatment posture contrasts sharply with the Hep C medication given inmates in other states including New York located adjacent to Pennsylvania.

Investigations conducted as part of the lawsuit against Abu-Jamal’s medical mistreatment uncovered the chilling fact that an estimated 10,000 inmates in Pennsylvania’s state prison system have the infectious Hepatitis C disease.

Abu-Jamal, in a recent Open Letter to his supporters, stated the negligent treatment administered by medical personnel contracted by Pennsylvania prison authorities “wasn’t a solution” but a problem “that created more problems.” Abu-Jamal, when addressing one powerful steroids prescribed for the skin rashes, stated that drug acted like “rocket fuel, sending my blood sugar levels soaring…it literally turned me into a diabetic.”

Recently, 110 legislators in Europe, that include members of the European Parliament, sent a letter to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf that requested his intervention to obtain adequate medical treatment for Abu-Jamal.

That letter to Wolf stated, “international law provides that every human being, even a prisoner, is entitled to health care,” noting that Hepatitis C “can be fatal if not treated quickly with the appropriate care.”

European Parliament member Patrick Le Hyaric, the editor of a large newspaper based in Paris, organized that letter to Gov. Wolf. Le Hyaric visited Abu-Jamal in November.

Although Abu-Jamal’s current court battle over medical mistreatment is separate from that ever expanding email scandal, the improper activities by prosecutors and judges at the core of that scandal evidences the callous and corrupted misconduct by legal authorities embedded in Abu-Jamal’s case from the date of his December 9, 1981 arrest for killing a Philadelphia policeman.

This contentious scandal currently revolving around racist and pornographic emails exchanged between Pennsylvania supreme court justices and prosecutors in Pennsylvania’s Attorney Generals Office has already forced the resignation of one justice and has tarred another justice who rejects calls for his resignation from Gov. Wolf and others.

Exchanging those emails that pointedly demean minorities and debase women blatantly violate provisions of ethics codes covering the conduct of judges and prosecutors in Pennsylvania. Blatant ethical violations by judges and prosecutors are a consistent feature in Abu-Jamal’s unsuccessful efforts to void his controversial murder conviction.

As the seminal 2000 report on Abu-Jamal’s plight issued by Amnesty International noted, “numerous aspects of this case clearly failed to meet minimum international standards safeguarding the fairness of legal proceedings.” That Amnesty report specifically criticized the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for having repeatedly ignored “its own previous precedents in denying” Abu-Jamal’s appeals.

European Parliament member Patrick Le Hyaric stated the obvious misconduct by Pennsylvania justice system authorities in Abu-Jamal’s case presents a simple question.

“If police officers and judges are so sure of what he did, they would have granted a new trial instead of converting his death sentence to life in prison,” Le Hyaric said during an interview hours after his prison meeting with Abu-Jamal.
“People in France and all over Europe campaign for Mumia because they believe the trial he received was not fair.”

Lawyer Alone: Israel's "Darrow" Takes on the Army

A Lonely Lawyer

by Uri Avnery - CounterPunch

December 18, 2015

By now every Israeli has seen the TV clip several times – showing a 14-year old Arab girl being shot dead near the central market of Jewish Jerusalem.

The story is well known: two sisters, 14 and 16 years old, have decided to attack Israelis. The clip, taken by a security camera, shows one of them, clad in traditional Arab garb, jumping around on the sidewalk, brandishing a pair of scissors.

The whole thing looks almost like a dance. She is jumping around aimlessly, waving the scissors, threatening no one in particular. Then a soldier aims a pistol at her and shoots her. He runs to the girl and kills her while she is lying helplessly on the ground. The other girl is grievously wounded.

The soldier was lauded for his bravery by the Minister of Defense, a former army Chief of Staff, and by his present successor. Throughout the political establishment, not a single voice was raised against the killing. Even the opposition was silent.

This week one person raised his voice. Avigdor Feldman, a lawyer, informed the Attorney General that he was going to apply to the Supreme Court, asking it to open a criminal investigation against the soldier. He wants the court to order the authorities to investigate all cases in which soldiers and civilians have shot and killed “terrorists” after they had already become unable to act.

In today’s Israel, this is an act of incredible courage. Advocate Feldman is no crackpot. He is a well-known lawyer, prominent especially in the field of civil rights.

I got to know him when he was still at the start of his career. He was still a “stageur” – a lawyer who has finished his studies but is not yet a fully licensed advocate – working in a friend’s office. He represented me in several minor court cases, and even then I was struck by his sharp mind.

Since then, Feldman has become a prominent civil-rights lawyer. I have seen him several times pleading in the Supreme Court, and noticed the reactions of the court. When Feldman speaks, the judges stop their day-dreaming and doodling and follow his arguments with rapt attention, interrupting him with sharp questions, obviously enjoying the judicial jousting.

Now Feldman has done what nobody else has dared to do: taking the army by the horns and challenging the high command.

In Israel, that is close to lèse majesté.

Since the beginning of October, Israel has been experiencing a wave of violence that has not yet acquired an official name. Newspapers call it a “wave of terrorism”, some speak of “the intifada of the individuals”.

Its outstanding characteristic is that it lacks any organization. It is not planned by a group, no orders are transmitted from above, no coordination between cells is necessary.

Some Arab teenager takes a knife from his mother’s kitchen, looks for a uniformed person in the street and stabs him. If no soldier or policeman is available, he stabs a settler. If he sees no settler around, he stabs any Israel he can find.

If he drives a car, he just looks for a group of soldiers or civilians waiting by the road and runs them over.

Many others just throw stones at a passing Israeli car, hoping to cause a fatal accident.

Against such acts, the army (in the occupied territories) and the police (in Israel proper or in annexed East Jerusalem) is almost helpless. In the two earlier intifadas and in between, the security organs incredibly caught almost all perpetrators. This was achieved because the acts were committed by groups and organizations. Almost all of these were sooner or later infiltrated by Israeli agents. Once one of the perpetrators had been caught, he or she was induced to inform on the others – either by bribes, “moderate physical pressure” (as our courts call torture) and such.

All these proven measures are quite useless, when a deed is carried out by a single person, or by two brothers, acting on the spur of the moment. No spies. No traitors. No prior signs. Nothing to work on.

The Israeli security services have tried to work out a typical profile of such perpetrators. To no avail. There is nothing common to all or most of them. There were several 14 year old teenagers, but also a grandfather with children and grandchildren. Most did not appear in any anti-terrorist database. Some were religious radicals, but many others were not religious at all. Some were females, one a mother.

What pushed them? The official Israeli stock answer is: sedition. Mahmud Abbas incites them. Hamas incites them. The Arab media incite them. Almost all these “incitements” are routine reactions to Israeli actions. And anyway, a young Arab does not need “incitement”. He sees what’s going on around him. He sees terrifying nightly arrests, Israeli troops invading towns and villages. He does not need the lure of the virgins awaiting the martyr in paradise.

Since there is no immediate remedy, politicians and other “experts” fall back on “deterrence”. Foremost method: summary execution.

This was first discovered in April 1974, when an Israeli bus was hijacked by four inexperienced Arab youngsters. It was stopped near Ashkelon and stormed. Two of the four were killed in the shooting, but two were captured alive. Three photographers took their pictures alive, but later the army announced that they were also killed in the fighting.

This was a blatant lie, protected by army censorship. As the editor of Haolam Hazeh magazine, I threatened to go to the Supreme Court. I was allowed to publish the photos, and a giant storm erupted. The chief of the Security Service (Shin Bet or Shabak) and his assistants were indicted, but pardoned without a trial.

In the course of the scandal, a secret directive came to light: the then Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, had issued an oral directive saying that “no terrorist should remain alive after committing a terrorist act”.

Something like that must be in force now. Soldiers, policemen and armed civilians believe that this is an order: terrorists must be killed on the spot.

Officially, of course, soldiers and others are allowed to kill only when their own lives or the lives of others are in direct and immediate danger. According to the laws of war, as well as Israeli law, it is a crime to kill enemies when they are wounded, handcuffed or otherwise unable to endanger lives.

Yet almost all Arab perpetrators – including the wounded and the captured – are shot on the spot. How is this to be explained?

Most frequently, the facts are simply denied. But with the proliferation of security cameras, this becomes more and more impossible.

An argument often used is that a soldier has no time to think. He has to act quickly. A battlefield is no courtroom. A soldier often acts instinctively.

Yes and no. Very often indeed there is no time to think. He who shoots first stays alive. A soldier has the right – indeed, the duty – to defend his life. When in doubt, he should act. No one needs to tell me that. I have been there.

But there are situations when there is no doubt at all. If a handcuffed prisoner is shot, it is clearly a crime. To shoot a wounded enemy, lying helplessly on the ground, like the girl with the scissors, is disgusting.

These are clearcut cases. If the Minister of Police (now called Minister for Interior Security) says in the Knesset that the girl-killer had no time to think – he lies.

I dare to say that this minister, Gilad Ardan, an aggressive he-man who did his glorious army service as a desk officer in the army personnel department, has a bit less battle experience than I. What he said in the Knesset is rubbish.

The soldiers shoot and kill because they think that their superiors want them to. Probably they have been told to do so. The logic behind this is “deterrence” – if the perpetrator knows that he is going to be killed for sure, he may think twice before doing it.

There is absolutely no evidence for this. On the contrary, the knowledge that he or she, the perpetrators, are probably going to be shot on the spot, just pushes them on. Becoming a shahid, a martyr, will make their family and the entire neighborhood proud.

Ah, say the deterrers, but if we also destroy the house of the perpetrator’s family, they will think twice. Their family will beg them to abstain. Sounds logical?

Not at all. There is absolutely no evidence for this, either. Quite the contrary. Becoming the parents of a shahid is such an honor, that it overrides the loss of the family home. Especially if funds provided by Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states will pay indemnities.

It is the clearcut opinion of the security experts that this kind of collective punishment does not work. On the contrary, it creates more hatred, which will create more shahids. In short, counter-productive.

The top army and security service commanders do not hide their opposition to these measures. They are overruled by politicians and commentators who seek popularity.

Summary executions and collective punishments are, of course, diametrically opposed to the international Laws of Warfare. Many Israelis despise these laws and ignore them. They believe that such naive laws should not hinder our army in the defense of our country and us.

This argument is based on ignorance.

The laws of warfare were initiated after the 30-year war, in the first half of the 17th century, which brought untold misery to central Europe. When it was finished, two thirds of Germany was destroyed and the one third of the German population wiped out.

The originators of the laws, in particular a Dutchman called Grotius, started from the sensible assumption that no law will hold if it prevents the prosecution of war. A nation fighting for its life will not observe any law that hinders it doing so. But in wars, a lot of atrocities are committed which serve no military purpose at all, just out of hatred or sadism.

It is these acts – acts that serve no military purpose – that are forbidden by the international laws of war. Both sides suffer from them. Killing prisoners, letting the wounded perish, destroying civilian property, collective punishments and such help no side. They just satisfy sadistic impulses and senseless hatred.

Such acts are not just immoral and ugly. They are also counterproductive. Atrocities create hatred, which creates more shahids. Dead prisoners cannot be interrogated and provide no information, which may be essential for forming new strategies and tactics. Cruelty is just another form of stupidity.

Our army knows all this. They are against. But they are overruled by politicians of the more detestable kind, which we have in abundance.

Connected with this subject is the persecution of an organization called “Breaking the Silence”.

This was formed by soldiers who, upon their release, started to publicize their experience in the occupied territories, things they did and things they saw. This has become a big operation. Their meticulous adherence to the truth has gained the respect of the army, and testimony given by them is respected by the army General Attorney’s office and often acted upon.

This has now led to a furious incitement campaign against the group by the demagogues of the extreme Right. It has been accused of treason, of “besmirching our boys”, of aiding and abetting the terrorists and such. Many of the accusers are former office soldiers and shirkers, who accuse former combatants.

This week the Rightist demagogues furiously attacked the President of Israel, Reuben Rivlin, for committing treason. His crime: he appeared at a political conference organized in New York by the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, where Breaking the Silence was also invited.

Rivlin is a very nice, very humane person. As President he is insisting on full equality for Arab citizens. But he also entertains very right-wing opinions and objects to giving up an inch of “Eretz Israel” territory for peace. Yet no right-wing politician has come to his aid against the wild accusations.

Breaking the Silence does not stand alone. Fascist groups – I use the term with some hesitation – accuse many peace and human rights organizations of “treason”, citing the fact that several of them do receive donations from European governments and organizations. The fact that Israeli right-wing and downright fascist organization receive vastly more money from Jewish and Christian Evangelist organizations abroad does not matter.

All this shows how courageous Advocate Feldman is in his efforts.

As we say in Hebrew: All honor to him. 

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.
More articles by:Uri Avnery

Fresh from COP21 US Lifts Ban on Crude Oil Exports

A Crude Deal: Lifting Export Ban Creates 'Casino Opportunity' for Oil Traders



December 17, 2015 

The proposal in the current spending bill could lead to a lot more carbon emissions and government hand outs for the oil industry, says's Steve Horn.

BC's Cruel War on Wildlife

End Christy Clark's Unnecessary And Cruel War On Wildlife

by Jeff Matthews - Huff Post

co-authored by Tommy Knowles, Wildlife Defence League

For most Canadians, the end of the Harper era brought hope for the return of reason to environmental policy in this country. Not so on the West Coast, where B.C. premier Christy Clark has assumed the Harper mantle of industrialization over conservation and declared her own war against wildlife.

Recently proposed changes to hunting regulations show Clark has saved her most violent contempt for two of our most majestic species -- wolves and grizzlies.

For wolves, the changes mean lifting the limitations on the number of wolves hunters can kill in the Peace Region. Hunters will also be able to kill wolves year-round.

Under current limits, hunters can only kill three wolves each year in the Peace Region, between August 15 and June 15. Even with these "bag limits," recreational and trophy hunters already kill close to 1.000 wolves annually in B.C.

This new attack on wolves is in addition to the controversial wolf cull, in which 200 wolves per year will be shot by taxpayer-funded hunters in helicopters operating in the Peace and Selkirk regions of the province. The excuse, widely discredited by scientists, is that killing wolves is necessary to save endangered caribou.

For grizzlies, however, the Clark government has no justification -- not even unscientific -- for the proposed three-fold increase in bears to be killed in the Peace Region. That is almost certainly because there is none. That is, unless you count donations totaling over $73,000 to the B.C. Liberals by guide outfitter organizations, who clearly profit from the 300 to 400 grizzlies shot each year in the province.

On the other hand, the reasons to end the killing of wolves and bears in B.C., whether through culls or hunters, are many. Below are just a few of the reasons why Christy Clark's war on wolves and grizzles must be stopped. Signal your opposition to the increased killing by signing this petition.

1. Killing wolves won't save caribou

Caribou are in trouble because their habitat has increasingly been cut up and taken over by industry. The prestigious scientific journal Nature agrees that the wolf cull is futile and habitat protection is the only real answer.

2. Wolf cull linked to forest industry

As reported in the Globe and Mail, there's evidence that the wolf cull is more in the interests of forest companies than caribou. In initiating the wolf cull, the B.C. environment minister was taking advice from the forest industry, who were concerned about habitat protections for caribou.

3. Killing wolves doesn't protect livestock

Despite claims, wolves aren't a significant predator of livestock to begin with. But culling wolves actually increases their predation on cattle. Disrupting the family structure of wolf packs leads to more hungry wolves looking for a quick meal.

4. The hunt is inhumane

A video posted by the Wildlife Defense League last September showed the true suffering involved in the trophy hunt for grizzlies. Wolves also suffer when they find themselves in a hunter's sights. Aerial gunning is even less likely to kill swiftly -- this is what it looks like when wolves are shot from helicopters or airplanes (includes graphic scenes).

5. The wolf cull is now targeting families

As if shooting wolves from helicopters isn't cruel enough, they'll now be using airplanes to track "Judas" wolves -- wolves tagged with radio collars the previous year. Following them right to their dens, snipers will be able to target whole families and extended families of wolves.

6. The grizzly trophy hunt is unsustainable

While the government claims there are 15,000 grizzlies in B.C., conservation biologists universally pan the government's numbers as pure speculation. Many argue that the hunt is unsustainable and threaten the grizzly's survival. The European Union agrees - they banned imports of all B.C. grizzly parts after their analysis found the trophy hunt to be unsustainable.

7. Hunting limits are routinely exceeded

The trophy hunt was approved before the government had estimates of bear numbers in all regions of the province. And not only are the government's grizzly population numbers much more uncertain than they let on, it is well-known that hunters routinely kill more than the government limits.

8. Wildlife viewing is better for the economy than hunting

Among the findings of the Center for Responsible Travel's 2014 study was that tourists engaged in bear viewing spend 12 times what resident and non-resident hunters spend combined. They also found that bear viewing generates 11 times more revenue for the B.C. government than the trophy hunt.

9. Coastal First Nations oppose the grizzly hunt

Coastal First Nations have banned grizzly bear hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest and groups like the Coastal Guardians Watchmen are actively working to ensure that their traditional laws are being upheld. But grizzly hunt licenses granted by the B.C. government means that despite these efforts, bears continue to be taken as trophies.

10. 90 per cent of British Columbians oppose the trophy hunt

There is perhaps no other issue in British Columbia where such an overwhelming majority of its citizens agree. Polls have consistently shown that nine out of 10 British Columbians -- including hunters of other species -- want the grizzly hunt to end. The people of B.C. clearly place a high value on preserving our wildlife. It is time the B.C. Liberals listened.

Jeff Matthews is a scientist and environmental activist based in Vancouver who has a passion for ocean and animal rights issues. He obtained a PhD in biophysics from the University of British Columbia. Jeff's opinions are his own. 

Who Owns Media? A Look at the UK's Cornered News Market

Scenes Of Reason 


Britain has one of the most concentrated media environments in the world.

The hacking scandal and its aftermath demonstrated how that power has been used nationally, whilst at local level community after community is losing the means to publicly hold power to account.

BC Mines Ministry Recommends No Charges in Mt. Polley Mine Disaster

MiningWatch Shocked by Chief Inspector of Mines’ Report on Mount Polley Disaster

by MiningWatch

December 18, 2015

Following yesterday’s release of the B.C. Chief Inspector of Mines’ report on the Mount Polley mine disaster, MiningWatch Canada is shocked by the disconnect between the Chief Inspector’s findings and his decision not to lay charges against Mount Polley Mine Corporation (MPMC) for its massive mine waste dam breach in August 2014 – the biggest mine spill in Canadian history.

“How can so many things be done so poorly, sloppily, or haphazardly, and result in massive damage, without someone being ‘at fault.’ It was not an ‘Act of God.’ The report makes is clear that it was poor design, poor practices, poor oversight, and misconduct on the part of Mount Polley Mine Corporation,” says Ugo Lapointe, Canadian Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.

“It makes no sense. Either there were political reasons for the Chief Inspector to not lay charges against MPMC, or the regulatory system is even more broken then we all thought. Either way, it’s not reassuring for any of the mines currently operating in B.C.,” adds Lapointe.

“How can the Chief Inspector conclude there‘s no ground to lay charges while at the same time making dozens of very incriminating statements in his report against MPMC’s very poor practices and standards that led to the failure? It doesn’t add up.”

MiningWatch is also concerned that the Chief Inspector decided not to submit the evidence he had gathered to Crown Counsel. “By refusing to report the case to Crown Counsel, British Columbians are denied the right to know what the Crown Counsel’s assessment of the case would be, including whether to lay charges, and it could very well be much different from the Chief Inspector’s opinion,” says Lapointe.

“We are asking the Chief Inspector and the B.C. government to reconsider this decision and to report the whole case to Crown Counsel,” adds Lapointe.

MiningWatch also points out that the Chief Inspector’s legal analysis is solely and narrowly based on the BC Mines Act and its associated regulations, and not on any other laws or regulations, such as environmental regulations, common law, or professional due diligence requirements.

See below for further details on the Chief Inspector of Mines’ report.

For more information:
Ugo Lapointe, MiningWatch Canada

Mount Polley Mine Disaster: Excerpts from BC Chief Inspector of Mines’ findings from Investigation Report released December 2015

“...failure of the embankment occurred because of three proximate causes: an uncharacterized glaciolacustrine unit in the native soil foundation of the dam structure; an over-steepening of the downstream slope of the dam, coupled with the constructed height; and an unfilled excavation at the toe of the embankment at the site of the failure...” (p.6)

“MPMC and its engineering consultants did not fully recognize and manage geotechnical and water management risks associated with the design, construction, factor of safety, and operation of the tailings storage facility.” (p.6)

“Adequate studies of the embankment foundation were not conducted on the Perimeter Embankment, and site investigations for the Perimeter Embankment did not meet generally accepted standards of practice for embankment structures. There was an assumed degree of certainty that the foundation soils were dense and strong, which was not supported by a robust understanding of the foundation characteristics.” (p.6)

“Initial site investigations at the Perimeter Embankment foundation did not include adequate geotechnical characterization of soils at depth, and further, no subsequent site investigations were conducted on the Perimeter Embankment until 2011; drillholes were widely spaced and were principally for the placement of instrumentation and the assessment of lower glaciolacustrine soils. (p.6)

“Multiple opportunities to review and characterize the foundation soils arose, either in response to queries by Government inspectors, or available in extant drillcore records; but these opportunities were unnoticed, ignored, and/or discounted.” (p.7)

“An adequate water management plan did not exist. Mount Polley Mining Corporation failed in its management of the water balance with respect to long term planning, including site integration, effective treatment, discharge plans and permits. There was no qualified individual responsible for the water balance, and MPMC did not adequately characterize the risk of surplus supernatant water” (p.7)

“It was the responsibility of Mount Polley Mining Corporation to maintain a safe structure, irrespective of the Mine’s reliance on external geotechnical engineering expertise. Mount Polley Mining Corporation did not meet this responsibility.” (p.7)

“Mount Polley Mining Corporation did not recognize the risk of the excavation for the buttress foundation, resulting in a small reduction in the FoS. This work was not recognized as a substantial departure from the approved work plan by MPMC, and the Chief Inspector was not notified.” (p.7)

“Concerns regarding steep slope, dam construction material availability, buttress subexcavation, and supervision were identified by employees but not elevated for action by MPMC management.” (p.7)

The Return of Britain's Media Royalty

The rebirth of the media barons of old

by Jonathan Cook

6 December 2015

Imagine we lived in a Britain where a handful of multi-millionaires owned almost the entire media, and had names like Viscount Rothermere, Lord Northcliffe and Baron Beaverbrook. That was the situation only a few decades ago. Today, it would be hard for us to imagine a media system of that nature could describe itself as “free” or the “fourth estate”, and claim to be a tenacious watchdog of other power centres.

The media of that time, most of us would agree now, was simply a tool of the upper class, looking out for its interests. It really was no more complicated than that.

And yet, as Nafeez Ahmed argues in the lengthy article below, the English-speaking world today is little different. Instead of Lords and Viscounts, we have a handful of trans-national corporations, with annual turnovers in the billions or trillions, that control almost our entire media.

In the US, just six huge conglomerates own not just all the newspapers and TV channels, but every lens through which we perceive the world: the films, music, ads, and popular websites we consume every waking moment.

The personnel who control these media conglomerates are not only fabulously wealthy but have diverse business interests that will be affected by how our societies are run, what laws apply or don’t, and how foreign policy is made.

Even more worrying, as Ahmed highlights in detail, the heads of these media corporations often have additional interests in military and defence corporations, what he terms a “media-military-industrial complex”.

Ahmed: “Consider, then, the fact that these individuals simultaneously hold senior positions in global media conglomerates and giant defence contractors, profiting directly from the dividends of ‘reconstruction’ in devastated war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan, on the back of wars enabled by their own propaganda.”

And yet most of us continue to look to the media for an impartial and accurate picture of the world, simply because Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom and News Corp, unlike their recent forebears, don’t preface their names with the title Lord or Viscount. These faceless, profit-driven corporations have persuaded us that they are dispassionate, neutral and classless – unlike their all too flesh-and-blood predecessors.

Even with the new possibilities offered by the internet, most traffic is still limited to sites that are controlled by these same big players.

And the new platforms like Google, as Ahmed’s and Wikileak’s investigations show, have enjoyed ties to western security establishments from the very beginning of their development. Edward Snowden’s revelations show they continue to cooperate closely with state surveillance agencies like the NSA.

Ahmed: “These examples demonstrate the nature of the networks that dominate the global corporate media: an interlocking nexus of private defence contractors, banks, investment firms, and corporate giants with a vested interest in perpetuating the power and privilege of their own class: no matter the implications for the loss of life of millions of people.”

Ahmed also outlines how these modern media barons, and their enablers in the political class, are starting to undermine the outposts in the new media where real information and critical thinking flourish.