Saturday, March 12, 2016

Salvaging Syria's Savaged Cultural Heritage

Syria’s Truce Bodes Well for Salvaging our Cultural Heritage

by Franklin Lamb - CounterPunch

March 12, 2016

Aleppo  - The tentative cessation of hostilities in Syria, which came into effect on 2/28/2016, brokered by Washington and Moscow, is only in its second week. The sides have agreed to an initial cease-fire of two weeks with an extension if it works. The AL-Assad government has announced that it would participate in renewed peace talks in Geneva, offering new proposals, which are due to begin next week (3/14/16). The opposition is still considering whether to attend despite a lull in fighting.

It is well documented that there have been daily incidents of artillery shelling, airstrikes and clashes. Yet, for the nearly 12 million displaced civilians, half of Syria’s population, it’s a much welcomed respite and diminution of the five year slaughter which has decimated hundreds of towns and nearly 1000 villages, killing between 300,000 and 475,000 depending on which body counts one credits. As of this week nearly half a million Syrians trapped in areas under siege are finally receiving desperately-needed food and medicine.

Various monitoring groups including the office of Staffan de Mistura, UN special envoy for Syria, have estimated that the overall per-truce violence has decreased by 90 percent. Opposition groups, including the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights which claims scores of on the scene volunteers, have agreed with this estimate. But due to “logistical” problems the cease-fire has failed to achieve one of its most important objectives which is to facilitate a long term free flow of desperately needed aid supplies to more than 160, 000 people in nearly two dozen besieged areas.

More time is also required to learn if there will be reasons to discourage more massive numbers of citizens from fleeing Syria and whether those who have done, and whose numbers have reached nearly five million, will contemplate returning from neighboring countries or from even further afield including European countries.

In all areas where the bombing and shelling have ceased there is palpable relief and even reported celebrations. Damascus is perhaps the main city that has experienced relative peace without serious breaches. Much of Damascus is nearly blissful with hope aided one imagines by the arrival of a motherly warm spring. Visitors notice countless family picnics and children filling this cities many parks, playgrounds and green spaces.

From Lebanon one hears expressions by Syrian refugees who have been forced to flee their homes, declaring their intentions to return to Syria as soon as possible, within weeks, if the cessation of hostilities even partially holds. Explaining that his family’s home in Aleppo was reduced to a pile of rubble, Ahmad, a father of six, explained to this observer, “If the violence ends, and if we can get water back, we will return home and live on our property in a tent and immediately start to rebuild.”

There are also reports that in certain areas of Syria which host archaeological sites, most also being tourist destinations, citizens and volunteer civil society organizations are ready to help restore them immediately when security conditions allow. So too is Syria’s Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) under the direction of the indefatigable international patriot, Dr. Maamoun AbdulKarim.

A number of developments over the past several months, and since the start of the current truce, create some optimism that damaged and destroyed archaeological sites can be largely restored. Some estimates, including this observer’s calculations based on more than two years of site-visits and study of recently available archaeological site reports put the number currently able to be repaired, restored or rebuilt at between 85 and 95%. Obviously looted artifacts and burned historic documents are much more problematical and based on the information provided to this observer by different sources, as well as personal observations, it is safe to say some world heritage sites, or at least some of its components, are irrevocably lost to us and to those who will follow us.

When one has conversations with villagers or a local population representatives of those forced to flee but whose families have lived among particular archaeological sites for generations, one hears emphatic pledges to restore the piles of rubble, as best craftsmen and science can achieve, to their previous splendor. Locals explain that the restoration may not be perfect in every respect but that they will gratefully welcome expertise from anyone in any country who wants to help them and their government with restorations.

The current truce is exciting the many would-be antiquities restorers across Syrian society. And even among many rebels and former rebels who do not accept the rabid iconoclasm of ISIS and like minded groups. An archaeological student from Aleppo University opined to this observer last week that “Every true Syrian nationalist wants to rebuild our shared cultural heritage and now we have good reason to hope that restoration can begin soon.”

Similar sentiments are being expressed in other places which have experienced iconoclasm. One example being by citizens in Timbuktu , Mali many of whom reportedly have declared about the destruction of ancient shrines by Ansar Dine, “Let them destroy them. We will rebuild them.” This observer recalls that during his last visit to heavily damaged Aleppo, the director of the National Museum insisted,

“Just as the Germans restored and rebuilt Dresden, we Syrians shall rebuild Aleppo.”

Art and Archaeology historians have begun to talk about Syria’s attitude toward, in some cases, difficult restorative challenges, as the principle of “substitution” found in many cultures. “Substitution” means that many times something new can be built as best recreating that which was destroyed and be substituted for something that has been lost. In the case of the Timbuktu shrines they are made of mud brick and thus have always required repairs and rebuilding.

Just last week (3/2/2016) Malian jihadi leader Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi appeared at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for a hearing to face charges of destroying part of the North African country’s rich cultural heritage. Al-Mahdi is accused of overseeing the 2012 destruction of medieval mausoleums and the Sidi Yahia mosque, which formed part of Timbuktu’s World Heritage Site. Al-Mahdi is the first suspect in the ICC’s history to face prosecution for attacks against our cultural heritage as opposed to direct humanitarian reasons. The Timbuktu case represents a much needed, if egregiously overdue, application of international law and the Responsibility to Protect t from and punish cultural heritage crimes.

Syria’s cultural heritage restoration process will no doubt have a profoundly cathartic effect and engender pride in Syria as it begins the healing process. Modern history offers precedence.

One recalls that on 11/9/ 1993 in Bosnia, the elegant Mostar Bridge, which was completed in 1566 after nine years of construction and which was designated a World Heritage site in the 20th century, was destroyed in a frenzy of hate by a barrage of tank shells. The local population with help from UNESCO and the World Bank launched a project to rebuild the 429 year old bridge. Using as much of the original white limestone as possible salvaged from the river bed below and adding new stone from nearby quarries, the project became and stands today’s as a much valued symbol of peace and culture and of the ability of a population to restore obliterated heritage sites.

Having come to know many Syrians over the past few years, this observer predicts that the same will happen across Syria at scores of archaeological sites, and that the restoration efforts will aid in the reunification of Syria and will be an essential part of this cradle of civilizations healing process.

Syria’s planned massive archaeological site restoration efforts do not have to be perfect in every cm of detail-although surely that is the goal. But what must be avoided is falling into the temptation of quick money by destroying archaeological sites and turning them into strip-malls of boutiques for the rich tourists as Beirut’s leaders did during the 1990’s. They bulldozed their and our damaged culture heritage into the Port of Beirut to create more space for “development.” On top of the archaeological sites speculators created an empty abomination “chic” stores and restaurants many of which have shut their doors due to the local population boycotting them in protect and few, if any at all these days, rich Gulf tourists are to be seen. Many Lebanese are rightfully enraged.

This observer has seen no evidence over the past few years that the Syrian people intend to follow Lebanon’s solution at damaged cultural heritage sites.

The frenetic destructive iconoclasm of ISIS in Syria may be lessening to some degree given the growing popular resistance in a majority of areas under its Caliphate. ISIS brutality and its wanton destruction of Syria’s much cherished past is increasingly meeting local resistance.

It is well known that ISIS views its movement as a return to the roots of Islam although this claim is contested by Muslims throughout Syria and the world. The ISIS perception involves a built-in brutality toward non-Muslims and its definition of Shirk as any form of innovation (or “Bid’ah”) in Islamic belief, theology, worship or custom. In the overarching scheme to “command right and forbid wrong,” ISIS militants will often physically destroy all material artifacts and edifices they define as Shirk. ISIS sees itself as the all-encompassing educator about, eradicator of and enforcer against Shirk. More than one ISIS supporter has explained to this observer that they strongly condemn the Taliban and others who have failed to totally erase Shirk in their wake and left some centers of reverence, ritual prayer and devotion, or amulet production behind. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi repeatedly commands his followers to “strike the apostate’s Shirk with your Tawhid (Tawhid is the indivisible oneness concept of monotheism in Islam) and Allah will break their strength.”

There is a growing rising chorus among Sunni and Shia Muslims in Syria and elsewhere rejecting this Shirk idea as applied by ISIS. Many Syrians, especially those under its domination, are accusing ISIS of not defending the true Koranic heritage of the Prophet Mohammad which generally admired and valued and even protected antiquities including Greek and Roman architecture. Rather, ISIS is increasingly be accused of inventing a modernist, opportunistic perverse cult for political and not religious purposes. A Muslim ‘dialogue’, more likely an internecine Sunni-Sunni bellum sacrum-not to be confused with the deepening Shia-Sunni sectarian war, appears to be underway to confront and expel ISIS. History will judge its course.

At the same time, given a truce among their many enemies, ISIS faces heightened challenges of manpower, finance, and credibility about its message among local populations. ISIS has been forced to cut salaries by 50% reduce public services, and face up to and punish significant desertions among its fighters who want to opt out of the Caliphate.

Contrary to earlier recruit-centers hype of salaries of $ 600 per month for recruits, the salary this week is only $50 per month for fighters, raised to $100 if he is married, and another monthly sum of $35 per child. The latter figure obtains except for male children over the age of 15, in which case they are required to become Caliphate fighters and head to the front after four weeks or less of military and religious training. Too make matters worse for ISIS, for a number of reasons foreign jihadists are not arriving in the numbers as during the heady Caliphate days of much of late 2014 and 2015.

If the truce holds and the war ends, there are many reasons to believe it will have helped save our cultural heritage in Syria. And that its protection, preservation and restoration will begin in earnest.  

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (
More articles by:Franklin Lamb

Watching Big Brother: Israeli Officials Allege 'Al-Quds Intifada' TV Hack

[Suspected] Palestinian Hackers Send a Message on Israeli Television

by IMEMC News & Agencies

March 12, 2016

Suspected Palestinian hackers briefly overtook an Israeli television broadcast, Friday evening.

During the airing of a popular television show “Big Brother” on Israeli Channel 2, the broadcast was briefly interrupted by a clip showing images of recent operations and, according to the Israeli media, “threatening messages” in Hebrew.

“Stay in your homes,” begins the ominous text. “The story is not over…there is more to come.”

At the bottom of the message reads in Arabic: “Al-Quds Intifada.”

Al-Quds Intifada, PNN reports, refers to Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation over the past six months, in which almost 200 Palestinians were killed and thousands more injured.

See also: France: Another Palestinian TV Station Shut Down

Friday, March 11, 2016

Evidence Points to Saudi Use of Tactical Nuke inYemen

The nuclear Near East!

by Thierry Meyssan  - Voltaire Network

7 March 2016

While the West was applying pressure on Iran to abandon its civilian nuclear programme, the Saudis were buying the atomic bomb from Israel or Pakistan. From now on, to everyone’s surprise, the Near East has become a nuclear zone, dominated by Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In 1979, Israel completed the final adjustments to its atomic bomb, in collaboration with the apartheid régime of South Africa. The Hebrew state has never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has always avoided answering questions about its nuclear programme.

Every year since 1980, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a consensual resolution to make the Near East a region free from all nuclear weapon. This resolution was aimed at encouraging Israel to give up its bomb and to ensure that other states would not enter into an arms race.

Under the Shah, Iran also had a military nuclear programme, but it was pursued only marginally after the revolution of 1979, because of the war started by Iraq (1980-88). However, it was only after the end of war that ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini opposed weapons of mass destruction, and consequently prohibited the fabrication, possession and the use of atomic weapons.

Negotiations then began for the restitution of the 1,180 billion dollars of Iranian investment in the Eurodif complex for the enrichment of uranium at Tricastin. However, the question was never resolved. As a result, during the dissolution of Eurodif in 2010, the Islamic Republic of Iran still owned 10% of the capital. It is probable that it still holds a part of the company for uranium enrichment at Tricastin.

From 2003 to 2005, the negotiations relative to the nuclear litigation were presided for Iran by Sheikh Hassan Rohani, a religious leader close to Presidents Rafsandjani and Khatami. The Europeans demanded the introduction of a passage stipulating that Iran dismantle its system for the teaching of nuclear physics, so as to ensure that they would be unable to relaunch their military programme.

However, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – a partisan for the relaunching of the Khomeinist Revolution – came to power, he rejected the agreement negotiated by Sheikh Rohani and dismissed him. He restarted the teaching of nuclear physics, and launched a research programme which was aimed, in particular, at finding a way of producing electricity from atomic fusion and not nuclear fission, which is currently used by the United States, Russia, France, China and Japan.

Accusing President Ahmadinejad of «preparing the Apocalypse to hasten the return of the Mahdi» (sic), Israël launched an international Press campaign intended to isolate Iran. In reality, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not share the Jewish vision of an evil world which has to be destroyed and then rebuilt, but that of a progressive maturation of collective awareness until Parousia, the return of the Mahdi and the prophets. At the same time, Mossad busied itself with the assassination, one by one, of a number of Iranian nuclear scientists. From their side, the Western powers and the UN Security Council adopted ever more restrictive sanctions until they had completely isolated Iran at the economic and financial level.

In 2013, the Guide of the Revolution, ayatollah Ali Khameinei, agreed to a round of secret discussions with Washington, in Oman. Persuaded that he had to loosen the constraints which were suffocating his country, he considered a provisional ten-year agreement. After a preliminary agreement, Ahmadinejad’s candidacy for the Presidential election was not authorised, and Sheikh Hassan Rohani was elected. He restarted the negotiations that he had abandoned in 2005, and accepted the Western conditions, including the ban on enriching uranium at 20%, which put an end to the research on nuclear fusion.

In November 2013, Saudi Arabia organised a secret summit which brought together members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the friendly Muslim states [1]. In the presence of delegates from the UN General Secretariat, Israeli President Shimon Peres joined them by video-conference. The participants concluded that the danger was not the Israeli bomb, but the bomb that Iran might one day possess. The Saudis assured their interlocutors that they would take the necessary initiatives.

Military cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia is a new phenomenon, but the two countries have been working together since 2008, when Riyadh financed Israel’s punitive expedition in Gaza, known as «Operation Cast Lead» [2].

The 5+1 agreement was not made public until mid-2015. During the negotiations, Saudi Arabia multiplied its declarations that it would launch an arms race if the international community did not manage to force Iran to dismantle its nuclear programme [3].

On the 6th February 2015, President Obama published his new «National Security Strategy». He wrote - «Long-term stability [in the Middle East and North Africa] requires more than the use and presence of US military forces. It demands partners who are capable of defending themselves by themselves. This is why we invest in the capacity of Israel, Jordan and our Gulf partners to discourage aggression, while maintaining our unwavering support for the security of Israel, including the continued improvement of its military capacities» [4].

On the 25th March 2015, Saudi Arabia began its operation «Decisive Tempest» in Yemen, officially aimed at re-instating the Yemeni President, who had been overthrown by a popular revolution. In fact, the operation was the implementation of the secret agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia for the exploitation of the Rub’al-Khali oil fields [5].

On the 26th March 2015, Adel Al-Jubeir, then the Saudi ambassador to the United States, refused to answer a question from CNN concerning the project for a Saudi atomic bomb.

On the 30th March 2015, a joint military Staff was set up by Israel in Somaliland, a non-recognised state. From the first day, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan participated under Israel command.

Two days later, on the 1st April 2015, during the Charm el-Cheick summit, the Arab League adopted the principle of a «Joint Arab Force» [6]. Officially, this was to implement the Arab Defence Treaty of 1950 to fight against terrorism. De facto, the League had validated the new Arab military alliance under Israeli command.

In May 2015, the Joint Arab Force, under Israeli command, used a tactical atomic bomb in Yemen. It may have been used in an attempt to penetrate an underground bunker.

 On the 16th July 2015, intelligence specialist Duane Clarridge affirmed on Fox Business that Saudi Arabia had bought the atomic bomb from Pakistan.

 On the 18th January 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry affirmed on CNN that atomic weaponry can not be bought and transferred. He warned Saudi Arabia that this would constitute a violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

 On the 15th February 2016, Saudi analyst Dahham Al-’Anzi affirmed in Arabic on Russia Today that his country has been in possession of an atomic weapon for two years, in order to protect Arabs, and that the major powers know this.

The declarations of Saudi analyst Dahham Al-’Anzi, on the 15th February 2016 on Russia Today – which were immediately translated and broadcast by the Israeli service Memri – raised a considerable echo in the Arab world. However, no international political leader, not even Saudi, made any comment. And Russia Today has erased them from its Internet site.

The declarations of Dahham Al-’Anzi - an intellectual close to Prince Mohamed ben Salman – lead us to think that he was not speaking of a strategic atomic weapon (A-bomb or H-bomb), but a tactical bomb (N-bomb). Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine how Saudi Arabia could «protect Arabs» from the Syrian «dictatorship» by using a strategic nuclear bomb. Moreover, this corresponds to what has already been observed in Yemen. However, nothing is certain.

It is obviously unlikely that Saudi Arabia had built this kind of weapon itself, since it is absolutely bereft of scientific knowledge in the matter. On the other hand, it is possible that it bought the weapon from a state which has not signed the NPT, Israel or Pakistan. If we are to believe Duane Clarridge, it would have been Islamabad which sold its technology, but in this case, the weapon could not be a neutron bomb.

Since Saudi Arabia signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (TNP), it did not have the right acquire the weapon, whether it be a tactical or a strategic bomb. But it would be enough for King Salman to declare that he bought the bomb in his own name to avoid being concerned by the Treaty. We know that the state of Saudi Arabia is the King’s private property, and that his budget only represents a part of the royal coffers. This would mean that we have entered a phase of the privatisation of nuclear weapons - a scenario which until now had been unthinkable. This evolution must be taken most seriously.

Finally, everything leads us to believe that the Saudis acted within the framework of US policy, but that they overstepped themselves by violating the NPT. By doing so, they have laid the foundation for a nuclearised Near East in which Iran could no longer play the role that Sheikh Rohani had hoped to recover, that of «regional police force» for the benefit of his Anglo-Saxon friends.

Thierry Meyssan

Pete Kimberley


[1] “Shimon Peres addressed Gulf Security Council, end November”, Translation Alizée Ville, Voltaire Network, 5 December 2013.

[2] « La guerre israélienne est financée par l’Arabie saoudite », par Thierry Meyssan, Réseau Voltaire, 6 janvier 2009.

[3] “Prospect of deal with Iran pushes Saudi Arabia and Israel into an unlikely alliance”, Kim Sengupta, The Independent, March 30, 2015

[4] “Obama Rearms”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Roger Lagassé, Voltaire Network, 10 February 2015.

[5] “The secret projects of Israël and Saudi Arabia”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 27 June 2015.

[6] “The « Arab » Common Defence Force”, by Thierry Meyssan, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 14 May 2015.

Lightning Rally for Site C Saturday in Victoria

Let's remind the Liberals of their campaign promises

by Sierra Club BC


Breaking news!

We have just learned that federal Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould—who has attended the Paddle for the Peace twice—will be speaking at the federal Liberal Party convention in Victoria on Saturday!

Please join us for a lightning rally at the main entrance to the Crystal Garden on Douglas Street-- 11:30 to 1:15 pm.

This is an amazing opportunity to remind the federal Liberals of their campaign promise to honour treaty rights. The federal government has the power to halt Site C dam, the biggest violation of Treaty and Aboriginal rights in this country right now.

Main entrance to the Crystal Garden at 713 Douglas St.
Saturday, March 12, 11:30-12:15

Please bring signs! Signs and banners with a message about honouring the treaties will be especially effective as a visual message.

Having the Liberal caucus right here in Victoria is a unique opportunity—let’s make hay while the sun shines!

I hope to see you at the rally!

Ana Simeon
Peace Valley campaigner
Sierra Club BC

An Imperial Myopia: Bernie's Blind Spots and Honduras

No Bern Notice: The Imperial Myopia of Candidate Sanders  

by Chris Floyd  - Empire Burlesque

10 March 2016
Does Bernie Sanders know what Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama did to Honduras? Does he care? Last week saw yet another savage murder of a Honduran activist for democracy -- one of hundreds such atrocities since Clinton and Obama blessed a brutal oligarchical coup there in 2009. But Sanders said nothing -- says nothing -- about this damning legacy of his opponent. It's an extraordinary omission by someone presenting himself as an alternative to the failed elitist policies of the past.

The only Sanders reference to Honduras that I've been able to find is some justified criticism of the draconian treatment of Honduran refugees by the Obama-Clinton team. But he never tied this back to why there has been a flood of Hondurans fleeing their country -- most of them children, sent on a perilous journey by desperate parents hoping to save them from the hellish conditions wrought by the coup. Political repression and rampant gangsterism -- including the abandonment of broad swathes of society to the ravages of poverty and gangs -- have driven the nation to its knees. Last week's murder of indigenous activist Berta Cáceres is but the latest bitter fruit of the Obama-Clinton betrayal of democracy.

Clinton -- with a heart as hard as that most adamantine of all elements, neoconium -- obviously doesn't care. (Although at least she has refrained from looking on the latest murder and crying, "We came, we couped, she died!") One assumes that Sanders, who over the years has opposed various American depredations in Latin America, might not be so sanguine. But as of this writing, a week has passed since Cáceres's murder without comment from Sanders. However, his Senate colleague from Vermont, Patrick Leahy, did condemn the killing -- and the wasteful, land-grab dam project that Cáceres opposed. Perhaps now that Leahy has provided some Establishment cover, Sanders could bestir himself for a word or two on the Cáceres case.

But the reticence to attack Clinton on the substance -- and the essence and the goals -- of American foreign policy is very much a hallmark of the Sanders campaign. For example,his only word about the American-backed campaign of slaughter, ruin and starvation being conducted by the Saudis against Yemen has been a lament that the Saudis are wasting good ammo in Yemen when they should be "getting their hands dirty" against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Yes, apparently the proper "democratic socialist" position is that the world needs more violent intervention by the greatest purveyors of Islamic extremism in the world. We need more killing -- and more military expansion -- by one of the most repressive regimes on the face of the planet. This is where the "progressive left" is at these days.

Again, this is an extraordinary position for someone who is calling for a "revolution" in American affairs. For although Sanders wants the Saudis to do more of the "dirty" work of killing people in the Middle East, there's no suggestion on this part that the United States won't continue to supply the weaponry and logistics and intelligence for the "Sanders Surrogate" wars he envisions, just as it is doing now in Yemen. This same resistance to any fundamental change in America's militarist imperium runs through all of Sanders' foreign policy stances. Which means that his plans for a "revolution" (really mild reform) in domestic affairs are doomed to failure, because the War Machine will continue to dictate policy -- and budget priorities. Dennis Riches put it well in this quote from MintPress News:

Although Sanders claims to seek a more democratic government and hopes to remove the influence of money from politics, Riches said he avoids talking much about this complex topic because doing so would involve admitting how much the U.S. national economy depends on a massive military and endless foreign wars.

“Doing the right thing would require a complete abdication of America’s self-assigned role as master of the global order, and this would also entail a re-imagining of the domestic economy,” Riches noted.

There will be no "revolution" -- there will not even be any genuine reform, beyond mild tinkering at the margins -- without such an abdication and re-imagining. But this is not on offer from any of the "major candidates" now vying to be the temporary manager of the corrupt and violent American imperium, including Sanders.


Meanwhile, the horror in Honduras goes on. As so often over the years, John Perry of the London Review of Books provides excellent background on the situation there. He notes that the Cáceres murder is part of an American-backed ethos that puts "business" before any and all other concerns -- community, environment, individual human lives.

In this case, even the decidedly unsentimental Chinese investors -- and the equally bottom-line World Bank as well -- concluded that the dam project opposed by Cáceres was not worth pursuing. But local oligarchs, backed by the coup regime, decided to plow ahead. Perry sets the scene:

After the 2009 military coup, Honduras was declared open for business. Utopian projects for charter cities to bring in foreign entrepreneurs are still on the drawing board, but Honduras’s mineral resources have already attracted investors. To serve hundreds of new mines, 47 new hydroelectric projects were given the go ahead two months after the coup, overriding the legal protection for indigenous lands. One of them, Agua Zarca on the Gualcarque River, with dams generating 22 megawatts of electricity, would destroy Lenca farmland and villages. The Lenca community of Rio Blanco and the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Honduras (COPINH), co-founded by Cáceres, were determined to stop the dams being built.

They blocked the access road for construction traffic for a whole year in 2013, eventually forcing the Chinese firm Sinohydro to give up its contract. The World Bank also withdrew funding. The community seemed to have won, at the cost of activists being killed or injured by soldiers guarding the construction site.

Then last July, DESA, the local firm that holds the concession to dam the river, decided to go ahead by itself. A new phase of struggle began, with peaceful protests met by violent repression and bulldozers demolishing settlements in the valley. Threats against the leaders, and Cáceres in particular, increased. She was granted special protective measures by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, but the Honduran government never properly implemented them.

So just two months after the coup, 47 dam projects got the green light, to serve hundreds of new mines. Yet Hillary's defenders (you can read their obsequious offerings by the yard at Daily Kos) now tell us that she and Obama only supported the ouster and exile of the democratically elected Honduran president in 2009 in order to "prevent a civil war" in the country. It was pure altruism, on the level of high statecraft. It had nothing to do with, say, grubby business interests and powerful investors (including the not-at-all Washington-connected World Bank) needing a "green light" to move the pesky redskins off their land and gut the earth for more extraction profiteering. Such considerations did not enter into the mix at all.

(Even if one takes the argument of the Clinton apologists at face value, it's still a remarkable scam: Rightwing oligarchs threaten civil war if they don't get what they want; you give them what they want; and hey presto -- you've "saved" a nation from civil war! Why didn't Abe Lincoln think of that?)

The violent repression took its accustomed course:

In the small hours of the morning on Thursday 3 March, armed men burst through the back door of Cáceres’s house and killed her in her bed. They also injured a visiting Mexican activist, Gustavo Castro. At around eight o’clock, police and army officers arrived, dealing aggressively with the family and community members who were waiting to speak to them. As they left the scene, they insinuated that the motive was robbery. Cáceres’s body was wrapped in plastic and thrown in the back of an unmarked truck. ...

It is all part of a sickening pattern, played out over and over in Honduras, as elsewhere in the American imperium. As I wrote back in 2010:

Since the installation of these throwbacks to the corrupt and brutal 'banana republics' of yore, Obama's secretary of state, the "progressive" Hillary Clinton, has spent a good deal of time and effort trying to coerce Honduras' outraged neighbors in Latin America to "welcome" the thug-clique, now led by Porfirio Lobo, back into the "community of nations." Let bygones be bygones, Clinton says, as Lobo's regime murders journalists (nine so far this year), political opponents and carries on the wholesale trashing of Honduran independence (such as sacking four Supreme Court justices who opposed the gutting of liberties and the overthrow of constitutional order). After all, isn't that Obama's own philosophy: always "look forward," forget the crimes of the past? Every day is a new day, a clean slate, a chance for a new beginning -- indeed, for "hope and change."

In other words: let the dead bury the dead -- and let the rich and powerful reap their rewards.

America Productions Presents: An Election Made in Hell

American exceptionalism presents an election made in hell

by William Blum – The Anti-Empire Report #144

March 11th, 2016 

If the American presidential election winds up with Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump, and my passport is confiscated, and I’m somehow FORCED to choose one or the other, or I’m PAID to do so, paid well … I would vote for Trump.

My main concern is foreign policy. American foreign policy is the greatest threat to world peace, prosperity, and the environment. And when it comes to foreign policy, Hillary Clinton is an unholy disaster. From Iraq and Syria to Libya and Honduras the world is a much worse place because of her; so much so that I’d call her a war criminal who should be prosecuted. And not much better can be expected on domestic issues from this woman who was paid $675,000 by Goldman Sachs – one of the most reactionary, anti-social corporations in this sad world – for four speeches and even more than that in political donations in recent years.

Add to that Hillary’s willingness to serve for six years on the board of Walmart while her husband was governor of Arkansas. Can we expect to change corporate behavior by taking their money?

The Los Angeles Times ran an editorial the day after the multiple primary elections of March 1 which began: “Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States,” and then declared: “The reality is that Trump has no experience whatsoever in government.”

When I need to have my car fixed I look for a mechanic with experience with my type of auto. When I have a medical problem I prefer a doctor who specializes in the part of my body that’s ill. But when it comes to politicians, experience means nothing. The only thing that counts is the person’s ideology. Who would you sooner vote for, a person with 30 years in Congress who doesn’t share your political and social views at all, is even hostile to them, or someone who has never held public office before but is an ideological comrade on every important issue? Clinton’s 12 years in high government positions carries no weight with me.

The Times continued about Trump: “He has shamefully little knowledge of the issues facing the country and the world.”

Again, knowledge is trumped (no pun intended) by ideology. As Secretary of State (January 2009-February 2013), with great access to knowledge, Clinton played a key role in the 2011 destruction of Libya’s modern and secular welfare state, sending it crashing in utter chaos into a failed state, leading to the widespread dispersal throughout North African and Middle East hotspots of the gigantic arsenal of weaponry that Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi had accumulated. Libya is now a haven for terrorists, from al Qaeda to ISIS, whereas Gaddafi had been a leading foe of terrorists.

What good did Secretary of State Clinton’s knowledge do? It was enough for her to know that Gaddafi’s Libya, for several reasons, would never be a properly obedient client state of Washington. Thus it was that the United States, along with NATO, bombed the people of Libya almost daily for more than six months, giving as an excuse that Gaddafi was about to invade Benghazi, the Libyan center of his opponents, and so the United States was thus saving the people of that city from a massacre. The American people and the American media of course swallowed this story, though no convincing evidence of the alleged impending massacre has ever been presented. (The nearest thing to an official US government account of the matter – a Congressional Research Service report on events in Libya for the period – makes no mention at all of the threatened massacre.) 1

The Western intervention in Libya was one that the New York Times said Clinton had “championed”, convincing Obama in “what was arguably her moment of greatest influence as secretary of state.” 2 All the knowledge she was privy to did not keep her from this disastrous mistake in Libya. And the same can be said about her support of placing regime change in Syria ahead of supporting the Syrian government in its struggle against ISIS and other terrorist groups. Even more disastrous was the 2003 US invasion of Iraq which she as a senator supported. Both policies were of course clear violations of international law and the UN Charter.

Another foreign-policy “success” of Mrs. Clinton, which her swooning followers will ignore, the few that even know about it, is the coup ousting the moderately progressive Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in June, 2009. A tale told many times in Latin America. The downtrodden masses finally put into power a leader committed to reversing the status quo, determined to try to put an end to up to two centuries of oppression … and before long the military overthrows the democratically-elected government, while the United States – if not the mastermind behind the coup – does nothing to prevent it punish the coup regime, as only the United States can punish; meanwhile Washington officials pretend to be very upset over this “affront to democracy”. (See Mark Weisbrot’s “Top Ten Ways You Can Tell Which Side The United States Government is On With Regard to the Military Coup in Honduras”.) 3

In her 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices”, Clinton reveals just how unconcerned she was about restoring Zelaya to his rightful office: “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere … We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot.”

The question of Zelaya was anything but moot. Latin American leaders, the United Nations General Assembly, and other international bodies vehemently demanded his immediate return to office. Washington, however, quickly resumed normal diplomatic relations with the new right-wing police state, and Honduras has since become a major impetus for the child migrants currently pouring into the United States.

The headline from Time magazine’s report on Honduras at the close of that year (December 3, 2009) summed it up as follows: “Obama’s Latin America Policy Looks Like Bush’s”.

And Hillary Clinton looks like a conservative. And has for many years; going back to at least the 1980s, while the wife of the Arkansas governor, when she strongly supported the death-squad torturers known as the Contras, who were the empire’s proxy army in Nicaragua. 4

Then, during the 2007 presidential primary, America’s venerable conservative magazine, William Buckley’s National Review, ran an editorial by Bruce Bartlett. Bartlett was a policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan, a treasury official under President George H.W. Bush, and a fellow at two of the leading conservative think-tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute – You get the picture? Bartlett tells his readers that it’s almost certain that the Democrats will win the White House in 2008. So what to do? Support the most conservative Democrat. He writes: “To right-wingers willing to look beneath what probably sounds to them like the same identical views of the Democratic candidates, it is pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative.” 5

During the same primary we also heard from America’s leading magazine for the corporate wealthy, Fortune, with a cover featuring a picture of Mrs. Clinton and the headline: “Business Loves Hillary”. 6

And what do we have in 2016? Fully 116 members of the Republican Party’s national security community, many of them veterans of Bush administrations, have signed an open letter threatening that, if Trump is nominated, they will all desert, and some will defect – to Hillary Clinton! “Hillary is the lesser evil, by a large margin,” says Eliot Cohen of the Bush II State Department. Cohen helped line up neocons to sign the “Dump-Trump” manifesto. Another signer, foreign-policy ultra-conservative author Robert Kagan, declared: “The only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton.” 7

The only choice? What’s wrong with Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate? … Oh, I see, not conservative enough.

And Mr. Trump? Much more a critic of US foreign policy than Hillary or Bernie. He speaks of Russia and Vladimir Putin as positive forces and allies, and would be much less likely to go to war against Moscow than Clinton would. He declares that he would be “evenhanded” when it comes to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (as opposed to Clinton’s boundless support of Israel). He’s opposed to calling Senator John McCain a “hero”, because he was captured. (What other politician would dare say a thing like that?)

He calls Iraq “a complete disaster”, condemning not only George W. Bush but the neocons who surrounded him. “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction and there were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.” He even questions the idea that “Bush kept us safe”, and adds that “Whether you like Saddam or not, he used to kill terrorists.”

Yes, he’s personally obnoxious. I’d have a very hard time being his friend. Who cares?

CIA motto: “Proudly overthrowing the Cuban government since 1959.”

Now what? Did you think that the United States had finally grown up and come to the realization that they could in fact share the same hemisphere as the people of Cuba, accepting Cuban society as unquestioningly as they do that of Canada? The Washington Post (February 18) reported: “In recent weeks, administration officials have made it clear Obama would travel to Cuba only if its government made additional concessions in the areas of human rights, Internet access and market liberalization.”

Imagine if Cuba insisted that the United States make “concessions in the area of human rights”; this could mean the United States pledging to not repeat anything like the following:

Invading Cuba in 1961 at the Bay of Pigs.

Invading Grenada in 1983 and killing 84 Cubans, mainly construction workers.

Blowing up a passenger plane full of Cubans in 1976. (In 1983, the city of Miami held a day in honor of Orlando Bosch, one of the two masterminds behind this awful act; the other perpetrator, Luis Posada, was given lifetime protection in the same city.)

Giving Cuban exiles, for their use, the virus which causes African swine fever, forcing the Cuban government to slaughter 500,000 pigs.

Infecting Cuban turkeys with a virus which produces the fatal Newcastle disease, resulting in the deaths of 8,000 turkeys.

In 1981 an epidemic of dengue hemorrhagic fever swept the island, the first major epidemic of DHF ever in the Americas. The United States had long been experimenting with using dengue fever as a weapon. Cuba asked the United States for a pesticide to eradicate the mosquito involved but were not given it. Over 300,000 cases were reported in Cuba with 158 fatalities.

These are but three examples of decades-long CIA chemical and biological warfare (CBW) against Cuba. 8 We must keep in mind that food is a human right (although the United States has repeatedly denied this. 9

Washington maintained a blockade of goods and money entering Cuba that is still going strong, a blockade that President Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, in 1997 called “the most pervasive sanctions ever imposed on a nation in the history of mankind”. 10

Attempted to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro on numerous occasions, not only in Cuba, but in Panama, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. 11

In one scheme after another in recent years, Washington’s Agency for International Development (AID) endeavored to cause dissension in Cuba and/or stir up rebellion, the ultimate goal being regime change.

In 1999 a Cuban lawsuit demanded $181.1 billion in US compensation for death and injury suffered by Cuban citizens in four decades “war” by Washington against Cuba. Cuba asked for $30 million in direct compensation for each of the 3,478 people it said were killed by US actions and $15 million each for the 2,099 injured. It also asked for $10 million each for the people killed, and $5 million each for the injured, to repay Cuban society for the costs it has had to assume on their behalf.

Needless to say, the United States has not paid a penny of this.

One of the most common Yankee criticisms of the state of human rights in Cuba has been the arrest of dissidents (although the great majority are quickly released). But many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement, which began in 2011, more than 7,000 people were arrested in about the first year, many were beaten by police and mistreated while in custody, their street displays and libraries smashed to pieces. 12 ; the Occupy movement continued until 2014; thus, the figure of 7,000 is an understatement.)

Moreover, it must be kept in mind that whatever restrictions on civil liberties there may be in Cuba exist within a particular context: The most powerful nation in the history of the world is just 90 miles away and is sworn – vehemently and repeatedly sworn – to overthrowing the Cuban government. If the United States was simply and sincerely concerned with making Cuba a less restrictive society, Washington’s policy would be clear cut:

  • Call off the wolves – the CIA wolves, the AID wolves, the doctor-stealer wolves, the baseball-player-stealer wolves.
  • Publicly and sincerely (if American leaders still remember what this word means) renounce their use of CBW and assassinations. And apologize.
  • Cease the unceasing hypocritical propaganda – about elections, for example. (Yes, it’s true that Cuban elections never feature a Donald Trump or a Hillary Clinton, nor ten billion dollars, nor 24 hours of campaign ads, but is that any reason to write them off?)
  • Pay compensation – a lot of it.
  • Sine qua non – end the God-awful blockade.

Throughout the period of the Cuban revolution, 1959 to the present, Latin America has witnessed a terrible parade of human rights violations – systematic, routine torture; legions of “disappeared” people; government-supported death squads picking off selected individuals; massacres en masse of peasants, students and other groups. The worst perpetrators of these acts during this period have been the military and associated paramilitary squads of El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, Haiti and Honduras. However, not even Cuba’s worst enemies have made serious charges against the Havana government for any of such violations; and if one further considers education and health care, “both of which,” said President Bill Clinton, “work better [in Cuba] than most other countries” 13 , and both of which are guaranteed by the United Nations “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and the “European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms”, then it would appear that during the more-than-half century of its revolution, Cuba has enjoyed one of the very best human-rights records in all of Latin America.

But never good enough for American leaders to ever touch upon in any way; the Bill Clinton quote being a rare exception indeed. It’s a tough decision to normalize relations with a country whose police force murders its own innocent civilians on almost a daily basis. But Cuba needs to do it. Maybe they can civilize the Americans a bit, or at least remind them that for more than a century they have been the leading torturers of the world.

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy”, updated March 4, 2016.
New York Times, February 28, 2016
Mark Weisbrot, “Top Ten Ways You Can Tell Which Side The United States Government is On With Regard to the Military Coup in Honduras”, Common Dreams, December 16, 2009
Roger Morris, former member of the National Security Council, Partners in Power (1996), p.415. For a comprehensive look at Hillary Clinton, see the new book by Diane Johnstone, Queen of Chaos.
National Review online, May 1, 2007
Fortune magazine, July 9, 2007
Patrick J. Buchanan, “Will the Oligarchs Kill Trump?”,, March 08, 2016
William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (2005), chapter 14
Ibid., p.264
White House press briefing, November 14, 1997, US Newswire transcript
Fabian Escalante, Executive Action: 634 Ways to Kill Fidel Castro (2006), Ocean Press (Australia)
Huffington Post, May 3, 2012
Miami Herald, October 17, 1997, p.22A

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to is provided.

Fukushima Backstory: What They Knew Would Happen

Fukushima: They Knew

by Greg Palast

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Friday, March 11, on Democracy Now:
Palast on Rubio, his Billionaire and their attacks on Argentina - Also, the Fukushima facts 

"Completely and Utterly Fail in an Earthquake"
The Fukushima story you didn't hear on CNN
On the Fifth Anniversary of the meltdown, the con continues

I've seen a lot of sick stuff in my career, but this was sick on a new level.

Here was the handwritten log kept by a senior engineer at the nuclear power plant:

Wiesel was very upset. He seemed very nervous. Very agitated. . . . In fact, the plant was riddled with problems that, no way on earth, could stand an earthquake. The team of engineers sent in to inspect found that most of these components could "completely and utterly fail" during an earthquake.

"Utterly fail during an earthquake." And here in Japan was the quake and here is the utter failure.

The warning was in what the investigations team called The Notebook, which I'm not supposed to have. Good thing I've kept a copy anyway, because the file cabinets went down with my office building ....

NEW YORK, 1986

Two senior nuclear plant engineers were spilling out their souls and files on our huge conference table, blowing away my government investigations team with the inside stuff about the construction of the Shoreham, New York, power station.

The meeting was secret. Very secret. Their courage could destroy their careers: No engineering firm wants to hire a snitch, even one who has saved thousands of lives. They could lose their jobs; they could lose everything. They did. That’s what happens. Have a nice day.

On March 12, 2011, as I watched Fukushima melt, I knew: the "SQ" had been faked. Anderson Cooper said it would all be OK. He'd flown to Japan, to suck up the radiation and official company bullshit. The horror show was not the fault of Tokyo Electric, he said, because the plant was built to withstand only an 8.0 earthquake on the Richter scale, and this was 9.0. Anderson must have been in the gym when they handed out the facts. The 9.0 shake was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 90 miles away. It was barely a tenth of that power at Fukushima.

I called the US Geological Survey. (Yes, Anderson, journalists are allowed to check out facts.) The plant took a hit of 550 galileos. (The "Richter scale" is TV talk—"galileos" measure ground movement at the danger point). I contacted my network of engineers. Turns out, Tokyo power promised government regulators they would raise seismic (earthquake) protection to 600 galileos. They promised. That was 2006, five years before the meltdown. So there you have it. If TEPCO had not played the regulators, Japan would not be suffering a slow-motion Hiroshima.

I was ready to vomit. Because I knew even more. I knew who had designed the plant, who had built it and whom Tokyo Electric Power was having rebuild it: Shaw Construction. Shaw Construction—the latest alias of Stone & Webster, the designated builder for every one of the four new nuclear plants that the Obama Administration has approved for billions in federal studies.

But I had The Notebook, the diaries of the earthquake inspector for the company. I'd squirreled it out sometime before the Trade Center went down. I shouldn't have done that. Too bad.

[This is an excerpt from the "Fukushima, Texas" chapter of Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Fraudsters. Click here to get the book. My own favorite of all my books, I’ll sign my last copies—I removed it from print—if you make a tax-deductible donation to support our continuing investigations.]

All field engineers keep a diary. Gordon Dick, a supervisor, wasn’t sup- posed to show his to us. I asked him to show it to us and, reluctantly, he directed me to these notes about the “SQ” tests.

SQ is nuclear-speak for “Seismic Qualification.” A seismically qualified nuclear plant won’t melt down if you shake it. A “seismic event” can be an earthquake or a Christmas present from Al Qaeda. You can’t run a nuclear reactor in the USA or Europe or Japan without certified SQ.

This much is clear from his notebook: This nuclear plant will melt down in an earthquake. The plant dismally failed to meet the Seismic I (shaking) standards required by U.S. and international rules.

Here’s what we learned: Dick’s subordinate at the nuclear plant, Robert Wiesel, conducted the standard seismic review. Wiesel flunked his company. No good. Dick then ordered Wiesel to change his report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, change it from failed to passed. Dick didn’t want to make Wiesel do it, but Dick was under the gun himself, acting on direct command from corporate chiefs. From The Notebook:

Wiesel was very upset. He seemed very nervous. Very agitated. [He said,] “I believe these are bad results and I believe it’s reportable,” and then he took the volume of federal regulations from the shelf and went to section 50.55(e), which describes reportable deficiencies at a nuclear plant and [they] read the section together, with Wiesel pointing to the appropriate paragraphs that federal law clearly required [them and the company] to report the Category II, Seismic I deficiencies.

Wiesel then expressed his concern that he was afraid that if he [Wiesel] reported the deficiencies, he would be fired, but that if he didn’t report the deficiencies, he would be breaking a federal law. . . .

The law is clear. It is a crime not to report a safety failure. I could imagine Wiesel standing there with that big, thick rule book in his hands, The Law. It must have been heavy. So was his paycheck. He weighed the choices: Break the law, possibly a jail-time crime, or keep his job.

What did Wiesel do? What would you do?

Why the hell would his company make this man walk the line? Why did they put the gun to his head, to make him conceal mortal danger? It was the money. It’s always the money. Fixing the seismic problem would have cost the plant’s owner half a billion dollars easy. A guy from corporate told Dick, “Bob is a good man. He’ll do what’s right. Don’t worry about Bob.”

That is, they thought Bob would save his job and career rather than rat out the company to the feds.

But I think we should all worry about Bob. The company he worked for, Stone & Webster Engineering, built or designed about a third of the nuclear plants in the United States.

From the fifty-second floor we could look at the Statue of Liberty. She didn’t look back.


Greg Palast was the lead investigator in the successful government racketeering case against nuclear plant builders which resulted in the closure of the Shoreham plant, NY. Palast is the author of several New York Times bestsellers including The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic.

Later this year, Greg Palast will be releasing his new feature film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy—A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits, which includes his award-winning investigation Jim Crow Returns.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy—A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits, takes off from my award-winning investigation Jim Crow Returns on the latest in vote-heist trickery.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Life Abroad: Berlin's Changing Colours

Expat insights: The Color of Change in Berlin and Beyond

by Linn Washington Jr.  - This Can't Be Happening

 March 9, 2016

The consequential changes sweeping across Europe, from immigrants impacting demographics to an increasing embrace of right-wing ideologies, are not surprising to Professor Donald Muldrow Griffith, an American who has lived in Berlin, Germany for over three decades.

Griffith, born in Chicago and respected in Berlin for his achievements as a cultural impresario, feels “tensions” are afoot in Germany and other European countries.

Expat, Donald Griffith

“Many years ago, we knew the demographics of Europe would change,” Griffith said.

“As Europeans had partaken and continue to partake in the resources of many places in the world…those persons from the ‘contributing countries’ [will] seek to come to European countries for a return on their ‘investments’ and renewed hope, as a result of the past and recent political, economic and social chaos in their countries.”

When Griffith first settled in Berlin decades ago, that city was in the Cold War cauldron. While West Berlin was a city aligned with ‘The West’ it was located deep inside of what was then East Germany –- officially the German Democratic Republic –- a Communist ruled country that was an ally of the Soviet Union.

That East-West political divide inside Berlin had a literal reality because the city itself was split into east and west sectors since the war, and eventually by a wall built by the East German government. That barrier inside Berlin, constructed in 1961, was demolished beginning in 1990, just before the reunification of the two halves of Germany.

Griffith is an Afro-American living in a city quickly associated in the minds of most Americans with Cold War intrigues and/or World War II Nazi-era excesses. However, Griffith said race-based ugliness has not proved a major problem in either his professional or personal experiences.

“I have been fortunate to avoid unpleasantness in Europe, although one senses a change in attitude in the atmosphere, with declining economies and newcomers from various countries seeking to become a part of Europe,” Griffith said.

Griffith has made an artistic mark in Berlin, a city that does not enjoy recognition as a nourishing place for artistic expressions by Afro-Americans on par with Paris, France.

“I was and am very fortunate to have wonderful friends and family, who supported our ambitions,” Griffith said.

The ambitions Griffith referenced ignited an artistic odyssey that grew from his decision to accept an invitation to come to Berlin in 1979 to perform in a Broadway-style musical. That odyssey created a body of accomplishments that have received accolades for his elevating the recognition of Afro-American culture in Berlin.

When in Berlin for that initial acting opportunity, Griffith said he “met a group of American co-performers and a German colleague, who were interested in creating artistic works, which also addressed social issues.” He decided to stay in Berlin at the conclusion of his theater contact.

Those ambitions Griffith held grew into institutions, the first being Fountainhead Tanz Theatre, an arts and cultural organization founded in 1980. Griffith said a mission of Fountainhead Tanz is to confront violence and prejudice through various cultural activities.

Six years after the founding of Tanz, Griffith produced and directed the first European Black Cultural Festival, a three-week long event that featured the contributions of blacks to world culture through film, theater, dance, music, workshops and seminars.

That Cultural Festival included a Black International Cinema Berlin. That cinema event, now held annually, showcases films with subject matter about blacks but is not limited to black issues only. The prestigious group, Europe For Festivals/Festivals For Europe (EFFE), has ranked the Black International Cinema Berlin among Europe’s finest annual festivals.

The 30th Anniversary in 2015 of Black Cinema Berlin produced a “heartfelt congratulations” from the Cultural Attaché’ for the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. A letter from the attaché’ noted that one of the films selected for screening last year was an award-winning film that focused on Griffith’s 1986 founding of the European Black Cultural Festival. The attaché’ characterized Griffith’s Festival as “the beginnings of Black American culture in Germany.”

Griffith has taken Cinema Berlin to other cities in Europe and America. Achievements in Berlin led to the invitation from the University of Indiana in South Bend (USA) for him and his wife, ballerina Gayle, to create a dance theater department. While at that university from 1992-1995, the pair travelled annually to Berlin to produce the film festival and other cultural activities.

From Fountainhead Tanz Theatre have flowed initiatives in theater, dance, films/videos, film distribution, film festivals, musical productions, publications, seminars, exhibitions and workshops.

Another Tanz endeavor is Griffith's hosting of "The Collegium," a television program with a magazine-style format broadcast regularly in Berlin and other German cities.

Griffith credits his parents, a psychologist father and classical pianist mother, for inspiration along with his “mentor,” the legendary jazz vocalist/civil rights activist Oscar Brown Jr. Griffith once served as Brown’s manager.

Griffith said Brown issued a challenge to him, saying that if Griffith “wished societal adjustments,” he had to “assume responsibility for bringing those changes about.”

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Little Fukushima on the Hudson

Fukushima’s Mini-Me

by Robert Hunziker  - Dissident Voice

March 8th, 2016

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant New York continually leaks radioactivity into the Hudson River. This has been going on for years. Seriously!

Meanwhile, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo agrees with advocacy groups such as Riverkeeper, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and The Sierra Club to close Indian Point. Why? Environmentalists claim the radioactive leaks are “just the tip of the iceberg.”1

According to CBS News, water at one of the monitoring wells for Indian Point showed a 65,000% increase in tritium, which, according to nuclear industry specialists, is the kind of radiation that passes through the body very quickly via urination. That’s a relief!

On the other hand, “… little research has been done on the health effects of exposure to increased levels of tritium. But the NRC states: ‘Exposure to very small amounts of ionizing radiation is thought to minimally increase the risk of developing cancer, and the risk increases as exposure increases.”1

On second thought, “the risk increases as exposure increases,” doesn’t sound too good. After all, +65,000% likely hits the marker within the category of “risk increases as exposure increases.” When is too much, too much?

“However, Jerry Nappi, a representative for Entergy Corporation, said that the most recent issue at Indian Point would not have any impact on human health or life in the river. ‘Concentrations would be undetectable in the river,’ Nappi told CBS News. ‘We know from more than 10 years of hydrological studies on the site that it [radioactive contaminants] can’t reach drinking water sources in nearby communities.”1

So, where do the radioactive contaminants go?

But wait! There’s more! According to Riverkeeper, since at least August 2005, radioactive toxins such as tritium and strontium-90 have been leaking from at least two spent fuel pools at Indian Point into the groundwater and the Hudson River. In January 2007, strontium-90 was detected in four out of twelve Hudson River fish.

According to Joseph Mangano, Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, “Despite the assurances from Entergy, the area around Indian Point is a ‘cancer cluster,’ with the local rate of thyroid cancer rates registering at 66% higher than the national average.” A cancer cluster!

Does Indian Point’s leaky radiation foreshadow the “End of the Nuclear Age,” as mentioned in Fortune magazine? Maybe it does as, “The plant’s problems are not isolated – leaks have been found at as many as 75% of U.S. nuclear plants.”2

According to Naoto Kan, former Japanese PM when the Fukushima crisis hit: “Technically it is impossible to eliminate nuclear power plant accidents. There is only one way to eliminate accidents, which is to get rid of all nuclear power plants.3

Indian Point has five times (5x) as much spent fuel in its spent-fuel pool as Fukushima. But, consider this cautionary flag: Japan has the best emergency-planning system in the world because the country is built on a seismically active island. Still, “they had an entire emergency-planning system collapse!”.3

“They had an entire emergency-planning system collapse” is not at all comforting. Further to the point, in the context of Japan’s emphasis on the highest quality, the absolute best, emergency-planning systems, which crashed and burned when needed most, what does this say about the rest of the world? Like Indian Point, for example.

Radioactive toxins are complex. Nuclear reactors produce more than 100 different isotopes, which coincidentally are only produced in nuclear reactors or atomic bombs, isotopes such as Strontium-89, Strontium-90, Cesium-137, and Iodine-131. All of these isotopes are carcinogenic to varying degrees and each attacks different parts of the body, some the thyroid, some the bones, some the soft tissues throughout the body, and alter DNA. This is dangerous stuff that is so complex that the whole enchilada is unimaginably unimaginable.

Speaking of which, imagine this, Thom Hartmann’s interview of Alexey Yaroshevsky, regarding Indian Point:

I met people who used to live in the area, and they said they have thyroid cancer, which was the biggest shocker to me…since I come from part of the world where Chernobyl happened… so, you have people in the area of Indian Point in masses, 20,000 people diagnosed with cancer, 20,000 over 15 years… more than anywhere else in the United States.4

The Department of State, Bureau of Coastal Management released a 40-page report about Indian Point in February 2016, part of which reads as follows:

Approximately 1,500 tons of spent fuel waste is currently stored in densely packed spent fuel pool at the Indian Point facility. Two of the spent fuel pools, in addition to an unknown number of other pipes, have already exhibited structural failures that have resulted in leakage of unplanned, unpermitted quantities of radioactive waste that have flowed into the groundwater beneath the Indian Point facility. … It has not been determined the exact source of all leaks, the length of time the leaks have been transmitting radioactive material into the groundwater and the waters of the Hudson River, and the quantities of latent radioactive waste distributed throughout the groundwater underneath the Indian Point facility. Full assessment and cleanup of the radioactive leaks cannot commence until the plant has been shut down. …The existence of measurable level of radioactive releases from the Indian Point facility demonstrates that such storage solutions do not prevent or minimize spills into coastal waters.”As explained by the Bureau, they cannot even consider a “full assessment” until after the plant shuts down, meaning, nobody really knows for sure what’s going on. Therein, the Bureau of Coastal Management report fully describes a facsimile of Fukushima, aka Fukushima’s Mini-Me.

After all, the Bureau’s report candidly states:

Two of the spent fuel pools, in addition to an unknown number of other pipes, have already exhibited structural failures that have resulted in leakage of unplanned, unpermitted quantities of radioactive waste that have flowed into the groundwater beneath the Indian Point facility.

That’s pretty clear, in plain English, radioactive waste is flowing into the groundwater beneath the nuclear plant. If anybody on planet Earth thinks that’s okay, please explain in a detailed memo.

A Leaky Industry

As previously mentioned, 75% of America’s nuclear power plants leak. This therefore begs the question of how serious the problem is to health and well-being. That answer is impossible to get if only because illnesses and deaths caused by radiation can take years to develop as radiation accumulates in the body over time, and by the time cancer is detected, it can be difficult to know the cause. This is called the “latency effect.” Essentially, the latency effect is a layer of protection, effectively removing the risks of citizens lining up in front of nuclear power plants, hollering, screaming, throwing bricks.

According to the U.S. General Accountability Office, there have been 56 nuclear reactor accidents in the U.S. but few fatalities. Yet, a significant pressing question is: Who’s counting?

A very recent example of non-reported deaths from radiation exposure comes by way of Fukushima. Even though mainstream sources in Japan claim no serious health issues; i.e., deaths, from Fukushima radiation exposure, non-mainstream journalists in Japan have uncovered a series of unreported deaths of workers.

Evidently, if a worker “dies at home,” the company (TEPCO) does not report it as “death at work.” By all appearances, this is how radiation-induced deaths are handled; they’ve gotta die at the work site or no reporting, nada, nil, a big goose egg.

So, in order to get reported as “a worker death,” the worker needs to crawl out of bed and struggle to the work site, maybe on hands and knees, plop down and die on the premises.

All of this segues perfectly into one of the best arguments of the pro-nuclear crowd, which is there have been so few deaths from nuclear radiation exposure, other than dropping nukes directly on the Japanese during WWII, when America very stupidly wiped out tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of innocent people at the very moment when the Emperor of Japan was already waving a white flag, which the White House was well aware of. It is far and away the world’s all-time biggest Duh!

Anyway, as it happens, deaths from nuclear radiation exposure don’t show up for years or decades, unless zapped with a huge dosage all at once, like happened to workers at the Chernobyl plant. Zap! Death within hours-to-days.

Speaking of which, Chernobyl’s radiation continues, yes currently, to take countless unreported lives, either by death or permanent disability and deformity, still deforming and distorting another generation of people thirty years after the fact. To read all about it, go to: Fukushima’s 5th Year of Full-Blown Crisis to subsection “Hidden Casualties of Radiation”, and while there, maybe check out the subsection “U.S. Sailors Hit Hard with Radiation,” which describes how Fukushima radiation impacts U.S. sailors. It’s scandalous!

Detecting Radiation

Mindful that radiation is a “silent killer.” It is accumulative, meaning it builds up in the body over time and does not leave the body once inside; it is imperative that people take matters into their own hands when exposed to areas of high radiation. Fukushima City qualifies in spades, as explained in a video of Fukushima mothers armed with personal radiation detectors, see below:

The following short video is a poignant story about “Mothers in Fukushima” taking it upon themselves to check for radiation hot spots in areas where their children walk, run, and play along the Abukuma River in Fukushima City:

Postscript: Forget Chernobyl at Our Peril

Five years ago I visited the still highly contaminated areas of Ukraine and the Belarus border where much of the radioactive plume from Chernobyl descended on 26 April 1986. I challenge chief scientist John Beddington and environmentalists like George Monbiot or any of the pundits now downplaying the risks of radiation to talk to the doctors, the scientists, the mothers, the children, and villagers who have been left with the consequences of a major nuclear accident. It was grim. We went from hospital to hospital and from one contaminated village to another. We found deformed and genetically mutated babies in the wards; pitifully sick children in the homes; adolescents with stunted growth and dwarf torsos; fetuses without thighs or fingers and villagers who told us every member of their family was sick. This was 20 years after the accident, but we heard of many unusual clusters of people with rare bone cancers… Villages testified that ‘the Chernobyl Necklace’ — thyroid cancer— was so common as to be unremarkable.5

  1. Amy Kraft, “Indian Point Nuclear Plant Called “Disaster Waiting to Happen”, CBS News, February 26, 2016.
  2. David Z. Morris, “Indian Point Leak Foreshadows the End of the Nuclear Age,” Fortune, February 28, 2016.
  3. Wilson Dizard, “Fukushima on the Hudson: Could a Nuclear Accident Happen Near NYC”. Al jazeera America, October 14, 2013.
  4. “Indian Point – We Are Flirting with Catastrophe”, Thom Hartmann, The Big Picture – RT interview of Alexey Yaroshevsky, RT Reporter/Washington, D.C., February 16, 2015.
  5. John Vidal, environmental editor, “Nuclear’s Green Cheerleaders Forget Chernobyl at Our Peril”, The Guardian, April 1, 2011. 
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Robert.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Gearóid Ó Colmáin, Greg Palast, Janine Bandcroft March 9, 2016

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

March 8, 2016

Last month, the first of some the expected 250 Syrian families seeking refuge from the war in their homeland began arriving in Victoria; a veritable drop in the ocean of the estimated six million Syrians displaced both internally, and scattered to the World's four corners.

This great diaspora tsunami is called a crisis as it arrives in Europe, while across the Atlantic, the ongoing US election has politicized the exodus, making of the people a hot potato no-one seeking office wants to catch hold of.

But seldom discussed either here or over there is the root cause of this human disaster, and why it was engineered in the first place.

Listen. Hear.

Gearóid Ó Colmáin is a Paris-based journalist and political analyst, whose work focuses on globalization, geopolitics and class struggle. He's a regular contributor to Global Research, Russia Today International, Press TV, Sputnik Radio France, Sputnik English, and Dissident Voice, where he's published an eleven-part examination of what he calls "coercive migration."

Gearóid Ó Colmáin in the first half.

And; America's presidential election has evolved into an unparalleled epic pageant costing billions of dollars and running non-stop across media for years before the event. But for all it's sound and fury, the millions upon millions of dollars spent on advertising, the hundreds of thousands of miles traveled by candidates, and rivers of ink and forests of paper press coverage, the actual poll is only as true as the machinery used to count the votes, and honest as the people using them. And according to reporting investigator, Greg Palast, those vote counters ain't straight.

Greg Palast and America's democracy Stripped and Flipped in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us news of things happening on our city's streets, and beyond there too, in the week coming. But first, Gearóid Ó Colmáin and examining the ramifications of a "policy of artificial mass migrations" on Europe.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:
G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Letting the Last Domino Fall: A Lebanon Front for the Turks and Saud's

Saudis, Turks Bid to Open Lebanon Front

by Finian Cunningham - SCF

March 7, 2016

With a series of blatant measures, Saudi Arabia and its regional allies are evidently trying to destabilize Lebanon. The development is apiece with how Saudi Arabia and Turkey have both sought to undermine the ceasefire in Syria and to escalate that conflict to a region-wide level.

A New York Times report this week poses a rather naive conundrum: «Diplomats and analysts have spent several weeks trying to understand why the Saudis would precipitously start penalizing Lebanon – and perhaps their own Lebanese allies – over the powerful influence of Hezbollah, which is nothing new».

Well, here’s a quick answer: Russia’s very effective squelching of the covert war for regime-change in Syria. That has sent Saudi Arabia and Turkey into a paroxysm of rage.

Russia’s military intervention in Syria to defend the Arab state from a foreign-backed covert war involving myriad terrorist proxy groups, has dealt a severe blow to the machinations of Washington, its NATO allies and regional client states.

While Washington and its Western partners seem resigned to pursue regime change by an alternative political track, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are stuck in the covert-war groove. They are betting that the terrorist proxy armies they have weaponized can somehow be salvaged from withering losses inflicted by Russian airpower in combination with the ground forces of the Syrian Arab Army, Iranian military advisors and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

Hence, the immediate breaches of the cessation called a week ago by Washington and Moscow in Syria. Turkish military shelling across the border into northern Syria is not just a breach. It is an outrageous provocation to Syrian sovereignty, as Moscow has pointed out.

Simultaneous Saudi military mobilization, including Turkish forces, on its northeast border with Iraq, as well as the reported deployment of Saudi fighter jets to Turkey’s Incirlik airbase opposite Syria’s northwest Latakia province can also be viewed as calculated moves to undermine the tentative ceasefire. The logical conclusion of this reckless aggression by both Saudi Arabia and Turkey is to precipitate a wider conflict, one which would draw in the US and Russia into open warfare.

The series of Saudi-led initiatives towards Lebanon should be interpreted in this context. In the past week, Saudi Arabia and its closely aligned Sunni monarchies in the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The word «anachronistic» comes to mind, belying an ulterior motive.

The Saudi rulers, led by King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, also announced that they were canceling plans to grant Lebanon $4 billion in aid. Most of the aid was to be in form of military grants, to be spent on upgrading the Lebanese national army with French weaponry and equipment.

Without providing any proof, the GCC states – Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman in addition to Saudi Arabia – issued travel warnings to their nationals intending to visit Lebanon. The GCC also claimed that Hezbollah was interfering in their internal affairs and trying to recruit Gulf nationals into the organization to fight in Syria. The GCC has even threatened to deport Lebanese expatriate workers, some half a million of which work in the Gulf.

There were also regional media reports last week of a large cache of weapons having been seized by Greek authorities, stowed illicitly onboard a cargo ship sailing from Turkey to Lebanon.

The cumulative intent seems patent. The Saudis and their regional allies – who have been pushing for regime change for the past five years against the Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah-allied government of President Bashar al-Assad – see the escalation of regional instability as the best way to salvage their covert war in Syria.

Washington, London and Paris probably have sufficient cynical intelligence to realize that the covert war involving terrorist proxies is no longer a viable option – given the formidable forces arrayed in support of the Syrian state, not least Russian air power.

The Saudis and the Turkish regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan appear to be inflexibly wedded to the covert war agenda. For these powers anything less than the outright removal of Assad would be seen as a grave blow to their despotic egos and, for them, an unbearable boost to their regional rival, Shia-dominated Iran.

The GCC criminalization of Shia-affiliated Hezbollah is obviously a fit of revenge-seeking given how the militia has ably helped the Syrian army retake major areas from the regime-change Sunni extremist insurgents, in conjunction with the Russian air strikes. The steady shutting down of border crossings in Latakia, Idlib and Aleppo has cut-off the terror brigades from their weapons supply routes via Turkey. This is partly why the Erdogan regime has responded by cross-border shelling in order to give re-supply efforts a modicum of artillery cover.

Moreover, the Saudi-led campaign to sanction Hezbollah is also aimed at destabilizing the sectarian fault lines inside Lebanon. Hezbollah may be denigrated by Washington and some other Western states as a «terrorist group» and of presiding over «a state within a state» due to its military wing which exists alongside the Lebanese national army.

Nevertheless, Hezbollah has constitutionally recognized legitimacy within Lebanon. This is partly due to the militia’s primary role in driving out the US-backed Israeli military occupation of the country in 2000 and again in 2006. For many Lebanese people, including Christians and Sunni Muslims, Hezbollah is held with pride as an honorable resistance force to US-led imperialism in the region.

The party – which Russia also recognizes as a legitimate national resistance movement – comprises about 10 per cent of the Lebanese parliament and holds two cabinet positions in the coalition Beirut government.

So the Saudi-led proposal to sanction Hezbollah seems nothing more than a gratuitous bid to open up sectarian fissures that have cleaved Lebanon in the recent past during its 1975-1990 civil war. The provocation of labeling a member of government in a foreign state as «terrorist» – seemingly out of the blue – has to be seen as a tendentious bid to destabilize. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah this week condemned the Saudi bid to inflame sedition in Lebanon, and it is hard to disagree with that assessment.

There are still pockets of extremist Sunni support within Lebanon that the Saudis and Turkey appear to be trying to incite. During the Syrian conflict, there have been sporadic outbreaks of violence in the cities of Sidon and Tripoli by Salafist elements with close links to Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Now those same elements are being incited to take to the streets again.

It is not clear if Lebanon can hold together. A government minister linked to a pro-Saudi faction has resigned in recent weeks over what he claims is «Hezbollah domination» in Lebanese politics.

Many Lebanese are discontent over social and economic problems dogging the country. A refuse-collection backlog over the past year has left large parts of the capital overflowing with putrid waste. The tiny country of four million is also feeling the strain of accommodating some one million Syrian refugees.

The thought of re-opening old wounds and re-igniting the horror of civil war is a heavy burden on most Lebanese citizens that may be enough to make them baulk at malign pressures.

But what can be said for sure is that the role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab monarchies is absolutely unconscionable and criminal. They seem fully prepared to plunge yet another neighboring country into a sectarian bloodbath in order to gratify their illicit regional ambitions.

Former editor and writer for major news media organizations, Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages.