Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sabotaging Syria Peace Talks: What the Washington Post Would Have

Neocons Take Aim at Syrian Peace Talks

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

The Washington Post’s neoconservative editorial page is still beating the drums for U.S. military intervention in Syria, but its latest demand for violent reprisals against the Syrian government dropped a key element in the previous propaganda campaign: the claim that President Bashar al-Assad had “gassed his own people.”

Without admitting that those earlier Sarin gas allegations have fallen apart, the Post editors simply moved on to new accusations — that the Syrian government tortured thousands of captives who were subsequently killed. Those claims came from an anonymous “defector” who claims he took photographs to document the deaths and then turned the images over to the anti-Assad government of Qatar.

Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt

Of course, the Post editors treat the new allegations as flat fact, much as they did with earlier charges against the Syrian regime – and with the Bush-43 administration’s claims in 2002-03 that Iraq was hiding stockpiles of WMD.

The Post was catastrophically wrong in the Iraq case, but none of those top editors lost their jobs over the fiasco. Instead, they’re still around treating the new Syrian accusations with the same lack of professional skepticism that they displayed regarding Iraq.

But what’s interesting about the Post’s editorial on Thursday calling for the Obama administration to threaten a U.S. military assault if the Assad regime doesn’t comply with U.S. government demands is that the editorial makes no direct reference to the Sarin gas attack that killed hundreds of Syrians on Aug. 21.

Last summer, the Obama administration and the mainstream U.S. news media blamed that Sarin attack on the Syrian government with the same certitude and outrage as we’re now seeing over the “torture photos.”

Indeed, the conventional wisdom over the Sarin attack very nearly led to a U.S. military bombardment. The rush to judgment was spurred on by Human Rights Watch, which had been pushing for a U.S. intervention, and the New York Times, when they jointly concluded that a vectoring of the reverse flight paths of the two rockets involved in the attack tracked back 9.5 kilometers and intersected at an elite Syrian military base near Assad’s Presidential Palace.

Despite this supposedly conclusive “proof,” a U.S. attack was headed off by a mix of U.S. public opposition, President Barack Obama’s willingness to test out a diplomatic alternative, and Assad’s agreement to surrender his chemical weapons (while still denying a role in the Aug. 21 attack).

Recently, however, the certitude about the Assad government’s responsibility for the Sarin attack has collapsed.

  • First, the Obama administration refused to release any of the evidence that it claimed to possess that would have supported its claims that the rockets were launched from government-controlled areas.

  • Second, the UN inspectors determined that one of the two rockets – the one that landed in Moadamiya, south of Damascus – contained no Sarin. The rocket also clipped a building in its descent, making any calculation of its flight path unreliable.

  • Third, when UN inspectors and independent rocket experts studied the one Sarin-laden rocket that struck Zamalka, east of Damascus, they concluded that its maximum range was only about two kilometers, meaning that the HRW/NYT analysis was impossible, a reality that the Times only grudgingly acknowledged last month.

The two-kilometer range also meant that the rocket could not have come for any territory under the Syrian government’s control, based on a U.S. government map released on Aug. 30. [See’s “The Mistaken Guns of Last August.”]

‘Torture Photos’

But the Washington Post editors didn’t bother to inform their readers about the collapse of this earlier propaganda theme that nearly justified a U.S. war against the Syrian government. In Thursday’s editorial, the Aug. 21 allegations vanish, replaced by the “torture photos” and other accusations of human rights violations.

Of course, it is certainly believable that the Syrian government did engage in torture and murder of Islamic militants and other rebels captured during the current civil war. A decade ago, George W. Bush’s administration relied upon the Syrian government and other authoritarian Arab states to torture U.S. detainees in the “war on terror.” Some of them also died in captivity.

So, it wouldn’t be beyond belief that Syrian officials have continued to deploy similar techniques against their domestic “terrorists” and jihadists flocking to Syria from other Muslim lands. But that doesn’t mean the photos provided by a “defector” to the government of Qatar, which is actively supporting the anti-Assad militants, should be accepted at face value.

During the run-up to the war in Iraq, at least 18 Iraqi “defectors” – many managed by the neocon-allied Iraqi National Congress – provided detailed allegations about the Iraqi government’s WMD stockpiles and Iraq’s collaboration with al-Qaeda. Though the claims were widely promoted by the Bush administration and gullibly accepted by most of the mainstream U.S. press, they all turned out to be false. [For details, see Neck Deep.]

If the Washington Post’s editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt learned anything from the disastrous Iraq War, it should have been to treat “defector” claims with many grains of salt. But it’s probably a safe bet that Hiatt and his fellow neocon opinion-shapers are not really interested in applying the normal skepticism of professional journalism. They’re looking more toward advancing the neocon agenda.

The Post’s only reference to the discredited accusations blaming the Aug. 21 Sarin attack on the Syrian government is implicit, mentioning how Obama’s threat of a military strike had gotten the Assad regime to surrender its chemical weapons. So, the Post argues, Obama should forsake the current Syrian peace talks — what the editorial calls “feckless diplomacy” — and go back to the well of making more military threats to enforce new demands:

“President Obama demonstrated last year that the credible threat of force could change the regime’s behavior. His promise of airstrikes caused Mr. Assad to surrender an arsenal of chemical weapons. Yet the president seems not to have learned the lesson of that episode.

“Now he makes the defeatist argument that, as he put it to David Remnick of the New Yorker, ‘It is very difficult to imagine a scenario in which our involvement in Syria would have led to a better outcome, short of us being willing to undertake an effort in size and scope similar to what we did in Iraq.’ In fact, Mr. Obama probably could force the measures [demanding more concessions] by presenting Mr. Assad with the choice of accepting them or enduring U.S. airstrikes.”

The problem with the Post’s threat of a military attack is that President Obama would have to be ready to carry it out if Assad did not comply with the new U.S. demands. But that may well be what the Post’s neocon editors really desire, another war against another Arab nation.

[For more details on the Syrian-Sarin issue, see’s “NYT Replays Its Iraq Fiasco in Syria.”

For our early reporting on the Syrian chemical weapons attack, see: “A Dodgy Dossier on Syrian War”; “Murky Clues From UN’s Syria Report”; “Obama Still Withholds Syria Evidence”; “How US Pressure Bends UN Agencies”; “Fixing Intel Around the Syria Policy.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Circling the Drain: MIami Beach and Climate Change

To witness climate change in Florida...Check Out Miami Beach's Storm Sewers

by Dave Lindorff  - WhoWhatWhy

Miami Beach - Len Berry was relaxing with colleagues on a hotel patio here one evening last October when one of them shouted;

“Look! It’s happening!”

Peering over the railing, the group could see water pushing up onto the street below from storm sewer drains – something that thanks to sea level rise has been happening with increasing frequency in this low-lying resort city.

Miami Beach's Holocaust Memorial sculpture by Kenneth Treister, rising 40 feet above the island, could end up being the last visible sign of Miami Beach, and an unintended symbol of a drowning city's climate change fate.

Berry, director of Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies, says he and the others were in town to attend a conference on climate change when they got this first-hand view of the crisis.

Far north of Florida, skeptics of the chaos caused by climate change are rare. The denizens of Alaska, Siberia, Scandinavia, Greenland and northern Canada have been witnessing firsthand the frightening effects of a rapidly heating Earth: Lakes and shallow seas bubbling with methane, the Arctic Ocean’s icecap shrinking, soon to vanish altogether in summer, “drunken forests” whose tree roots once sat firmly atop permafrost, now wobbling helplessly on mud. They know what’s happening.

But in America’s Lower 48, there are still plenty of climate-change naysayers. In Florida, you will find fewer and fewer of them, though, especially along the state’s long, low-lying coastline. The evidence of climate change is getting harder to ignore down here, too.

The playground city of Miami Beach may seem an unlikely place to spot such radical changes. But at its greatest elevation this heavily developed island sits just four feet above mean sea level. Much of the land is even lower and these days it gets inundated when the tide is high.

I went there earlier this month to check out a 10-block stretch of Alton Road, also known as State Road 907. It is a massive construction project at the moment, with the pavement all torn up and removed, and huge sections of concrete conduit stacked along the closed roadway, where they will eventually be laid in place well below sea level.

The reason for this hugely disruptive $38-million, one-to-two-year project is that this road, at an elevation of about one foot above current mean sea level, has become routinely subject to flooding.

During the so-called “King Tides” in spring and fall, when moon and sun are aligned to produce the highest tides, the rising sea pushes its way up through the storm sewer and drains onto the street.

(This article was written on assignment for WhoWhatWhy News, where it runs in its entirety)

Balkanizing Ukraine

Don't Let Kiev Become Another Sarajevo

by Eric Margolis

As violence and mayhem surge in Ukraine’s capitol, Kiev, fear is growing that Europe, the United States and Russia may be on a collision course.

Ukraine’s latest crisis began last November after Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an economic cooperation/integration pact with the European Union. Instead, near bankrupt Kiev accepted a Russian offer to supply heavily discounted natural gas and a pledge to buy billions worth of its shaky bonds.

Demonstrations erupted in Kiev and, later, Lvov. The Russian-backed Yanukovich government reacted with brutal police repression. Violence has mounted in recent days, with at least two demonstrators killed and scores injured on both sides. Moscow is making warnings.

This spreading crisis is of utmost geopolitical importance. It will determine the fate of 46 million Ukrainians, Russia’s future, and the stability of Eastern Europe.

Ukrainians are bitterly divided: western Ukraine, which mostly speaks Ukrainian, looks to the west and borders on Poland, a member of the EU. Predominantly Russian-speaking Eastern Ukraine looks east to neighboring Russia. The Crimea was Russian until Nikita Khrushchev gave it in 1954 on a whim (some say fuelled by vodka) to Ukraine. Crimea’s large Muslim population was destroyed or exiled by Stalin.

Ukrainian and Russian speakers understand one another’s tongue. The problem is more about economic and mentality than language, ethnicity or religion.

Western Ukraine championed the EU deal that would have begun integrating their nation with the rich EU and cast off the heavy hand of Russian political and economic influence. The example of booming EU member Poland inspired Ukraine’s western partisans. Ukraine’s ardent nationalists yearned to make a final break from Russia, which has never really accepted their nation’s 1991 independence from Moscow and has battled Ukrainian nationalists since the 1920’s.

The EU saw the trade pact with Ukraine as part of its grand strategy to keep pushing its borders east, a campaign that deeply alarms Russia.

But eastern Ukraine, notably its industrial Donetsk basin, feared that growing integration with the EU would wipe out their region’s antiquated manufacturing industry, mining, steel firms, commodity companies and chemical plants, causing high unemployment.

Ukraine’s inefficient, post-Soviet companies could not compete with the EU’s powerhouse integrated producers. The same phenomena was seen in former East Germany, where reunion with West Germany doomed most of the East’s rust-belt industries.

Eastern Ukrainians traditionally look to Russia as their cultural foundation. Most Russians regard Ukraine as their historic heartland, the cradle of Russian civilization and ethos.

When Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that the fall of the Soviet Union was modern history’s greatest tragedy, he was clearly thinking of the loss of heartland Ukraine, Russia’s breadbasket and gateway to the West. For many Russians, sunny, easy-going southern Ukraine is their region’s version of Italy.

Outsiders have been pouring gasoline on Ukraine’s fires. European and American politicians beat a path to Kiev to denounce the Yanukovich government, which first took power in 2004-05 by fraudulent elections.

US Senator John McCain and high-ranking US officials have gone to Kiev and called for the ouster of its government. Interestingly, they did not go to Cairo to denounce the increasingly brutal fascist dictatorship of Egypt’s US and Saudi-financed military junta.

Western intelligence services have been stirring Ukraine’s pot, using covert funding and advanced social media techniques to rally opposition to the government. Russia’s intelligence services have also been active, but more discreetly. Opponents of the government have been poisoned, abducted, tortured and even murdered by pro-Yanukovich thugs.

As Ukraine boils, the US has been turning up the heat on Russia and leader Putin, who is being vilified and attacked by the tame western media. The Sochi winter games have also become a target.

How dare those Ruskis use money and gas to bribe Ukraine to stay in Moscow’s orbit? The West is supposed to have a monopoly on such strong-arm tactics.

If violence continues to rend Ukraine, the inevitable question of partition will arise. Just like Czechs and Slovaks, Ukrainians may decide to go separate ways. Unless the hot-headed Ukrainians can reach some stable compromise, divorce may be their only option. Bad, of course, but not as bad as a truly scary confrontation between NATO and Russia over Ukraine.

Unimaginable? Well, few thought about Sarajevo or Bosnia in 1914.

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2014

Remembering the Good Doctor: Ten Years in Prison for Aiding the Starving Children of Iraq

Dr. Dhafir Update 

by Katherine Hughes  -

"I am stunned by the conviction of this humanitarian, especially as the US State Department breached its own sanctions to the tune of $10bn. The policy of sanctions against Iraq undermined not only the U.N.’s own charter, but the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention as well."

- Denis Halliday, assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and head of the U.N. Humanitarian Program in Iraq 1997 and 1998.

"Unlike many of the U.S. corporations doing business in violation o f the Iraq sanctions, Dr. Dhafir's violation was not for personal enrichment but as a humanitarian doing charitable work."
- Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate

Apologies for not updating for a while, but I had been feeling overwhelmed and seem to be finally digging myself out. I did manage to get a post card made before the Plowshares Craftsfair, so I was able to give out many post cards there. I had to get a 7" x 5" card to get the information I wanted included (and even then I had to leave out quotes from patients' families :O()

If anyone would like copies of the post card sent to them please email me individually and I can send them to you. What would work best for me is if you send a stamped addressed envelope and I can just put the post cards in (tell me how many you want) and send them to you. The front of the postcard is the top picture here with Magda Bayoumi and Bob Newman (my husband). I'll post the text on the reverse side at the end of this email. I plan to send the cards to the media to see if we can get some coverage of the case. I also plan to send it to churches and synagogues to see if they will invite me to speak about the case (I've already given it out at the mosque).

My request to visit Rafil was turned down because I did not know him before his incarceration.

News of Rafil is that he doesn't currently have a lawyer and I'm not sure if he is going to write a 2255 motion himself or he has other thoughts. I know Kathy Manley is working pro bono on a brief to help Rafil get his designation changed and, if successful, that would then make Rafil eligible for the camp at Devens. Kathy Manley and Steve Downs (two most amazing lawyers and co-founders of Project SALAM) are coming to stay with me tonight. They will attend the drone trial here in Syracuse to see how the court works as they will represent a defendant in the next drone trial. It will be lovely to see them.

Bob Elmendorf has been working on a FOIR for Rafil for several years and it now looks like we will be able to send the FOIR discs to Rafil to be viewed at the prison library. This is a tremendous development because the discs run to tens of thousands of pages (at least) and to print them would be impossible, never mind the fact that they are mostly blacked out. Also, Rafil is the person who is best able to understand these documents and he also has time to read them. Hopefully, like Yassin Aref, Rafil might come across some thing(s) that can form the basis of a new appeal.

I was recently in touch with a journalist who is interested in writing about Muslim charity in post-9/11 USA. While looking for information to share, by reading through my emails of 2006/2007, I got all fired up again (I was up 2 nights until 3 a.m.) and I have an article in mind to write for Rafil's upcoming 11th anniversary, February 26th. In our correspondence the journalist mentioned a "documentary" called Jihad in America: The Great Deception? and when I watched a clip, 40 seconds in, I saw Jeff Breinholt speaking (he's the DOJ guy who wrote "Terrorist Financing," and gave the Dhafir lecture at Syracuse Law School just after Rafil's sentencing). It was hard for me to do, but I've ordered the video because I couldn't find another way to see it. I'm also interested to read the paper that Breinholt reads from in the clip. The "documentary" blurb states that is it a secret memorandum found by the FBI and is titled "An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America". Has anyone come across that paper, or know any more about its origin?

If anyone would like to organize something to commemorate the anniversary of Rafil's arrest, February 26th, 2014, I would be very grateful.

Please keep Rafil in your thoughts and/or prayers and write to him so that he knows he is not forgotten: Rafil Dhafir, #11921-052-Unit HB, Federal Medical Center Devens

My best to everyone,

Never give in! :O)

Post card text:

Syracuse oncologist Dr. Dhafir has paid a heavy price for his crime of compassion: sending food and medicine to starving Iraqi civilians during the 13-year-long U.S and U.K.-sponsored UN sanctions against that country: According to UN statistics, 6,000 children under the age of 5 were dying every month--this in a country that previously had a first world standard of livingHe has already served 10 years of his 22-year sentence, please write and let him know he is not forgotten and that his humanitarian outreach is appreciated.

Rafil Dhafir, #11921-052-Unit HB, Federal Medical Center Devens, PO Box 879, Ayer MA 01432

Business Forum for the CRD's Sewage Plan for Victoria

Regional Sewage Project - Towards a Better Plan - Business Forum -Wednesday, January 29th from 7 - 9pm

by The Rite Plan

 A Special Event for Business, Commercial and Industrial Property Owners

VICTORIA, BC - After seven years of planning and 60 million spent, the CRD sewage project continues to make headlines. The cost and affordability of the largest infrastructure project in the history of the Capital Regional District remains the greatest reason for concern.

Is this the best plan? Has the CRD eliminated all of the options? What will be the final cost for taxpayers?

A cost effective alternative sewage plan that meets regional needs for the foreseeable future without the devastating tax increases is now on the table for the CRD to seriously evaluate but are they paying attention?

The panel will give an overview of this alternative plan and the associated cost savings.

No need to pre-register.


Andrew Weaver (Oak Bay - Gordon Head MLA)
Chris Corps (Pivotal IRM)
Richard Atwell (The RITE Plan)


Paul Corns (Royal Roads University, Associate VP Community Relations and Advancement)

Date: Wednesday, January 29th from 7 to 9pm


Mews Conference Room (Bldg 4)
Royal Roads University
2005 Sooke Road
Click for Map (Parking adjacent)

- 30 -

For more info:

Carole Witter

Judith Cullington (Westshore)


Friday, January 24, 2014

The 1,2,3 Part Lie Surrounding Syria Peace Talks

Top Three Media Lies About the Syrian Peace Talks

by Shamus Cooke - CounterPunch

The media spin machine is again kicking into high gear, perfectly timed to accompany the “Geneva II” Syria peace talks. The lies are necessary to give the Obama administration an upper hand in the peace negotiations, which are not being used to pursue peace, but instead, to accomplish the Obama administration’s longstanding goal of Syrian regime change.

Here are the top three Western media lies about the Syrian peace talks.

1) The removal of Syrian presidentBashar al-Assad was an agreed upon “precondition” for the Geneva II peace talks.

This lie has been repeated over and over by government and media alike. It has zero basis. The Obama administration claims that this precondition was expressed in the “Geneva communiqué,” which was a road map agreement meant to guide the Geneva II peace talks, agreed upon by some of the major parties of the negotiations, including Russia.

The communiqué does indeed call for a negotiated political transition, but nowhere does it state that such a transition cannot include President Assad. Such a condition would have been outright rejected by Russia.

In fact, the Geneva communiqué includes this crucial statement:

“[a transition government] could include members of the present [Syrian] government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.”

Nowhere does it specifically mention or imply President Assad.

The Los Angeles Times recently stepped out of line and exposed this lie:

“[John] Kerry regularly cites the “Geneva communiqué,” a kind of peace road map hammered out in June 2012 during a United Nations-organized summit. But the document does not explicitly call for Assad’s ouster.”

The Obama administration’s constant repeating of this lie only causes divisions in the peace process, undermining the chances that the peace process will succeed.

The Obama administration is especially adamant about this “Assad must go” pre-condition because it knows that, if free and fair elections were held tomorrow in Syria — as part of a UN-backed “transitional process”— President Assad would likely win. This is the result of the ethnic and religious minorities in Syria that have rallied behind President Assad, since they’ve witnessed the consistent religious sectarian atrocities committed by the U.S.-backed rebels (which the U.S. media loves to ignore or minimize).

Assad would probably win an election since there is also simply no one else on the government side or the opposition side with his name recognition or popularity. The U.S.-backed rebel war in Syria has vastly strengthened Assad’s political hand, but you wouldn’t know it from the Western, anti-Syrian media.

Demanding Assad’s ouster also does not reflect the situation on the ground. The U.S.-backed rebels have never controlled more than one Syrian city, namely Raqaa, which is dominated by al-Qaeda and is governed under a Taliban-style interpretation of Islamic law, which includes a strict ban on music. Thus, the rebels don’t have the ground power that would even enable them to make the demand that “Assad must go”.

2) The U.S.-backed rebel militias are “moderate” Islamic groups.

The fact that this lie can even be uttered publicly without encountering ridicule is a major success of Western media propaganda. The media narrative paints the U.S.-backed “good” rebels fighting both the Syrian government and the “bad” al-Qaeda linked rebels.

But the “good” rebels in the U.S.-backed Islamic Front share the same vision for Syria’s future as the al-Qaeda rebels: a fundamentalist version of Sharia law, where women live in virtual house arrest and where religious minorities are second class citizens (non-Sunni Muslims would simply be butchered, as they are on a regular basis in Syria, which is again minimized or ignored in the Western media.)

The “moderate rebel” lie was further exposed recently when a top leader in the most powerful militia, Ahrar al Sham, within the Islamic Front declared Ahrar al Sham to be the “real” representative of al-Qaeda in Syria, as opposed to the rival al-Qaeda faction that the Islamic Front had recently begun fighting.

Ahrar al Sham has long been known to be an al-Qaeda type Islamist extremist group; the Western media simply chose to ignore it. But when it was recently made official, the U.S. media chose to continue its ignoring stance, since actually reporting on it would destroy their “moderate rebel” lie. The Western media also continues to ignore the fact that the “moderate” U.S.-backed Islamic Front issued a joint statement that aligned itself to the extremist views of Ahrar al Sham, the “real” al-Qaeda.

3) New Evidence of Syrian government “industrial scale” torture.

The Western media recently blasted the “breaking news” of brand new evidence showing massive “NAZI-like” torture and murder by the Syrian government, released at the beginning of the Syrian peace talks. This may or may not be true, but the lie here is that the Western media promoted the “evidence” as being unquestionably true, when the story doesn’t reach first base when it comes to evidence-based journalism.

All we really know is that there are hundreds of pictures of dead people that a “trusted source” says were killed by the Syrian government. The trusted source was designated as such by pro-Western intellectuals, who have earned professional “credibility” by helping convict war criminals in the International Criminal Court [ICC]. But as author Diane Johnstone pointed out in her excellent book “Fools Crusade,” about the war against Yugoslavia — as well as in other articles — the ICC has long been used by western powers as a tool to create a pretext for war, or a tool to justify a war after the fact.

The evidence of the “NAZI-like” atrocities was written in a study paid for by the government of Qatar, which has long funneled cash, guns, and Jihadis to Syria in aid of the anti-government rebels.

Again, we don’t know if the story is true or not. But such an important investigation should be conducted by the UN or another more objective institution. The same biased dynamic occurred in relation to the infamous chemical weapons attack, where no real evidence was provided, though an unending string of “experts” were quoted in the Western media, testifying to the guilt of the Syrian Government. But when Pulitzer prizewinning journalist Seymour Hirsch reported that the Obama administration lied about the rebels not having the capacity to perform such an attack, the Western media simply ignored the legend of journalism. The wrench in the propaganda machine was simply dislodged.

How do these lies become such permanent fixtures in the Western media? An excellent article in the Guardian newspaper recently discussed in depth the principal sources the Western media has used to understand the Syrian conflict.

The article exposed the incredible bias of some of the most important Western media sources on Syria, which is why they were handpicked in the first place to be “expert” sources: they had political agendas that were aligned with the U.S. government’s foreign policy decisions. The other side of the conflict was completely ignored, except when it was targeted for ridicule. Thus, Americans and Europeans have a completely one-sided, if not fantasy-based perspective of what is happening in Syria. This has been systematic since the beginning of the conflict, as happened with the Yugoslav, Afghan, Iraq, and Libya wars.

The result of this media-led ignorance could result in yet more unnecessary deaths in a country that now has millions of refugees and over a 100,000 dead. Obama seems like he intends to exploit these peace talks with the intention of blaming the Syrian government for their failure. Having failed to defeat Assad on the battlefield in a proxy war, the Obama administration is trying to win the propaganda war. And once peace talks have failed, talk of war will resume, since “all other options have failed.”

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action ( He can be reached at

Keeping Pandora's Secrets: From Fukushima to a Reactor Near You

The Fukushima Secrecy Syndrome: From Japan to America

by Ralph Nader - Dissident Voice

Last month, the ruling Japanese coalition parties quickly rammed through Parliament a state secrets law. We Americans better take notice.

Under its provisions the government alone decides what are state secrets and any civil servants who divulge any “secrets” can be jailed for up to 10 years. Journalists caught in the web of this vaguely defined law can be jailed for up to 5 years.

Government officials have been upset at the constant disclosures of their laxity by regulatory officials before and after the Fukushima nuclear power disaster in 2011, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

Week after week, reports appear in the press revealing the seriousness of the contaminated water flow, the inaccessible radioactive material deep inside these reactors and the need to stop these leaking sites from further poisoning the land, food and ocean. Officials now estimate that it could take up to 40 years to clean up and decommission the reactors.

Other factors are also feeding this sure sign of a democratic setback. Militarism is raising its democracy-menacing head, prompted by friction with China over the South China Sea. Dismayingly, U.S. militarists are pushing for a larger Japanese military budget. China is the latest national security justification for our “pivot to East Asia” provoked in part by our military-industrial complex.

Draconian secrecy in government and fast-tracking bills through legislative bodies are bad omens for freedom of the Japanese press and freedom to dissent by the Japanese people. Freedom of information and robust debate (the latter cut off sharply by Japan’s parliament in December 5, 2013) are the currencies of democracy.

There is good reason why the New York Times continues to cover the deteriorating conditions in the desolate, evacuated Fukushima area. Our country has licensed many reactors here with the same designs and many of the same inadequate safety and inspection standards. Some reactors here are near earthquake faults with surrounding populations which cannot be safely evacuated in case of serious damage to the electric plant. The two Indian Point reactors that are 30 miles north of New York City are a case in point.

The less we are able to know about the past and present conditions of Fukushima, the less we will learn about atomic reactors in our own country.

Fortunately many of Japan’s most famous scientists, including Nobel laureates, Toshihide Maskawa and Hideki Shirakawa, have led the opposition against this new state secrecy legislation with 3,000 academics signing a public letter of protest. These scientists and academics declared the government’s secrecy law a threat to “the pacifist principles and fundamental human rights established by the constitution and should be rejected immediately.”

Following this statement, the Japan Scientists’ Association, Japan’s mass media companies, citizens associations, lawyers’ organizations and some regional legislatures opposed the legislation. Polls show the public also opposes this attack on democracy. The present ruling parties remain adamant. They cite as reasons for state secrecy “national security and fighting terrorism.” Sound familiar?

History is always present in the minds of many Japanese people. They know what happened in Japan when the unchallenged slide toward militarization of Japanese society led to the intimidating tyranny that drove the invasion of China, Korea and Southeast Asia before and after Pearl Harbor. By 1945, Japan was in ruins, ending with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The American people have to be alert to our government’s needless military and political provocations of China, which is worried about encirclement by surrounding U.S.-allied nations and U.S. air and sea power. Washington might better turn immediate attention to U.S. trade policies that have facilitated U.S. companies shipping American jobs and whole industries to China.

The Obama administration must become more alert to authoritarian trends in Japan that its policies have been either encouraging or knowingly ignoring – often behind the curtains of our own chronic secrecy.

The lessons of history beckon.

Ralph Nader is a leading consumer advocate, the author of The Seventeen Traditions, among many other books, and a four-time candidate for US President. Read other articles by Ralph, or visit Ralph's website.

Egypt: Moving Away from "Western Democracy"

Egypt: Doing without Western Democracy

by Dr. Ashraf Ezzat - Pyramidion

If the democracy the west is crying over is the one that could have allowed a terrorist group like the Muslim Brotherhood to devour Egypt then Egypt can and will absolutely do without the western idea of democracy”
… “We started this mess, the so called Arab Spring, and we the Egyptians once again will finish this whole business. But this time we’re going to make it right” said Soad Ali, one of the Egyptians, a house wife, who headed to the poll stations on January 14-15th and voted yes in a referendum on the country’s new constitution.

And when I asked Mrs. Ali about the latest incidents of terror that Egypt has witnessed recently she replied:

“I hear not the sounds of sporadic and desperate bombings, but I hear the sound of the terrorist group of Muslim Brotherhood falling down”

On January 2011, and on the same streets and squares of Egypt, began a sweeping phenomenon of unprecedented rallies and anti-regime protests that engulfed the whole Middle East and beyond.

And when Egyptians say that this time they will finish it right, does that mean that what started on January 25 2011 was wrong.

The January uprising was not wrong, but it was made wrong by many players, domestic and foreign, on the political scene back then. And in the absence of leadership and a concrete political vision, many forces began to exploit the mass protests at Tahrir square to their own advantage.

However, Tahrir square protests have become a world model that other nations have been inspired by till this very day- take a look at the mass protests underway now in Ukraine and Turkey.

The political vacuum after deposing Mubarak has left the US and Europe in the cold startled by the rapid turnout of events and the new reality on the ground.

The US&EU had only one question in mind “Who is going to replace their strong man in Egypt?” In other words who would be Tel Aviv’s new neighbor and is he a friend or foe? Egypt is a pivotal country and all eyes were following the unfolding days of a never expected revolution.

The Ghost of Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt 2011: A revolution hijacked

Revolutions are two –faceted and as they promise to bring hopes for a better tomorrow, revolutions always bring in chaos and uncertainty along the way.

In that foggy scene, the ghost of the Muslim Brotherhood MB emerged and any hopes for a better tomorrow soon faded away.

Ghosts always come out in the dark, and the two years that followed the January 25 2011 had indeed been one of the darkest years in the history of modern Egypt.

As the MB group members, including the deposed president Morsi, were breaking out of jail with the help of Hamas militias on Jan 2011, they embarked on hijacking the Egyptian revolution and driving the fast lane to power grab.

Hijacking Egypt’s revolution and undermining this pivotal Middle Eastern country was part of a bigger plan for a new and rather chaotic Middle East ushered in when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.

The new political map for the Middle East did away with all the secular and strong regimes and in their places inserted religious fanaticism and conflict.

And as the Al Qaeda affiliates’ of Mujahideen began to spread violence, obscurantism and intolerance destabilizing Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Libya, Egypt was handed over to the MB to do the same job.

The long line that stretched from the Persian gulf and Euphrates river passing through the East Mediterranean, all the way to North Africa was been stripped out of its strong regimes and armies, crushed by false flag revolutions and war and fragmented into smaller conflicting balkanized unities- hopefully smaller than Israel.

This was a new generation of war- Fourth generation warfare- taking place. Maybe 4GW that swept the Middle East was orchestrated by foreign intelligence but it wouldn’t have been possible hadn’t it been for the sectarianism and hatred created by the rampant Jihadi and terrorist teachings of the MB- the mother ship for all Islamist terrorist groups around the world.

And if we spotted Israel, safe and thriving, in the heart of that long line of fire, it won’t be hard to figure out who is benefitting and may be help orchestrating this whole creative chaos.

And speaking of Israel, MB were going to be Jehovah’s gift for the Israelis, as they were in the process of finalizing a secret deal with the US to give up a gigantic portion of Sinai and hand it over to Hamas to accommodate the Palestinian refugees.

Had this bad deal been actualized, Tel Aviv would have gotten rid of the chronic Palestinian headache by yet more fraudulent grab of neighboring Arab land.

Closer look at Egypt’ so called coup

On June 30, 2113 Egyptians denounced
MB rule that was supported by US

So when we talk about rejecting and delegitimizing the MB we are not talking about ousting a so-called democratically elected president rather we are actually talking about saving Egypt from an imminent danger.

And if you wonder about the majority who voted yes for the MB ousted president, and how could we ignore their their will, I assure you that the whole electoral campaign was fraudulent.

The millions who voted yes did not vote for Morsi, most Egyptians hardly knew anything about this clueless man, rather they voted yes for Islam – Vote for Morsi, vote for Islam .. that was MB slogan during elections.

When you equate a political group with an organized religion, then you are not simply exploiting the gullible, the uneducated and the needy but you are violating the very essence of any democratic elections.

The MB was so politically naive they wasted no time to reveal what they had in mind for Egypt, and so they began to turn Sinai into another Afghanistan and flooded the Egyptian borders with nonstop convoys of smuggled heavy weaponry.

Gangs of armed Islamist terrorists gaining hold in Sinai was the MB idea of a parallel army of Mujahideen to challenge the Egyptian army and use it in a show of force and a long-term destabilizing game of 4GW.

MB were up to replacing the main institutions of the country like the police, Judiciary, media and of course the army with other brotherhoodized entities.

But the most dreadful danger of the MB is that it’s a group that doesn’t recognize Egypt’s historical borders, doesn’t respect its culture and ancient history and only define the identity of the country’s citizens based on their religious beliefs and not by their nationality and citizenship.

So a MB from Hamas or even Afghanistan is closer and more eligible to fit into their regime than say for instance, a Coptic Egyptian.

And in that sense no wonder MB are relying on foreign militants from Hamas, Yemen and Pakistan to spread terror and try to destabilize Egypt before the upcoming presidential elections- watch video of the latest terrorist operations of MB militants in Cairo on January 24 2014

The post Mubarak era is not just about another regime taking over or another president following his corrupt predecessor, but it is a crucial turning point in the modern history of Egypt.

“It is a time of crisis and in time of crises Egypt can’t afford the luxury of strictly following the book, looking good in the eyes of biased international agencies & media or wait for Oks and signals from Uncle Sam or anyone else”

And speaking of the west, it’s worth mentioning that most Egyptians now don’t give a damn about how the US or EU see or think of their governance, or better yet the way they save the day for Egypt and plunge ahead amidst all that turbulent sea of terror, conspiracies and political chaos.

The western main stream media, along with Al Jazeera of course, have been battering the Egyptian June 30 revolution labeling it as an illegitimate military coup. For the last six months western pundits and political analysts have been wailing and whining about how democracy took a nosedive in Egypt.

Well, if the democracy the west is crying over is the one that could have allowed a terrorist group like the MB to devour Egypt then Egypt can and will absolutely do without the western idea of democracy.

My dear western pundits and analysts you are not talking about some obscure little island in the Pacific Ocean, but you are referring to Egypt; a unified sovereign country that has been ruled by a centralized government and protected by a loyal national army since 3500 years BC.

We live in an ancient country that always resorted to its national army in times of danger and crisis and will always do.

And if western democracy allowed the devastation of Arab countries like Iraq, Libya and Syria … then Egypt doesn’t certainly need your idea of democracy.

And moreover, if we contemplated and examined the Egyptian scene carefully, maybe we would discover that Egypt is redefining democracy, teaching policy makers a brand new lesson and ridding the whole Middle East from a dreadful political chaos cloaked in a spring of false flag democracy and revolutions.

Real democracy, not the one inserted by creative chaos, is a contract between the governor and the governed that could be, and should be, broken if the terms of the governed consent get violated at any time.

Real democracy is a long term evolving process the core of which is economic, educational and social development and not orchestrated upheavals and military invasions and brotherhood of fanaticism.

Egypt's Revolution in Sixty Seconds

Indonesia's Poor Dying to Make Profit the Rich

The Poor Are Dying to Make the Rich Richer

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

And here we go again! It is January 2014, but somehow it all feels like last year, or the year before last… or ten years ago. Jakarta is under water; people are trying to save all they can, but their houses are being ruined… some men, women and children are dying… Tens of thousands are sick, suffering from typhoid, and diarrhea.

As I plunged into flooded areas, my friend, a medical expert from Yogyakarta, sent me a text message: “Please be careful in Jakarta… Leptospirosis, typhoid and other infectious diseases…”

Dozens had already died in the capital city alone, or at least this is what was reported in the local media. As always, we will never know the real numbers. As always, they are much higher.

This year they erected many more posko’s in Jakarta than in 2013. A posko is basically a post, often put together during natural disasters, in theory in order to provide help, to distribute water and food, or to give shelter. In the neighborhood of Kampung Melayu, there are dozens of posko’s: even the notoriously brutal Special Forces – Koppasus – are managing one, and the police have another just next to it. The Muslim NGO has one, too. Each post has a self-promoting logo. But inside, it is all empty; the police and soldiers playing games, eating or sleeping. Inside the shelter, there are only a few women and a couple of kids. Rubber boats are having a dry run; they are being inflated and deflated, while other rescue vessels are resting against the wall. Cranes, ambulances, boats; many of them are totally idle.

Kampung Melayu flooded.

“This year’s floods are worse than those from the last year”, explains a police officer, called Nurasid. Inside the shelter, the daughter of a neighborhood chief says she had been here for six days already: “This time the water was two meters high, as I measured it inside our house. I have no idea why.” Good question, as this administration was actually elected mainly because it promised to ease the almost total traffic gridlock, and to prevent devastating floods in the capital.

A few minutes’ drive, and under a flyover, dozens of people are living in the open, surrounded by bundles of belongings, by their children, and even by several domestic animals. One of displaced people, Mr. Ilyas, recalls: “We went to ‘At Tahiriyah Mosque’, but they were overstretched. We couldn’t enter other mosques – they just refused to let us in. They said that if we entered, it would be considered najis and kotor, meaning unclean, filthy. We had no idea why they felt that way… There are two hundred of us now, under this bridge. There is a police kitchen nearby, but they are cooking for themselves, not for us.”

The river is running wild and the houses along its banks are clearly cut off from the rest of the world. The locals, those who are dry, are having a day out, together with their children, looking at those who are not as fortunate.

Boredom in Indonesian cities is legendary, and every misfortune or disaster draws large crowds. There is not even the slightest attempt to provide some relief, by the government or by the neighbors. Not now, not while I am there. It was the same last year… I know people get some help. But it is sporadic, uncoordinated, and insufficient.

The water rises and subsides. People die. Thousands lose their shelters, hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, have their dwellings damaged. Arch capitalist Indonesia does close to nothing to help. The system despises everything that is public. Only profitable undertakings are taken seriously and implemented. Meaning: only those activities that can enrich individuals, who are already wealthy, are seriously considered.

Trying to direct traffic in the flood.

As Jakarta is under water, the rest of Indonesia is living through many equally unnecessary horrors: the flood inundated at least twenty-two villages in Central Java, and landslides killed people in Malang, East Java. Nineteen people died from flooding and landslides in and around Manado, on the island of Sulawesi. Several years ago, the UN nominated Indonesia as “the most disaster prone nation on earth”.

It is true that the country sits on the so called ‘ring of fire’. It is true that it is periodically shaken by earthquakes, battered by tsunamis and even by ash flying from restless volcanoes. Some calamities cannot be predicted or prevented. But most of the lives lost are due to absolutely ‘unnatural disasters’ triggered by a totally unnatural element – bizarre market fundamentalism. Indonesia is run by thugs, by a heartless, cold-blooded clique of thieves, who have survived as species ever since the US-sponsored coup of 1965 in which most of leading Indonesian citizens were slaughtered, imprisoned or exiled.

The country is kept static by a violent blend of late feudalism/early capitalism, fundamentalist religiousness (definitely not only Islam, but also Christianity, even Hinduism), and disinformation/ awful level of education.

The infrastructure of the country is almost finished – collapsed. Corrupt priests, factory owners, business lobbies: all of them have no time for things they see as frivolous or even insane: like public works, the building of public transportation, better schools and hospitals, or simple things like tsunami prevention, a drainage system, waste management or the distribution of drinking water.

Under the flyover.

The country’s system is essentially based on maximizing profits, on looting all there still is under and above the earth, and then on throwing some meager and voluntary charity into the faces of the poor, that is the majority. As a member of the Academy of Science of Indonesia told me few years ago, Jakarta and all major Indonesian cities have the worst access to clean water than the cities of India and even Bangladesh. Waste management is seen as an unnecessary expenditure. And so the rivers and channels of all major cities are clogged by garbage.

The drainage system is inadequate and old, dating often to the Dutch era, when Jakarta, then Batavia, was a small city of few hundred thousands, not the monster of twelve million that it is now. There are hardly any green areas in the city, as developers ate almost all the parks. And in the mountains, soil erosion, excessive logging, mining and ‘development’ again, caused such environmental destruction that in the rainy season, water flows from higher ground in an unpredictable and uncontrollable way.

Of course nature fights back; it punishes those who break its patterns, destroying it. Unfortunately, in this country, those that are really responsible for this disastrous national project – Indonesia – are hiding behind high walls in comfortable and relatively safe neighborhoods. The poor, robbed of everything and unprotected, are battered by landslides, inundated and ruined. It is all very brutal and very simple.

In the police tent, helping flood victims.

“In Jakarta”, as a leading Indonesian businessman who presently lives abroad told me: “they will never build any decent public transportation system, because of the car lobby. And business cares nothing that all major cities are experiencing near-total gridlock and terrible pollution”. The same can be said about the construction industry. As I was explained to by Ms. Sofya, a victim of this year’s floods, who literally lost her house in North Jakarta: “Why should businesses care about state projects. Once they are finished, state projects do not return. If no drainage is built and floods keep coming back every year, hundreds of thousands of houses will keep getting destroyed … It is great, isn’t it? It is great for business. It means tremendous profits for those who repair and rebuild houses and buildings.”

Professor Muslim Muin from the prestigious Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) has no doubts where the problem lies: “Don’t blame the ocean. The sea level this year is normal. The problem is that the rivers and channels in Jakarta, cannot not cope with the amount of water. Before the rainy season, the government should perform a hydrodynamic simulation, and then it would know what kinds of pumps are needed and what type of drainage system should be used.”

But the government doesn’t perform almost any such tests. And every year, the floods come as a ‘surprise’. And people lose their homes. And those in power make huge profits. And the religions somehow make sense of all this, so that the rich remain rich. And nothing changes. And so next year, the nation will be once again be ‘surprised’ by new occurrence of devastating floods.

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. He has just completed the feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

Tracking's Downstream Disasters: Trains, Tracks, Trucks, and Roads

Train Derailments Another of Fracking’s Problems

by Walter Brasch

The derailment of a 101-car CSX freight train on a bridge in a densely-populated part of Philadelphia this past week should be yet another warning to politicians who have become cheerleaders for oil and gas fracking.

The train had been hauling crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. A severe snow storm delayed by several days removing the derailed cars and 80,000 gallons of crude oil from the decades-old bridge over I-76 and the Schuylkill River, which flows into the Delaware River. Oil and gas companies using horizontal fracking have made the Bakken the most productive oil shale in the country.

Numerous articles and scientific research studies have already shown the link between horizontal fracking and health and environmental problems. But the transportation of shale oil and gas by trains, trucks, and pipelines poses more immediate threats.

About 92,000 of the 106,000 tanker cars currently in service were built before 2011 when stricter regulations mandated new design. The older cars (DOT-111) have an “inadequate design” and are susceptible to leaks and explosions in derailments, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Railroad accidents in 2013 in the United States accounted for about 1.15 million gallons of spilled crude oil, more than all spills in the 40 years since the federal government began collecting data, according to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Forty-seven persons were killed, and more than 30 buildings destroyed by fire, explosions, and smoke on a 73-car unmanned train that rolled down a seven mile incline and derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, July 6. 

Seventy-two tanker cars of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic railroad were carrying crude oil from the Bakken Shale to a New Brunswick refinery. The accident released about 1.5 million gallons of crude oil; it was the worst rail disaster in North America since 1989.

Less than a week later, three tanker cars on a Norfolk Southern train carrying 90,000 gallons of ethanol exploded near Columbus, Ohio. The explosion led to the evacuation of residents within a mile of the accident.

Three months later, a Canadian National train hauling oil and gas derailed in Gainford, Alberta; three of the tanker cars carrying liquefied natural gas had leaks and were on fire as a result of the derailment. No injuries were reported.

In November 2013, a 90-car Genesee & Wyoming train, carrying about 2.7 million gallons of crude oil from the Bakken Shale, derailed near Aliceville, Ala., spilling about 750,000 gallons into surrounding wetlands; fire and toxic smoke burned for more than a day. No immediate injuries were reported, although the effects of the fireball explosions and toxic smoke might not be known for several months.

In December, a 106-car BNSF train hauling Bakken Shale crude oil slammed into a 112-car train carrying grain that had derailed near Casselton, N.D. Explosions, fire, and toxic smoke led county officials to urge evacuation of all residents within five miles of the accident. About 400,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled, according to estimates by the National Transportation Safety Board.

A week later, 45 homes were evacuated in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, after a Canadian National train carrying propane and crude oil from the Bakken shale derailed and caught fire.

This month, PHMSA issued a safety alert that “crude oil being transported from the Bakken region may be more flammable than the traditional heavy crude oil.” Bakken shale oil could cause evaporative losses of explosive volatiles benzene, toluene, hexane, xylene, and hydrogen sulfide, all of which can cause death from burns and respiratory failure.

Each day, interstate carriers transport about five million gallons of hazardous materials. Not included among the daily 800,000 shipments are the shipments by intrastate carriers, which don’t have to report their cargo deliveries to the Department of Transportation. I-80, which bisects Pennsylvania and the Marcellus Shale, is one of the most heavily traveled routes for trucks hauling chemicals to fracking sites. There have already been several spills from traffic accidents.

Contributing to the probability of increased disasters in Pennsylvania is a road and bridge system that has deteriorated because of a combination of increased truck traffic from the shale gas industry and decades of neglect by the state’s politicians. 

Scott Christie, an executive with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, told a House committee,

“Most of these road-ways do not have sufficient strength to withstand the large amount of trucks and other vehicles that are a part of Marcellus shale drilling.” 

About half of the nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines are at least 50 years old; corrosion is responsible for between 15 and 20 percent of deaths, injuries, or property damage, according to ProPublica, an independent investigative journalism news operation. More than 150 incidents a year involve large natural gas transmission lines and the smaller distribution lines. Because methane is explosive and flammable, problems can occur anywhere from the first exploratory hole to delivery in pipelines to homes and businesses.

There is at least one major natural gas explosion, fire, or leak every week, according to documentation compiled by Natural Gas Watch.

Pennsylvania’s Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipeline Act, which became law in December 2011, includes oversight of classes 2–4, but excludes Class 1 pipelines. A Class 1 location is any area with “10 or fewer buildings intended for human occupancy within 220 yards of the center-line of the pipeline,” according to PHMSA. About 1,300 miles of Pennsylvania’s natural gas pipelines are Class 1 pipelines. No state or federal agency has jurisdiction over pipelines in Class 1 rural areas, nor are operators required to report any incidents, including property damage, injuries, or deaths associated with those pipelines. Regulating Class I pipelines is “at the bottom of the state’s priority list,” Patrick Henderson, energy executive for the Corbett Administration, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Nationally, PHMSA regulates only about 20,000 of 200,000 miles of natural gas gathering pipelines and only about 4,000 of the estimated 30,000–40,000 miles of hazardous liquid gathering pipelines. Only about one-fourth of all oil, natural gas, and propane pipelines have been inspected since 2006, according to Public Employees for Environmental Response (PEER), which had to file a Freedom of Information Act suit request to get the public records.

Like the aging pipelines, many of the railroad bridges over the Bakken and Marcellus shales are decades old. Mile-long trains of tanker cars that are not designed to carry crude oil, but travel between the oil fields of North Dakota and refineries in Philadelphia put the entire nation at risk. Unlike the other derailments the past six months, there were no leaks, explosions, or health problems caused by the derailment of the CSX freight train in Philadelphia.

That will not always be the case.

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D. [Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth analysis of the economic, health, and environmental effects of horizontal fracturing in the United States.]
Latest Books: Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution
Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Drowning the Farm: Site C and the ALR

Site C review panel changes mind, asks for ALC’s input on farmland

by Common Sense Canadian - Western Canada

Read this Jan. 23 Globe and Mail story by Mark Hume on the Joint Review Panel for the proposed Site C Dam’s last-minute reversal of an earlier decision not to seek the input of BC’s Agricultural Land Commission on the impacts the project would have on farmland. As The Common Sense Canadian reported last week, the Clark Government stripped the ALC of its regulatory oversight of what would constitute the single largest land withdrawal from the ALR in the Commission’s 40-year history.

The Joint Review Panel examining the Site C dam proposal has reversed an earlier decision and is now asking B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission for input on a project that could drown thousands of hectares of farmland.

The last-minute decision, which comes just before public hearings end Thursday, was made despite a provincial government attempt to keep the ALC out of the process.

The Panel would appreciate if the Agricultural Land Commission would provide its written advice as to the process it would follow … were the project not excluded from the requirements of the Agricultural Land Commission Act,” Brian Wallace, counsel to the federal-provincial panel, said in a letter Monday to the directors of the ALC.

Mr. Wallace asked the ALC “to provide its advice as quickly as possible,” saying the public only has until Feb. 3 to make final written comment.

Colin Fry, executive director of the ALC replied by e-mail saying the matter will be discussed by the board this week.

The exchange between the two bodies came despite a letter Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett wrote in December, in which he sought to block ALC involvement in the Site C review.

“The province is aware that one of the issues at the [JRP] hearing will be the effect of the project on agricultural land, some of which is within the Agricultural Land Reserve,” Mr. Bennett stated in a letter to Stephen Bellringer, chair of BC Hydro, which was copied to Richard Bullock, ALC chair. “I am writing to inform you that the government’s current view is that this process should not be duplicated … under the Agricultural Land Commission Act.”

Under legislation, the ALC is supposed to review applications to remove land from the ALR. But Mr. Bennett’s letter was a clear signal that the ALC was not to assess the effect of the proposed dam on farmland in the Peace River Valley.


Bigger Than Jesus: Ten Pronouncements of the New McGod

10 Shocking Facts About McDonald's

 by Alltime 10's

A Deconstruction: Baddiel's BBC comment on Anelka, Dieudonne and the Quenelle

David Baddiel, Anelka and the Quenelle

by Gilad Atzmon - Gilad TV

A deconstruction of David Baddiel's BBC comment on Anelka, Dieudonne and the Quenelle. One may expect a British comedian to stand up for freedom of expression.

Truth About Terrorism and the "West": Syria's Foreign Minister Addresses Geneva II Conference

“The West Publicly Claims to Be Fighting Terrorism, Whilst It Is Covertly Nourishing It.”

by Walid al-Moallem, Syria Foreign Minister - Information Clearing House 

Syria Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who headed his country's official delegation to Geneva II, called at the opening session of the conference on a collective confrontation against terrorism and on starting a national dialogue in Damascus, SANA reported.

Minister al-Moallem said at the opening of the conference:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Syrian Arab Republic, SYRIAN – steeped in history for seven thousand years. ARAB – proud of its steadfast pan-Arab heritage despite the deliberate acts of aggression of supposed brotherly Arabs. REPUBLIC – a civil state that some, sitting in this room, have tried to return to medieval times. Never have I been in a more difficult position; my delegation and I carry the weight of three years of hardship endured by my fellow countrymen - the blood of our martyrs, the tears of our bereaved, the anguish of families waiting for news of a loved one - kidnapped or missing, the cries of our children whose tender fingers were the targets of mortar shelling into their classrooms, the hopes of an entire generation destroyed before their very eyes, the courage of mothers and fathers who have sent all their sons to defend our country, the heartbreak of families whose homes have been destroyed and are now displaced or refugees.

Al-Moallem: My delegation and I carry the hope of a nation for the years to come

My delegation and I also carry the hope of a nation for the years to come – the right of every child to safely go to school again, the right of women to leave their homes without fear of being kidnapped, killed or raped; the dream of our youth to fulfill their vast potential; the return of security so that every man can leave his family safe in the knowledge that he will return.

Finally, today, the moment of truth; the truth that many have systematically tried to bury in a series of campaigns of misinformation, deception and fabrication leading to killing and terror. A truth that refused to be buried, a truth clear for all to see – the delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic representing the Syrian people, the government, the state, the Army and the President - Bashar al-Assad.

It is regrettable that seated amongst us are representatives of countries that have the blood of Syrians on their hands

It is regrettable, Ladies and Gentlemen, that seated amongst us today in this room, are representatives of countries that have the blood of Syrians on their hands, countries that have exported terrorism along with clemency for the perpetrators, as if it was their God given right to determine who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. Countries that have prevented believers from visiting holy places of worship whilst abetting, financing and supporting terrorists. Countries that gave themselves the authority to grant and deny legitimacy to others as they saw fit, never looking at their own archaic glasshouses before throwing stones at acclaimed fortified towers. Countries that shamelessly lecture us in democracy, in development and in progress whilst drowning in their own ignorance and medieval norms. Countries that have become accustomed to being entirely owned by kings and princes who have the sole right to distribute their national wealth granting their associates whilst denying those who fall out of favor.

They lectured Syria – a distinguished, virtuous, sovereign state, they lectured her on honour whilst they themselves were immersed in the mud of enslavement, infanticide and other medieval practices. After all their efforts and subsequent failures, their masks fell from their quivering faces, to reveal their perverse ambitions. A desire to destabilize and destroy Syria by exporting their national product: terrorism. They used their petrodollars to buy weapons, recruit mercenaries and saturate airtime covering up their mindless brutality with lies under the guise of the so-called “ Syrian revolution that will fulfill the aspirations of the Syrian people.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, how is what has happened and continues to plague Syria, meeting these aspirations? How can a Chechen, Afghani, Saudi, Turkish or even French and English terrorists deliver on the aspirations of the Syrian people, and with what? An Islamic state that knows nothing of Islam except perverse Wahhabism? Who declared anyway that the Syrian people aspire to live thousands of years in the past?

In Syria, the wombs of pregnant women are butchered and their fetuses killed

In Syria, Ladies and Gentlemen, the wombs of pregnant women are butchered and their fetuses killed; women are raped, dead or alive, in practices so heinous, so vile and repulsive that they can only be attributed to their perverse doctrine. In Syria, Ladies and Gentlemen, men are slaughtered in front of their children in the name of this revolution; worse still, this is done whilst the children of these foreign perpetrators sing and dance. In Syria, how can so-called revolutionaries cannibalize a man’s heart and claim to promote freedom, democracy and a better life?

Under the pretext of the “Great Syrian Revolution,” civilians, clergymen, women and children are killed, victims are indiscriminately blown up in streets and buildings regardless of their political views or ideologies; books and libraries are burned, graves are dug up and artifacts stolen. In the name of the revolution, children are killed in their schools and students in their universities, women are extorted in the name of jihad al-nikah and other forms, mosques are shelled whilst worshipers kneel at prayer, heads are severed and hung in the streets, people are burned alive in a true holocaust that history and many countries will deny without being accused of anti-Semitism.

In the name of a revolution, “to free the oppressed Syrian people from the regime and to spread democracy,” does a father blow himself up with his wife and children to prevent foreign intruders from entering his home? Most of us in this room are fathers - I ask you then, what would compel a man to kill his own family to protect them from freedom fighting monsters. This is what happened in Adra, a place that most of you have not heard of but where the same alien monsters attacked: killing, looting, beheading, slaughtering, raping and burning people alive. You have heard nothing of this brutality for sure, yet you have heard of other places where the same heinous crimes were committed and where the same blood soaked finger was pointed at the Syrian Army and government. And when these flagrant lies were no longer credible, they stopped spinning their web of deceit.

This is what their masters ordered them to do, these countries that spearheaded the war against Syria, trying to increase their influence in the region with bribes and money, exporting human monsters fully soaked in abhorrent Wahabi ideology, all at the expense of Syrian blood. From this stage, loud and clear, you know as well as I do that they will not stop in Syria, even if some sitting in this room refuse to acknowledge or consider themselves immune.

Ladies and Gentlemen, everything you have heard would not have been possible, had our border sharing countries been good neighbours during these challenging years. Unfortunately they were far from it; with backstabbers to the North, silent bystanders to the truth in the West, a weak South accustomed to doing the bidding of others, or the tired and exhausted East still reeling from the plots to destroy it along with Syria.

Mimsery and destruction, which has engulfed Syria, has been made possible by the decision of Erdogan’s government

Indeed, this misery and destruction, which has engulfed Syria, has been made possible by the decision of Erdogan’s government to invite and host these criminal terrorists before they entered into Syria. Clearly, oblivious to the fact that magic eventually turns on the magician, it is now beginning to taste the sour seed it has sown. For terrorism knows no religion, and is loyal only unto itself. Erdogan’s government has recklessly morphed from a zero problems with its neighbours policy to zero foreign policy and international diplomacy altogether, crucially leaving it with zero credibility.

Nevertheless, it continued on the same atrocious path falsely believing that the dream of Sayyid Qutb and Mohammad Abdel Wahab before him was finally being realized. They wreaked havoc from Tunisia, to Libya, to Egypt and then to Syria, determined to achieve an illusion that only exists in their sick minds. Despite the fact that it has proven to be a failure, they nevertheless are still determined to pursue it. Logically speaking, this can only be described as stupidity, because if you don’t learn from history, you will lose sight of the present; and history tells us: if your neighbor's house is on fire, it is impossible for you to remain safe.

Some neighbours started fires within Syria whilst others recruited terrorists from around the globe – and here we are confronted with shockingly farcical double standards: 83 nationalities are fighting in Syria - nobody denounces this, nobody condemns it, nobody reconsiders their position - and they impertinently continue to call it a glorious SYRIAN Revolution! While when a few scores of young resistant fighters supported the Syrian Army in a few places, all hell broke loose and it suddenly became foreign intervention! Demands were made for the departure of foreign troops and the protection of Syrian sovereignty and for it not to be violated. Here I affirm, Syria - the sovereign and independent state, will continue to do whatever it takes to defend herself with whatever means it deems necessary, without paying the least bit of attention to any uproar, denunciations, statements or positions expressed by others. These have been and always will be Syria’s sovereign decisions.

They imposed sanctions on our food, our bread and our children’s milk

Despite all of this, the Syrian people remained steadfast; and the response was to impose sanctions on our food, our bread and our children’s milk. To starve the population, pushing them into sickness and death under the injustice of these sanctions. At the same time, factories were looted and burned, crippling our food and pharmaceutical industries; hospitals and healthcare centers were destroyed; our railroads and electricity lines sabotaged, and even our places of worship - Christian and Muslim – were not spared their terrorism.

When all of this failed, America threatened to strike Syria, fabricating with her allies, Western and Arab, the story about the use of chemical weapons, which failed to convince even their own public, let alone ours. Countries that celebrate democracy, freedom and human rights regrettably only choose to speak the language of blood, war, colonialism and hegemony. Democracy is imposed with fire, freedom with warplanes and human rights by human killing, because they have become accustomed to the world doing their bidding: if they want something, it will happen; if they don’t, it won’t. They have heedlessly forgotten that the perpetrators who blew themselves up in New York follow the same doctrine and come from the same source as those blowing themselves up in Syria. They have heedlessly forgotten that the terrorist that was in America yesterday is in Syria today, and who knows where he will be tomorrow. What is certain, however, is that he will not stop here. Afghanistan is an ideal lesson for anyone who wants to learn – anyone! Unfortunately, most do not want to learn; neither America nor some of the ‘civilized’ western countries that follow its lead, starting from the city of lights to the kingdom over which “the sun never set,” in the past; despite the fact that they have all felt the bitter taste of terrorism in the past.

And then suddenly they became “Friends of Syria.” Four of these ‘friends’ are autocratic, oppressive monarchies that know nothing of a civil state or democracy, whilst others are the same colonial powers which occupied, pillaged and partitioned Syria less than one hundred years ago. These so called ‘friends’ are now convening conferences to publicly declare their friendship with the Syrian people, whilst covertly facilitating their hardship and destroying their livelihoods. They openly express their outrage over the humanitarian plight of Syrians whilst deceiving the international community of their complicity. If you were truly concerned about the humanitarian situation in Syria, you would remove your strangle hold on her economy by lifting the sanctions and the embargo, and by partnering with her government in tightening security by fighting the influx of weapons and terrorists. Only then can we assure you that we will be well as we once were, without your deep concern for our wellbeing.

Some of you may be asking yourselves: Are foreigners the sole manufacturers of the happenings in Syria? No Ladies and Gentlemen, Syrians amongst us here, having been legitimized by foreign agendas, have played a contributing role as facilitators and implementers. They did this at the expense of Syrian blood and the people whose aspirations they claim to represent, whilst they themselves were divided hundreds of times and their leaders on the ground were fleeing far and wide. They sold themselves to Israel becoming her eyes on the ground, and her fingers on the trigger for Syria’s destruction; and when they failed, Israel intervened directly to reduce the capabilities of the Syrian Army and thus ensuring the continued implementation of her decades old plan for Syria.

Our people were being slaughtered while opposition figures legitimized by foreign agendas were living in five star hotels

Our people were being slaughtered while they were living in five star hotels; they opposed from abroad, met abroad betraying Syria and selling themselves to the highest foreign bidder. And yet, they still claim to speak in the name of the Syrian people! No, Ladies and Gentlemen, anyone wishing to speak on behalf of the Syrian people cannot be a traitor to their cause and an agent for their enemies. Those wishing to speak on behalf of the people of Syria should do so from within her borders: living in her destroyed houses, sending their children to her schools in the morning not knowing if they will return safe from mortar shelling, tolerating the freezing cold winters because of the shortage in heating oil and queuing for hours to buy bread for their families because sanctions have prevented us from importing wheat when we were once exporters. Anyone wanting to speak in the name of the Syrian people should first endure three years of terrorism, confronting it head on, and then come here and speak on behalf of the Syrian people.

Syrian has welcomed hundreds of international journalists and facilitated their mobility

Ladies and gentlemen,

the Syrian Arab Republic – people and state, has fulfilled its duties. It has welcomed hundreds of international journalists and facilitated their mobility, security and access; and they in turn have reflected the stark and horrific realities they witnessed to their audiences, realities that have perplexed many Western media organizations who couldn’t bear their propaganda and narrative being exposed and contradicted. The examples are too many to count. We allowed international aid and relief organizations into the country, but the clandestine agents of certain parties sitting here, obstructed them from reaching those in dire need of aid. They came under terrorist attack several times, whilst we, as a state, did our duty in protecting them and facilitating their work. We issued numerous amnesties and released thousands of prisoners, some even members of armed groups, at the anger and dismay of their victim’s families; these families though, like the rest of us, ultimately accepted that Syria’s interests come before anything else, and hence we must conceal our wounds and rise above hatred and rancor.

What have you done, you who claim to speak on behalf of the Syrian people. Where is your vision for this great country? Where are your ideas or your political manifesto? Who are your agents of change on the ground other than your armed criminal gangs? I am certain that you have nothing and this is only too apparent in the areas that your mercenaries have occupied or to use your words “liberated.”

In these areas, have you freed the population or have you hijacked their moderate culture to enforce your radical and oppressive practices? Have you implemented your development agenda by building schools and health centers? No, you have destroyed them and allowed polio to return after it had previously been eradicated in Syria. Have you protected Syria’s artifacts and museums? No, you have looted our national sites for your personal profit. Have you demonstrated your commitment to justice and human rights? No, you have enforced public executions and beheadings. In short, you have done nothing at all except muster the disgrace and shame of begging America to strike Syria. Even the opposition, over which you are the self-appointed masters and guardians, do not acknowledge you or the methods in which you manage your own affairs, let alone the affairs of a country.

A country they want to homogenize; not in the sectarian, ethnic or religious sense, but rather in a warped ideological sense. Anyone against them, whether Christian or Muslim, is an infidel; they killed Muslims of all sects and targeted Syrian Christians with severity. Even nuns and bishops were targeted, kidnapping them after they attacked Ma’loula, the last community that still speaks the language of Jesus Christ. They did all this to force Syrian Christians to flee their country. But little did they know, that in Syria we are one. When Christianity is attacked all Syrians are Christians, when mosques are targeted all Syrians are Muslims. Every Syrian is from Raqqa, Lattakia, Sweida, Homs or the bleeding Aleppo when any one of these places is targeted. Their abhorrent attempts to sow sectarian and religious sedition will never be embraced by any levelheaded Syrian. In short, Ladies and Gentlemen, your “glorious Syrian revolution” has left no mortal sin uncommitted.

There is another side to this dark gloomy picture. A light at the end of the tunnel shinning through the Syrian people’s determination and steadfastness, the Syrian Army’s courage in protecting our citizens and the Syrian state’s resilience and perseverance. During everything that has happened, there are states that have shown us true friendship, honest states that stood on the side of right against wrong, even when the wrong was clear for all to see. On behalf of the Syrian people and state, I would like to thank Russia and China for respecting Syria’s sovereignty and independence. Russia has been a true champion on the international stage strongly defending, not only with words but also with deeds, the founding principles of the United Nations of respecting the sovereignty of states. Similarly China, the BRICS countries, Iran, Iraq and other Arab and Muslim countries, in addition to African and Latin American countries, have also genuinely safeguarded the aspirations of the Syrian people and not the ambitions of other governments for Syria.

The Syrian people, like other people of the region, aspire to more freedom, justice and human rights

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Syrian people, like other people of the region, aspire to more freedom, justice and human rights; they aspire to more plurality and democracy, to a better Syria, a safe, prosperous and healthy Syria. They aspire to building strong institutions not destroying them, to safeguarding our national artifacts and heritage sites not looting and demolishing them. They aspire to a strong national army, which protects our honour, our people and our national wealth, an army that defends Syria’s borders, her sovereignty and independence. They do not, Ladies and Gentlemen, aspire to a mercenary army ‘Free’ to kidnap civilians for ransom or to use them as human shields, ‘Free’ to steal humanitarian aid, extort the poor and illegally trade in the organs of living women and children, ‘Free’ to canibalise human hearts and livers, barbequing heads, recruiting child soldiers and raping women. All of this is done with the might of arms; arms provided by countries, represented here, who claim to be championing “moderate groups”. Tell us, for God’s sake, where is the moderation in everything I have described?

Where are these vague moderate groups that you are hiding behind? Are they the same old groups that continue to be supported militarily and publicly by the West, that have undergone an even uglier face-lift in the hope of convincing us that they are fighting terrorism? We all know that no matter how hard their propaganda machine tries to polish their image under the name of moderation, their extremism and terrorism is one and the same. They know, as we all do, that under the pretext of supporting these groups, al-Qaeda and its affiliates are being armed in Syria, Iraq and other countries in the region.

This is the reality, Ladies and Gentlemen, so wake up to the undeniable reality that the West is supporting some Arab countries to supply lethal weapons to al-Qaeda. The West publically claims to be fighting terrorism, whilst in fact it is covertly nourishing it. Anyone who cannot see this truth is either ignorantly blind or willfully so in order to finish what they have begun.

Is this the Syria that you want? The loss of thousands of martyrs and our once cherished safety and national security replaced with apocalyptic devastation. Are these the aspirations of the Syrian people that you wanted to fulfill? No, Ladies and Gentlemen, Syria will not remain so, and that is why we are here. Despite all that has been done by some, we have come to save Syria: to stop the beheadings, to stop the cannibalizing and the butchering. We have come to help mothers and children return to the homes they were driven out of by terrorists. We have come to protect the civil and open-minded nature of the state, to stop the march of the Tatars and the Mongols across our region. We have come to prevent the collapse of the entire Middle East, to protect civilization, culture and diversity, and to preserve the dialogue of civilizations in the birthplace of religions. We have come to protect tolerant Islam that has been distorted, and to protect the Christians of the Levant. We are here to tell our Syrian expatriates, to return to their home country because they will always be foreigners anywhere else, and regardless of our differences we are all still brothers and sisters.

We have come to stop terrorism as other countries that have experienced its bitter taste have done, whilst affirming loudly and consistently that a dialogue between Syrians is the only solution; but as with other countries that have been struck by terrorism, we have a constitutional duty to defend our citizens and we shall continue to strike terrorism that attacks Syrians regardless of their political affiliations. We have come to hold those accountable, for as long as particular countries continue to support terrorism, this conference will bear no fruit. Political pluralism and terrorism cannot coexist in the same landscape. Politics can only prosper by fighting terrorism; it cannot grow in its shadow.

We are here as representatives of the Syrian people and the state; but let it be clear to all, – and experience is the best proof – that nobody has the authority to grant or withdraw legitimacy from a president, a government, a constitution, a law or anything else in Syria except Syrians themselves; this is their constitutional right and duty. Therefore, whatever agreement is reached here will be subject to a national referendum. We are tasked with conveying our people’s desires, not with determining their destiny; those who want to listen to the will of the Syrian people should not appoint themselves as their spokesperson. Syrians alone have the right to choose their government, their parliament and their constitution; everything else is just talk and has no significance.

Finally, to all those here and everyone watching around the world: in Syria we are fighting terrorism, terrorism which has destroyed and continues to destroy; terrorism which since the 1980’s Syria has been calling, on deaf ears, for a unified front to defeat it. Terrorism has struck in America, France, Britain, Russia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan; the list goes on and it continues to spread. Let us all cooperate to fight it, let’s work hand in hand to stop its black, horrifying and obscurantist ideology. Then, let us as Syrians stand united to focus on Syria and start rebuilding its social fabric and material structures. As I said, dialogue is the foundation to this process, and despite our gratitude to the host country, we affirm that the real dialogue between Syrians should in fact be on Syrian soil and under Syrian skies. Exactly one year ago, the Syrian government put forward its vision for a political solution; think of how much innocent blood we would have saved had some countries resorted to reason instead of terrorism and destruction. For a whole year, we have been calling for dialogue, but terrorism continued to strike at the Syrian state, her people and institutions.

Today, in this gathering of Arab and Western powers, we are presented with a simple choice: we can choose to fight terrorism and extremism together and to start a new political process, or you can continue to support terrorism in Syria. Let us reject and isolate the black hands and the false faces, which publicly smile but covertly feed terrorist ideology, striking Syria today, but ultimately spreading to infect us all. This is the moment of truth and destiny; let us rise to the challenge.

Thank you .