Tag Archives: International

Trade Ministers Sign TPP Trade Agreement in New Zealand Amid Massive Protests

Auckland, New Zealand – Trade ministers from the twelve nations involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) met in New Zealand on Thursday to sign the final agreement.

The participating nations now have up to two years to ratify the agreement. The 12 nations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Before becoming law in the United States, both the House and the Senate will need to vote to approve the TPP.

In late June 2015, President Obama signed into law the so-called “fast-track” bill that set the stage for approval of the TPP. “Fast track” limits Congress’ ability to alter the provisions of the trade deal and only allows a vote of yes or no. The final terms of the deal were agreed upon in October, and the full text of the agreement was released in November.

The TPP has been the subject of much controversy for the last few years, largely due to the fact that the trade ministers have negotiated the deal in secret with overwhelming influence from multinational corporations.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation writes:

“These officials have not been accountable to the public. They have remained steadfast in excluding public participation and ignoring all calls for transparency over the more than five years of TPP negotiations. Because of this opaque process, trade negotiators were able to fill the agreement with Hollywood and Big Tech’s wish lists of regulatory policies without having to worry about how they would impact the Internet or people’s rights over their digital devices.”

The EFF says that it is “critical that people in the U.S. demand congressional accountability over this deal and urge their lawmakers to vote no when the TPP comes before them for approval.”

While the trade ministers signed the TPP, thousands of protesters gathered in the streets of Auckland to protest the trade deal. TVNZ reports that no arrests were made. Detective Superintendent Richard Chambers stated that his officers were abused, had their clothing and hats pulled, but displayed “outstanding professionalism.”

auckland tpp protest
Protesters in Auckland, NZ

In the U.S. on Thursday, there was a wave of “Flush the TPP” protests as critics of the deal took to the streets of Washington D.C., Los Angeles and other American cities.

In October 2015, journalist Ben Swann released a Reality Check on the TPP, stating that it was worse than previously believed.


In 2015, both the Anglican and Catholic churches of New Zealand demanded the government be more transparent about the negotiations. Radio NZ reports that bishops from the churches are concerned about the lack of openness and that corporate interests are influencing the agreement while the people are being excluded. The churches also called on the New Zealand government to make the draft text of the agreement public.

In early February 2015, doctors and health professional representing seven countries released a letter warning that the TPP will lead to higher medical costs for all nations. The letter, published in The Lancet medical journal, states that, “Rising medicine costs would disproportionately affect already vulnerable populations.” The doctors called on the governments involved in the trade deal to publicly release the full text of the agreement. They also demanded an independent analysis of the impacts on health and human rights for each nation involved in the deal.

Also in February 2015, an analysis by The Washington Post revealed the US government’s numbers on expected job increases from TPP are not factually correct. The Fact Checker examined several quotes from government officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Both Kerry and Vilsack claimed the international trade agreement would create 650,000 new jobs. However, these numbers do not take into account income gains and changing wages. According to the government own sources imports and exports would increase by the same amount resulting in a net number of zero new jobs.

A more recent analysis concluded that the TPP will lead to the loss of 448,000 jobs in the United States.

A look at the finally revealed text of the TPP reveals the most egregious portions relate to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Mechanism, intellectual property, and food safety standards. ISDS will give corporations loopholes to escape accountability and empower international bodies, overriding national sovereignty of the signing nations. Under ISDS, foreign corporations would be allowed to appeal legal decisions to international tribunals, rather than face domestic courts. Critics fear this could lead to a loss of sovereignty and the enrichment of transnational corporations.

Recently, the Electronic Frontier Foundation also released a report on the dangers of the TPP. The EFF writes:

“Everything in the TPP that increases corporate rights and interests is binding, whereas every provision that is meant to protect the public interest is non-binding and is susceptible to get bulldozed by efforts to protect corporations.”

Delayed until 2017?

It was recently reported that the TPP might not be voted on until after the 2016 presidential elections, or possibly into the next presidential term.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he does not support the idea of voting on the TPP before the election. “It certainly shouldn’t come before the election. I don’t think so, and I have some serious problems with what I think it is,” he said. “But I think the president would be making a big mistake to try to have that voted on during the election. There’s significant pushback all over the place.”

“We will continue working with Congressional leaders to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership as soon as possible next year,” Brandi Hoffine, a White House spokeswoman, told the Post.

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters, “Our view is that it is possible for Congress to carefully consider the details of this agreement and to review all the benefits associated with this agreement … without kicking the vote all the way to the lame-duck period.”

Low Price Of Crude Oil Hits American Foes And Friends

WASHINGTON, December 24, 2015 – Countries heavily dependent on oil exports are losing out on billions of dollars of revenue as crude oil prices continue to decline, placing stress on some countries who conflict with the United States.

Cheap oil hurts revenues for some of our foes and helps some of our friends. The Europeans, South Koreans and Japanese — they’re all winners,” said Robert McNally, who was director for energy in President George W. Bush’s National Security Council and now head of consulting firm the Rapidan Group. “It’s not good for Russia, that’s for sure, and it’s not good for Iran.”

Cheap oil has also had serious consequences for the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose socialist party, the United Social Party of Venezuela (PSUV), recently lost control of the government in a landslide. Oil exports account for 90% of the country’s revenues.

Saudi Arabia continues to maintain production rather than cut supply to move prices higher.

The Saudis are instead producing oil at near record levels, making development of new sources such as those in the Arctic, Canadian oil sands, U.S. shale and Brazil’s offshore fields much less viable. Meanwhile the Saudis are battling for market share with neighboring Iraq and regional rival Iran.

The Iranian government is being forced to lower projections, and thus expectations associated with an additional half-million barrels a day allowed once sanctions are lifted in mid-2016. The removal of these sanctions are connected to the deal to limit the country’s nuclear program agreed upon earlier this year.

Additional issues facing the Iranians are connected with their hopes that the lifting of sanctions would allow for international companies to develop their oil and gas resourced, which have been off-limits to foreign firms since the expansion of sanctions in 2012.

Should Iran come out of sanctions, they will face a very different market than the one they had left in 2012,said special envoy and coordinator of international energy affairs for the State Department Amos Hochstein. “They were forced to recede in a world of over $100 oil, and sanctions will be lifted at $36 oil. They will have to work harder to convince companies to come in and take the risk for supporting their energy infrastructure and their energy production.”

Russia is another adversary to the U.S. facing problems as a result of the downward trend in oil prices. Compounded by sanctions imposed by European and U.S. allies, Russian oil production will also be forced to compete with the newly added exports coming out of Iran.

All our calculations were based on the oil price of $50 a barrel,” Putin said, half the expectations from the end of 2014. He added: “I believe we will have to make further adjustments.”

Over the past two years the price of the benchmark West Texas Intermediate grade of crude oil has slipped from $97.63 a barrel in December of 2013 to $37.60 on Wednesday.

While American adversaries are being negatively affected by the price decrease, some allies are also being hurt. The largest sources of U.S. imports are Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. They, along with Brazil and West Africa, are suffering.

There’s no way to quantify whether cheap oil is good for us, because the bad guys lose and good guys win,” Hochstein cautioned. “It doesn’t work that way. There are winners and losers all across the board.”

Around $200 billion of investments in energy have been canceled this year, with energy companies planning to cut another 3 to 8 percent from their investments next year,” explained Saudi Prince Abdelaziz bin Salman al Saud, vice minister of petroleum and mineral resources at a conference in Doha in November. “This is the first time since the mid-1980s that the oil and gas industry will have cut investment in two consecutive years.”

Cuts in investments are also coming in the United States as well. North Dakota has been a major part of the U.S. shale oil boom but has already seen a decrease in drilling rig count from 172 at the beginning of the year to only 65 on Wednesday.

Independent drilling companies are being hit hard by the low prices and as a result banks such as Wells Fargo are taking action to shore up capital reserves in case of delays or even default on loan payments by these companies.

Pioneer Natural Resources, a Texas-based exploration and production firm, plans to trim budgets between 20 and 30 percent in 2016 according to CEO Scott Sheffield in an email. The company expects additional layoff to the 250,000 already let go.

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BROZE: What Role Has the United States Played in Europe’s Refugee Crisis?


Nations across Europe currently find themselves embroiled in a massive refugee crisis unlike any seen in recent memory, as several million men, women and children have left Syria in search of respite from the deadly civil war raging across the nation.

The Syrian civil war began in March 2011 and has displaced millions of people from their homes. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimates at least 7.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Syria as of May 2015. In addition, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Agency (UNHCR) says there are 4,088,099 registered Syrian refugees.

The fighting has taken so many lives that the United Nations stopped tracking the casualties. In January 2014, Al Jazeera reported:

“The United Nations has stopped updating the death toll from Syria’s near-three-year civil war due to its waning ability to verify sources and produce credible estimates, a spokesman for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights confirmed Tuesday.

Prior to July, when the U.N. last published a death toll estimate of just over 100,000 people, the team of statisticians were able to cross-check estimates from six different sources – from various NGOs to the Syrian government itself. That number has since dwindled.”

The full effect of the mass exodus has been felt around Europe and the Middle East as refugees pour into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Germany, Sweden, and Greece. Earlier this month, The Guardian reported on the death of a young boy who was one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos.

The Guardian wrote:

“An estimated 2,500 refugees, also believed to be from Syria, landed on Lesbos on Wednesday in what local officials described as more than 60 dinghies and other ‘unseaworthy’ vessels.

Some 15,000 refugees are in Lesbos awaiting passage by cruise ship to Athens’ port of Piraeus before continuing their journey northwards to Macedonia and up through Serbia to Hungary and Germany.”

The UNHCR estimates that about 205,000 Europe-bound refugees have entered Greece; 69% are Syrians, 18% are Afghans, and Iraqis and Somalis make up the rest of the refugees. The influx of refugees has caused much debate around Europe over whether or not nations should be pressured into sharing the burden of the incoming population.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has been adamant about a shared burden and was able to pressure French president François Hollande into supporting a quota system. Merkel, along with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, have been pushing for a quota system since May.

The Telegraph recently reported that British Prime Minister David Cameron was preparing a plan for the U.K. to start accepting more refugees. Republican Presidential candidate and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul told CNN that the U.S. should be careful with accepting refugees. Paul said, “we’ve also run into some problems with accepting so many refugees that we take some of the people who can help rebuild the country. We did this with Iraq, where we won the war, but then we accepted 60,000 Iraqi refugees into our country, some of which wish us harm and tried to attack us.”

Unintended Consequences?

Paul is correct in his analysis that U.S. government support for certain groups has led to unintended consequences. These unintended consequences must be examined if we want to fully understand the Syrian refugee crisis and how the U.S. government contributed to the problem.

The major source of the U.S. government’s blame comes from the creation of the Islamic State, or ISIS. In early 2015, Ben Swann released the now classic Truth In Media video, “The Origin of ISIS”. Swann’s video has been seen by over one million people worldwide.

Ben Swann reported:

“Americans should also be asking, ‘Why is the U.S. sending $500 million to the Free Syrian Army to fight ISIS when the Free Syrian Army is one of the biggest suppliers of fighters and weapons to ISIS?’ and ‘Why are we sending new and more powerful weapons to the FSA like anti-aircraft missiles – weapons that we know will be in the hands of ISIS?'”

Swann maintained that while the mainstream media will say that ISIS is the “creation of American inaction,” the reality is that they are the “product of direct action.”

This direct action started with “the action of creating a power vacuum in Iraq” and manifested into the “arming violent Jihadists, hoping they would overthrow a leader in a neighboring Middle Eastern country.”


The message of “The Origin of ISIS” video was simple: the U.S. government, in more ways than one, helped create and fund groups that led to the Islamic State. In May 2015 these claims were confirmed again, when Truth In Media’s Joshua Cook reported:

“Truth In Media questioned 2 years ago why the U.S. and our allies were financing ISIS in Iraq and arming so-called ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria.

A newly declassified DIA document from 2012 confirms that arming the anti-Assad rebel forces and Islamist groups would lead to the emergence of ISIS.

According to award winning journalist Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, “the secret Pentagon document provides extraordinary confirmation that the US-led coalition currently fighting ISIS, had three years ago welcomed the emergence of an extremist ‘Salafist Principality’ in the region as a way to undermine Assad.”

The creation of ISIS by the U.S. government is no longer a secret. In fact, this piece of information was mentioned during a recent Republican party debate. Truth In Media’s Rachel Blevins wrote, “During the first GOP Presidential Debate on Thursday night, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was asked about the United States’ involvement with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He noted that while the U.S. did not create ISIS directly, it is responsible for the group obtaining at least a billion dollars in Humvees deserted by the United States.”

If the U.S. government and military are responsible for the growth of the terrorist organization known as ISIS, then it’s without a doubt that the U.S. holds at least part of the blame. Interventionism and playing the world police is finally coming home to roost. The destruction caused by years of empire building has now created a refugee crisis that Europe is not prepared for, and that the U.S. is not ready to own.

What are your thoughts on the refugees? What about ISIS? Should the U.S. accept Syrian refugees?

Oklahoma Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Alleging Saudi Involvement in 9/11 Attacks

Last week Zacarias Moussaoui had a lawsuit thrown out by U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-Lagrange because of a filing error. The Oklahoman reports that the judge dismissed the suit because Moussaoui did not pay a $400 filing fee and failed to ask for the fee to be waived.

Moussaoui is serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole for his involvement in the planning of the 9/11 attacks and connections to Osama bin Laden. In 2005 Moussaoui said he was supposed to pilot a plane into the White House. Since his arrest Moussaoui has sought to expose what he says is funding from Saudi Arabia’s royal family.

In February, Moussaoui released a statement from prison detailing the role of Saudi Arabia’s royal family in financing terror attacks, including the 9/11 attacks. He also claimed that Saudi Arabia did not cut ties to al-Qaeda members in 1994. Moussaoui says he created a database of al-Qaeda donors and remembers some of the names.

The Saudi Embassy has denied any involvement in the 9/11 attacks and claimed the 9/11 Commission found the Saudi government and officials were not involved.

Moussaoui sent a complaint to the Oklahoma federal court in October 2014, asking the judge to let him testify about what he knows. He claims he met with the Saudi prince at the University of Oklahoma in February 2001 to take flying lessons.

Moussaoui also asked the judge to grant him an attorney so he can sue the Obama Administration, who he claims is attempting to prevent him from testifying on behalf of the 9/11 victims family members in their suit against Saudi Arabia. Moussaoui said he is trying to expose a “bigger conspiracy” related to 9/11. Despite these attempts, Judge Miles-Lagrange dismissed the lawsuits based on the filing error. Federal judges in Colorado, Florida and Texas have also refused his requests.

The Saudi Connection

In early April TruthInMedia reported that Saudi Arabia asked a New York City judge to reject another lawsuit from the families of the 9/11 victims. Lawyers representing Saudi Arabia filed papers in a Manhattan federal court claiming that no evidence exists linking the nation to the attacks. The family members of the 9/11 victims point to testimony from Moussaoui.

Lawyers representing the Saudi Kingdom called Moussaoui’s comments “colorful but immaterial hearsay statements.” Moussaoui was previously found to be a paranoid schizophrenic by a psychologist testifying in his trial.

In late March the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a report that attempts to discredit a previous report that hinted at connections between a Saudi family in Prestencia, Florida and the 9/11 hijackers. The FBI 9/11 Review Commission told Congress that a 2002 report from the FBI “was poorly written and wholly unsubstantiated.”

An agent with the bureau originally found that the Saudi family left in a hurry two weeks before 9/11, leaving behind cars, furniture, clothes, and other items. The information was revealed in a 2010 Freedom of Information Act request which found that an unidentified family member was a student at the same flight school that two of accused 9/11 hijackers attended.

The FBI 9/11 Review Commission largely ignored any evidence of Saudi involvement. The New York Post notes, “The review panel highlighted one local FBI report generated from the investigation that said Abdulaziz and Anoud al-Hijji, the prominent Saudi couple who “fled” their home, had “many connections” to “individuals associated with the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.”

The is only the latest attempt to hold the Saudi royalty accountable. A previous lawsuit from the families was rejected when a judge found that Saudi Arabia was protected because of sovereign immunity. The decision was reversed by a federal appeals court and the families continue their fight.

Despite the denials from Saudi officials, former Senator Bob Graham said he is convinced the Saudi government funded “at least some of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks.” Graham is the former co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the attacks. He recently told the New York Times that he was not giving up his pursuit of finding out who was funding the 9/11 attacks.

U.S. and Europe Investigating Possible New NSA Whistleblower

New documents from the National Security Agency outline how the agency was spying on the most profitable companies in France for “economic intelligence” purposes.

The documents were shared with French outlets Libération and Mediapart, via WikiLeaks. The NSA was interested in companies that signed high-priced export contracts for industrial goods. France’s security agency Anssi said the agency may have spied on hundreds of companies.

TechCrunch reported:

“According to an economic espionage order, the NSA intercepted all French corporate contracts and negotiations valued at more than $200 million in many different industries, such as telecommunications, electrical generation, gas, oil, nuclear and renewable energy, and environmental and healthcare technologies.

A second economic espionage order called “France: Economic Developments” shows that information was then shared with other U.S. agencies and secretaries, including the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Commerce, the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of Treasury. Eventually, this data could have been used to help sign export deals.”

The latest document dump comes one week after WikiLeaks released documents proving that the NSA spied on France’s most recent presidents, including Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande.

Hollande said the spying was “unacceptable”. RT reported that the French justice minister said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden could be offered symbolic asylum in the country.

Following the recent leaks, officials with the U.S. and Europe announced an investigation into the existence of second NSA whistleblower.

Reuters reports:

“The U.S. and European sources cautioned that they did not know for sure that Assange (Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks) had developed a source other than Snowden inside U.S. intelligence. Assange has been in contact with associates of Snowden and helped arrange for him to flee from Hong Kong to Russia, where he was later granted asylum.”

The existence of a second whistleblower was first noticed in late July 2014 as a 166-page document related to terrorism watch lists was released through The Intercept. TruthInMedia reported on the second whistleblower in October 2014:

“Michael Isikoff reported for Yahoo! News that the FBI searched the home of  a federal contracting firm employee suspected of being the source of documents provided to Jeremy Scahill, Ryan Devereaux and The Intercept. Scahill, Greenwald and film-maker Laura Poitras are the editors for the adversarial journalism site The Intercept, founded in February. Isikoff says that federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have launched an investigation into the situation.

The document could not have come from whistleblower Edward Snowden, as it is dated August 2013, after Snowden left for Russia. At the time The Intercept only referred to the whistleblower as “a source in the intelligence community”.

The documentary Citizenfour also confirms the existence of the latest whistleblower. The film details the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden and his efforts to contact Laura Poitras. In the film journalist Glenn Greenwald tells Snowden about the second source.”

Whether a second whislteblower exists or may have already been arrested by the authorities remains to be seen. Americans concerned with the loss of privacy and growing surveillance state should remain vocal supporters of Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers that put their lives on the line in an attempt to reduce government tyranny.

Australian Government May Soon Use Armed Drones from the U.S.

An Australian Senate committee has approved the purchase of armed drones drones from the United States.

The Senate Foreign Affairs released a report calling on Australia’s Department of Defence to make sure armed unmanned vehicles are only operated by Australian military.

News Australia writes:

“In the report, tabled in parliament on Thursday, the Senate foreign affairs, defence and trade committee said the coming Force Structure Review was likely to contain an option for the acquisition of unmanned platforms capable of carrying weapons.”

A policy statement governing the deployment of armed unmanned platforms should be clearly articulated by the Australian government,” it said.”

The report says the drones may be used only in accordance with “Australia’s international legal obligations.” Australia already operates drones for surveillance in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Department of Defence said armed drones are an inevitably for the nation.  Defence did acknowledge moral and ethical questions regarding drones and other autonomous weapons systems.

The purchase of drone aircraft from the U.S. has been expected since at least February of 2015, when Darren Chester, Australian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, said “It would be remiss of Australia not to continue to develop our knowledge of this technology to ensure we are able to gain the greatest benefit from unmanned aerial systems and the best protection for our troops on future operations.”

Currently Britain is the only nation flying armed U.S. drones. It would appear that Australia will become number two as the United States continues to export weapons of war and murder.

The announcement from Australia comes as forty-four veterans of the United States Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines have launched a campaign calling on drone operators to refuse to fly drone surveillance and attack missions. The veterans are working with KnowDrones.com to distribute a letter and airing a 15-second television commercial as part of the “Refuse to Fly” initiative.

The use of armed drones by Britain and Australia should not be a surprise, however. The two nations are walking nearly identical paths towards tyrannical government and a mass surveillance state.

Over 100 International Groups Call on US to Prosecute Torture

Friday June 26th will mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This day is an opportunity for the people of the world to “reaffirm the universal commitment to the total eradication of torture.”

In response to the holiday, over 100 civil and human rights organizations from around the world have sent a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council demanding an investigation into the United States for failing to hold officials accountable for allowing torture under the CIA’s controversial program. The letter also faults the U.S. for failing to provide justice to the victims of the torture program.

Since 1984, most of the world has signed the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In 1987 when President Ronald Reagan signed the treaty he said the following:

“The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called “universal jurisdiction.” Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”

The United States officially ratified the treaty in 1994. The US government is also bound by federal laws against the use of torture. Despite this, the US has engaged in acts of torture including waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and more. Indeed, in December when the Senate released their report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation it was revealed that the CIA continuously misled congressional and White House officials about the effectiveness and level of brutality of its methods.

On Wednesday, June 24, the secretary general of Amnesty International and the executive directors of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Watch sent another letter and delivered petitions with 111,788 signatures of human rights supporters to the Department of Justice. The organizations are seeking to pressure the US government into holding officials accountable for the use of torture.

DOJ spokesman Marc Raimondi told The Miami Herald that the Attorney General already conducted a preliminary review and reviewed the Senate report on torture “and did not find any new information that they had not previously considered in reaching their determination. This inquiry was extraordinarily thorough and we stand by our previously announced decision not to initiate criminal charges.”

The new letter was submitted by the ACLU, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
Conectas Direitos Humanos, and Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Over 100 groups endorsed the call for accountability, including Center for Constitutional Rights, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School, National Lawyers Guild, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

The international groups are asking the US government to consider the consequences of not holding the U.S. government accountable.

“We know from the experiences of civil society groups and survivors of torture around the world that the struggle for accountability for human rights violations and the search for truth can be a long and difficult journey. Yet the United States has much to gain from rejecting impunity, returning to the rule of law, and providing adequate redress to the dozens and dozens of people it so brutally abused.”

‘Fast Track Authority’ Passes Senate, Awaits Obama’s Signature

On Wednesday afternoon the U.S. Senate voted to approve “fast track” authority. The approval is a major victory for President Obama, Big Business, and corporations across the globe.

After voting to end debate on Tuesday, the Senate voted 60 to 38 to approve the controversial measure. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law immediately. The House has already passed the measure with support from Democrats and Republicans.

The approval for FTA by the Senate is related to the push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is one of the largest trade agreements in history, involving the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The nations have been negotiating the deal since 2005, with global resistance growing since 2012.

Supporters of the bill say it would mean more jobs and a stronger America. Critics say the bill will give corporations loopholes to escape accountability and empower international bodies, overriding national sovereignty of the signing nations.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, co-author of the bill, said it was a historic day and called the vote, “perhaps the most important bill we’ll pass in the Senate this year.”

On Tuesday, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz both voted against ending the debate on the bill.

The trade agreement has been notoriously secret, with the public only viewing chapters of the text which have been leaked by WikiLeaks. U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ), a supporter of the TPP, called for more transparency. In a letter sent to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Lance said that his constituents support the agreement but do not want secrecy.

“They, however, want trade agreements that are transparent and good for American workers and American taxpayers,” Lance wrote. “Yet the TPP negotiating text is currently classified, and only members of Congress and staffers with security clearance can access it. I believe declassifying and releasing the negotiating text online will bring much-needed transparency, accountability and public awareness to the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement and its policy implications.”


Critics and Supporters of TPP Clash as Corporate-Trade Deal Nears Completion

The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is inching closer to completion, but is the trade-deal really the economic boon we have been told?

Japan, April 21, 2015 – Just one week after U.S. lawmakers reached an agreement on a bill that will give President Obama “fast-track authority” to negotiate the completion of the trade deal, critics and supporters are working to get their message heard by the president.  Although President Obama is calling upon Congress to pass the bill quickly, critics say the bill will only give lawmakers a yes-or-no vote on the deal and limited ability to affect the actual terms of the deal.

The TPP is one of the largest trade agreements in history, involving the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The nations have been negotiating the deal since 2005, with global resistance growing since 2012.

According to Reuters, on Tuesday 300 business groups from across the U.S. sent a letter to Congress, calling upon lawmakers to pass the fast track bill. The business groups said:  “To realize the potential of these agreements for U.S. jobs, economic growth and competitiveness, Congress must pass Trade Promotion Authority.”

The letter comes as Japan and the United States work to reach an agreement on the specific terms of the deal. The two nations have been holding bilateral ministerial talks in Japan attempting to iron out differences over agricultural products and the auto industry. The two nations are hoping to negotiate an agreement satisfactory to both sides before  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with President Obama in Washington on April 28. On Thursday negotiators from the 12 nations will meet in Maryland to attempt to finalize the deal.

Greatest Trade Deal in History or a Corporate Coup?

The critics of the TPP come from a wide spectrum of activists, doctors and religious leaders. The most-cited issue with the trade deal is the granting of authority to international tribunals which will have the power to override court rulings within the individual nation states.

As the trade agreement nears completion both the Anglican and Catholic churches of New Zealand are demanding the government be more transparent about the negotiations. Radio NZ reports that bishops from the churches are concerned with the lack of openness and that corporate interests are influencing the agreement while the people are being excluded. The churches also called on the New Zealand government to make the draft text of the agreement public.

In early February,  doctors and health professional representing seven countries released a letter warning that the TPP will lead to higher medical costs for all nations. The letter, published in The Lancet medical journal, states that, “Rising medicine costs would disproportionately affect already vulnerable populations.” The doctors called on the governments involved in the trade deal to publicly release the full text of the agreement. They also demanded an independent analysis of the impacts on health and human rights for each nation involved in the deal.

Also in February, an analysis by The Washington Post revealed the US government’s numbers on expected job increases from TPP are not factually correct. The Fact Checker examined several quotes from government officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Both Kerry and Vilsack claimed the international trade agreement would create 650,000 new jobs. However, these numbers do not take into account income gains and changing wages. According to the government own sources imports and exports would increase by the same amount resulting in a net number of zero new jobs.

Over the weekend thousands of people rallied in Germany to oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a similar trade deal to the TPP. Protesters gathered across Germany on Saturday to protest the upcoming trade deal between Europe and the United States. Critics fear the deal will erode sovereignty and endanger multiple industries, including health and technology. Supporters of the deal say it would bring $100 billion annually for both sides of the deal.

Reuters reports that, “a recent YouGov poll showed that 43 percent of Germans believe TTIP would be bad for the country, compared to 26 percent who see it as positive.”

In 2014 a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of Americans believe the TPP is a good thing. However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes that Americans will not support the agreement once they are properly educated. Wikileaks has released several documents from the TPP which they say show the true intentions of the trade deal. (check here and here.)

Despite a growing opposition to the trade deal from the people, world leaders continue to tout the agreement as a savior to the global economy. Presidents and Prime Ministers around the world say the secrecy around the TPP is necessary to allow the nations to freely craft their agreements.

Even Senator Rand Paul seems to support the controversial measure. In late 2014, Paul spoke in New York City at the Center for the National Interest’s annual dinner and revealed some of his influences and interests. In the talk Rand Paul called for the TPP to be negotiated by the end of 2014. (see 15:10)

What are your thoughts? Is the TPP a triumph of capitalism? Or is it a Trojan horse being sold by crony capitalists?

Norwegian Muslims To Form “Ring Of Peace” At Oslo Synagogue Condemning Terrorism

Oslo, Norway- A group of young Muslims in Norway have reportedly planned to form a human ring around a synagogue in Norway’s capital on Saturday as a symbolic effort to support the Jewish community. The event’s organizers have said that the group hopes to “extinguish the prejudices people have against Jews and against Muslims.”

The gesture was planned partially in response to recent attacks in neighboring country Denmark when a gunman fatally shot a filmmaker during a “freedom of speech” event and went on to kill a security guard at a synagogue.

Atif Jamil, one of the event’s organizers, said that the purpose of the ring is “to show that Norwegian youth reject what happened in Denmark and to show that Muslims do not support terrorism.”

Another organizer, 17-year-old Hajrad Arshad, echoed Jamil’s remark to Norway state broadcaster NRK, saying that “We think that after the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen, it is the perfect time for us Muslims to distance ourselves from the harassment of Jews that is happening.”

The organizers created a “Fredens Ring” event on Facebook, which states (translated):

Islam is to protect our brothers and sisters, independently of what religion they belong to. Islam is to rise above hatred and never sink down on the same level as the haters. Islam is to protect each other. Muslims want to show that we strongly condemn all type of anti-Semitism and hatred towards Jews. And that we are there to support them. We will therefore create a human protective ring around the Synagogue Saturday February 21. We encourage everyone to be there with us. Remember Together we can make a difference! You and me.

Over 2,000 people have joined the group’s Facebook event. Oslo Jewish community leader Ervin Kohn responded positively to the group’s efforts, saying that “What they are communicating is that if anyone wants to do anything against Jews in Norway, they have to go through us first, and I think that is very positive.”

Kohn has granted permission for the formation of the peace ring, provided that more than 30 individuals attend. “I’ve said that it only comes to 30, it won’t be good, it may seem counter-productive,” he said. “But if you fill Bergstien [the street where the synagogue is located], it will be very good.”


Obama Administration Introduces Policy that Permits the Export of Armed Drones

On Tuesday, the White House announced that it has enacted a new export policy for military unmanned aerial systems that will allow for the sale and transfer of the drones to international countries.

statement from the White House claimed that the new export policy is “part of a broader” policy review, which will shape the standards for the sale, transfer and use American drones between the United States and international countries:

The United States is the world’s technological leader in the development and deployment of military Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). As other nations begin to employ military UAS more regularly and as the nascent commercial UAS market emerges, the United States has a responsibility to ensure that sales, transfers, and subsequent use of all U.S.-origin UAS are responsible and consistent with U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, including economic security, as well as with U.S. values and international standards.”

The statement added that the U.S. has developed the policy to ensure that the international sale of American drones is “consistent with the requirements of the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Assistance Act which govern all U.S. military transfers.”

The United States has used “drone campaigns” run by the CIA and the Defense Department in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen to target suspected terrorists. The Associated Press noted that these campaigns “have been sources of controversy,” due to the number of innocent lives lost.

According to the White House, the policy will require that the sales and transfers of “sensitive systems” are made through the “government-to-government” Foreign Military Sales program, and that potential transfers are reviewed by the Department of Defense Technology Security.

The policy also requires that each recipient nation “agree to end-use assurances as a condition of sale or transfer,” along with “end-use monitoring and potential additional security conditions.”

An anonymous State Department official told the Washington Post that the “technology is here to stay,” and that it is to the Unites States’ benefit “to have certain allies and partners equipped appropriately.

UN courts dismiss claims of genocide between Serbia and Croatia

The highest court within the UN has ruled the acts of war committed by Croatia and Serbia against the other’s population in the 1990’s does not qualify as genocide.

The International Court of Justice says they recognize acts of rape, torture, and widespread killings had taken place between the two countries, but by the formal definition of genocide, no such act was carried out during the conflict.

According to the official report, genocide implies there is a laid out plan to systematically wipe out an entire population of peoples and to prevent any further births from occurring within the targeted population. While the acts of war carried out were brutal, the court claims there was no such plan on either side.

According to NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, the decision should come as no surprise since the “U.N. courts have never charged any Serbs or Croats with genocide in each other’s territory.”

“The Croatian government alleged that Serbia committed genocide in the town of Vukovar and elsewhere in 1991,” said Nelson. “Tens of thousands of ethnic Croats were displaced, and hundreds of Croat men were detained and killed. Serbia later filed a counterclaim over the expulsion of more than 200,000 Serbs from Croatia.”

Peter Tomka, the president of the International Court of Justice, said, according to Reuters“Croatia has not established that the only reasonable inference was the intent to destroy in whole or in part the (Croatian) group.”

Tomka went on to say the desire to expel ethnic groups from towns and cities does not constitute genocide since the intention is not to destroy the groups. This also led Tomka to say Serbia’s counterclaim of genocide did not met the definition either, and therefore denied the country’s claim. 

The foreign minister of Croatia, Vesna Pusic, said, according to the New York Times, she hoped this ruling would help bring a “better and safer period for people in this part of Europe.” Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic of Serbia echoed these hopes.

Major Syria Rebels Spurn Geneva 2, But Small Faction Will Attend

This article was submitted by guest contributor Jason Ditz.

Faced with intense pressure from Western nations, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the nation’s self-proclaimed “government-in-exile,” has finally agreed to send a delegation to this week’s Geneva 2 peace talks. The delegation is said to include “representation” from several smaller rebel factions.

SyriaThe SNC are the first rebel-linked group to agree to attend Geneva 2, and by all accounts are going to be the only one, with the much larger Islamic Front rejecting the talks as a “hollow” process.

The Islamic Front would’ve been a much more meaningful addition to the talks, as the largest rebel faction that isn’t formally part of al-Qaeda (though their informal links are becoming more public).

Several Western nations have been courting the Islamic Front as a potential replacement for the SNC’s fighting force, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which has lost much of its territory and is quickly becoming irrelevant on the ground. Neither of the major al-Qaeda factions was invited to the talks.

Early last week, US officials indicated Geneva 2 might seek some regional ceasefires, especially in Aleppo, but after the Syrian government openly endorsed the idea Secretary of State John Kerry changed positions, and is now vowing that the conference will end with an agreement on regime change.

The Geneva 2 talks were initially announced for June of last year, but were repeatedly delayed over lack of rebel interest. The conference begins later this week in Montreaux.





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Secular Syria Rebels Mull Rejoining Govt to Fight al-Qaeda

This article was submitted by guest contributor Jason Ditz.

With the Geneva II peace conference looming on January 22, Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Gen. Salim Idris has announced his is dropping the demand for President Bashar Assad to resign before the talks, saying he’s content with talks toward an eventual transition at the end of the negotiation process.

syria3That may not sound like much on the surface, but it points to what officials say is a significant shift in the secularist rebel perspective, as they consider merging with the Assad government to end their mutual fighting and instead focus on the war against al-Qaeda and the rest of the Islamist rebels.

Gen. Idris addressed the prospect very directly in his comments, saying that the growing FSA fighting with al-Qaeda has left them fighting a war on two different fronts. As foreign Islamists continue to flock to al-Qaeda factions like Jabhat al-Nusra, that’s a problem that’s only going to get worse, as some 5,500 foreign fighters in al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) alone look to dominate the rebel-controlled northwest.

The FSA is mostly military defectors, and re-merging with the military itself might not be particularly difficult,  but with their fighters poorly equipped and struggling to cope with a surge in al-Qaeda forces, it isn’t clear how readily they will be able to turn the tide in rebel-held territory, even with the Assad government’s help.


This article is from Antiwar.com.  A friend in need is a friend indeed – and we need your help to fight this brazen state repression. We’re fighting to restore constitutional government in America – but we need your tax-deductible donation to do it. Please, make your contribution today!”

U.S. Trained Fighters Now Crossing From Jordan Into Syria

Ask a question without an answer about U.S. foreign policy and just wait. Sooner or later the answer will come.

Lets start with the answer.  According to French newspaper La Figaro guerrilla fighters from the Free Syrian Army have been released across the Syrian border from Jordan and are headed toward Damascus.

These fighters, according to reports have been trained by U.S. military, CIA operatives and Jordanian and Israeli commandos. A first wave of about 300 fighters were released into Syria on August 17 and a second wave on August 19, according to the paper.

As for the question:  about 2 months ago I asked, “Why are 300 marines now stationed along the Syrian border with Jordan?”  At the time, the Obama administration claimed that those Marines were only there as part of a training exercise.  President Obama himself acknowledged the troops in Jordan saying,

“This detachment that participated in the exercise and remained in Jordan includes Patriot missile systems, fighter aircraft, and related support, command, control, and communications personnel and systems,” Obama said.

Today, not only is it clear that these were not training exercises being conducted but that, as we suspected, the U.S. is providing more than just the “non lethal assistance” the administration has claimed.

Why is this important?  Because, as we explain in this video the U.S. is pouring money, assistance and training into the FSA.  However, if the Assad regime falls, it will not be the FSA that is in position to take over the country but instead it will be al Nusra Front, the Syrian wing of al Qaeda in Iraq.

How is that possible and what will al Nusra taking over in Syria mean for the U.S. and for the Syrian people?


According to FedBizOpps.gov, the U.S. Navy is soliciting “12 Light Observation Aircraft to Yemen for use by the Yemeni Air Force (YAF) equipped with EO/IR sensor.”

You can find, here, the request.

Ron Paul states in his weekly column that over the past two weeks the U.S. has launched at least eight drone attacks in Yemen, in which dozens have been killed.

“It is the largest U.S. escalation of attacks on Yemen in more than a decade,” said Paul.

Paul cites that there have been previous reports of civilian deaths due to drone attacks, but the U.S. denies that there were any civilian deaths.

Drone attacks

“The US government is clearly at war in Yemen,” Paul said. “It is claimed they are fighting al-Qaeda, but the drone strikes are creating as many or more al-Qaeda members as they are eliminating.”

The U.S. foreign policy is in crisis.

Recently Senators John McCain’s and Lindsey Graham went to Egypt with the White House’s “blessing” to help the ousted Muslim Brotherhood talk with the new Egyptian government.

“We told [the Muslim Brother leaders] that in our view, the best way to resolve this issue was to renounce and condemn violence, that they should be willing to negotiate if some of the brotherhood were released from prison,” McCain said. “We were not negotiating, we were just saying what we thought had to be done to get back to the negotiating table.”

McCain’s suggestion of releasing Muslim Brotherhood prisoners, calling them “political prisoners,” infuriated Egyptians who suffered under Muhammad Morsi reign.

According to PJMedia, “A top advisor to Egypt’s Interim President Adly Mansour formally accused McCain of distorting facts to the benefit of the Brotherhood,” the article said. “He dismissed McCain’s recent remarks as ‘irrational’ and ‘moronic.’”

Secular political commentator Ahmed Musa asserted:

These two men have made more shameless demands than the Brotherhood themselves would dare.

[McCain] is not a man elected by the American people to speak on their behalf; today, he speaks on behalf of an armed terrorist organization — the Muslim Brotherhood. …  We had expected [better] from these two men who came to speak with the tongue of the Brotherhood’s leadership, as if they had been recruited as two new leaders of the Brotherhood, which killed, destroyed, and burned in al-Muqattam, and now in Rab‘a al-Adawiya [the main Brotherhood militant camp]. The only thing missing is to see them in Rab‘a, surrounded by armed groups, and in their midst Muhammad Badie [supreme leader of the Brotherhood] and [U.S. Ambassador] Anne Patterson. That’s all that’s missing! Here comes Brother McCain today saying that we must “release the [Brotherhood] prisoners”.

Are you not aware that these people are accused of murder? Are you not aware that hundreds of Egyptians have been killed at the hands of the Brotherhood, Morsi, Shatter, Qatatni, Badie, Baltagi — have you forgotten? Did you not read the report on what happened? Or did you just blindly accept your ambassador’s words that it was a coup, that 33 million people did not go out?


Breaking: CNN reports CIA Cover Up on Benghazi

A bombshell from CNN today regarding Benghazi.  According to the cable news network there is in fact a massive cover-up by the CIA to hide what “dozens” of CIA agents were doing on the ground in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.  It was the night of the 11th when Al Qaeda backed militants raided the U.S. compound in Benghazi, killing 4 Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

According to the report from CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper:

“Sources now tell CNN dozens of people working for the CIA were on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret. CNN has learned the CIA is involved in what one source calls an unprecedented attempt to keep the spy agency’s Benghazi secrets from ever leaking out.”

There are many questions we still do not have answered but this latest revelation continues to expose the attempted cover up by State Department officials who repeatedly claimed that a YouTube video was the reason for a spontaneous “uprising”.    That was clearly not the case, so what was really taking place in Benghazi?

The secret is being held so closely that CIA agents are reportedly being subjected to repeated polygraph tests to determine if they are talking to members of the media.  In addition, agents are having their careers threatened and say they are under intense pressure to protect not just themselves but their families.

So here we are.  Another government agency demanding secrecy from agents, secrecy that likely has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with a lack of accountability to the American people.