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How the United Nations Supports the American Empire

Thu, 2017-09-21 11:19
For decades the American Right has decried the U.N. for encroaching on American sovereignty, but the truth is that the U.N. is a chief U.S. accomplice in violating the sovereignty of other nations, notes J.P. Sottile.

(CN) — President Trump opened his big United Nations week … and his famous mouth … with a predictable plug for one of his properties and some playful glad-handing with French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump also scolded the U.N.’s unwieldy scrum for “not living up to its potential.” He made a passing reference to the U.N.’s wasteful use of American money. And he called for “reform” of the much-maligned international forum.

It was a stolid prelude to what will no doubt be “must-see” TV when he speaks to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday about North Korea and Iran. And it was a far cry from the way America’s leading “America Firster” spent the campaign lamenting how unfair the U.N. is to the poor schlemiel we call Uncle Sam.

He is likely to use his speech to throw a little bit of that same red meat to his base, but his call for reform falls well short of what his supporters want … which is an abrupt end of U.S. involvement in the international body. They are motivated by a grab-bag of reasons that point to the U.N. being a threat to their guns, their bank accounts and their God-given freedom.

Oddly enough, these conspiratorial narratives have been around for decades and they mostly center on a grand plan by U.N. elites to abscond American sovereignty and dissolve the U.S. into a U.N.-led world government. And the evidence of this is the way the U.N. harasses and restricts Uncle Sam while siphoning-off America’s wealth. At least, that’s what some think.

Most ominously, many object to the way U.N. funds are being used to quietly deploy gun-grabbing U.N. soldiers in advance of the big takeover. But like so much of Trump’s intoxicating irredentism … this is a grievance more likely rooted in a three-day meth bender in a Tallahassee trailer park than it is from shocking evidence gathered from well-traveled observation. It’s paranoia. But really, it’s worse than that.

Why? Because the U.N. has basically been the complete opposite of what its angriest critics claim. It is not out to get the U.S. Rather, it has largely been America’s tool since its inception and, in particular, it has repeatedly covered Uncle Sam’s overly-exposed butt as he (a.k.a. “the royal we”) has gone around the world on a three decade-long military bender since the end of the Cold War.

Yes, the Gulf War was U.N. approved and the whole world got behind it because (April Glaspie’s backstory notwithstanding) the prima facie case was strong and it was a fairly clear-cut example of unwarranted aggression. That was an easy call.

Global Violence

But since then, the calls have been nothing short of murky as the U.S. has bombed and droned and deployed and invaded and covertly-acted and regime-changed all around the globe. And the unspoken truth is that the United Nations has been America’s all-too silent partner as Uncle Sam traipsed around the planet with a loaded gun, remote control assassination machines and paper-thin rationales for intervention.

Although the U.N. occasionally puts a bug up Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s ass on the issue of the slow-motion ethnic cleansing in the West Bank … what other issue is there where the U.N. has taken a real stand against the U.S. or U.S. policy objectives?

Where is the U.N.’s punishment for being lied to by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell?  And where is the punishment for destroying a bystander nation under false pretenses? Where is the punishment for Abu Ghraib or Gitmo?

Where is the punishment for America’s summary execution of “suspected militants” around the Muslim world simply because they are of “military age” and in the wrong place at the right time … and for the CIA, it is always the right time to kill a suspect no matter how wrong the place many be. And where is the condemnation of America’s destabilizing role as the world’s leading supermarket of military hardware?

How about mounting civilian causalities from an ever-widening widening bombing campaign? The U.N. can say the killings are “unacceptable,” but does it really matter if there is no sanction? There haven’t been any sanctions after children were killed in a “U.S.-backed raid” in Somalia.  Go figure, right?

Or what about America’s complicity in the catastrophe of Yemen? Where are those sanctions? And what exactly has the U.N. done to punish any number of extra-legal maneuver by a succession of American presidents over the course of the “Global War on Terror”? The simple answer is nothing.

Instead, the Secretary General is largely beholden to the disproportionate influence of the United States. The Security Council’s agenda is basically set by the United States … and that’s particularly true since the Soviet Union collapsed. At the same time, the U.N.’s occasionally contentious debates do little more than offer the imprimatur of international approbation or well-noted disdain despite the functionally inconsequential nature of those debates.

A Fig Leaf for Empire

Either way it is a win for Uncle Sam because the presence of a neutered United Nations provides the United States with a fig leaf just big enough to cover the dangly parts of America’s otherwise naked empire.

The money that does go from the U.S. Treasury into the minutia around the margins … like UNESCO programs and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and all the other little crumbs that get thrown around the world … these are payoffs. This is what the world gets for mostly keeping its mouth shut in the face of America’s globe-spanning empire. The tiny amount of aid that trickles down past the bureaucracy … much like the bureaucracy itself … is not an example of America “getting played” by wasteful foreigners with hidden agendas. This is America paying to play the world like organ grinder with a hurdy-gurdy monkey.

Frankly, the “28.5% of the overall peacekeeping bill” that Trump calls “unfair” (about $2.2 billion of the $3.3 billion the U.S. gives to the UN annually) is a pittance … particularly if you want the unchecked right to tell Persians what they can and cannot do in the Persian Gulf, to tell the Chinese what they can and cannot build in the South China Sea, and to tell every other power on the face of the earth why they cannot have the same nuclear capability America not only has … but is currently “upgrading” to the tune of $1.5 trillion.

Even more amazingly, the U.S. wants to deny these nations the only real insurance policy against U.S.-led regime change. And why is that? Because there ain’t a Curveball’s chance in Hell that the U.N. will ever be able to stop Uncle Sam from marching where he wants, when he wants and for whatever reason he wants to cook-up. That’s a historically provable fact.

The only real check on U.S. power is the ability of an asymmetrical power to go nuclear. And let’s admit it, they are ALL asymmetrical powers when compared to America’s gargantuan, trillion-dollar national security beast. And this is why the U.N.’s “partnership” with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the only U.N.-associated agency that really matters. They can’t do much, but they can throw a wrench into another WMD snipe hunt … like they are doing now with the Iran Nuclear Deal.

But like it was tested by Team Bush, the IAEA is going to be tested again as Trump and Netanyahu make their bogus case … without a hint of irony … that Iran is the world’s greatest threat. But that’s really just par for a course that’s riddled with falsified flags haphazardly stuck into the shallow holes of a back nine that’s actually been built by and for a club-wielding Uncle Sam.

A Cult of Grievance

And therein lies the truly pernicious part of the Trumped-up case against the U.N. … because, like so much of America’s growing cult of grievance, it reflects an ever-widening gap between America’s stated ideals and its self-serving behavior around the world.

As we are learning almost daily, Americans tried to square that circle by electing a profligate liar who fully embodies America’s insatiable desire to take credit, particularly where none is due … and to outsource the blame to scapegoats like the U.N., particularly when the only alternative is a long look into the mirror.

And in the case of the U.N., that projected guilt is in spite of the fact that it is often tasked with quietly cleaning up some of the collateral damage wrought by their main accuser. They just have to do so without any real power or the funds to do the job. That’s the simple truth you won’t hear in Trump’s speech … or any speech, for that matter.

It’s the fact that the U.N.’s meager amount of “wasteful spending” doesn’t even begin to cover the cost of doing business when your business depends of paying the world to look the other way while you get away with murder.

JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, radio co-host, documentary filmmaker and former broadcast news producer in Washington, D.C. He blogs at Newsvandal.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

By JP Sottile / Republished with permission / Consortium News

Report: US Airstrikes Killed 433 Civilians in Raqqa in August

Thu, 2017-09-21 09:35
Airwars: US coalition airstrikes even heavier than in Mosul.

(ANTIWAR.COM— A new report from British NGO Airwars estimates that US airstrikes against the ISIS capital city of Raqqa in August killed at least 433 civilians. They reported 5,775 bombs, shells, and missiles dropped in the city in that period.

Airwars said that the level of US-led coalition airstrikes against Raqqa is even higher than in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where US airstrikes killed massive numbers of civilians. They added that the effects on Raqqa’s trapped civilians have been “equally devastating.”

While the Pentagon announced that more strikes were dropped on Raqqa in August than any other time in the war, they have yet to offer a figure on civilians killed in August. They instead offered a generic statement on how tey are conducting the most accurate campaign ever.

An estimated 20,000 civilians are believed to still be trapped in Raqqa, which is being invaded by US-backed Kurdish forces. Though US officials have claimed at times the Kurds have gained major territory in the fight, there is still no estimate of how much longer it will last, and US airstrikes are going to continue to be a deadly reality for Raqqa for the foreseeable future.

By Jason Ditz / Republished with permission / ANTIWAR.COM / Report a typo

This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Anti-Media editorial policy.

‘I Think There Will Be War’: Iraqi Kurds Fear Conflict After Referendum

Thu, 2017-09-21 09:13
Official fears violence after 25 September independence vote, as disputes grow in areas controlled by Kurd forces outside original KRG borders.

(MEE) — Fears of fresh conflict in northern Iraq are bubbling to the surface weeks before Iraqi Kurds hold a contentious vote on independence, with warnings of war over disputed, ethnically mixed border regions and reports of Shia forces pushing Kurd officials from a town to prevent voting.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, has refused repeated requests from Baghdad, the US and regional powers to postpone its 25 September referendum, saying it would only do so if an alternative was presented by Iraq’s central government.

Tensions have risen in areas liberated by KRG forces outside the region’s original 2003 borders, including the city of Kirkuk. On Monday the KRG’s president, Massoud Barzani, said “any attempt to change the reality using force” in Kirkuk “should expect that every single Kurd will be ready to fight.”

Dr Jutyar Mahmoud, a member of the region’s independence referendum commission, told Middle East Eye that disputed territories such as Kirkuk were the focus of fears of a new conflagration after the referendum.

“We will face border problems in the near future and I definitely think there will be another war, and soon,” he said.

He described Iraq as “militarily weak,” after three years of battling the Islamic State (IS), during which time forces have suffered extensive losses, particularly in the recent nine-month fight to liberate Mosul.

A greater threat, he said, was posed by Iraq’s other army – the Iranian-backed paramilitary Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation force.

“The Hashd are another threat and maybe Iran will push them to fight us,” Mahmoud said, adding that Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, “doesn’t control the Hashd, but Iran can.”

Jutyar Mahmoud considered the Hashd a greater threat than Iraq’s regular army (AFP) Hostile acts

His comments preceded bouts of recent unrest in some of the contested border regions. On Saturday, local Arabs pulled the KRG flag from a council building in Mandali, in the province of Diyala, and staged an armed, albeit peaceful, protest in the town.

The next day, the town council sacked the Kurdish mayor and overruled a previous vote that agreed to the town’s participation in the referendum, according to the Kurdish news service Rudaw. Claims that the Hashd were involved were denied by a well-placed source, who said such actions were not in line with the force’s policies.

The source told MEE that if local fighters affiliated with the Hashd were involved, they were representing themselves, not the Hashd al-Shaabi.

Also on Saturday, Kurdish Turkmen were urged to boycott the referendum by eight Turkmen parties in Kirkuk, who repeated Baghdad’s line that the vote is unconstitutional.

In Sinjar, 2,000 Yazidis have joined the Hashd, according to the force’s spokesman Ahmed al-Asadi.

Yazidi refugees living in camps said the move was prompted by dissatisfaction with the Kurdish peshmerga forces for failing to protect them from IS in 2014, and what they said was ongoing neglect and marginalisation of Yazidis under the KRG.

Adding to extant tensions are limitations of voter eligibility. Although northern Iraq has long been ethnically mixed, Arabs relocated under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s Arabisation schemes are not eligible to vote in the referendum, said the KRG referendum commission’s Mahmoud.

Voting in the disputed territories would also be limited to areas controlled by the peshmerga, Mahmoud said, adding that Hashd forces had made it clear that they would not accept ballot boxes being placed in any areas under their control.

Kirkuk’s tinderbox

Both the peshmerga and Hashd forces are maintaining a strong military presence in several disputed territories, including Kirkuk province.

Several thousand Turkmen Hashd fighters reportedly control what Hashd spokesman Asadi said was the lion’s share of the province, but he insisted any talk of war was political bluster.

“The Hashd al-Shaabi were founded to ensure the stability and security of Iraq, not to ignite sectarian or regional wars,” he told Middle East Eye.

“Anyone who promotes these ideas about war between Iraq and Kurdistan are outsiders intent on destabilising the security and stability of Iraq.

“The affairs in Kurdistan are not going to lead to a war and such talk is nothing but a passing political tempest to satisfy some political matters for some Kurdish politicians.

“We view Kurdistan as an Iraqi land and we will defend it as we continue to defend all of Iraq.”

Asadi said “brotherly ties” between Hashd fighters and the Kurds had been proved by how they stood united in one trench to defend Iraq in the battle against IS.

Baghdad, the US and regional powers have urged the KRG to postpone its referendum (Reuters) Brotherly ties

Dr Kemal Kerkuki, a peshmerga commander stationed near IS-occupied Hawija, echoed this sentiment, saying the chance of war with Iraq was “very, very narrow, if not impossible” – but was keen to reiterate the strength of the peshmerga.

“The peshmerga forces are always ready to defend our lands and I think the fight against IS has shown the whole world what our forces are capable of,” he said.

“However, we are determined to use the referendum and all democratic tools in our negotiations with Baghdad for an amicable divorce.”

Kerkuki insisted defeating IS remained a priority for both the KRG and Baghdad, and said there was ongoing cooperation between Iraqi and peshmerga forces.

Having swiftly defeated IS in Tal Afar, Iraqi forces are now preparing to begin their operations to retake Hawija, in one of the many disputed areas along the border regions between the KRG and Iraq.

Kerkuki admitted there were recurrent problems between rival Iraqi forces but remained adamant that the referendum would help resolve rather than exacerbate problems in the border regions.

“The referendum is a peacef ul and democratic tool to solve the chronic problems between the Kurdistan region and Iraq,” he said.

“The referendum is a tool to defuse war and intra-city conflicts in the newly liberated areas, particularly the so-called ‘disputed areas’.”

By Tom Westcott / Republished with permission / Middle East Eye / Report a typo

This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Anti-Media editorial policy.

Experts in Shock as Hurricane Maria Leaves All of Puerto Rico Without Power

Wed, 2017-09-20 20:23
Size and strength of Hurricane Maria is being called “horrifying” as relentless and unprecedented hurricane season continues.

(COMMONDREAMS) The Caribbean is so far seeing no relief from this year’s historically turbulent and destructive Atlantic hurricane season, as Puerto Rico was being battered by Hurricane Maria on Wednesday — its second major storm in two weeks. The hurricane made landfall with heavy rain and 155 mile-per-hour winds early in the morning, following the $1 billion of damage left by Hurricane Irma earlier this month.

Meteorologists and weather experts expressed grave concerns about the size and strength of the hurricane as it approached Puerto Rico, after causing “mind-boggling” damage in Dominica.

[UPDATE: The BBC is now reporting that the entire country of Puerto Rico has lost power due to Hurricane Maria.]

Starting to run out of adjectives for #Maria. Horrifying. pic.twitter.com/pevsAVlfGn

— Michael Brennan (@tuffiewx) September 19, 2017

You couldn't hit Puerto Rico more squarely. #Maria is centered directly on top of the island. First Category 4 there since 1932. pic.twitter.com/iB08f34hhw

— Eric Fisher (@ericfisher) September 20, 2017

Footage showed strong wind gusts whipping through the streets of San Juan on Wednesday morning.

#HurricaneMaria about to make landfall in #PuertoRico and damage showing up on the streets of San Juan. Video from Zac Gooch. pic.twitter.com/fsL71xLwJP

— Mike Seidel (@mikeseidel) September 20, 2017

Maria is the third major Atlantic hurricane to make landfall this season. Hurricane Harveydevastated Houston last month with a record-breaking 51 inches of rainfall and flooding across 70 percent of the surrounding county, leaving at least 82 people dead and causing billions of dollars of damage to structures.

Hurricane Irma followed, leaving the Caribbean island of Barbuda nearly “uninhabitable,” devastating the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, causing major flooding in parts of Florida and the southeast and leaving one million people without power in Puerto Rico — potentially for months to come.

Maria is expected to be much more destructive to Puerto Rico, which went bankrupt in May after years of financial crises and little support from the United States, which has sovereign control over the territory. The island’s aging infrastructure has fallen into disrepair over the years, leaving it especially vulnerable to hurricane damage.

The current Atlantic hurricane season has been unusually active in terms of the size, frequency, and intensity of the storms that have formed. According to a New York Times report, “The last time the northern Leeward Islands experienced two major hurricanes in the same season was 1899, and now it is looking at three in the same month.”

Climate scientists say climate change has contributed to the relentless damage caused by recent hurricanes. Waters that have warmed by as much as three degrees Fahrenheit over the past century have caused larger and stronger hurricanes, while rising sea levels have led to more destructive storm surges and higher levels of flooding.

By Julia Conley / Creative Commons / Common Dreams / Report a typo

This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Anti-Media editorial policy.

Trump Slams US and Saudi Foreign Policy in Fiery UN Speech

Wed, 2017-09-20 18:57

(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) In a bold move, President Trump condemned the violent, oppressive behavior and policies of the U.S. and its allies while speaking at the U.N. this week.

He described the decline of “a wealthy country, with a rich history and culture, into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos.”

His description accurately fits the United States, which has devolved from a country with high-minded (if not fully realized) ideals, courageous struggles for human and civil rights, and a strong sense of independence into a nationalistic, militant nation with a fledgling economy and an increasingly impoverished population whose government has spent its wealth arming radical extremists and waging endless war. The U.S. government has sowed chaos around the world over the years, from Iran to Iraq to Libya to Chile and Guatemala, spilling the blood of countless innocents as it plays geopolitical chess to favor its own hegemonic interests.

Sad!

Trump also called out the despicable behavior of U.S. allies, blasting entities that use their oil profits to support “terrorists that kill innocent Muslims.” He asserted that such wealth is used to “fuel Yemen’s civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East,” an apt description of the Saudi Arabian Kingdom.

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities…,” he bravely said.

Further, apparently condemning the behavior of both the U.S. and its allies, Trump warned that evildoers “must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving [their] own people, and respect the sovereign rights of [their] neighbors.

It is easy to make the case that the Saudis themselves are engaging in terrorism by directly targeting civilians in Yemen for a political purpose.

During his speech at the U.N., Trump described all of the behavior displayed by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia — but he wasn’t talking about either. In all of the excerpts listed above, he was unironically talking about Iran, condemning the admittedly repressive regime for the exact same crimes the U.S. government and its allies commit.

The U.S. is responsible both for war crimes and for arming radical Islamists — who Trump loves to condemn — from the mujahideen in the 1980s to “moderate” (read: al-Qaeda-affiliated) rebels in Syria. The U.S. and its allies have grotesquely violated the “sovereign rights” of countries around the world for decades, and the Saudis are actively violating the rights of their neighbor, Yemen, using American-made weapons to maintain power for their murderous regime while they destabilize the region.The Saudis have been documented supporting ISIS and using their oil profits to export radical ideologies while beheadingflogging, and attempting to crucify political dissidents at home (candidate Trump condemned the Saudis’ alleged support for terrorism before selling them billions of dollars in arms as president; he also criticized their human rights record while before he rose to power).

Laughably, in his speech he bragged about the U.S.’ success in battling ISIS in Syria, completely ignoring Iranian-backed militias’ contributions to defeating the terror group while actually respecting Syria’s sovereignty (Iran is an ally of the Syrian government whereas the U.S. does not have official authorization to be there).

Further, Trump’s own administration has admitted Iran is complying with the nuclear deal Trump vehemently condemns. “No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles,” he said at the U.N.

He bemoaned the possibility of other countries like Iran and North Korea having nuclear weapons while his own war criminal government holds one of the largest caches of nukes in the world and is the only country to have ever intentionally used them on civilian populations.

Even worse, Trump’s claims about Iran’s undemocratic government may be true, but this modern reality did not come about absent American influence. The Iranian regime is repressive. It does support terror groups like Hezbollah (though Hezbollah is far less globally influential than ISIS, which, again, the Saudis have been exposed for fostering and funding). Iran’s government is no friend to freedom, but how did Iran get to this point?

Might it have something to do with, yet again, the U.S. government’s own flagrant disrespect for the sovereignty of other nations? Its own proliferation of bloodshed and chaos? Is toppling Iran’s democratically elected government for the sake of oil profits in 1953 — installing the ousted leader with an autocratic shah — supposed to qualify as ‘respecting sovereign rights’? Is the world supposed to pretend that over two decades of such an oppressive, American-installed monarch were entirely unrelated to the reactionary Iranian revolution that broke out against that ruler in 1979 and the political conditions that have developed since?

As the president grandstands to the world, boasting of American compassion and spewing American exceptionalism while condemning his enemies for the exact same behavior of the empire he now rules over, it is clear the emperor has no clothes.

Op-ed / Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

‘Retail Apocalypse’ Causing More Than 3,500 Stores to Close: What You’re Not Being Told

Wed, 2017-09-20 17:02

(ANTIMEDIA) In the latest blow to traditional retail sales, this week Toys R’ Us filed for bankruptcy, following in the footsteps of an increasing number of other brick-and-mortar chains. But the giant toy outfitter is not the only company suffering losses, as a recent report from Clark.com, a consumer analysis site details.

Though separate statistics show that more stores will open in 2017 than will close, the type of stores making gains suggests frugality is the norm U.S. consumers amid a continuously harsh economy.

Clark.com compiled a list of retail stores that announced closures of physical shops this summer. Sears said at the end of August that “in fiscal year 2017, [they] have closed approximately 180 stores previously announced for closure, and an additional 150 stores previously announced for closure are expected to be closed by the end of the third quarter of 2017.” They will also be closing 28 K-Mart locations, citing a desire to change their business model so “the physical store footprint and [their] digital capabilities match the needs and preferences of our members.”

Vitamin World filed for bankruptcy last week and plans to close 51 of 334 stores, which are located mostly in malls; Gap said in a press release earlier this month it will close 200 Gap and Banana Republic stores (and open 270 Old Navy shops); Perfumania filed for bankruptcy in August, moving to close 64 of 226 stores; Starbucks announced at the end of July it will close all of its 379 Teavana shops by next year; Gymboree plans to close roughly 350 stores following its bankruptcy in June; True Religion filed for bankruptcy in July and moved to close 27 stores; the Ascena Retail Group, parent company of Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, Justice, and other chains, announced in June it would shutter over 250 stores by 2019 (in addition to the 71 it had already closed this year). The group noted they could close up to a total of 667 of their 4,500 various locations.

The summer trend follows even more closures in 2017 — in March, Business Insider noted roughly 3,500 stores would shut down this year. Macy’s revealed plans to shut down 68 locations in January, J.C. Penney announced it would close 138 stores back in March, and Abercrombie and Fitch told investors it planned to close 60 locations, bringing the total closed to 169. Other retailers closing stores are Bebe, Guess, Crocs, Guess, American Apparel (which has filed for bankruptcy twice), RadioShack, Staples, CVS, and Gamestop.

Wet Seal and Limited are closing all or nearly all of their locations this year.

Many blame Amazon and the popularity of online retail, especially amid the general collapse of America’s once prominent shopping malls, and the news media has repeatedly sounded the alarm of the “retail apocalypse.”

But a recent report from the IHL Group, a global retail and hospitality analysis and advisory firm, argues there is no retail apocalypse. Rather, they contend, customer preferences are simply shifting. In “Debunking the Retail Apocalypse,” the analysts point out that more major retailers and restaurants are opening 4,080 more stores than they are closing this year.

Nevertheless, many of the closing stores have been mainstays of American retail culture for decades, and those finding the most success are focused on budget pricing. Stores like the Dollar Tree are making major gains, a trend also reflected in Gap’s decision to close their more expensive stores, including Banana Republic, to focus on Old Navy, which offers a much lower price point.

As the IHL report notes, “According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, since 1996, overall inflation in core consumer goods and services has averaged 55% over the 20 year period of 1996-2016.

Prices on college tuition and textbooks have gone up 200%. Costs have increased for child care (125%) healthcare (120%), food and beverage (65%), and housing (60%). In contrast, products like cell phone services, TVs, toys, and software have become cheaper.

IHL explains that “products and services that are more likely to be considered as necessities have grown significantly in costs over the last 20 years and items that are typically in the luxury category have gone down in price.

In a vacuum, these prices don’t tell us much,” they explain. “However, when compared with income growth over the same period we can see that a much higher percentage of consumers cannot keep up with inflation, thus are shopping more at lower cost retailers and less at higher image/brand stores.

IHL notes that 40% of Americans have not been able to keep up with inflation, and as a result, the higher costs for basic necessities have affected their shopping habits. So has student loan debt, the decline of the middle class, the growth of e-commerce, and the fact that large retailers have prioritized store expansion over customer experience.

Considering the economic situation, it’s unsurprising that the types of businesses opening the most chains are mass merchants — like Target, Wal-Mart and Dollar General — and convenience stores. IHL also notes that 2,026 fast food stores opened this year. Interestingly, more cosmetics stores are opening than closing (cosmetics become more popular when economic times are tough).

Ultimately, IHL notes, retail sales are up $121.5 billion from July 2016. However, Americans are carrying roughly $1 trillion in credit card debt against very little savings. While total retail sales may be growing, those making profits and finding success are doing so amid a climate of overall economic decline. While the “retail apocalypse” may not have come to total fruition, Americans’ financial futures certainly seem to be on the downturn.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

The White House Is Secretly Planning for Confrontation with Iran: Report

Wed, 2017-09-20 15:04

(ANTIMEDIA)  As Donald Trump takes to the U.N. General Assembly to demonize Iran yet again, the Trump administration is also considering a more aggressive strategy towards Iran behind closed doors, sources have told Reuters.

According to six current and former U.S. officials, the U.S. will be looking at more hostile responses to Iran’s forces, its proxy armies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups.

According to the sources, the current proposal was drafted by Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security advisor General H.R. McMaster, and several other top officials before it was presented to President Trump at a National Security Council meeting on September 9.

The proposal will ultimately be made public before the end of September, two of the sources said. The sources requested anonymity because the draft proposal had not yet been finalized.

“I would call it a broad strategy for the range of Iranian malign activities: financial materials, support for terror, destabilization in the region, especially Syria and Iraq and Yemen,” said a senior administration official, as quoted by Reuters.

Without giving specific details, sources said the current draft proposal seeks to do the following: (1) target cyber espionage and nuclear proliferation; (2) provide for more aggressive U.S. interceptions of Iranian arms shipments heading to places such as Yemen and Gaza (even though U.N. experts confirmed earlier this year that they could find no evidence of a large-scale Iranian weapons supply line to Yemen); (3) react more aggressively in Bahrain (presumably, to prop up the government in the face of Shia-led unrest) as the country’s Sunni Muslim monarchy has been suppressing its majority Shia population, a move that continues to anger Iran; and most importantly (4) allow U.S. naval forces to react more forcefully when harassed by armed speedboats operated by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Funnily enough, many of the encounters taking place between U.S. ships and Iranian ships are arguably within Iranian waters. Who is harassing who, exactly?

According to Reuters’ sources, this proposal will not include an escalation of U.S. military activity in Syria and Iraq. However, anyone who has been paying close attention to the current conflict in Syria and Iraq knows the U.S. will have to take concrete military action if it intends to meaningfully oppose Iranian-backed forces in the two countries. Despite this, Reuters’ sources said Mattis and McMaster have not allowed U.S. military generals on the ground to act forcefully against the Iranian-allied militia inside Syria, including Hezbollah and the IRGC.

According to Reuters, one of the officials even said Iranian-backed groups had been “very helpful” in recapturing territories from ISIS since it declared its caliphate in 2014.

In that context, does the Trump administration’s distaste for Iran make any sense, given Iran is enemy number one for ISIS and its proxies are some of the most effective fighting forces against the terror group?

Regarding the fate of the nuclear accord signed in 2015, Donald Trump recently said:

“You’ll see what I’m going to be doing very shortly in October…But I will say this, the Iran deal is one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen, certainly at a minimum, the spirit of the deal is just atrociously kept. But the Iran deal is not a fair deal to this country. It’s a deal that should have never ever been made. And you’ll see what we’re doing in a couple of weeks.”

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‘Genocidal’ Trump Blasted for Threatening to Kill 25 Million North Koreans

Wed, 2017-09-20 12:21
“Reminder,” says one critic of president’s speech to UN General Assembly: “threatening to kill 25 million North Koreans because you don’t like their leader is threatening to commit genocide.”

(COMMONDREAMS— For what he said — and also for what he refused to mention — President Donald Trump was lampooned by progressive critics as he delivered his first ever speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Tuesday morning.

While castigating Iran and Venezuela as failed and destabilizing regimes and threatening to “totally destroy North Korea” if he thinks necessary, Trump acknowledged nothing about the misery sowed by U.S. foreign policy around the world.

For many critics, Trump’s war-mongering and bellicosity—though a bone to his domestic right-wing base—are enormously counter-productive in terms of reducing global threats and geopolitical tensions.  As Vox reporter Matt Yglesias put it, “If you want to know why [North Korea] wants a nuclear deterrent, just read Trump’s speech.”

In a joint statement following Trump’s speech, MoveOn.org, CREDO Action, and Win Without War blasted the remarks:

Donald Trump’s first speech to the United Nations General Assembly today – and in particular, his remarks about North Korea – was nothing short of a complete failure of American leadership. Instead of focusing on efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis surrounding its nuclear program, Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea.”

It’s time for this charade to end: We need to stop this slow roll toward a catastrophic war, and work towards defusing the North Korean crisis diplomatically. Trump’s U.N. speech represents yet another reckless escalation in the ongoing tit-for-tat between North Korea and the United States that does nothing but edge us closer to nuclear war.

“The choice is clear,” the groups concluded, “either we let Trump’s incompetence and bellicosity drive us into a destructive conflict potentially more devastating than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, or we can focus our efforts on negotiation. The United States and its allies and partners must immediately move toward easing tensions on the Korean peninsula diplomatically, and work toward ending this conflict peacefully. The fate of the region and the world depend on it.”

On social media, the president’s critics were swift with their appraisals and condemnation:

.@POTUS's #UNGA speech is the opposite of diplomacy. He threatened #NorthKorea, attacked the #IranDeal & ignored our allies

— Win Without War (@WinWithoutWar) September 19, 2017

Peace can only be achieved with justice, equality & accountability, not threats and escalations. President Trump is a threat to peace. #UNGA

— JewishVoiceForPeace (@jvplive) September 19, 2017

Trump threatened to "totally destroy North Korea." This is reckless & irresponsible. War would kill millions & wreck the world economy #UNGA

— Win Without War (@WinWithoutWar) September 19, 2017

Reminder: threatening to kill 25 million North Koreans because you don't like their leader is threatening to commit genocide.

— Carlos Maza (@gaywonk) September 19, 2017

Pretty obvious @realDonaldTrump could care less how this plays with the rest of the world, only how it is loved by his most rightwing base https://t.co/klotieNJs7

— Charles Idelson (@cidelson) September 19, 2017

.@realDonaldTrump trashes #Venezuela, w an elected govt, but says nothing about repressive #Honduras coup govt.

— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) September 19, 2017

.@realDonaldTrump is a danger to humanity. His plans to attack North #Korea, #Iran and #Venezuela must be stopped. #UNGA2017

— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) September 19, 2017

By Jon Queally / Creative Commons / Common Dreams / Report a typo

This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Anti-Media editorial policy.

Petrodollar Under Attack

Wed, 2017-09-20 11:30

(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed)  Once upon a time, the U.S. dollar was backed by the gold standard in a framework that established what was known as the Bretton-Woods agreement, made in 1944. The dollar was fixed to gold at a price of $35 an ounce, though the dollar could earn interest, marking one notable difference from gold.

The system ended up being short-lived, as President Richard Nixon announced that the U.S. would be abandoning the gold standard in 1971. Instead, the U.S. had other plans for the future of global markets.

As the Huffington Post has explained, the Nixon Administration reached a deal with Saudi Arabia:

“The essence of the deal was that the U.S. would agree to military sales and defense of Saudi Arabia in return for all oil trade being denominated in U.S. dollars.”

This system became known as the Petrodollar Recycling system because countries like Saudi Arabia would have to invest excess profits back into the U.S. It didn’t take long for every single member of OPEC to start trading oil in U.S. dollars.

A little-known economic theory, rejected by the mainstream, stipulates that Washington’s stranglehold over financial markets can be at least partially explained by the fact that all oil exports are conducted in transactions involving the U.S. dollar. This relationship between oil and currency arguably gives the dollar its value, as this paradigm requires all exporting and importing countries to maintain a certain stock of U.S. dollars, adding to the dollar’s value. As Foreign Policy – a magazine that rejects the theory – explains:

“It does matter slightly that the trade typically takes place in dollars. This means that those wishing to buy oil must acquire dollars to buy the oil, which increases the demand for dollars in world financial markets.”

The term “those wishing to buy oil” encompasses almost every single country that does not have an oil supply of its own – hardly a trivial number. An endless demand for dollars means an endless supply, and the United States can print as much paper as it wants to account for its imperial ambitions. No other country in the world can do this.

In 2000, Iraq announced it would no longer use U.S. dollars to sell oil on the global market. It adopted the euro, instead, which was no easy decision to make. However, by February 2003, the Guardian reported that Iraq had netted a “handsome profit” after making this policy change. Anyone who rejects this petrodollar theory should be able to answer the following question: if currency is not an important factor in America’s imperialist adventures, why was the U.S. so intent on invading a country (based on cold, hard lies), only to make it a priority to switch the sale of oil back to dollars? If they cared so much about Iraq and its people, as we were supposed to have believed, why not allow Iraq to continue netting a “handsome profit”?

In Libya, Muammar Gaddafi was punished for a similar proposal that would have created a unified African currency backed by gold, which would have been used to buy and sell African oil. Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails confirmed this was the main reason Gaddafi was overthrown, though commentators continue to ignore and reject the theory. Despite these denials, Clinton’s leaked emails made it clear that Gaddafi’s plan for the future of African oil exports was a priority for the U.S. and its NATO cohorts, more so than Gaddafi’s alleged human rights abuses. This is the same Hillary Clinton who openly laughed when Gaddafi was sodomized and murdered, displaying no regrets that she single-handedly plunged a very rich and prosperous nation into a complete state of chaos.

At the start of this month, Venezuela announced it would soon “free” itself from the dollar. Barely a week or so later, the Wall Street Journal reported that Venezuela had stopped accepting dollars for oil payments in response to U.S. sanctions. Venezuela sits on the world’s largest oil reserves. Donald Trump’s threats of unilateral military intervention — combined with the CIA’s admission that it will interfere in the oil-rich country — may make a lot more sense in this context.

Iran has also been using alternative currencies  — like the Chinese yuan — for some time now. It also shares a lucrative gas field with Qatar, which could be days away from ditching the dollar, as well. Qatar has reportedly already been conducting billions of dollars’ worth of transactions in the yuan. Just recently, Qatar and Iran restored full diplomatic relations in a complete snub to the U.S. and its allies. It is no surprise, then, that both countries have been vilified on the international stage, particularly under the Trump administration.

In the latest dig to the U.S. dollar and global financial hegemony, the Times of Israel reported that a Chinese state-owned investment firm has provided a $10 billion credit line to Iranian banks, which will specifically use yuan and euros to bypass U.S.-led sanctions.

Consider that in August 2015, then-Secretary of State John Kerry warned that if the U.S. walked away from the nuclear deal with Iran and forced its allies to comply with U.S.-led sanctions, it would be a “recipe, very quickly…for the American dollar to cease to be the reserve currency of the world.”

Iran, bound to Syria by a mutual-defense pact, was reportedly working to establish a natural gas pipeline that would run through Iraq and Syria with the aim of exporting gas to European markets, cutting off Washington and its allies completely. This was, of course, in 2009 — before the Syrian war began. Such a pipeline deal, now with Russia’s continued air support and military presence, could entail the emergence of a whole new market that could easily be linked to the euro, or any other currency for that matter, instead of the dollar.

According to Russian state-owned outlet RT, the Kremlin’s website announced Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has also instructed the government to approve legislation to ditch the U.S. dollar at all Russian seaports by next year.

Further, the Asia Times explains that Putin dropped an enormous “bombshell” at the recent BRICS summit in Xiamen early September, stating:

“Russia shares the BRICS countries’ concerns over the unfairness of the global financial and economic architecture, which does not give due regard to the growing weight of the emerging economies. We are ready to work together with our partners to promote international financial regulation reforms and to overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies.” [emphasis added]

According to the Asia Times author, the statement was code-speak for how BRICS countries will look to bypass the U.S. dollar as well as the petrodollar.

China is also on board with this proposal. Soon, China will launch a crude oil futures contract priced in Chinese yuan that will be completely convertible into gold. As reported by the Nikkei Asian Review, analysts have called this move a “game-changer” for the oil industry.

Both Russia and China have been buying up huge quantities of gold for some time now. Russia’s present gold reserves would back 27 percent of the narrow ruble money supply – far in excess of any other major country. The United States’ Federal Reserve admitted years ago that they haven’t held any gold for a very long time.

China is also implementing a monumental project, known as the Silk Road project, which is a major push to create a permanent trade route connecting China, Africa, and Europe. One must wonder much control over these transactions will the U.S. have.

These are just a few of the latest developments that have affected the dollar.

Can those continue to reject this petrodollar-related theory answer the following questions with confidence: Is it a coincidence that all of the countries listed above as moving away from the dollar are long-time adversaries of the United States, including the ones that were invaded? Is it a coincidence that Saudi Arabia gets a free pass to commit a host of criminal actions as it complies with the global financial order? Are Saudi Arabia’s concerns with Qatar really rooted in the latter’s alleged funding of terror groups even though Saudi Arabia leads the world in funding the world’s most vile terror groups?

Clearly, there is something far more sinister at play here, and whether or not it is tied solely to a deranged, psychopathic currency warfare will remain to be seen. The evidence continues to show, however, that the U.S. dollar is slowly being eroded piece by piece and ounce by ounce — and that as these adversarial countries make these developments in unison, there appears to be little the U.S. can do without risking an all-out world war.

Op-ed / Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

The US Is Now Bombing Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria at Record Pace

Wed, 2017-09-20 10:50
Trump’s delegation to commanders means major escalation.

(ANTIWAR.COM) — Since taking office, President Trump has set two specific trends in US military operations across the Afghan and ISIS wars. He’s talked broad escalation, and he’s also granted an ever-growing level of autonomy to military commanders.

Unsurprisingly, this has had a broad impact on the way those wars have been fought, and at this point US airstrikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan are all at multi-year highs, with the former two seeing their highest level of strikes in the ISIS war, and Afghanistan at its highest since 2012.

Increased autonomy means less and less obstacles to attacks, and hence more and more attacks. The US seems to believe that more attacks would necessarily improved the wars, though in Afghanistan the situation has continued to worsen throughout this latest escalation.

Officials are claiming this has yielded “progress” in Iraq, though that appears to simply be a conclusion drawn because the US has progressive increased its airstrikes throughout a period in which Iraqi forces were already retaking territory.

By Jason Ditz / Republished with permission / ANTIWAR.COM / Report a typo

This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Anti-Media editorial policy.

5 Stories You’re Missing While Monster Hurricanes Cause a Media Frenzy

Tue, 2017-09-19 19:26

(ANTIMEDIA) Since the end of August, calamitous hurricanes have dominated the news cycle. From Harvey to Irma to Maria, which grew from a Category 1 to a Category 5 storm in just half a day, many people want to stay informed about the struggle and damage these natural disasters are leaving in their wake.

Unsurprisingly, the media’s obsessive focus on the disasters has not only jarred some residents trying to keep their families safe — it has also allowed other important developments to remain on the back burner.

Though these other stories have received some degree of attention in mainstream narratives, they haven’t received the extensive coverage they deserve. Here are five vital developments from the past few weeks that have taken a backseat to the drama and destruction of hurricanes:

1. Lawmakers approve $700 billion military budget with authorization for endless war

On Monday, an overwhelming majority of senators (89-8) approved the massive National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), totaling roughly $700 billion. It is $630 million above what the hawkish Trump administration proposed and was passed after lawmakers rejected an amendment from Senator Rand Paul to rescind the longstanding authorization for use of military force (AUMF) imposed in 2001, which has allowed the U.S. government to wage  “unlimited war, anywhere, anytime, any place upon the globe,” the senator said. In June, Paul also introduced an amendment to the “indefinite detention” provision of the NDAA, added in the 2012 version, that allows the military to imprison American citizens without trial. That bill, S.1300, was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary in June, and lawmakers have taken no further action.

2. Media ignores North Korea offers to negotiate

As Harvey gained steam at the end of August, a fresh wave of saber-rattling against North Korea also dominated media narratives, but an important detail was consistently left out. The Intercept pointed out in early September that outlets like the Washington Post have played up the North Korean threat while ignoring the reality that the North Korean regime has offered to negotiate on nuclear weapons if the U.S. drops their aggressive practices. From the Intercept:

“This is what the envoy, North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In Ryong, actually said, according to a transcript from North Korea’s UN Mission quoted in the AP article:

‘As long as the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat continue [emphasis added], the DPRK, no matter who may say what, will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiation table or flinch an inch from the road chosen by itself, the road of bolstering up the state nuclear force.

“There’s of course a significant difference between North Korea saying it will never negotiate to halt or eliminate its nuclear weapons program, and that it will never negotiate as long as the U.S. continues to threaten it.”

But the Washington Post and likes of MSNBC’s Brian Williams generally prefer to omit this vital detail, adopting Trump’s narrative and further fearmongering the American people into supporting endless war, which the Senate once again codified this week.

3. The establishment push for mass widespread of privacy continues into the Trump administration

Though outrage over government spying seemed to hit a crescendo after Edward Snowden’s revelations during the Obama years, the government has carried on in its practices. Though some minor concessions have been made to scale back the collection of data, the Trump administration — which previously bemoaned government surveillance against candidate Trump — has aggressively lobbied to keep empowering shadowy branches of the surveillance apparatus. As Anti-Media’s Derrick Broze reported last week, days before September 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats penned a letter to Congress urging them to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which operates under what is arguably a rubber stamp court and sweeps up the private data of American citizens in the process. Surveillance advocates have been pushing for this re-authorization for months, claiming it is vital to stop terrorism. Meanwhile, as many Americans continue to turn a blind eye to mass surveillance, Apple has released a phone that will make it monumentally easier for law enforcement to spy on citizens.

4. American ally investigates itself for war crimes, finds no evidence of wrongdoing

Last week, nations like China and the Netherlands pushed for an investigation into well-documented Saudi war crimes in Yemen, where the Kingdom’s coalition is using American and British weapons to decimate the civilian population and vital infrastructures. Though the Saudis didn’t oppose such an investigation, they questioned the timing and, simultaneously, released the verdict of their own panel, which determined they had not committed any crimes and had merely made a few mistakes in their assault on the small, impoverished country. The Saudis’ conclusion came the same week as the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which candidate Trump insinuated were a result of Saudi plotting before selling them billions of dollars worth of war materials upon taking office. In an Orwellian twist, this week Trump blasted Iran for oppressing people, supporting terrorists, and committing violence — all traits of both the Saudis and their Western allies.

5. U.S. cops continue to abuse power, adopt military tactics

Trump’s executive order in late August that he would ease restrictions on cops’ ability to obtain military weaponry rightly gained a great deal of media attention, as did protests in St. Louis this weekend over the acquittal of a cop who, after a car chase, shot an unarmed black man to death after allegedly saying he was “going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it.” Less attention has been paid to other important developments concerning America’s police state. For one, Israeli security forces, who have a long history of human rights abuses, are currently training top American cops. From the Intercept:

This week, a delegation of top American law enforcement officers is in Israel for the ADL’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, which includes training on topics such as “leadership in a time of terror” and “balancing the fight against crime and terrorism,” according to literature by the group advertising the trip. More than 200 law enforcement executives from over 100 departments in the U.S. and abroad, immigration enforcement agencies, and even campus police have participated in the ADL program since it launched in 2004.”

Though this is not new, it is continuous and particularly concerning in an age where cops continue to evade accountability for violence in the streets even when they are charged with crimes. Further still, in the weeks since the hurricane hysteria began, U.S. police officers have continued to use wanton violence. They’ve also continued to face allegations of sexual abuse, another ongoing pattern (see: hereherehereherehere, and here for instances where cops have been implicated in sexual assault over the last few weeks).

Are hurricanes dangerous and newsworthy? Certainly. Are endless war, media manipulation of reality to favor militarism, institutional spying, war crimes, and aggressive cops also dangerous and newsworthy? Certainly. Though these stories haven’t been outright buried, they have not received the amount of attention they deserve, leaving Americans endlessly mired in a pit of sensationalism, fears of external threats, and establishment-approved narratives.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

US Establishes First Permanent Military Base in Israel as Tensions With Iran Rise

Tue, 2017-09-19 10:45
Israeli General Tzvika Haimovitch, the head of Israel’s Aerial Defense Command, says the move is historic and proves US “strategic commitment.”

(ANTIWAR.COM— For the first time ever, the United States has established a permanent military base in the nation of Israel, a small air defense base set up inside Israel’s Mashabim Air Base, in the nation’s Negev Desert.

Israeli Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, the head of Israel’s Aerial Defense Command, said it was an historic move, and proves America’s “strategic commitment” to support Israel. He added it would allow for an improvement in interception operations.

The US, of course, has already made deep commitments to supporting Israel militarily into the future, irrespective of the costs. The establishment of the base, however, makes America’s commitment even more overt, and likely more long-lasting.

Though Brig. Gen. Haimovich declined to say if this meant US forces would participate in Israeli combat operations in the future, he said it was “much more significant than that” simply to have a presence of US soldiers in the country. Exact sizes aren’t clear, but estimates are that several dozen US soldiers will remain at the base.

By Jason Ditz / Republished with permission / ANTIWAR.COM / Report a typo

 This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Anti-Media editorial policy.

Researchers Connect a Human Mind to the Internet for the First Time Ever

Tue, 2017-09-19 09:26

(ANTIMEDIA) – Have you ever thought about whether future humans will live out aspects of their lives online in simulated environments, or even extend their natural lifespans by uploading their minds to a secure cloud ecosystem? It’s been a familiar idea in science fiction for decades. With news that Elon Musk was attempting to build a “neural lace,” the concept of a brain-machine interface (BMI) entered the public lexicon. Now, researchers at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, claim to have linked a human mind to the Internet in real time — a biomedical first.

The project, dubbed the “Brainternet,” required the researchers to gather EEG brainwave signals using only an Emotiv EEG device and a simple Raspberry Pi computer. The experiment allowed the human brain to become an information node in the Internet of Things (IoT).

The experiment’s supervisor, Adam Pantanowitz, described it this way:

“Brainternet is a new frontier in brain-computer interface systems. There is a lack of easily understood data about how a human brain works and processes information. Brainternet seeks to simplify a person’s understanding of their own brain and the brains of others. It does this through continuous monitoring of brain activity as well as enabling some interactivity.”

Researchers say the project could provide valuable information for future deep learning algorithms and could even assist Musk’s endeavors in creating true BMI. Many futurists believe that as the impact and everyday importance of the Internet grows, it is inevitable that humans will merge the physical world with online virtual environments, ushering in a generation of enhanced augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and a synthesis of the two that some call Mixed Reality.

While the concept of “living” on the Internet may seem remote, we are in many ways already cyborgs dependent on the web and artificial intelligence. Linking our brains to an online “hive mind” may ultimately prove to be the most efficient way humans can both receive and transmit information, though concerns over surveillance and privacy will likely follow us all the way through the century.

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After Failing to Prosecute Bankers, Obama Is Raking in $400,000 per Wall Street Speech

Tue, 2017-09-19 08:49
The former president is reportedly raking in $400,000 per speech to massive financial firms.

(COMMONDREAMS) — Less than a year has passed since he departed from the White House, and former President Barack Obama has already joined the “well trod and well paid” Wall Street speaking circuit, a decision many argued will negatively impact the Democratic Party’s credibility as it attempts to fashion a message around taking on corporate monopolies, tackling income inequality, and loosening the insurance industry’s control over the American healthcare system.

According to a Bloomberg report published Monday, Obama has in the last month delivered two speeches to massive financial firms—Northern Trust Corp and the Carlyle Group—for around $400,000 a pop, and he is slated to attend a three-day conference hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald next week, for which he will make another $400,000.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced a wave of intense criticism following her paid speeches to Wall Street during the 2016 presidential campaign, and later conceded that they weren’t politically wise.

Obama, however, doesn’t appear to harbor any concerns about the political impact his speeches may have—a fact that could be problematic for the Democratic Party, Bloomberg‘s Max Abelson notes.

“While he can’t run for president, he continues to be an influential voice in a party torn between celebrating and vilifying corporate power,” Abelson writes. “His new work with banks might suggest which side of the debate he’ll be on.”

News of Obama’s decision to “cash in” following his eight-year presidency drew significant ire, particularly given his administration’s failure to enact sufficient structural changes to the financial system following the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

As Abelson observes, Obama’s “Justice Department prosecuted no major bankers for their roles in the financial crisis, and he resisted calls to break up the biggest banks, signing a regulatory overhaul that annoyed them with new rules but didn’t stop them from pulling in record profits.”

Responding to Bloomberg‘s report, a Twitter user asked Ryan Cooper, national correspondent for The Week, what a person could do in order to receive $400,000 for a single speech.

Cooper responded with a two-step plan:

1) become president
2) do not enforce laws against securities or mortgage fraud https://t.co/HKjYrTQzqk

— ryan cooper (@ryanlcooper) September 18, 2017

Others reacted similarly to the former president’s lucrative speeches, noting that given Obama’s continued power over the direction of the Democratic Party—which was demonstrated in his successful push for former Labor Secretary Tom Perez to become chair of the Democratic National Committee over Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)—is reason enough for him to abandon the Wall Street circuit.

This quote from Revolving Door Project's @jeffhauser points to why these speeches will be an ongoing issue for Dems. pic.twitter.com/TMqAGmYeoz

— Andrew Kreighbaum (@kreighbaum) September 18, 2017

“This is a really crappy thing to do to the people who poured their hearts into his campaigns and administration,” concluded Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute. “Hillary Clinton publicly talking about why she lost [the 2016 election] is far healthier than private speeches to the Carlyle Group.”

For investigative journalist Nomi Prins, Obama’s Wall Street speeches are indicative of the deep, inescapable influence the nation’s largest financial institutions exert over political discussion and policy in the United States.

“Wall Street knows no party,” Prins concluded.

By Jake Johnson / Creative Commons / Common Dreams / Report a typo

This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Anti-Media editorial policy.

Island of Dominica ‘Devastated’ After Taking Direct Hit From Category 5 Hurricane Maria

Tue, 2017-09-19 01:34
Monster storm slams into Dominica as it carves a path of destruction toward the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean islands still recovering from Hurricane Irma.

(ANTIMEDIA) — Hurricane Maria made landfall Monday night around 9:15 p.m. local time on the small Caribbean island of Dominica as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds over 160 mph. The storm grew from a Category 1 to Category 5 hurricane in only 20 hours, which may be the fastest strengthening on record.

I'm sorry, but THIS. IS. INSANE. Hurricane Maria was a CAT 1 storm this AM…and now strengthened to a Category 5! This is less than a DAY! pic.twitter.com/jxWakzznSD

— Lindsey Slater (@LindseySlaterTV) September 19, 2017

Dominica has experienced at least 3 hours of sustained winds of 260 KM/H with gusts in excess of 315KM/H. https://t.co/jNAuQUhyHJ

— TTWeatherCenter (@TTWeatherCenter) September 19, 2017

The influence of #Dominica's terrain on #Maria's track evident following #radar #eye during passage. Subtle W then NNW bend on island apex. pic.twitter.com/MHSGjK4veK

— Philippe Papin (@pppapin) September 19, 2017

Hurricane Maria is moving west northwest at about 10 mph and has its sights on Guadeloupe next, a French territory, and then Montserrat, a British territory. The storm is expected to hit the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a Category 4 or 5 hurricane on Wednesday, according to the latest public advisory. In anticipation of catastrophic flooding, the U.S. Coast Guard is preparing for search-and-rescue missions.

Forecasters warn of “potentially life-threatening” storm surges that could raise water levels by up to nine feet while bringing 10 to 15 inches of rain across the islands, with even more in isolated areas.

¡Impresionante! Animación muestra cómo el #Huracán #Maria Cat. 5 toca tierra en #Dominica. Vía NOAASatellitePA: pic.twitter.com/ndVElDsEC9

— Frenesi Radio (@frenesiradio) September 19, 2017

The prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, used his Facebook account to describe, in real time, his own rescue from his damaged home on the island.

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My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane. House is flooding.

Posted by Roosevelt Skerrit on Monday, September 18, 2017

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I have been rescued.

Posted by Roosevelt Skerrit on Monday, September 18, 2017

“My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains,” he wrote after being rescued.

Hurricane Maria is the first Category 5 hurricane to hit the island of Dominica in recorded history.

Roosevelt Skerrit then spoke to TeleSUR about the devastation:

“Please tell the world that Dominica has been devastated … In the morning we will know how many dead there are … We were brutally hit.”

https://www.facebook.com/SupportRooseveltSkerrit/posts/999579703517217

President Donald Trump has already declared states of emergency in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. If Hurricane Maria sustains its current strength, it could be the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in 85 years.

Hurricane warnings remain in effect for:

  • Dominica
  • Guadeloupe
  • Montserrat
  • St Kitts & Nevis
  • US Virgin Islands
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Puerto Rico
  • Culebra
  • Vieques

Between now and Thursday, the US National Hurricane Center predicts rainfall totals across the Caribbean to be:

  • Central and southern Leeward Islands: 10 to 15 inches (25-38cm), isolated 20 inches (50cm).
  • US and British Virgin Islands: 10 to 15 inches, isolated 20 inches.
  • Puerto Rico: 12 to 18 inches, isolated 25 inches.
  • Northern Leeward Islands from Barbuda to Anguilla: 4 to 8 inches, isolated 10 inches.
  • Windward Islands and Barbados: 2 to 4 inches, isolated 6 inches.
  • Eastern Dominican Republic: 4 to 8 inches, isolated 12 inches.

Now that the storm is back over open water, Maria’s eyewall is quickly reorganizing.

Hurricane #Maria's eyewall is quickly reorganizing over open water. Now passing just SW of #Guadeloupe. #HurricaneMaria #Dominica pic.twitter.com/wbJap7M4gI

— Mike Hamernik (@MikeHamernik) September 19, 2017

The National Hurricane Center has just given a video update on the “potentially catastrophic” Hurricane Maria as it approaches Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Watch on #Periscope: Live update from NHC on Hurricane Maria https://t.co/tPOIQ3J64I

— Natl Hurricane Ctr (@NWSNHC) September 19, 2017

The fate of Dominica, home to 72,000 people, is currently unknown.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Happy Birthday CIA: 7 Truly Terrible Things the Agency Has Done in 70 Years

Mon, 2017-09-18 20:26

(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) — On Monday, President Trump tweeted birthday wishes to the Air Force and the CIA. Both became official organizations 70 years ago on September 18, 1947, with the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947.

After spending years as a wartime intelligence agency called the Office of Strategic Services, the agency was solidified as a key player in the federal government’s operations with then-President Harry Truman’s authorization.

In the seventy years since, the CIA has committed a wide variety of misdeeds, crimes, coups, and violence. Here are seven of the worst programs they’ve carried out (that are known to the public):

  1. Toppling governments around the world — The CIA is best known for its first coup, Operation Ajax, in 1953, in which it ousted the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, reinstating the autocratic Shah, who favored western oil interests. That operation, which the CIA now admits to waging with British intelligence, ultimately resulted in the 1979 revolution and subsequent U.S. hostage crisis. Relations between the U.S. and Iran remain strained to this day, aptly described by the CIA-coined term “blowback.”

But the CIA has had a hand in toppling a number of other democratically elected governments, from Guatemala (1954) and the Congo (1960) to the Dominican Republic (1961), South Vietnam (1963), Brazil (1964), and Chile (1973). The CIA has aimed to install leaders who appease American interests, often empowering oppressive, violent dictators. This is only a partial list of countries where the CIA covertly attempted to exploit and manipulate sovereign nations’ governments.

  1. Operation Paperclip — In one of the more bizarre CIA plots, the agency and other government departments employed Nazi scientists both within and outside the United States to gain an advantage over the Soviets. As summarized by NPR:

The aim [of Operation Paperclip] was to find and preserve German weapons, including biological and chemical agents, but American scientific intelligence officers quickly realized the weapons themselves were not enough.

They decided the United States needed to bring the Nazi scientists themselves to the U.S. Thus began a mission to recruit top Nazi doctors, physicists and chemists — including Wernher von Braun, who went on to design the rockets that took man to the moon.

They kept this plot secret, though they admitted to it upon the release of Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists To America by Annie Jacobsen. In a book review, the CIA wrote that “Henry Wallace, former vice president and secretary of commerce, believed the scientists’ ideas could launch new civilian industries and produce jobs.” 

They praised the book’s historical accuracy, noting “that the Launch Operations Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, was headed by Kurt Debus, an ardent Nazi.” They acknowledged that “General Reinhard Gehlen, former head of Nazi intelligence operations against the Soviets, was hired by the US Army and later by the CIA to operate 600 ex-Nazi agents in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany.”

Remarkably, they noted that Jacobsen “understandably questions the morality of the decision to hire Nazi SS scientists,” but praise her for pointing out that it was done to fight Soviets. They also made sure to add that the Soviets hired Nazis, too, apparently justifying their own questionable actions by citing their most loathed enemy.

  1. Operation CHAOS — The FBI is widely known for its COINTELPRO schemes to undermine communist movements in the 1950s and anti-war, civil rights, and black power movements in the 1960s, but the CIA has not been implicated nearly as deeply because, technically, the CIA cannot legally engage in domestic spying. But that was of little concern to President Lyndon B. Johnson as opposition to the Vietnam war grew. According to former New York Times journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Tim Weiner, as documented in his extensive CIA historyLegacy of Ashes, Johnson instructed then-CIA Director Richard Helms to break the law:

In October 1967, a handful of CIA analysts joined in the first big Washington march against the war. The president regarded protesters as enemies of the state. He was convinced that the peace movement was controlled and financed by Moscow and Beijing. He wanted proof. He ordered Richard Helms to produce it.

Helms reminded the president that the CIA was barred from spying on Americans. He says Johnson told him: ‘I’m quite aware of that. What I want for you is to pursue this matter, and to do what is necessary to track down the foreign communists who are behind this intolerable interference in our domestic affairs…’

Helms obeyed. Weiner wrote:

In a blatant violation of his powers under the law, the director of central intelligence became a part-time secret police chief. The CIA undertook a domestic surveillance operation, code-named Chaos. It went on for almost seven years… Eleven CIA officers grew long hair, learned the jargon of the New Left, and went off to infiltrate peace groups in the United States and Europe.”

According to Weiner, “the agency compiled a computer index of 300,000 names of American people and organizations, and extensive files on 7,200 citizens. It began working in secret with police departments all over America.” Because they could not draw a “clear distinction” between the new far left and mainstream opposition to the war, the CIA spied on every major peace organization in the country. President Johnson also wanted them to prove a connection between foreign communists and the black power movement. “The agency tried its best,” Weiner noted, ultimately noting that “the CIA never found a shred of evidence that linked the leaders of the American left or the black-power movement to foreign governments.

  1. Infiltrating the media — Over the years, the CIA has successfully gained influence in the news media, as well as popular media like film and television. Its influence over the news began almost immediately after the agency was formed. As Weiner explained, CIA Director Allen Dulles established firm ties with newspapers:

Dulles kept in close touch with the men who ran the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the nation’s leading weekly magazines. He could pick up the phone and edit a breaking story, make sure an irritating foreign correspondent was yanked from the field, or hire the services of men such as Time’s Berlin bureau chief and Newsweek’s man in Tokyo.”

He continued:

It was second nature for Dulles to plant stories in the press. American newsrooms were dominated by veterans of the government’s wartime propaganda branch, the Office of War Information…The men who responded to the CIA’s call included Henry Luce and his editors at Time, Life, and Fortune; popular magazines such as Parade, the Saturday Review, and Reader’s Digest; and the most powerful executives at CBS News. Dulles built a public-relations and propaganda machine that came to include more than fifty news organizations, a dozen publishing houses, and personal pledges of support from men such as Axel Springer, West Germany’s most powerful press baron.”

The CIA’s influence had not waned by 1977 when journalist Carl Bernstein reported on publications with CIA agents in their employ, as well as “more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.”

The CIA has also successfully advised on and influenced numerous television shows, such as Homeland and 24 and films like Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, which push narratives that ultimately favor the agency. According to Tricia Jenkins, author of The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film & Televisiona concerted agency effort began in the 1990s to counteract negative public perceptions of the CIA, but their influence reaches back decades. In the 1950s, filmmakers produced films for the CIA, including the 1954 film adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Researchers Tom Secker and Matthew Alford, whose work has been published in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, say their recent Freedom of Information Act requests have shown that the CIA — along with the military — have influenced over 1,800 films and television shows, many of which have nothing to do with CIA or military themes.

  1. Drug-induced Mind control – In the 1950s, the CIA began experimenting with drugs to determine whether they might be useful in extracting information. As Smithsonian Magazine has noted of the MKUltra project:

The project, which continued for more than a decade, was originally intended to make sure the United States government kept up with presumed Soviet advances in mind-control technology. It ballooned in scope and its ultimate result, among other things, was illegal drug testing on thousands of Americans.”

Further:

The intent of the project was to study ‘the use of biological and chemical materials in altering human behavior,’ according to the official testimony of CIA director Stansfield Turner in 1977. The project was conducted in extreme secrecy, Turner said, because of ethical and legal questions surrounding the program and the negative public response that the CIA anticipated if MKUltra should become public.

Under MKUltra, the CIA gave itself the authority to research how drugs could:’ ‘promote the intoxicating effects of alcohol;’ ‘render the induction of hypnosis easier;’ ‘enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion;’ produce amnesia, shock and confusion; and much more. Many of these questions were investigated using unwitting test subjects, like drug-addicted prisoners, marginalized sex workers and terminal cancer patients– ‘people who could not fight back,’ in the words of Sidney Gottlieb, the chemist who introduced LSD to the CIA.

Further, as Weiner noted:

Under its auspices, seven prisoners at a federal penitentiary in Kentucky were kept high on LSD for seventy-seven consecutive days. When the CIA slipped the same drug to an army civilian employee, Frank Olson, he leaped out of the window of a New York Hotel.”

Weiner added that senior CIA officers destroyed “almost all of the records” of the programs, but that while the “evidence that remains is fragmentary…it strongly suggests that use of secret prisons for the forcible drug-induced questioning of suspect agents went on throughout the 1950s.

Years later, the CIA would be accused of distributing crack-cocaine into poor black communities, though this is currently less substantiated and supported mostly by accounts of those who claim to have been involved.

  1. Brutal torture tactics — More recently, the CIA was exposed for sponsoring abusive, disturbing terror tactics against detainees at prisons housing terror suspects. An extensive 2014 Senate report documented agents committing sexual abuse, forcing detainees to stand on broken legs, waterboarding them so severely it sometimes led to convulsions, and imposing forced rectal feeding, to name a few examples. Ultimately, the agency had very little actionable intelligence to show for their torture tactics but lied to suggest they did, according to the torture report. Their torture tactics led the International Criminal Court to suggest the CIA, along with the U.S. armed forces, could be guilty of war crimes for their abuses.
  2. Arming radicals — The CIA has a long habit of arming radical, extremist groups that view the United States as enemies. In 1979, the CIA set out to support Afghan rebels in their bid to defeat the Soviet occupation of the Middle Eastern country. As Weiner wrote, in 1979, “Prompted by Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter signed a covert-action order for the CIA to provide the Afghan rebels with medical aid, money, and propaganda.

As Weiner detailed later in his book:

The Pakistani intelligence chiefs who doled out the CIA’s guns and money favored the Afghan factions who proved themselves most capable in battle. Those factions also happened to be the most committed Islamists. No one dreamed that the holy warriors could ever turn their jihad against the United States.”

Though some speculate the CIA directly armed Osama bin Laden, that is yet to be fully proven or admitted. What is clear is that western media revered him as a valuable fighter against the Soviets, that he arrived to fight in Afghanistan in1980, and that al-Qaeda emerged from the mujahideen, who were beneficiaries of the CIA’s program. Stanford University has noted that Bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, a prominent Palestinian cleric, “established Al Qaeda from the fighters, financial resources, and training and recruiting structures left over from the anti-Soviet war.” Much of those “structures” were provided by the agency. Intentionally or not, the CIA helped fuel the rise of the terror group.

Weiner noted that as the CIA failed in other countries like Libya, by the late 1980s “Only the mujahideen, the Afghan holy warriors, were drawing blood and scenting victory. The CIA’s Afghan operation was now a $700-million-dollar-a-year-program” and represented 80% of the overseas budget of the clandestine services. “The CIA’s briefing books never answered the question of what would happen when a militant Islamic army defeated the godless invaders of Afghanistan,” though Tom Twetten, “the number two man in the clandestine service in the summer of 1988,” was tasked with figuring out what would happen with the Afghan rebels. “We don’t have any plan,” he concluded.

Apparently failing to learn their lesson, the CIA adopted nearly the exact same policy in Syria decades later, arming what they called “moderate rebels” against the Assad regime. Those groups ultimately aligned with al-Qaeda groups. One CIA-backed faction made headlines last year for beheading a child (though President Trump cut off the CIA program in June, the military continues to align with “moderate” groups).

Unsurprisingly, this list is far from complete. The CIA has engaged in a wide variety of extrajudicial practice, and there are likely countless transgressions we have yet to learn about.

As Donald Trump cheers the birthday of an agency he himself once criticized, it should be abundantly clear that the nation’s covert spy agency deserves scrutiny and skepticism — not celebration.

Op-ed / Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Icelandic Government Collapses After Plot to Pardon Pedophile Rapist Exposed

Mon, 2017-09-18 18:23

(ANTIMEDIA)  Iceland’s justice system has received praise in recent years for its successful prosecution of multiple bankers who helped bring on the 2008 financial crisis. Though some of those bankers have been released early from prison, the latest controversy in the country stems from an entirely different miscarriage of justice.

Last week, it emerged that Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson knew of attempts by his father, Benedikt Sveinsson, to have the Ministry of Justice grant “restored honor” to a convicted child rapist. Benediktsson kept this secret as the rapist, a friend of his father’s was essentially exonerated.

Restored honor is the controversial process by which convicted criminals can have their crimes expunged and return to society with all rights and privileges restored. It requires that the convicted person serve between two to five years of their sentence on their best behavior and that they have multiple letters of recommendation. Sveinsson provided one such letter.

The Reykjavik Grapevine, an English-language Icelandic outlet, reported on the recent case of “restored honor” on Thursday:

This information was kept hidden from the general public, despite repeated requests from the media, until a parliamentary committee ruled that the Ministry of Justice was legally obliged to disclose this information. The Prime Minister was aware of his father’s actions since at least last July, but said nothing.

In 2004, Hjalti Sigurjón Hauksson was convicted of raping his step-daughter almost daily for twelve years from the time she was five years old. Citing Stundin, another Icelandic outlet, the Grapevine summarized that Hauksson was granted restored honor last August.

The Ministry of Justice initially refused to disclose who had provided the letter of recommendation for the convicted rapist, but after a parliamentary committee pushed for full disclosure, the ministry revealed Sveinsson was responsible. However, after news of the secretive arrangement emerged last week, the prime minister’s father claimed Hauksson had penned the letter and asked him to sign it, also asserting he believes Hauksson is sorry for his crimes.

Hauksson’s victim called the decision to restore his honor “surreal.”

Exacerbating the controversy is the fact that Prime Minister Benediktsson reportedly knew about the letter to restore the rapist’s honor as far back as July of last year and said nothing. Further, the prime minister and the minister of justice, Sigríður Andersen, are members of the same political party — the Independence Party.

This scandal has reportedly brought down the government. The Guardian noted that “The Bright Future party said on its Facebook page that it had ‘decided to terminate cooperation with the government,’ effectively bringing down Bjarni Benediktsson’s administration barely nine months after it was formed.”

The Bright Future Party is one of three main parties, and their decision to break with the government will usher in the second “snap election” in a year. The Reform Party, the third major party, has also withdrawn support for the government, advocating a new vote.

According to the Grapevine, the incident has outraged not just the major political parties, but smaller ones, as well as the Icelandic public:

The Icelandic public has been in an uproar over the matter, and the opposition parties are gearing up to push back. Pirate Party MP Gunnar Hrafn Jónsson spoke with Grapevine on the matter, saying, ‘The opposition, and certainly the Pirate Party, will take this matter forward with great urgency. The nation is outraged and demands it.’”

This is not the first time a rapist has been granted restored honor in Iceland, and it aligns with similar instances in other countries where pedophiles have evaded accountability for their abuses with the help of people in power.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

US Sanctions Backfire: China Opens New Credit Line to Iran, Bypassing US Dollar

Mon, 2017-09-18 17:31

(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed)  Following the Trump administration’s move to target Iran with fresh sanctions while ending sanctions relief, China has come to Iran’s aid with an extraordinary gesture. According to the Times of Israel, the president of Iran’s central bank announced that a Chinese state-owned investment firm has provided a $10 billion credit line for Iranian banks.

The contract for this credit line was allegedly signed in Beijing between China’s CITIC investment group and a delegation of Iranian banks. The funds are intended to finance water, energy, and transport projects.

As the Times of Israel notes, Iran is “vital to China’s trade ambitions as it develops its trillion dollar ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy aimed at dramatically boosting its ties to Europe and Africa.”

The “One Belt, One Road” strategy is a major push by China to create a permanent trade route connecting China, Africa, and Europe. One wouldn’t know it from reading and watching the mass media, but China’s project is one of the reasons why the U.S. has targeted China and China’s allies so heavily recently. Anti-Media has covered this extensively (the mainstream media has almost all but refused to).

The credit line will use euros and yuan to bypass the U.S. dollar, just one of the latest blows the dollar has taken on the world stage in recent weeks. Iran has already been bypassing the dollar and using the yuan for some time now, and this latest move only appears to strengthen China and Iran’s increasingly cooperative relationship.

Despite what one might make of Iran’s actions towards its own people or in the Middle East, it was Iran that provided Syria with a billion-dollar credit line in an attempt to prevent Syria from experiencing a total collapse. Now that the U.S. may be winding up its desire to destroy Syria (having successfully destroyed as much of it as possible) and has turned its attention towards Iran, China has been the country to come to Iran’s financial aid.

According to Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hulai, Iran is days away from joining the so-called Shanghai security bloc, a military alliance led by China and Russia. China is already Iran’s biggest oil consumer and accounts for at least a third of Iran’s overall trade, the Times of Israel notes.

Iran is set to emerge as a major player in Asia and Europe in its desire to use its natural resources to help itself and these partnering nations to become very rich, very fast. Even American allies like AustriaFrance, and Germany want in on the share of Iran’s abundant resources and the projects it plans to implement. The United States is unilaterally preventing all of these countries from doing so under the guise of concerns about Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately for Donald Trump and his plans, China may end up providing Iran with a lifeline so all of these projects can be pursued in the meantime, even as the U.S. attempts to derail the Iranian nuclear deal, which has been working effectively.

It appears as though the rest of the world wants to get on with its financial ambitions, and the U.S. is the only country attempting to hold them back in a poor, desperate attempt to try to stay relevant and prevent its inevitable demise as an empire.

Op-ed / Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Nearly 1,000 US Troops in Syria Are Currently Under Attack by Russians

Mon, 2017-09-18 15:40

(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed)  According to the Guardian, an estimated 900 U.S. troops are embedded with Syrian opposition forces that are currently within strike range of the Russian military. Over the weekend, the U.S. military claimed Russian jets had struck Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) positions in Deir ez-Zor east of the Euphrates River. The attack allegedly wounded six of these SDF fighters, but no American personnel were harmed.

The attack came not long after these confident SDF fighters gave the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) a “red line” not to cross — the Euphrates River. According to Reuters, the SAA had already crossed it, anyway. Now that we know Russia is continuing to provide the SAA with air power as it advances throughout this oil-rich region, it is clear these increasing developments are capable of worsening conflict between the fighting powers.

According to Newsweek, the Russian Defense Ministry already warned its American counterparts about the operations it intended to undertake.

“To avoid unnecessary escalation, the command of the Russian troops in Syria revealed the boundaries of the military operation in Deir ez-Zor to the American partners through the existing communication channel,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Further, as quoted by Russian-state owned outlet RT, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said:

“Within the framework of this operation, the fighters, armored vehicles, and objects of terrorists are being destroyed on both western and eastern banks of the Euphrates.

At the same time, the Russian Air Force makes pinpoint strikes only on reconnaissance targets confirmed by several channels in IS-controlled areas.”

Konashenkov added:

“Over the past few days, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Russian control and reconnaissance facilities have not identified a single combat of Islamic State terrorists with armed representatives of any ‘third force.’ Therefore, only representatives of the international coalition can answer the question as to how ‘opposition members’ or ‘military advisers of the international coalition’ managed to get to the IS-held areas in the eastern part of Deir ez-Zor without striking a blow.”

Even the Guardian noted that the “march by the SDF aims to prevent Syrian troops and their allies from expanding their presence along the border with Iraq.” Unlike the United States, the Russian military was formally invited into Syria by the country’s government — the same government that retains a seat at the UN General Assembly. While conducting its operations, the Russian military is also not attempting to claim any Syrian territory for its own uses, but instead, is attempting to aid the current Syrian government in reclaiming its own territory. This is not to absolve Russia or Syria of their duty to protect civilians – but that’s how international law works (or was supposed to work).

The U.S. does not have a legal basis to operate within Syria; even former Secretary of State John Kerry has admitted as much.

Never letting the nuisance that is the law get in the way of the American military, it seems as though the U.S. may continue pursuing this strategy, which will ultimately bring the American air force and the Russian air force together to bomb the same territory with complete polar opposite intentions while supporting rival forces on the ground.

This is easily one of the biggest geopolitical events in recent times, taking place right under our very noses. Yet it is not even headline news on any of the corporate media outlets’ home pages right now (seriously, check for yourself).

Op-ed / Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Giant Coca-Cola Bottling Plant Sucks Wells Dry in Mexico, Causing Water Shortage

Mon, 2017-09-18 14:22

(ANTIMEDIA) — Soft drink giant Coca-Cola is mired in controversy over wells installed in Southern Mexico that are causing water shortages for local communities there, Truthout reports.

Nestled three miles from the Mexican municipality of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, lies San Felipe Ecatepec, an indigenous town currently experiencing water insecurity.  “In the past four years, our wells have started drying up,” says Juan Urbano, who has just come off a three-year term as the president of the Communal Territory of San Felipe Ecatepec. “People sometimes walk two hours a day to get water. Others have to buy their water.”

The missing water can be traced to a Coca-Cola bottling plant in between San Felipe and San Cristobal operated by FEMSA, a multinational beverage and retail company headquartered in Monterrey, Mexico. In 2016, the plant consumed over one million liters of water per day. As a result, urban development in the region has stalled.

Chiapas, which has the highest renewable water resources per capita in all of Mexico, currently has more than one in three people without safe drinking water. “We have been asking the government to install a deep well in the community for 12 years,” says Urbano. “We’ve gone to the municipal, state and federal governments, but they’ve done nothing.”

According to Article 115 of the Mexican constitution, the government is required to provide all municipalities with clean water and proper waste management, however, Mexican authorities have flouted their responsibilities. According to a study out of ECOSUR, a Mexican research university, salmonella is now an issue. In its research, ECOSUR found high levels of bacterial pathogens in the water, including coliforms, which indicate the presence fecal matter in the water.

The situation in Chiapas has also garnered global attention. Léo Heller, who serves as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, recounted his visit to Chiapas in a press conference held on May 12, during which he said the evidence collected builds a case against the state of Mexico. He believes Mexico is in direct violation of its own asserted human right to clean water and sanitation. There is also mounting pressure from public health organizations like El Poder del Consumidor (Consumer Power), which argues that soda consumption has contributed to Mexico’s rise in diabetes and obesity rates. A 2012 National Health and Nutrition survey claims diabetes is the leading cause of death in Mexico, affecting 13 million people. Another study found that one in six diabetes cases could be directly linked to soda consumption.

Community leaders in San Felipe Ecatepec will raise their grievances at the upcoming National Indigenous Congress, which highlights Indigenous issues, during Mexico’s presidential election set to take place next year.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo / Photo: Martha Pskowski

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