MintPress News Independent, non-partisan journalism Thu, 13 Aug 2020 15:44:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5 /wp-content/uploads/2018/02/cropped-MPN-Logo-32x32.jpg MintPress News 32 32 Watch: “Woke” Corporations Supporting Black Lives Matter Quietly Funding Police /watch-woke-corporations-supporting-black-lives-matter-quietly-funding-police/270387/ /watch-woke-corporations-supporting-black-lives-matter-quietly-funding-police/270387/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2020 15:38:13 +0000 /?p=270387 A report from the Public Accountability Initiative exposes how corporate America is bankrolling police departments across the country, including many of the same ones facing scrutiny over racist practices.

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JPMorgan Chase CEO Jaime Dimon very publicly took a knee outside a New York branch of his bank in early June, also circulating a memo declaring the financial institution’s supposed dedication to struggling against injustice. “Let us be clear — we are watching, listening and want every single one of you to know we are committed to fighting against racism and discrimination wherever and however it exists,” he and the company’s diversity chief wrote together.

In the wake of worldwide public outrage over racist police violence, many of the United States’ largest corporations rushed to publicly align themselves with the growing movement for black lives. Yet a new report from the Public Accountability Initiative exposes how corporate America is actually bankrolling police departments across the country, including many of the same ones facing scrutiny over racist practices.

 
Read more about corporations claiming to stand against injustice:

Feature photo | NYPD officers guard the JP Morgan Chase corporate headquarters on Park Avenue in New York on Oct. 28, 2011. John Minchillo | AP

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Anti-Laundering Bill Targeting Shell Companies Stalled in Senate as Big Banks Caught Cooking Books /key-anti-laundering-bill-stalled-senate-big-banks-caught-cooking-books/270378/ /key-anti-laundering-bill-stalled-senate-big-banks-caught-cooking-books/270378/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2020 21:36:48 +0000 /?p=270378 The Anti-Money Laundering Act would expose the owners of shell companies now sits alone on a shelf in the US Senate while the Federal Reserve shrugs its shoulders in the face of blatant manipulation by the too-big-to-fail banks.

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Money laundering and cooking the books are usually treated as separate things when discussing white collar crime, even though the latter is often the mechanism through which the former is carried out. In the world of corporate banking, hedge funds and the host of satellite market services that underpin the financialized economies of the U.S. and U.K., tax haven jurisdictions allow money flowing in from all sorts of highly profitable illicit activities, shell companies and brass plate trusts to become an asset on the books of massive institutions like JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, and HSBC; all of which have been embroiled in massive money laundering scandals.

Real account holders’ names escape regulatory scrutiny thanks to the anonymity the current rules of the game allow them to enjoy. But, that might soon come to an end if a bill passed by the House of Representatives makes it past the Senate. The Anti-Money Laundering Act was tucked inside the House’s version of the 2020 National Defense ization Act and mandates the creation of a “beneficial ownership” record which would force the public disclosure of any U.S.-based company’s ownership.

The thought of the real names behind the plethora of shell companies and other shady instruments of finance being exposed must have sent a shiver down the back of more than one Senator, because the bill has been excised from the Pentagon’s annual budget ization by the upper chamber, placing the proposed legislation in a state of limbo for the time being.

A beneficial ownership record would seriously curtail tax haven entities from operating in complete darkness, as they do now. The U.K. created its register in 2016 and Europe has been directed by Brussels to have one up and running by 2020. The legislation, which has earlier iterations known as the Illicit Cash Act and Corporate Transparency Act, was passed by a large majority in the lower house and reportedly has widespread support in the Senate, as well.

 

Transparency is too risky

Despite the already semi-opaque structure of the current bill, members of the Senate still want more. Unlike the U.K. version, which makes the data publicly available, the U.S. version would be controlled by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and only be accessible to law enforcement agencies.

The Senate Banking Committee has, reportedly already agreed on the bill’s language and only the funding source is a question mark, at this point. It is clear that the legislation has accrued momentum and will likely pass at some point. 42 Attorney Generals have urged the federal government to pass it and in June, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter in support to the Banking Committee.

As usual, the words sound very nice and a lot of people seem to be doing the right thing. But, history does not show a promising outcome. The measures put in place after 2008 in order to restrain the impulses of the “too-big-to-fail” financial institutions are being manipulated and, in some cases, completely ignored. Banks like JP Morgan Chase and HSBC – two of the biggest money launderers on earth – all seem to have a gentlemen’s understanding with the Federal Reserve about how the new rules are applied.

 

Gaming the system

After the crash of 2008, the Federal Reserve instituted so-called “stress tests” on banks and other financial institutions that had then been deemed “too big to fail”. A formal list has been compiled since 2011 and they are now called by their official designation, Global Systemically Important Financial Institutions (G-SIFIs).

These banks and insurers must report their levels of exposure to the Fed, which then assesses the need for more or less control over the institution’s financial activity or penalties through the results of a stress test (simulations run on their balance sheets). An annual stress test report is published by the Fed, which includes the capital requirements of each institution. But, it has now come to light that virtually all of the G-SIFI banks – JP Morgan Chase, HSBC and Deutsche Bank among others – have been cooking the books to fool the stress test in order to reduce their capital requirements.

A “bombshell” report by the American central bank reveals that the Fed is aware of the pattern being followed by the big banks to game the stress test; which they do by magically dropping their over-the-counter derivatives exposure by Trillions of dollars every fourth quarter and just as magically having it restored by the end of the following first quarter of the next auditing period. The practice, which seems to be tolerated by the Fed “as a legitimate means of reducing its capital requirements” makes a mockery of the entire point for stress testing, which is to mitigate systemic risk.

Feature photo | An activist displays a newspaper headlining the ‘Panama Papers’ revelations during a banking managers meeting, in Paris, France. Francois Mori | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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Podcast: The Beirut Explosion, Economic Terror and the Drumbeat of War Against Hezbollah /podcast-beirut-blast-economic-terror-drumbeat-of-war-against-hezbollah/270369/ /podcast-beirut-blast-economic-terror-drumbeat-of-war-against-hezbollah/270369/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2020 21:16:41 +0000 /?p=270369 Lebanese journalists Laith Marouf and Marwa Osman recount their experience living through the recent blast that destroyed much of Beirut, an explosion that not only occurred during a period of rapid economic decline but of increasing public outrage over corruption and Western sanctions that have squeezed Lebanon dry.

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Welcome to MintCast — an interview series featuring dissenting voices the establishment would rather silence– I’m your host Mnar Muhawesh Adley.

Lebanon is reeling from a blast that destroyed much of the capital Beirut on Tuesday, August 4. 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate in the city’s port is thought to have caught fire and exploded, killing at least 157 people and injuring thousands more. The blast, believed to be one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, destroyed much of the city and has left an estimated 300,000 people 德扑之星安卓手机版下载homeless.

Exploiting this tragedy are the usual suspects within Western media and government including the United States and Israel who are beating the drums of war as they try to blame Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah for the massive explosion.

Joining us today to discuss this and what this means for the region and world are two independent journalists and analysts who lived through the blast, Laith Marouf, and Marwa Osman.

Laith Marouf is a journalist, geopolitical analyst, and activist who has served as Canadian National Chair of the group, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights. He was the Executive Director of Concordia University Television in Montreal and currently lives in Beirut where he saw first hand the devastation caused by the August 4 explosion.

Marwa Osman is a lecturer at the Lebanese International University and Maaref University. She’s also the host of the MidEaStream broadcasted on Al-Etejah English Channel. Her writing focuses primarily on Middle Eastern issues and can be found in a wide range of outlets, including Press TV.  Like Marouf, Osman is a resident of Beirut.

The explosion could barely have come at a worse time for Lebanon, which is suffering through an economic meltdown, with a collapsing currency, rampant inflation, employment difficult to come by, and food becoming increasingly scarce. Worse still, the country’s Economy Minister Raoul Nehme confirmed that grain silos at the port, containing around 15,000 tons of wheat, were destroyed. As a result, the country has barely a few weeks of food in reserve.

Hospitals, already feeling the strain due to the worsening coronavirus outbreak, have been overwhelmed, and have been forced to turn away many arriving for urgently needed medical care. With the city destroyed, roads closed and vehicles upended, most of Beirut’s residents have had little option other than to stay where they are, begin to clean up, even as clouds of toxic fumes engulf the area.

The blast occurred in a context of rapid economic decline, increasing public outrage over corruption — including from Washington — and Western economic sanctions that have squeezed the country dry.

This program is 100 percent listener supported! You can join the hundreds of financial sponsors who make this show possible by becoming a member on our Patreon page.

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Please leave us a review and share this segment.

Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups.

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The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria? /the-politics-of-israel-endgame-in-lebanon-syria/270361/ /the-politics-of-israel-endgame-in-lebanon-syria/270361/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2020 19:15:46 +0000 /?p=270361 Israel’s strategic interests in the Syria conflict go beyond Netanyahu’s need for a cheap victory. The outcome of the Syria war has the potential of yielding a nightmare scenario for Israel.

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On August 4, hours before a massive explosion rocked the Lebanese capital, Beirut, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, issued an ominous warning to Lebanon.

“We hit a cell and now we hit the dispatchers. I suggest to all of them, including Hezbollah, to consider this,” Netanyahu said during an official tour of a military facility in central Israel.

Netanyahu’s warning did not bode well for Israel when, hours later, a Hiroshima-like blast devastated entire sectors of Beirut. Those who suspected Israeli involvement in the deadly explosion had one more reason to point fingers at Tel Aviv.

In politics and in war, truth is the first casualty. We may never know precisely what transpired in the moments preceding the Beirut blast. Somehow, it may not matter at all, because the narrative regarding Lebanon’s many tragedies is as splintered as the country’s political landscape.

Judging by statements and positions adopted by the country’s various parties and factions, many seem to be more concerned with exploiting the tragedy for trivial political gain than in the tragedy itself. Even if the explosion was the unfortunate outcome of an accident resulting from bureaucratic negligence, sadly, it is still inconsequential. In Lebanon, as in much of the Middle East, everything is political.

What is almost certain about the future, however, is that the political discourse will eventually lead back to Israel versus Hezbollah. The former is keen at undermining the group’s influence in Lebanon, while the latter is insistent on thwarting Israel’s plans.

But what is Israel’s plan anyway? After decades of trying to destroy the Lebanese group, the Israeli government is keenly aware that eradicating Hezbollah militarily is no longer feasible, certainly not in the foreseeable future. The Lebanese group has proven its prowess on the battlefield when it played a major role in ending the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in May 2000.

Subsequent Israeli attempts at reasserting its dominance on Lebanon’s southern border have, thus far, proven futile. The failed war of 2006 and the more recent conflagration of September 2019 are also two cases in point.

Hezbollah is uninterested in inviting another Israeli war on Lebanon, either. The country is on the verge of economic collapse, if it has not already collapsed.

While Lebanon has always been in the throes of political division and factionalism, the divisiveness of the current political mood in the country is more destructive than it has ever been. Losing hope in all political actors, the Lebanese people have taken to the street demanding basic rights and services, an end to the endemic corruption and a whole new social and political contract – unsuccessfully.

While stalemates in politics are somewhat ordinary occurrences, political deadlocks can be calamitous in a country on the brink of starvation. The Hiroshima-like cloud of explosives that shocked the world was a perfect metaphor for Lebanon’s seemingly endless woes.

Former Israeli Knesset member, Moshe Feiglin, was among many jubilant Israelis who celebrated the near-demise of the Arab city. Feiglin described the horrendous explosion as a ‘day of joy’, giving a ‘huge thank you to God. “If it was us,” meaning Israel being involved in the deadly explosion, “then we should be proud of it, and with that we will create a balance of terror.”

Regardless of whether Feiglin is speaking from a position of knowledge or not, his reference to ‘balance of terror’ remains the basic premise in all of Israel’s dealings with Lebanon, and Hezbollah, in particular.

The convoluted war in Syria has expanded Israel’s war of attrition, but has also given Israel the opportunity to target Hezbollah’s interests without registering yet another aggression on Lebanese territories. It is much easier to target war-torn Syria and escape unscathed rather than to target Lebanon and pay a price.

For years, Israel has bombed many targets in Syria. Initially, it was unforthcoming about its role. Only in the last year or so, it has begun to openly brag about its military conquests, but for a reason.   The embattled Netanyahu is desperate to gain political credits, as he is dogged by multiple corruption charges, which have tarnished his image. By bombing Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, the Israeli leader hopes to garner the approval of the military elite, a critical constituency in Israeli politics.

Netanyahu’s comments before the Beirut explosion were in reference to a series of incidents that began on July 21, when Israel bombed an area adjacent to the Damascus International Airport, killing, among others, a senior Hezbollah member, Ali Kamel Mohsen.

This incident placed Israel’s northern borders on alert. The state of emergency was coupled with massive political and media hype, which helped Netanyahu by distracting ordinary Israelis from his ongoing corruption trial.

But Israel’s strategic interests in the Syria conflict go beyond Netanyahu’s need for a cheap victory. The outcome of the Syria war has the potential of yielding a nightmare scenario for Israel.

For decades, Israel has argued that an ‘axis of terror’ – Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – had to be dismantled, for it represented Israel’s greatest security threat. That was long before pro-Iran forces and militias began operating overtly in Syria, as a result of the ongoing war.

While Israel argues that its recurring bombardment of Syria is aimed largely at Hezbollah targets – the group’s military cache and Iranian missiles on their way to Lebanon via Syrian territories – Israel’s war in Syria is largely political. As per Israeli logic, the more bombs Israel drops over Syria, the more relevant a player it will become when the conflicting parties engage in future negotiations to sort out the fate of that country.

However, by doing so, Israel also risks igniting a costly military conflict with Lebanon, one that neither Tel Aviv nor Hezbollah can afford at the moment.

Israeli policymakers and military planners must be busy trying to analyze the situation in Lebanon, to understand the best way to exploit Lebanon’s tragedy in order to advance Israel’s strategic interests.

The future of Lebanon is, once more, in the hands of war generals.

Feature photo | Israeli soldiers drive military vehicles during an exercise in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, Aug. 4, 2020. Ariel Schalit | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

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Former McCain Advisor and Iraq War Advocate Niall Ferguson Warns TikTok Is a Chinese Imperial Plot /niall-ferguson-warns-tiktok-chinese-imperial-plot/270349/ /niall-ferguson-warns-tiktok-chinese-imperial-plot/270349/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2020 18:45:33 +0000 /?p=270349 Ferguson argued that Tiktok is brainwashing 100 million mostly Generation Z Americans who use the platform into “becoming soldiers of Beijing’s new revolution.”

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Writing in Bloomberg, Niall Ferguson, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, warned that TikTok was not simply a popular Chinese-owned video app, but “Xi Jinping’s imperial panopticon,” and a “superweapon” for Chinese domination of the world. Ferguson applauded the Trump administration’s decision to force the company to sell up to an American corporation or face a complete ban within 45 days.

“TikTok is not just China’s revenge for the century of humiliation between the Opium Wars and Mao’s revolution. It is the opium — a digital fentanyl, to get our kids stoked for the coming Chinese imperium,” he claimed. Even more questionably, he argued that the service was already brainwashing the 100 million mostly Generation Z Americans who use the platform into becoming soldiers of Beijing’s new revolution. Unable to decide on a drug, Ferguson said that “like crack, TikTok is dangerous, adding that during the Chinese cultural revolution (1966-1976), “Chinese children denounced their parents for rightist deviance. In 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown and the Black Lives Matter protests, American teenagers posted videos of themselves berating their parents for racism. And they did it on TikTok.”

“If you doubt that China is seeking to take over empire 1.0 and turn it into empire 2.0, based on China’s illiberal civilization,” he concluded, “then you are not paying attention to all the ways this strategy is being executed.”

 

Mere deaths in “marginal countries

For somebody so apparently concerned with the threat of (Chinese) empire, Ferguson appears strangely supportive of American power. Indeed, in his biography of the U.S. the war planner, Henry Kissinger was called “The Idealist,” wherein he defended him against accusations of genocide, brushing the millions of Latin Americans and Asians killed as mere deaths in “marginal countries.” Thus, the former Oxford, Harvard and New York University professor is far from a principled anarchist or anti-war libertarian. Indeed, Ferguson has devoted his entire life to defending Western power. In “Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World,” he describes the British as “the world’s first liberal empire,” arguing that their empire was, “clearly was a force for good,” exporting “superior” forms of governance around the world. Western Africa, he contends, “clearly” benefited from French rule.

Niall Ferguson, far right, meets with Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, left, at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid Jan. 31, 2011. Paul White | AP

Meanwhile, in “Civilization: The West and the Rest,” he defends the Israeli occupation of Palestine on the grounds that Israelis are the superior civilization due to the greater number of patents registered in Israel. Ferguson, who served as an advisor to 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain, also continues to support the Iraq War and advocates for more intervention, claiming that, “if the effect of that is to bring people in that country economic and political freedom, to raise their standard of living, to increase their life expectancy, then don’t rule it out.”

 

“If you are ahead I will ban you”

Ferguson’s warnings echo those of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told Fox News that using the app would send Americans’ data straight to the Chinese Communist Party. (TikTok has strenuously denied that it works with the Chinese government, claiming that American users’ data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access). The Trump administration has also been pressurizing other countries to reject Huawei — another Chinese tech company — and its 5G infrastructure. This has produced mixed results; Boris Johnson’s U.K. government, moving increasingly closer to Trump, announced it would phase out Huawei by 2027. But Malaysian prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad rejected Washington’s orders out of hand, characterizing Trump as a bully: “If you are ahead I will ban you, I will send warships to your country…That is not competition, that is threatening people,” he said.

The U.S. government also funds a network of think-tanks that advise big media companies like Facebook and Twitter on how to spot and control the tide of fake news from fake accounts. Unsurprisingly, it is usually Washington’s enemies who get targeted. For instance, in June, a U.S.-backed think tank advised and ultimately succeeded in convincing Twitter to delete over 170,000 Chinese accounts on its platform.

While it is perfectly possible to be genuinely concerned about the motives of the Chinese state, particularly those in Kashmir, Tibet, Hong Kong or Xinjiang, the loudest voices in the public sphere not only don’t share the same concerns when it comes to the United States or its allies, they are very often directly in the service of empire itself. This suggests that the higher-ups in the State Department and academics like Ferguson may not be sounding the alarm about China’s rise out of a genuine concern for the freedom of the peoples of the world, but rather because they are worried about losing some degree of control over it.

Photo | Shutterstock

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Yemen: State Department Clears Bomb Peddler Pompeo of Wrongdoing in Civilian Deaths Investigation /yemen-state-department-clears-bomb-peddler-pompeo-wrongdoing-civilian-deaths-investigation/270338/ /yemen-state-department-clears-bomb-peddler-pompeo-wrongdoing-civilian-deaths-investigation/270338/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2020 18:21:02 +0000 /?p=270338 A report issued by the State Department's Inspector General found that US arms sales raise the possibility of civilians getting killed, but also finds that the guy who sells the guns, Mike Pompeo, did nothing wrong.

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It looks like the United States government is ready to move on from the internal squabble that erupted over an $8.1 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia and other client Arab states embroiled in the war on Yemen and continue the policy of arming and funding the Saudi-led coalition of anti-Houthi forces propping up the “internationally-recognized” government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

In a final report issued by the U.S. State Department’s Inspector General on the investigation into the arms deal that Congress requested in May of last year, Secretary of State Miko Pompeo was cleared of any wrongdoing for executing the multi-billion-dollar transaction, which according to the same unreleased report, “heightened the risk of civilian casualties” in a war that has claimed the lives of close to a quarter-million people, nearly half of them civilians.

Pompeo, who yesterday kicked off a five-day tour of Central Europe in the Czech Republic, washed his hands of the whole matter during a press conference in Prague. “We did everything by the book,” Pompeo told reporters and boasted about the “really good outcome” he claims resulted from flooding the war-torn country with more bombs before directly contradicting the Inspector General’s findings by asserting that the weapons deal had, in fact, “prevented the loss of lives.”

The arms deal, which Trump forced via executive privilege, has been at the center of the speculation over the recent firing of Inspector General Steve Linick, who had been conducting the inquiry into the arms sale in addition to other, direct allegations of abuse of power and corruption against Pompeo and his wife. With Linick gone and the IG’s final report admitting the obvious, yet failing to hold officials accountable, the State Department resumes destabilization efforts in the region by selling more war materiel to fuel the conflict in Yemen despite evidence that the guns and ammo aren’t going to the parties stipulated in the contract.

 

Lip service to peace

The war in Yemen began in the middle of Barack Obama’s second term in office as the administration was in the midst of negotiating the Iran nuclear deal. The price of getting the Saudis to “begrudgingly” go along with the Iran deal was to have the gulf state coalition’s back against the Yemeni insurgents, who had toppled the puppet regime of their country.

Since then, Obama-era aides and appointees like Middle East “point man,” Robert Malley, have lobbed some after-the-fact mea culpas and generally decried the escalating tensions in Yemen. But, like the Inspector General’s report, they are rhetorical tools designed for the extension of political careers and of little use to the suffering hordes of Yemenis who continue to be the victims of war crimes and are undergoing one of the worst refugee crises in history, with 3.6 million internally displaced and hundreds of thousands abroad.

The plight of the regular Yemeni citizen is captured in the sentiments of Labib Nasher, who was granted political asylum in the U.S. back in February. “It’s a horrible thing,” Nasher said of his situation. “You’re not a human being anymore,” he reflected, “Nobody wants you.” He, of course, is one of the lucky ones who had the means to escape. But for a large majority of people in Yemen, the U.S.-backed war has led to the verge of starvation.

 

Projected profits

The impasse between the Saudi-led coalition and their uncomfortable allies in Yemen – the Southern Transitional Council (STC) – appears to have been smoothed out as well. The pivotal separatist group “rescinded” a declaration of self-rule and allowed for some of the terms of the stalled “Riyadh agreement” to be implemented, such as the appointment of a new governor and police chief in the disputed territory of Aden.

Saudi Vice Minister of Defense Khalid bin Salman was pleased by the development, tweeting out that the move by the STC “reflects the serious desire for dialogue”; while the UAE also called for a renewed purpose among coalition members. On Monday, the internationally-recognized government of Yemen practically channeled Pompeo by demanding that the UN extend the arms embargo against Iran.

The news, no doubt, will also buoy the mood in the boardrooms of General Dynamics, Boeing, and Raytheon who all have profited to the tune of hundreds of millions from the war and have seen their stock soar since the start of the conflict. “Most of the weapons that we have found and been able to identify in strikes that appear unlawful have been U.S. weapons,” said Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher, Priyanka Motaparthy. “Factories have been hit. Farmlands have been hit with cluster bombs. Not only have they killed civilians, but they have also destroyed livelihoods and contributed to a dire humanitarian situation.”

Despite the ‘positive’ signals for the interests of America and its partners in the region, signs are emerging that the dire humanitarian situation is beginning to trickle up. Just this morning, the Middle East Monitor reported that Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi will be traveling to the U.S. for a week-long medical treatment. Yesterday, the director of Yemeni PM Maeen Abdul Malik’s office, was arrested in Egypt, the country that brokered the rapprochement between the STC and the coalition. The high-ranking Yemeni official was trying to smuggle $1 million dollars through the diplomatic cover.

Feature photo | US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares to board a plane at the King Khalid International Airport in the Saudi capital Riyadh, before his departure on Feb. 21, 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | Pool via AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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Democratic Establishment Commits to Status Quo with Kamala Harris VP Pick /democratic-establishment-commits-status-quo-kamala-harris-vp-pick/270327/ /democratic-establishment-commits-status-quo-kamala-harris-vp-pick/270327/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2020 17:04:37 +0000 /?p=270327 Just as America seemed to be in the midst of reckoning over-policing and racial justice, the Democratic establishment threw its support behind a hawkish former prosecutor with a questionable record.

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There were mixed reactions to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate last night. Many at the top of the party hailed the pick as a strong choice. “I’m thrilled to welcome Kamala Harris to a historic Democratic ticket,” said Biden’s predecessor Hillary Clinton, who described her as “an incredible public servant and leader, “I know she’ll be a strong partner to Joe Biden. Please join me in having her back and getting her elected.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Trump campaign opposed the move, a newly-released advertisement describing her as a “phony” controlled by “the radical left.” “Voters rejected Harris,” the ad says, referring to her failed campaign for the presidential nomination. “They smartly spotted a phony. But not Joe Biden. He’s not that smart.”

Yet the Harris pick appears not to have gone down at all well with those on the left. Political commentator and co-founder of the leftist group Justice Democrats Kyle Kulinski reacted by claiming Biden was “going with the strategically brilliant move of picking somebody for VP who is despised by both the right and the left.” Journalist Elizabeth Lea Vos wrote that the DNC has chosen to “run an alleged rapist and a corrupt prosecutor… against Trump in the age of #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. In other words, the Democrats are the Republicans and everything is business as usual.” Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders’ National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray could not contain her dismay at the pick. “We are in the midst of the largest protest movement in American history, the subject of which is excessive policing, and the Democratic Party chose a ‘top cop’ and the of the Joe Biden crime bill to save us from Trump. The contempt for the base is, wow,” she said.

A memo from the Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins described the announcement as Biden “doubling down” on his “long history of excessive law enforcement and support for the war on drugs.”

While the left might think Harris’ past role as a California prosecutor is a negative, business executives felt it added to her campaign. “Her experience as a prosecutor makes her uniquely qualified to deliver the case against Trump,” marketing executive Mike Kempner told CNBC.

 

A “lock them up” mentality

Harris certainly has a controversial professional past. Although presenting herself as a “progressive prosecutor,” her record more closely resembles a tough on crime, “lock them up” mentality commonly seen among Republican lawmakers. Over the protestations of her own team, she pushed forward on her plan to jail parents for their children’s truancy, later publicly laughing about imprisoning them. She also has a long history of ethically questionable practices, including withholding evidence that would have freed innocent people from prison. As The New York Times wrote, “Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.” In 2014, Harris’ legal team argued in court that if minimum-custody inmates were released early, the state of California would “lose an important labor pool.” These inmates included firefighters, who are paid claimed she did not know her own office argued in favor of keeping parolees in jail so they could serve as cheap labor.

Kamala Harris Israel

Harris speaks at the 2017 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Conference in Washington. Jose Luis Magana | AP

During her short and unsuccessful shot at the party’s presidential nomination, Harris received more funding from billionaires than any other candidate. In 2017, she also broke ranks to side with Trump against outgoing president Barack Obama over the latter’s position on Israel, leading Grayzone journalist Max Blumenthal to describe her as a “political algorithm programmed by the Israel lobby.”

 

The establishment’s warm embrace

Her competitors for the vice-presidential nomination, however, appeared happier, at least publicly, about the decision. “My warmest congratulations to ⁦Kamala Harris. I am confident Biden-Harris will prove to be a winning ticket. I will do my utmost to help them win and govern,” wrote Obama national security advisor Susan Rice, tipped by many to be Biden’s choice.

Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, who was considered the favorite for the job by some until MintPress tweeted that she was “filled with joy” at yesterday’s announcement. “This is a historic moment,” she said, adding that “her leadership, experience and character will help move our country forward when she and Joe Biden take back the White House!” Other organizations like Greenpeace offered more qualified praise.

Support for President Trump has been sliding over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests. While Biden leads in polls, he still suffers from an enthusiasm gap, with most Republicans fully behind the president. In contrast, Democratic voters are less passionate about Biden, the majority seeing their vote primarily as one against Trump. Nina Turner, co-chair of the Sanders campaign described the choice leftists face in choosing between Biden and Trump as, “like saying to somebody, ‘You have a bowl of shit in front of you, and all you’ve got to do is eat half of it instead of the whole thing.’ It’s still shit.” If Biden is to win in November, he may need the enthusiasm and volunteers Sanders was able to draw upon. But judging from their response, his Kamala Harris VP pick is unlikely to secure it.

Feature photo | Then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., reacts as she speaks at a town hall in Las Vegas, Nov. 8, 2019. John Locher | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Looking for an Excuse to Crackdown, Police Departments are Pitting Protesters Against Each Other /crackdown-police-departments-intentionally-pitting-protesters-against-each-other/270315/ /crackdown-police-departments-intentionally-pitting-protesters-against-each-other/270315/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2020 15:13:15 +0000 /?p=270315 Civil discontent leads to civil unrest, which leads to protests and counterprotests, and instead of restoring order, local police stand down. Tensions rise, violence escalates, and federal armies move in.

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CHARLOTTESVILLE (Rutherford) –– There’s a pattern emerging if you pay close enough attention. Civil discontent leads to civil unrest, which leads to protests and counterprotests.

Without fail, what should be an exercise in how to peacefully disagree turns ugly the moment looting, vandalism, violence, intimidation tactics and rioting are introduced into the equation. Instead of restoring order, local police stand down.

Tensions rise, violence escalates, and federal armies move in.

Coincidence? I think not.

This was the blueprint used three years ago in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when the city regularly cited as being one of the happiest places in America, became ground zero for a heated war of words—and actions—over racism, “sanitizing history,” extremism (both right and left), political correctness, hate speech, partisan politics, and a growing fear that violent words will end in violent actions.

It was a setup: local police deliberately engineered a situation in which protesters would confront each other, tensions would bubble over, and things would turn just violent enough to call in the bigger guns.

It is the blueprint being used right now.

In Charlottesville, as in so many parts of the country right now, the conflict was over how to reconcile the nation’s checkered past, particularly as it relates to slavery, with the push to sanitize the environment of anything—words and images—that might cause offense, especially if it’s a Confederate flag or monument.

That fear of offense prompted the Charlottesville City Council to get rid of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that had graced one of its public parks for 82 years.

That’s when everything went haywire.

In attempting to pacify one particularly vocal and righteously offended group while railroading over the concerns of those with alternate viewpoints, Charlottesville attracted the unwanted attention of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and the alt-Right, all of whom descended on the little college town with the intention of exercising their First Amendment right to be disagreeable, to assemble, and to protest.

When put to the test, Charlottesville did not handle things well at all.

On August 12, 2017, what should have been an exercise in free speech quickly became a brawl that left one dead and dozens more injured.

As the New York Times reported, “Protesters began to mace one another, throwing water bottles and urine-filled balloons — some of which hit reporters — and beating each other with flagpoles, clubs and makeshift weapons. Before long, the downtown area was a melee. People were ducking and covering with a constant stream of projectiles whizzing by our faces, and the air was filled with the sounds of fists and sticks against flesh.”

And then there was the police, who were supposed to uphold the law and prevent violence.

They failed to do either.

Indeed, a 220-page post-mortem of the protests and the Charlottesville government’s response by former U.S. attorney Timothy J. Heaphy merely corroborates our worst fears about what drives the government at all levels: power, money, ego, politics and ambition.

When presented with a situation in which the government and its agents were tasked with protecting free speech and safety, Heaphy concluded that “the City of Charlottesville protected neither free expression nor public safety.”

Heaphy continues: “The City was unable to protect the right of free expression and facilitate the permit holder’s offensive speech. This represents a failure of one of government’s core functions—the protection of fundamental rights. Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury, and death. Charlottesville preserved neither of those principles on August 12, which has led to deep distrust of government within this community.”

In other words, the government failed to uphold its constitutional mandates. The police failed to carry out their duties as peace officers. And the citizens found themselves unable to trust either the police or the government to do its job in respecting their rights and ensuring their safety.

Despite the fact that 1,000 first responders (including 300 state police troopers and members of the National Guard)—many of whom had been preparing for the downtown rally for months—had been called on to work the event, despite the fact that police in riot gear surrounded Emancipation Park on three sides, and despite the fact that Charlottesville had had what reporter David Graham referred to as “a dress rehearsal of sorts” a month earlier when 30 members of the Ku Klux Klan were confronted by 1000 counterprotesters, police failed to do their jobs.

In fact, as the Washington Post reports, police “seemed to watch as groups beat each other with sticks and bludgeoned one another with shields… At one point, police appeared to retreat and then watch the beatings before eventually moving in to end the free-for-all, make arrests and tend to the injured.”

“Police Stood By As Mayhem Mounted in Charlottesville,” reported ProPublica.

Instead of establishing clear boundaries—buffer zones—between the warring groups and protecting the First Amendment rights of the protesters, police established two entrances into the permit areas of the park and created barriers “guiding rallygoers single-file into the park” past lines of white nationalists and antifa counterprotesters.

Incredibly, when the first signs of open violence broke out, Heaphy reports that the police chief allegedly instructed his staff to “let them fight, it will make it easier to declare an unlawful assembly.”

This is not much different from what is happening on the present-day national scene.

Trump supporters

Trump supporters yell at Black Lives Matter protesters from behind the safety of police, Aug. 1, 2020, in Yucaipa, Calif. Christian Monterrosa | AP

Commissioned by the City of Charlottesville, this Heaphy report was intended to be an independent investigation of what went right and what went wrong in the government’s handling of the protests.

Heaphy found very little to commend.

What went right on Aug. 12 according to Heaphy: 1) Despite the presence of firearms, including members of the militia, and angry confrontations between protesters and counterprotesters, no person was shot and no significant property damage occurred; 2) Emergency personnel did their jobs effectively and treated a large number of people in a short period of time; and 3) Police intelligence gathering was thorough (that’s the best he had to say about police).

Now for what went wrong, according to the report:

1. Police failed to get input from other law enforcement agencies experienced in handling large protests.

2. Police failed to adequately train their officers in advance of the protest.

3. City officials failed to request assistance from outside agencies.

4. The City Council unduly interfered by ignoring legal advice, attempting to move the protesters elsewhere, and ignoring the concerns of law enforcement.

5. The city government failed to inform the public about their plans.

6. City officials were misguided in allowing weapons at the protest.

7. The police implemented a flawed operational plan that failed to protect public safety.

8. While police were provided with riot gear, they were never trained in how to use it, nor were they provided with any meaningful field training in how to deal with or de-escalate anticipated violence on the part of protesters.

9. Despite the input and advice of outside counsel, including The Rutherford Institute, the police failed to employ de-escalation tactics or establish clear barriers between warring factions of protesters.

10. Government officials and police leadership opted to advance their own agendas at the expense of constitutional rights and public safety.

11. For all intents and purposes, police abided by a stand down order that endangered the community and paved the way for massive civil unrest.

12. In failing to protect public safety, police and government officials undermined public faith in the government.

The Heaphy report focused on the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, but it applies to almost every branch of government that fails to serve “we the people.”

As the Pew Research Center revealed, public trust in the government remains near historic lows and with good reason, too.

This isn’t America, land of the free, where the government is “of the people, by the people [and] for the people.”

Rather, this is Amerika, where fascism, totalitarianism and militarism go hand in hand.

What you smell is the stench of a dying republic. Our dying republic.

The American experiment in freedom is failing fast.

Through every fault of our own—our apathy, our ignorance, our intolerance, our disinclination to do the hard work of holding government leaders accountable to the rule of law, our inclination to let politics trump longstanding constitutional principles—we have been reduced to this sorry state in which we are little more than shackled inmates in a prison operated for the profit of a corporate elite.

We have been saddled with the wreckage of a government at all levels that no longer represents the citizenry, serves the citizenry, or is accountable to the citizenry.

“We the people” are not the masters anymore.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the federal government, state governments, or local governing bodies: at all ends of the spectrum and every point in between, a shift has taken place.

“We the people” are not being seen, heard or valued.

We no longer count for much of anything beyond an occasional electoral vote and as a source of income for the government’s ever-burgeoning financial needs.

Everything happening at the national level is playing out at the local level, as well: the violence, the militarization, the intolerance, the lopsided governance, and an uneasy awareness that the citizenry have no say in how their communities are being governed.

As I have warned repeatedly, the architects of the police state have every intention of manipulating this outrage for their own purposes.

Predictably, the police state is allowing these protests, riots and looting to devolve into a situation where enough of the voting populace is so desperate for a return to law and order that they will gladly relinquish some of their freedoms to achieve it. And that’s how the police state will win, no matter which candidate gets elected to the White House, and “we the people” will continue to lose.

So what’s the answer?

As always, it must start with “we the people.”

I’ve always advised people to think nationally, but act locally.

Yet as Charlottesville made clear, it’s hard to make a difference locally when the local government is as deaf, dumb and blind to the needs of its constituents as the national government.

Charlottesville much like the rest of the nation has had its fair share of government leaders who are tone-deaf, focused on their own aggrandizement, and incapable of prioritizing the needs of their constituents over their own personal and political agendas; law enforcement officials for whom personal safety, heavy-handed militarized tactics, and power plays trump their duty to serve and protect; polarized citizens incapable of finding common ground, respecting each other’s rights, or agreeing to disagree; and a community held hostage by political correctness, divisive rhetoric and a growing intolerance for any views that may be unpopular or at odds with the mainstream.

It was a perfect storm just waiting for the right conditions to wreak havoc, a precursor of the rage, frustration and fear that is erupting all over the country.

No matter what forces are manipulating these present riots and violent uprisings, however—and there are definitely such forces at play here—none of this would be happening without the government having laid the groundwork.

Clearly, it’s time to clean house at all levels of government.

Stop tolerating corruption, graft, intolerance, greed, incompetence, ineptitude, militarism, lawlessness, ignorance, brutality, deceit, collusion, corpulence, bureaucracy, immorality, depravity, censorship, cruelty, violence, mediocrity, and tyranny. These are the hallmarks of an institution that is rotten through and through.

Stop holding your nose in order to block out the stench of a rotting institution.

Stop letting the government and its agents treat you like a servant or a slave.

You’ve got rights. We’ve all got rights. This is our country. This is our government. No one can take it away from us unless we make it easy for them.

You’ve got a better chance of making your displeasure seen and felt and heard within your own community. But it will take perseverance and unity and a commitment to finding common ground with your fellow citizens.

Right now, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’re making it way too easy for the police state to take over.

Stop being an accessory to the murder of the American republic.

Feature photo | A supporter of President Donald Trump, right, clashes with an anti-Trump protester, left, outside the president’s appearance at a criminal justice forum, Oct. 25, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. Meg Kinnard | AP

John W. Whitehead is a constitutional attorney, and founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

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Christian Nationalists and Christian Zionists March Lockstep to Secure Another Four Years for Trump /christian-nationalists-christian-zionists-secure-another-four-years-for-trump/270259/ /christian-nationalists-christian-zionists-secure-another-four-years-for-trump/270259/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2020 17:21:51 +0000 /?p=270259 Christian Nationalists and their cousins, Christian Zionists – have made their way into the halls of power, and may be the key to another four-year term for arguably the most catastrophic president in US history.

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Two thousand years ago, Jesus taught an oppressed, occupied people the ways of mercy and nonviolent resistance. In the intervening centuries, some strains of Christianity have transformed themselves from these humble roots into dominant, imperial forces.

Their “Christian” voices speak the language of the Bible, but their ideologies have little to do with the Bible’s message. Their followers – knowingly or unknowingly – encourage itarianism and racism with a stamp of approval from God.

These groups – Christian Nationalists and their cousins, Christian Zionists – have made their way into the halls of power, and may be the key to another four-year term for arguably the most catastrophic president in history.

 

The ideologies

Nationalism, according to the Oxford Dictionary and “Political Ideologies,” is “identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations,” which “aims to build and maintain a single national identity.”

Christian Nationalism, then, promotes the interests (and perhaps, doctrines) of a particular strain of Christians, and aims to build a single Christian national identity – to the exclusion of the interests of other Christian groups in the nation and the interests of other nations.

Christians Against Christian Nationalism, a broad coalition of faith groups, adds:

Christian Nationalism demands Christianity be privileged by the State and implies that to be a good American, one must be Christian. It often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy and racial subjugation.

Christian Zionism is a Christian movement that similarly promotes the interests of certain types of Jews in Israel, aiming to support them as they build a single, privileged Jewish national identity – to the exclusion of the interests of other groups in Israel and the interests of other nations.

Christians United for Israel

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. speaks at the Christians United for Israel Washington Summit, July 23, 2013. Charles Dharapak | AP

Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), an international movement seeking a just peace for Palestinians, opposes Christian Zionism. Jonathan Brenneman, the communications coordinator for FOSNA, described Christian Zionism to MintPress as:

An ideology which uses Christianity in the name of hate. Their mission is to increase their “Christian” influence on U.S. policy…upholding U.S. and Christian supremacy in its support of Israel’s worst practices.”

Christian Zionists see themselves as the only people who understand God’s plan, and they have the duty to implement it at any cost.”

Sounds crazy? These groups are not fringe. They are plentiful and powerful, to the point that they may have won Trump the election in 2016, and may do so again in 2020.

As Pew Research reported in March 2020, half of Americans hold the Christian Nationalist belief that the Bible should have a “great deal” or “some” influence over U.S. laws (though they might not label it as such). Some 28 percent believe that “if and when the Bible conflicts with the will of the American people, the Bible should have more influence on the laws of the land.”

In addition, roughly 70 million Americans profess the Christian Zionist beliefs that “God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants was for all time,” and that the creation of modern Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy leading to the return of Jesus Christ.

 

MAGA and Israel

As the U.S. has become more diverse and secular, the relative numbers of Christians – especially white Christians –  has been declining. White Christians have “lost their perceived standing as the country’s decision-makers amid their declining status,” driving many to Christian Nationalism as a path back to power.

Many of these Christian Nationalists heard in Candidate Trump’s MAGA slogan a promise to return America to its former greatness – the good old days when we “didn’t need no welfare state, everybody pulled his weight.”

Trump also promised to move the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, pull out of the treaty with Iran, and support Israeli settlements on Palestinian land – all wildly popular with Christian Zionists.

Some 80 percent of evangelicals voted for Trump – either to save America or to usher in the second coming of Christ.

 

The awkward issue of (Trump’s) sin

Trump’s evangelical fan club had a dilemma on its hands as his skeletons kept tumbling out of the closet. He was a hot mess, but they needed him.

In a piece for Salon, Paul Rosenberg goes so far as to suggest that a righteous candidate would have been a bad idea, writing that “When push comes to shove, the more vicious the leader, the better. The moral restraints of the deeply pious are the last thing you want for the job.”

Every day brought a new crisis – and a new rationalization: “Only God knows what is in Trump’s heart.” “Democrats have baggage too.” “He is the spirit of Cyrus.” “We’re all sinners.”

Under the new, Trump-inspired Christianity, some leaders portrayed him as “God’s choice,” and instructed followers to stand with him no matter what. Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the oldest megachurch in the U.S., demonstrated this just before the 2016 election when he quite literally contradicted the words of Jesus in defense of Trump:

I don’t want some meek and mild leader or somebody who’s going to turn the other cheek. I’ve said I want the meanest, toughest SOB I can find to protect this nation.”

 

From Bible to policy

The Trump campaign, and then administration, has always included a large number of evangelical leaders – including Christian Zionists. They were not there only to pray, but according to Trump advisor Mike Evans, to have “a seat at the table.” Christian Zionists in Trump’s inner circle use their access to present their interpretation of scripture as potential foreign policy. And Apparently Trump listens.

Mike Evans Donald Trump

Evangelical Trump advisor Mike Evans, left, poses with the President. Photo | White House

Evans has been part of that inner circle. He was in on private briefings with the president before the unveiling of the so-called Deal of the Century – Trump’s “peace plan” for Israel and Palestine, which heavily favors Israel. “Israel just got kissed by God,” Evans said of the plan. “I am not referring to Donald Trump as God, but I am saying he has Divine inspiration.”

Trump’s actions on behalf of Israel, which are often reckless and violations of international law and human rights, are understood as obedience to Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you [Abraham], and whoever curses you I will curse.”

 

Meet CUFI

The most powerful guest at the table has to be CUFI – Christians United For Israel – an organization boasting eight million members, and the quintessential mechanism of Christian Zionism.

At the CUFI’s helm is John Hagee, who teaches as fact his dispensationalist interpretation of the situation in Israel and Palestine. As Hagee puts it, “Israel exists because of a covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob 3,500 years ago – and that covenant still stands,” and “From a biblical, historical, and legal perspective, Israel owns, and does not occupy, the Holy Land. And one can not be an occupier on land it owns.” (The global community almost unanimously disagrees with the second statement, based on international law.)

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo themselves self-identify as Christian Zionists and Pence has even visited Israel on CUFI’s dime. Both have spoken at CUFI’s annual summit. At least three other high-level members of the Trump administration attended as well.

The organization is effective. The Hill listed at least five congressional seats and one governor that CUFI helped flip from blue to red in 2018. Their millions of members are ready to “show up at the polls and cast their ballot for the candidate that is best for the Jewish state.”

How? According to Sandy Hagee Parker of the CUFI Action Fund, “With approximately 50 events nationally per month, CUFI’s field staff is in constant education mode…”

“CUFI members don’t see Israel as a political issue, but as an exercise in their faith – and that will never change,” Hagee Parker boasts.

CUFI members can be mobilized as needed to support legislative action, visit a Congress member, attend a town hall meeting – whatever is needed to keep the agenda moving forward. Bottom line, in John Hagee’s own words:

We’re not another paper-shuffling, hand-clapping group of Christians…We are 4.5 million people who are organized in every state, every city, every voting district.”

 

War with Iran

Iran is public enemy number one to Christian Zionists, who believe that the end times must be preceded by war and bloodshed. Iran is more than just a geopolitical enemy – it is, as religious historian Diana Butler Bass explains, “sort of a prophetic dog whistle to evangelicals…they’re eager for Christ to return and they think that this war with Iran and Israel has to happen for their larger hope to pass.”

And so John Hagee – a pastor, mind you – has repeatedly called for Iran to be hit with a “maximum pressure campaign,” including at one point a preemptive strike.

Mike Pence, John Hagee

Vice President Pence, left, greets Hagee at CUFI’s annual summit, July 8, 2019, in Washington. Patrick Semansky | AP

In 2017, Christian Zionists pestered Trump to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. According to the Christians United For Israel website:

CUFI has made moving the embassy to Jerusalem a central focus of its 2017 agenda…Pastor John Hagee, has used White House audiences with Pres. Trump and Vice Pres. Mike Pence to urge them to move the embassy.

Days before Pres. Trump’s inauguration, the CUFI Action Fund held a Washington fly-in during which more than 260 leaders representing 49 states urged that the embassy be moved. And CUFI members have sent more than 137,000 emails to the White House in support of moving the embassy to Jerusalem.

The embassy move took place in May 2018 amid peaceful protests that resulted in dozens of Palestinian deaths by Israeli sniper fire.

 

The only side of the story?

Just 40 percent of Jews living in Israel believe that God gave them the land; meanwhile, 82 percent of white American evangelicals believe it. How is that possible?

Brenneman explained that because there is no visible counter-argument against the damaging narrative of Christian Zionism, “Most people don’t even realize that they hold a Christian Zionist perspective.”

Like all extremist ideologies, it is built upon ignorance and insularity to perpetuate a warped perspective about Palestinians and what is happening in Palestine…

People passively hold these views because they are shielded from seeing devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences of their beliefs.

Christian Zionism [presents a binary construct in which] Israelis are good and barbaric Palestinians are bad, [and] places good “Western” Israelis against evil “Eastern” Muslims.”

 

The concealed truth

While mainstream media will never give a completely accurate picture of world events, it does manage to contradict Trump on a regular basis. He deals with these inconvenient truths by delegitimizing them as “fake news” and, as Kellyanne Conway famously gave us, the phrase “alternative facts.” His flock follows suit.

In the arena of accurate news on Israel and Palestine, many sources committed to rigorous reporting and educating are routinely denounced as “anti-Semitic” for daring to show Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians. Most Americans are thus not exposed to the truth about the injustice that Christian Zionism is inflicting on Palestinians through its support of Israel.

 

What about 2020?

As determined as progressives are to make Trump a one-term president, evangelicals and conservatives are resolute about winning him four more years. They are also well-organized and well-funded.

Data analysts are scouring statistics nationwide, looking for new conservative voters to register and recruit. Thousands of conservative, and also often evangelical radio stations, sing Trump’s praises; tens of millions of churchgoers are faithful to him.

Mike Evans, a Trump advisor, pointed out that the evangelical bloc “gave” Trump the presidency because of his pro-life stance and his support for Israel – and that same group has the power to “fire” him if he does not continue to toe the line. The current test will be if Trump endorses Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the Palestinian West Bank, a move deemed illegal under international law.

When asked about Trump’s re-election prospects, Evans explains how pro-Israel policy translates into votes:

I have 68 million Facebook followers. When the president blesses Israel, they feel strongly that God is going to bless us – He won’t get 90 percent; he will get 100 percent of this base.”

In fact, according to a 2019 Public Religion Research Institute poll of Trump supporters, 31 percent of white evangelicals said there is essentially nothing he could do that would lose their vote.

“Stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody”? Apparently he can do no wrong.

Feature photo | Attendee sing worship songs during a President Donald Trump campaign event courting devout conservatives by combining praise, prayer and patriotism, July 23, 2020, in Alpharetta, Ga. John Amis | AP

Kathryn Shihadah writes for MintPress News and If Americans Knew. She speaks regularly about the injustice and demonization Palestinians face at the hands of Israel with complicity from the United States, especially to Christian audiences. Kathryn has lived in the Middle East for ten years and has traveled extensively. She blogs at Palestine德扑之星安卓手机版下载home.org.

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US, Israeli Media Scramble to Blame Hezbollah for Deadly Beirut Explosion /us-israeli-media-blame-hezbollah-deadly-beirut-explosion/270284/ /us-israeli-media-blame-hezbollah-deadly-beirut-explosion/270284/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2020 14:45:25 +0000 /?p=270284 Pundits in the US and Israel are sounding the trumpets of war and trying to blame Hezbollah for the massive explosion in the port of Beirut. But a closer look at the stories being promulgated turn up the same old propaganda by the usual suspects

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The narrative that puts Hezbollah in the hot seat for the devastating explosion of ammonium nitrate, allegedly stored by the thousands of tons in one of the busiest ports in the eastern Mediterranean and which killed over two hundred people has a few holes in it, to say the least.

As the mainstream U.S.-led international media beats the drums of war with commercial breaks in between, they are relying on a few key stories to hang Lebanon’s most popular political body and lock mainstream news consumers’ sights squarely on Hassan Nasrallah, the third leader of Lebanon’s anti-Zionist party, Hezbollah, as the ultimate target of the next modern-day crusade in the Middle East.

The through-line of the stories is the insinuation that Hezbollah has been “stockpiling” the explosive agent for years, ascribing the jurisprudential concept of “opportunity” to the grassroots militant Lebanese resistance movement in the imaginary courtroom melodrama unfolding in the minds of cable news junkies.

A May report from The Times of Israel spotlighted a local TV news segment about a “months-long delicate operation” by Mossad to expose a supposed Hezbollah-linked group’s “operations in Germany,” which resulted in a raid on warehouses with stashes of ammonium nitrate tied to an “Iranian-backed… Shiite terrorist organization.” The raids concentrated on four mosque associations in Berlin, Dortmund, Bremen, and Münster with alleged allegiance to Hezbollah. The details of Mossad’s role in the raids were made public only after the Teuton state officially banned “all Hezbollah activities” from the country on April 30, 2020.

According to a German newspaper, however, the order for the raid of the suspected mosques was a preemptive move meant to “secure evidence before it could [be] destroyed” as a result of the announcement. Actual evidence about alleged Hezbollah-related activities has yet to surface. When a member of the local parliament of the German state of Bavaria – where the alleged cold packages containing ammonium nitrate had been stored – asked for confirmation from the Bavarian interior ministry, the ministry’s spokesperson denied having any information on the matter.

Other stories being propagated in the interest of framing Hezbollah for the blast in Beirut are much older and even more ephemeral. Such is the case of Atris Hussein; a Lebanese-Swedish citizen who was convicted in 2013 for “possessing a large amount of fertilizer that could be used to make explosives.” Hussein had been accused of hiding about three tons of ammonium nitrate for nefarious purposes. The 49-year old man had been arrested at the Bangkok airport just after a “terror warning” in the Thai capital had been issued by the U.S. and claims of a “possible attack by Hezbollah” from Israeli officials. Hussein, who denied any links to terrorist organizations, was eventually sentenced to two and a half months for illegal possession of fertilizer materials. The court found no evidence “to back the ities’ claims that Hussein had ties to Hezbollah.”

 

Flagship propaganda

The main piece at the center of the Hezbollah blame game is one that covers the actual stash of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) that ignited earlier this month in the Port of Beirut. The 2,750 tons of NH4NO3 said to be stored at the port was the result of a curious chain of events that occurred in 2013. According to Eurasianet.org, a ship flying a Moldovan flag called Rhosus was on its way to Mozambique with the tons of ammonium nitrate when it had to make an emergency call on the port of Beirut. The ship is owned by a “rough-and-tumble businessman” from Russia named Igor Grechushkin who conducts business from the notorious tax-havens of Cyprus and the Marshall Islands.

After Lebanese ities inspected Grechushkin’s vessel and deemed it unseaworthy, the Russian abandoned the boat and its contents in the Port of Beirut, leaving tons of the explosive material behind, material which was subsequently stored at a port warehouse where it reportedly “languished” for years without proper maintenance. The ammonium nitrate cargo, itself had been produced by the largest manufacturer of nitrogen-based fertilizers in the South Caucasus region; a company called Rustavi Azot in the Republic of Georgia.

Rustavi Azot has received substantial support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) over the years, including a $155 million financing package in 2016. The EBRD is a loan and equity finance institution formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union to help Eastern bloc countries “transition away from centrally-planned economies” and serves as a conduit for “EU accession” for Eurasian countries like Georgia, which also houses the Lugar Center; a DoD-funded facility exposed as a cauldron for U.S. biological and chemical weapons experimentation.

Israeli TV, meanwhile, is riling up the Jewish state with claims that the tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port were being stockpiled for a “Third Lebanon war” against Israel. Former Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, added fuel to the fire by claiming that he had “been aware of the material’s presence there and [that Hezbollah] had control over the port” and that the explosion of a “Hezbollah weapons depot” at the port had preceded the igniting of the ammonium nitrate.

But skeptics point out that the location of the port, which is in a Christian neighborhood, would preclude Hezbollah from operating any kind of weapons depot in the area. Doubts about whether ammonium nitrate had any role at all have also emerged. A renowned Italian explosives expert told Corriere Della Sera that he doesn’t believe the claimed amount of ammonium nitrate was present at the port and favors military weaponry as the real cause of the blast.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has categorically denied having any knowledge of stockpiling ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut and a Lebanese intelligence official has outright blamed Israel for the conflagration.

 

An old tall tale

“For 37 years, Hezbollah has been murdering innocent people,” wrote U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell in a 2019 editorial published in Die Welt. The diplomat targeted mosques as the places where “Hezbollah sympathizers meet” and “tolerate terrorist propaganda in support of Hezbollah and the Iranian regime.” Grenell repeatedly called for the proscription of Hezbollah’s presence in the European nation. But his insistence had so far failed to overcome the lack of political will to do so.

That changed when the opportunity to justify the ban materialized with mosque raids in April 2020, in an operation with eerie similarities to the events that preceded a ban on Hezbollah by the UK government in January, when it officially classified the Lebanese political organization as a terrorist organization. Just as was the case in Germany, it was the Mossad who provided British officials with the “intelligence” leads.

At the end of the day, the consistent pressure by the U.S. and Israel on other nations to demonize Hezbollah and discredit them in the eyes of their supporters may well be the only provable fact surrounding the tragic incident that took place in Beirut last week. Unfortunately, it is also clear that the U.S. and Israel will stop at nothing – even lies – to perpetuate a geopolitical paradigm that is guaranteed to produce even more tragedy.

Feature photo | Women stand in their damaged house as they look at the aftermath of an explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 10, 2020. Bilal Hussein | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post US, Israeli Media Scramble to Blame Hezbollah for Deadly Beirut Explosion appeared first on MintPress News.

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