Saudi Arabia Using US-Supplied Cluster Bombs in Yemen, Says HRW

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

[…] A global ban on cluster munitions was signed in 2008, though neither the United States nor Saudi Arabia was a signatory to the ban. The US continues to export the bombs, which leave unexploded bomblets across a area, often for years, but the Pentagon insists they only sell to countries that promise not to use them on civilians.

Yet America’s own recent history with cluster bombs is checkered, at best, having littered civilian populated areas in Iraq and Afghanistan with such bombs, leaving the brightly colored bomblets to be found by children. The US has similarly shipped the bombs to both Israel and Saudi Arabia, nations which have been racking up major civilian death tolls in recent wars.’

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Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

[…] It amazes me that all these warriors of the air don’t regularly crash into each other as they go on bombing and bombing. And since Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines is the only international carrier still flying over Syria – but not, thank heavens, over Isis’s Syrian capital of Raqqa – I’m even more amazed that my flights from Beirut to the Gulf have gone untouched by the blitz boys of so many Arab and Western states as they career around the skies of Mesopotamia and the Levant.

The sectarian and theological nature of this war seems perfectly clear to all who live in the Middle East – albeit not to our American chums. The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia Yemenis and the Shia Iranians are bombing the Sunni Iraqis. The Sunni Egyptians are bombing Sunni Libyans, it’s true, and the Jordanian Sunnis are bombing Iraqi Sunnis. But the Shia-supported Syrian government forces are bombing their Sunni Syrian enemies and the Lebanese Hezbollah – Shia to a man – are fighting the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Sunni enemies, along with Iranian Revolutionary Guards and an ever-larger number of Afghan Shia men in Syrian uniforms.’

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Texas Shooting: The group behind the Muhammad cartoon contest

Bridie Jabour reports for The Guardian:

The co-founder of the group behind the contest to award $10,000 for the best cartoon depiction of Muhammad is a New Yorker who runs a blog that campaigns to stop the “Islamification” of America.

Pamela Geller used her blog Atlas Shrugs to declare “this is war” in the hours after the shooting of two gunmen at the contest. The event had been organised by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group she set up with Robert Spencer in 2010.

Geller, the winner of numerous awards from far-right organisations such as the David Horowitz Freedom Center, is credited with coining the term “ground zero mega mosque” as part of highly publicised campaign against the development of a community centre, which included a mosque, a few blocks from where the twin towers once stood in New York.

She became politically active after 11 September and has told various newspapers she had never heard of Osama Bin Laden until the day of the attacks but started educating herself as a housewife living in Long Island raising four children. She eventually started a blog, Atlas Shrugs.’

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#AlbumoftheWeek ~ Live At San Francisco’s Old Waldorf by DEVO (1978)

Why the U.S. “war on terra” is a fraud

Pepe Escobar writes for the Asia Times:

A new scathing report by the Nobel prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility has revealed that more than 1.3 million people were killed only during the first ten years of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone. What was formerly known as GWOT — or, in Dubya-speak, “war on terra” — was Orwellianized by the Obama administration into “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO).

Crucially, the report does not even cover OCO’s trail in Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen (one war “won” by NATO/AFRICOM; one ongoing civil war; and two targets of Obama’s nefarious “kill list”.) Moreover, the figures on AfPak and Iraq are far from being the latest. And the total estimate of lethal casualties is considered “conservative”.

The record shows that this OCO killing machine ran amok for almost 15 years against whole swathes of the planet — not to mention burning trillions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds — and had absolutely zero effect in containing terrorism. Rather the contrary; Asia Times readers are aware of how I’ve defined GWOT as the gift that keeps on giving.

And it all started way before 9/11 — and the official Dubya enshrinement of GWOT.’

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Stumbling Into a Wider War

The New York Times editorial board on the widening war against ISIS:

It should come as no surprise that the United States and its coalition partners are discussing widening the war against the Islamic State beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria. Wider wars have become almost habitual in recent years, as military conflicts have expanded with little public awareness or debate. President George W. Bush’s ‘war on terror’ began in Afghanistan, then moved to Iraq and elsewhere. Fourteen years after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Obama is still deploying American troops and weapons to fight Al Qaeda and other extremists in far-flung parts of the world, including Pakistan.

The fight against the Islamic State has focused largely on Iraq and Syria, where the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has seized large swaths of land and established a firm presence. But some regional members of the anti-ISIS coalition of more than 60 nations, according to a report in The Times, are now pressing the administration to carry the fight to other terrorist groups that have declared themselves ‘provinces’ of the Islamic State.

In theory, that could involve the United States and the coalition in Libya, where ISIS has sent a small number of fighters to help organize militants. It could also mean moving against Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, an ISIS-supported terrorist group in the Sinai Peninsula that greatly worries Egypt. Intelligence officials estimate that ISIS may have as many as 31,500 fighters in Syria and Iraq; at least a couple of hundred other extremists in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and other countries have also made less formal pledges of support for ISIS.

It is essential that further expansion of the campaign against ISIS and other militant groups be debated rigorously and openly by Washington and its coalition partners. For one thing, it is dangerous and unwise to assume that ‘affiliates’ pledging support for ISIS are controlled by ISIS, share its resources or can duplicate its ruthless skills. Many cannot do so, and the coalition would make a serious mistake if it treated all splinter groups as the same kind of threat.

In any case, the problem is far more complicated than just going after ISIS and its affiliates. There are many threats ravaging and destabilizing the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, including not only extremistists (some allied with ISIS, many not) but also stubborn, long-standing sectarian conflicts and, in some failed states like Yemen and Libya, the near-total collapse of governmental authority and civil order. That makes finding a coherent and effective strategy — or more likely strategies — to deal with these challenges much harder.’

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Planned £12bn Tory welfare cuts will lead to two million a year using food banks, says study

Jane Merrick reports for The Independent:

The number of people using food banks will double to more than two million a year under the Conservatives’ plans for £12bn of welfare cuts, an academic study by Oxford University suggests.

The research was seized on by Labour as evidence that David Cameron’s welfare cuts will have far-reaching consequences for family budgets, including eating into in-work benefits, if the Conservatives get back into power next week. On the Question Time leaders’ debate on Thursday, Mr Cameron said he did not want or had no plans to cut child benefit further – but Labour claims this does not mean he has ruled it out. The Prime Minister, asked about child benefit cuts on BBC Breakfast yesterday, again refused to rule it out.

Labour’s spokesperson on work and pensions, Rachel Reeves, told The Independent on Sunday that the Oxford University study was extremely worrying for families on low incomes, and claimed that Mr Cameron’s failure to rule out child benefit cuts suggested that they were on the table.

Last month, the Trussell Trust, the charity that provides parcels to food banks, revealed that visits had risen to over one million a year for the first time.’

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Corruption is Legal in America

The War Party ~ 2003 BBC Panorama Documentary on the Neocons

‘They brought us war against Iraq – what do the hawks in Washington have in store for us now? Panorama investigates the “neo-conservatives”, the small and unelected group of right-wingers, who critics claim have hijacked the White House. Throughout the war with Iraq, Steve Bradshaw was with the neocons in Washington – discovering whether they’re really trying to run the world the American way.’ (BBC Panorama)

61 Times Bill Kristol Was Reminded of Hitler and Churchill

Jonathan Chait writes for New York Magazine:

Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, writing in opposition to the Iran deal recently, observed, “One is reminded — as one so often is these days — of Churchill’s great speech in Commons after Munich … ” It is true that Kristol is often reminded of Churchill and Munich these days. This may not tell us anything about the current situation with Iran, however, since Kristol is reminded of Churchill and Munich on a great many days. It is a historic reference he has used to explain a great many episodes.

I recently asked New York interns Claire Landsbaum and Claire Voon to compile a list of Kristol’s public references to the Munich agreement and its main players. This research ordeal, presented in reverse chronological order, represents the sort of character-building exercise, I am sure Kristol would agree, that today’s youth badly need.’

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What we can learn from Judith Miller’s rehab tour

Neil Lewis writes for Columbia Journalism Review:

Judith Miller’s publicity campaign for her new book (The Story: A Reporter’s Journey) which has taken her from the Wall Street Journal to numerous television interviews, has been an instructive and engaging media spectacle.

She has shown characteristic passion and energy in attempting to defend her journalistic reputation after being pummeled during her final years at The New York Times for, among other things, writing persuasively that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

But it is discouraging that the truth can be challenged by a determined and wily opponent with a platform to propound discredited ideas. And Miller has long been given such a platform, first by The Times and now by a prominent book publisher.

In my 24 years at The Times I frequently worked with Miller, often unhappily, as I will explain. Her efforts at recasting events have thus not been a surprise to me.’

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Colombia’s ex-intel chief jailed for domestic spying

AFP reports:

Former Colombian Chief of Intelligence Maria del Pilar Hurtado during a trial against her, in Bogota, ColombiaA Colombian former intelligence chief was jailed for 14 years on Thursday for spying on judges, journalists and opposition figures in a high-profile case that stained the legacy of popular ex-president Alvaro Uribe.

The Supreme Court convicted Maria del Pilar Hurtado in February of ordering illegal wiretaps on a former senator, two opposition politicians, the mayor of Bogota and its own judges during Uribe’s presidency from 2002 to 2010.

The sentence was less than the 20 years requested by prosecutors.’

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Inside the Mussolini Museum

Barbie Latza Nadeau writes for The Daily Beast:

BENITO MUSSOLINI, January 31, 1939Every year around Italy’s April 25 liberation day festivities, a group of unapologetic Italians hold a commemoration of their own—they mark the death of Benito Mussolini, who was killed on April 28, 1945, in Giulina di Mezzegra in northern Italy. But it is not to celebrate the event. In what is becoming a trend in Mussolini nostalgia, a growing number of Italians are finding the bright side of a very dark chapter in Italian history.

Commemorating Mussolini is not entirely new in Italy. For years, hundreds of skinheads and self-proclaimed fascists have made pilgrimages to Mussolini’s hometown of Predappio three times a year (at his birth, his death and the October anniversary of his 1922 march on Rome). They visit his old stomping grounds. They flock at the villa where he was born and lay flowers at the mausoleum where he was buried.’

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Austria, backed by 159 nations, calls for ban on nuclear weapons

Louis Charbonneau reports for Reuters:

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith addresses the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, at United Nations Headquarters, in New York, in a file photo.  REUTERS/Chip EastAustrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz was speaking at the five-year review conference of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Diplomats from the 159 countries supporting the ban, presented ahead of the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atom bombs dropped on Japan, said the initiative was modelled on successful campaigns to ban land mines and other weapons and could take years to move forward.

The initiative has virtually no support among NPT nuclear weapons states and veto-wielding Security Council members – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China – or the countries of NATO, an alliance that provides a kind of “nuclear umbrella” security guarantee for its members.

But most of the 193 U.N. members back it.’

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The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Plan to Supplant the United States

Editor’s Note: As the review states, Dr. Pillsbury is a senior fellow and director for Chinese strategy at the Hudson Institute. You can learn more about this right-wing think-tank here

Elizabeth C. Economy reviews Dr. Michael Pillsbury’s The Hundred-Year Marathon for The Diplomat:

The Hundred-Year MarathonLet me begin by noting that this is a highly engaging and thought-provoking read. It does what few books do well, and that is to mix scholarship, policy, and memoir-style writing in an accessible but still intellectually rich fashion. Pillsbury, senior fellow and director for Chinese strategy at the Hudson Institute, presents a straightforward thesis. In its most bald form, he argues that China has a long-term marathon strategy to supplant the United States as the sole superpower by 2049. If successful, Pillsbury argues that China will reshape the world into one that will “nurture autocracies,” “rewrit[e] history to defam[e] the West and prais[e] China,” sell its own highly polluting development model to other countries, and constrain the political space for international organizations (195).

If that were all there were to this book, it would be easy to dismiss. Pillsbury, however, manages to draw on his extensive knowledge of Chinese historical military writings and theory as well as his interactions with Chinese defectors and senior military officers to develop a compelling analytical defense of this thesis. He describes his theory elegantly in Chinese terms, using a Chinese concept of shi (an alignment of forces or creation of an opportunity). For Pillsbury, in shi and the Chinese game weiqi, one can discern the basic Chinese strategy of “deceiving an opponent into complacency, whereby he expends his energy in a way that helps you even as you move to encircle him” (42-45). This theme of Chinese deception and U.S. naivete underpin much of Pillsbury’s analysis. He argues that through an elaborate plan of deception in which China underplays its strengths, Beijing has managed to dupe the West into helping China develop its economy and advance its scientific capabilities, therein planting the seeds of the United States’ own destruction.’

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The Pentagon’s ‘Long War’ Pits NATO Against China, Russia and Iran

Pepe Escobar writes for Sputnik:

Satirized painting of the Statue of Liberty painted on the wall of the former U.S. Embassy, in Tehran, IranWhatever happens with the nuclear negotiations this summer, and as much as Tehran wants cooperation and not confrontation, Iran is bound to remain — alongside Russia — a key US geostrategic target.

As much as US President Barack Obama tried to dismiss it, the Russian sale of the S-300 missile system to Iran is a monumental game-changer. Even with the added gambit of the Iranian military assuring the made in Iran Bavar 373 may be even more efficient than the S-300.

This explains why Jane’s Defense Weekly was already saying years ago that Israel could not penetrate Iranian airspace even if it managed to get there. And after the S-300s Iran inevitably will be offered the even more sophisticated S-400s, which are to be delivered to China as well.

The unspoken secret behind these game-changing proceedings actually terrifies Washington warmongers; it spells out a further frontline of Eurasian integration, in the form of an evolving Eurasian missile shield deployed against Pentagon/NATO ballistic plans.

A precious glimpse of what’s ahead was offered at the Moscow Conference on International Security (MICS) in mid-April.’

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Want to Help Nepal Recover from the Quake? Cancel its Debt, Says Rights Group

Kanya D’Almeida writes for IPS News:

[…] Questions abound as to how this impoverished nation, ranked 145 out of 187 on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) – making it one of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – will recover from the disaster, considered the worst in Nepal in over 80 years.

One possible solution has come from the Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of over 75 U.S.-based organisations and 400 faith communities worldwide, which said in a press release Monday that Nepal could qualify for debt relief under the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) new Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCR).

The IMF created the CCR this past February in order to assist poor countries recover from severe natural disasters or health crises by providing grants for debt service relief. Already, the fund has eased some of the financial woes of Ebola-impacted countries by agreeing to cancel nearly 100 million dollars of debt.

Quoting World Bank figures, Jubilee USA said in a statement, “Nepal owes 3.8 billion dollars in debt to foreign lenders and spent 217 million dollars repaying debt in 2013.”

Nepal owes some 1.5 billion dollars each to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as 54 million dollars to the IMF, 133 million dollars to Japan and 101 million dollars to China.’

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Millennials don’t trust anyone

Chris Cillizza reports for The Washington Post:

Of 10 major societal institutions, just two — the military and scientists — garnered majority support from millennials on the question of whom they trust to do the right thing most of the time. That’s according to new polling by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics of this most-written-and-talked-about generation, which encompasses those ranging in age from 18 to 29.

The lack of trust in longtime pillars of society among millennials is striking both for its depth and its breadth. No one is spared their side-eyed looks.

The media gets its worst — with 88 percent of millennials saying they only “sometimes” or “never” trust the press. Wall Street doesn’t fare much better, with 86 percent of millennials expressing distrust. Congress is at 82 percent. Three in four millennials (74 percent) sometimes or never trust the federal government to do the right thing, and two in three (63 percent) feel the same way about the president.  The Supreme Court, once a beacon of trust societywide, isn’t seen that way by millennials, with 58 percent saying they only sometimes or never trust the nation’s highest court to do the right thing. Heck, even local police aren’t spared; 50 percent say they trust the cops only sometimes or never to do the right thing, while 49 percent said they trust police “all” or “most” of the time.”

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U.N. warns Yemen campaign’s civilian toll violates laws of war

John Zarocostas reports for McClatchy:

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned Thursday that Saudi Arabian air strikes and combat between Yemen’s warring sides that target civilian and United Nations facilities are having a devastating impact on humanitarian aid efforts and are in violation of the laws of war.

In a statement, Ban said the attacks included bombardment of hospitals, humanitarian warehouses and U.N. compounds, and that civilians in Aden, Yemen’s second largest city, had been targeted by snipers. He called the attacks “unacceptable and in violation of international humanitarian law.”

U.N. officials have cited both the air campaign and fighting between Houthi rebels and supporters of the government of exiled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in statements denouncing the growing civilian toll. But they’ve been particularly critical of the Saudi air strikes, which they say have all but halted any effort to evacuate civilians by air or deliver humanitarian aid. The United States is providing aerial refueling and intelligence to the Saudi-led campaign.

On Thursday, Ban said more than 1,200 people have been killed in the past six weeks of fighting and that 300,000 have fled their homes.’

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Controversial MEK Leader Invited to Congress, Calls For Iran Overthrow to Fight ISIS

David Francis reports for Foreign Policy:

Featured photo - Long March of the Yellow Jackets: How a One-Time Terrorist Group Prevailed on Capitol HillThe controversial leader of an Iranian dissidents group was called to Capitol Hill to lend her expertise about the Islamic State lawmakers. Her testimony Wednesday showed she was only interested in talking about Iran.

Maryam Rajavi, leader of the Iranian dissidents organization Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), a group that until 2012 was list on the State Department’s terror list, insisted Tehran was the root of the Islamic State’s power. In prepared testimony, she mentioned Iran 135 times. By comparison, the Islamic State, or ISIS, got 19 mentions; Iraq was mentioned 48 times. Nuclear, as in Iran’s nuclear program, got 31 mentions.

But lawmakers tolerated Rajavi’s notion that “terrorism and fundamentalism came from the mullahs’ regime in Iran. When that is overthrown [the Islamic State] will be destroyed.”’

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Syria: Turkish Military Provided ‘Support Fire’ in al-Qaeda Takeover of Town

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Syria’s Foreign Ministry was quoted on the nation’s state media today as blaming Turkey in large measure for al-Qaeda’s takeover of the border town of Jisr al-Shughour, saying Turkish military forces providing both logistics support and providing “support fire” for advancing Islamists.

This is not the first time Syria has blamed Turkey for al-Qaeda’s recent gains, as they similarly accused Turkey of having orchestrated the offensive which put them in control of the city of Idlib, not far away.’

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When U.S. strikes go wrong, not all civilian lives are equal

Hannah Allam writes for McClatchy:

US NEWS DRONECREWS 3 LAThe unusual announcement by President Barack Obama last week that a U.S. strike on an al Qaida compound in Pakistan inadvertently had killed two hostages – one a U.S. citizen, the other Italian – came with an apology and the speedy pledge of monetary compensation for the families.

None of that happened for another American who was killed in a U.S. strike in 2011. Abdulrahman al Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of al Qaida propagandist Anwar al Awlaki, wasn’t believed to have been involved in militant activities and, by the U.S. government’s own version, was an unintended casualty of the U.S. attack that killed him in Yemen.

Yet four years on, despite a media campaign and a lawsuit, the Obama administration has not apologized for the killing or offered compensation to the Awlaki family. Human rights advocates say the reason is that, when it comes to making amends for civilian deaths in U.S. counterterrorism operations, not all lives are valued the same – even when they’re American.’

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4,811 Killed in Iraq during April

Margaret Griffis reports for Antiwar:

At least 4,811 people were killed in Iraq during April, and 1,358 were wounded. Of those 168 were killed in the last day or so. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Iraq are at odds over the arming of Sunnis and Kurds. All this comes as the European Union publicly acknowledges that the situation in Iraq is just getting worse.

According to the figures compiled on Antiwar.com during April, 1,631 civilians and security personnel were killed in Iraq during the month. The number of wounded civilians and security personnel reached 1,077 in the news reports used to compile these figures. At least 3,180 militants were reported killed as well, and another 281 militants were injured. The totals are 4,811 were killed and 1,358 were wounded. These should be considered low estimates.’

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Vietnam 40 years on: how a communist victory gave way to capitalist corruption

Nick Davies writes for The Guardian:

US army helicopters provide covering fire for South Vietnamese troops as they attack a Vietcong camp near the Vietnam-Cambodia border in March 1965.[…] The US left Vietnam in a state of physical ruin. Roads, rail lines, bridges and canals were devastated by bombing. Unexploded shells and landmines littered the countryside, often underwater in the paddy fields where peasants waded. Five million hectares of forest had been stripped of life by high explosives and Agent Orange. The new government reckoned that two-thirds of the villages in the south had been destroyed. In Saigon, the American legacy included packs of orphans roaming the streets and a heroin epidemic. Nationally, the new government estimated it was dealing with 10 million refugees; 1 million war widows; 880,000 orphans; 362,000 war invalids; and 3 million unemployed people.

The economy was in chaos. By the time Liberation Day arrived, inflation was running at up to 900%, and Vietnam – a country full of paddy fields – was having to import rice. In peace talks in Paris, the US had agreed to pay $3.5bn in reconstruction aid to mend the shattered infrastructure. It never paid a cent. Adding insult to penury, the US went on to demand that the communist government repay millions of dollars borrowed by its enemy, the old Saigon regime. Vietnam desperately needed the world to provide the trade and aid that could turnits economy around. The US did its best to make sure it got neither.’

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Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe’s problem

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

Yemen is short of many things, but weapons is not one of them. Yemenis own between 40 and 60 million guns, according to a report by UN experts published earlier this year. This should be enough for Yemen’s 26 million people, although the experts note that demand for grenades that used to cost $5, handguns ($150) and AK-47s ($150) has increased eightfold. Whatever else happens, the war in Yemen is not going to end because any of the participants are short of weaponry.

Yemeni politics is notoriously complicated and exotic, with shifting alliances in which former enemies embrace and old friends make strenuous efforts to kill each other. But this exoticism does not mean that the war in Yemen, where the Saudis started bombing on 26 March, is irrelevant to the rest of the world. Already the turmoil there is a breeding ground for al-Qaeda type attacks such as that on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The collapse of the country into a permanent state of warfare will send waves of boat-people towards Western Europe or anywhere else they can find refuge. It is absurd for European leaders to pretend that they are doing something about “terrorism” or the refugees drowning in the Mediterranean when they ignore the wars that are the root causes of these events.’

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Is “Thug” the New “N” Word?

U.S. corporate media pushing “thug and criminal” side of Baltimore riots: Interview with Adam Johnson

Where Japanese fight a US military base with kayaks

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports for BBC News:

Graphic[…] Okinawa makes up just 0.6% of Japan’s land mass but, as the locals will never tire of telling you, it hosts over 70% of the US bases in Japan.

The people of Okinawa are weary of the 70 years of “semi-occupation”. They have long complained of the noise and danger from US planes and helicopters flying day and night.

Most of all they complain of the young men of the US Marine Corps, who are seen as drunken, violent and a threat to Okinawan women.

In fact the statistics speak otherwise – the incidence of rape, murder and other crimes by American personnel in Okinawa is low.

But a small number of horrific cases have done huge harm – in particular the 1995 gang rape of a 13-year-old Okinawan schoolgirl by four US Marines changed attitudes here dramatically.

It’s a big reason why the US government wants to move Futenma, the largest Marine base in Okinawa, out of the densely populated south of the island to a remote spot 60km away.’

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Effort by Japan to Stifle News Media Is Working

Martin Fackler reports for The New York Times:

It was an unexpected act of protest that shook Japan’s carefully managed media world: Shigeaki Koga, a regular television commentator and fierce critic of the political establishment, abruptly departed from the scripted conversation during a live TV news program to announce that this would be his last day on the show because, as he put it, network executives had succumbed to political pressure for his removal.

“I have suffered intense bashing by the prime minister’s office,” Mr. Koga told his visibly flabbergasted host late last month, saying he had been removed as commentator because of critical statements he had made about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Later in the program, Mr. Koga held up a sign that read “I am not Abe,” a play on the slogan of solidarity for journalists slain in January at a French satirical newspaper.

The outburst created a public firestorm, and not only because of the spectacle of Mr. Koga, a dour-faced former top government official, seemingly throwing away his career as a television commentator in front of millions of viewers. His angry show of defiance also focused national attention on the right-leaning government’s increased strong-arming of the news media to reduce critical coverage.’

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US, Japan Unveil New Military ‘Guidelines’ with Eye on China

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

US and Japanese officials today unveiled the broad strokes of a new set of “guidelines”for military cooperation, eliminating long-standing geographical restrictions on Japan’s involvement that were and are necessitated by the country’s constitution limiting their military engagements.

Pressed heavily by the US to the biggest military buildup since the end of WW2, and with hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe only too willing to go along, US officials are calling the deal an “historic transition” for Japan.

[…] US interests in confronting China militarily are informing much of this policy, with the planned “Asia pivot” by the Pentagon somewhat blunted by a major new US war against ISIS.

The US has been verbally picking fights with China over naval claims for several years now, backing literally every other country in the region whenever claimed naval territory overlaps, and talking up confrontations in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea.’

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