Author Archive: mrdsk

Saudi Arabia Silences UN Human Rights Council Over Its War Crimes in Yemen: Interview with Omer Aziz

Sharmini Peries talks to Omer Aziz, a student at Yale Law School and Student Fellow at the Yale Information Society. He discusses Saudi Arabia’s human rights records and its successful effort to block a UN inquiry into the situation in Yemen, one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent times. (The Real News)

UK-Saudi Arabia: the new special relationship

Richard Norton-Taylor reports for The Guardian:

Prime Minister David Cameron receives the King Abdullah Decoration One from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah, November 6, 2012.The Guardian reported last week how leaked documents revealed that Britain conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi Arabia to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council (UNHRC).

The elevation of the Saudi kingdom to one of the UN’s most influential bodies in 2013 prompted fresh international criticism of its human rights record, the Guardian noted.

A year earlier, 2012, a Shia activist, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, then aged 17, was arrested. He faces death by crucifixion after being convicted of joining an anti-government demonstration.

Britain’s Ministry of Justice, meanwhile, has bidded for a £5.9m contract [which has since been cancelled] to provide prison expertise to the Saudis. The bid was put in by Justice Solutions International, the commercial arm of the MoJ set up by the last justice secretary, Chris Grayling.

Saudi Arabia is Britain’s largest arms market by far. It has sold 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft to the country in a contract worth an estimated £4.4bn, upgraded Saudi Tornado aircraft (part of the controversial £40bn al-Yamamah contract signed by Margaret Thatcher) in a contract worth an estimated £2.5bn, and upgraded 70 US F15 combat jets in the Saudi air force.


Secret Warfare: U.S. Special Forces Expand Training to Allies With Histories of Abuse

Nick Turse writes for The Intercept:

[…] Since 9/11, Special Ops forces have expanded in almost every conceivable way — from budget to personnel to overseas missions — with JCETs playing a significant role. Special Operations Command keeps the size and scope of the program a well-guarded secret, refusing to release even basic figures about the number of missions or the countries involved, but documents obtained by The Intercept demonstrate that from 2012 to 2014 some of America’s most elite troops — including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets — carried out 500 Joint Combined Exchange Training missions around the world.

“The purpose of JCETs is to foster the training of U.S. SOF in mission-critical skills by training with partner-nation forces in their home countries,” according to Ken McGraw, a spokesperson for U.S. Special Operations Command. “The program enables U.S. SOF to build their capability to conduct operations with partner-nation military forces in an unfamiliar environment while developing their language skills, and develop[ing] familiarity with local geography and culture.”

That’s the official line, but the program appears to have an additional goal — transferring elite military skills from American operators to local forces. “Ultimately that is the overarching goal of these activities,” says Linda Robinson, a senior international policy analyst at the Rand Corp. and author of One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare.


U.S. Special Ops Forces Deployed in 135 Nations

Nick Turse reports for Tom Dispatch:

This year, U.S. Special Operations forces have already deployed to 135 nations, according to Ken McGraw, a spokesman for Special Operations Command (SOCOM).  That’s roughly 70% of the countries on the planet.  Every day, in fact, America’s most elite troops are carrying out missions in 80 to 90 nations, practicing night raids or sometimes conducting them for real, engaging in sniper training or sometimes actually gunning down enemies from afar. As part of a global engagement strategy of endless hush-hush operations conducted on every continent but Antarctica, they have now eclipsed the number and range of special ops missions undertaken at the height of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the waning days of the Bush administration, Special Operations forces (SOF) were reportedly deployed in only about 60 nations around the world.  By 2010, according to the Washington Post, that number had swelled to 75.  Three years later, it had jumped to 134 nations, “slipping” to 133 last year, before reaching a new record of 135 this summer.  This 80% increase over the last five years is indicative of SOCOM’s exponential expansion which first shifted into high gear following the 9/11 attacks.

Special Operations Command’s funding, for example, has more than tripled from about $3 billion in 2001 to nearly $10 billion in 2014 “constant dollars,”according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  And this doesn’t include funding from the various service branches, which SOCOM estimates at around another $8 billion annually, or other undisclosed sums that the GAO was unable to track.  The average number of Special Operations forces deployed overseas has nearly tripled during these same years, while SOCOM more than doubled its personnel from about 33,000 in 2001 to nearly 70,000 now.


War, Propaganda and the Enemy Within: Abby Martin Interviews Chris Hedges

Abby Martin interviews Chris Hedges, journalist and the author of several books including Empire of Illusion and Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, about the “folly of empire.” (The Empire Files)

War on Islamic State Part of a New Cold War

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

Russia is bombing “terrorists” in Syria, and the US is understandably peeved.

A day after the bombing began, Obama’s Defence Secretary Ashton Carter complained that most Russian strikes “were in areas where there were probably not ISIL (IS) forces”.

Anonymously, US officials accused Russia of deliberately targeting CIA-sponsored “moderate” rebels to shore-up the regime of Bashir al-Assad.

Only two of Russia’s 57 airstrikes have hit ISIS, opined Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in similar fashion. The rest have hit “the moderate opposition, the only forces fighting ISIS in Syria,” he said.

Such claims have been dutifully parroted across the Western press with little scrutiny, bar the odd US media watchdog.

But who are these moderate rebels, really?


US Scraps $500 Million Program to Train Syrian Rebels

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

In a move that officials said was likely coming weeks ago, the Pentagon today announced that it is formally ending its $500 million “train and equip” program, which was meant to create a new, pro-US rebel faction, dubbed the New Syrian Forces (NSF).

The NSF program was a disastrous failure, with two “classes” of rebels sent to Syria, numbering around 125 in all, and accomplishing nothing. The first class was 54 people, and quickly routed by al-Qaeda, leaving “four or five” left in recent testimony to Congress.

Incredibly, that was probably less of a failure than the second class, which saw roughly 70 fighters show up in Syria from Turkey and more or less immediately give all their US-made weapons and vehicles to al-Qaeda. Adding to the confusion about “US-trained rebels,” the Pentagon insisted they’d never trained the second class leader.


Did U.S. weapons supplied to Syrian rebels draw Russia into the conflict?

Liz Sly reports for The Washington Post:

American antitank missiles supplied to Syrian rebels are playing an unexpectedly prominent role in shaping the Syrian battlefield, giving the conflict the semblance of a proxy war between the United States and Russia, despite President Obama’s express desire to avoid one.

The U.S.-made BGM-71 TOW missiles were delivered under a two-year-old covert program coordinated between the United States and its allies to help vetted Free Syrian Army groups in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad. Now that Russia has entered the war in support of Assad, they are taking on a greater significance than was originally intended.

So successful have they been in driving rebel gains in northwestern Syria that rebels call the missile the “Assad Tamer,” a play on the word Assad, which means lion. And in recent days they have been used with great success to slow the Russian-backed offensive aimed at recapturing ground from the rebels.


Brzezinski Urges US to ‘Retaliate’ Against Russian Forces in Syria

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

In a newly published op-ed for the Financial Times, former official in the Johnson and Carter Administrations Zbigniew Brzezinski urged that US to use “strategic boldness” in confronting Russia, potentially militarily, over their involvement in Syria.

Brzezinski presented Russian airstrikes against Syrian rebel factions as at best a display of “Russian military incompetence” and at worst a “dangerous desire to highlight American political impotence,” saying America’s credibility is at stake from allowing Russia to strike the rebels the US previously armed, terming them “American assets.”

He called for the US to openly demand Russia unconditionally halt all such moves, saying Russian warplanes in Syria are “vulnerable, isolated geographically from their homeland” and could be “disarmed” by force if the Russians don’t comply with US demands.


You Think the NSA Is Bad? Meet Former CIA Director Allen Dulles

Aaron Wiener recently interview David Talbot for Mother Jones about his new book:

“What follows,” David Talbot boasts in the prologue to his new book The Devil’s Chessboard, “is an espionage adventure that is far more action-packed and momentous than any spy tale with which readers are familiar.” Talbot, the founder of and author of the Kennedy clan study Brothers, doesn’t deal in subtlety in his biography of Allen Dulles, the CIA director under presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, the younger brother of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, and the architect of a secretive national security apparatus that functioned as essentially an autonomous branch of government. Talbot offers a portrait of a black-and-white Cold War-era world full of spy games and nuclear brinkmanship, in which everyone is either a good guy or a bad guy. Dulles—who deceived American elected leaders and overthrew foreign ones, who backed ex-Nazis and thwarted left-leaning democrats—falls firmly in the latter camp.

Mother Jones chatted with Talbot about the reporting that went into his 704-page doorstop, the controversy he invited with his discussion of Kennedy-assassination conspiracy theories, and the parallels he sees in today’s government intelligence overreach.


Berlin anti-TTIP trade deal protest attracts hundreds of thousands

Chris Johnston reports for The Guardian:

Protesters gather to demonstrate against the TTIP trade agreement in Berlin on Saturday. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Berlin on Saturday to oppose a planned free trade deal between the European Union and the United States that is claimed to be anti-democratic and to threaten food safety and environmental standards.

The environmental groups, charities and opposition parties that organised the protest claimed 250,000 people took part, while a police spokesman said 100,000 attended. Smaller protests were also held in other cities, including Amsterdam, with a rally due to be held in London on Saturday night at which shadow chancellor John McDonnell is scheduled to speak.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would create the world’s largest free-trade zone, encompassing some 800 million consumers, and harmonise regulation between the EU and North America in areas ranging from food safety law to environmental rules and banking regulations. It would mean that cars made in Britain could be sold in the US, for example, but opponents say it would water down important EU regulations.


Vast Majority of U.S. Voters Want Citizens Overturned: Why the Media Isn’t Covering It

The Families Funding the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen and Karen Yourish reports for The New York Times:

They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.

Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, according to a New York Times investigation. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.

These donors’ fortunes reflect the shifting composition of the country’s economic elite. Relatively few work in the traditional ranks of corporate America, or hail from dynasties of inherited wealth. Most built their own businesses, parlaying talent and an appetite for risk into huge wealth: They founded hedge funds in New York, bought up undervalued oil leases in Texas, made blockbusters in Hollywood. More than a dozen of the elite donors were born outside the United States, immigrating from countries like Cuba, the old Soviet Union, Pakistan, India and Israel.

But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlements. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth and preserving a system that would allow others to prosper, too.


Israel’s Weapons of Influence: Interview with Jeff Halper

Afshin Rattansi talks to Jeff Halper, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the author of a new book: War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification. Halper gets into how Israel uses its military might to influence some of the most powerful countries in the world and how Britain helped lay the legal framework for the demolishment of homes in Palestine. (Going Underground)

Pilger on Palestine in 2014: Breaking the last taboo – Gaza and the threat of world war

John Pilger wrote in September 2014:

C2u.jpg“There is a taboo,” said the visionary Edward Said, “on telling the truth about Palestine and the great destructive force behind Israel. Only when this truth is out can any of us be free.”

For many people, the truth is out now. At last, they know. Those once intimidated into silence can’t look away now. Staring at them from their TV, laptop, phone, is proof of the barbarism of the Israeli state and the great destructive force of its mentor and provider, the United States, the cowardice of European governments, and the collusion of others, such as Canada and Australia, in this epic crime.

The attack on Gaza was an attack on all of us. The siege of Gaza is a siege of all of us. The denial of justice to Palestinians is a symptom of much of humanity under siege and a warning that the threat of a new world war is growing by the day.

When Nelson Mandela called the struggle of Palestine “the greatest moral issue of our time”, he spoke on behalf of true civilisation, not that which empires invent. In Latin America, the governments of Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, El Salvador, Peru and Ecuador have made their stand on Gaza. Each of these countries has known its own dark silence when immunity for mass murder was sponsored by the same godfather in Washington that answered the cries of children in Gaza with more ammunition to kill them.

Unlike Netanyahu and his killers, Washington’s pet fascists in Latin America didn’t concern themselves with moral window dressing. They simply murdered, and left the bodies on rubbish dumps. For Zionism, the goal is the same: to dispossess and ultimately destroy an entire human society: a truth that 225 Holocaust survivors and their descendants have compared with the genesis of genocide.


Media Reports ISIS Nuclear Plot That Never Actually Involved ISIS

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

CBS on Moldavian radiation stingThe AP published this week (10/5/15) a thrilling account of how the FBI, in concert with Moldovan authorities, “disrupted” a smuggling ring that was supposedly trying to sell “nuclear material” to ISIS and other terror organizations over a five-year span. The primary developments in the story are almost a year old, but the resurfaced tale made news across the English-speaking world:

‘Annihilate America’: Inside a Secret, Frightening Scheme to Sell Nuclear Material to ISIS — Salon (10/7/15)

AP: Smugglers Busted Trying to Sell Nuclear Material to ISIS — CBS News (10/7/15)

FBI Foils Smugglers’ Plot to Sell Nuclear Material to ISIS — The Independent (10/7/15)

There was only one problem: At no point do the multiple iterations of the AP‘s reporting show that anyone involved in the FBI sting were members of or have any connection to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIL or Daesh). While one of several smuggling attempts discussed in AP‘s reporting involved an actual potential buyer–an otherwise unknown Sudanese doctor who four years ago “suggested that he was interested” in obtaining uranium–the “terrorists” otherwise involved in the cases were FBI and other law enforcement agents posing as such.


Total drone strikes under Obama in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen now 491 after September attacks

Jack Serle and Abigail Fielding-Smith report for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on a ramp in Afghanistan Oct. 1. The Reaper is launched, recovered and maintained at deployed locations, while being remotely operated by pilots and sensor operators at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (Courtesy photo/US Air Force)i. Key points:

  • CIA and Pakistan Air Force drones hit Pakistan’s tribal areas
  • US strikes continue in Yemen as the civil war rages
  • Al Shabaab continue to kill peacekeepers and civilians in Somalia
  • The three drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen in September means a total of 491 drone strikes there under President Obama
  • US air power helps stem the Taliban tide in Afghanistan
  • Medecins Sans Frontiers trauma centre in Kunduz hit in October air strike
  • The Bureau publishes investigation into UK’s Watchkeeper programme as Cameron doubles RAF drone fleet


Making Money from Misery: Antony Loewenstein on his new book ‘Disaster Capitalism’

Amy Goodman talks to Antony Loewenstein about his new book, ‘Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe.’ Lowenstein travelled across the globe examining how companies like G4S, Serco and Halliburton are deploying for-profit private contractors to war zones and building for-profit private detention facilities to warehouse refugees, prisoners and asylum seekers. Loewenstein has also teamed up with filmmaker Thor Neureiter to create a forthcoming documentary that chronicles how international aid and investment has impacted communities in Haiti, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and beyond. (Democracy Now!)

CIA Director John McCone Was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover-Up

Philip Shenon, author of A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination, writes for Politico:

John McCone came to the CIA as an outsider. An industrialist and an engineer by training, he replaced veteran spymaster Allen Dulles as director of central intelligence in November 1961, after John F. Kennedy had forced out Dulles following the CIA’s bungled operation to oust Fidel Castro by invading Cuba’s Bay of Pigs. McCone had one overriding mission: restore order at the besieged CIA. Kennedy hoped his management skills might prevent a future debacle, even if the Californian—mostly a stranger to the clubby, blue-blooded world of the men like Dulles who had always run the spy agency—faced a steep learning curve.

After JFK’s assassination in Dallas in November 1963, President Lyndon Johnson kept McCone in place at the CIA, and the CIA director became an important witness before the Warren Commission, the panel Johnson created to investigate Kennedy’s murder. McCone pledged full cooperation with the commission, which was led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, and testified that the CIA had no evidence to suggest that Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin, was part of any conspiracy, foreign or domestic. In its final report, the commission came to agree with McCone’s depiction of Oswald, a former Marine and self-proclaimed Marxist, as a delusional lone wolf.

But did McCone come close to perjury all those decades ago? Did the onetime Washington outsider in fact hide agency secrets that might still rewrite the history of the assassination? Even the CIA is now willing to raise these questions. Half a century after JFK’s death, in a once-secret report written in 2013 by the CIA’s top in-house historian and quietly declassified last fall, the spy agency acknowledges what others were convinced of long ago: that McCone and other senior CIA officials were “complicit” in keeping “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission.


Wikileaks release of TPP deal text stokes ‘freedom of expression’ fears

Sam Thielman reports for The Guardian:

President Obama meets with agriculture and business leaders to discuss the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for American business and workers.Wikileaks has released what it claims is the full intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the controversial agreement between 12 countries that was signed off on Monday.

TPP was negotiated in secret and details have yet to be published. But critics including Democrat presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders,unions and privacy activists have lined up to attack what they have seen of it. Wikileaks’ latest disclosures are unlikely to reassure them.

One chapter appears to give the signatory countries (referred to as “parties”) greater power to stop embarrassing information going public. The treaty would give signatories the ability to curtail legal proceedings if the theft of information is “detrimental to a party’s economic interests, international relations, or national defense or national security” – in other words, presumably, if a trial would cause the information to spread.

A drafter’s note says that every participating country’s individual laws about whistleblowing would still apply.


The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade

Joseph Stiglitz and Adam Hersh wrote for Project Syndicate prior to TPP agreement:

As negotiators and ministers from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries meet in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the details of the sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), some sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems.

You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade.” The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

New Zealand has threatened to walk away from the agreement over the way Canada and the US manage trade in dairy products. Australia is not happy with how the US and Mexico manage trade in sugar. And the US is not happy with how Japan manages trade in rice. These industries are backed by significant voting blocs in their respective countries. And they represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the TPP would advance an agenda that actually runs counter to free trade.

For starters, consider what the agreement would do to expand intellectual property rights for big pharmaceutical companies, as we learned from leaked versions of the negotiating text. Economic research clearly shows the argument that such intellectual property rights promote research to be weak at best. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary: When the Supreme Court invalidated Myriad’s patent on the BRCA gene, it led to a burst of innovation that resulted in better tests at lower costs. Indeed, provisions in the TPP would restrain open competition and raise prices for consumers in the US and around the world – anathema to free trade.


What Washington Isn’t Saying About the TPP ‘Victory’: Interview with Manuel Pérez-Rocha

Manuel Pérez-Rocha is a policy analyst at Institute for Policy Studies. In this short interview he says that the stated purpose of the agreement, to eliminate tariffs, has distracted people from its more subtle goal of protecting corporate profits by establishing a judicial system that prioritises the big multi-nationals. (The Real News)

Here’s What Happens Under the TPP (SHAFTA): Interview with Ari Rabin-Havt and Kevin L. Kearns

Thom Hartmann talks to Ari Rabin-Havt of The Agenda and SiriusXM Progress, and Kevin L. Kearns of United States Business and Industry Council, about the TPP and whether Congress will go along with this corporate negotiated and corporate managed trade agreement. (The Big Picture)

Consumer Groups Slam the TPP as ‘NAFTA on Steroids’: Interview with Robert Weissman

Amy Goodman talks to Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, about the agreement reached this past Monday between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest regional trade accord in history. The agreement has been negotiated for eight years in secret and will encompass 40 percent of the global economy. The secret 30-chapter text has still not been made public, although sections of draft text have been leaked by WikiLeaks during the negotiations. Congress will have at least 90 days to review the TPP before President Obama can sign it. The Senate granted Obama approval to fast-track the measure and present the agreement to Congress for a yes-or-no vote with no amendments allowed. (Democracy Now!)

How World War Three could start tomorrow

PW Singer and August Cole write for The Telegraph:

Berlin marks 50 years since wall constructionThere is an old adage that militaries set themselves up by failure by preparing to fight the last war. When it comes to 21st Century warfare, the problem however may not be with looking back, but that we aren’t looking back far enough.

For the last two decades, leaders in London and Washington have become focused on operations in places like Sierra Leona, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria, where the worry was, and is, weak and imploding states.

But bigger trends are at play globally. We are seeing the return of great power politics – and with it, the risk of powerful states going to war. Conflict with the likes of Russia or China was something that seemed buried with the end of the Cold War. Yet today’s simmering tensions mean there is a risk of such an outcome becoming all too real.

As in the past, it is perfectly possible that a third world war could start with a small event, or even by accident. One of the many Russian bomber planes now probing NATO’s borders could collide with an RAF Typhoon, prompting an aerial skirmish the likes of which the world has not seen for decades. Indeed, the skies over Syria are starting to get dangerously crowded, with Russian jets flying near US planes on bombing runs, and sparring with NATO air defenses in neighboring Turkey. Perhaps it could happen at sea, when a Japanese or American ship scrapes paint with its Chinese Navy counterpart amid the reefs in the Pacific that are being militarized as part of Asia’s current arms race.


Top Tory Donor Lycamobile’s Offshore Empire Is Embroiled In Sri Lanka’s Hunt For Stolen Assets

Heidi Blake and her team report for Buzzfeed:

The offshore empire of the Lycamobile tycoon Subaskaran Allirajah is facing investigation as part of a sprawling international probe into allegations that billions of dollars were stolen from Sri Lanka by associates of the country’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa.

BuzzFeed News has uncovered secret details of a deal being scrutinised by the Sri Lankan authorities in which the state telecoms company was effectively forced to pump around $10 million into a “completely flawed” venture owned jointly by a relative of Rajapaksa and a key offshore company in the Lycamobile business network.

Senior government and police officials in Colombo, Sri Lanka, told BuzzFeed News that the newly inaugurated financial crimes division of the Sri Lankan police is launching a probe into the venture, Sky Network, which they suspect was a “shell company” that the president’s nephew used to enrich himself through a “shady transaction”.

Allirajah has strongly denied allegations about his association with the autocrat, who is accused of rampant corruption and human rights atrocities during his decade in power. He insisted last year that he had no business in Sri Lanka and had never met Rajapaksa or dealt with his relatives. But now BuzzFeed News has obtained conclusive evidence – from corporate documents, insiders, and government officials – that his empire did business with the Rajapaksa family. Company filings in Colombo show that Sky Network was 95% owned by a key arm of Lycamobile’s corporate web and the former president’s nephew, who sat on the board alongside the telecoms giant’s then chief executive.

The revelations will pile further pressure on David Cameron to sever his ties with Allirajah, whose company has donated more than £1.3 million to the Tories. The party has previously brushed off explicit warnings about the donor’s links to the Rakapaksa family and continued accepting gifts running to more than £500,000 in this year alone.


TPP, TTIP, TISA: The US strategy to create a new global legal and economic system

Why The Pharmaceutical Industry Is The Worst

The Radically Changing Story of the U.S. Airstrike on Afghan Hospital: From Mistake to Justification

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

When news first broke of the U.S. airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, the response from the U.S. military was predictable and familiar. It was all just a big, terrible mistake, its official statement suggested: an airstrike it carried out in Kunduz “may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.” Oops: our bad. Fog of war, errant bombs, and all that.

This obfuscation tactic is the standard one the U.S. and Israel both use whenever they blow up civilian structures and slaughter large numbers of innocent people with airstrikes. Citizens of both countries are well-trained – like some tough, war-weary, cigar-chomping general – to reflexively spout the phrase “collateral damage,” which lets them forget about the whole thing and sleep soundly, telling themselves that these sorts of innocent little mistakes are inevitable even among the noblest and most well-intentioned war-fighters, such as their own governments. The phrase itself is beautifully technocratic: it requires no awareness of how many lives get extinguished, let alone acceptance of culpability. Just invoke that phrase and throw enough doubt on what happened in the first 48 hours and the media will quickly lose interest.

But there’s something significantly different about this incident that has caused this “mistake” claim to fail. Usually, the only voices protesting or challenging the claims of the U.S. military are the foreign, non-western victims who live in the cities and villages where the bombs fall. Those are easily ignored, or dismissed as either ignorant or dishonest. Those voices barely find their way into U.S. news stories, and when they do, they are stream-rolled by the official and/or anonymous claims of the U.S. military, which are typically treated by U.S. media outlets as unassailable authority.


White House: Bombing Afghan Hospital ‘Not a War Crime’

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

A weekend US attack on a hospital full of civilians outside the Afghan city of Kunduz has sparked international condemnation, with the aid group that was operating the facility, Doctors Without Borders, urging an immediate independent investigation with the presumption that a war crime had been committed.

That’s unlikely to happen, however, as the White House insists bombing the hospital wasn’t “a war crime,” and Gen. Campbell dancing around the issue, claiming simultaneously that the attack was intention, and the result of an Afghan government request, but that the civilian deaths were “accidental.”

Huge civilian tolls in US attacks in Afghanistan have been a common occurrence throughout the 14-year occupation, and legal experts say it’s very unlikely that the International Criminal Court will look to step in on the incident, believing it would be too “politically sensitive” for the US.