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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Why the media silence on Lindsey Graham's vow to use the military to force vote in Congress?

© Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Senator Lindsey Graham

The protracted 2016 presidential campaign cycle has already begun, and with it the close attention of the media to the statements made by prospective candidates in hopes of discovering even the slightest "gaffe" that can be turned into a political news item.

All the more odd then that the remarks made at a New Hampshire town hall meeting by one Republican presidential hopeful, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have been virtually blacked out by all of the major print and broadcast outlets.

Asked by a member of the audience what he would do about automatic cuts to the Pentagon budget that would go into effect because of sequestration, Graham responded that the problem had left him sick to his stomach.

He continued: "And here is the first thing I would do if I were President of the United States: I wouldn't let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to. We're not leaving town until we restore these defense cuts. We're not leaving town until we restore the intel cuts."

The statement is extraordinary. A candidate for the presidency of the United States vows that, once elected, he would use the military to impose his—and its—will upon a recalcitrant Congress. Presumably, troops would hold members of the House and Senate at gunpoint until they produced the results demanded.

What Graham described is in essence a military coup, much like those organized by the Pentagon and the CIA in countries like Iran, Guatemala, Brazil, Indonesia, Chile and Argentina, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives in the process.

Graham's aides subsequently tried to portray Graham's statement as an attempt at humor, insisting that it was not to be taken "literally," even though the candidate himself stressed that unleashing the military on Congress was "literally" something he would do.

The only corporate media outlet to produce anything on the incident was Bloomberg news. It cynically headlined its piece, "How a Lindsey Graham Joke Turned into a Coup Plot Against the Government." Most of the article was dedicated to mocking what the author termed the "ideological media" for treating "the Graham joke as a serious proposal."

The , the supposed "paper of record," maintained a complete silence on Graham's remarks. It did post a puff piece reporting that Graham is one of a number of senators who "rarely or never use email," while noting reassuringly that "Lawmakers can certainly be effective without using email since they employ staff who send messages on their behalf." Hot news indeed.

A politics blog featured the same email story. Graham's statement about dispatching troops to Capitol Hill received only the absolute minimal and indirect reference in another online blog: a link to the Bloomberg story, saying nothing about its content and describing it as a piece that "explains how a meaningless remark becomes a 'gaffe.'"

Graham's remark was no mere "gaffe," much less meaningless. It expresses real relations within the US government, which after nearly 14 years of continuous war has seen an immense growth in the power and influence of the military and intelligence apparatus.

This protracted eruption of militarism has gone hand-in-hand with the monopolization of wealth and political power in the hands of a financial oligarchy and the unprecedented deepening of social inequality. These processes, rooted in the crisis of American capitalism, have steadily eroded and hollowed out what remains of constitutional government and democratic rights in the US.

These relations have found concrete expression in the ongoing discussions over sequestration and the military budget, with a parade of generals, admirals and civilian Pentagon officials coming before Congress to predict catastrophe and global defeat if any part of the gargantuan spending on arms and military operations is cut.

The all but stated premise behind this testimony is that the generals and admirals are the only ones qualified to set military policy, and the Congress, ostensibly consisting of the elected representatives of the people, should get out of their way. This is a viewpoint that elements like Graham echo and endorse.

Under conditions of deepening crisis and rising social conflict, it is not such a leap from this position to the military taking a more direct hand in dictating government policy, along the lines suggested by Graham to the town meeting in New Hampshire.

If the corporate media has no interest in probing the real relations underlying Graham's remarks, it is because it is fully complicit in the conspiracies to wage war abroad and eviscerate democratic rights at home. It is fulfilling its function as an instrument of the corporate and financial elite: not to expose or clarify, but to cover up the real dangers confronting the working class.

Berlin professor sees Germany as the "taskmaster" of Europe

© Claudia Höhne/Körber-Stiftung

"In the long run, the role of 'paymaster' can only be played by one who is also ready to play the difficult role of 'taskmaster'," writes Herfried Münkler in his new book (Power in the Center) The Berlin political scientist openly argues for German hegemony in Europe. Germany has "become the central power in Europe," writes Münkler, and must "play the corresponding role."

Münkler justifies German claims to hegemony on the grounds that "the European integration process has come to a standstill" and its resumption cannot "be expected for the time being."

"The idea that a European nation could one day emerge from the European project" has failed, says Münkler. Due to the longstanding economic crisis in France, the "Berlin-Paris Axis" has "become in the last years a German center." Under these circumstances Germany is obliged as the "power in the center" to take on the task of "holding Europe together" and of "getting Europeans into line."

"Germany must lead in Europe," demands Münkler. He adds that the country will have to proceed carefully, something that "should not be confused with hesitancy and indecision." The role of a "power in the center" can "no longer be confined to that of a financial regulator," but includes "determined political and economic leadership."

Münkler is quite aware that the German claim to hegemony for which he argues faces opposition from the German population as well as from other European countries. He must admit that "a glimpse into the history of the last one and a half centuries is one single enormous warning sign regarding the geopolitical constellation of a strong center."

"Probably the most severe vulnerability" of the policies he advocates, says Münkler, is "that of German history: the possibility that at any time reference could be made to the rise of National Socialism and its racist ideology; the policy of extortion and annexation that Hitler had enacted since 1938; the war of aggression beginning in September 1939; the crimes of the Wehrmacht, especially in the war against the Soviet Union; and finally the murder of the European Jews."

The fact that the German ruling elite committed unspeakable crimes in their last attempt to dominate Europe does not, however, deter Münkler from propagandizing the same goal once again. A large part of is dedicated to refuting such objections and to arming German foreign policy against them.

First of all, Münkler proposes to largely suppress the democratic process. "European integration remains a much too complex process to be left to the control and objections of the population," he writes, singling out the "voting habits of citizens" as the "Achilles heel of European politics."

"We have to give up wanting to be popular with everyone," he notes at another point, "because that is not possible for a power in the center, if it wants to live up to its task." He states: "Anti-German demonstrations on the margins of the EU zone" and "anti-German invectives" should "not surprise and irritate us."

For these reasons, says Münkler, ruthless politicians are necessary. As the "leading power on matters of security policy," Germany requires a different "model of the political elite." It needs representatives who not only administer wealth but who are also capable of "making risky decisions."

One could dismiss Münkler's book as the arrogant work of a pompous professor, if it merely expressed his personal opinions. However, the Chair of the Department of Political Theory at Berlin's Humboldt University is closely connected to Germany's political elite and operates as an advisor to political parties, the government and the military. Many themes in his book are to be found in discussions and research organized by Germany's foreign and defense ministers over the last year.

As part of the project "Review 2014 - A Fresh Look at German Foreign Policy," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier ordered more than 50 international "expert opinions," all of which concluded that Germany would have to take on "more responsibility." Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen spoke a month ago at the Munich Security Conference on the theme "Leadership from the Center," echoing Münkler.

Münkler's book summarizes these views, justifies them and develops them further. It is propaganda text, political guidebook and attempt at historical excuse making all in one. Accordingly, grotesque contradictions and ideological contortions abound.

Münkler repeatedly argues that Germany has "not pressed for and not even promoted itself" as a central power and has "actually recoiled" from playing such a role. But—"intentionally or not"—Germany "has assumed the position of a and must now "cope with it."

At one point, Münkler even attempts to turn the crimes of the Nazi regime into a positive. The "historic vulnerability of Germany" is possibly "not a handicap at all, but a prerequisite for the acceptance of a leadership role for Germany in Europe," he explains. The EU members would probably not have allowed "a politically invulnerable player to become the European central power." Considering European history, they would "only accept a vulnerable hegemon, one they believe they would be able to rein in if necessary."

In order to justify the need for a central power, Münkler embarks on a long excursion into history. He deals with the empire of Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Carolingian dynasty and the Habsburgs, the Crusades, the Thirty Years War and the Napoleonic Wars. He even has the presumption to claim that "the irrefutable need for a center" is an "anthropological constant."

One question, however, Münkler constantly avoids: What social interests underlie the striving for German domination of Europe?

One year ago, Münkler led a fierce campaign against the historian Fritz Fischer. In 1961 Fischer had given proof in his groundbreaking book, , that these aims were rooted in the interests of German capital and the strategic requirements of its military forces. He documented the fact that the goals pursued by Hitler in the Second World War were largely in line with these aims.

We commented at the time: "Münkler's attacks on Fritz Fischer and his advocacy of a more aggressive imperialist foreign policy are closely linked. To prepare new crimes, German imperialism's historic crimes—to whose understanding Fischer has greatly contributed—must be played down and glossed over."

Münkler's latest book confirms this assessment. It argues for the German domination of Europe and obscures the interests this domination would serve. It arises neither from an abstract "need for a center," nor from the call by other countries for "German leadership," but from the historical dilemma facing German capitalism since its development at the end of the 19th century as the strongest in Europe.

In order to assert itself on the world market and to expand, it must organize Europe, which is fragmented into 50 countries, in its interest. Twice before—in 1914 and 1939—German capitalism attempted to do this by force, and both attempts led to a catastrophe. The worsening of the international financial and economic crisis and the sharpening of national and social tensions in Europe are now driving the ruling elite of Germany to make a third attempt that will also come to a catastrophic end if the working class does not get in its way.

In Ukraine and Greece, German imperialism has already shown what it is capable of. In Ukraine, the German government, in collaboration with the United States, supported a pro-western putsch that has driven that country to civil war and brought Russia and NATO to the verge of a possible nuclear war. In Greece, it is the driving force behind the austerity diktat that has set back the living standards of the working class by decades.

According to Münkler, both cases should serve as models for German policy as Europe's central power. He writes: "Summarizing the essential elements of Germany's approach to the euro crisis and to the conflict with Russia and Ukraine, one has the essential features of the policies which Germany should follow in the coming years in order to fulfill its duties as the ."

Shape-shifting robot a step closer with development of unique gallium alloy

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Hasta la vista, baby. A real-life T-1000, the shape-shifting liquid-metal robot from , is a step closer, thanks to a self-powered liquid metal motor.

The device is surprisingly simple: just a drop of metal alloy made mostly of gallium - which is liquid at just under 30 °C - with some indium and tin mixed in. When placed in a solution of sodium hydroxide, or even brine, and kept in contact with a flake of aluminium for "fuel", it moves around for about an hour. It can travel in a straight line, run around the outside of a circular dish, or squeeze through complex shapes.

"The soft machine looks rather intelligent and [can] deform itself according to the space it voyages in, just like [the] Terminator does from the science-fiction film," says Jing Liu from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. "These unusual behaviours perfectly resemble the living organisms in nature," he says, adding that they raise questions about the definition of life.

When they first saw the drop move, Liu and colleagues weren't sure how it was able to do so. Experiments revealed two mechanisms at play. Some of the thrust stems from a charge imbalance across the drop, which in turn creates a pressure differential between the front and the back that pushes it forward. The aluminium also reacts with the sodium hydroxide, releasing hydrogen bubbles which drive the drop even faster.

Other researchers have shown that a stationary gallium drop can act as a pump when in an electric field. Liu followed up this idea and showed that if their self-powered motor is held still, it too becomes a pump, shifting about 50 millilitres of water every second. "It's the first ever self-powered pump," he says. The team says that could have immediate applications for moving liquid through a cooling device without the need for an external power source.

The work is part of a long-term effort to create intelligent robots that are non-rigid and so can be reshaped on the fly, a bit like the fictional T-1000. Liu says a robot based on their device could soon be used to monitor the environment or deliver materials within pipes and even blood vessels.

Last year both Liu's group and one led by Michael Dickey at North Carolina State University in Raleigh showed that the gallium alloy forms complex shapes in response to an applied electrical current. When the current is turned off, it returns to the simple drop shape. Liu says these two methods could be used together to change the drop's velocity, or to coordinate a swarm of independent drops.

Taro Toyota of the University of Tokyo says the invention could help convert chemical energy to mechanical energy in a future liquid robot. "Such liquid robots will be a seed of artificial life seen in some movies," he says. "I would raise Flubber instead of Terminator 2."

Journal reference: , DOI: 10.1002/adma.201405438

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg - Donbas conflict not NATO's responsibility

The conflict in southeastern Ukraine (Donbas) is not the responsibility of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the alliance's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has told Sky News.

"Our main responsibility is to defend and to protect all NATO allies and no NATO ally has been attacked," Stoltenberg said on Friday, reminding that Ukraine is not a member of NATO "so there is a difference between Ukraine and NATO members, because the security guarantee is for NATO allies."

A military conflict started in southeastern Ukraine in April, 2014, when Kiev launched a military operation against independence supporters who refused to recognize the new coup-installed government. The Kiev authorities, as well as Western countries and NATO have been accusing Russia of being involved in the situation in Ukraine, going as far as to claim that Russia has sent weapons to Donbas independence supporters.

Stoltenberg told Sky News that adherence to the Minsk truce is crucial to the stabilization of the situation in Ukraine.

"The most important thing now is to support the implementation of the Minsk agreements, meaning respecting the ceasefire, making sure that all their weapons are withdrawn from the frontline," Stoltenberg said.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukraine continues to build up its military potential and defense capability, having resumed regular military training, which will be conducted with the participation of NATO instructors.

Free will? Same stimulus doesn't always produce same response, even in worms


Even worms have free will. If offered a delicious smell, for example, a roundworm will usually stop its wandering to investigate the source, but sometimes it won't.
Just as with humans, the same stimulus does not always provoke the same response, even from the same individual. New research at Rockefeller University, published online in , offers a new neurological explanation for this variability, derived by studying a simple three-cell network within the roundworm brain.

"We found that the collective state of the three neurons at the exact moment an odor arrives determines the likelihood that the worm will move toward the smell. So, in essence, what the worm is thinking about at the time determines how it responds," says study author Cori Bargmann, Torsten N. Wiesel Professor, head of the Lulu and Anthony Wang Laboratory of Neural Circuits and Behavior. "It goes to show that nervous systems aren't passively waiting for signals from outside, they have their own internal patterns of activity that are as important as any external signal when it comes to generating a behavior."

The researchers went a step deeper to tease out the dynamics within the network. By changing the activity of the neurons individually and in combination, first author Andrew Gordus, a research associate in the lab, and his colleagues could pinpoint each neuron's role in generating variability in both brain activity and the behavior associated with it.

The human brain has 86 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses, or connections, among them. The brain of the microscopic roundworm , by comparison, has 302 neurons and 7,000 synapses. So while the worm's brain cannot replicate the complexity of the human brain, scientists can use it to address tricky neurological questions that would be nearly impossible to broach in our own brains.

Worms spend their time wandering, looking for decomposing matter to eat. And when they smell it, they usually stop making random turns and travel straight toward the source. This change in behavior is initially triggered by a sensory neuron that perceives the smell and feeds that information to the network the researchers studied. As the worms pick up the alluring fruity smell of isoamyl alcohol, the neurons in the network transition into a low activity state that allows them to approach the odor. But sometimes the neurons remain highly active, and the worm continues to wander around -- even though its sensory neuron has detected the odor.

By recording the activity of these neurons, Gordus and colleagues found that there were three persistent states among the three neurons: All were off, all were on, or only one, called AIB, was on. If all were off, then, when the odor signal arrived, they stayed off. If all were on, they often, but not always, shut off. And, in the third and most telling scenario, if AIB alone was active when the odor arrived, everything shut off. "This means that for AIB, context matters. If it's on alone, its activity will drop when odor is added, but if it's on with the rest of the network, it has difficulty dropping its activity with the others," Gordus says.

AIB is the first neuron in the network to receive the signal, which it then relays to the other two network members, known as RIM and AVA; AVA sends out the final instruction to the muscles. When the researchers shut off RIM and AVA individually and together, they found AIB's response to the odor signal improved. This suggests that input from these two neurons competes with the sensory signal as it feeds down through the network.

Scaled up to account for the more nuanced behaviors of humans, the research may suggest ways in which our brains process competing motivations. "For humans, a hungry state might lead to you walk across the street to a delicious smelling restaurant. However, a competing aversion to the cold might lead you to stay indoors," he says.

In the worm experiments, the competition between neurons was influenced by the state of the network. There is plenty of evidence suggesting network states have a similar impact on animals with much larger and more complex brains, including us, says Bargmann, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "In a mammalian nervous system, millions of neurons are active all the time. Traditionally, we think of them as acting individually, but that is changing. Our understanding has evolved toward seeing important functions in terms of collective activity states within the brain."

Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew Gordus, Navin Pokala, Sagi Levy, Steven W. Flavell, Cornelia I. Bargmann.Feedback from Network States Generates Variability in a Probabilistic Olfactory Circuit. , 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.02.018

Another myth busted: No connection between hip width and efficient locomotion

Pregnant woman

Among the facts so widely assumed that they are rarely, if ever studied, is the notion that wider hips make women less efficient when they walk and run.

For decades, this assumed relationship has been used to explain why women don't have wider hips, which would make childbirth easier and less dangerous. The argument, known as the "obstetrical dilemma," suggests that for millions of years female humans and their bipedal ancestors have faced an evolutionary trade-off in which selection for wider hips for childbirth has been countered by selection for narrower hips for efficient locomotion.

A new study, however, shows that what was widely assumed to be fact is, in actuality, almost entirely incorrect.

A new study, conducted by researchers at Harvard in conjunction with colleagues at Boston University and Hunter College, found no connection between hip width and efficient locomotion, and suggests that scientists have long approached the problem in the wrong way. The study is described in a March 11 paper published in .

"This idea, that pelvic width for birth and pelvic width for locomotion are connected, is deeply ingrained in this discipline," said Anna Warrener, first author of the study and a post-doctoral fellow working in the lab of Daniel Lieberman, the Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences and Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. "Everyone thinks they know this is true...but it's wrong, and it's wrong for two reasons.First, the way we had modeled the forces involved didn't make sense. Second, we found that you can't predict, from the width of the pelvis, how much energy someone is using, so we've been looking at this biomechanical problem entirely wrong."

The study grew out of research Warrener conducted as part of her Ph.D at Washington Univertsity, St Louis, which she completed under the supervision of Herman Pontzer, now a professor of Anthropology at Hunter College, and himself a former Ph.D. student under Lieberman, and Eric Trinkaus. At the same time, Lieberman and Kristi Lewton, a former postdoctoral fellow in Lieberman's lab who is now at BU, were exploring the same problem. When the two teams discovered they'd been working on similar tracks, they decided to combine their efforts into a single study.

"This is an idea -- that wider hips make you less efficient -- that's been taught for 30 years," said Pontzer. "And I think Anna has shown very nicely, in collaboration with Kristi and Dan and I, that this just isn't true.

"Good science is about taking a critical look at things we take for granted," he continued. "So I think it's wonderful that what seemed to be settled science can be completely overturned by this really beautiful data. This is going to change the way we teach Anthropology 101 everywhere, and it's going to change the way we teach about human evolution and walking adaptations and the birth of babies. I think it's a great example of how new things can be uncovered when you really bother to look deeply at accepted ideas."

At the heart of why those earlier ideas were wrong, Warrener, Lieberman, Pontzer and Lewton discovered, were fundamental problems with the simple biomechanical models used to understand the forces acting on the hips.

"If we only had a pelvis and a femur, the old model might be correct," Lieberman said. "But we also have a shank, and an ankle, and a foot. And when you place your foot on the ground, forces don't just shoot straight up from the ground to your hip. By the time they arrive at your hip, they aren't acting on your body in this idealized way."

To understand what was really happening, the researchers turned to a biomechanical technique known as inverse dynamics.

"Essentially, what we did was to measure the chain reaction of forces as they move through the body, starting at the foot and progressing up the leg to the hip," Warrener said.

And as Warrener and Lieberman discovered, the old models simply didn't make sense.

Rotational movements at all joints, including the hip, are the product of forces generated by muscles or gravity, and a key biomechanical variable known as a moment arm, or lever arm.

In the case of the pelvis, two moment arms are of special importance. One is the moment arm from the center of the hip joint to the body's center of gravity. The other is the moment arm from the center of the hip joint to the abductor muscles along the side of the hip. These critical muscles stabilize the hip when only one foot is on the ground. The two moment arms act like the two sides of a see-saw. According to basic rules of physics, the longer the moment arm is from the hip to the center of the pelvis, the more force the hip abductor muscles have to produce to stabilize the body, thus requiring more energy. As a result, it has long been assumed that people with wider hips -- including, in theory, most women -- need to spend more energy to walk and run.

When Warrener and her colleages began studying scans of volunteers with a variety of body shapes, however, they found that the evidence to support that theory lacking.

"What we found is that that the true moment arm measured during locomotion is uncorrelated with the assumed moment arm determined from the width of the pelvis," she said. "So you can have a wide pelvis and a small moment arm, or you can have a narrow pelvis and a very long moment arm. That means you can't predict anything about how hard those abductor muscles are working to counteract torque based on the width of the pelvis, and therefore you can't predict anything about how much energy they're using."

"The bottom line is that people with wider hips don't have higher costs for locomotion," Lieberman added. "In fact, if you look at old studies that compared how efficient men and women are, they have always showed no difference. We have long had plenty of data to disprove the idea that men are more efficient than women at walking and running -- but now we know why it's wrong."

If wider hips don't equate with less efficient walking or running, it begs two questions -- why has the incorrect assumption persisted for so long, and why don't all women have the widest hips possible to allow for easier childbirth?

For the first, at least, the answer may have much to do with long-held cultural biases.

Until recently, Lieberman said, portrayals of hunter-gatherer societies imagined that men -- who were responsible for hunting -- were far more active than women. More recent studies, however, show this is untrue.

"For most of evolutionary history, women have done a great deal of work," he said. "Hunter-gatherer women walk, on average, nine kilometers a day, so it makes sense that they would be just as efficient as men, because women have to work just has hard as men. In addition, women are metabolically responsible not just for themselves but also for their infants.

"They have to pay the metabolic costs of gestation and nursing, and they have to feed dependent offspring, so they almost always need to save energy," Lieberman continued. "Women are under very strong selection to be efficient. So you'd predict they would also be efficient at walking as well, and that's exactly what we found."

While they don't have an answer for why all women don't have the widest possible hips, one hypothesis advanced by Warrener and colleagues suggests that the problem may be that the modern world is drastically different from any environment in human history.

"One idea my lab studies is the idea of mismatch," Lieberman said. "Our bodies are not always very well adapted for the novel environments in which we now live. One novel problem is too much energy. Women, including pregnant women, now have access to a lot more energy than they used to, and they have to work less. So we've gone from women being on the margin of just having enough energy, to suddenly having more energy than necessary. One result may be that babies have recently started to get too big to fit through their mother's birth canals."

Going forward, Warrener said, researchers need additional data before they can fully understand how the modern environment has changed birth outcomes.

"The take home message is that until recently, the maternal pelvis was well adapted for both its locomotor function and for giving birth," she said. "Natural selection demands that reproduction work. But the fact that both the development of the pelvis and a baby's size are strongly influenced by external environmental factors that have been changing rapidly in the last 10,000 years means that our current levels of birth difficulty aren't a good measure of what was happening in the past. What we really need is better data on birth outcomes and infant size in hunter-gatherer populations whose lifestyles are probably a better reflection of the conditions we evolved to deal with. That's a dissertation for someone else."

Journal Reference:

  1. Anna G. Warrener, Kristi L. Lewton, Herman Pontzer, Daniel E. Lieberman. A Wider Pelvis Does Not Increase Locomotor Cost in Humans, with Implications for the Evolution of Childbirth. , 2015; 10 (3): e0118903 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0118903

Elderly nun gang raped in India, sparking outrage

a nun

© File photo: K. Murali Kumar

A nun who resisted a group of dacoits that broke into a convent was gang-raped in West Bengal's Nadia district.

The attack at Convent of Jesus and Mary School is the latest in a string of high-profile rape cases in the country

A group of bandits gang raped an elderly nun on Saturday when she attempted to stop them from robbing a Christian missionary school in eastern India, police said, the latest crime to focus attention on the scourge of sexual violence in the country.

The nun, who is in her 70s, was hospitalized in serious condition after being attacked by seven or eight men at the Convent of Jesus and Mary School in Nadia district, 50 miles northeast of the West Bengal state capital of Kolkata, a police officer said.

Police Inspector General Anuj Sharma told Agence France-Presse that "two people have so far been arrested." The others remain at large.

The robbers tied the school's security guards with ropes early Saturday and entered the nuns' room, where the women were sleeping. They took one of the nuns to another room when she tried to block their way and then raped her, the officer said.

The men escaped with some cash, a cellphone, laptop computer and camera, all belonging to the school, the officer said. They also ransacked the school's chapel and holy items, the Press Trust of India cited the archbishop of Kolkata, Thomas D'Souza, as saying.

India has a long history of tolerance for sexual violence, but the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman aboard a moving bus in New Delhi caused outrage across the country.

The outcry led the federal government to rush legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. The law also made it a crime for officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are filed.

The latest incident comes at a time of heightened sensitivity over women's safety in India, which last week banned a documentary about the 2012 gang rape.

Authorities said screening the documentary could have caused public disorder, but critics accused the government of being more concerned with the country's reputation than the safety of its women.

In reaction to Saturday's attack, scores of angry students, their parents and teachers blocked a nearby highway and railroad track near the Christian missionary school for several hours demanding swift police action and the arrest of the culprits.

Mamta Banerjee, the state's top elected official, strongly condemned the attack and ordered a high-level police investigation. Banerjee tweeted her condemnation of what she called a "horrific attack," promising "swift, strongest action."

Meanwhile, D'Souza appealed to the public to maintain peace and harmony in the area.

Shame on India - 'India's Daughter' gang rape documentary banned by Indian Government

© AFP: Sajjad Hussain

Protests and outrage over crimes against women in India

India's decision to ban a documentary about the gang rape and murder of a woman in Delhi has been described as "uncivilised" by the film's director. The Indian government obtained a court injunction last week to stop the documentary, , from being broadcast in the country.

The documentary examines the horrific gang rape and murder of a 23 year old medical student in Delhi in December 2012.

"You cannot bury your shame and think you're going to deal with it somehow," the documentary's maker Leslee Udwin said. "India is part of the civilized world. I don't believe this ban was a civilised move."

The film contains confronting and explicit interviews with one of the men convicted of the rape, Mukesh Singh, and two of his lawyers. All three men repeatedly blame the victim and the Indian legal system for the crime. "A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy," Singh said during an interview conducted in a prison.

He goes on to say: "When being raped, she shouldn't fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape." The young woman attacked and killed by Singh and his accomplices is known as Nirbhaya, or "fearless" in Hindi, as Indian law prohibits the naming of victims of sexual assault.

Her mother, Asha Devi, told the ABC the documentary made a clear statement. "The documentary shows that there are people in our society who have no fear of law, who have no shame - who are such lowlifes that they are able to talk of their crimes," she said.

On the night of her attack, Nirbhaya was on her way home from a movie with a male friend at about 8:30pm. They boarded a private bus, which claimed to be going in their direction. But almost immediately the only other occupants - five men and a teenager - started harassing Nirbhaya.

When her friend tried to intervene he was bashed. The men then dragged Nirbhaya to the back of the bus and gang raped her repeatedly for around 45 minutes, violating her with an iron bar and ripping out some of her intestines.

Nirbhaya and her friend were then both dumped naked on the side of a busy highway and left for dead. Nirbhaya died two weeks later from injuries sustained during the attack. The men and teenager on the bus were arrested and charged. All five men were sentenced to death by hanging. But the sentencing has brought little comfort to Nirbhaya's parents.

"Our lives are totally disturbed and nothing has changed from that day for us - we remain disturbed," her father Badri Nath said.

Film's release could be prejudicial: lawyer

The attack sparked immediate protests in Delhi, with thousands of demonstrators demanding social change and justice."I made this documentary because, in response to this horrific rape, ordinary men and women came out on to the streets of India's cities, day after day for over a month, in a momentous show of determination, of hopefulness and passion, commitment," Ms Udwin said.

But the Indian government has questioned Ms Udwin's methods, saying she did not comply with the conditional permission she was granted to conduct interviews with the rapists in prison.

A court in Delhi justified banning the film, saying the rapist's comments could create "law and order problems". Ms Udwin disputes this, saying she did comply with the conditions of access imposed by the head of Delhi's Tihar Prison. And it's not just the Indian government that believes the documentary should be banned from screening on Indian televisions.

Some activists, including prominent lawyer Nandita Rao, support the ban believing the film could undermine the convicted rapists' ongoing appeals. "Once you show a film like this where one of the co-accused openly maligns, attributes roles and characters to other accused, you actually create a prejudicial environment and they cannot have a fair trial," Ms Rao said. "This is not only against our constitution, but in Britain, they would get an automatic acquittal. Fortunately, or unfortunately, our judges are not such sticklers for civil liberties and the film was banned in India."

Ms Udwin said she sought the advice of several Supreme Court judges before deciding to release the documentary, all of whom told her the cases against the convicted rapists would not be impacted.

Oklahoma just said you can only get married if you're religious


© Unknown

What say should the state have in marriage? That's a great question that many have been asking for a long time. But now the State of Oklahoma has answered that question in a fairly bizarre way...

Instead of saying that the State will have no role in marriage, instead of recognizing any agreement between consenting adults related to marriage, the State has mandated that it will back away just enough to allow clergy and clergy alone to conduct marriages. It will recognize marriage conducted only by officially recognized members of religious clergy.

So you can be gay or straight... as long as you go to church... or temple, or a mosque. Get the picture?

That means if you aren't particularly religious, the State of Oklahoma will not recognize any marital contract formed between consenting partners, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

House Bill 1125 was approved by a Republican majority, and now goes to the state Senate for consideration. Many glossed over this important detail about the State's refusal to recognize marriage rights if the marital contract was not conducted via a religious ceremony and clergy. Instead, initial reactions from many who wanted to see the state removed from policing marriages, was one of gratefulness.

But the State was never saying it would back off of marriage. The State still ultimately decides what marriages it will or won't recognize. Far from making marriages more free of State imposition, the Oklahoma just forced everyone who wants state-recognition of their marriage to undergo a religious ceremony.

Rep. Dennis Johnson, a Republican, said "Marriage was not instituted by government. It was instituted by God. There is no reason for Oklahoma or any state to be involved in marriage."

But there is little historical evidence that "marriage was instituted by God." The marital contract predated religion and can be found in the Code of Hammurabi from Ancient Mesopotamia, thousands of years ago. Marriage was practiced in non-monotheistic cultures even during Biblical times, as noted in the Biblical Genesis accounts of Egypt.

The idea that the Bible originated the concept of marriage is just not historical.

So if the State wants to really back away from policing marriage, it should say that it will not give preferential treatment to people who undergo religious ceremonies to "validate" their marital agreements with one another.

Why aren't Americans spending? Is it because they have nothing to spend?

shopping cart

© aptuda

I thought all those Obama jobs, the millions of Obamacare enrollees getting "free" health insurance, and the plunge in gas prices would lead to billions of excess disposable income being spent on stuff. Considering consumer spending accounts for 68% of GDP, this juggernaut of jobs would propel the US economy to new heights. Keynesianism at its finest. But something went awry on the road to prosperity. The American people have stopped spending money they don't have on shit they don't need. The blathering boobs on the tube will use the tried and true weather excuse, except last winter was the winter of the polar vortex. The very same morons who reported that this past winter was the 15th warmest in recorded history, will use cold and snow during winter time as the reason the American sheeple didn't shop. How could they possibly get to the mall in their leased four wheel drive SUVs, pickups, and minivans?

Retail sales have fallen three months in a row. The last time this happened was at the beginning of the 2008 financial collapse. Do retail sales fall three months in a row when the economy is booming, or does it do that when we are in a recession? And these haven't been miniscule drops: December -0.9%, January -0.8%, February -0.6%. If we dig into the numbers we can assess the truth of our current situation:

  • Retail sales have only grown by 1.7% versus last year. This is far lower than the real level of inflation.

  • If you back out the subprime loan juiced auto sales, retail sales have grown by a pathetic 0.8% in the last year.

  • The rapidly rising level of auto loan defaults and repossessions is leading to a decline in auto sales, as they fell 2.6% in February versus January.

  • All the discretionary retailers - furniture, electronics, building materials - have seen sales fall over the last three months. How could this happen if we are having that strong housing recovery I've read about?

  • In a positive development, the gas price plunge reversed, and you spent $500 million more for gas in February.

  • Department store sales fell again and were $350 million lower than last year. The JC Penney, Sears death march slogs on.

  • Things have gotten so bad, people are even drinking and eating out less. Makes you wonder how we can keep adding those Obama jobs - waitresses, bartenders, fry cooks.

  • On-line retailing, which used to grow at 10% to 20% rates, has grown by 3.9% YTD. Maybe Amazon isn't really worth $370 per share. It couldn't happen to have anything to do with the government sucking the life out of the business by implementing sales taxes.

  • retail sales table

    If you want to know the real reason average Americans aren't spending, it's because they don't have anything left to spend after their pitiful wages increases, skyrocketing health insurance premiums, food bills, higher taxes, fees and tolls, and Yellen created inflation.
    wages table

    But don't you worry. The people that really matter, Wall Street bankers, are doing fabulously well. Despite lower fraudulently achieved profits in 2014 than 2013, they have decided to increase their bonuses for a job well done. They are paying themselves $28.5 billion in bonuses for taking free money from their puppets at the Fed and then using it in markets they have rigged to make obscene phantom profits. Please note the slope of their bonus chart versus the slope of the average worker's salary.
    wall street bonuses

    The American Dream achieved by the .1%.

BEST OF THE WEB: Ukraine war crimes report: Torture and inhumane treatment of civilians

The second report about the war crimes of the armed forces and security forces of Ukraine by The Foundation for the Study of Democracy (the director - M. S. Grigoryev), in which the data is given about large-scale and systematic violation of the European convention of human rights by the representatives of the Ukrainian armed forces, the National Guard, and other units of the Ministry of the Internal Affairs, and also of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). We give some quotes from the report that we obtained.
ukraine torture report

War crimes of the armed forces and security forces of Ukraine: torture and inhumane treatment. Second report

Yana, victim's wife on SBU officials:

They have beaten him to death simply. When they came — they took him away to torture him. When they brought his body back — the heels were blue, the feet were blue. He's got some traces of punctures on his hands... I don't know... what they did to him, punctured him or drove the needles under his nails — there were holes on his hands. Each bone has a hole in it. They tortured him like... when there was a real war no one has tortured people the way they tortured him.

The data that has been accumulated since the first report by the Foundation for Democracy Studies provides ground to conclude that torture and inhumane treatment inflicted by the Security Forces of Ukraine (SBU), by the Ukrainian armed forces, the National Guard and other formations within the Interior Ministry of Ukraine, as well as by illegal armed groups, such as Right Sector, have not only continued but are gaining in scale and are becoming systematic.

"I was captured by the Right Sector. For seven days, they kept me in some mine galleries. At any moment, they could take me out, execute and throw into some trash container and that would be it."

--Olga Verbitskaya, who suffered at the hands of the Ukrainian security personnel.

In order to investigate specific cases of torture, inhumane or degrading treatment, experts of the Foundation for Democracy Studies interviewed the ex-prisoners released by the Ukrainian side. This report includes the results of interviews with over 200 prisoners released by the Ukrainian side. The interviews were conducted by experts of the Foundation during the period from 25 August 2014 to 20 January 2015.

The prisoners were electrocuted, beaten cruelly and for multiple days in a row with different objects (iron bars, baseball bats, sticks, rifle butts, bayonet knives, rubber batons).


"They attached wires from a battery to my hand, poured water and switched on the current . I blacked out several times and just as I came to, they would pour water and after some time continued the questioning."

--Alexander Svoevolin, who suffered at the hands of the Ukrainian security personnel.


"They hit me in the groin with a shocker and added voltage, because it kept getting more and more painful. It hurt so bad. I fell down, shouting: "Just shoot me, why are you torturing me? I do not know anything." Then they started hitting me on the legs and on the shoulders with a hammer, an ordinary hammer. They kept doing it until I lost consciousness."

--Alexey Panchenko, who suffered at the hands of the Ukrainian security personnel.


"They executed the beating in groups of three to four people, used electro-shock devices, made us kneel with bags on our heads, and fired their guns near the ear. Then their commanding officer came, took us and put on a chain in a pit, handcuffed. I could not stand on my feet, nor could I lie down, so I was hanging on that chain because my ribs and fingers were broken."

--Oleg Fuhrman, who suffered at the hands of the Ukrainian security personnel.

Techniques widely used by the Ukrainian armed forces and security forces include waterboarding, strangling with a 'Banderist garrotte' and other types of strangling.


"The Azov battalion officers arrested me in Mariupol. I felt machine gun fire over my head. After that, they drove me to the Mariupol airport, where they tried to force me to give testimony by putting a plastic bag on my head that did not let any air get to me. They used a shocker on me and wanted to throw me into a pit filled with corpses."

--Olga Seletskaya, who suffered at the hands of the Ukrainian security personnel.

In some cases prisoners, for the purposes of intimidation, were sent to minefields and run over with military vehicles, which led to their death.


"I saw a guy standing waist-deep in a hole in the ground and being buried with a shovel bucket and then the truck run over him."

--Mikhail Lyubchenko, who suffered at the hands of the Ukrainian security personnel.

Other torture methods used by the Ukrainian armed forces and security forces include bone-crashing, stabbing and cutting with a knife, branding with red-hot objects, shooting different body parts with small arms.

The prisoners taken captive by the Ukrainian armed forces and security forces are kept for days at freezing temperatures, with no access to food or medical assistance, and are often forced to take psychotropic substances that cause agony.

An absolute majority of prisoners are put through mock firing squads and suffer death and rape threats to their families. Many of those tortured are not members of the self-defense forces of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR).

The Convention on Human Rights prohibits in absolute terms torture, irrespective of other circumstances. Moreover, it is assumed in the law of the European Union that 'the State is responsible for the actions of all of its agencies, such as the police, security forces, other law enforcement officials, and any other State bodies who hold an individual under their control, whether they act under orders, or on their own accord.' Unlike other clauses of the Convention related to rights, Article 3 makes no provision for derogation (reservations) in the event of a war or any other emergency threatening national security. Article 15 (2) explicitly states, that there can be no derogation from Article 3 within the Convention.

The information collected by the Foundation for Democracy Studies gives grounds to believe that the Ukrainian armed forces (VSU), the National Guard and other military units of the Ministry of the Interior of Ukraine, as well as the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) systematically and on purpose violate Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights that reads, 'No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.'

The extent to which torture is being used and the fact that this is done systematically prove that torture is an intentional strategy of the said institutions, authorized by their leadership.

Operation Vigilant Guard drills take place in North and South Carolina complete with door to door wellness checks

vigilant guard

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In yet another example of the growing trend of the process of acclimatization of the general public to an open military presence on American streets as well as greater cooperation between the US Military and civilian law enforcement, South Carolina was recently the scene of a statewide "emergency preparedness" drill that incorporated both of these aspects in a visible form.

On March 7, 2015, the state-wide drill, entitled Operation Vigilant Guard, took place under the pretext of preparation for the inevitable destruction a hurricane would bring to South Carolina. According to reports in the local media, the drills were based on the premise of the landfall of a Category 4 hurricane and "how they'd respond to get citizens help" in such an event.

The training involved the South Carolina National Guard as well as National Guard units from Georgia in addition to participants from local and state law enforcement agencies as well as local and state "officials."

In the Florence area, there were at least 400 hundred military personnel involved in the exercise. All in all, however, around 2,000 military personnel participated state-wide and 5,000 participants were involved from South Carolina emergency management Divisions and county divisions of Emergency Management.

According to the National Guard press release announcing the drill,

The South Carolina National Guard, along with state and county emergency management agencies, will conduct a disaster readiness exercise called Vigilant Guard beginning this weekend, part of which will include the mock in-processing of approximately 300 military and civilian personnel Saturday at McCrady Training Center in Eastover.

Joint Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration, or JRSOI, is the process that will be utilized by the South Carolina National Guard to in-process support personnel from partner agencies during a real-world emergency.


Vigilant Guard is an eight-day field exercise held March 5-12, taking place at numerous locations across South Carolina. This exercise will test the ability of the National Guard to support response operations based on simulated emergency scenarios such as the landfall of a hurricane, a collapsed building, widespread fires and mass casualties.

The National Guard, along with local, state and federal partners will be deployed to exercise venues in Georgetown, with other sites including Moncks Corner, Spartanburg, Florence, West Columbia and Williamsburg.

While this writer witnessed a portion of the drill in Florence, the application of the drill in Monck's Corner is what is most disturbing.

In Monck's Corner, SC National Guard personnel, the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, and other state and local "emergency responders" went door to door conducting "wellness checks" on civilian homes. The sight of military personnel going door to door in civilian neighborhoods is beyond creepy to say the least.

As the Press Release on the SC National Guard website states,

The SCNG partnered with the S.C. State Guard, the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department and other local emergency responders to conduct health and wellness checks in the Overton neighborhood. The joint task force went door-to-door checking on the local residents, assessed their needs and determined how best to meet those needs in a real response.

"In the scenario, our job today was to assist the S.C. State Guard, along with various Berkeley County emergency responders, and perform health and wellness checks for citizens who might have been affected by the storm," said Sgt. Jeremy Argabright, Bravo Company, 1-118 Infantry.

Such door-to-door "wellness checks" also took place in Overton, S.C.

The portion of the drills that were witnessed by this writer involved a setup of about 9 military tents outside of the Florence, SC airport. A number of trucks were present as well as Humvees, many of which were outfitted with machine gun turrets and machine guns. A sign reading "Region 4: HRF" was posted outside of the airport. HRF stands for Homeland Response Force and Region 4 represents the FEMA region of the area. As the convoy was preparing to leave the field site in front of the airport, a bus had been added to the mix. Many helicopters and chopper sightings were reported as well.

Numerous military vehicles were seen on the streets of Florence throughout the day.

It should be noted, however, that while the local media and the State Guard represented the exercises as having been focused on hurricane landfall and natural disasters, there were unconfirmed reports of artillery being fired in the areas near Florence and Pamplico.

There were other reports suggesting (also not confirmed) that private military contractors may have been involved as well.

Although both the National Guard and the media implied that the Vigilant Guard exercise was state-based, Vigilant Guard is a federally-funded exercise sponsored by US NORTHCOM that seeks to encourage and further cooperation between Federal, State, and local "emergency management" agencies and "first responders."

This is perhaps why the same drill took place in North Carolina as well on the same day since the training is based in terms of region. In Charlotte, military personnel practiced providing security for the Water Treatment plant while other personnel drilled on "keeping the peace."

Of course, few would argue that preparedness and training for emergencies on the part of government agencies, the military, or other appropriate public institutions is a bad idea. However, given the fact that these drills and training operations are clearly being used to acclimatize the general public to seeing and accepting an open military presence on the streets of the U.S., one would be justified in wondering whether or not these drills are truly designed to prepare anything other than the minds of the American people.

Considering what happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the treasonous response of the National Guard there, one would certainly hope that lessons have been learned. Unfortunately, the trend of events in the United States tends to point toward more Katrina-style responses, not less.

Man killed taking pictures of his first snowfall in Dallas after fleeing violence in Iraq


© AP Photo/Courtesy of Zahraa Atlaie

Atlaie, left, and her husband Ahmed Al-Jumaili

Police say a suspect arrested Friday in the killing of an Iraqi man taking photos of his first snowfall said he was looking for whoever shot at his girlfriend's home when he randomly came upon the victim and opened fire.

Nykerion Nealon, 17, was being held without bond on a murder charge in last week's death of Ahmed Al-Jumaili, who in February moved to Dallas to escape violence in his homeland.

"We don't believe he knew Mr. Al-Jumaili. We don't believe he knew Mr. Al-Jumaili's ethnicity," police Maj. Jeff Cotner told a news conference Friday. Cotner had earlier said police do not believe the killing was a hate crime.

Al-Jumaili was outside his apartment complex taking snapshots of snow on the night of March 4 when he was shot.

"Mr. Al-Jumaili was enjoying the snowfall with his wife and brother when he was shot, then he ran toward his apartment and collapsed in the breezeway," Cotner said.

Nealon didn't contact police about gunfire earlier that evening at his girlfriend's nearby apartment complex until after the fatal shooting, Cotner said. Police believe Nealon had a rifle when he and three friends went out to find out who had opened fire at the apartment. Police are investigating whether gang activity was involved.

"While walking through the apartment complex, they observed the victim and his family taking pictures in the snow," Cotner said.

Detectives located 15 shell casings near where Al-Jumaili was shot, Cotner said.

A potential witness on Tuesday contacted police in suburban Richardson to report Nealon as a possible suspect.

Nealon gave police permission to search his home. Officers recovered an unfired cartridge of the same type of shell found at the scene of the fatal shooting, Cotner said.

No attorney was listed for Nealon. Nobody else has been charged in the slaying.

Zahraa Altaie, Al-Jumaili's widow, her "hope and relief that Ahmed's killer will face justice."

"This news of the suspect being caught will not bring back my beautiful Ahmed, but it gives me some relief and I feel better knowing that this guy is in custody and justice is on its way," she said in a statement.

The victim's father-in-law, Mohammed Altaae, was at the police news conference but did not comment.

Altaae earlier this week told The Associated Press that Al-Jumaili fled violence in Iraq to reunite with his wife and had been in Texas just three weeks when he was killed.

"He had a lot of faith in his future," Altaae said, "a lot of faith in his destiny."

Canadian intel agent linked with getting British schoolgirls into Syria to join ISIS

schoolgirls isis

Picture of three British schoolgirls who joined ISIS.

The has reported that an individual who authorities believe helped three British schoolgirls travel to Syria to join ISIS is linked to Canada's intelligence agency, CSIS.

The noted that, "Turkish news agencies reported Thursday that a foreign intelligence agent detained in that country on suspicion of helping the girls travel to neighbouring Syria to join ISIL was working for the Canadian government."

Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the suspect in question was working for an intelligence agency that is part of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS, adding that it wasn't the US or an EU member.

Turkish media reports later identified the suspect as a CSIS agent, citing sources close to the Turkish government.

Ottawa issued a prototypical denial that one of their operatives was involved.

The story confirms what many analysts have been saying all along, which is that ISIS is an elaborate Western intelligence operation.

Thousands of Western citizens have joined ISIS over the past year, but who is arranging their safe travel out of their countries of origin and into Syria without being nabbed by authorities?

As this case demonstrates, these individuals are being safely escorted to Syria by Western operatives.

The idea that Western intelligence agencies don't have the resources to track these people is absurd. Russia Today ran a report showing how a Canadian open source intelligence research group called iBRABO geo-tracked a Canadian woman who joined ISIS through her Twitter account. Every tweet she posted revealed her exact location. Intelligence agencies have far more resources at their disposal than a private research group, so the suggestion that these people just slip under the radar doesn't hold up.

Analysts contend that Western intelligence agencies are trolling for young, impressionable, and disenfranchised people to send off to fight and die in Syria. This is done in accordance with the West's 'regime change' policy in Syria.

US Senator Rand Paul recently told CNN that the United States is "allied" with ISIS in Syria as Washington aims to depose the secular government of Bashar al-Assad. Former US General Wesley Clark said that America's allies (and by extension America itself) funded ISIS to weaken the Shia arc of resistance consisting of Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.

While the West fights an artificial 'fake war' against ISIS officially, it continues to clandestinely support the group as it beheads its way to Damascus, and on to Beirut and Tehran.

Brandon Martinez is an independent writer and journalist from Canada who specializes in foreign policy issues, international affairs and 20th and 21st century history. For years he has written on Zionism, Israel-Palestine, American and Canadian foreign policy, war, terrorism and deception in media and politics. His articles and analysis have appeared on Press TV, Veterans News Now, Media With Conscience News, Whatsupic, Intifada Palestine, Information Clearing House, What Really Happened, Global Research and other alternative media outlets. He is the co-founder of Non-Aligned Media and the author of Grand Deceptions and Hidden History. Readers can contact him at martinezperspective[at]hotmail.com or visit his blog at http://bit.ly/1EMW5g8

Lithuania jails 84 year old ex-Soviet security officer for 5 years for 'committing genocide' - His real crime? Prosecuting die-hard Nazis

Lithuanian 'nationalists' marching to commemorate their forefathers' valiant participation in Hitler's death machine.

An 84-year-old former Soviet state security officer has been found guilty of genocide and sentenced by a Lithuanian court to five years in jail over his participation in a 1956 operation to arrest guerrilla leader Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas.

Court prosecutors in the city of Kaunas asked for a longer sentence - seven years - for Stanislovas Drelingas, who insisted he was innocent.

"Although the defendant denied his direct complicity in genocide, i.e., he denied having taken any part in the operation specified in the indictment, evidence in the case suggests that he was part of the operation and helped other members of the Soviet administration," the court said.

The court ruled on the shorter term due to long-lasting legal proceedings, Drelingas' health problems, and the fact that his role in the crime was secondary. His verdict has not yet come into force and could be moved to a new trial in a Lithuanian appeals court.

Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas - one of the leaders of an anti-Soviet guerrilla troop called "Forest Brothers" - was arrested in 1956 in Kaunas, sentenced to death, and shot after spending a year in a Vilnius jail.

Members of the "Forest Brothers" - which totaled around 50,000 Lithuanians - took part in the anti-Soviet resistance movement in post-war Lithuania.

Last year, Lithuania's Constitutional Court ruled that deportations and repressions carried out by the Soviets during the guerrilla war could be classified as genocide, as the actions were aimed at annihilating a significant part of the Lithuanian nation.

This is not the first time that a Soviet war veteran has been charged with genocide in recent years. In 2008, after years of investigation, Arnold Meri - a WWII veteran at the first Estonian Hero of the Soviet Union - was charged with the same crime for taking part in the deportation of 251 Estonian civilians from the island of Hiiumaa to Siberia's Novosibirsk region.

The prosecution said that 43 of them later died. Meri insisted he was not guilty, as he was only appointed to monitor how the process was conducted and to ensure that punishment was limited. Thus, he couldn't control local authorities' abuse. The case was automatically closed on March 27, 2009 after his death at the age of 89.

Meanwhile, Jewish communities in Baltic countries have expressed worry that anti-Semitism ideology in the region appears to be on the rise once again.

This week, as Lithuania was celebrating 25 years of independence, far-right groups organized a parade in Vilnius. It came just a few weeks after about 500 Lithuanians, some carrying Nazi swastikas, attended a similar march in the country's second largest city of Kaunas.

The city was the site of the Baltics' worst WWII-era Jewish massacre, when almost 10,000 people were killed in one day.

Yet another Nazi march is planned for next Monday in Latvia's capital of Riga. The Latvian Legion veterans' annual parade commemorates the date when Nazi Germany first deployed the regiment against the Soviet army in 1943. Meanwhile, a separate parade by the Latvian Waffen SS Legion has been criticized by anti-fascist movements.

U.S. Geological Survey reports earthquake in western North Carolina

The U.S. Geological Survey has reported an earthquake that shook part of Swain County late Friday night.

The U.S.G.S. tracked the earthquake to Cherokee and said it happened at 11:51 p.m.

According to the U.S.G.S. website, this was a 2.8 magnitude earthquake.

Cops sell man drugs then kill him, shoot one of their own cops in the process

Anthony Andrew Williams

A man is dead, and a deputy has been shot after the Putman County Sheriff's Department relentless carries out the state's immoral war on drugs.

The incident happened as cops were driving around in a neighborhood Friday night looking for otherwise completely innocent people to purchase their drugs, so they could arrest them. Prior to setting up and killing Anthony Andrew Williams of Hawthorne, police arrested 10 people in this entrapment scheme.

However, after Williams voluntarily bought a substance for his own personal consumption from deputies, he realized their scheme and tried to run.

According to police, Williams then took off in an SUV and swerved to avoid hitting deputies which sent him crashing into a nearby tree.

Police then claim that Williams, who just crashed because he tried to avoid hitting deputies, tried to hit the deputies. At this point, four officers began to unload their pistols at the man.

During their ridiculously violent display, these trigger happy deputies shot one of their fellow cops. Deputy Robert Nelson is currently recovering from a gunshot wound he received from his "highly trained" co-workers.

The man whose tree was damaged during this debacle, Gilbert Randall, expressed his disappointment with police to WJAX News.

"They set the scene for this to happen, and he lost his life. I'm saddened," Randall said.

While Williams' body sits in a morgue, the four officers who put him there are all on paid vacations.

This man is dead and a deputy has been shot, for what? So the state can justify their inflated and militaristic budgets? So they can bolster their arrest count and keep their prisons filled to maximum capacity with victimless criminals? So they can "protect" people from themselves?

The war on drugs is a sham. It's a danger to all those involved, especially to the people who simply want to use drugs.

A man can walk into a liquor store and buy 3 bottles of Everlcear and down them until he dies, and police will say that this man died from his drinking problem. However, if that same man tries purchase a plant that makes him relax, that he will smoke in his own home, that man is a criminal and needs to be locked in a cage or killed.

There is absolutely zero logic and reason applied throughout the entire system. From D.C. to Main Street, this criminal insanity, known as the War on Drugs, wages on.

Ready for it to end? So are we.

Victims of the 'global chessboard': Millions of Syrian refugees 'abandoned' in Lebanon

© Unknown

With much of Syria's infrastructure and towns decimated by Western-supported ISIL, who knows how long these millions of refugees will have to wait before they can return to Syria to put their lives back together, or even get a little relief.

Syrian refugees. There are several million of them all over the region: in Turkey and Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, even in Egypt.

Clearly, a "Syrian refugee crisis" has been triggered by the West and by its allies, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. For years, all of these countries have been hard at work, destabilizing the secular and socially oriented government of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.

For two years I have been covering the story, making documentary films and writing reports about the so-called "Syrian opposition" that has been recruited, trained and financed in 'refugee' and military camps in both Turkey and Jordan. That opposition, of course, included ill famed Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) or Daesh, or whatever one wants to call them.

The West has reached perfection in destroying entire countries and in ruining millions of human lives. However, once a country is crushed, both the US and Europe are known to lose interest in the people left 'under the debris'. The West is not interested in dealing with the human tragedies it triggers, be it in Iraq, Libya or in Syria.


It is winter now; deep winter and the mountains above Bekaa Valley in Lebanon are covered in snow. This year, winter has been unpredictable. One week it snows heavily and the temperature goes well below freezing point. Then, just a few days later, the sun begins to shine as if it is the middle of summer. Then the snow melts and there are inundations.

The United Nations is now occasionally running out of cash. It admits that it can hardly sustain those two million Syrian refugees who are now based on Lebanese territory. Lebanon is running out of cash too or, more precisely, it has no disposable cash whatsoever. Its government is partially paralyzed and it does not even have a president. Some Syrian refugees are living in the cities and towns, spread all over the country. The richest ones can rent posh condominiums in Beirut; the poorest ones dwell in shabby tents, living out in the open, defenseless, hungry and scared.

Bekaa Valley is the toughest place for those who escaped from war-torn Syria. It is rural and rough, and at least several times a year, it gets cut off from the coast due to heavy snowfalls.

Periodically, I drive to Bekaa Valley to talk to Syrian refugees. I do it simply because it appears that almost no one else does. The UN docks its battle ships at Beirut port and it pampers thousands of its staff members on the entire territory of Lebanon. But the refugees, the victims of the war, are often neglected, even abandoned.

These are no hard-core anti-al-Assad warriors. Most of them crossed the border into Lebanon because of the dire hardship in their country, hardship provoked by the West, by its allies and by its offshoots - the most terrible terrorist organizations money can buy.

Unlike Turkey and Jordan, Lebanon is no enemy of Syria. Many Lebanese people and Hezbollah are now fighting an epic battle against ISIL, and even many members of the government are supporters of the Syrian government. The fact that around two million Syrian refugees can coexist, without any major incidents, with only 4.3 million inhabitants of this tiny country of Lebanon, is clear proof of great understanding between the two peoples.

But right now, Lebanon is not in a position to offer much more than its solidarity and its land to suffering Syrian neighbors. It is understood that help should come from those who are fueling the war and consequently turning millions of Syrian people into refugees, or internally displaced persons (IDPs). But it doesn't, or it is not sufficient.


Mochles Camp 009, between the cities of Baalbek and Zahle in Bekaa Valley, is one of the oldest refugee camps for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Here, at least 700 people are crammed into a few dozen old, often tattered tents. I am allowed to enter several of them and to see the misery with my own eyes.

People speak over each other: "The UN gave us their cash cards so we could buy at least some fuel and food. But the cards are either empty, with no credit or with only partial credit of US $18 per month, instead of US $30. However, the worst thing is that many of us never even made it to the refugee list; some of us are not registered at all."

To stay warm, people are burning nylon instead of fuel. Everyone here agrees that conditions are deteriorating. Children from this camp are not getting any schooling. When people get sick, they have to go to a private doctor, as there is no UN medical post in the camp.

Recently, the snow here was one meter high. Then it melted and the tents got flooded. "We are scared", shouts one of the ladies, a refugee. "We are afraid to leave the camp, to go near the road. It is because many of us are not even registered and we do not know what would happen to us if we were caught by security forces...We are refugees, so why are we not treated as such? And what about our children? How long are they going to sit idly in their tents? Shouldn't they be given at least some basic education?"


Just one week before my latest visit to Bekaa Valley, the US and Turkey signed a deal to train and equip Syrian rebels. They have been doing this for years, secretly. Now they will do it in the open. This 'deal' will certainly turn millions more Syrians into refugees.

Vltchek's World and a dedicated Twitter user, "New Eastern Outlook".

NATO's war propaganda is a crime against humanity not freedom of speech


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The reaction of the media in the Nato countries to the murder of Boris Nemtsov reveals the next phase of the war against Russia. Defeated at Debaltsevo, defied by Russia, lectured by China, the Nato warlords need something immediate and dramatic to guide the imaginations of their peoples towards war. The constant propaganda offensive aimed at Russia is accelerating and is increasingly designed to identify Russia and its people not with the Russian government, but with a single man and, with the murder of Nemtsov, that man is now labelled assassin.

Across the broad spectrum of the "western" media in the past days there has appeared one story after another designed to make the average citizen believe that President Putin was personally involved in the killing. The facts of the case do not matter. The Nato governments deny any involvement in a provocation but their immediate denunciations, the morning following the murder, of Russian democracy, of Russian government, and of President Putin, convict them all on the charge of exploiting the murder as surely as if the assassins' bullets were theirs.

The labelling of resisting leaders as criminals has been used frequently in the west since the days of the Roman Empire and once a foreign leader is so labelled a war soon follows. In recent history the Americans and their Nato lieutenants identified President Milosevic as a criminal for simply refusing Nato's diktats. They did the same with Saddam Hussein, with Muammar Gaddafi and murdered them all, one way or another.

Once a head of state is demeaned in this way and reduced to a common criminal the people of the aggressor country are easily persuaded that his elimination, and the elimination of the government that supports him, is a necessary task. The persuasion has been going on since Putin's speech in 2007, which drew a line in the sand against American imperial ambitions in Eurasia, and reached new levels of hysteria when Flight MH17 was shot down last year. Evidence that it was probably the Kiev forces that committed the crime, with American collusion, was completely supressed by the western media and when more evidence of their culpability was produced the shoot down was erased from history and now is rarely mentioned. Since the overthrow of the legitimate government of Ukraine a year ago the western media have been caught time and again repeating US propaganda about Russian threats to peace in Europe, about Russian territorial ambitions and Russian regular army units being involved in the Donbass. Denials by Russia, and even observers of the OSCE, are ignored and the lies are repeated day after day after day.

The use of propaganda to incite hatred towards another people or government, and to incite calls for aggressive war and all the war crimes that flow from aggressive war are crimes against humanity and prohibited under international and national laws. Journalists who prostitute themselves by telling their fellow citizens lies are not only betraying the trust put in them by the people, and treating them with contempt, they are also war criminals and should be judged as such. Their responsibility in preparing the way for war is as great as those who plan the war and carry out the military operations of the war.

We need only look at the case of Juluis Streicher at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946 to understand that propagandists can be hanged too. Streicher neither gave orders for the extermination of Jews nor was involved in any military operations. But that did not prevent him from being convicted of crimes against humanity for producing the anti-semitic journal that put out a constant barrage of hate propaganda against Jews. His role in preparing the ground for the dehumanization of Jews in Germany was determined to be critical in creating the conditions for their extermination by the Nazis. The Nuremberg prosecutors argued that his articles and speeches were incendiary and that he was an accessory to murder and therefore as culpable as those who actually carried out the killings. The Allied judges agreed and he was convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged in October 1946. The judgement stated in part that "...he infected the German mind with the virus of anti-semitism and incited the German people to active persecution and..murder."

The role of propaganda in preparing a nation's people to call for and support an aggressive war was never put better than by another Nazi, Herman Goering during the same trial that convicted Streicher. In an interview with Gustave Gilbert published in in 1947, in Nuremberg Diary, he said:

  • Göring: "Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

  • Gilbert: "There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

  • Göring: "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

The Nuremberg principle that propaganda inciting aggressive war is a crime was codified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1966.

Article 20 states,

1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.

2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

It was also included in Article 15 of the American Convention on Human Rights of 1969 that uses similar language. It is telling that both Canada and the United States, two of the worst offenders in the use of war propaganda, have refused to ratify the Convention, but this should not surprise us.

Today we see the use of propaganda as an offensive weapon against Russia not only in the press and other news media, we also see it in film and television. The American television series House of Cards, has now descended deep into the sewer of anti-Russian propaganda with a Russian leader named Petrov standing in for Putin, while those rank opportunists, Pussy Riot, used to try to embarrass Petrov in one episode, succeed only in embarrassing themselves.

The prohibition on the use of war propaganda in international covenants is important because war threatens the existence and exercise of all of the other political and civil rights contained in those covenants and of the UN Charter itself, including the right to live in peace. And since wars of aggression are illegal under customary international law and since propaganda related to aggressive war is illegal, actions could be taken in national courts against governments, corporations and individuals who engage in it.

The question of the identification of war propaganda presents no more difficulty than identifying aggressive war. Distinguishing it from mere expression of opinion or supposed reporting of facts is also not difficult. Any communication to the public that has the sole purpose of inflaming emotions and feelings of hatred, hostility and calls for war would fall under the definition of war propaganda, whether by distortion of facts, suppression of facts or the invention of facts.

In 1966, at a seminar in the United States on the meaning of propaganda, the Soviet press attaché in Washington stated that propaganda "had rather a broad meaning, implying purposeful dissemination of certain information that is to produce upon its recipient a certain reaction which from the viewpoint of the disseminator is desirable", and defined war propaganda to be both an "incitement to war between states and a means for preparing for aggressive war." The United States, on the other hand, has generally opposed efforts to prohibit the use of war propaganda in international law citing concerns about freedom of expression. But this is a false argument, used to justify the unjustifiable, the constant use of propaganda by the United States to create in the minds of its citizens the necessary emotions and reactions to support wars fought for the benefit of a few against the interests of the many.

War propaganda is a danger to world peace. It is a danger to democracy itself. Since wars of aggression are criminal acts, incitements to engage in them are also criminal acts. It is high time for the peoples of the world, against whom this propaganda is directed, and who are the true victims of these crimes, to wake up, to get on their feet, to put their fists in the air and protest the constant manipulation of their minds towards hatred and violence and war and demand the full implementation of the international covenants that prohibit it and the arrest and trial of those that use it.