‘Back to the Dark Ages’: Sessions’s asylum ruling reverses decades of women’s rights progress, critics say

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Aminta Cifuentes suffered weekly beatings at the hands of her husband. He broke her nose, burned her with paint thinner and raped her.

She called the police in her native Guatemala several times but was told they could not interfere in a domestic matter, according to a court ruling. When Cifuentes’s husband hit her in the head, leaving her bloody, police came to the home but refused to arrest him. He threatened to kill her if she called authorities again.

So in 2005, Cifuentes fled to the United States. “If I had stayed there, he would have killed me,” she told the Arizona Republic.

And after nearly a decade of waiting on an appeal, Cifuentes was granted asylum. The 2014 landmark decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals set the precedent that women fleeing domestic violence were eligible to apply for asylum. It established clarity in a long-running debate over whether asylum can be granted on the basis of violence perpetrated in the “private” sphere, according to Karen Musalo, director for the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

But on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the precedent set in Cifuentes’s case, deciding that victims of domestic abuse and gang violence generally will not qualify for asylum under federal law. (Unlike the federal courts established under Article III of the Constitution, the immigration court system is part of the Justice Department.)

For critics, including former immigration judges, the unilateral decision undoes decades of carefully deliberated legal progress. For gender studies experts, such as Musalo, the move “basically throws us back to the Dark Ages, when we didn’t recognize that women’s rights were human rights.”

“If we say in the year 2018 that a woman has been beaten almost to death in a country that accepts that as almost the norm, and that we as a civilized society can deny her protection and send her to her death?” Musalo said. “I don’t see this as just an immigration issue … I see this as a women’s rights issue.”

Sessions’s decision reversed a 2016 ruling by the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals, the body responsible for interpreting U.S. asylum law, granting asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said she was abused by her husband. Musalo is co-counsel in the case.

Sessions’s reasoning hinged on the argument that domestic violence victims generally are not persecuted as members of a “particular social group,” according to his ruling. Under federal law, asylum applicants must show that either “race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion … was or will be at least one central reason” for their persecution.

In the precedent-setting Cifuentes case, the Board of Immigration Appeals held that an applicant can qualify for asylum as a member of a particular social group of “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship.” To support its ruling, the board noted that Guatemala has a culture of “machismo and family violence.” Spousal rape is common and local police often fail to enforce domestic violence laws.

Sessions rejected that reasoning. “When private actors inflict violence based on a personal relationship with a victim,” Sessions wrote, “then the victim’s membership in a larger group may well not be ‘one central reason’ for the abuse.”

“The prototypical refugee flees her home country because the government has persecuted her,” Sessions wrote. “An alien may suffer threats and violence in a foreign country for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family, or other personal circumstances. Yet the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.”

As Kara Lynum, an immigration lawyer in Minnesota, tweeted, “Sessions thinks these women aren’t eligible for asylum because their husbands are only violent to them — not all women.”

A group of 15 retired immigration judges and former members of the Board of Immigration Appeals wrote a letter in response to Sessions’s decision, calling it an “affront to the rule of law.”

The Cifuentes case, they wrote, “was the culmination of a 15 year process” through the immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals. The issue was certified by three attorneys general, one Democrat and two Republican. The private bar and law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, agreed with the final determination, the former judges wrote. The decision was also supported by asylum protections under international refugee treaties, they said.

“For reasons understood only by himself, the Attorney General today erased an important legal development that was universally agreed to be correct,” the former judges wrote.

Courts and attorneys general have debated the definition of a “particular social group” since the mid-1990s, according to Musalo.

“It took the refugee area a while to catch up with the human rights area of law,” Musalo said.

A series of cases led up to the Cifuentes decision. In 1996, the Board of Immigration Appeals established that women fleeing gender-based persecution could be eligible for asylum in the United States. The case, known as Matter of Kasinga, centered on a teenager who fled her home in Togo to escape female genital cutting and a forced polygamous marriage. Musalo was lead attorney in the case, which held that fear of female genital cutting could be used as a basis for asylum.

“Fundamentally the principle was the same,” as the one at stake in Sessions’s ruling, Musalo said. Female genital cutting, like domestic violence in the broader sense, generally takes place in the “private” sphere, inflicted behind closed doors by relatives of victims.

Musalo also represented Rody Alvarado, a Guatemalan woman who fled extreme domestic abuse and, in 2009, won an important asylum case after a 14-year legal fight. Her victory broke ground for other women seeking asylum on the basis of domestic violence.

Then, after years of incremental decisions, the Board of Immigration Appeals published its first precedent-setting opinion in the 2014 Cifuentes case, known as Matter of A-R-C-G.

“I actually thought that finally we had made some progress,” Musalo said. Although the impact wasn’t quite as pronounced as many experts had hoped, it was a step for women fleeing gender-based violence in Latin America and other parts of the world.

Now, Musalo says, Sessions is trying to undo all that and is doing so at a particularly monumental time for gender equality in the United States and worldwide.

“We’ve gone too far in society with the MeToo movement and all of the other advances in women’s rights to accept this principle,” Musalo said.

“It shows that there are these deeply entrenched attitudes toward gender and gender equality,” she added. “There are always those forces that are sort of the dying gasp of wanting to hold on to the way things were.”

Sessions assigned the 2016 case to himself under his power as attorney general and said the move will help reduce the growing backlog of 700,000 court cases.

He concluded his ruling by saying he does not intend to “minimize the vile abuse” that the Salvadoran woman suffered or the “harrowing experiences of many other victims of domestic violence around the world.” But the “asylum statute is not a general hardship statute,” Sessions wrote.

Relatively few refugees are granted asylum annually. In 2016, for example, nearly 62 percent of applicants were denied asylum, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.

Paul Wickham Schmidt, a retired immigration judge and former chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals, wrote on his blog that Sessions sought to encourage immigration judges to “just find a way to say no as quickly as possible.” (Schmidt authored the decision in the Kasinga case extending asylum protection to victims of female genital mutilation.)

Sessions’s ruling is “likely to speed up the ‘deportation railway,’ ” Schmidt wrote. But it will also encourage immigration judges to “cut corners, and avoid having to analyze the entire case,” he argued.

“Sessions is likely to end up with sloppy work and lots of Circuit Court remands for ‘do overs,’ ” Schmidt wrote. “At a minimum, that’s going to add to the already out of control Immigration Court backlog.”

By Samantha Schmidt/WAPO

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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Russia’s Putin and Israel’s Netanyahu negotiate . . . about what?

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Russia's Putin and Israel's Netanyahu negotiate . . . about what?

“Russia has friendly relations with Israel, and more than a million Russian Jews emigrated to Israel, but Iran is a strategic ally of Russia.”

Last week major state and corporate news outlets reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had met and agreed on removing Iranian troops from Syria and/or Iran’s border with Syria. Then, on June 3rd, Haaretz and other outlets reported that Israel had, for the first time, participated in a NATO “exercise” near the Russian border. I spoke to Rick Sterling, an investigative journalist specializing in Syria, about what could be behind these reports.

Ann Garrison: I’d like to go through some of these disparate reports about Russia and Israel one by one, but first, what do you think of Israel’s first ever participation in NATO war games near the Russian border?

Rick Sterling: The head of NATO recently confirmed that NATO would NOT get into a war involving Israel because Israel is not a NATO member. But Israel is a “partner,” and in 2014 the US Congress designated Israel as a “major strategic partner.” So I think Israel may be participating in the war maneuvers to demonstrate that it’s a good partner. Of course, Russia sees the NATO military exercises on its border as provocative. They are countering with their own military exercises, so it’s just a continuation in the wrong direction away from peace and mutual acceptance.

AG: OK, now to these reports about negotiations between Russia and Israel. Just before the news that Israel had participated in NATO war games near Russia, Bloomberg News reported that Israel was campaigning to break the alliance between Iran and Russia. What do you think of that?

RS: It’s certainly true that Israel is playing the diplomatic game and trying to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran, but the stories are highly exaggerated. They contain both contradictory information and outright disinformation. Russia has friendly relations with Israel, and more than a million Russian Jews emigrated to Israel. But Iran is a strategic ally of Russia.

AG: On June 2nd, the Times of Israel reported that Israel denies inking a deal with Russia on Iranian withdrawal from Syria. What about that?

RS:Well, I haven’t seen any written deal. So what we’re going on are media reports, which are spun in different directions. So, number one, I don’t know if there was a written agreement. Number two, it’s certainly the case that Israel is not only saying that they don’t want Iranian militia or advisors anywhere near the border with the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, but also that they want them all out of Syria.

“Israel exaggerates the Iranian involvement in Syria for its own purposes.”

Russia and Syria may have agreed to relocate some of the Iranian advisors or Iranian militias away from the Golan Heights border. There were reports that some of those forces were headed out to eastern Syria to do combat there against ISIS, which continues to hold an important area. But even if Israel is trying to insist that no Iranian advisors or militia be in Syria, I can’t see Syria or any sovereign state agreeing to such a demand. Israel exaggerates the Iranian involvement in Syria for its own purposes.

AG: Asharq Al-Aswat reported, also on June 2nd, that Russia and Israel had agreed to keep Iran away from Syria’s South.

RS: Asharq Al-Aswat is a Saudi-owned newspaper coming out of London, so the Saudi influence and heavy anti-Iran bias is evident. The one element of this story that may be true is that the US may actually be uncomfortable with any agreement regarding the US forces that control the area around Al Tanf, a Syrian border area with Iraq. That’s the main highway from Baghdad to Damascus, and it’s currently controlled by US military and various armed militants—including former ISIS fighters—who are trained and controlled by the US. The US doesn’t want to give that up, but the Syrian foreign minister is not mincing his words. He’s saying that all the US forces must leave Syria eventually, and specifically that they should leave that area at the Syria-Iraq border soon.

Al Tanf and the highway between Iraq and Syria is a flashpoint. The US has no right to be there but seems to be digging in while Syria is getting increasingly adamant that they must leave. Things may come to a head there.

AG: Al Monitor says that Russia is “trying a new playbook to calm the escalation between Israel and Iran.” How about that?

RS: I think that’s true. What we’ve seen emerge in the last several years is that the diplomat in the room is Russia. If you look at what’s going on there, the Russian diplomacy is quite impressive and at times quite surprising. Six or eight months ago, the Saudi monarch flew to Moscow for the very first time. Russia brought Iran and Turkey together at the Astana talks, and Russia is trying to soothe the tension and danger of conflict between Israel and Iran. So that story is probably accurate.

AG: Have you seen any reports about negotiations between Russia and Israel on RT, Russia’s state- sponsored English outlet?

RS: I’ve seen some RT coverage, both stories and photographs. They certainly don’t put the spin on it that some of the Western and Israeli media do.

The fundamental fact is that Russia doesn’t want to go to war with the US. They realize how dangerous the situation in Syria currently is. They are not going to give up their long-term alliance with Syria, but at the same time, they’re doing everything they can to cool things down and avoid a head-on conflict.

AG: OK, so we’ve gone through just a sample of the wildly disparate reports and commentary about this, but after reading a lot of it, I had the feeling that this is headed toward the Balkanization of Syria, which has been much discussed for a long time. What are your thoughts about that?

RS: Well, that’s the reality on the ground right now. Turkey is occupying part of the north. Israel and Israeli-supported terrorists are occupying part of the south. The US and the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) control big swathes of eastern Syria. So Balkanization is already the informal reality on the ground.

In early 2016, John Kerry called it “plan B,” dividing up Syria and partitioning it. He didn’t say it quite that explicitly, but he was clearly suggesting that that’s where things were headed. Now, in opposition to that, you’ve got the Syrian government saying that it will not allow partition and that the US has to leave Syria. Both Assad and the Syrian foreign minister are saying that increasingly forcefully. So we’ll have to see. At the same time it’s dangerous because there’s also threatening talk coming from the United States.

“John Kerry called it “plan B,” dividing up Syria and partitioning it.”

The US, Turkey, and Israel are, of course, violating international law codified in the UN Charter by their military presence in Syria, but the Syrian government seems to be taking things step by step with the support of Russia and Iran. Hopefully, progress can be made and the conflict can be wound down. That would certainly be to the benefit of all Americans as well as Syrians and other peoples of the Middle East.

AG: Do you think that Russia is opposed to Balkanization?

RS: Oh, absolutely. They’re opposed to it. They saw what happened with the war in Yugoslavia and the split, the separation into smaller, weaker states.

Russia also has its own experience with Western and Saudi-funded terrorism. If you look at a map, Syria is not that far from Russia, so of course they are very concerned with the situation there. They have a big stake in seeing the conflict wind down and a peaceful resolution, remote as that may seem. They’re taking the lead in helping to resolve it and working toward reconciliation, which is going to require concessions on the part of Damascus. Russia has explicitly talked about an internationally supervised election in Syria, and hopefully that’s where things will end rather than in World War III.

The question is whether the US and its allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, will give up their goal of “regime change” in Syria. Or will they continue to finance and arm the opposition to further bleed Syria and its allies? The US and allies are prolonging the conflict behind a pretense of humanitarian concern. Meanwhile they ignore obvious travesties such as the Israeli killings at the Gaza border.

AG: And just one more point of clarification regarding the presence of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah in Syria. Their presence is legal, according to international law, because they’re there at the request of the Syrian government. Right?

RS: Yes, that’s correct. Russia, Iran, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah are in Syria supporting Syrian sovereignty. The Iranian presence in the West tends to be wildly exaggerated, but they do have militia there. They also have advisors, and they’ve lent economic support to Syria. Both Lebanon and Iran know that their own governments are at risk there.

Of course, it was General Wesley Clark who said, back in 2007, that the US had a hit list of seven countries, and we’ve already seen several of them overthrown. Lebanon and Iran know they’re on that list. I’m sure they all realize that if the Syrian state is destroyed, if the government there is toppled and chaos reigns as it does in Libya, they’ll be the next targets. So they’re there for their own sake and for regional stability, not just to support their ally Syria.

By Ann Garrison/BAR

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Why Aren’t Liberals Celebrating Higher Gas Prices? It’s What They Want Democrats have spent the past two decades advocating for policies that artificially spike fossil fuel prices.

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With consumer confidence at a 17-year high and economic prospects looking relatively strong, congressional Democrats have taken to grousing about the gas pump as a midterm strategy. “These higher oil prices are translating directly to soaring gas prices,” declared Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “something we know disproportionately hurts middle- and lower-income people.”

If this is true, then why have Democrats spent the past two decades advocating for policies that artificially spike fossil fuel prices? If higher energy costs hurt Americans—and thank you, senator, for conceding this point—why have liberals favored increasing gas taxes, inhibiting exploration for fossil fuels (including a ban on fracking for less environmentally damaging gas in a number of places), and capping imports? If higher gas prices disproportionately impact the working class and poor, then why do Democrats push for national schemes designed to create false demand through a fabricated marketplace?

Not a single reporter asked the Democrats who were performing at a press conference in front of an Exxon filling station the other day if higher gas prices might incentivize Americans to switch to subsidized “alternative” energy sources—even though this happens to be the prevailing theory driving much of their energy policy. Shouldn’t Democrats be celebrating the fact that fewer Americans were driving on Memorial Day? I thought we were facing an apocalyptic situation here.

Schumer conveniently blamed the United States’ exiting of the Iran nuclear deal for the spike—an agreement he supposedly opposed. Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, a self-styled “climate hawk,” claimed, “There’s a straight line between Trump’s policies and the price of gasoline.” We can only now assume he believes the prevalence of cheap fossil fuels is imperative in the effort to alleviate poverty and create wealth. I concur. But don’t worry about Iran, senator; there’s plenty of oil elsewhere.

Politico maintains that Democrats have stolen a page from the “GOP playbook to attack Trump,” which is true, though the difference is that Republicans generally support proposals that make gas more affordable. The Obama administration, for example, benefited greatly from a recalcitrant GOP Congress’s committed obstruction of an untold number of terrible initiatives. We should recall that the energy secretary openly wrestled with ways “to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” When Obama was asked in 2008 if the $4-a-gallon gas prices at the time were beneficial for the American economy, the presidential candidate prevaricated, saying, “I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment.”

What is the gradual adjustment Democrats prefer today? A slow and steady move to $7? Right now U.S. gas prices are only a fraction of those in European nations, and yet Democrats acted as if Trump had triggered Armageddon when he decided to leave the Paris climate agreement. Do you want us to follow Norway’s lead or not?

Democrats had opposed the opening of pipeline projects, of new drilling, and allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to transform from a regulatory agency that was protecting the environment to a place where the administration could implement backdoor legislation that American voters had rejected. If Democrats hadn’t lost power in 2010, we might be living with those $4 per gallon prices today.

To understand how this policy manifests, just look at California, where gas prices are consistently among the highest in the nation—despite the fact that there are no constraining geographic or economic impediments to cheap energy. Last year, the legislature pushed through another gas tax (and an even larger one on diesel) and extra “fees” to help make one of the most regressive energy policies in the country even more onerous and expensive.

Now, obviously the entire spectacle is for show. Schumer says, “It’s time for the president to buck his oil executive buddies,” because lots of ignorant voters probably believe that the price of crude oil can be controlled by a few nefarious CEOs. The only question I have is: Why don’t these profit-mongering oligarchs keep prices high all the time?

Of course, in the real world, summertime typically brings a spike in prices—and despite Schumer’s forecast of “soaring gas prices,” prices are already dropping again. Given the fungibility of commodities and the track record of the Middle East, we’ll likely always have to deal with some painful fluctuations in the price of energy, regardless of what we do at home. But relying on market forces has, by every conceivable measurement, had a better track record than price controls.

So while Democrats have learned to be less open with their intentions, the policies speak for themselves. What do they plan on doing about oil prices when they win the election? Yell at some executives? Why doesn’t anyone with access ask these concerned senators if they believe cheap fossil fuels is preferable? Or do they still support policies that spike energy prices on purpose?

By David Harsanyi/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim

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Photo by Matt Brown | CC BY 2.0

Donald Trump writes Kim Jong Un that “based on the tremendous anger and open hostility expressed in your recent statement” he must cancel the planned Singapore summit.
The “recent statement” appears to be one from Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs and nuclear negotiator (full text below). It was issued after Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News that North Korea could end up like Libya if it fails to make a nuclear deal with Washington.
This was a very stupid, provocative thing to say. Muammar Gaddafy gave up his small nuke program in 2003 but was overthrown by a NATO campaign in 2011 that destroyed his country and resulted in his brutal murder. The historical lesson is not: give up your nuclear program or weapons or get sodomized by a bayonet as you die (Gadaffy’s fate, which as you know Hillary Clinton found hilarious), but rather, give up your weapons and enjoy some respite from sanctions and normalized relations, etc., but eight years later face fire and fury, all the more vulnerable due to your earlier foolish capitulation.
Pence had declared: “There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal.” Asked if this could be interpreted as a threat, he replied, “Well, I think it’s more of a fact.” (This is after the odious National Security Advisor John Bolton had also compared U.S. intentions to those in Libya that resulted in the overthrow and murder of Gaddafi.)
Choe replied: “Vice President Pence has made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya, military option for North Korea never came off the table, the US needs complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, and so on. As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice president.”
Trump who calls people all kinds of insulting names all the time finds this unacceptable? Reason to cancel the meeting?
“In view of the remarks of the US high-ranking politicians who have not yet woken up to this stark reality and compare the DPRK to Libya that met a tragic fate, I come to think that they know too little about us. To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now. Before making such reckless threatening remarks without knowing exactly who he is facing, Pence should have seriously considered the terrible consequences of his words… Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States. In case the US offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-US summit.”
Trump tells Kim, “If you change your mind about this important summit” be in touch. As though Kim was the one who had cancelled and changed his mind. There were some reports (maybe disinformation) about Kim’s concern that a coup might occur while he was out of the country, but other affirming the DPRK’s commitment to the Singapore date. It’s possible there’s been some coordination on postponement and Trump uses the easy excuse of being offended by the Koreans’ typically vituperative language.
Whether this is a temporary setback or the collapse of diplomatic efforts, Trump looks bad in this situation. He seems petulant and hypocritical. Yes the North Korean statement by a high-ranking woman in the Foreign Ministry is defiant, but many Koreans are like Trump in that when attacked rhetorically, they counterattack rhetorically. In this case the insulting language was intended to echo Trump’s language vis-a-vis the DPRK.
“To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.” But this as she notes merely echoes Trump’s rhetoric at the United Nations when he warned that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if it didn’t denuclearize.
I sense this decision will meet with general disappointment throughout the world, and Trump not Kim will be blamed. People associate Trump himself with anger and hostility and will wonder why he’s made a big deal out of a Foreign Ministry statement (quite appropriately!) protesting the repeated references by top U.S. officials to the Libyan model. It will join the Paris Accord pullout, Iran deal pullout, and move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, as examples of Trump’s irrationality and indications that the U.S. has lost its way in the world.
* * * * *
Full text of Choi Son Hui’s statement:
At an interview at Fox News on May 21, US Vice-President Pence made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya, military option for North Korea never came off the table, the US needs complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation, and so on.
As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president.
If he is vice-president of “single superpower” as is in name, it will be proper for him to know even a little bit about the current state of global affairs and to sense to a certain degree the trends in dialogue and the climate of détente.
We could surmise more than enough what a political dummy he is as he is trying to compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them.
Soon after the White House National Security Adviser Bolton made the reckless remarks, Vice-President Pence has again spat out nonsense that the DPRK would follow in Libya’s footstep.
It is to be underlined, however, that in order not to follow in Libya’s footstep, we paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region.
In view of the remarks of the US high-ranking politicians who have not yet woken up to this stark reality and compare the DPRK to Libya that met a tragic fate, I come to think that they know too little about us.
To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.
Before making such reckless threatening remarks without knowing exactly who he is facing, Pence should have seriously considered the terrible consequences of his words.
It is the US who has asked for dialogue, but now it is misleading the public opinion as if we have invited them to sit with us.
I only wonder what is the ulterior motive behind its move and what is it the US has calculated to gain from that.
We will neither beg the US for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us.
Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.
In case the US offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-US summit.

by Gary Leupp/counterpunch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Gaza Killings: Names and Faces of Those Killed by Israeli Forces This Week

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From left: Ahmed Alrantisi, Laila Anwar Al-Ghandoor, Ahmed Altetr, Alaa Alkhatib Ezz el-din Alsamaak, Motassem Abu Louley (Photo: Screengrab)

Image: Common Dreams

Sixty-one people were either killed or died of wounds inflicted by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip on Monday and Tuesday as thousands of Palestinians demonstrated across the occupied territory to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba.

Source: Gaza Killings: Names and Faces of Those Killed by Israeli Forces This Week

Posted by Libergirl

Is Trump Being ‘Played’ by Israel With Bogus Intel on Iran?

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President Donald Trump delivers a statement on the Iran nuclear deal at the White House. (Evan Vucci / AP)

Editor’s note: Donald Trump announced Tuesday that the United States will be withdrawing from its nuclear deal with Iran The following memo by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) was first published on Consortiumnews on Monday.

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Being “Played” By Bogus Evidence on Iran

NOTE: The evidence presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 30 alleging a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program shows blatant signs of fabrication. That evidence is linked to documents presented by the Bush Administration more a decade earlier as proof of a covert Iran nuclear weapons program. Those documents were clearly fabricated as well

We sent President Bush a similar warning about bogus intelligence—much of it fabricated by Israel—six weeks before the U.S./UK attack on Iraq, but Bush paid us no heed. This time, we hope you will take note before things spin even further out of control in the Middle East. In short, Israel’s “new” damaging documents on Iran were fabricated by the Israelis themselves.

Executive Summary

The Bush administration account of how the documents on Iran got into the hands of the CIA is not true. We can prove that the actual documents originally came not from Iran but from Israel. And the documents were never authenticated by the CIA or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Two former Directors-General of the IAEA, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, have publicly expressed suspicion that the documents were fabricated. And forensic examination of the documents yielded multiple signs that they are fraudulent.

We urge you to insist on an independent inquiry into the actual origins of these documents. We believe that the renewed attention being given to claims that Iran is secretly working to develop nuclear weapons betokens a transparent attempt to stoke hostility toward Iran, with an eye toward helping “justify” pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

* * *

Mr. President,

We write you in the hope that you will be informed of our views before you decide whether to continue to adhere to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran. We fear that upcoming decisions may be based, in part, on unreliable documents alleging secret nuclear weapons activity in Iran.

On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu displayed some of those documents in his slide show on what he called the Iranian “atomic archive.” But those are precisely the same fraudulent documents that were acquired by the CIA in 2004.

The official accounts offered by the senior officials of the CIA about the provenance of these documents turned out be complete fabrication. Journalists were told variously that the documents (1) were taken from the laptop computer of an Iranian working in a secret research program; (2) were provided by a German spy; or (3) simply came from a “longtime contact in Iran.”

However, Karsten Voigt, the former German Foreign Office official in charge of German-North American cooperation, revealed in an on the record interview with historian/journalist Gareth Porter in 2013 that senior officials of the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, told Voigt in November 2004 that the documents had been passed to the CIA by a BND source. That source, the senior BND official said, was not considered trustworthy, because he belonged to the Mujahideen-E-Khalq (MEK), the armed Iranian opposition group that was known to have served as a conduit for information that Israeli intelligence (Mossad) wanted to provide to the IAEA without having it attributed to Israel. (In 2012 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton removed MEK from the list of terrorist organizations.)

Voigt recalled that the senior BND officials told him of their worry that the Bush administration was going to repeat the error of using fraudulent intelligence, as was the case with the notorious “Curveball,” the Iraqi living in Germany, whom the BND had identified as unreliable. Nonetheless, Curveball’s fictions about mobile biological weapons laboratories in Iraq—with “artists renderings” by the CIA of those phantom labs—had been used by Colin Powell in his error-ridden presentation to the UN on February 5, 2003, leading to war on Iraq.

As for the purported Iranian documents, the CIA never ruled out the possibility that they were fabricated, and the IAEA made no effort to verify their authenticity. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recalled in his memoirs that he had believed the documents were not really from the Iranian government and that, as he put it, “it made more sense that this information originated in another country.” ElBaradei stated publicly from 2005 through 2009 that the documents had not been authenticated, and he refused to use them as “evidence” of a covert Iranian weapons research program. And ElBaradei’s predecessor as Director-General, Hans Blix, has said he is “somewhat more worried” about the intelligence on the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program than about the dubious intelligence he saw on Iraq, because “there is as much disinformation as there is information.”

Each of the documents mentioned by both Netanyahu and the IAEA reports bears tell-tale signs of fraud. The most widely reported document in the collection is a set of schematic drawings showing efforts to redesign the re-entry vehicle of Iran’s Shahab-3 missile to accommodate a nuclear weapon. But the slide that Netanyahu displayed on the screen in his slide show provides visual confirmation of fraud. The drawing shows clearly the “dunce cap” design of the Shahab-3 reentry vehicle. But Iran’s Defense Ministry had already discarded that “dunce cap” reentry vehicle when it began to develop a new improved missile. That redesign began in 2000, according to the Congressional testimony in September 2000 of CIA national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs Robert D. Walpole. But the earliest dates of any of the alleged Iranian nuclear weapon program documents on the project for redesign of the reentry vehicle in theMay 2008 IAEA report on the entire collection are from summer 2002 after the “dunce cap” was replaced. The “baby-bottle” shaped reentry vehicle on the redesigned missile was not known to the outside world until the first test of the new missile in mid-2004. So those drawings could not have been done by someone who was actually involved in the redesign of the original Shahab-3 reentry vehicle; it was clearly the work of a foreign intelligence agency seeking to incriminate Iran, but slipping up on one important detail and thus betraying its fraudulent character.

The second document from that same collection turned over to the IAEA that has been widely reported is the so-called “green salt project”—a plan for a bench-scale system of uranium conversion for enrichment given the code name “Project 5.13” and part of a larger “Project 5.” Other documents that had been provided by the MEK showed that “Project 5” also included a sub-project involving ore processing at a mine designated “Project 5.15,” according to a briefing by IAEA Deputy Director Olli Heinonen in February 2008.

But when Iran turned over detailed documents to the IAEA in response to its questions about Project 5.15 in 2008, the IAEA learned the truth: there had been a real ore processing project called Project 5.15, but it was a civilian project of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran—not part of a covert nuclear weapons program—and the decision to create Project 5.15 had been made on August 25, 1999—more than two years before the initial date of the project found in the collection of supposedly secret nuclear weapons research documents. That fact gives away the ruse surrounding the numbering system of “Project 5” adopted by intelligence specialists who had fabricated the document.

A third document that purportedly shows Iranian nuclear weapons research is about what Netanyahu called “Multi-Point Initiation in hemispheric geometry” and the IAEA called “experimentation in connection with symmetrical initiation of a hemispherical high explosive charge suitable for an implosion type nuclear device.” Significantly, that document was not part of the original collection that the CIA had passed to the IAEA, but had been given to the IAEA years later, and officials from the IAEA, Europe and the United States refused to reveal which member country had provided the document. Former Director-General ElBaradei revealed in his memoirs, however, that Israel had passed a series of documents to the IAEA in 2008-09, in an effort to make the case that Iran had continued its nuclear weapons experiments until “at least 2007.”

The summary picture we offer above includes unusually clear evidence of the fraudulent nature of the documents that are advertised as hard evidence of Iran’s determination to obtain nuclear weapons. One remaining question is cui bono?—who stands to benefit from this kind of “evidence.” The state that had the most to gain from the fabrication of such documents was obviously Israel.

Completely absent from the usual discussion of this general problem is the reality that Israel already has a secret nuclear arsenal of more than a hundred nuclear weapons. To the extent Israel’s formidable deterrent is more widely understood, arguments that Israel genuinely fears an Iranian nuclear threat any time soon lose much of their power. Only an extreme few suggest that Iran’s leaders are bent on risking national suicide. What the Israelis are after is regime change in Tehran. And they have powerful allies with similar aims.

We therefore urge you, Mr. President, not to go along with these plans or to decide to pull the U.S. out of the six-nation nuclear deal with Iran based on fraudulent evidence.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Richard H. Black, Senator of Virginia, 13th District; Colonel US Army (ret.); Former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Pentagon (associate VIPS)

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) and Division Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Kathleen Christison, Senior Analyst on Middle East, CIA (ret.)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

Michael S. Kearns, Captain,Wing Commander, RAAF (ret.); Intelligence Officer & ex-Master SERE Instructor

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, Ph.D., former senior estimates officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst; CIA Presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Gareth Porter, author/journalist (associate VIPS)

Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, Colonel, US Army (ret.); also Foreign Service Officer who resigned in opposition to the US war on Iraq

This Memorandum was drafted by VIPS Associate Gareth Porter, author of “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” 2014

From VIPS / Consortiumnews

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Every Culture Appropriates The question is less whether a dress or an idea is borrowed, than the uses to which it’s then put.

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A woman walks with her two daughters at a busy street in downtown Shanghai July 11, 2013.

Meet the Death Metal Cowboys of Botswana. In black leather decorated with metal studs, they play a pounding style of music that people who know more than me trace to the British band “Venom” and its 1981 album Welcome to Hell. Question: Is this cultural appropriation? Why or why not?

The question is inspired by a spasm of social-media cruelty that caught wide attention last week. A young woman in Utah bought a Chinese-style dress to wear to her high school formal. She posted some photographs of herself on her personal Instagram page—and suddenly found herself the target of virulent online abuse.

For once, the story has a happy ending. Good sense and kindness prevailed, and instead of her prom being ruined, the young woman exited the dance buoyed by worldwide support and affirmation, most of all from within China.

Yet the idea persists that there is something wrong and oppressive about people of one background adopting and adapting the artifacts of another. Sadly often, these stories end as successful power plays enforced by local bullies.

At Oberlin in 2015, a Vietnamese American student shamed the dining hall into ceasing to serve its version of Banh Mi sandwiches.

Instead of a crispy baguette with grilled pork, pate, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs, the sandwich used ciabatta bread, pulled pork and coleslaw. “It was ridiculous …. How could they just throw out something completely different and label it as another country’s traditional food?”

The references to “baguette” and “pâté” in a food product of a former French colony might have tipped off the angry Oberlin student that the banh mi is not quite as traditional a Vietnamese food as she imagined. When this exotic remake of a classic pate en baguette was first sold in the streets of Hanoi, the vendors called it “banh tay”: literally “Western-style bread.”

By David Frum/TheAtlantic full article

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

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