The West Closes Its Ears to Douma Testimony Jonathan Cook Blog
Father of “chem attack” victim: “They gave dates and cookies to kids at Douma hospital.”
(April 28, 2018) — The response from the US, UK and France to a briefing on Thursday at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague was perverse, to say the least. Russia had brought 17 witnesses from Douma who stated that there had been no chemical weapons attack there earlier this month — the pretext for an illegal air strike on Syria by the three western states.
The witnesses, a mix of victims and the doctors who treated them, told accounts that confirmed a report provided last week from Douma by British reporter Robert Fisk — a report, it should be noted, that has been almost entirely blanked by the western media. According to the testimony provided at the OPCW, the victims shown in a video from the site of the alleged attack were actually suffering from the effects of inhaling dust after a bombing raid, not gas.
The first strange thing to note is that the US, UK and France boycotted the meeting, denouncing Russia for producing the witnesses and calling the event an “obscene masquerade” and “theatre”. It suggests that this trio, behaving like the proverbial three monkeys, think the testimony will disappear if they simply ignore it. They have no interest in hearing from witnesses unless they confirm the western narrative used to justify the air strikes on Syria.
Testimony from witnesses is surely a crucial part of determining what actually happened. The US, UK and France are surely obligated to listen to the witnesses first, and then seek to discredit the testimony afterwards if they think it implausible or coerced. The evidence cannot be tested and rebutted if it is not even considered.
The second is that the media are echoing this misplaced scorn for evidence. They too seem to have prejudged whether the witnesses are credible before listening to what they have to say (similar to their treatment of Fisk). [See related article below — EAW] Tellingly, the Guardian described these witnesses as “supposed witnesses”, not a formulation that suggests any degree of impartiality in its coverage.
Notice that when the Guardian refers to witnesses who support the UK-UK-French line, often those living under the rule of violent jihadist groups, the paper does not designate them “supposed witnesses” or assume their testimony is coerced.
Why for the Guardian are some witnesses only professing to be witnesses, while others really are witnesses? The answer appears to depend on whether the testimony accords with the official western narrative. There is a word for that, and it is not “journalism”.
The third and biggest problem, however, is that neither the trio of western states nor the western media are actually contesting the claim that these “supposed witnesses” were present in Douma, and that some of them were shown in the video. Rather, the line taken by the Guardian and others is that: “The veracity [of] the statements by the Russian-selected witnesses at The Hague will be challenged, since their ability to speak truthfully is limited.”
So the question is not whether they were there, but whether they are being coerced into telling a story that undermines the official western narrative, as well as the dubious rationale for attacking Syria.
But that leaves us with another difficulty. No one, for example, appears to be doubting that Hassan Diab, a boy who testified at the hearing, is also the boy shown in the video who was supposedly gassed with a nerve agent three weeks ago.
How then do we explain that he is now looking a picture of health? It is not as though the US, UK and French governments and the western media have had no time to investigate his case. He and his father have been saying for at least a week on Russian TV that there was no chemical attack.
Instead, we are getting yet more revisions to a story that was originally presented as so cut-and-dried that it justified an act of military aggression by the US, UK and France against Syria, without authorisation from the UN Security Council — in short, a war crime of the highest order.
It is worth noting the BBC’s brief account. It has suggested that Diab was there, and that he is the boy shown in the video, but that he was not a victim of a gas attack. It implies that there were two kinds of victims shown in the video taken in Douma: those who were victims of a chemical attack, and those next to them who were victims of dust inhalation.
That requires a great deal of back-peddling on the original narrative.
It is conceivable, I suppose, that there was a chemical attack on that neighbourhood of Douma, in which people like Diab assumed they had been gassed when, in fact, that they had not been, and that others close by were actually gassed.
It is also conceivable that the effects of dust inhalation and gassing were so similar that the White Helmets staff filmed the “wrong victims,” highlighting those like Diab who had not been gassed.
And it is also conceivable, I guess, that Diab and his family now feel the need to lie under Russian pressure about there not being a gas attack, even though their account would, according to this revised narrative, actually accord with their experience of what happened.
But even if each of these scenarios is conceivable on its own, how plausible are they when taken together?
Those of us who have preferred to avoid a rush to judgment until there was actual evidence of a chemical weapons attack have been invariably dismissed as “conspiracy theorists.” But who is really proposing the more fanciful conspiracy here: those wanting evidence, or those creating an elaborate series of revisions to maintain the credibility of their original story?
If there is one thing certain in all of this, it is that the video produced as cast-iron evidence of a chemical weapons attack has turned out to be nothing of the sort.
Jonathan Cook is a Nazareth-based journalist and winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism.
(April 18, 2018) — Here’s how a free press, one owned by a handful of corporations, uses its freedom. It simply tells you what it is good for its business interests, or more generally for the political and business environment it operates in. It’s not interested in truth or airing all sides, or even necessarily basic facts.
The only restraint preventing the corporate media from outright lying to promote its material interests is the fear of being found out, of readers starting to suspect that they are not being told the whole truth.
If that sounds like conspiratorial nonsense to you, consider this single example (there are lots more if you trawl through my past blog posts). Let’s take the matter of veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk arriving in Douma this week, the first western correspondent to get there.
Fisk is like some relic from a bygone era, when journalists really sought to arrive at the truth, often at great personal danger, not simply win followers on Twitter.
Until his arrival, all the information we were receiving about Douma in the west originated not with on-the-ground reporters, but with jihadist groups or those living under their Islamist reign of terror. That was true of the Youtube videos, the accounts from western reporters based far off in other countries, the human rights organisations, the World Health Organisation, and so on. The fog of war in this case was truly impenetrable.
So Fisk’s arrival was a significant event. He was clearly aware of the journalistic burden on his shoulders. Those still in Douma, after the jihadists fled, we can assume, are mostly supporters of the Syrian government. Even if they are not, they may be fearful of retaliation from the Syrian army if they speak out against it.
So Fisk, a very experienced reporter who has won many awards, was careful in the way he handled the story. Unlike many reporters, he is prepared to add context to his reports, such as the manner or tone of the person he talked to — clues to help him and us decode what they might really be thinking or meaning, rather than just what they are saying.
But the content of what he reported was incendiary. Just a few days after the US, UK and France had bombed Syria, in violation of all principles of international law, on the grounds that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in Douma, Fisk interviewed a doctor at the clinic where the victims were treated.
The doctor said no chemical attack occurred. The video footage from last week was genuine, the doctor added, but it showed civilians who had inhaled dust after a Syrian bombing attack, not gas.
Fisk’s account is clearly honest about what he was told. And the doctor’s account clearly is plausible — it could fit what the video shows. So, whether right or wrong, it is a vital piece of the jigsaw as we, ordinary citizens, decide whether our governments were justified — before United Nations inspectors had even arrived — in acts of aggression against another sovereign nation, and whether, in the case of the UK, Theresa May was entitled to act without reference to parliament.
These are matters Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK’s opposition Labour party, has been trying to raise in the face of a solid media consensus in favour of bombing.
Given this context, the UK media ought to have been putting Fisk’s report at the centre of their Syria coverage yesterday and today, especially the liberal Guardian, the paper that Labour party members have relied on for decades. So how did the Guardian fare?
The Guardian now has an enormous output of articles, not least its Comment is Free section. So it would be foolhardy of me to say with absolute conviction that the Guardian made no reference anywhere in its pages to Fisk. But if it did so, it was extremely well concealed.
A Google search of “Fisk”, “Guardian” and “Douma” throws up nothing. I can locate nothing in searching the Syria news articles and the op-eds published in the physical newspaper either.
So the Guardian appears to have intentionally blocked its readers from learning about the Fisk report, even though it is highly relevant to an informed debate about western actions in Syria, actions that are themselves part of a political debate being led by Corbyn. Denying this information to its readers means the Guardian is actually helping to weaken Corbyn in his battle to hold May to account.
But it does not end there. The Guardian does briefly reference Fisk, it just does so without naming him. At the same time, the Guardian seeks to discredit his reporting using the very same, highly compromised sources that have been relied on till now from Douma. In short, the Guardian appears to be carrying out a damage-limitation operation, refusing to report transparently Fisk’s revelations in an attempt to shore up the existing narrative rather than test it against the new narrative offered by Fisk.
Buried away in two lines in an article by Patrick Wintour and Julian Borger, we get this in today’s Guardian: A group of reporters, many favoured by Moscow, were taken to the site on Monday. They either reported that no weapon attack had occurred or that the victims had been misled by the White Helmets civilian defence force into mistaking a choking effect caused by dust clouds for a chemical attack.
So Fisk, Britain’s most famous and respected Middle East correspondent (can you name another one?), is not only not identified but dismissed generically as one of a group of reporters “favoured by Moscow”.
A second report, headlined “Syrian medics ‘subjected to extreme intimidation’ after Douma attack”, by Martin Chulov and Kareem Shahin, far away in Beirut and Istanbul respectively, confidently denigrates Fisk’s account, again without identifying him or mentioning that he was there. Again, it merely alludes to the content of Fisk’s account and only in so far as it is necessary to undermine it.
Instead, it gives top billing to unchallenged claims by Dr Ghanem Tayara, a Birmingham-based doctor now in Turkey who is the director of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations, which favours the overthrow of the Syrian government.
After many paragraphs of Dr Tayara’s allegations against Bashar Assad’s government, Fisk’s account is given this cursory and hostile treatment near the end of the article: Medics and survivors who have remained in Douma, and others who have fled for northern Syria, ridiculed competing claims that the attack either did not take place, or did not use gas . . . .
Some doctors have appeared on Syrian television to deny that anything took place in Douma. A doctor who spoke to the Guardian said: “Our colleagues who appeared on television were coerced, because some hadn’t served in the military or completed their degree, and for other reasons, some had family in Damascus.
They decided to stay in exchange for being reconciled with the regime. But the regime used them.”
Another medic who treated victims said: “Anyone who has knowledge of what happened cannot testify. What was being said is that the medical centres would be destroyed on top of those working in it.”
These countervailing voices are important. They are another piece of the jigsaw, as we try to work out what is really going in places like Douma. But publications like the Guardian are consistently presenting them as the only pieces their readers need to know about. That isn’t journalism.
There are good reasons to be suspicious of everything that comes out of the Syria war arena, where all sides are treating the outcome as a zero-sum battle. But western corporate media are clearly not fulfilling their self-declared role either as an impartial messenger of news, or as a watchdog on power.
They have taken a side — that of the governments of the US, UK and France, their regional partners Saudi Arabia and Israel, and what are by now mostly proxy jihadi fighters in Syria.
The Guardian failed the most elementary test of honest journalism in its treatment of Fisk’s report. It may be an egregious example but after many years of the Syria war it is very far from being unique.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Israeli Military Kills Three Palestinians
Along Gaza Strip Border Ori Lewis / Reuters
JERUSALEM (April 29, 2018) — Israeli troops shot and killed three Palestinians along the border with the Gaza Strip in two separate incidents on Sunday, the Israeli military said.
The shootings follow a month of violence along the Israel-Gaza border, where Palestinians have been holding protests every Friday pressing for the right of return for refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel.
In the first incident on Sunday, two men “attempted to infiltrate” into Israel from the southern Gaza Strip, the military said in a statement. Soldiers shot and killed one of the men, and the other was wounded and held for questioning.
In the second incident, the army said, two militants who managed to cross the fence “hurled explosive devices” at Israeli soldiers, who shot them dead. There was no claim of responsibility from any militant group in Gaza.
Israel has refused any right of return for Palestinians who were expelled or fled and became refugees after the country declared independence in 1948, fearing that it would lose its Jewish majority.
Israeli forces have killed 42 Palestinians since protests began on March 30 and some 2,000 have been wounded by gunfire. No serious casualties have been reported on the Israeli side.
The Palestinians say Israel has used excessive force, and its use of live fire has drawn international criticism.
Israel says it is protecting its borders and takes such action only when protesters, some hurling stones and rolling burning tires, or trying to lay explosives, come too close to the border fence.
The Gaza Health Ministry said that three Palestinians were killed on Friday and 200 were wounded by Israeli gunfire, while a fourth died of his wounds on Saturday.
The Israeli military describes the protests as “riots,” and says that some protesters have tried to breach the frontier, and to damage the border fence by setting it on fire.
(April 27, 2018) — Israel is carrying out a murderous assault against protesting Palestinians, with its armed forces killing and maiming demonstrators who pose no imminent threat to them, Amnesty International revealed today, based on its latest research, as the “Great March of Return” protests continued in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military has killed 35 Palestinians and injured more than 5,500 others — some with what appear to be deliberately inflicted life-changing injuries — during the weekly Friday protests that began on 30 March.
Amnesty International has renewed its call on governments worldwide to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel following the country’s disproportionate response to mass demonstrations along the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel.
“For four weeks the world has watched in horror as Israeli snipers and other soldiers, in full-protective gear and behind the fence, have attacked Palestinian protesters with live ammunition and tear gas. Despite wide international condemnation, the Israeli army has not reversed its illegal orders to shoot unarmed protesters,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“The time for symbolic statements of condemnation is now over. The international community must act concretely and stop the delivery of arms and military equipment to Israel. A failure to do so will continue to fuel serious human rights abuses against thousands of men, women and children suffering the consequences of life under Israel’s cruel blockade of Gaza. These people are merely protesting their unbearable conditions and demanding the right to return to their homes and towns in what is now Israel.”
The USA is by far Israel’s main supplier of military equipment and technology, with a commitment to provide $38 billion in military aid over the next 10 years. But other countries, including EU member states such as France, Germany, the UK and Italy, have licensed large volumes of military equipment for Israel.
Protesters Shot from Behind
In most of the fatal cases analysed by Amnesty International victims were shot in the upper body, including the head and the chest, some from behind. Eyewitness testimonies, video and photographic evidence suggest that many were deliberately killed or injured while posing no immediate threat to the Israeli soldiers.
Among the victims are 23-year-old football player Mohammad Khalil Obeid, who was shot in both knees as he filmed himself with his back towards the border fence at a protest east of al-Breij Camp on 30 March.
The video, published on social media, shows the moment he was shot. In the footage, he appears to be standing in an isolated area, far from the fence, and not seeming to pose any threat to the lives of Israeli soldiers. He is currently in need of a knee replacement operation to be able to walk again.
“As a Palestinian player my life has been destroyed . . . I was dreaming of playing football abroad, and to raise the Palestinian flag abroad [to show] that we are not terrorists,” he told Amnesty International.
“We wanted to convey our message to all organizations, countries and heads of states so that they see what is happening to us, because no one would accept this anywhere in the world.”
Injuries Not Seen Since the War
Doctors at the European and Shifa hospitals in Gaza City told Amnesty International that many of the serious injuries they have witnessed are to the lower limbs, including the knees, which are typical of war wounds that they have not observed since the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Many have suffered extreme bone and tissue damage, as well as large exit wounds measuring between 10 and 15mm, and will likely face further complications, infections and some form of physical disability, such as paralysis or amputation. Reports of the high number of injuries to the knees, which increase the probability of bullet fragmentation, are particularly disturbing. If true, they would suggest that the Israeli army is intentionally intending to inflict life-changing injuries.
Doctors also said that they have observed another type of devastating injury characterized by large internal cavities, plastic left inside the body but no exit wounds.
According to military experts as well as a forensic pathologist who reviewed photographs of injuries obtained by Amnesty International, many of the wounds observed by doctors in Gaza are consistent with those caused by high-velocity Israeli-manufactured Tavor rifles using 5.56mm military ammunition. Other wounds bear the hallmarks of US-manufactured M24 Remington sniper rifles shooting 7.62mm hunting ammunition, which expand and mushroom inside the body.
According to a recent statement by Medecins Sans Frontieres, half of the over 500 patients admitted to its clinics were treated for injuries “where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverized the bone”. This information has been confirmed by humanitarian NGOs as well as testimonies collected from doctors by Palestinian human rights groups in Gaza.
“The nature of these injuries shows that Israeli soldiers are using high-velocity military weapons designed to cause maximum harm to Palestinian protesters that do not pose imminent threat to them. These apparently deliberate attempts to kill and main are deeply disturbing, not to mention completely illegal. Some of these cases appear to amount to willful killing, a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.
“Unless Israel ensures effective and independent investigations resulting in criminal prosecutions of those responsible, the International Criminal Court must open a formal investigation into these killings and serious injuries as possible war crimes and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.”
According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, as of 26 April, the total number of injured is estimated at 5,511 — 592 children, 192 women and 4,727 men — with 1,738 injuries from live ammunition. Approximately half of those admitted to hospitals suffered injuries to the legs and the knees, while 225 sustained injuries to the neck and head, 142 others were shot in the abdomen and pelvis, and 115 were injured in the chest and the back. So far, the injuries have resulted in 18 amputations.
Four children aged between 14 and 17 are among those killed due to injuries sustained during protests. Two journalists have also been shot dead, despite both wearing protective vests that clearly identified them as members of the press, while several others have been injured.
Gaza’s hospitals have struggled to cope with the large number of casualties due to shortages in medical supplies, electricity and fuel caused by the Israeli blockade and exacerbated by the intra-Palestinian divide. Meanwhile, Israel has been delaying or refusing the transfer of some patients in need of urgent specialized medical treatment available in other parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories due to their participation in protests.
In one case documented by Amnesty International, 20-year-old journalist Yousef al-Kronz had his left leg amputated after the Israeli authorities denied him permission to travel to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank for urgent medical treatment. He was eventually allowed to leave for an operation to save his other leg following legal intervention by human rights groups.
Paramedics in Gaza have told Amnesty International of difficulties evacuating injured protesters due to the Israeli army firing tear gas canisters at them as well as near field hospitals.
Unlawful Killings and Life-changing Injuries
The organizers of the “Great March of Return” have repeatedly stated that the protests are intended to be peaceful, and they have largely involved sit-ins, concerts, sports games, speeches and other peaceful activities.
Despite this, the Israeli army reinforced its forces — deploying tanks, military vehicles, soldiers and snipers along the Gaza fence — and gave orders to shoot anyone within several hundred metres of the fence.
While some protesters have attempted to approach the fence, threw stones in the direction of Israeli soldiers or burnt tyres, social media videos, as well as eyewitness testimonies gathered by Amnesty International, Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups, show that Israeli soldiers shot unarmed protesters, bystanders, journalists and medical staff approximately 150-400m from the fence, where they did not pose any threat.
In a petition requesting that the Israeli Supreme Court order the Israeli army to stop using live ammunition to disperse protests, human rights groups Adalah and Al Mezan provided evidence of 12 videos published on social media showing unarmed protesters, including women and children, being shot by the Israeli army. In some cases, people were shot while waving the Palestinian flag or running away from the fence.
Video footage widely circulated on social media shows Abd Al-Fattah Abd Al-Nabi, aged 19, being shot on 30 March as he was running away from the fence while holding a tyre, with his back turned to Israeli soldiers. He was shot in the back of the head and died. On Friday 20 April, 14-year-old Mohammad Ayyoub was also killed by a gunshot wound to the back of the head.
Over the last 11 years, civilians in the Gaza Strip have suffered the devastating consequences of Israel’s illegal blockade in addition to three wars.
As a result, Gaza’s economy has sharply declined, leaving its population almost entirely dependent on international aid. Gaza now has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world at 44%. Four years since the 2014 conflict, some 22,000 people remain displaced.
In January 2015, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court opened a preliminary examination of situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, specifically looking into allegations of crimes committed since 13 June 2014.
Amnesty International has also been calling on all states to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, as well as on Palestinian armed groups, with the aim of preventing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by all sides.
Since 30 March, in addition to the protesters, seven other Palestinians have been killed by Israeli air strikes, artillery fire or live ammunition, including a farmer who was harvesting his land near the fence, and six members of Palestinian armed groups.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Kim Would Give Up Nuclear Weapons
For US Pledge Not to Invade Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 29, 2018) — During Friday’s summit, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told South Korea’s President Moon that he is willing to totally abandon nuclear weapons in return for an end to the Korean War and a promise from the United States not to invade.
North Korean officials have long said that their nuclear program was only necessary to deter a US attack. Getting a formal pledge from the US not to invade would achieve that goal, assuming it’s a credible promise. North Korea appears to believe they can get such a promise.
New Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared optimistic too. In comments on ABC’s “This Week,” Pompeo said he believes there is a “real opportunity” for a denuclearization deal with North Korea. He added that conditions are right for such a deal.
National Security Adviser John Bolton was less hopeful, saying the US must hold out for “concrete evidence” of denuclearization. Bolton had long supported attacking North Korea, and has never favored diplomacy to achieve US policy goals.
Whatever cabinet members think, President Trump is the one that’s going to be driving US involvement in the peace process. Trump has been very clear in his support for the diplomatic process, and the upcoming summit with Kim.
Trump has defended the lead-up to the summit in the face of growing media hostility to diplomacy with North Korea. He has also rejected criticism that he’s giving away too much, noting he hasn’t actually given North Korea anything yet, and doesn’t intend to without North Korea scrapping its nuclear arsenal.
Denuclearization for peace, after all, is exactly the grand bargain that the US has sought with North Korea. The South Korean government has gone to great lengths to lay the groundwork for such a deal, and very much wants a deal ending the Korean War. US officials have expressed support for the peace deal, but have emphasized denuclearization as their top priority.
Such a deal would’ve been unthinkable just a few months ago. After growing diplomatic progress, huge deals not only seem possible, but very practical. Everyone is unusually willing to make a deal, and summits are lining up at just the right time to make big things happen.
Mattis: US Troop Withdrawal
Possible If Korea Peace Deal Is Reached Says diplomats will have to work on
question of South Korea deployments Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 29, 2018) — Commenting on Korea’s Friday’s summit, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the future presence of US troops on the Korean Peninsula could be “up for negotiation” if indeed a lasting peace deal is signed.
North and South Korea have agreed to work on a peace deal ending the Korean War. The Korean War started in 1950, and beyond a 1953 armistice is still technically ongoing. Some 30,000 US troops are deployed in South Korea.
Mattis said the future of US troops would be discussed “with our allies first, and of course with North Korea.” North Korea has already said they are not demanding a US pullout as a precondition of a peace deal.
With North Korea primarily interested in a promise that the US won’t invade, having US troops leave would certainly help with that. If a peace deal is reached, however, there will really be no reason for the US to keep so many troops on the Korean Peninsula, and may decide to start drawing them down.
Decisions to lower US troop levels, even when they don’t need to be somewhere, take time. That is likely what North Korea decided not to press the issue, knowing that the drawdown process will take much longer than negotiating peace.
SEOUL, South Korea (April 29, 2018) — Keeping diplomatic developments coming at a head-snapping pace, the South Korean government said on Sunday that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, had told President Moon Jae-in that he would abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States agreed to formally end the Korean War and promise not to invade his country.
In a confidence-building gesture ahead of a proposed summit meeting with President Trump, a suddenly loquacious and conciliatory Mr. Kim also said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States to watch the shutdown next month of his country’s only known underground nuclear test site.
In Washington, Trump officials spoke cautiously about the chances of reaching a deal and laid out a plan for the dismantling of the North’s nuclear program, perhaps over a two-year period.
That would be accompanied by a “full, complete, total disclosure of everything related to their nuclear program with a full international verification,” said John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s new national security adviser.
The apparent concessions from the youthful leader were widely welcomed as promising signs of ending the standoff on the Korean Peninsula, frozen in place since fighting in the Korean War ended 65 years ago.
But skeptics warned that North Korea previously made similar pledges of denuclearization on numerous occasions, with little or no intention of abiding by them. Mr. Kim’s friendly gestures, they said, could turn out to be nothing more than empty promises aimed at lifting sanctions on his isolated country.
A South Korean government spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, provided remarkable details of a summit meeting the two Korean heads of state held on Friday, when Mr. Kim made history by becoming the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South.
“I know the Americans are inherently disposed against us, but when they talk with us, they will see that I am not the kind of person who would shoot nuclear weapons to the south, over the Pacific or at the United States,” Mr. Kim told Mr. Moon, according to Mr. Yoon’s account.
It was another in a series of startling statements by Mr. Kim, whose country threatened to do exactly those things during the height of nuclear tensions last year.
Mr. Kim’s apparent willingness to negotiate away his nuclear arsenal was revealed just as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke for the first time about a “good conversation” he had with Mr. Kim during his secret visit to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, over Easter weekend.
Mr. Pompeo told ABC News in a broadcast on Sunday that the Trump administration’s objective was “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” with North Korea, and that Mr. Kim was prepared to “lay out a map that would help us achieve” denuclearization.
“We had an extensive conversation on the hardest issues that face our two countries,” Mr. Pompeo said. “I had a clear mission statement from President Trump. When I left, Kim Jong-un understood the mission exactly as I described it today.”
But Mr. Bolton, a longtime critic of past diplomacy with North Korea, expressed skepticism on Sunday, recalling past moments that looked hopeful. Those would include a commitment by Pyongyang in the 1990s to give up its nuclear program and the destruction of a nuclear power cooling tower in 2008 as part of a similar promise.
“We want to see real commitment,” he said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “We don’t want to see propaganda from North Korea. We’ve seen words. We’ve seen words so far.”
Asked about North Korea’s insistence on a promise by the United States not to invade, Mr. Bolton noted that was an old demand that had been rolled out on other occasions. “We’ve heard this before,” he said. “The North Korean propaganda playbook is an infinitely rich resource.”
Mr. Trump sees the potential for a historic deal with Mr. Kim, “a breakthrough nobody would have imagined a few months ago,” Mr. Bolton told Fox News on Sunday, but his administration is not “starry eyed about what may happen here.”
“I think it is going to happen; the dates and the places are still under discussion,” he said. “I think the president is eager to do it as soon as possible.”
On Friday, Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon signed a joint declaration recognizing “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula” and “complete denuclearization” as a common goal of the two Koreas. But during the summit events, some of which were broadcast live around the world, Mr. Kim never publicly renounced his nuclear weapons.
Even in the additional details released on Sunday by South Korean officials, Mr. Kim appeared to hedge his bets, indicating that denuclearizing his country could be a long process that required multiple rounds of negotiations and steps to build trust. But he laid out a vague idea of what his impoverished country would demand in return for giving up its nuclear weapons.
“If we meet often and build trust with the United States, and if an end to the war and nonaggression are promised, why would we live in difficulty with nuclear weapons?” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying by South Korean officials.
Mr. Moon briefed Mr. Trump on the meeting during a call on Saturday, telling him that Mr. Kim had said that he and Mr. Trump could “get along well,” to which Mr. Trump responded that he “looked forward” to their meeting.
On Sunday, Mr. Moon also spoke with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to relay Mr. Kim’s willingness to open dialogue with Tokyo, which is threatened by the North’s nuclear weapons and missile development.
The peacemaking comments stand in stark contrast to previous remarks and actions by Mr. Kim, who drove the Peninsula close to the brink of war last year by undertaking a series of missile and nuclear tests.
He suddenly switched to diplomatic overtures this year, extending an offer to meet Mr. Trump, which, surprisingly, was accepted. A week ago, Mr. Kim announced an end to all nuclear and long-range missile tests and the closing of the nuclear test site in mountainous Punggye-ri, in northeast North Korea.
In the meeting on Friday, Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon also agreed to start talks this year with Washington to negotiate a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, one of the key security guarantees that the North has long demanded.
But North Korea has so far offered no timeline for dismantling its nuclear weapons and facilities. Nor has it clarified how it defines a “nuclear-free Korean Peninsula,” and especially whether that means a withdrawal or significant reconfiguration of American troops based in South Korea, as it has demanded before.
Even before Mr. Moon met with Mr. Kim, South Korean officials said any joint statement was bound to be vague on the terms of denuclearization because Mr. Kim would try to settle critical issues directly with Washington.
If Mr. Kim intends to win a peace treaty, diplomatic recognition and billions of dollars in economic aid from Washington and its allies, as South Korean officials hope he does, trading away his nuclear arsenal is his biggest bargaining chip. He cannot reveal his hand too soon, South Korean officials said.
Skeptics fear that Mr. Kim does not really intend to give up his nuclear weapons and is merely trying to soften his image, escape sanctions and make it more difficult for Mr. Trump to continue to threaten military action. But South Korean officials argue that Mr. Kim is sincere in trading his nuclear weapons for a promise to end hostilities and get Washington’s help to improve his country’s economy.
North Korea’s promise to invite outsiders to Punggye-ri reflected “Mr. Kim’s determination to actively and pre-emptively deal with the process of verifying denuclearization,” Mr. Yoon said.
In another conciliatory gesture toward South Korea, Mr. Kim made his own pledge of nonaggression toward the South.
“I am determined not to repeat the painful history of the Korean War. As the same nation living on the same land, we should never shed blood again,” he told Mr. Moon, according to Mr. Yoon.
Mr. Kim even vowed to readjust his country’s clock to match the time zone in South Korea, which with the rest of the region runs 30 minutes ahead of the North’s.
“When I was sitting in the waiting room, I saw two clocks on the wall, one of the Seoul time and the other of the Pyongyang time, and I felt bad about it,” Mr. Kim was quoted as telling Mr. Moon. “Why don’t we reunify our clocks first?”
Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Peace Comes to Korea: Let’s Understand Why David Swanson / David Swanson.org
After North and South Korea’s leaders shared a friendly handshake and vowed to work toward wiping away nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula, once high-flying defense stocks are taking the hit . . . .
The US’s five largest defense contractors shed about $10.2 billion in value on Friday alone.
Lockheed Martin fell 2.5% to a valuation of about $92.1 billion;
Northrop Grumman slid 3.4% to $56 billion;
General Dynamics shed 3.8% to $60.7 billion;
Raytheon dropped 3.6% to $50.8 billion; and finally,
Boeing slid a much lesser 1% to $200.2 billion.
— Fortune magazine (April 30, 2018)
(April 30, 2018) — When peace shows its face, and weapons companies’ stocks plummet, we have to do more than just cheer. We have to avoid misunderstanding where peace comes from. We have to recognize the forces that want to destroy it. We have to work to make it last and expand.
There’s something very twisted about the belief that the primary cause of tension between the United States and North Korea is what has reduced tension there. On a personal scale I think we could grasp this.
If you yell insults and threats across the street at someone and they return the favor, and this carries on until a third party intervenes and proposes resolving the conflict, you can’t then proclaim that the person you were yelling at finally gave in and shut up because you yelled loudly enough. In fact, proclaiming that runs the risk of starting the yelling back up again.
Applying the same understanding to Korea is hindered by a couple of truly insane but widespread habits of thought. First, there’s the belief that because I’m a US citizen and not an aggressive bully and not interested in any way with North Korea and none of my friends are either, why then the same must be true of the US government.
This mistake is compounded by the notion that history doesn’t matter and the crazy concept of a “national interest” understood as something every one in a nation and its government all share in common. If you own stock in Lockheed Martin and want peace, your interests don’t even line up with your own interests, never mind those of John Bolton and Bill Gates.
Second, there’s the belief that worrying about nuclear apocalypse has gone out of style, that it is just oh so 1980s, because that’s what television makes it seem like, even though the risk has increased and understanding of the risk has changed so that in fact we understand that fewer nukes would do more damage than most people imagined in the1980s.
If history and facts do matter, then we have to take these facts seriously. The United States government divided Korea in half. The United States government imposed a brutal dictatorship on South Korea. The United States’ South Korean dictator helped start a war in which the United States destroyed most of North Korea’s cities.
The United States prevented the war from officially ending or the two Koreas from reuniting for over half a century. The United States imposed brutal sanctions on the people of North Korea for over half a century. The United States threatened North Korea and militarized South Korea over whose military it maintained wartime control for over half a century.
North Korea negotiated a disarmament agreement with the United States in the 1990s and for the most part abided by it, but the United States did not.
The United States called North Korea part of an axis of evil, destroyed one of that axis’s other two members, and has threatened to destroy the third member ever since. And ever since, North Korea has said that it would re-negotiate but has built the weapons it thinks will protect it.
It has said it would renegotiate if the United States will commit to not attacking it again, will stop putting missiles in South Korea, will stop flying practice nuking missions near North Korea. Instead of halting these behaviors, the United States has ramped up the threats, while North Korea has reciprocated.
Now a third party has intervened: the South Korean government, with a big boost from the South Korean people who threw out the previous government which refused to stand up to the United States — and with a big boost from South Korean and North Korean (let’s start just saying Korean) peace activists and peace activists from around the world. South Korea has agreed to no more threats of war and to disarmament.
That will mean, if followed through on, no more practice flights, no more presidential death tweets from hell, no more bases built and weapons installed — in fact the gradual removal of those weapons and bases and troops that are there. (We can of course give every single person impacted a better and better-paying job for less money in peaceful enterprises.)
Now if anyone in the US government wants to take credit for peace, by all means let them. Make it a positive thing to be for peace. Peace is extremely easy to choose when you control the means to war, and we should make those in power consider the advantages to their immediate selves of choosing it.
But if anyone wants to pretend that peace has come about through threats and sanctions, the very things that created the problem, they are risking all of our lives. That’s not hyperbole. That’s what nuclear war means, even a small nuclear war.
And if North Korea gets rid of its nukes, and then the United States attacks it, we can all forget about any small country ever giving up its nukes again anywhere on earth — and we can probably forget the earth.
The United States would never do such a thing, you say, but I would encourage you to ask the Libyans, the Iraqis, the Afghans, Yemenis, Somalis, Vietnamese, most of Latin America, the Filipinos, the . . . well, just ask the other 96%, any of them.
When the United States made a nuclear agreement with Iran, it was an agreement that the United States would stop immorally, illegally, catastrophically, moronically, and sadistically — and bi-partisanly — threatening war on Iran. It wasn’t justified by anything else, although there’s never any harm in ever-greater restrictions on nukes, which ought to be applied globally, not just to Iran.
According to Gallup, most nations polled view the United States as the greatest threat to peace on earth. Certainly the people of Korea (all of Korea) understand that. The people of the United States need to understand it too.
If US government employees swore a Hippocratic oath, the United States would immediately get its missiles, its military, and its nose out of the Korean peninsula and let peace proceed.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015, 2016, 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.
ACTION ALERT: What Was Unimaginable
Blackrock: If North Korea Can Divest from
Nuclear Weapons, So Can You Jodie Evans / CODEPINK
(April 30, 2018) — On Friday, as I watched North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gently take the hand of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to walk back and forth across the line that has signified the divide between their two countries for 74 years, I was in tears.
It was just three years ago that 30 international women, drawn together by Christine Ahn, crossed the DMZ with a call for the peace on the Korean peninsula. Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright, and I were there.
We saw the insanity of the separation, a line drawn in Washington DC in 1953that tore apart families, separating parent from child, brother from sister. At that time the leadership of South Korea was not talking to North Korea, and the idea of them meeting was a distant dream. Three years later, the two leaders met and produced a joint peace declaration!
Let’s face it, if Kim Jong-un can give up his nuclear weapons, then it’s time for investment firms like BlackRock to say no to war, too. CODEPINK has been calling for a large-scale movement away from investing in weapons of war because no one should profit from conflict.
The North and South Korean leaders have laid out a path toward a comprehensive peace. They have agreed to phase denuclearization; a peace treaty; reuniting families; connecting rail and roads, and transforming the DMZ into a peace zone.
The agreement between these two nations exemplifies the breadth and depth of what truly peaceful relations would look like. Now we all have to ensure that the United States will also move forward and make the necessary compromises to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.
After the announcement in Korea, the stocks of US weapons manufacturers plummeted. In just one day, the big five companies lost $10 billion, even though non-military stocks around the world either went up or stayed neutral.
Peace is bad business for the weapons makers and their investors. BlackRock is the largest investment firm in the world. It controls trillions of dollars and has billions invested in weapons manufacturers.
I am still overwhelmed with joy. We have a real chance for peace in Korea when just months ago we were holding our breaths in fear of a nuclear war. While there’s much work to be done, let’s celebrate peace and the peacemakers, and let’s stop those who profit from war.
Holding hands and creating peace together,
Jodie Evans and the entire CODEPINK Team
Sign the People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea RootsAction
Alarmed by the threat of a nuclear war between the US and North Korea, concerned US peace groups have come together to send an open message to Washington and Pyongyang that we are strongly opposed to any resumption of the horrific Korean War. What we want is a peace treaty to finally end the lingering Korean War!
Inspired by the Vietnam-era People’s Peace Treaty, we have initiated a People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea, to raise awareness about the past US policy toward North Korea, and to send a clear message that we, the people of the US, do not want another war with North Korea. This is not an actual treaty, but rather a declaration of peace from the people of the United States.
Our goal is to collect many thousands of signatures, and to publicize the People’s Peace Treaty to the people in the US as well as in the rest of the world. Please add your voice for peace by signing the People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea.
People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea A Message of Peace from the People of the United States
Deeply concerned with the increasing danger of the current military tensions and threats between the Governments of the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the DPRK, North Korea), which may re-ignite the horrendous fighting in the Korean War by design, mistake or accident;
Recalling that the United States currently possesses about 6,800 nuclear weapons, and has threatened the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea in the past, including the most recent threat made by the US President in his terrifying speech to the United Nations (“totally destroy North Korea”);
Regretting that the US Government has so far refused to negotiate a peace treaty to replace the temporary Korean War Armistice Agreement of 1953, although such a peace treaty has been proposed by the DPRK many times from 1974 on;
Convinced that ending the Korean War officially is an urgent, essential step for the establishment of enduring peace and mutual respect between the US and the DPRK, as well as for the North Korean people’s full enjoyment of their basic human rights to life, peace and development â€“ ending their long sufferings from the harsh economic sanctions imposed on them by the US Government since 1950.
NOW, THEREFORE, as a Concerned Person of the United States of America (or on behalf of a civil society organization), I hereby sign this People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea, dated November 11, 2017, Armistice Day (also Veterans Day in the US), and
1) Declare to the world that the Korean War is over as far as I am concerned, and that I will live in “permanent peace and friendship” with the North Korean people (as promised in the 1882 US-Korea Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce and Navigation that opened the diplomatic relations between the US and Korea for the first time);
2) Express my deep apology to the North Korean people for the US Government’s long, cruel and unjust hostility against them, including the near total destruction of North Korea due to the heavy US bombings during the Korean War;
3) Urge Washington and Pyongyang to immediately stop their preemptive (or preventive) conventional/nuclear attack threats against each other and to sign the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons;
4) Call upon the US Government to stop its large-scale, joint war drills with the armed forces of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Japan, and commence a gradual withdrawal of the US troops and weapons from South Korea;
5) Call upon the US Government to officially end the lingering and costly Korean War by concluding a peace treaty with the DPRK without further delay, to lift all sanctions against the country, and to join the 164 nations that have normal diplomatic relations with the DPRK;
6) Pledge that I will do my best to end the Korean War, and to reach out to the North Korean people â€“ in order to foster greater understanding, reconciliation and friendship.
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Riot Police Force Dispersal of
Anti-THAAD Protest Days before North-South Summit Zoom In Korea
SOUTH KOREA (April 23, 2018) — It has been nearly one year since the United States Forces Korea and the South Korean Defense Ministry first forced in key parts of the THAAD missile system using brute force against the residents who were peacefully blocking the road to the deployment site. Not much has changed, however, since the early morning of April 26, 2017.
The struggle against the THAAD continues as construction for the base hosting the missile system continues. On April 23 of 2018, South Korean police forced 200 residents of Soseong-ri and anti-THAAD activists to disperse from their peaceful protest to make way for additional construction material and equipment to enter the deployment site of the THAAD missile system.
Protesters mobilized on the night of April 22 in anticipation of construction material entering the THAAD base. They had set up to block Jinbat Bridge, which is the only road that leads to the military base.
The residents and supporting peace-keepers linked themselves to each other by wrapping large nets around their bodies. The protesters endured through cold rain overnight as well as confrontation with the police.
By the morning the South Korea’s Defense Ministry had deployed over 1,000 riot police to force the dispersal of the local residents and peace activists protesting on Jinbat Bridge. Over 15 protesters sustained some form of injury as a result of excessive force used by the riot police. At least three of them had to be taken to the local hospital.
Less than two weeks ago, on April 12, the Defense Ministry deployed 3,000 riot cops to forcibly disperse protesters waging a peaceful sit-in protest on Jinbat Bridge and clear a path for construction material and equipment to enter the THAAD base.
The residents and members of the The Stop THAAD Peace Committee are also questioning the Defense Ministry’s decision to move forward with completing the construction of the facilities on the THAAD base so close to the the summit meeting between South and North Korea.
Last week, the “Stop THAAD Peace Committee,” which is made up of six organizations that have been opposing the THAAD deployment, released a statement demanding an end to the construction of the THAAD base and an official promise “to withdraw the THAAD in the event of a peace treaty being signed.”
The statement questioned whether the attempts by the US and the South Korean Defense Ministry to complete the construction are a ploy to make the base permanent before a peace treaty is established on the Korean Peninsula.
The residents and peace-keepers are also questioning the purpose of keeping the THAAD system, particularly after North Korea has announced that it is suspending nuclear tests and showing interest in negotiating for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
In light of North Korea demonstrating its commitment to the upcoming peace talks with South Korea and the United States, the Stop THAAD Peace Committee has called for all construction on the THAAD base be suspended at least through the summit meetings.
Throughout this month, many Korean people have been looking forward to the prospects for permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Meanwhile, the US and South Korean governments continue to ignore the concerns of the Soseong-ri residents and continue to force the completion of the military base for the THAAD missile system.
In the minds of the Soseong-ri residents and the Stop THAAD Peace Committee members, this is a direct contradiction to the South Korean government’s vow to work towards building the conditions necessary for the establishment of a permanent peace treaty.
ZoominKorea is an online resource that progressive minded individuals and groups interested in Korean issues as well as other US-based media can access for timely updates on major news stories related to Korea, particularly exploring topics of the fight for democracy in South Korea as well as peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Nearly Every Mass Killer Is a Man.
We Should All Be Talking More about That Gary Younge / The Guardian
(April 27, 2018) — From the Oklahoma bombing to the massacre in Norway it is always the same. In the immediate aftermath of mass murder, the initial hypothesis is that it must be a Muslim. And so it was on Monday that, within minutes of a van mowing down pedestrians in Toronto, a far-right lynching party was mobilised on social media looking for jihadis.
Paul Joseph Watson, of the conspiracy site Infowars, announced, “A jihadist has just killed nine people”; Katie Hopkins branded the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, a “terrorist shill”.
But there is a far safer assumption one can generally make. For while a relatively small proportion of mass killers in North America are Muslim, across the globe they are almost all men.
There will be, though, no appeals for moderate men to denounce toxic masculinity, no extra surveillance where men congregate, no government-sponsored schemes to promote moderate manhood, or travel bans for men. Indeed, the one thing that is consistently true for such incidents, whether they are classified as terrorist or not, will for the most part go unremarked.
Obviously not all men are killers. But the fact that virtually all mass killers are men should, at the very least, give pause for thought. If it were women slaying people at this rate, feminism would be in the dock. The fact they are male is both accepted and expected. Boys will be boys; mass murderers will be men.
This week’s atrocity in Toronto, where Alek Minassian stands accused of killing 10 and wounding 14, gives us yet another chance to reflect on the destructive capacity of masculinity — not least because it may have been the principal motive for this attack.
Minassian is not known to have any strong religious affiliations. But according to his Facebook feed, he identified with devotees of “incel” (short for “involuntarily celibate”), which is for straight men who “can’t have sex despite wanting to” and splits the world into Stacys (attractive women who won’t sleep with them) and Chads (men who are sexually successful).
It seems innocent and adolescent — that blend of pathos and priapism that helped get nerdy boys through high school. Only, Minassian was 25 and hadn’t grown out of it, but into it with a vengeance. His last Facebook post read: “The Incel Rebellion has already begun!
We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!
All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
In 2014, 22-year-old Rodger wrote a screed against, among other things, women and couples (particularly inter-racial couples), before killing seven people, including himself, and injuring 14 in Isla Vista, California.
“I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it,” Rodger stated in a video uploaded before the rampage. “It’s an injustice, a crime because . . . I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.”
Alexandre Bissonnette, who killed six and injured 19 in a mosque in Quebec City last year, identified with Rodger and had been Googling him not long before the crime.
With tens of thousands visiting their message boards, incel is hardly marginal — though arguably too amorphous and incoherent to dignify with the term movement. It is debatable how widespread the cult of Rodger might be. But the issues of misogyny and inadequacy that drive men to it characterise a far broader and deeper problem that helps to explain male violence.
On the one hand, there is the hatred of women, born for the most part from a sense of entitlement. These men do not just resent the fact that they can’t get a girlfriend. They feel women are denying them the sex that is rightfully theirs.
They belong to broadly the same demographic as the Gamergate movement earlier this decade, in which male gamers systematically harassed female game developers and media critics, subjecting them to rape and death threats, and publishing details of their personal lives online.
These men, wherever they are, now have more political space than they used to. There is considerable overlap with the American hard right. And they have a role model in the White House in a president who was accused of rape by his first wife, boasts of grabbing women by the genitals, makes up sexual stories about women on the internet, and openly disparages their looks and intellect.
In the 2005 book TrumpNation, the future president tells Timothy O’Brien his favourite part in Pulp Fiction is when “Sam [Jackson] had his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up: ‘Tell that Bitch to be cool.’ Say, ‘Bitch, be cool.’ I love those lines.”
We don’t know what proportion of these men go on to have abusive relationships or if they enter relationships at all. But we do know there is a significant correlation between domestic abuse and mass murder.
An Everytown for Gun Safety report last year revealed that between 2009 and 2016 more than half of mass shootings in the US were related to domestic or family violence. In a third of the public mass shootings during that time period the gunman had a history of violence against women — domestic abuse is a more common trait among mass murderers than mental illness.
On the other hand, there is a deep sense of grievance. While most people avoid association with failure, these men are attracted to it. Their inadequacy is central both to their identity and their rage. They are not the men they want or need to be; they do not have the status they feel was their birthright. This is the fault of others and somebody, anybody, must therefore pay.
“The amok man,” writes Douglas Kellner in Guys and Guns Amok, describing the man likely to commit a mass killing, “is patently out of his mind . . . But his rampage is preceded by lengthy brooding over failure and is carefully planned as a means of deliverance from an unbearable situation.”
While the desire to dominate and the embrace of failure may appear contradictory, they are in fact part of the same pathology. The rage stems from the fact that the very thing they feel entitled to — women’s bodies, women’s lives, women’s obeisance — is not available to them. They hate the thing they cannot have. And of course they hate themselves for their inability to get it.
If ever there was an illustration of how a system of patriarchy demeans and depletes us all, this is it. Unable to take advantage of the male privileges they believe they are owed, they feel inadequate and grow resentful, and a handful become violent.
Often awkward, shy and unconfident, they cannot meet the standards of machismo that patriarchy demands. They think feminism will destroy them. But in fact, it is their greatest chance of liberation, since the less women are forced to conform to preconceived notions of femininity, the more space there is within masculinity for them to be themselves. As such, they are not only the perpetrators of misogyny but the products and, ultimately, the victims of it.
Gary Younge is editor-at-large for The Guardian
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Gina Haspel “Followed Orders”: That’s the Problem The Boston Globe Editorial Board
(April 27, 2018) — Two hundred and seventeen years ago this month, standing on the deck of his ship amid the Battle of Copenhagen, Horatio Nelson looked toward his commander’s vessel, which was signaling him to break off his assault. Nelson held a spyglass up to his right eye, which he’d lost years earlier in battle. “I really do not see the signal,” he said. “I have the right to be blind sometimes.”
Nelson won the battle. Yet his historic insubordination lives on today in the expression “to turn a blind eye.”
There’s nothing in the very little that’s publicly known about Gina Haspel, the career spy nominated to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, that suggests even a whiff of insubordination. And therein lies a problem.
Haspel oversaw a secret facility in Thailand during the time when Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a man accused of involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole, was tortured by waterboarding on three occasions.
Later, at a desk job back at Langley, she wrote a memo for her boss, Jose Rodriguez, ordering the unauthorized destruction of videotapes of those and other infamous torture sessions so that the world would never see what the agency’s fight against terrorism actually looked like. Rodriguez was slapped on the wrist for that act of insubordination. Haspel was cleared of wrongdoing.
It is for those two acts in particular that her confirmation as head of the CIA is not a foregone conclusion. Lawmakers should demand more details about Haspel’s role in the torture program.
They should secure her assurance that the agency will not torture people or turn them over to other countries to do so, even if the torture-curious president directs it to do so. And they should ask these questions in an open forum, so that the American people and the rest of the world can see and hear what she has to say for herself.
But to place the blame for the government’s expansive torture program on a then mid-level spook who followed orders is also a misapportionment of responsibility. If one were to construct an organizational chart of the architects of institutionalized torture, Haspel wouldn’t make the top third.
It is true, as Senator John McCain so eloquently said, that “the mistreatment of prisoners harms us more than our enemies.” And the blind eye that the nation has turned on those responsible for the torture program is a good example of what that expansive moral corrosion looks like.
Nearly everyone above Haspel on the chains of command has gone on to lucrative post-torture careers, often instructing the next generation of American leaders. John Yoo, who wrote the farcical legal justification for the CIA program at the Department of Justice, now teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Former CIA director George Tenet got a $4 million advance for his memoirs and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Condoleezza Rice, head of the National Security Council that authorized and oversaw the program, got a three-book deal worth $2.5 million and a professorship at Stanford.
Meanwhile, former president George W. Bush, the man ultimately responsible for the program, which violated the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has been lauded by polite society for finding his “inner Rembrandt” by painting pictures of veterans. His approval ratings are ticking up.
This is not the behavior of a nation determined to reckon with its skeletons, despite an urgent need to do so. Great sins cast long shadows. And Americans will remain under one until they stop turning a blind eye toward what was done in their name. It isn’t altogether for a lack of trying.
In 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee completed a 6,700-page classified report on the torture program, which exhaustively determined that suffocating men nearly to death had not produced useful intelligence. When Republicans took control of Congress and the White House, they demanded that multiple copies, which had been distributed to several agencies, be returned and locked away.
Thankfully, one copy is tucked away in the classified annex of the Barack Obama Presidential Library, providing a glimmer of hope that the man who refused to prosecute anyone who followed the orders of his predecessor may one day help bring the truth to light. Another copy was ordered delivered to a federal judge overseeing Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri’s legal challenge to his detention.
In his cell at the Guantanamo Bay military base, where he’s been held without trial for more than a decade, Nashiri continues to have “nightmares that invoked being chained, naked and waterboarded,” according to government documents. That lingering fear was put in his mind by design.
“The effects of most beatings heal,” McCain said in his 2005 speech on the immorality of the kind of torture that Nashiri endured. “The memory of an execution will haunt someone for a very long time and damage his or her psyche in ways that may never heal. In my view, to make someone believe that you are killing him by drowning is no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank. I believe that it is torture, very exquisite torture.”
One of the critical, deeply flawed justifications for the torture program was that it would produce no lasting damage. Yet lasting damage — moral, physical, and spiritual — is all that it seems to have reliably yielded.
Nelson claimed the right to be blind only sometimes. One day, Americans will have to take a good long look.
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First Bomb the Wedding, Then Bomb the Rescue Workers Textbook terrorist tactic and war crime â€“ who cares? William Boardman / Reader Supported News
(April 29, 2018) — In an impoverished, remote mountain village in northwest Yemen, the wedding celebration was still going strong when the first airstrike hit around 11 p.m. on April 22. The Saudi attacks killed the bride first death toll to “at least 33 people.” The nearest hospital was miles away in Hajjah.
The only two cars in the village were knocked out by the bombing. The first casualties reaching the hospital arrived by donkey after midnight. The hospital, one of 13 in Yemen run by MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders), had two ambulances that drove back and forth well into daylight bringing in the wounded sometimes six at a time. MSF reported receiving 63 casualties, none armed, none in uniform: The injured had mainly lost limbs and suffered shrapnel wounds. At least three patients required amputation, including two brothers, who each lost a foot. By early morning, many residents of Hajjah had come to the hospital to donate blood. In two hours, 150 bags were collected to treat the wounded.
This was yet another American-sponsored war crime. The US has committed war crimes of this sort all on its own since 2009 in Pakistan (and subsequently in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere). The US president surely knew such attacks are war crimes under international law as well as US law, but who was going to hold him accountable (any more than anyone has held his predecessor or successor accountable)?
US complicity in committing war crimes almost daily in Yemen began in March 2015 when the president, without a murmur from a supine Congress, gave the green light to a Saudi-led coalition of mostly Sunni Arab states to wage a genocidal bombing campaign against the Houthi rebels (predominantly Shi’ite Zaidis) who had ruled Yemen for 1,000 years until 1962. In 2014, the Houthis had overthrown the duly-appointed, internationally-imposed “legitimate” government.
Americans’ hands have run red with innocent Yemeni blood ever since. (Not that US media often mention US involvement, as the CNN report on this deadly wedding illustrates: “A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been fighting Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen for more than two years” â€” actually three. And the Houthis are Yemeni, not Iranian, as the official propaganda would love you to believe.)
As with the desecrated wedding described above, the Saudis, with US blessing and extensive tactical support, like to commit their war crimes especially against weddings and funerals (as the CIA was fond of doing in Pakistan). This is state-sponsored terrorism. The states sponsoring it include the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and their allies in Yemen.
Weddings and funerals offer large gatherings of innocent people who are defenseless. It doesn’t take a smart bomb to see the value of a soft target like that. When the rescue workers and other first responders show up, a second strike kills more innocent, defenseless people. This is a standard terrorist tactic with fiendish efficiency. In terror jargon it’s called the double-tap.
That same weekend, US-Saudi strikes also killed a family of five and 20 civilians riding in a bus. The US-Saudi air war on the undefended country (Yemen has no air force and limited air defenses) has displaced millions of people in a country of 25 million that was already the poorest in the region when the Saudis attacked.
The relentless bombing of civilians (including the use of cluster bombs) has led to severe hunger, approaching famine conditions; a severe shortage of medical supplies and a massive cholera outbreak; and destruction of infrastructure and the near-elimination of clean water.
This Is What Genocide Looks Like
Describing conditions in Yemen, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: Every 10 minutes, a child under 5 dies of preventable causes. And nearly 3 million children under 5 and pregnant or lactating women are actually malnourished. Nearly half of all children aged between 6 months and 5 years old are chronically malnourished and suffer from stunting, which causes development delays and reduced ability to learn throughout their entire lives.
This is what genocide looks like. But to blur that perception, the Saudis and the UAE have given the UN nearly $1 billion in humanitarian aid, to ameliorate the humanitarian disaster they created, even as they continue bombing without a pause. This picture has prompted Guterres to say that “peace is possible” in Yemen, but “there are still many obstacles to overcome.”
One such obstacle would be the Saudi claim on April 21 that the Yemeni rebels had seized 19 oil tankers off the coast and had held them hostage for more than 26 days. That was a lie. It was not a credible lie, coming after 25 days of silence during the alleged hostage crisis. It was a lie based on nonsense, since the Saudi naval blockade had allowed the oil tankers into the port of Hodeidah to deliver fuel to the rebel-held area.
A commercial shipping traffic website soon located all the “hostage” ships and learned that they were anchored awaiting off-loading. On April 26, Public Radio International exposed the Saudi lie.
On November 13, 2017, the US House of Representatives passed a lengthy resolution (H.Res.599) “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to United States policy towards Yemen, and for other purposes” on a bipartisan vote of 366-30 (with 36 not voting).
The resolution expresses basic cliches of US policy, with all their varied levels of inaccuracy, dishonesty, and wishful thinking. The general tone of the document is that it’s all Iran’s fault the US-Saudi offensive is killing Yemenis en masse (no evidence offered).
Most to the point, the House acknowledges that the US has no legal authorization for the use of force in Yemen (while omitting specific reference to US participation in the bombing, naval blockade, drone strikes, or other military actions). Having identified the illegality of US involvement in a genocidal war, the House resolution does nothing about it other than to ask all the parties to play nice.
In March 2018, Senate Joint Resolution 54 raised some real issues without actually proposing any solution. The resolution defined itself as a choice: “To direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.”
As explained in a Bernie Sanders press release: It is long past time for Congress to exercise its constitutional authority on matters of war, and if the United States is going to participate in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, there must be a debate and a vote. Otherwise, our involvement is unauthorized and unconstitutional, and it must end.
In a largely party-line vote on March 20, the Senate Republicans voted 55-44 to table the resolution without discussing it or changing the course of carnage and US arms sales.
The Yemen peace process is still a hope more than a reality. The US and the Saudi coalition have shown no willingness to negotiate in good faith, but it’s not clear that anyone else has either. The Houthis control most of western Yemen and roughly 80% of the population.
The Trump administration is equally useless in any search for peace in Yemen. The president is enthralled by the scale of arms purchases by the Saudis and their allies, with no apparent interest in how the Pentagon helps use those weapons mostly against civilians.
A US citizen named Nageeb al-Omari has attempted to bring his 11-year-old daughter Shaima to the US for medical care. She was born with cerebral palsy, but the US-Saudi bombing has made her care all but impossible there. There is no US embassy in Yemen. Shaima’s father took her to Djibouti, where she continued deteriorating rapidly. Despite the US anti-Muslim travel ban, the daughter qualifies for the exemptions that would allow her into the US.
Even though her father is a US citizen, US State Department officials would not grant her a visa, a waiver, or, most likely, a chance to live. The family has returned to Idlib in Yemen to await the next random act of cruelty from a rogue state that is the world’s greatest purveyor of terrorism.
Why should they expect any better treatment than Iraqi Christians in Michigan who voted for the president and now face deportation?
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theater, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. \
North Korea Nuclear Test Site Has Collapsed
and May Be Out of Action — China Study Report builds on evidence that site is unstable
after sixth nuclear test and puts Kim Jong-un’s
pledge to no longer use site in a new light Justin McCurry / The Guardian
LONDON (April 26, 2018) — North Korea’s main nuclear test site has partially collapsed under the stress of multiple explosions, possibly rendering it unsafe for further testing and leaving it vulnerable to radiation leaks, a study by Chinese geologists has shown.
The findings could cast doubt on North Korea’s sincerity in announcing last weekend that it would stop testing nuclear weapons at the site ahead of Friday’s summit between the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in.
The test site at Punggye-ri, in a mountainous area in North Korea’s north-east, has been the location for all six of the regime’s nuclear tests since 2006.
The findings, by scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China, suggest the partial collapse of the mountain that contains the testing tunnels, as well as the risk of radiation leaks, have potentially rendered the site unusable.
The study was published soon after Kim said his country would stop testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and close down Punggye-ri before his meeting with Moon just south of the countries’ heavily armed border.
Nuclear explosions release enormous amounts of heat and energy, and the North’s largest test, in September last year, was believed early on to have rendered the site — a network of tunnels beneath Mount Mantap — unstable.
The Chinese scientists collected collected data for their study following the most powerful of the North’s six nuclear tests, on 3 September.
The controlled explosion, which caused an initial magnitude-6.3 tremor, is believed to have triggered four more earthquakes over the following weeks. The study concluded that eight-and-a-half minutes after the test, there was “a near-vertical on-site collapse towards the nuclear test centre”.
The Chinese university paper, written by Tian Dongdong, Yao Jiawen and Wen Lianxing, said that was followed by an “earthquake swarm” in similar locations.
The yield of the bomb was estimated at more than 100 kilotons of TNT, at least 10 times stronger than anything the North had tested previously. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 had a yield of about 15 kilotons.
“In view of the research finding that the North Korea nuclear test site at Mount Mantap has collapsed, it is necessary to continue to monitor any leakage of radioactive materials that may have been caused by the collapse,” the authors said in a summary dated Monday and seen on Wednesday on the university’s website.
The new study is peer-reviewed and has been accepted for publication by the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The Chinese study made sense and was based on well-understood research, said Rowena Lohman, a seismologist at Cornell University who wasn’t part of the work.
A study published last month by the journal, written by a team led by Liu Junqing at the earthquake bureau in Jilin province along the border with North Korea, found similar results from the September explosion. It described the aftershock that followed seconds later as most likely the “rapid destruction of an explosion-generated cracked rock chimney due to cavity collapse”.
Beijing is particularly concerned about the North’s nuclear tests, since the Punggye-ri site is less than 100km (60 miles) from the border with China.
North Korean nuclear tests have caused seismic events in Chinese border towns and cities, forcing evacuations of schools and offices, sparking fears of wind-borne radiation and leading to a backlash among some Chinese against their country’s unpredictable traditional ally. Chinese authorities have said they’ve detected no radiation risk from the tests.
Kune Yull Suh, a professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University, warned last year that further tests could threaten to cause a volcanic eruption at Mount Paektu, which is about 100km away.
On Saturday, Kim announced North Korea would close its nuclear testing facility and suspend nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests — a move welcomed by US president Donald Trump as “big progress” — and which comes ahead of a planned summit between the leaders in late May or early June.
However, Kim stopped short of promising to give up his nuclear weapons, and the missile test ban does not include shorter-range weapons capable of reaching Japan and South Korea.
Associated Press contributed to this report.
 North Korean Nuclear Test Confirmed
In Major Escalation by Kim Jong-un Regime confirms sixth nuclear detonation following
earthquake detected by China, South Korea and the US Justin McCurry /The Guardian
TOKYO (September 3, 2018) — North Korea says it has tested a powerful hydrogen bomb that can be loaded on to an intercontinental ballistic missile, in a move that is expected to increase pressure on Donald Trump to defuse the growing nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.
In an announcement carried on state TV, North Korea said the test, its sixth since 2006, had been a “complete success” and involved a “two-stage thermonuclear weapon” with “unprecedented” strength.
There has been no independent verification of the North’s claims that it has achieved a key goal in its nuclear programme — the ability to miniaturise a warhead so that it can fit on a long-distance missile. Hours earlier, the regime released footage of what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb that would be loaded on to a new ICBM.
The TV announcement — accompanied by patriotic music and images of North Korean scenery and military hardware — said the test had been ordered by the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
The explosion was heralded by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake about six miles (10km) from North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the northeast of the country. It was felt over the Chinese border in Yanji.
South Korea’s meteorological administration estimated the blast yield at between 50 to 60 kilotons, or five to six times stronger than North Korea’s fifth test in September last year.
Kim Young-woo, the head of South Korea’s parliamentary defence committee said later that the yield was as high as 100 kilotons. One kiloton is equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT. The previous nuclear blast in North Korea is estimated by experts to have been about 10 kilotons.
Sunday’s test — the first since Trump took office in January — offers further evidence that North Korea is moving perilously close to developing a nuclear warhead capable of being fitted on to an ICBM that can strike the US mainland.
Since it conducted its first nuclear test just over a decade ago, the regime has strived to refine the bombs’ design and reliability, as well as increasing their yield.
Hydrogen bombs are far more powerful than the atomic weapons the North is believed to have tested so far. Whatever its eventual yield, Sunday’s test was “a staged thermonuclear weapon” that represents a significant advance in Pyongyang’s weapons programme, said Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
As the US and countries in the region analysed data resulting from the quake, Japan’s government was the first to state publicly that it was confident the shockwaves came from an underground nuclear explosion in North Korea.
The US Geological Survey and China’s Earthquake Administration said they had detected a suspected explosion that caused a 6.3-magnitude earthquake. The USGS said the tremor was located 24km north-east of Sungjibaegam in North Hamgyeong province. “It’s an explosion rather than an earthquake,” said Jana Pursley, a USGS geophysicist.
The Chinese earthquake administration said in a statement on its website that the shock, which occurred around 11.30am local time, was recorded at a depth of zero metres.
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has once again conducted a nuclear test in spite of widespread opposition from the international community. The Chinese government resolutely opposes and strongly condemns it.”
South Korea was convening an emergency meeting of its national security council to discuss the possible cause of the quake, according to local media.
Japan’s government said it would lodge a strong protest pending confirmation that the quakes were caused by nuclear tests. “If North Korea has indeed gone ahead with a nuclear test, it is completely unacceptable and we must lodge a strong protest,” said the prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
His defence minister, Itsunori Onodera, said “sniffer” planes capable of detecting radioactive fallout had been deployed to monitor the aftermath of the blast. “We’ll do our best to collect information,” he said, according to public broadcaster NHK.
South Korea’s meteorological administration later challenged reports that a second earthquake had occurred near the same nuclear test site. Earlier reports citing China’s earthquake agency said a second quake had been detected eight minutes after the first.
The agency later said the second tremor could have been caused by a cave-in near the underground nuclear test site. [Emphasis added — EAW.]
Zhang Zhiyuan, a journalist for the Chinese newspaper Yanji News, said he had felt the earthquake caused by the nuclear blast. “I was having lunch in a restaurant when the lights just started shaking,” Zhang, who lives and works near China’s border with North Korea, told the Guardian. “People here have all run outside of their apartments.”
Trump last month threatened to unleash “fire and fury” against the regime if it continued to threaten the US and its allies with ballistic missiles.
In a telephone call on Sunday morning Japan time, Trump and Abe “reaffirmed the importance of close cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea in the face of the growing threat from North Korea”, according to a statement.
Sunday’s tests again demonstrated North Korea’s ability to skirt sanctions targeting its missile and weapons technology. UN security council measures ban the regime from testing nuclear or ballistic missile technology, but that did not prevent it from carrying out two nuclear tests and launching more than 20 ballistic missiles last year alone.
North Korea in 2016 conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests, saying the fourth in January that year was a successful hydrogen bomb test, although experts questioned whether it was a fully fledged hydrogen bomb.
The fifth nuclear test, in September 2016, was measured to be possibly North Korea’s biggest detonation ever, but the earthquake it caused was still not believed to be big enough to indicate a full thermonuclear test. The regime detonated its first nuclear device in 2006, followed by tests in 2009 and 2013.
Hours before reports of Sunday’s nuclear test emerged, the regime said it had developed a more advanced nuclear weapon that had “great destructive power”, and that Kim had inspected a hydrogen bomb that would be loaded on to a new ICBM.
Pyongyang test-launched two ICBM-class missiles in July that potentially had a range of about 10,000km (6,200 miles), putting the mainland US within reach.
Under Kim, North Korea has defied several rounds of UN sanctions and ploughed resources into building working nuclear weapons and missiles with enough range to deliver them as far away as the US mainland — a development that would considerably strengthen Pyongyang’s hand in any negotiations with Washington.
The North’s official KCNA news agency said the hydrogen bomb showcased in photographs at the weekend was adjustable to hundreds of kilotons in explosive power and could be detonated at high altitudes, with its indigenously produced components allowing the country to build as many nuclear weapons as it wants.
Kim visited the country’s Nuclear Weapons Institute and “watched an H-bomb to be loaded into new ICBM”, KCNA said. “All components of the H-bomb were homemade and all the processes . . . were put on the Juche basis, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants,” said the KCNA.
Juche is North Korea’s homegrown go-it-alone ideology that is a mix of Marxism and extreme nationalism preached by state founder Kim Il-sung, the current leader’s grandfather.
Kim had “set forth tasks to be fulfilled in the research into nukes”, KCNA said, but it made no mention of plans for a sixth nuclear test. Sunday’s nuclear detonation is expected to raise pressure on the US to address the demonstrable advances the North is making in its missile and weapons development.
While it is difficult to independently verify North Korean claims about its missile and nuclear weapons programmes, no one doubts that it is improving its capability with each new test. However, the extent of its ability to consistently miniaturise nuclear warheads so they can fit on long-range missiles remains unclear.
“Though we cannot verify the claim, (North Korea) wants us to believe that it can launch a thermonuclear strike now, if it is attacked,” Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told Associated Press. “Importantly [North Korea] will also want to test this warhead, probably at a larger yield, to demonstrate this capability.”
Trump has said that all options remain on the table, but last week appeared to rule out any contact with the regime, declaring: “Talking is not the answer.”
Other administration officials quickly stressed that dialogue with the regime was still the preferred option. James Mattis, the defence secretary, flatly contradicted the president’s statement, telling reporters: “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”
With additional reporting by Wang Zhen in Beijing.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Tell EPA’s Scott Pruitt: “Stop Your War on Science” CREDO Action Petition
The petition to Environmental Protection
Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt:
“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposal to eliminate valuable data from the EPA’s decision-making process will threaten public health and ultimately cost lives. Follow the guidance of the scientific community and do not adopt this disingenuous and harmful plan.”
WASHINGTON (April 24, 2018) — Scott Pruitt wants to delete decades of landmark scientific research from the EPA’s decision-making process.
Trump’s industry-friendly EPA administrator has proposed a dramatic change to the way the EPA handles scientific data. If he is successful, he will intentionally blind the agency to the well-documented links between pollution and public health.
Pruitt’s escalating war on science has a clear goal: ending the regulations that protect us from smog, pesticides, climate change and other dangerous threats to our health and the environment.
Pruitt and the rest of the Trump regime are willing to risk human lives to make their friends a little richer. To fight back, we must stand up for science.
Pruitt’s plan is sneaky. In the name of “transparency,” he is proposing that when the EPA crafts regulations, it should ignore research studies that do not have publicly available data. (1) The catch is that research on public health often includes confidential personal or medical histories, so researchers cannot ethically release this data to the public.
If Pruitt’s proposal had been enacted in the past, the federal government would have been unable to consider groundbreaking studies that exposed the health risks of leaded gasoline and fine-particle air pollution. (2) If the government had ignored that science, many more Americans would have died prematurely.
Scientists, not industry shills like Pruitt, should be the ones deciding which studies are valid. Qualified scientists can already obtain access to anonymized data from the EPA, so EPA studies have already been investigated, peer-reviewed and scrutinized.
Instead of throwing out hallmark research, much of it funded by taxpayers through the EPA, Pruitt should be following the guidance of real scientific experts.
(April 25, 2018) — In an effort to be more “transparent”, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed a new rule Tuesday that would essentially eliminate decades of scientific studies used to inform regulatory decisions and policy-making.
The rule requires raw data to be released with any research used to write regulation, which could discount any research that includes confidential medical information and slow down the rule-making process by forcing scientific replication.
Any study used by the agency will be required to use data that is publicly available, as reported by the Washington Post. In many cases, this data is typically anonymous and includes personal health information protected by confidentiality agreements between study participants and researchers not readily available to the public.
If that information — which could include data on mental health, reproductive health, and family history, among many other things — isn’t available then the study effectively becomes null from the EPA’s standpoint.
Pruitt says the rule makes these studies more transparent as it allows anybody to obtain the same information the EPA used to inform its decision. In reality, a qualified scientist could access that same data while maintaining discretion (you know, that whole peer-review concept that’s been around for more than a century).
Nearly 1,000 scientists signed a letter urging the Administrator to reconsider, citing ethical issues and concerns over compromising research.
“[The] EPA can only protect our air and keep us safe from harmful chemicals if it takes full advantage of the wealth of scientific research that is available to the agency,” it reads. Critics say it restricts the agency from using the best available science to make decisions — which some argue is driven by politics and not science — and will limit understanding of environmental impacts on health by blocking traditional, peer-reviewed studies that rely on anonymity.
Previous efforts like the HONEST Act in 2017 and the Secret Science Reform Act in 2015 have moved through Congress and failed, but the rule effectively bypasses Congress.
The text of the proposal says the Administrator can provide exemptions for “confidential business information” on a “case-by-case basis”, reports the Huffington Post.
The proposal comes after internal EPA emails were obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in three separate Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filings detailing the proposed “Trojan Horse Policy”, which were pulled from the website after three days.
UCS said the records showed EPA officials were more concerned about the “release of industry trade secrets than they were about sensitive private medical information”. You can read the more than 100 responsive records here.
It’s not immediately clear when the proposed rule will be published. Generally speaking, the public will have between 30 and 60 days following publication to issue comments for consideration by the agency.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.