MENA Mashup: The Saudi Cables

Wikileaks has released the first tranche of The Saudi Cables which contain “more than half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that contain secret communications from various Saudi Embassies around the world.”

Quite literally it’s nothing but ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’…!

For example…

Buying Silence: How the Saudi Foreign Ministry controls Arab media

On Monday, Saudi Arabia celebrated the beheading of its 100th prisoner this year. The story was nowhere to be seen on Arab media despite the story’s circulation on wire services. Even international media was relatively mute about this milestone compared to what it might have been if it had concerned a different country. How does a story like this go unnoticed?

Today’s release of the WikiLeaks “Saudi Cables” from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs show how it’s done.

The oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its ruling family take a systematic approach to maintaining the country’s positive image on the international stage. Most world governments engage in PR campaigns to fend off criticism and build relations in influential places. Saudi Arabia controls its image by monitoring media and buying loyalties from Australia to Canada and everywhere in between.

Documents reveal the extensive efforts to monitor and co-opt Arab media, making sure to correct any deviations in regional coverage of Saudi Arabia and Saudi-related matters. Saudi Arabia’s strategy for co-opting Arab media takes two forms, corresponding to the “carrot and stick” approach, referred to in the documents as “neutralisation” and “containment”. The approach is customised depending on the market and the media in question. {…}

The documents show concerns within the Saudi administration over the social upheavals of 2011, which became known in the international media as the “Arab Spring”. The cables note with concern that after the fall of Mubarak, coverage of the upheavals in Egyptian media was “being driven by public opinion instead of driving public opinion”. The Ministry resolved “to give financial support to influential media institutions in Tunisia”, the birthplace of the “Arab Spring”.

The cables reveal that the government employs a different approach for its own domestic media. There, a wave of the Royal hand is all that is required to adjust the output of state-controlled media. A complaint from former Lebanese Prime Minister and Saudi citizen Saad Hariri concerning articles critical of him in the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat newspapers prompted a directive to “stop these type of articles” from the Foreign Ministry.

This is a general overview of the Saudi Foreign Ministry’s strategy in dealing with the media. WikiLeaks’ Saudi Cables contain numerous other examples that form an indictment of both the Kingdom and the state of the media globally.

Unable to read Arabic myself, I’d been anxiously awaiting some input and I’ve since found this excellent resource in Global Voices(more…)

Earth Whirl: 17 Jun 2015

By KateCA

A word from Mother Nature.

Where do we go from here?

-Wow: Map of the world showing depletion of underground aquifers, including those in greatest distress.

Pope Francis really stirring things up with an encyclical arguing “that humanity’s exploitation of the planet’s resources has crossed the Earth’s natural boundaries, and that the world faces ruin without a revolution in hearts and minds.” It also addresses “the root causes of poverty”. Encyclical here.

-The International Energy Agency warns that existing approaches will not halt emissions sufficiently to avoid “a temperature rise of 2.6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century”.

New research report, quantifying “the real impact of green politics on the environment”, underscores the necessity of a vigorous environmental movement to make things happen. Map and states’ scorecard.

Mega-hydroelectric dam being built in the Amazon jungle. Relocation and “alternative means of survival” guarantees to the mostly indigenous inhabitants routinely breached. Demolition boats ply the waterways, throwing people off traditional territories. Brazil’s prosecutor has intervened, finally.

Stunning, full-scope report of our impact on the Colorado River, beginning with the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona which consumes 15 tons of coal/minute 24/7 and emits 16 million tons of carbon dixoide/year. This, and the depletion of the Colorado River, can’t continue. What to do?

Researchers at Stanford and University of California/Berkeley have a plan, state-by-state, for making the US 100% “renewable energy in less than 40 years.”

Hawaii is going for 100% renewables by 2045. A postcard to Hawaii from Florida about NextEra.

-Uh-oh, polar bear seen eating dolphins as global warming continues to nudge sea dwellers north to cooler seas.

Unusual 2 degrees increase in Pacific water temperature from Central California to British Columbia has contributed to “the largest toxic algae bloom ever recorded off the West Coast.” Shellfish affected; high levels of toxin detected in small fish upon which larger creatures feed.

Sweden’s Ikea is going to “spend [1.13 billion dollars] over the next five years to address climate change.” Think US top water polluters—Koch Industries, Tyson Foods, Dept of Defense, Cargill, US Steel and Phillips 66—will follow suit? Me neither, but it was fun to fantasize for a moment or two.

-Yay! France has banned the sale of Monsanto’s Roundup at garden centers. (more…)

Late Night FDL: All Through The Night

Cyndi Lauper-All Through The Night

Congrats to Cyndi, Sir Van, and the other honorees…

Cyndi Lauper, Van Morrison and Lady Gaga have all been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The stars received their honours at a three-hour ceremony in New York, and many expressed surprise in their acceptance speeches.

“I still can’t believe I make a living making music,” said Lauper. “I’m blown away.”

The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, was also inducted posthumously alongside the band’s lyricist Robert Hunter.

Country artists Toby Keith, who has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide, and Bobby Braddock, who wrote Tammy Wynette’s DIVORCE, were also honoured.

And “poet laureate of the blues” Willie Dixon, who died in 1992, was cited for songs including Hoochie Coochie Man, I Just Want to Make Love to You and You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover.

What’s on your mind tonite…?

‘Austerity Kills': Tens of Thousands March in London Against Brutal Cuts

Nation-wide rally demands an ‘alternative to austerity and to policies that only benefit those at the top’

By Sarah Lazare

From across the United Kingdom, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of London Saturday to demand an end to brutal—and deadly—austerity measures.

The mass march, still ongoing at the time of publication, comes just over a month after the Conservative (Tory) Party’s election wins.

The independent anti-austerity forum, the People’s Assembly, declared ahead of the march that protesters aim to send a “clear message to the Tory government; we demand an alternative to austerity and to policies that only benefit those at the top.”

“We’ll be assembling the demonstration in the heart of the City of London right on the doorstep of the very people who created the crisis in the first place, and marching to the doorstep of Parliament,” said the assembly.

Huge numbers heeded this call, with people from diverse backgrounds and numerous families with children taking to the streets with banners and signs that read “Austerity kills” and “No cuts.” Numerous placards urged an end to the scapegoating of immigrants, people of color, and urged investment in common goods that ordinary people depend on, including education, health care, and other public services.

Tobi Seriki, a 28-year-old from Depford, told the Guardian she is marching because “Austerity isn’t working at all and we need to change track.’

Labor unions, environmental groups, and migrant and economic justice organizations could be seen marching through the streets. Celebrities spotted in the crowd include comedian Russell Brand and musician Charlotte Church.

The mass march can be followed on Twitter: #EndAusterityNow

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Israeli Extremists Burn the Church Where Jesus Multiplied Loaves and Fishes

By Celine Hagbard

Early Thursday morning, right-wing Israelis set on fire the Church of the Multiplication, where Christians believe that Jesus multiplied loaves and fishes, and wrote graffiti in Hebrew on the walls that read, “False idols will be smashed” and “Pagans”.

The fire was set at about 3 am in the early hours of Thursday morning, severely damaging church offices and storage rooms. The entire church was saturated with smoke damage.

In addition, Hebrew graffiti was spraypainted all over the front entrance to the church reading “Pagans” in red paint.

The Church of the Multiplication is believed by Christians to be the site of Jesus’s miracle of multiplying two fish and five loaves to feed 5,000 people.

Several church volunteers suffered from smoke inhalation while trying to extinguish the fire before the firefighters arrived on the scene. The fire was put out several hours after it began.

The church, which is run by the Catholic Benedictine Order, is best known for its fifth-century mosaics, including one depicting two fish flanking a basket of loaves.

Christian churches have been targeted by right-wing Jewish Israeli attacks hundreds of times in recent years.

In May 2014, the Romanian Orthodox Church on Hahoma Hashlishit Street in Jerusalem was defaced in a suspected hate attack. That incident saw the words “price tag”, “Jesus is garbage” and “King David for the Jews” spray-painted on the site’s walls.

Two weeks earlier, ahead of a visit to the country by Pope Francis, suspected Jewish extremists daubed hate graffiti on Vatican-owned offices in Jerusalem.

The Hebrew-language graffiti, reading “Death to Arabs and Christians and those who hate Israel,” was sprayed on the walls of the offices of the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame center, a complex just outside the Old City, the Roman Catholic Church said.

Dmitry Diliani, a member of the Fateh revolutionary council, as well as the Secretary-General of the national Christian Assembly in Palestine, issued a statement that the attack on the church represents a practical application of the stances taken by the Israeli government, which funds fanatic groups.

He noted that some of the leaders of those fanatic groups hold political positions in spite of their incitement. By refusing to list those groups as terrorist organizations, Diliani argued, the Israeli Knesset is effectively providing them with legal protection, and is not taking seriously the ongoing, multiple attacks by right-wing Israelis against Christian and Muslim holy sites.

Knesset Member Dr. Basil Khattas was quoted as saying, “Those terrorist groups attack both Christian and Muslim holy sites with impunity. The Israeli government must open a serious investigation into this and other incidents of violence against holy sites.”

Israeli authorities say they are investigating to see if the fire was an accident or was intentional. But Christians who live in the area say that the Israeli police are not taking the investigation seriously – adding that this was obviously an anti-Christian hate crime, given the graffiti that was written on the site of the fire.

No arrests have been made in connection with the arson.

Graffiti on front entrance of church in Tiberias (image by ‘Palestinian Christians’ Facebook group)

Late Night FDL: Kryptonite

3 Doors Down – Kryptonite

3Doors Down has a new album on tap…

Us And The Night due out later this year

3 Doors Down have revealed the title of their upcoming sixth album.

The Mississippi rockers will release Us And The Night later this year, guitarist Chris Henderson says.

He tells KFMX: “I’m actually on my way to the studio right now to finish guitars for a new record. The music’s almost done. Probably in the next five days the record will be finished 100 percent and sent off to mix.

“It’s going to be called Us And The Night, so there is an album title. I think the tentative release date will be September, October, November – somewhere in that area. We want to make sure it’s right before we put it out.”

The album will be the follow-up to 2011’s Time Of My Life.

I’m back to work tonite…! Be nice…!

An American Oligarch‘s Dirty Tale of Corruption

By F. William Engdahl

Rarely does the world get a true look inside the corrupt world of Western oligarchs and the brazen manipulations they use to enhance their fortunes at the expense of the public good. The following comes from correspondence of the Hungarian-born billionaire, now naturalized American speculator, George Soros. The hacker group CyberBerkut has published online letters allegedly written by Soros that reveal him not only as puppet master of the US-backed Ukraine regime. They also reveal his machinations with the US Government and the officials of the European Union in a scheme where, if he succeeds, he could win billions in the plunder of Ukraine assets. All, of course, would be at the expense of Ukrainian citizens and of EU taxpayers.

What the three hacked documents reveal is a degree of behind-the-scene manipulation of the most minute details of the Kiev regime by the New York billionaire.

In the longest memo, dated March 15, 2015 and marked “Confidential” Soros outlines a detailed map of actions for the Ukraine regime. Titled, “A short and medium term comprehensive strategy for the new Ukraine,” the memo from Soros calls for steps to “restore the fighting capacity of Ukraine without violating the Minsk agreement.” To do the restoring, Soros blithely notes that “General Wesley Clark, Polish General Skrzypczak and a few specialists under the auspices of the Atlantic Council [emphasis added—f.w.e.] will advise President Poroshenko how to restore the fighting capacity of Ukraine without violating the Minsk agreement.”

Soros also calls for supplying lethal arms to Ukraine and secretly training Ukrainian army personnel in Romania to avoid direct NATO presence in Ukraine. The Atlantic Council is a leading Washington pro-NATO think tank.

Notably, Wesley Clark is also a business associate of Soros in BNK Petroleum which does business in Poland.

Clark, some might recall, was the mentally-unstable NATO General in charge of the 1999 bombing of Serbia who ordered NATO soldiers to fire on Russian soldiers guarding the Pristina International Airport. The Russians were there as a part of an agreed joint NATO–Russia peacekeeping operation supposed to police Kosovo. The British Commander, General Mike Jackson refused Clark, retorting, “I’m not going to start the Third World War for you.” Now Clark apparently decided to come out of retirement for the chance to go at Russia directly.

Naked asset grab

In his March 2015 memo Soros further writes that Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s “first priority must be to regain control of financial markets,” which he assures Poroshenko that Soros would be ready to assist in: “I am ready to call Jack Lew of the US Treasury to sound him out about the swap agreement.”

He also calls on the EU to give Ukraine an annual aid sum of €11 billion via a special EU borrowing facility. Soros proposes in effect using the EU’s “AAA” top credit rating to provide a risk insurance for investment into Ukraine.

Whose risk would the EU insure? (more…)

Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street Address

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

“Perfect! Perfect!” exclaimed a woman looking around at the Four Freedoms Park on New York City’s Roosevelt Island as a large crowd waited for Hillary Clinton to announce her presidential candidacy last weekend.

And so it was. Secretary Clinton had chosen an ideal setting to link her destiny to the founding father of the modern Democratic Party, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the political giant whose famous proclamation in 1941 of the Four Freedoms – freedom of speech and worship, freedom from fear and want — defined the essence of American ideals after a devastating economic disaster and as we prepared to enter a great world war.

“Perfect! Perfect!” Except for one thing — something the exultant spectator packed in the crowd at ground level might not have been able to see. As the camera pushed in toward the horizon behind Clinton, there it was, beyond the island and across the water: the skyline of Wall Street, the embodiment of financial might and its moguls and barons – “the malefactors of great wealth,” as his cousin Teddy called them – that FDR took on in his fight to save democracy from unbridled greed, and capitalism from itself.

As Clinton spoke — “Prosperity can’t be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers” and “Democracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations” — you could imagine the juxtaposition to have been deliberate, staged by her managers to superimpose her rhetorical defiance of plutocracy against its glass and steel castles off in the distance. No doubt she had thrown around herself this cloak of populism because it is the current fashion – a superb and timely one – among many Democrats, especially progressives battling the oxymoronic Wall Street Democrats who in the past thirty years hijacked FDR’s party and severed it from its working class roots.

So it was refreshing to see her sally forth to do battle with the hyenas of Wall Street (as one noted hedge fund manager candidly described his ilk) proclaiming that, “The financial industry and many multinational corporations have created huge wealth for a few by focusing too much on short-term profit and too little on long-term value, too much on complex trading schemes and stock buybacks, too little on investments in new businesses, jobs, and fair compensation.”

Her loyalists were presenting her to us as the reincarnation of the young woman she was in the seventies and eighties, the student who wrote her senior thesis on the organizer Saul Alinsky, interned at a fearless and controversial civil rights law firm, worked as an attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund, investigated the treatment of migrant workers and chaired the board of the Legal Services Corporation.

Yet you could also wonder if they had been unaware of another possible reading of the metaphor presented by the sight of Roosevelt Island against the skyline of Wall Street — something her handlers didn’t intend: a mockery of the words she was speaking at that very minute.

She is, after all, a favorite of the giant banks, the CEOs and hedge funds she now was castigating. Between 2009 and 2014, Clinton’s list of top 20 donors starts out with Citigroup and includes JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, whose chief Lloyd Blankfein has invested in Clinton’s son-in-law’s boutique hedge fund. These donors are, as the website Truthout’s William Rivers Pitt notes, “the ones who gamed the system by buying politicians like her and then proceeded to burn the economy down to dust and ash while making a financial killing in the process.”

They’re also among the deep-pocket outfits that paid for speeches and appearances by Hillary or Bill Clinton to the tune of more than $125 million since they left the White House in 2001. It could hardly escape some in that crowd on Roosevelt Island, catching a glimpse of the towers of power and might across the river: Can we really expect someone so deeply tethered to the financial and business class – who moves so often and so easily among its swells – to fight hard to check their predatory appetites, dismantle their control of Congress, and stand up for the working people who are their prey?

Consider the two Canadian banks with financial ties to the Keystone XL pipeline that fully or partially paid for eight speeches by Hillary Clinton. Or her $3.2 million in lecture fees from the tech sector. Or the more than $2.5 million in paid speeches for companies and groups lobbying for fast-track trade. According to TIME magazine and the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2014, “Almost half of the money from Hillary Clinton’s speaking engagements came from corporations and advocacy groups that were lobbying Congress at the same time… In all, the corporations and trade groups that Clinton spoke to in 2014 spent $72.5 million lobbying Congress that same year.”

Then look at David Sirota’s recent reporting for the International Business Times, especially the revelation that while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, her department “approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data… nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.”

Those nations include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar, each of which “gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents.”

Further, American defense contractors like Boeing and Lockheed who sold those arms and their delivery systems also shelled out heavily to the $2 billion Clinton Foundation and the Clinton family. According to Sirota, “In all, governments and corporations involved in the arms deals approved by Clinton’s State Department have delivered between $54 million and $141 million to the Clinton Foundation as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the Clinton family, according to foundation and State Department records. The Clinton Foundation publishes only a rough range of individual contributors’ donations, making a more precise accounting impossible.”

The Washington Post reports that among the approximately 200,000 contributors there have also been donations from many other countries and corporations, overseas and domestic business leaders, the odious Blackwater Training Center, and even Rupert Murdoch of celebrity phone hacking fame.

Meredith McGehee, policy director of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, told David Sirota: “The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation.”

We pause here to note: All of these donations were apparently legal, and as others have written, at least we know who was doling out the cash, in contrast to those anonymous sources secretly channeling millions in “dark money” to the chosen candidates of the super rich. In The Atlantic, Lawrence Lessig, campaign finance reform activist and director of Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics put it well:

The question is not whether Hillary Clinton is a criminal. Of course she is not. The question is whether she can carry the mantle of a reformer. Can she really stand above the cesspool that is Washington — filled not with criminals but with decent people inside a corrupted system trying to do what they think is good — and say, this system must change. And does she really see the change that’s needed, when for the last 15 years, she has apparently lived a life that seems all but oblivious to exactly Washington’s problem.

We see “exactly Washington’s problem” in how, during the 1990s, Bill Clinton became the willing agent of Wall Street’s push to deregulate, a collaboration that enriched the bankers but eventually cost millions of Americans their homes, jobs, and pensions.

Thanks to documents that came to light last year (one even has a handwritten note attached that reads: “Please eat this paper after you have read this.”), we understand more clearly how a small coterie of insiders maneuvered to get President Clinton to support repeal of the New Deal-era Glass-Steagall Act that had long protected depositors from being victimized by bank speculators gambling with their savings. Repeal led to a wave of Wall Street mergers.

As you can read in stories by Dan Roberts in The Guardian and Pam and Russ Martens online, the ringleader of the effort was Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, who breathlessly persuaded the president to sign the repeal and soon left office to join Citigroup, the bank that turned out to be the primary beneficiary of the deal. When it overreached and collapsed, Citigroup received the largest taxpayer bailout in the history of U.S. finance. Rubin, meanwhile, earned $126 million from the bank over ten years.

According to The New York Times, Rubin “remains a crucial kingmaker in Democratic policy circles” and, as an adviser to the Clintons, “will play an essential role in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for president…”

Hillary Clinton, as a young Methodist growing up in Park Ridge, Illinois, was weaned on the social ethics of John Wesley, a founder of Methodism and a courageous champion of the poor and needy; we have her word for it and the witness of others. “Do all the good you can,” the Methodist saying goes, “in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

But over time, Hillary Clinton achieved superstar status among Washington’s acculturated class – that swollen colony of permanent denizens of our capital who may have come from the hinterlands but can hardly resist the seductive ways of a new and different culture in which the prevailing mindset is: It’s important to do good but more important to do well.

Lawrence Lessig believes she is an unlikely reformer – “which is precisely why she might be a particularly effective one.” But her way of life has marinated for a long time now in the culture of wealth, influence, and power — and a way of thinking engrained deeply in our political ethos, one in which one’s own power in democracy is more important than democracy itself.

It will take a conversion worthy of John Wesley to wrest free of that mindset, but God forbid we should have to live with another White House eclipsed by the skyline of Wall Street.

Late Night FDL: Grand Illusion

Styx – Grand Illusion

Styx is releasing a new box set of their oldies…

8-disc vinyl pack features releases from 1975 to 1984

A box set containing eight Styx albums on heavyweight 180g vinyl is to be released on July 17.

The A&M Years 1975-1984 will be issued by USM and features the studio albums Equinox (1975), Crystal Ball (1976), The Grand Illusion (1977), Pieces Of Eight (1978), Cornerstone (1979), Paradise Theatre (1981) and Kilroy Was Here (1983), along with 1984 double live album Caught In The Act.

Last month, Styx mainman Tommy Shaw insisted they wouldn’t be rushed into recording a new album, despite saying they had “stuff in the works.”

He said: “I’m writing some stuff for what will be more like an Americana solo album. We’re also working on some new Styx music – just taking our time with it. We don’t really have any plans to release an album, but there’s stuff in the works.”

They released Styx Live At The Orleans Arena Las Vegas in May on DVD and are currently on tour.

What’s on your mind tonite…?

Washington in Wonderland: Down the Iraqi Rabbit Hole (Again)

American leadership in the world, writes Bacevich, “ought to mean something other than simply repeating and compounding past mistakes. It should require more than clinging to policies that have manifestly failed. To remain willfully blind to those failures is not leadership, it’s madness.” (Photo: via Pentagon Watch)

By Andrew Bacevich

There is a peculiar form of insanity in which a veneer of rationality distracts attention from the madness lurking just beneath the surface. When Alice dove down her rabbit hole to enter a place where smirking cats offered directions, ill-mannered caterpillars dispensed advice, and Mock Turtles constituted the principal ingredient in Mock Turtle soup, she experienced something of the sort.

Yet, as the old adage goes, truth can be even stranger than fiction. For a real-life illustration of this phenomenon, one need look no further than Washington and its approach to national security policy. Viewed up close, it all seems to hang together. Peer out of the rabbit hole and the sheer lunacy quickly becomes apparent.

Consider this recent headline: “U.S. to Ship 2,000 Anti-Tank Missiles To Iraq To Help Fight ISIS.” The accompanying article describes a Pentagon initiative to reinforce Iraq’s battered army with a rush order of AT-4s. A souped-up version of the old bazooka, the AT-4 is designed to punch holes through armored vehicles.

Taken on its own terms, the decision makes considerable sense. Iraqi forces need something to counter a fearsome new tactic of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): suicide bombers mounted in heavily armored wheeled vehicles. Improved antitank capabilities certainly could help Iraqi troops take out such bombers before they reach their intended targets. The logic is airtight. The sooner these weapons get into the hands of Iraqi personnel, the better for them — and so the better for us. (more…)