US bloody hands on South Sudan's civil war


The following article first appeared on Counterpunch. We post here to give readers some background into the meaning of current events in South Sudan and particularly the role of imperialist rivalry in the conflict.

Another Proxy War

The USA v. China in South Sudan

by THOMAS C. MOUNTAIN

If one asks the question "who benefits from the South Sudanese civil war?" the answer is clear. The USA is presently the ONLY beneficiary of the ongoing horrors in South Sudan for this latest round of conflict has once again shut down the Chinese run oil fields in the country.

The USA has determined that its in its "national interests" to deprive China of access to Africa's oil fields and has succeeded in its goal of again shutting down Chinese oil production in Sudan, the only majority Chinese owned oil field in Africa.

What other evidence links the USA to the South Sudanese civil war? Thanks to Wikileaks we know that the USA via the CIA has been paying the salaries of the South Sudanese Army (SPLA) since 2009. In other words, both the soldiers ("rebels") supporting Riek Machar and the soldier supporting President Salva Kiir are being paid by the USA, paid to kill each other? Don't take my word for it, go check Wikileaks.

Another question NOT being asked by the international media is how is Riek Machar funding his army? Where is he getting the funds to pay for his soldiers ammunition, the fuel to run their trucks and equipment, to pay for their food? Where is this money coming from in a country complete destroyed by the ongoing fighting? If its coming from funds stolen by Riek Machar while he was Vice President of South Sudan, where are the funds deposited and how is he accessing them?

The USA prefers proxies to do its dirty work so as to keep its self insulated from charges of foreign interference and to keep its "hands clean" so to speak. The fact that "rebels" supporting Riek Machar have been receiving weapons from Ethiopia is a matter of public record with reports from the past year exposing what is just the tip of the iceberg in the matter.

What is Ethiopia's interest in this, isn't the Ethiopian regime a "neutral party" hosting "peace talks"?

The fact that Ethiopia has some 10,000 soldiers/peacekeepers on the Sudan/South Sudanese border this past year including the oil fields is another matter being ignored by the media. Again, thanks to Wikileaks, we know that Ethiopia has an ongoing fuel crisis and spends up to 75% of its foreign currency earnings on fuel imports. The Sudanese oil fields are the only immediately available supply for Ethiopia's problem and with Brazil promising to build a $1 billion railway from the South Sudanese border to Addis Ababa this would be the quickest solution to Ethiopia's major headache.

I for one am really, really sick of Africans being portrayed as tribalistic animals murdering each other in never ending slaughters when the only real beneficiary of such are foreign powers, mainly the USA and its western vassals. If one does just a little research into these holocausts one begins to see who really benefits and when it comes to the civil war in South Sudan the only party presently benefiting from these crimes is the USA.

How this will play out will be an omen of things to come for the USA and China are certain to be at odds in the future when it comes to exploiting Africa's oil fields which today supply half of the USA's oil imports.

Thomas C. Mountain is a life long revolutionary activist, educator and cultural historian, living and writing from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain_at_gmail_dot_com

As Geneva 2 talks begin - US crimes and double talk


Today is the first day of the Geneva 2, "so-called" peace talks regarding the civil/proxy war in Syria. There is little hope that the talks will lead to any kind of peace as the constellation of "rebel" fighters on the ground don't take them seriously, nor do they accept the Syrian National Coalition and its weak Free Syrian Army that the US and its allies want to prop up as "legitimate" rulers. At the same time Assad's army seems to be winning against the opposition in battle and is unlikely to cede control of Syria, a key condition of the US and the West going into the talks. As imperialist powers led by the US one side and Russia on the other - along with regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran all jockey for stronger political position, the people of Syria continue to suffer and their is little prospect that the so-called "peace talks" in Geneva will do anything to improve their situation. Here in the US let's strongly condemn the role of the US government in the atrocities being carried out on the Syrian people and call for the US government to stay out of Syrian affairs. - Nat Winn

The following article by Ajamu Baraka appeared on the Counterpunch website. Baraka lays out quite powerfully the farce of the current talks in Geneva and the crimes of US imperialism that lay behind all its hypocritical talk of seeking out a "democratic" solution. 

Undermining the Peace Conference

The Obama Administration's Orwellian Subterfuge on Syria

by Amaju Baraka

There is one thing that the so-called peace conference on Syria is guaranteed to achieve and that is that when the last speech is made and the delegates leave the hall, the grotesque bloodletting and devastation will continue for the people of Syria. Why? Because for the Obama Administration, the diplomatic process was never intended to bring about a peaceful resolution to the war. Its main purpose was always to affect their main strategic objective – the removal of President Bashir al-Assad from power and the disappearance of Syria as an independent state.

Fidelity to this goal continues to drive U.S. policy. U.S. strategists care little about the fact that, in their quest to oust the Syrian President, they have created an unholy alliance between the U.S. and its Wahhabi allies from Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda as their "boots on the ground." It is an alliance that ensures that, should the Al-Assad government fall, the Syrian people will either live under totalitarian fundamentalist Wahhabi rule or see their country disappear as a coherent state and into warring factions.

By juxtaposing U.S. rhetoric that expresses concerns for democracy, pluralism and the human rights of the Syrian people with actual U.S. decisions, we see a dramatic illustration of the astonishing hypocrisy of U.S. policies. The Obama Administration understood the scale of human suffering it would unleash in Syria by arming, funding, training and providing political support for the opposition—opposition that it moved from a non-violent protest movement to a violent insurgency, as part of its larger geo-strategic plan for the region.

That is why commitment to regime change, rather than to a peace based on Syrian realities and the needs of the Syrian people, is the price of admission to this week's conference in Montreux, Switzerland. It is a conference that it would be more accurate to call a 'war conference' rather than a 'peace conference' due to U.S. Secretary of State Kerry's insistence on keeping the scope of the conference confined to the terms of the Geneva I communique, which calls for a political transition in Syria.

The Syrian National Coalition is a mirage. Its "Free Syrian Army" has no standing and the most effective fighters are the al-Qaeda linked jihadists armed by the U.S. and the Saudi government. They are now the real power brokers on the ground.

For these fighters, Geneva II is an irrelevant sideshow that has no bearing on them and they have rejected the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition. So who does the Syrian National Coalition represent, when the bulk of the fighters have shifted to al-Qaeda and the other more than 1,000 Islamist rebel groups that between them have 100,000 fighters, all united in their commitment to a post-Assad state in which Sharia, or Islamic Law, will be established throughout Syria?

Yet on January 16, Kerry restated the U.S. position on Geneva 2 "It is about establishing a process essential to the formation of a transition government body — governing body — with full executive powers established by mutual consent," he told reporters.

The consent of whom? Who assumes power and will a new government represent the aspirations for democracy, civil liberties, workers' rights, respect for religious and community difference that the "revolution" promised or is Syrian's future already written from the Libyan experience?

There are now voices inside and outside the Administration saying that the U.S. should abandon the Syrian National Coalition and work instead with the Salafi-Wahhabi fundamentalists who have joined together under the umbrella of the Islamic Front (IF) and are being presented as the "moderate" alternative to the radicalism of al-Qaeda. However, the Syrian people, who have a history of secularism and respect for different religions, have not signed on to a post-Assad society and government ruled by a group that has publically stated its opposition to democracy and intention to establish an Islamic state under Sharia law.

But who cares what the Syrian people want? It does not seem to matter to the U.S. that supporting Salafi-Wahhabi fundamentalism is the antithesis of the justification it gave for supporting the "revolution" against al-Assad. It does not matter because in the end the interests of the Syrian people are of little concern to these policymakers who prioritize U.S. imperialist interests above every other consideration.

In the long annuals of crimes by U.S. and Western imperialism, the slow, protracted destruction of the Syrian state, including the tens of thousands of lives sacrificed, is starting to emerge as one of its most significant crimes, if not in numbers then in terms of scale. It can be listed with crimes like the Christmas season carpet bombing of North Vietnam in 1972 and the millions murdered in Iraq during the period of sanctions and full-blown military attack.

In this era in which war is peace and wars are fought for "humanitarian purposes," it is hard for many to get to the truth. But one thing is certain—the humanitarian disaster in Syria that was supposed to be the justification for intervention by the U.S. and its allies will continue unabated for the foreseeable future.

Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and writer. He is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Baraka's latest publications include contributions to two recently published books "Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA" and "Claim No Easy Victories: The Legacy of Amilcar Cabral."

 

First Statement from the Self-Defense Group of Aquila, Michoacán

In the past week Mexico's federal government moved into towns in the southwestern state of  Michoacán to disarm self defense groups that have emerged to fight a powerful drug cartel in the region named the Knights Templar. In many of the towns the local people resisted the government forces and supported the defense groups. In the struggles a number of civilians have been killed by federal troops. Reporters in the mainstream press are reporting that the self defense groups are shady and have ties to rival drug cartels. The following statement comes from one of the defense groups in the municipality of Aquila. It appeared in english on the El Enimigo Comun website. It is dated January 18, 2014. 

First Statement from the Self-Defense Group of Aquila, Michoacán

Aquila, Michoacán
January 18, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell
From the Self-Defense Group of Aquila, Michoacán to the general public:

Today, the residents of the municipal seat of Aquila, tired of the extortions, rapes, killings, kidnappings and all sorts of criminal acts committed by the Knights Templar; given the complete abandonment of the citizenry by the municipal and state governments who for 12 years did not provide the security needed for our people to have a peaceful and dignified life; we have decided to organize our self-defense group in order to expel organized crime from our town, and we invite the rest of the people of the municipality to rise up against crime, so they never again feel fear or pay protection fees.

As is known from the national and international media, our municipality previously attempted to remove the yoke of organized crime. This movement was led by members of the indigenous community of San Miguel Aquila. This community is one of the four that comprises the municipality, and is owner of an iron mine whose resources are exploited by the transnational mining company Ternium. This company pays a royalty to the indigenous community for the extracted iron, which it hauls from Aquila, Michoacán to Tecomán, Colima, and organized crime charges them a monthly quota. That is to say, they ask the residents to part with the money they receive. If they don't pay, they kill them. So the indigenous from this community decided to form their community guard in order to protect their heritage, life and dignity. They invited us to join them, but we, as prisoners of fear of the reprisals from organized crime, decided not to support them.

The illegitimate municipal president, Juan Hernández Ramírez, was invited to join the movement and to stop paying fees to the criminals in the region, but instead decided to flee and to leave his people at the mercy of organized crime. It is known that this president obtained his post as a result of fraudulent elections, during which the Knights Templar cartel undertook to intimidate people into voting for Juan Hernández. They also burned ballot boxes where he had a clear disadvantage. But all of their tricks were not enough, as the rival candidate won the elections. So the criminals threatened him with death so he would not take the position. And that was how Hernández Ramírez became municipal president at the hands of the Templars. The period of July 24 to August 13, 2013 – when the community guard of the indigenous from the community of San Miguel Aquila operated in the area – was one of immense calm. The rapes, kidnappings and payments of protection fees disappeared as the criminals fled. Seeing the results of the community movement, we became inspired to support the cause of the community. However, on August 14, a joint state and municipal government operation, together with the Marines, entered Aquila and dismantled the community movement. They took 45 prisoners. The Special Operations Group (GOES) and State Judicial Police killed two and also beat women, children and elderly who called for them to return the men who were defending them from organized crime. When the community guard was dismantled, the Knights Templar, under the auspices of the state and municipal governments, decided to "exterminate" all the residents of San Miguel Aquila. Miguel Alcalá Alcalá, Emilio Martínez López and Miguel Martínez López were tortured and murdered by Templar criminals. Later, Ignacio Martínez de la Cruz, Francisco Javier Ramos Walle and Carlos Zapien Díaz were disappeared on November 25, 2013 and haven't been heard from since. The remaining residents were displaced, prisoners of panic and sadness as their government did nothing to protect them.

Once the community guard was completely dismantled by the tripartite alliance of the Knights Templar-State Government-Municipal Government, the Knights Templar decided to charge fees from the entire population, which particularly impacted our humble neighbors who are of limited means. We thought that if we didn't support the community guard, the Templars would have compassion on us and wouldn't charge us fees, or at least would not increase them, nor hassle our families. However, they returned more ambitious and bloodthirsty. The Templars increased the fees because they lost income from those who were jailed, murdered, disappeared and displaced. Only some in the community hand over payment to the Templars, but they are the ones who have ties to them. They are José Cortes Méndez, Miguel Zapien Godínez, Fidel Villanueva Espinosa, Juan Carlos Martínez Ramos, Juan Zapien Sandoval, among others.

The self-defense phenomenon in Michoacán has great momentum, every day there are more people who decide to expel the criminals from their regions, which has caused the Templars to migrate to neighboring regions, in particular into our area, increasing the wave of violence in Aquila. So we are faced with the panorama of violence which we are returning to live in again, with the complicity of our state and municipal government and the apathy of our federal government. It is for these reasons that the residents of the municipal seat of Michoacán opened our eyes and decided to organize as a self-defense group in order to expel all criminals from the area. Our social struggle will not end just when Federico González, alias "El Lico," the boss of the Knights Templar cartel in the Aquila-Coahuayana region, falls, but when all his partners and gunmen do.

Our self-defense movement organized by the residents and people in general of the Aquila area is inclusive. Because of this we gave a vote of confidence to municipal president Juan Hernández Ramírez and invited him to join the struggle against crime. But the mayor once again showed his Templar leanings, he decided to leave the area. As such, our self-defense group and the people who support the movement condemn the criminal and indifferent attitude of Juan Hernández Ramírez. Let it be clear that our self-defense movement was born of social necessity, against organized crime. It seeks to reestablish peace and order for our people. We invite other towns, villages and communities in the municipality of Aquila to join our struggle, as we seek only well-being and social peace.

SINCERELY
The Self-Defense Council of Aquila, Michoacán

Chicago locks public out of NATO 3 trial


This article originally appeared on Counterpunch. The NATO 3 are a group of activists preparing for protests against a NATO meeting in 2012 in Chicago. They were entrapped by undercover agents and arrested on terrorism charges. More about their story can be found here

"Meanwhile, public officials continue to invoke the ‘terrorism’ meme in the NATO trial as part of a criminal prosecution that has consistently conflated dissent with criminality. And they’re taking no chances on uncontrolled spin in the case.

Besides making members of the public surrender their privacy rights to attend the trial, they’re enforcing the courts’ recently imposed ban on cell phones, lest people who CAN get in report from the ground, and have told those who are willing to ‘pre-register’ that officials are giving priority seating to those who then RE-register to attend a day before each trial date. You don’t re-register? You take your chances at getting a seat the following day. At one point, the judge even considered banning pencils and paper from the courtroom.

New rules for non-corporate reporters are equally extreme. Officials are imposing restrictions that effectively ban freelance reporters and reporters with non-corporate and non-traditional media from the kind of access and privileges — including the right to carry their cell phones — that corporate reporters will be afforded."

Locking The Public Out Of Public Trials In Chicago

Your Rights Aren’t Worth Crap

by CHRIS GEOVANIS

Public trials are one of the fundamental tenets of American democracy. And they've been cancelled in Chicago, at least for the trial of the NATO 3 — three defendants battling terrorism charges for alleged 'crimes' wholly instigated, manufactured and advanced by undercover cops in a blatant case of entrapment. But you'll be hard pressed to determine this for yourself, since you're essentially banned from the courtroom unless you're willing to surrender your right to privacy, your right to even a glimmer of free expression, or your right as a non-corporate reporter to cover the case in real time like your corporate colleagues can.

Government officials are forcing every member of the public seeking to observe the NATO 3 trial to 'pre-register', produce a government-issued ID, submit to a criminal background check — and, of course, trust them with your data.

This last bit is spectacularly hard to swallow, as news continues to come out about the extent of government spying and data-mining on perfectly lawful activity like talking on the phone. Government agencies have surveilled and disrupted the Occupy movement, to which the defendants had a loose affiliation, simply for existing, and we've barely begun to plumb the depths of cop spying in the run-up to Chicago's NATO protest — and beyond. For Chicagoans, this comes in the wake of the Chicago cops' notorious history of political spying, disruption and assassination going back to the days of the infamous COINTELPRO Red Squad.

In fact, there would be no criminal case against the three defendants if the city's autocratic former mayor, Richard M. Daley, hadn't finally succeeded in convincing the federal court in 2001 to effectively gut the Red Squad Consent Decree banning police spying, infiltration, harassment, intimidation and undercover disruption of political activity. The hollowed out decree was ultimately dissolved in 2009.

Attorneys for the NATO defendants have argued in a court finding that the 'terrorism' scheme they're charged with is based on "idle chatter, laced with bravado and abetted, encouraged and egged on by the undercover police agents." There was no actual act of vandalism committed, and there certainly was no act of 'terror' committed — unless you're feeling terrorized by the prospect of undercover cops inciting thought crimes to dirty up your political beliefs. But there was, essentially, a law enforcement scheme to incite crime where no crime had been committed, wholly fomented by undercover cops engaged in manufacturing criminality — cop behavior that would have been illegal under the Red Squad consent decree.

Meanwhile, public officials continue to invoke the 'terrorism' meme in the NATO trial as part of a criminal prosecution that has consistently conflated dissent with criminality. And they're taking no chances on uncontrolled spin in the case.

Besides making members of the public surrender their privacy rights to attend the trial, they're enforcing the courts' recently imposed ban on cell phones, lest people who CAN get in report from the ground, and have told those who are willing to 'pre-register' that officials are giving priority seating to those who then RE-register to attend a day before each trial date. You don't re-register? You take your chances at getting a seat the following day. At one point, the judge even considered banning pencils and paper from the courtroom.

New rules for non-corporate reporters are equally extreme. Officials are imposing restrictions that effectively ban freelance reporters and reporters with non-corporate and non-traditional media from the kind of access and privileges — including the right to carry their cell phones — that corporate reporters will be afforded.

"It is my sense going into this trial that the Cook County Sheriff's Office will be putting on a trial that undermines the public's right to access much more than the US military did during Manning's court martial," writes Firedoglake reporter Kevin Gosztola. He should know, since he covered the Manning trial daily — and his most recent piece on the NATO 3 trial is a compelling and disturbing summary of the state's dubious basis for its terrorism allegations.

The state's scheme to effectively ban the public from a public — and publicly funded — trial is part of a long-standing official pattern to harass, arrest and undermine those who dissent in Chicago. For years, activists in Chicago had to fight in court for permission to rally and march against the Iraq war, and protesters have routinely been subject to arrest simply for attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights. More broadly, the restrictions that local government overlords have imposed on public access and public oversight in the NATO trial are part of a national effort to rebrand dissent as inherently dangerous.

The judge in the NATO 3 case, Thaddeus Wilson, prominently displays a picture of Martin Luther King behind his bench. If he were able, King would be spinning in his grave at some of the rulings Wilson has issued in the case. Wilson refused, for example, to dismiss a juror for cause, even though she routinely teaches at the Chicago police academy, and is married to the law enforcement officer who supervised the undercover operations of state police during the NATO protests. Despite the fact that police spying and its abuses lie at the heart of the NATO 3 case — and that this prospective juror's very livelihood and family economy is grounded in police collaboration — Wilson ruled that there was no reason to doubt her ability to serve objectively.

That's like saying that the chairman of BP is perfectly fit to serve on a jury weighing criminal negligence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Defense attorneys were forced to exercise a peremtory challenge to keep her off the jury.

Judge Wilson has also issued a disingenuously named 'decorum' order that sets the stage for massive courtroom repression. The edict is so sweeping that one could conceivably be ejected from the courtroom and cited for criminal contempt for the 'crime' of raising your eyebrows or shaking your head at testimony — or even smiling at a defendant. The order also bans political buttons, t-shirts, armbands and perhaps even particular colors — we won't know until we show up wearing red or black or both. If you get up to take a leak, you can't get back into the courtroom until the judge calls a recess — and in the jury selection of the phase, court sometimes ran past 9PM, so empty your bladder early.

Wilson has also consistently ruled in the prosecution's favor in terms of what evidence will and will not be admissible. And in one of the judge's worst rulings, Wilson has asserted that that police are included under the terrorism definition of the state statute under which the defendants are being tried, which defines terrorism as "intent to coerce a significant portion of the civilian population."

In short, the testimony of the undercover cops who manufactured the conditions for a 'crime' to be alleged should be treated like any testimony from any 'civilian'. Jurors could essentially be asked to embrace the legal fiction that these undercover cops felt 'coerced' into the self-same crime they themselves were attempting to create and incite. This ruling essentially privileges testimony from cops in a police department whose officers routinely tell flat-out lies with impunity to bolster their cases.

It bears emphasizing that the undercover cops at the heart of this case are not civilians. They're the undercover cops who told court officials they 'lost' a shitload of text messages that could have been exculpatory for the NATO 3 defense team — this in an age when virtually any electronic traffic anywhere lives somewhere, including in the NSA's vast databases. Except when the NSA's pals in the Chicago police department lose that electronic traffic. They're the undercover cops who actually manufactured the conditions in which they could allege a crime under the notoriously vague and little used state terrorism statute under which the NATO 3 are charged.

This is just as dunderheaded as the only other instance in which this state terrorism statute has been used to charge someone. In that case, the state convicted a college student for making a terrorist threat — even though he actually did no such thing — after cops searched his unoccupied car and found some crappy and inflammatory rap lyrics scribbled on a piece of paper. The state circuit court in that case sentenced the student — a Black man in a largely white community — to five years in prison. An appellate court later tossed out that conviction. Blacks, dissidents — hey, this state terrorism statute is perfect for Illinois' law enforcement community!

Secret trials are abhorrent. That's why the nation's founders, whatever their other manifest flaws, banned them. Secret trials built on the testimony of undercover cops given broad license to manufacture and incite criminal activity to entrap defendants is particularly revolting and deeply dangerous to all of us.

"The NATO 3 trial is not about terrorism," says Andy Thayer, who helped organize 2012's protests against the NATO meeting. "This trial is about the government using hype ABOUT terrorism to pursue a political agenda, and as such represents a fundamental mis-use of the justice system, if we are to believe the words of the U.S. Constitution."

The political agenda of the Cook County States Attorneys Office — the prosecutors of record of the NATO 3 and others criminally charged around the 2012 NATO protests — has included a stubborn commitment to defend its own most egregious miscarriages of justice. Cook County States Attorney and career Chicago prosecutor Anita Alvarez, who's not been shy about chasing media face time in the NATO cases, has historically embraced the worst sorts of police excess and abuse — including cops who torture, lie and murder.

Alvarez' local prosecutorial agenda dovetails with allied schemes in national and local government to support increasingly militarized police forces which hustle funding for their agencies on the public dime, and promote the careers of "security" industry professionals — many of whom are former members of these self-same militarized police forces.

Those self-same law enforcement agencies are also perfectly happy to collude with corporations to suppress dissent that those corporations deem unhelpful — what journalist Naomi Wolf has described as "totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent."

To support this agenda in Chicago, authorities are using the tried and true tactic of terrifying people into signing off on their most fundamental civil liberties — including any vestiges of privacy rights — for the 'privilege' of attending a public criminal trial rooted in police misdeeds. More than a few activists who assembled in Chicago in May 2012 to oppose the murderous war agenda of NATO have said they simply will not submit to the state's draconian terms to attend the NATO 3 trial. And in that respect, the state has succeeded in locking out some of the people with the most at stake in a 'public' trial in which defense attorneys have been consistently thwarted in their effort to expose law enforcement's schemes to derail dissent and manufacture crime.

The Chicago police and their overlord, Rahm "Mayor 1%" Emanuel, worked mightily to make the city safe during the NATO protests for the worst sorts of corporate criminals and their military backers. Emanuel and Alvarez remain strong allies in a shared dystopian vision of civic life in a city that routinely criminalizes people of color and undermines the fundamental tenets of economic and social justice. It's no accident that Mayor 1% backs privatization schemes in critical public endeavors that range from education to health — just as States' Attorney Anita Alvarez backs privatizing this critically important public trial.

So, who are the real terrorists?

Chris Geovanis is a Chicago media activist, advocacy journalist and member of the HammerHard MediaWorks collective. You can reach her via Twitter @heavyseas, via her Facebook page or at chrisgeovanis(at)gmail.com

US Appeals Court rules against net neutrality

The following article appeared on the Huffington Post Tech blog.

U.S. Appeals Court Deals Major Blow To Net Neutrality

by David Ingram and Alina Selyukh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday struck down the government's latest effort to require internet providers to treat all traffic the same and give consumers equal access to lawful content, a policy that supporters call net neutrality.

The Federal Communications Commission did not have the legal authority to enact the 2011 regulations, which were challenged in a lawsuit brought by Verizon Communications Inc, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in its ruling.

"Even though the commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates," Judge David Tatel said.

Although the three judge panel were unanimous about the outcome, one wrote separately that he would have gone even further in restricting the FCC's authority.

The FCC could appeal the ruling to the full appeals court or to the U.S. Supreme Court, or it could attempt to rewrite the regulations to satisfy the appeals court.

During the oral argument in September, Verizon's lawyer said the regulations violated the company's right to free speech and stripped control of what its networks transmit and how.

The eventual outcome of the dispute may determine whether internet providers can restrict some content by, for instance, blocking or slowing down access to particular sites or charging websites to deliver their content faster.

The FCC had no immediate comment on the ruling. Verizon also had no immediate comment.

(Reporting by David Ingram and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Will Dunham and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

Mexican people form self-defense groups to battle cartels

 The following appeared on aljazeera.com

In Pictures: Mexico vigilantes battle cartels

Styling themselves as 'self-defence groups', militias in the state of Michoacan are battling powerful drug cartels.

In Mexico, a country home to powerful drug cartels, groups of armed vigilantes known as "fuerzas autodefensas", or self-defence groups, have formed in the past year. In recent weeks, they have even taken over communities in the state of Michoacan; in one case surrounding a city thought to be a key stronghold for the Knights Templar cartel and taking over nearby towns after violent street clashes.

In these newly occupied towns the citizen militia have disarmed and detained local police, claiming that both police and government forces are corrupt and in league with the cartels. 

Mexico's drug war has wreaked havoc on the country, bringing staggering levels of crime and violence. These civilians, armed with AK-47s, have been fighting back in what they see as a bid to liberate the country.

On December 29, Manuel Mirel - the leader of the Michoacan militia - harangued people in Churumuco after his forces took the town.

On December 29, Manuel Mirel - the leader of the Michoacan militia - harangued people in Churumuco after his forces took the town.

The militias advanced through the streets of Paracuaro on January 4.

The militias advanced through the streets of Paracuaro on January 4.

 

The militias have detained people they suspect of involvement with the drug cartels.

The militias have detained people they suspect of involvement with the drug cartels.

Many members of the militias are armed with rifles and semi-automatic weapons.

Many members of the militias are armed with rifles and semi-automatic weapons.

Militia members in the town of Paracuaro on January 6.

Militia members in the town of Paracuaro on January 6.

This truck bears the logo of one of the militia groups.

This truck bears the logo of one of the militia groups.

On January 10, the leader of the militia made a speech in the church square to explain to the people of Antunez the goal of their presence in the town.

On January 10, the leader of the militia made a speech in the church square to explain to the people of Antunez the goal of their presence in the town.

Vigilantes advanced on Antunez on January 11.

Vigilantes advanced on Antunez on January 11.

On January 11, vigilantes detained three teenagers after they stole a car from a journalist. They were allegedly working for the Templar cartel as "punteros", or watchers, and had set fire to two trucks on the road to Antunez.

On January 11, vigilantes detained three teenagers after they stole a car from a journalist. They were allegedly working for the Templar cartel as "punteros", or watchers, and had set fire to two trucks on the road to Antunez.

The Knights Templar set up a roadblock by burning trucks and buses in order to slow the advance of vigilantes on Antunez.

The Knights Templar set up a roadblock by burning trucks and buses in order to slow the advance of vigilantes on Antunez.

On January 11, as the militia advanced on Antunez, smoke from a roadblock set up by the cartel filled the air.

On January 11, as the militia advanced on Antunez, smoke from a roadblock set up by the cartel filled the air.

The militia awaited the signal from their leader to move towards Nueva Italia on January 12.

The militia awaited the signal from their leader to move towards Nueva Italia on January 12.

Fighting between vigilantes and the Templar cartel raged for more than three hours on January 12 in downtown Nueva Italia before the militia was able to claim victory.

Fighting between vigilantes and the Templar cartel raged for more than three hours on January 12 in downtown Nueva Italia before the militia was able to claim victory.

 

PSL on Nepal: a heroic struggle for socialism

Originally by Liberation News here.

Issues behind the election boycott in Nepal

A heroic attempt to reinvigorate the struggle for socialism.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, one of the largest political forces in the country, is leading a boycott of the country's upcoming Constituent Assembly elections, scheduled for Nov. 19. Thirty-two other political parties initially joined in the boycott movement.

A one-day general strike across Nepal’s urban centers shut down transportation, business, industrial facilities and education houses Nov. 11. This is being followed by a transportation strike to last through election day. The state has responded with violent repression, arrests and raids against strike and election boycott organizers. The government’s election “security” plan involves the deployment of 61,000 soldiers across the country along with 54,000 police, 20,000 paramilitary Armed Police Force officers and 40,000 temporary police, a blatant violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the 1996-2006 People’s War led by the Maoists.

There have been scores of arrests targeting CPN-M cadre. Many activists were dragged from their homes in the middle of the night without official warrant.

The first Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting a new constitution, was constructed after a 10-year armed struggle led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). That struggle led to the 2006 “People’s Movement 2,” which finally overthrew the brutal feudal monarchy headed by King Gyanendra. The Constituent Assembly’s term finally expired in 2012, after multiple extensions, without having produced the constitution. This left Nepal in a state of political limbo that the ruling elites hope to break with the second CA election on Nov. 19.

The CPN-M argues that the election is a plot, primarily authored by India, to impede Nepal’s self-determination. There is a long history of Indian expansionism infringing on the sovereignty of smaller South Asian nations–the classic example being the annexation of Sikkim in 1975. The ruling classes of Nepal and India coordinate closely, with the latter playing the dominant role while subjecting the former to unequal trade terms.

The first CA election in 2008 fulfilled a key demand of the communist-led People’s War: abolishing the monarchy and breaking up the feudal land holdings. These were key tasks of the country’s bourgeois democratic revolution, along with the demand for a federal system that respected the rights of Nepal’s many nationalities. The stated doctrine of the Maoists was that this stage would facilitate, not impede, the ultimate seizure of power by the workers and peasants.

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)–which added the word “Unified” after a series of controversial mergers–enjoyed the prestige of leading the People’s War and scored huge electoral victories. 

Sharp differences among communist forces

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Filipino Maoists: All out mobilization for typhoon relief

Originally published at Democracy and Class Struggle here.

 

MEDIA RELEASE
CPP Information Bureau
11 November 2013

Carry out all-out mobilization for relief support to disaster victims

T

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) calls on the entire Filipino people, including those overseas, to mobilize and generate the maximum possible emergency funds and supplies for the victims of the recent super typhoon Yoland (international name Haiyan).

An estimated nine million people, or 10% of the entire Filipino population, suffered the wrath of the storm considered to be the strongest in recorded history, which barreled through 36 provinces. Majority of the victims of the storm are small peasants, farm workers, fisherfolk, mountain people, workers and other poor people who are the most vulnerable to the storm.

Wide swathes of land were engulfed by the surging seas resulting in massive destruction of public infrastructure, homes, property and agricultural land. It is feared that the number of deaths may run up to several thousand people.

The revolutionary forces under the CPP commiserate with the entire Filipino people, especially those who lost friends and family members and who are suffering from the grave impact.

The CPP calls on all progressive and democratic forces to immediately organize the collection of funds and supplies for relief and rehabilitation work and ensure their immediate transport of these to the affected areas. Main attention is justifiably centered on extending assistance to Tacloban and the Eastern Visayas provinces. There should also be sufficient attention given to other areas in Central Visayas, Panay, Negros, Masbate, Mindoro and Palawan as well as in Bicol, Southern Tagalog and Eastern and Northern Mindanao.

The national mobilization of resources is necessary to sufficiently extend assistance to all areas devastated by the storm. There must be appropriate national coordination and cooperation in order to appropriately distribute help and supplies. Priority should be given to those requiring immediate medical attention, the children and the elderly.

The CPP calls for the formation of organizations of disaster victims in order to facilitate the distribution of emergency supplies and prevent the situation from leading to widespread chaos. The people need these organizations of disaster victims in order to extend information about their situation and needs.

The commands of the New People’s Army (NPA) units operating in the devastated areas have immediately changed their mode of operation and have carried out search, rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts.

 

Within the guerrilla front areas, barrio (village) committees, provisional revolutionary government units, and revolutionary mass organizations have immediately been mobilized to carry out efforts to assist the people and organize rehabilitation efforts to help the people resume production and other aspects of their normal lives.

 

In line with policy, the concerned NPA commands, including the NPA Mt. Amandewin Command (NPA-Leyte Island), and leading committees of the CPP can issue appropriate ceasefire orders to their respective units, putting NPA units on defensive mode but ever vigilant to enemy offensive operations. These can seek to facilitate the entry of organizations and agencies extending relief and emergency supply and ensure the safety of relief workers. The people should vigorously oppose continued suppression activities being conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines under Oplan Bayanihan, especially in areas ravaged by the storm.

 

The Filipino people are angered over the Aquino regime’s slow and terribly inadequate response to the disaster. They critize Aquino for blaming the people for being unprepared. In the hours immediately after the storm, the Aquino government was practically absent in

Tacloban and other parts of the country. They further criticize Aquino for making use of the disaster to make a pitch for the much-detested President’s Social Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program when, in fact, it has allotted only a minuscule for calamity response.

On the other hand, the CPP extends the people’s gratitude and commendation to various local and international media agencies which have made use of their resources to provide crucial information service to disaster victims. The Filipino people welcome local and foreign volunteer civilian organizations and agencies whose contributions have been invaluable.

The CPP calls on all international civilian agencies to extend maximum possible support to the victims of the disaster. The CPP denounces the Aquino and US governments for taking advantage of the disaster to again deploy more US warships and armed US soldiers in various areas in violation of Philippine sovereignty. The CPP urges foreign governments who wish to extend aid and direct help to course their assistance through their civilian agencies or organizations.

Drop the charges against the CUNY 6!

This semester the war criminal ex-general David Petraeus was appointed to lecture at the City University of New York. Students at CUNY have righteously resisted this appointment by protesting outside of the building he teaches in; every single class. Last Monday six students were attacked by the NYPD, beaten and arrested. Today over a hundred people protested against Petraeus and in defense of the CUNY 6. The protests will go on as long as Petraeus lectures at CUNY, exactly as it should be. (Intro by Nat Winn)

The following article first appeared on the Revolutionary Students Coordinating Committee website.

PRESS RELEASE: UNPROVOKED POLICE ATTACK AGAINST PEACEFUL PROTEST BY CUNY STUDENTS AND FACULTY AGAINST EX-GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS

Press release

Contact: Portia Seddon, 347-740-8834 or Tafadar Sourov, 646-331-1266

Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY, adhoccunycommittee@gmail.com

Unprovoked police attack against peaceful protest by CUNY students and faculty against ex-Gen. David Petraeus

NEW YORK, 17 September — Six students were arrested this evening in a brutal, unprovoked police attack against a peaceful protest by City University of New York students and faculty against CUNY’s appointment of former CIA chief ex-General David Petraeus. Students were punched, slammed against vehicles and against the pavement by police captains and officers, after the NYPD forced them off the pavement and into the street. The demonstration was called by the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY.

The arrested students are presently being held and are to be arraigned this Wednesday, September 18, at some point between 9:00 a.m. and the afternoon in the Arraignment Court in the Manhattan Criminal Court at 100 Centre Street. All defenders of students’ basic right to protest are urged to come to the arraignment and show their support.

“As students were chanting ‘War Criminal Petraeus Out of CUNY Now,’ I was shocked to see several police officers grab and brutalize one of the demonstrators,” said City College student Yexenia Vanegas. “This was completely unprovoked, as demonstrators made clear that they were there to defend our university in a peaceful protest.” The attack occured in front of CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College, where Petraeus has been appointed to teach a class on public policy. “Protestors were marching in a circle on the sidewalk and chanting, but the police forced them into the street and then charged. One of the most brutal things I saw was that five police officers slammed a Queens College student face down to the pavement across the street from Macaulay, put their knees on his back and he was then repeatedly kneed in the back,” said Hunter student Michael Brian. The student was one of those pointed out by “white shirt” officers, then seized and brutalized. A Latina woman student was heaved through the air and slammed to the ground.

A broad range of CUNY students, faculty and staff members, have been carrying out a campaign of “protest and exposure” against the Board of Trustees’ appointment of Petraeus, whose documented actions as Iraq/Afghanistan war commander and CIA chief include drone attacks upon civilians, and the creation of torture centers and death squads. When Petraeus was setting up Special Police Commandos, the “dirty tactics” that were used included the use of white phosphorus, a chemical weapon, against the population in Fallujah. “Petraeus’ man” Col. James Steele, who organized death squads in Central America, had been brought to the area for the same purpose.

With the NYPD being sent to brutalize and arrest CUNY students on behalf of a certified war criminal, organizers state that this blatant use of police brutality against peaceful protestors wil not intimidate or deter those who expose the truth about the actions of David “Death Squad” Petraeus and oppose attempts to turn the City University into “a war college.”

New film series on Latino Americans on PBS

There is a new documentary series on PBS on Latino Americans that starts airing Tuesday September 17th. I thought it would be good for our audience to be aware of it. This post could also be a discussion space for commentaries and reviews about the film. The following article appeared in the New York Times.  intro by Nat Winn

 

The Hidden History of a Substantial Minority

‘Latino Americans,’ a Six-Hour PBS Documentary

by Anita Gates

Have you ever heard about the American pilot who took off from an aircraft carrier on Dec. 7, 1941, for a routine check of its next port, Pearl Harbor? His last words were a desperate "Hold your fire" message, just before he was shot down — no one is sure by which side — as one of the first American casualties of World War II. That was Ensign Manuel Gonzales, as viewers will learn through "Latino Americans," an important and enlightening three-part, six-hour PBS documentary that begins on Tuesday night.

Then there was the soldier who in 1836 shouted, "Remember the Alamo!" and led a regiment in Sam Houston's Republic of Texas Army to victory over Santa Anna's Mexican forces. You know: Juan Seguín. And the World War II hero who won the Silver Star for capturing 1,500 Japanese prisoners of war. That was Guy Gabaldon, a Mexican-American who, in the movie about his exploits ("Hell to Eternity," 1960), was played by the blue-eyed Jeffrey Hunter.

For those who sometimes imagine that Latinos arrived in the United States in the 1950s, just in time to audition for "West Side Story," it is a particular revelation that Latino American history goes back quite a bit further and has been, to a distressing degree, Anglo-washed. The documentary's story moves along quickly, though: by the third hour, Dr. Hector Garcia is working with the Johnson administration in the 1960s.

"Latino Americans" is the kind of polished, intelligent documentary series that PBS does so well. The format is a traditional one now, with vintage film clips, zooms and pans of old paintings and photographs, and an assortment of thoughtful talking heads. But this time, those heads belong to historians named García, Montejano and Ruiz; political organizers named Gutierrez, Velásquez and Esparza; academics named Padrón; and journalists named Suárez and Salinas. Adriana Bosch, the documentary's Emmy Award-winning producer, moved to the United States from Cuba in 1970.

Most of the time, we meet the successful adults — like the actress-singer-dancer Rita Moreno, whose acceptance of her Oscar in 1962 we see at least three times — and then are familiarized with their backgrounds. Ms. Moreno was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York with her mother when she was 5. In one case, though, we hear about an activist's early years first. In 1946 a Navy war veteran everyone called C. C. desegregated a movie theater in Delano, Calif., just by taking a seat one night in the middle section with the Anglos. After this story, we learn that C. C. was Cesar Chavez.

By the middle of the 21st century, there are expected to be about 127 million Latino-Americans, nearly 30 percent of the projected United States population. Some Latinos see today as "the Hispanic moment" and urge that opportunities be seized now or lost.

The second and third parts of "Latino Americans," whose subjects include Chavez, the Chicano movement, the Dominican Republic, Central America, the battles against bilingualism and the Mariel boat lift, will be shown next Tuesday and on Oct. 1.

Latino Americans

On PBS stations on Tuesday nights (check local listings).

Produced by WETA Washington, Bosch & Company Inc. and Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB). Jeff Bieber and Dalton Delan, executive producers for WETA; Sandie Viquez Pedlow, executive producer for LPB; Adriana Bosch, series producer; Salme Lopez, supervising producer; Nina Alvarez, Dan McCabe, Ray Telles and John Valadez, producers; Sabrina Avilés, Yvan Iturriaga and Monika Navarro, associate producers. For re-enactment sequences: David Belton and Sonia Fritz, directors; Cathleen O'Connell, producer. Benjamin Bratt, narrator.