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Late to the Party! Africa and U.S. imperialism: America in competition with China?

The White House attempts to buy goodwill on the continent amid escalation in militarism

A much-anticipated summit at the State Department and White House was held during Aug. 4-8. Dozens of African heads-of-state and the chair of the African Union (AU) Commission attended.

Nonetheless, several leading countries were not invited or chose not to attend including Zimbabwe, Sudan, Eritrea, Chad, Egypt as well as Liberia and Sierra Leone. Although the AU Commission Chair Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was present at the summit, it was not this continental organization that set the terms for participation.

A similar situation occurred earlier in the year when a European Union (EU)-Africa Summit was held in Belgium. Although the AU had met to determine how the meeting would be approached, in the final analysis the EU made the prevailing decisions.

In a public statement during the summit, Dlamini-Zuma suggested that the U.S. was not fully aware of developments in Africa. She warned that if Washington did not engage the continent then they would effectively be losers in the future character of relations.

Comment: It seems that many of the leaders of African nations realize that the presence of the US and the EU in Africa, and the focus on military aid, is a continuation of their colonial ambitions and their desire to exploit the oil natural gas and minerals of the region. Likely this means they will come under repeated pressure, with western support for rebels and attempted regime change.


Top Secret

Federal judge rules in favor of NSA in secret surveillance programs case

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© Win McNamee / Getty Images / AFP
A federal judge in California sided mostly with the United States government this week in a decision handed down concerning classified documents pertaining to the National Security Agency's secret surveillance programs.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, a justice in the US District Court for the district of Northern California, said on Monday that the Department of Justice does not have to disclose two sets of documents among the three requested in a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a California-based digital rights group.

The EFF has long sought the release of NSA documents related to legal rulings made in secret by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the names of phone companies compelled to hand over user data to the NSA and a 2012 legal memo concerning the US Census and Patriot Acts. The NSA's failure to adhere to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the EFF prompted the advocacy group to file suit asking the court to compel their release, but on Monday Judge Gonzalez Rogers said in a 13-page decision that the Justice Dept. was largely right to withhold those filings and need only make public the Census memo.

"Having carefully considered the papers and arguments submitted," the judge wrote, "...the Court hereby Orders that the cross-motions are GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. DOJ has established a proper basis for withholding, in full, the FISC orders and opinions at issue, and for withholding all names of telecommunications providers participating in the Call Records Collection Program, under FOIA Exemptions 1 and 3. Thus, summary judgment is GRANTED in favor of DOJ on the claim for disclosure of this information. However, DOJ has not established that the Census Memorandum is properly withheld under Exemption 5, and EFF is GRANTED summary judgment on its claim for FOIA violation as to this document."

Bulb

Northern Ireland's Environment Minister rejects fracking proposal

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© Reuters / Phil Noble
Australian energy firm, Tamboran Resources, had an application to drill an exploratory hole in Belcoo, Fermanagh rejected by NI's Environment Minister
Northern Ireland's Environment Minister has rejected a global energy firm's proposal to conduct exploratory drilling in County Fermanagh. The drilling would have led to further fracking in the area if sufficient shale gas supplies had been detected.

As part of its broader plans to frack in Northern and Southern Ireland, Australian energy firm Tamboran Resources submitted an application to drill a 750-metre hole at Cleggan Quarry. The quarry is based in Belcoo, a small village in Fermanagh situated on the border of County Leitrim.

The firm had hoped to discern whether there was enough shale gas in the region to warrant a formal licence to construct a fracking operation there. But the Belcoo site, renowned for its pristine natural beauty, subsequently became the focus of 24-7 demonstrations attended by local politicians, farmers, and campaigners who were stringently opposed to the prospect of hydraulic fracturing in their locale.

Taboran Resources attempted to bypass the need for full planning permission to drill at Cleggan Quarry, relying solely on legislation relating to "permitted development rights." Under this legislation, the Australian firm could have drilled the borehole without carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

Star of David

Britain's Guardian newspaper accused of Israeli bias in Gaza crisis after publishing advertisement accusing Hamas of 'child sacrifice'

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© Reuters / Suzanne Plunkett
Britain's Guardian newspaper has been accused of pro-Israel bias after publishing a widely condemned advert paid for by Jewish group This World: The Values Network, which accused Hamas of "child sacrifice".

The advert previously ran in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post but was rejected by The Times in London. The paper said: "The opinion being expressed is too strong and too forcefully made and will cause concern amongst a significant number of Times readers."

The ad, headlined: "Jews rejected child sacrifice 3,500 years ago. Now it's Hamas turn," was written by Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Laureate and Holocaust survivor. "In my own lifetime," Wiesel wrote, "I have seen Jewish children thrown into the fire. And now I have seen Muslim children used as human shields, in both cases, by worshippers of death cults indistinguishable from that of the Molochites."
Text of ad by This World: The Values Network, calling on #Hamas to reject child sacrifice: pic.twitter.com/F4aLD7szOg

- Lilac Sunday (@LilacSundayBlog) August 4, 2014
Wiesel proposed the battles occurring today were not of Jew versus Arab or Israeli versus Palestinian but a battle between "those who celebrate life and those who champion death. It is a battle of civilization versus barbarism."

Comment: What a load of nonsense. Obviously, by running an advert, you are endorsing the views of said advert. Particularly a political advert in a newspaper that deals heavily in politics. Sadly, the Guardian lacks the common sense to understand this.


Dollar

Russia ain't buyin' it! Food ban could cost EU $16 billion and spark economic crisis

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© AFP Photo / Georges Gobet
Russia's ban on agricultural food imports could cost the European Union about $16 billion (12 billion euro) and drag the continent into the crisis, officials warn.

The Russian government signed a decree on Thursday which bans the import of beef, pork, poultry, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, cheese, milk, and dairy products from the EU, US, Australia, Canada, and Norway.

EU trade is heavily dependent on Russian food imports, last year Russia bought $16 billion worth of food from the 28-nation bloc, or about 10 percent of total exports, according to Eurostat.

Vygaudas Usackas, the EU ambassador to Russia, cited the same $16 billion figure when speaking with a Russian radio station on Thursday.

"We are yet to analyze in detail what goods fall under sanctions, but it may reach up to 12 billion euro. Food and goods amount to 10 percent of what we export to Russia," Usackas said.

Health

Russia sends 300 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to Eastern Ukraine

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© RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov
Russian humanitarian convoy to Ukraine departs from Alabino, Moscow region.
Almost 300 trucks carrying 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid have been sent towards the border with Ukraine, Moscow regional authorities say. Earlier, Russia and Ukraine agreed on a humanitarian mission under the authority of the Red Cross.

Some 280 Kamaz trucks carrying food, medication, and drinking water were sent out by Russia's Emergencies Ministry from the Moscow region on Tuesday morning, Russian media reported.

"The contact group has decided on Monday that the humanitarian aid convoys will cross over at the Kharkov Oblast border. The Lugansk route has also been agreed upon," Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's second President and the mediator in the operation told journalists.

He added that "the aid will be distributed by the Red Cross - the convoy will be accompanied by representatives from the OSCE."

Star of David

Israel apologizes for calling Brazil a 'diplomatic dwarf' over Gaza massacre

© AFP Photo/Ronen Zvulun
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gestures during a ceremony at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem on July 24, 2014
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin apologized to his Brazilian counterpart for a remark by a foreign ministry spokesman calling the Latin American powerhouse a "diplomatic dwarf."

The comment in July was made by spokesman Yigal Palmor after Brazil criticized Israel's military campaign in Gaza as excessive and recalled its envoy in Tel Aviv.

In a phone call Monday, Rivlin assured Brazil President Dilma Rousseff that Palmor's comments "do not correspond to the sentiments of the population" of Israel, Rousseff's office said in a statement.

Rousseff had criticized Palmor's remarks, saying "Words, including the spokesman's, sometimes create a very bad climate. In this case, we have to be very careful."

Comment: One has to wonder about Israel's motivation in apologizing to Brazil while asserting the need to be cautious to prevent "very bad climate". Who is responsible for all those war crimes and massacres in Gaza? Israel or Brazil? Psychopaths can't accept responsibility for their crimes.


Apple Red

How ya like them apples? Poland issues complaint to WTO over lost agricultural revenue from Russian embargo

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© Reuters / Thomas Peter
Polish Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki
The Polish Agriculture Ministry has prepared a formal complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the Russian ban on exports of agricultural goods from the European Union, according to the Minister Marek Sawicki.

Sawicki confirmed on Monday its being handled by Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechociński, who is responsible for WTO cooperation and that in the coming days "the complaint will be handed over further."

On August 1, Russia's agricultural watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor imposed a ban on all fruit and vegetables imported from Poland, citing numerous certification problems.

Warsaw asked the EU for compensation for its farmers. However, a few days later Russia imposed a ban on agricultural goods from countries that had imposed sanctions against it, including the EU. The restrictions include fruit and vegetables.

Comment: Countries in the European Union aren't exactly in a position to be acting so recklessly and foolishly. Perhaps they should have taken Victoria Nuland at her word when she said, 'F the EU'. For related news see:


Cookie

Spain hit by Russian trade embargo; seeks compensation from EU

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© magrama.gob.es
Isabel Garcia Tejerina
Spain will meet with EU officials Thursday to discuss offsetting the country's estimated €337 million in food and agriculture losses due to blocked access to the Russian market.

Spanish Agriculture Minister Isabel Garcia Tejerina said the restrictions have prompted her ministry to convene a meeting with the European Commission in Brussels on Thursday.

Last week Russia announced a ban on agricultural imports from the EU, US, Canada, Australia and Norway.

The Spanish Agriculture Ministry will analyze the impact of the Russian trade embargo and try to address possible solutions.

"The ministry will perform specific monitoring of each of the sectors to see how they evolve their markets and to ask, in the event of disruption, compensation for these measures from the European Union," Tejerina said, as quoted by Spain's Region Digital.

To prepare for the meeting in Brussels, local Spanish industry representatives will meet to discuss and share data.

Comment: It seems many European countries are just now discovering that their support of the unjust and ridiculous sanctions on Russia will actually have consequences.


Cheesecake

EU had it coming! Bickering, infighting over Russia food ban retaliation

© Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader
Head of Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) Heinz-Christian Strache
There is growing dissent in the EU over policies that led to a de facto trade war with Russia. Meanwhile the countries not toeing the line are reaping the benefits, irritating those who jumped on the sanctions bandwagon.

Greek members of the European Parliament demanded Sunday that the EU cancel sanctions against Russia. MEPs Kostantinos Papadakis and Sotiris Zarianopoulos said in a letter to some senior EU officials that Russia's ban on food import from the EU, which was Moscow's response to anti-Russian sanctions, was ruinous to Greek agriculture.

"Thousands of small- and middle-sized Greek farms producing fruit and vegetables and selling them primarily to the Russian market have been hit hard now as their unsold products are now rotting at warehouses," the letter said.

The MEPs are representing the Communist Party of Greece and blame the EU leaders and their own government for supporting what they called "an imperialist intervention by the US, the EU and NATO" in Ukraine at the expense of good relations with Russia.


Comment: More EU citizens should take note and listen.


Greece is one of the EU members hit hardest by the Russian import ban, partially due to its economy still being in turmoil. Greek farmers stand to lose an estimated 200 million euro in direct damages due to Russia's move, with more long-term consequences expected even if year-long ban is not renewed on expiry. The producers may find it very hard to win back the market share they had before the ban as non-affected countries would certainly weight in.

Comment: On the surface, the sanctions have been marketed as punishment for Russia's "stance in the Ukrainian crisis". But Russia's stance has been the only sane one: calling for peace, justice, and the rule of law. It is the U.S. and Kiev whose stance has been shameful: an illegal coup d'etat, the deliberate murder of civilians, the branding of innocent people "terrorists", giving money and support to a barbaric 'antiterror operation', all founded on a mountain of lies, lies and more lies.