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Mon, 29 May 2017
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Palestinian hunger strike ends with prisoners declaring victory but Israel claims nothing happened

© Carlos Latuff
Marwan Barghouti vs. Benjamin Netanyahu
Saturday, after 41 days, the Palestinian prisoner hunger strike came to what seemed to be an end - or rather a 'suspension'.

At first, details of concessions to Palestinian prisoner demands beyond the reinstatement of a second monthly family visit were not yet available, and Israel was apparently using this vacuum to downplay the whole thing.

Israeli Public Security and Hasbara (propaganda) Minister Gilad Erdan countered claims that certain demands were met, saying that "there is absolutely no pledge to grant" any of the other prisoner demands, and summated that it "appears that this strike failed". The Prisons Service simply said there was no negotiation, and that none of the prisoners' demands were met apart from the visitations.

Comment: For more on the hunger strike:

Star of David

Israeli Air Force test-fires undisclosed type of missile

© MYavne / YouTube
Israel has conducted a test-launch of a rocket propulsion system of an undisclosed missile type, according to the Israeli Air Force.

The launch took place in the early hours of Monday at a military base in central Israel, the military said on Twitter.

The Air Force didn't specify what system was tested, only saying that the scheduled launch was "carried out as planned."

The rocket's flight was seen by a number of residents, who posted videos of the launch on social media.


US and Japan to take 'specific action' after N Korean missile hit Japan's economic zone

© KCNA / Reuters
Tokyo will take "specific action" and join forces with the US to deter Pyongyang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after a North Korean missile flew about 450km before landing inside Japan's economic zone.

"As we agreed at the recent G7, the issue of North Korea is a top priority for the international community," Prime Minister Abe told reporters in a televised comment, as cited by Reuters. "Working with the United States, we will take specific action to deter North Korea," Abe said, adding that Japan will also maintain close contact with neighboring South Korea and other countries.

The strident statement came in response to the latest missile launch by North Korea. On Monday morning, a short-range ballistic missile traveled around 450km and landed in the Sea of Japan, 300km off the Japanese coast. The missile, said to be a Scud-type projectile, was launched from an airfield near Wonsan, a city on North Korea's east coast, according to the US Pacific Command and South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

Roh Jae-cheon, the spokesman for the JCS, said the missile flew at an altitude of 120km (75 miles). "So far, the assessment is there was at least one missile but we are analyzing the number of missiles," he said earlier in the day.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, said the North Korean missile launches pose risks to air traffic in the area as well as to maritime lanes in the Sea of Japan, according to Reuters. "This ballistic missile launch by North Korea is highly problematic from the perspective of the safety of shipping and air traffic and is a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions," Suga told reporters.

Comment: Not the first time, not likely the last. Kim Jong-un continues to provoke negative reaction in an ever-widening sphere of concern. So far, any action contemplated seems to be 'non-specific.'

See also: 'Threat to planes and ships': Japan fumes as North Korea test-launches another ballistic missile


A Trump-Salman alliance has all eyes on Yemen

© english.aawsat.com
President Trump • King Salman
The recently rejuvenated military alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia could have enormous - and immediate - implications for the War on Yemen. The peninsular and impoverished country has been in a state of total warfare ever since the Saudis began a brutal campaign against them in spring 2015. The stated objective has always been to restore deposed former president Hadi to power, who fled to the Wahhabi Kingdom after the Houthi national liberation movement took control of the country, though the implicit motivation behind the war is commonly recognized by most analysts as being a proxy conflict to counter speculated Iranian influence.

The Western narrative is that the Houthis are nothing more than a stand-in for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps because of their shared Shia faith, though that assertion has been clearly debunked by the fact that the group enjoys broad cross-sectarian support all throughout Yemen. Nevertheless, it's geopolitically convenient for the US to scare its Saudi ally with the boogeyman threat of "Iranian encirclement", which is what prompted the Kingdom's young Defense Minister Mohamed Bin Salman to initiate the war in the first place.

Trump made his anti-Iranian sentiment well known even before he entered into office, and his latest speech in Riyadh confirmed what many had already long believed - that the so-called "Arab NATO" which the US is trying to formalize in the region is really aimed against Iran. The Saudis already lead a 55-nation coalition that is ostensibly supposed to fight against terrorism, but which is now becoming the cornerstone of the US' proxy plans against the Islamic Republic.

Trump just agreed to the world's largest-ever arms deal with King Salman for $110 billion, with the potential to raise it up to $350 billion across the next decade, and the Saudis also said that their coalition allies agreed to contribute a total of 34,000 troops as a reserve force.

Comment: Be careful what you wish for, more careful what you do. Yemen is suffering beyond imagination for a faulty ideology at the hands of the Wahhabi Kingdom and the West, a byproduct in the contest for control and power in the ME.

Star of David

International campaign, involving multiple governments, criminalizes criticism of Israel as 'antisemitism'

© Global Research
Delegates at the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism convention in London. The organization issued a declaration calling on governments to use an Israel-centric definition of antisemitism and to outlaw and prosecute such 'antisemitism.'
For two decades, some Israeli officials and Israel partisans have worked to embed a new, Israel-focused definition of antisemitism in institutions around the world, from international bodies and national governments to small college campuses in heartland America. This effort is now snowballing rapidly. As a result, advocacy for Palestinian rights is well on the way to being curtailed and even criminalized as "hate."

As the world has witnessed the oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, many people have risen in protest. In response, the Israeli government and certain of its advocates have conducted a campaign to crack down on this activism, running roughshod over civil liberties (and the English language) in the process. The mechanism of this crackdown is the redefinition of "antisemitism" to include criticism of Israel, and the insertion of this definition into the bodies of law of various countries.

Where most people would consider "antisemitism" to mean bigotry against Jewish people (and rightly consider it abhorrent), for two decades a campaign has been underway to replace that definition with an Israel-centric definition. That definition can then be used to block speech and activism in support of Palestinian human rights as "hate." Various groups are applying this definition in law enforcement evaluations of possible crimes.

Comment: The insidiousness and global invasiveness of this campaign literally boggles the mind. What Israel has 'put over' on governments, organizations, institutions and the populace is truly astounding...a political and societal "Catch 22."

See also: House bill requires US to monitor European criticism of Israel


Patrick Cockburn: Saying terrorism has "nothing to do with Islam" is pious and inaccurate - Wahhabism is radical religion

Alleged Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi
In the wake of the massacre in Manchester, people rightly warn against blaming the entire Muslim community in Britain and the world. Certainly one of the aims of those who carry out such atrocities is to provoke the communal punishment of all Muslims, thereby alienating a portion of them who will then become open to recruitment by Isis and al-Qaeda clones.

This approach of not blaming Muslims in general but targeting "radicalisation" or simply "evil" may appear sensible and moderate, but in practice it makes the motivation of the killers in Manchester or the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015 appear vaguer and less identifiable than it really is. Such generalities have the unfortunate effect of preventing people pointing an accusing finger at the variant of Islam which certainly is responsible for preparing the soil for the beliefs and actions likely to have inspired the suicide bomber Salman Abedi.

The ultimate inspiration for such people is Wahhabism, the puritanical, fanatical and regressive type of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia, whose ideology is close to that of al-Qaeda and Isis. This is an exclusive creed, intolerant of all who disagree with it such as secular liberals, members of other Muslim communities such as the Shia or women resisting their chattel-like status.

Comment: As usual, both sides of the debate are wrong. Blaming Islam per se is not accurate. Giving Islam a free pass isn't accurate, either. The problem is the extreme, pathological, Wahhabi, salafi-jihadist ideology. In terms of ponerology, it is a schizoidal, pathocratic ideology that acts as a trojan horse for psychopathy. For all the details of how that works, check out Political Ponerology.


No power, no problem: Ukraine avoids an electricity crisis by sabotaging its coal industry

The de-electrification division
No coal, no power - no problem. This could be the new motto of new Ukraine.

Months ago Ukraine declared an end to coal imports from Donbass utterly gutting its electricity generation - but avoided an electricity crisis, because the ban also wreaked havoc on its many steel makers.

You can't have a power crisis, if you don't have power consumers. Brilliant.

It all started this late January this year when Ukrainian right-wing nationalists took over railways coming out of rebel-held Donbass to stop shipments of coal Kiev was purchasing from rebel territories.

Rather than assert its authority, the government instead pleaded with the nationalists to please vacate the barricades, explaining that without the anthracite coal from the east its thermal power plants would have to shut down.

Wall Street

Can't stop now: European Central Bank stimulus to remain intact despite improving growth

© AFP 2017/ Daniel Roland
Even though the Eurozone's economic growth has accelerated, the subdued inflation and regional growth discrepancies prevent the European Central Bank from removing its accommodative policies, stirring risks of overheating in the bloc's best-performing economies.

Kristian Rouz - Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), said the unconventional monetary policies are still necessary to support the pace of economic expansion in the Eurozone, as the regulator awaits new evidence of macroeconomic stability.

The gradual removal of the negative interest rate policy (NIRP) on bank deposits and zero base interest rates, along with ECB asset purchases, would require a higher inflation and a more balanced growth across the 19-nation bloc.

Comment: The ECB can't pull back on the stimulus: Will the crazy global debt bubble ever end? It can't or else


'We told each other everything': Highlights from Macron's first meeting with Putin

Just a few days after the young French president made headlines for his white-knuckled, "not innocent" handshake with Donald Trump, Russian president Vladimir Putin was prepared for his first meeting with Emanuel Macron, with the result captured on the following clip.

What followed was talks in private between the two leaders in Versailles that lasted for almost three hours during which the two leaders discussed a number of topics ranging from bilateral relations to the situations in Syria, Ukraine, Libya and the Korean Peninsula, and culminated with a press conference in which Macron said the "Franco-Russian friendship" was at heart of his meeting with Putin and called for improved ties with Russia but warned he would hold tough positions on sanctions and the civil war in Syria.

"I want us to win the fight against terrorists in Syria and build together lasting political stability. We have laid the ground for that work together today." Macron said. "I believe we've had an extremely frank and direct exchange. We have told each other everything."

Comment: Commentary from Alexander Mercouris of The Duran:
Apparently there were agreements on setting up some sort of anti terrorist liaison centre and something which will be called the Russian-French Trianon Dialogue civil forum. These are the sort of things leaders agree when they have nothing substantive to talk about, and nothing else to show.

Macron's threats are empty. The question of whether sanctions against Russia are ever increased will be made in Washington and Berlin, not in Paris, and if the US or the Germans ever decide to lift the sanctions France will have no option but to agree regardless of what happens in Ukraine. The events of August 2013, when President Obama called of a military strike on Syria following the Ghouta chemical attack, leaving France's then President Hollande high and dry, shows that France is in no position to set 'red lines' or make threats independently of the US in Syria.

Whether the French public is impressed by all this grandiose talk - as if the France of today were the France of Louis XIV or Napoleon, not the diminished power it actually is - is hard to say. Macron anyway undermined whatever impression of French grandeur he wanted to make by saying that he would "report" about the meeting to Angela Merkel, showing where the real power in Europe lies.

Certainly Putin won't have been impressed. On the contrary, if Macron spoke to him like this in private - and all the indications are that he did - Putin will have decided that there is little to be gained from seeking a dialogue with the new French President, who it turns out is every bit as hostile to Russia as he appears to be.

This begs the question of why Macron decided to meet with Putin at all. The ostensible purpose of the meeting was to commemorate Peter the Great's visit to France in 1717. However there was no indication until a few weeks ago that Putin was planning to attend this commemoration, so presumably the suggestion for the visit, and the proposal to convert it into a summit, came from Macron. The Kremlin's brief statement confirming Putin's meeting with Macron notably confirms that the meeting happened at the invitation of Macron.

Possibly Macron overestimates his ability to impress Putin. As a young man who has come very far and very fast he might be over-confident about his diplomatic abilities, and might think that by 'setting Putin straight' in a one-to-one meeting he might achieve some sort of breakthrough in relations between France and Russia. If so then before long he will discover otherwise, and if he is wise he will come to realise that it is not in his own or in France's interests for him to continue to overplay his hand in this way.

As for Putin, the meeting will have enabled him to get a measure of the new French President. It is unlikely he was especially impressed by what he saw and heard.


Macron accuses RT and Sputnik of 'behaving like deceitful propaganda' right in front of Putin

Newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron explained his team's decision to deny RT and Sputnik, both Moscow-based news outlets, accreditation during his campaign, by labeling the media outlets as "propaganda."

"They didn't act like the media, like journalists. They behaved like deceitful propaganda," Macron told RT France head Xenia Fedorova during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Versailles.

"I have always had an exemplary relationship with foreign journalists, but they have to be real journalists," explained Macron, who defeated Marine Le Pen in the second round of the election, earlier this month. "All foreign journalists, including Russian journalists, had access to my campaign."