August 30, 2014

Weekly Headlines

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Friday, August 29, 2014

World News

UN: Ukraine conflict death toll hits 2,600; civilians ‘trapped inside conflict zones’ and targeted & As EU and North American farmers suffer, Russia continues to seek new food sources

Commentary

You can’t understand ISIS if you don’t know the history of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

Commentary

British Columbia’s morally bankrupt government: Commentary on resource exploitation and (insincere, weak) regulation & The province is deeply divided between those who see education as the publicly subsidized means to personal advancement (read private schools), and those who see it as the way to advance us all as a society (read public schools)

Regional News

If they can’t protect Grace Islet, what can they protect? It is a legal and moral imperative that BC’s provincial leaders move away from old prejudices that First Nation burial sites containing human remains are less worthy of protection than settler cemeteries

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Sovereignty

Business leaders (including financial sector CEOs) and crony capitalist, David Cameron, tell Scots to vote no in independence referendum; even more business leaders tell Scots to vote yes & Better Together campaign video patronizes female Scots nationalists

World News

New front opened in Ukraine’s civil war? It seems likely and militarily logical

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Commentary

In the offing? Maybe, but a Saudi-Iranian thaw will take time

Commentary

US flags China as a maritime outlaw

National News

Harper again raises spectre of Russian threat in speech to troops & NATO chief eyes more bases in E. Europe to confront Russia

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Commentary

Extractivism – B.C. as third world economy. The end result of extractivism is “high levels of underemployment, unemployment and poverty, while the distribution of income and wealth [becomes] even more unequal”

World News

Old grudges never die. Celebrating the White House burning; trying to stifle Scotland’s differing vision of what a society should be

Monday, August 25, 2014

Commentary

Employing both military art and science: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the theory and practice of jihad

Commentary

The disease of North American democracy: We have to establish a new countervailing power. Our own jihad?

Agriculture

Behind the U.S.-backed coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Ukraine are the economic interests of giant US corporations which see Ukraine as a potential “gold mine” of profits from agricultural and energy exploitation

National News

Prime Minister Harper on wrong side of history in opposition to aboriginal inquiry: Premiers to press Ottawa on inquiry into missing, murdered aboriginal women & Canada’s premiers will attempt this week to tackle the unacceptably high rate of aboriginal kids in government care

Commentary

When First Nations burial sites and development collide: Grace Islet dispute is harbinger of many more, unless BC makes changes

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Commentary

Paranoia vs Pragmatism: Stephen Harper and Sergei Glaziev

Posted at: August 30, 2014 - 7:01 am -- Posted by: SSNews -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

August 29, 2014

UN: Ukraine conflict death toll hits 2,600; civilians ‘trapped inside conflict zones’ and targeted & As EU and North American farmers suffer, Russia continues to seek new food sources

UN: Ukraine conflict death toll hits 2,600, civilians ‘trapped inside conflict zones’
RT Russia August 29, 2014


A woman and the body of a person killed in an artillery attack on Lugansk. Photo: Valeriy Melnikov/RIA Novosti

At least 2,593 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the start of the Kiev’s military operation against anti-government forces there started in mid-April, according to a new estimate by the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights.

The death toll includes civilians, members of the Ukrainian troops and also fighters in the anti-government forces.

“The trend is clear and alarming. There is a significant increase in the death toll in the east,” Ivan Simonovic, U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, told journalists.

“The current number of killed is 2,593 – close to 3,000 if we include the 298 victims of the MH17 (Malaysian airliner) plane crash,” he said.

The report, issued on Friday, August 29, 2014, and covering the period July 16 to August 17, condemns the killing and wounding of civilians in urban areas, which have lately turned into battlefields.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has called on both sides of the conflict to lay down their arms.

“There is an urgent need to end the fighting and violence in the eastern regions, before more civilians are harmed or forced to flee, or face intolerable hardships trapped inside the conflict zones,” she said.

Pillay has urged all of the military units fighting in eastern Ukraine against “deliberately targeting civilians.”

“All those involved in the hostilities in the affected areas of the east must at all times comply with the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. This is particularly important in densely-populated areas,” she said.

The report says half the population of the cities of Lugansk and Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, have now left. However, evacuation has not been easy and not all of those wanting to flee were able to do so.

Some civilians lost their lives while trying to escape the violence, as the report says refugees were targeted and killed on their way out of conflict zones.

Russia is on the receiving end of the crisis, handling over 814,000 refugees. Ukrainian servicemen that cross over into Russia are also being fed and taken care of.

Related: Jim comment: I watched the UN Security Council debate listening to the Russian, UK and US ambassadors in full. The Russian danced around some specifics like a butterfly but on the gist of the issue he stung like a bee. The American and the Brit just stood flat-footed in the center of the ring, swinging wildly and hurling their propaganda canards and epithets. It would seem the Axis has no intention of trying to stop the bloody, ruinous tragedy we have set in motion. US President Barack Obama in the meantime joined the chorus of anti-Russian rhetoric heard at the UN and threatened further sanctions to intensify the restrictions previously imposed against Moscow. In a recent response, Russia has urged 10 Asian countries to boost their agricultural exports to Russia amid a Kremlin ban on products from many Western countries. Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev made his call at a meeting of Russian and Association of Southeast Asian Nations officials in Myanmar. EU farmers continue to suffer.

Russia urges ASEAN to boost agriculture exports
Bernama News Agency/Malay Mail Malaysia August 28, 2014


People shop for tomatoes in the family owned farm ‘Kligeni’ in Cesis, Latvia, August 22, 2014. After Russia declared a one-year embargo on meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the West, local markets are now over-flooded with imported vegetables from other EU countries. This farm has been forced to sell its produce at a price below costs. The price tag shows €0.30 ($0.39) for a kilo of tomatoes. Photo: Reuters

NAYPYIDAW, Aug 28 — Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev has called for increased agricultural product exports from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in view of Moscow’s ban on food imports from western countries.

The one-year embargo announced on August 7 bans imports of meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the US, European Union, Canada, Australia and Norway in retaliation for sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency reports.

“I would like to draw your attention to the opportunities opening up for Asean countries to supply agricultural products to Russia particularly fresh vegetables and fruit,” Ulyukayev said at the Asean-Russia senior economic officials’ consultations in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw today

“We are familiar with the high quality standards of agricultural produce in your countries and we will welcome products such as nuts, beef, pork and poultry,” he said. Russia-Asean trade turnover topped US$17.5 billion (RM55 billion) last year.

“We have topped that figure (US$17.5 billion) this year and we expect a six-per cent increase year-on-year at the end of 2014,” said Ulyukayev.

The minister also called on Russia and Asean countries to develop investment co-operation.

“Russia’s total investments in Asean countries stand at US$1.6 billion today and they can be much higher,” Ulyukayev said.

Posted at: August 29, 2014 - 3:59 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

You can’t understand ISIS if you don’t know the history of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

Intro: Public pronouncements by Saudi officials against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), now renamed the Islamic State (IS, for short), notwithstanding, the fact is, this monster is a Saudi creation. And it did not emerge last week or month; the House of Saud has nurtured it for nearly a decade as part of a long-term strategy to contain the growing influence of Islamic Iran in the region. - See Saudi Arabia: Bandar, the godfather of takfirism is back & Far from supporting the Palestinians, the Saudi regime has opened its big guns against the people of Gaza & On Gaza, Israel is losing the Obama coalition. In that same August 4 post (four links), we wrote

It was premature to write off Bandar when he was relieved of his duties as the Saudi spy chief in May. He has re-emerged as special advisor to the king. Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (born March 2, 1949) is a member of the House of Saud and was Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005. In 2005, he was named as secretary general of the National Security Council. He was director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014. On July 1 he was appointed King Abdullah’s special envoy.

And we asked: If Bandar is the CEO of IS, who is its COO? Another link in the post seeks to answer that question: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, so-called ”Caliph,” the head of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) is, according to sources reputed to originate from Edward Snowden, an actor named Elliot Shimon, a Mossad trained operative.”

Item: You can’t understand ISIS if you don’t know the history of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia
Alistair Crooke The World Post International August 27, 2014

Visit this page for its related links, embedded video (5:15) and photo gallery.

BEIRUT — The dramatic arrival of Da’ish (ISIS) on the stage of Iraq has shocked many in the West. Many have been perplexed — and horrified — by its violence and its evident magnetism for Sunni youth. But more than this, they find Saudi Arabia’s ambivalence in the face of this manifestation both troubling and inexplicable, wondering, “Don’t the Saudis understand that ISIS threatens them, too?”

It appears — even now — that Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite is divided. Some applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite “fire” with Sunni “fire”; that a new Sunni state is taking shape at the very heart of what they regard as a historical Sunni patrimony; and they are drawn by Da’ish’s strict Salafist ideology.

Other Saudis are more fearful, and recall the history of the revolt against Abd-al Aziz by the Wahhabist Ikhwan (Disclaimer: this Ikhwan has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan — please note, all further references hereafter are to the Wahhabist Ikhwan, and not to the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), but which nearly imploded Wahhabism and the al-Saud in the late 1920s.

Many Saudis are deeply disturbed by the radical doctrines of Da’ish (ISIS) — and are beginning to question some aspects of Saudi Arabia’s direction and discourse.

Saudi Arabia’s internal discord and tensions over ISIS can only be understood by grasping the inherent (and persisting) duality that lies at the core of the Kingdom’s doctrinal makeup and its historical origins.

One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader — amongst many — of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)

The second strand to this perplexing duality, relates precisely to King Abd-al Aziz’s subsequent shift towards statehood in the 1920s: his curbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have diplomatic standing as a nation-state with Britain and America); his institutionalization of the original Wahhabist impulse — and the subsequent seizing of the opportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export — by diffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolution throughout the Muslim world.

But this “cultural revolution” was no docile reformism. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab’s Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him — hence his call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries.

But the Saudi Ikhwan approach to Islam did not die in the 1930s. It retreated, but it maintained its hold over parts of the system — hence the duality that we observe today in the Saudi attitude towards ISIS.

On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.

ISIS is a “post-Medina” movement: it looks to the actions of the first two Caliphs, rather than the Prophet Muhammad himself, as a source of emulation, and it forcefully denies the Saudis’ claim of authority to rule.

As the Saudi monarchy blossomed in the oil age into an ever more inflated institution, the appeal of the Ikhwan message gained ground (despite King Faisal’s modernization campaign). The “Ikhwan approach” enjoyed — and still enjoys — the support of many prominent men and women and sheikhs. In a sense, Osama bin Laden was precisely the representative of a late flowering of this Ikhwani approach.

Today, ISIS’ undermining of the legitimacy of the King’s legitimacy is not seen to be problematic, but rather a return to the true origins of the Saudi-Wahhab project.

In the collaborative management of the region by the Saudis and the West in pursuit of the many western projects (countering socialism, Ba’athism, Nasserism, Soviet and Iranian influence), western politicians have highlighted their chosen reading of Saudi Arabia (wealth, modernization and influence), but they chose to ignore the Wahhabist impulse.

After all, the more radical Islamist movements were perceived by Western intelligence services as being more effective in toppling the USSR in Afghanistan — and in combatting out-of-favor Middle Eastern leaders and states.

Why should we be surprised then, that from Prince Bandar’s Saudi-Western mandate to manage the insurgency in Syria against President Assad should have emerged a neo-Ikhwan type of violent, fear-inducing vanguard movement: ISIS? And why should we be surprised — knowing a little about Wahhabism — that “moderate” insurgents in Syria would become rarer than a mythical unicorn? Why should we have imagined that radical Wahhabism would create moderates? Or why could we imagine that a doctrine of “One leader, One authority, One mosque: submit to it, or be killed” could ever ultimately lead to moderation or tolerance?

Or, perhaps, we never imagined.

Posted at: August 29, 2014 - 3:14 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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British Columbia’s morally bankrupt government: Commentary on resource exploitation and (insincere, weak) regulation & The province is deeply divided between those who see education as the publicly subsidized means to personal advancement (read private schools), and those who see it as the way to advance us all as a society (read public schools)

Yes, red tape may interfere with business
Norman Farrell Northern Insight British Columbia Canada August 16, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded link.

Mount Polley operator was raising height of tailings dam at time of breach, Wendy Stueck, Globe & Mail, August 15 2014

“Crews were working to raise the tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine by up to four metres before the structure failed and sent a torrent of waste and debris into surrounding waterways.

“Imperial Metals Corp., the Vancouver-based company that operates the mine, had also asked the Ministry of Environment for a permit to release more treated effluent from its tailings pond. That permit was pending when the dam gave way on Aug. 4.”

Mining people are complaining that, if BC had allowed changes to the tailings dam without inconvenient and costly engineering studies, the breach could have been delayed well beyond August 4. Alternatively, had millions of litres of toxic waste water and sludge been withheld, or released quietly, there would have been no public concerns about poisonous effluents and no need for taxpayers to spend hundreds of millions on cleanup.

The industry is disappointed, because it expected an absence of regulation after BC’s Minister of Graft and Corruption promised to,

“conduct business more efficiently and eliminate red tape and unnecessary administration.”

Miners say that had government lived up to its promises, contamination of soils and water could have continued without public notice or interruption.

Yesterday we received our August email newletter from Friends of Clayoquot Sound. (Friends of Clayoquot Sound is a Canadian grassroots non-profit environmental organization, based in Tofino, British Columbia. It focuses on protecting Clayoquot Sound’s globally rare ecosystem of temperate rainforest and ocean (designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve), and on building a local, conservation-based economy. There are currently two mining projects at exploration stage in Clayoquot Sound: an open-pit copper mine on Catface Mountain, and the Fandora gold mine. The mining company would use massive excavation (mountain-top removal) to extract the low-grade ore (0.4% copper) from Catface. Friends of Clayoquot Sound opposes mining in Clayoquot because it is inherently unsustainable and causes long-lasting environmental damage. FOCS is working with local communities to stop these projects and to have Clayoquot Sound legislated as a mine-free area.) The newsletter included this item.

Mount Polley in Clayoquot Sound?

On August 4th the retaining wall for the tailings pond at the Mount Polley open pit copper mine failed. There has been a lot of speculation about what “caused” the dam to fail and why the largest toxic breach in Canadian history happened. For us here in Clayoquot Sound it is clear that any one of the potential causes, – faulty engineering, lack of government oversight, corporations cutting corners, or even (as was initially suggested) human error – could cause a tailings breach and irrevocable damage in any ecosystem surrounding a mining operation. 
        
Imperial Metals, the company that owns and operates Mount Polley also owns two claims here in Clayoquot Sound, a copper deposit in Catface Mountain and the Fandora gold deposit in Tranquil Valley. Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS) oppose developing these deposits and the Mount Polley disaster has served as a dramatic reminder of how important our work is. FOCS has been working alongside the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to get a mining ban on Tla-o-qui-aht traditional territory and prevent the risk of a Mount Polley-style event happening here. FOCS campaigner Emery Hartley and Tla-o-qui-aht councilor Terry Dorward were recently interviewed about their position on mining in Clayoquot Sound; you can hear that interview at this link (the segment starts at 14:48). Please consider making a contribution to help our campaign for a mining ban on Tla-o-qui-aht territories.

Related: Fassbender’s three steps to a settlement, translated
Crawford Kilian TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada August 28, 2014

Wednesday’s meeting of Education Minister Peter Fassbender, BCTF president Jim Iker, and BCPSEA negotiator Peter Cameron, ended inconclusively, though mediator-in-waiting Vince Ready later said he will meet with the two sides Thursday. Fassbender was first out of the gate with a news release that set out the government’s thoughts for getting schools open on time next week. Clearly composed before the meeting, it deserves study and translation:

“I proposed three specific steps to reach a settlement and clear the way for students to go back to school on schedule.

“First, I asked the parties to set aside the matter of potential grievances stemming from Justice Griffin’s decision.

“The demand on potential grievances is nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year. This matter is before the courts and will be addressed through the appeals process.”

Translation: We burgled the teachers’ contract back in 2002 when my boss Christy Clark was education minister, and we’ve been busted twice for it. Third time lucky — we’ve been living well on the proceeds of our heist, and we can’t afford to pay it all back.

“I’m not asking the BCTF to do anything prejudicial to their court case, but setting this issue aside as the appeals process takes place gives mediation a chance to succeed.”

Translation: The Court of Appeal will nail us again, but sometime next year. And a year is a long time in politics. Even if we can’t get proposal E.81 into the next contract, so we can blow the deal up if the court rules against us, we can always resign and leave the problem for whoever inherits it.

“Second, I urged the parties to get into mediation as soon as possible. I made it clear that setting aside the grievances is not a precondition for mediation but I stated my belief that doing so would allow negotiations to focus squarely on the key issues at hand: teachers’ wages and class size and composition.”

Translation: Class size and composition are precisely the issues we stripped out of the teachers’ contract in 2002, and we’ve saved the taxpayers a bundle for 12 years by passing on the costs to the special-needs kids and their parents. We’d rather not deal with them now.

“My hope is that it would move the parties into a zone where mediator Vince Ready sees an opportunity to start productive mediation. We expect Mr. Ready will explore this development but — as it was agreed to by the parties — it remains up to Mr. Ready to decide when to start full mediation.”

Translation: We’re throwing a Hail Mary passing of the buck to Mr. Ready.

“And third, I asked the BCTF and BCPSEA to suspend all strike or lockout activities for two weeks when Mr. Ready starts mediation. Government has no plans to legislate an end to this dispute and we are not asking either the BCTF or BCPSEA to give up their right to strike or lockout. We are just asking them to voluntarily stand down and let classes start while the parties are in mediation.”

Translation: No government “just asks” people to do things. We know perfectly well the teachers will go back to work if serious mediation is possible, but we’re not going to kill ourselves to make it possible. If mediation happens, we take the credit. If it doesn’t, the teachers take the blame. And by the way, saying we have “no plans” to legislate an end to the dispute (right now) leaves it wide open that we can suddenly have plans and then legislate an end to the dispute (later on).

“British Columbia has a world-class public education system and our students consistently rank among the best in the world. That is in large measure due to our great teachers. We need to resolve this dispute and work together to build on our success and prepare our students for the future.”

Translation: Since our students are good enough already, why pay more to make them tops in the world? If it’s the small proportion of special needs students who suffer most from our insistence on underfunding their support and placing them in large classes where teachers despair of doing right by them, well, those losers statistically disappear when averaged into the whole of our generally well-performing student population. In other words, hey, let’s not get bogged down in specifics.

Petition calling on the BC Government and the BCTF to reach a labour settlement before the start of the school year
Green Party of BC British Columbia Canada August 29, 2014

To the Honourable the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, in Legislature Assembled and the British Columbia Teachers Federation:

The petition of the undersigned states that:

Whereas a stable and robust public education system is essential for the social, economic and environmental future of the province;

and Whereas over BC’s 142-year educational history, officials have faced – and overcome – many challenges concerning the delivery of public education;

and Whereas there is much to be proud of in our public schools including well-educated, hard-working teachers; parents who advocate passionately for their children; and students who consistently perform extremely well in the Programme for International Student Assessment;

and Whereas BC children, their parents and their teachers are the ones affected by the current inability of the government and the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) to reach a negotiated settlement to the ongoing labour dispute;

Therefore, be it resolved that the BC government and the BCTF set aside their political differences and ensure that a labour settlement is reached prior to the commencement of the 2014-2015 school year.

Posted at: August 29, 2014 - 2:20 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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If they can’t protect Grace Islet, what can they protect? It is a legal and moral imperative that BC’s provincial leaders move away from old prejudices that First Nation burial sites containing human remains are less worthy of protection than settler cemeteries

Attempt to downplay Grace Islet burial ground dismays archeologists
Sarah Petrescu Times Colonist Victoria British Columbia Canada August 8, 2014


Eric McLay, an archeologist, documented and photographed dozens of bones and burial cairns on Grace Islet after kayakers discovered exposed human remains and turned them over to Saltspring RCMP in 2006.

Archeologists and First Nations are dismayed over recent comments by the owner of Grace Islet and the provincial government that downplay the controversial property as a documented burial ground.

“Either [the landowner] is grossly misinformed, or it is another cynical attempt to trivialize and devalue the scientific and First Nation cultural significance of ancient human remains and burial cairns at Grace Islet to help build his house,” said Eric McLay.

McLay, an archeologist, documented and photographed dozens of bones and burial cairns on the islet after kayakers discovered exposed human remains and turned them over to the Saltspring RCMP in 2006.

McLay was reacting to comments by Barry Slawsky, an Alberta businessman who bought the small residential-zoned island in Ganges Harbour in 1990. McLay and others say Grace Islet is part of a known First Nations village site and burial ground. A campaign to protect the islet, even expropriate it, has revved up since construction began this year.

These claims [by Slawsky that the islet is not a First Nations cemetery and that there were no confirmed burial cairns on the islet] came as a shock to archeologist Darcy Mathews, an expert in burial cairns and a specialist in Coast Salish culture, who was invited to Grace Islet by Stephen Acheson, project manager of the B.C. Archaeology Branch, in 2013.

“He asked me if I thought they were burial features, and I said I thought they were absolutely consistent with funerary cairns I’ve seen — which is about a thousand, many in this area,” said Mathews, noting he had only about 45 minutes on the islet.

He said he told Acheson the cairns might only represent a fraction of possible gravesites there.

“Burial cairns are only from one slice of time. There may have been below-ground burials but also above ground in the case of using canoes and burial houses,” he said. “An islet like this should absolutely be approached as a cemetery and properly looked at.”

Mathews said his recommendation to Acheson and the Archaeology Branch was to have a third-party specialist survey the islet prior to any building.

“To my knowledge, this didn’t happen,” he said. “I’m shocked the site permit was granted. They are proceeding without enough information to make these decisions. … If they can’t protect Grace Islet, what can they protect?”


Salt Spring Island residents together with First Nations elders took to the water August 26 to demand a halt to the construction of a luxury home on Grace Islet, in Ganges Harbour. Photo: Adrian Lam/Times Colonist/Vancouver Sun

First Nations renew protests over building on ‘sacred’ Grace Islet
Sarah Petrescu Times Colonist Victoria British Columbia Canada August 26, 2014

SALT SPRING ISLAND — The sharp roar of saws and a generator coming from a construction site on Grace Islet Tuesday morning was too much for Tseycum Chief Vern Jacks.

After paddling in the Cowichan Tribes big canoe over to the small island, where a luxury home is being built over a First Nations burial ground, he stood on the shore and yelled to the workers: “You would never do this to your ancestors. Think about your kids, your family.”

About two dozen protesters came in canoes, kayaks and some even swam. Cowichan elder Arvid Charlie said his community members have ancestors buried on the islet and referred to it as mim’kw’e’lu, which means gravesite in Hul’qumi’num.

Within a few minutes some of the protesters, including Jacks, Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt, NDP MLA Gary Holman and organizer Joe Akerman, decided to breach the gated construction site and go inside.

The group followed, walking around the concrete foundation and burial cairns encased in plywood where builders were at work.

“I’m just a contractor. You’re being disrespectful doing this,” David Yager, of West Terra Projects, said to the small crowd, which included several children.

As tension rose, protesters held hands along the site and began to sing a rendition of Amazing Grace: “Amazing grace is sacred ground, washed by wind and sea, where ancestors are laid to rest for all eternity.”

The generator and a radio blaring Whitesnake rock songs were momentarily turned off.

Jacks thanked the workers for understanding and said: “We’ve wanted to do this for a long time. This place means a lot to First Nations.”

Two RCMP officers soon arrived and began to photograph the protesters before speaking with them.

“I’m sorry that it came to this today, but all else has failed,” said Holman, addressing the officers.

“The question I have for the RCMP is where were you when the law was broken here two years ago?” he asked, referring to construction that violated the site permits issued by the B.C. archeology branch.

Grace Islet was purchased in 1990 by Alberta businessman Barry Slawsky. His plans to build a retirement home were stalled by the discovery of ancient remains and burial cairns in 2006.

Despite the 2012 permit violation and increasing public concern about construction on the documented burial site, Slawsky has been given the go-ahead to continue building by the provincial body responsible for protecting ancient remains under the heritage act.

Sides get face-to-face at Grace Islet
Sean McIntyre Gulf Islands Driftwood Ganges British Columbia Canada August 27, 2014

Right: Local MLA Gary Holman talks to Salt Spring RCMP Sgt. George Jenkins during Tuesday’s occupation, with Joe Akerman next to Holman and Murray Reiss also in the picture. Photo: Sean McIntyre/Driftwood Gulf Islands Media

The dispute over the contentious residential development on an islet in Ganges Harbour reached new heights on Tuesday morning as protesters bypassed “No Trespassing” signs, breached perimeter fencing and occupied part of the construction site.

“We thank everyone for being here,” said Chief Vern Jacks of the Tseycum First Nation, speaking to a crowd of nearly 40 onlookers who gathered on the house site. “Now it’s the government that has to move; the government has to move about Grace Islet.

“Before 150 years ago we were free people. We were buried anywhere we wanted. This is a spiritual thing for us and again thank you.”

Tuesday’s incident follows weeks of peaceful actions to raise awareness about Grace Islet, which First Nations groups consider a sacred burial site.

Paddlers support First Nations chiefs’ demand to stop construction on Grace Islet
Phil Vernon rabble.ca Canada August 28, 2014

On August 26, 40 paddlers and a few brave swimmers made their way to Grace Islet in Ganges Harbour, led by a 30 ft cedar dugout canoe from Cowichan Tribes. Holding hands and singing, they came to support demands by chiefs from seven local First Nations to stop construction of a luxury home on this sacred burial ground.

Led by Tseycum Chief Vern Jacks and together with members from the Cowichan, Musqueam and Kwakiutl First Nations, protectors of all ages from Salt Spring Island bore witness to the desecration of the ancient burial cairns, now encased in concrete in complete violation of the site alteration permit issued by the Archaeology Branch.

Chief Jacks gave voice to the outrage First Nations people feel at what is happening on the tiny islet, and of the great importance with which Coast Salish people hold the care of their ancestors on such burial islets. He thanked contractor Dave Yager of West Terra Construction for allowing access, and for the presence of Sgt. George Jenkins and Cpl. Martin Beardsmore of the Salt Spring RCMP.

Discussions then took place between the protectors, officers and contractor, with Saanich North and the Islands MLA Gary Holman calling on the RCMP to enforce the Heritage Conservation Act and put a halt to construction.

Meanwhile, the Penelakut First Nation, whose earlier request for a site inspection was turned down, has sent a detailed rebuttal of the Archaeology Branch’s claim that no breaches have occurred, calling once again upon Minister Steve Thomson to cancel the permit; while the office of the Deputy Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations confirmed they are seeking a meeting with the owner of Grace Islet, Barry Slawsky, before week’s end.

UBCIC open letter Re: Grace Islet burial grounds
UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS British Columbia Canada August 28, 2014

Dear Minister Thomson,

We are writing to register our utter disgust regarding the further desecration of First Nations burial grounds on Grace Islet. As previously demonstrated at cesna’əm in Musqueam territory the Province of BC is once again blatantly displaying a race-based attitude and wilful ignorance concerning the urgent need to protect First Nations burial sites.

Recent photos show clear evidence of cement foundations and walls built on top of three of the burial cairns. No charges have been laid for the violation of the permits. This is unacceptable and B.C. and your ministry in particular must take immediate action.

As Minister, you currently have the power to suspend, amend or cancel alteration permits in certain circumstances. With the Grace Islet dispute you have refused to use these powers while claiming that these grounds are technically not a cemetery under provincial law. This is especially concerning now more than ever in light of the recent Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in the Tsilhqot’in Title case. In this watershed case, the court granted the Tsilhqot’in Title to nearly one million acres of land based on use and occupation of the land prior to the establishment of Canada. Burial sites were recognized as part of the Title area. We are calling for all British Columbians to recognize that First Nation burial sites are owned by First Nations and that First Nations have duties under their own traditional laws to respect and protect their ancestors.

Furthermore, B.C. should stop stalling and work to conclude agreements with First Nations under Section 4 of the Heritage Conservation Act so First Nations can manage their sites whether these sites are on private lands or not.

Protection of First Nation burial sites at Grace Islet has increasing support from many citizens, groups and the Capital Region District. Funds are being raised to try and purchase the land. If the province would support these efforts, the conflict could be resolved at Grace Islet and provide a model for everyone working together.

It is a legal and moral imperative that provincial leaders move away from old prejudices that First Nation burial sites containing Human remains are less worthy of protection than settler cemeteries. It’s time to put protection of burial sites back into the hands of the people whose ancestors have been laid to rest at these sacred sites. It’s time for us all to work together to find solutions.

Posted at: August 29, 2014 - 9:31 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

August 28, 2014

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Business leaders (including financial sector CEOs) and crony capitalist, David Cameron, tell Scots to vote no in independence referendum; even more business leaders tell Scots to vote yes & Better Together campaign video patronizes female Scots nationalists

Scotland must look outwards to the world of opportunity that awaits us. A Yes vote is the business and jobs opportunity of a lifetime for this and future generations.” - From the open letter signed by 200 leaders of some of Scotland’s most productive companies. Update, August 29: Support for Scottish independence is gathering steam three weeks before the referendum, bringing victory tantalizing closer for the “Yes” camp after its decisive debate win and David Cameron’s attempt to make a business case for remaining in the UK. A poll for the Scottish Daily Mail newspaper released Friday showed that support for independence has surged by 4 percent, to 47 percent – just 6 percentage points behind the “No” campaign. The Survation poll found 47 percent of respondents would vote “Yes” to independence, compared to 53 percent who would vote “No,” excluding people who were undecided. Herald Scotland reports “Latest indy poll: Yes 42%, No 48%, Undecided 11%”:

Of the 1,001 Scottish residents over 16 who were surveyed, 47.6% said they were planning to vote No on September 18 – down from 50.3% three weeks ago, while support for independence rose from 37.2% to 41.6%.

The number of Scots still undecided fell from 12.5% to 10.8%. When those who are undecided are excluded from the research, support for No is at 53%, with Yes on 47%.

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond went head-to-head with No campaign leader Alistair Darling on the BBC on Monday and a snap poll suggested Mr Salmond took victory.

This appeared to be backed up by the latest survey, with a quarter (24.6%) saying they were more likely to vote Yes following the debate.

Commenting on the results of the latest poll, Yes Scotland chief executive Blair Jenkins said: “With only 20 campaigning days before the referendum, more and more people are waking up to the great opportunities of Yes to make Scotland’s vast wealth, talent and resources work better for all in a more prosperous and fairer country.

Better Together chief executive Blair McDougall said: “This is yet another poll showing that the majority of Scots want to keep the UK family together.” … “We can either take advantage of the security and opportunity that comes from being part of the UK. Or we can take a leap into the unknown with separation. It’s an irreversible decision that we need to think seriously about.”

Business leaders tell Scots to vote no in independence referendum
Martin Williams Guardian UK August 27, 2014


Yes campaign placards in Fenwick, Scotland. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

More than 120 business leaders have urged Scotland to vote no in next month’s referendum, saying the economic case for independence has not been sufficiently made.

In an open letter published in the Scotsman newspaper, they write: “As job creators, we have looked carefully at the arguments made by both sides of the debate. Our conclusion is that the business case for independence has not been made.”

Signatories include HSBC chairman Douglas Flint and Co-operative Bank CEO Niall Booker, as well as dozens of Scottish CEOs from business ranging from fish and whisky to technology and finance.

The letter says: “Uncertainty surrounds a number of vital issues including currency, regulation, tax, pensions, EU membership and support for our exports around the world; and uncertainty is bad for business.

“Today Scotland’s economy is growing. We are attracting record investment and the employment rate is high. We should be proud that Scotland is a great place to build businesses and create jobs – success that has been achieved as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

“The United Kingdom gives business the strong platform we must have to invest in jobs and industry. By all continuing to work together, we can keep Scotland flourishing.”

However, former Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Sir George Mathewson, has claimed that financial services in Scotland would flourish with independence. “There is nothing to suggest that being part of a smaller country hinders a financial services industry,” he said.

“Switzerland, for example, has – in Geneva and Zurich – not one, but two of the world’s top 10 financial centres. Singapore, with five million people, is ranked fourth. Investment is an increasingly global business, where success depends much more on people than on borders.”

Scottish referendum: David Cameron makes plea to voters
Nicholas Watt, Libby Brooks and Simon Goodley Guardian UK August 28, 2014

David Cameron will plead with Scottish voters on Thursday not to abandon one of the “oldest and most successful single markets in the world”, after the home secretary, Theresa May, highlighted nerves in the pro-union campaign, warning that it needed to redouble its efforts.

As the referendum campaign enters its final stage the prime minister will seek to warn wavering voters of the dangers of separating from the UK by raising the prospect that Scotland’s financial services could lose 90% of their business if voters endorsed independence on 18 September.

Cameron will acknowledge that questions over the economy lie at the heart of the referendum campaign when he says that key Scottish industries are underpinned by membership of the UK.

In a speech to the CBI Scotland conference in Glasgow, he will say that 90% of Scottish financial services’ customers live in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while Scotland’s computer gaming industry and its “cutting-edge sub-sea technology” benefit from selling across the UK without transaction costs.

His arrival comes as the Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, receives a boost from 200 business leaders who have signed a letter supporting independence. The signatories include Ralph Topping, the former chief executive of William Hill, and Tom Barrie, managing director of the logistics company Currie European.

Details of the letter emerged a day after 130 prominent business leaders, including the HSBC chairman Douglas Flint, signed an open letter warning that the case for Scottish independence had not been made.

Cameron will tell his audience: “This is one of the oldest and most successful single markets in the world. Scotland does twice as much trade with the rest of the UK than with the rest of the world put together – trade that helps to support one million Scottish jobs.

“For some industries, the proportion of trade with the rest of the UK is even higher – 90% of Scottish financial services’ customers are in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Then there’s the world-famous gaming industry, cutting-edge subsea technology and life-saving biomedicine – all selling far more outside Scotland than inside.

“This success doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because of the skill of people in Scotland and the opportunities that come from being part of something bigger, a large domestic market, underpinned by a common currency, common taxes, common rules and regulations, with no borders, no transaction costs, no restrictions on the flow of goods, investment or people. Ours really is an economy of opportunity.”

But Salmond will seek to build on momentum in the yes camp after the Better Together leader, Alistair Darling, struggled in their final televised debate on Monday night to name job-creating powers that Westminster would be prepared to devolve to Holyrood. The first minister will outline a range of such powers – including control over air passenger duty and employment policy – that would be guaranteed by independence, as he calls on the prime minister to make clear what powers Westminster is prepared to guarantee.

The first minister, who described Darling as “a frontman for the Conservative party”, will say: “Scotland is one of the richest countries in the world – wealthier per head than the UK, France and Japan, so we are more than capable of being an economically successful independent country …

200 business leaders sign up to say Yes to independence
Herald Scotland Scotland August 28, 2014

You can read the list from the link on this page.

A total of 200 business people have backed independence in an open letter that aims to counter warnings by 130 industry leaders the plans would be bad for trade.

Stagecoach chairman Sir Brian Souter, who has donated £1million to the Nationalists in the run-up to the referendum, engineering tycoon Jim McColl, the chairman and chief executive of Clyde Blowers, and Ralph Topping, the Scottish-based former chief executive of William Hill, lead the list of signatories to the document, which is published in today’s Herald.

Read the list here

Other high-profile figures on the list include the Michelin-starred Gleneagles-based chef Andrew Fairlie.

It declares that independence would give the country the powers “to give our many areas of economic strength even more of an advantage in an increasingly competitive world.”

It adds they would provide “more opportunities for our talented and determined young people to stay and succeed.”

Female indy supporters: New BT ad was patronising to women
Herald Scotland Scotland August 27, 2014

Female nationalists have criticised an “insulting” Better Together campaign video which they claim depicts Scottish women as “daft ditherers” who do not understand enough about the independence referendum.

The YouTube video features an actress voicing concerns about independence which Better Together say was drawn from the verbatim comments of women in focus groups and doorstep canvassing.

Better Together urges women to vote No not only for “the love of our country” but for “the love of our families”.

But Women For Independence say “the implication that a No vote is the only choice a mother should be making for her children is insulting”.

A spokeswoman said: “We think it’s disappointing that Better Together decided to portray Scotland’s women in this way.

“The narrative suggests that women who are still making up their minds how to vote don’t understand enough about the issues to arrive at an informed decision. That is not our experience.

“Women for Independence have spent the last two years listening to women, discussing what matters to them. They are thoughtful, intelligent and articulate.

“The polls show that when they do get helpful information they understand that this is our one opportunity to change their lives, and all our lives, for the better. That’s why more and more are moving to voting Yes.”

Kirsty Strickland, first-time mother to six-month-old Orla, has said: “The Better Together referendum broadcast was an absolute embarrassment.

“It portrayed women voters as daft ditherers who don’t understand the magnitude of the decision they have to make.

“The implication that a No vote is the only choice a mother should be making for her children is insulting.”

Launching the video yesterday, Better Together campaign director Blair McDougall said: “The key factor for people isn’t the love of our country – as both Yes and No voters love Scotland. The key factor is the love of our families.”

He added: “The words spoken in the film are taken verbatim from conversations on doorsteps with undecided women voters and from the opinion of women in dozens of focus groups around the country.

“With so many unanswered questions, more and more of us are coming to the decision that it is just too big a risk to take with our kids’ future.”

Posted at: August 28, 2014 - 3:54 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

New front opened in Ukraine’s civil war? It seems likely and militarily logical

It’s not yet all-out war between Russia and Ukraine, but there is no doubt that Ukrainian forces are now in direct combat with Russian troops on several fronts. Russia still officially denies all this, of course, but its denials are not meant to be believed. - Gwynne Dyer, a London-based independent Canadian journalist, syndicated columnist and military historian. He is a former senior lecturer at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Dyer writes a column on international affairs which is published in over 175 papers in at least 45 countries. In 2010, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Jim comment: In both Russia and Ukraine there is growing civil unrest and even signs of outright rebellion because of this war. Why is there next to none in Western Axis countries? The Axis precipitated this war and is fanning the flames of the horrific inferno. Many are dying; even more are suffering. Overmuch every day, eastern Ukraine looks like Dante’s Inferno. Come winter, so will western Ukraine.


Map: Population centers on the Sea of Azov. The Sea of Azov is a sea in southeastern Europe. It is linked by the narrow (about 4 km or 2.5 mi) Strait of Kerch to the Black Sea to the south and is bounded in the north by mainland Ukraine, in the east by Russia, and in the west by the Crimean Peninsula. The Sea of Azov is the shallowest sea in the world, with the depth varying between 0.9 meters (2 ft 11 in) and 14 meters (46 ft). Abundant plankton results in unusually high fish productivity. The sea shores and spits are low; they are rich in vegetation and bird colonies. Mariupol is a city in southeastern Ukraine, situated on the north coast of the Sea of Azov at the mouth of the Kalmius river. With a population of 492,176, it is the tenth-largest city in Ukraine and the second largest in the Donetsk Oblast. In Mariupol there are 56 industrial enterprises under various patterns of ownership. The industry of the city is diverse, among which the city’s heavy industry is dominant. Mariupol is home to major steel mills (including some globally important) and chemical plants; there is also an important seaport and a railroad junction.

It’s not yet all-out war between Russia and Ukraine—but it’s close
Gwynne Dyer Georgia Straight British Columbia Canada August 27, 2014

It is quite possible for soldiers to cross a frontier “by accident on an unmarked section,” and that is how Moscow explains the capture of a group of Russian paratroopers on Ukrainian territory last weekend.

Poor lambs, they just wandered across the border by mistake. When they get home, they’ll have to be sent on a refresher course in cross-country navigation.

The flaw in this story is that the 10 captured Russian soldiers, from the 331st Regiment of the 98th Guards Airborne Division, were caught in a group of unmarked vehicles 20 kilometres inside Ukraine.

That’s a third of the way from the Russian border to the besieged rebel city of Donetsk, and it’s really hard to explain away as a navigational error.

Besides, there is plenty of other evidence (though no other video interviews with captured Russian troops) to show that there is now a three-pronged Russian offensive underway in eastern Ukraine.

There are probably fewer than a thousand Russian regular army troops on Ukrainian territory at the moment, but their purpose is clearly to stop the collapse of the pro-Russian rebels and reverse the momentum in the ground war.

Last week the Ukrainian forces finally cut the last remaining road from Russia to the besieged city of Luhansk, shortly after a large convoy of Russian trucks violated Ukrainian sovereignty and drove up that road to deliver “humanitarian” aid to the city. The rebel forces have now launched a counter-offensive to reopen the road, and Russian self-propelled artillery units have entered Ukraine in the Krasnodon area to support their attacks.

Another Russian force, including tanks, crossed the border on August 24 50 kilometres south of Donetsk, the capital of the other rebel province, and is trying to open a corridor to that city. (The captured paratroopers were part of that force, which is currently stalled near Ilovaisk.) And on August 25 a column of Russian armour crossed into Ukraine well to the south, heading west along the coast of the Sea of Azov towards the port city of Mariupol.

Ukraine says Russian forces lead major new offensive in east
New York Times/CNBC USA August 27, 2014

NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine — Tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia into an unbreached part of eastern Ukraine in recent days, attacking Ukrainian forces and causing panic and wholesale retreat not only in this small border town but a wide swath of territory, in what Ukrainian and Western military officials are calling a stealth invasion.

The attacks outside this city and in an area to the north essentially have opened a new, third front in the war in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, along with the fighting outside the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.


Smoke rises during shelling in the town of Novoazovsk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Photo: Sergei Grits/AP

Exhausted, filthy and dismayed, Ukrainian soldiers staggering out of Novoazovsk for safer territory said Tuesday that the forces coming from Russia had treated them like cannon fodder. As they spoke, tank shells whistled in from the east and exploded nearby.

Some of the retreating Ukrainian soldiers appeared unwilling to fight. The commander of their unit, part of the 9th Brigade from Vinnytsia, in western Ukraine, barked at the men to turn around, to no effect. “All right,” the commander said. “Anybody who refuses to fight, sit apart from the others.” Eleven men did, while the others returned to the city.

Others were in a full, chaotic retreat: a city bus load of them careened past headed west, purple curtains flapping through windows shot out by gunfire.

Putin’s stealth war causes retreat by Ukrainian soldiers
Douglas Ernst The Washington Times USA August 27, 2014

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stealth war of attrition may be paying off. As evidence mounts that pro-Russian separatists are being supplied with new weapons from across the border, some Ukrainian soldiers are now refusing to fight.

In Novoazovsk, a Ukrainian unit staring down tanks, artillery and infantry personnel responded to shelling by sitting down, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The newspaper said that the presence Russian troops in the northern border town of Novoazovsk constitutes a “third front” in the battle for control over eastern Ukraine.

“Russia is clearly trying to put its finger on the scale to tip things back in favor of its proxies,” a senior American official told The Times. “Artillery barrages and other Russian military actions have taken their toll on the Ukrainian military.”

‘No Russian troops in Ukraine’: Moscow’s OSCE rep responds to Kiev’s claims
RT Russia August 28, 2014

The OSCE was told there was no Russian presence spotted across the Ukraine border, refuting Thursday’s claims that a full-scale invasion was underway. Both the Ukrainian monitoring team head and Russia’s representative have given a firm ‘no.’

The chorus of allegations about Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine had President Poroshenko calling for an emergency meeting of the country’s security and defense council, while Prime Minister Yatsenyuk on Thursday called for a Russian asset freeze.

No actual evidence has been given by either foreign governments or the media, apart from claims that photographs exist that someone had “seen.”

The Russian representative to the OSCE Andrey Kelin, meanwhile, has given a firm response to the allegations, saying that “we have said that no Russian involvement has been spotted, there are no soldiers or equipment present.”

Below: Shades of the International Brigades? The International Brigades were military units made up of volunteers from different countries, who traveled to Spain to fight for the Second Spanish Republic against the fascist rebel forces in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939.

Only Russian volunteers fighting with anti-Kiev forces – Donetsk Republic leader
RT Russia August 28, 2014

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About 3-4,000 Russian citizens joined anti-government fighters during Kiev crackdown in Ukraine’s east, says the leader of Donetsk independent republic, noting that self-defense fighters have never concealed this fact.

“They [Russian volunteers] are among us, people of Donbass [Region, eastern Ukraine] because we are blood brothers,” said the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, in an interview to Russian media.

“There is no secret that among the volunteers from Russia there are many military men. They are fighting together with us because they understand that it’s their duty,” he added.

According to the Donetsk PM, some of the volunteers returned home to Russia, others stayed in eastern Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, some of [the Russian volunteers] were killed,” said Zakharchenko.

He explained why he thinks Russian volunteers are joining self-defense forces in eastern Ukraine.

“I think that only among Russians is there a heightened feeling of sorrow and human misfortune, only they are able to travel to any part of the world, die, fight for the independence and freedom of people.”

Pryazovia is a geographic area and a historical region in southeastern Ukraine. It consists of southern part of Donetsk Oblast, Zaporizhia Oblast, eastern part of Kherson Oblast. The western part of Rostov Oblast in Russia could also be claimed as a part of broader Northern Pryzovia. There is a large number of Greek-speaking people in Mariupol and many Greek-speaking villages in the region. Below two dispatches from today’s wire:

15:01 GMT:
Greece has decided to temporarily relocate its general consulate in Ukraine from Mariupol to Dnepropetrovsk due to “the worsening of security in the city,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry also stressed that it remains “in constant communication with the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine in order to ensure the safety of the representatives of the Greek Diaspora living in the country,” the Itar-Tass news agency reports.

Mariupol is currently under the control of government troops, who are preparing to take on the advancing anti-Kiev forces.

14:36 GMT:
The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting at 14:00 New York time (18:00 GMT) on Thursday over claims that Russian troops “have been brought” into Ukraine.

Russia will be asked to explain why its soldiers are in Ukraine, said Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Grant said that he personally has no doubts that reports of over 1,000 Russian troops fighting on the side of the anti-Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine are true.

Posted at: August 28, 2014 - 9:09 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

August 27, 2014

In the offing? Maybe, but a Saudi-Iranian thaw will take time

The interpretation that comes readily to mind regarding the visit to Riyadh by the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian to Riyadh and his talks on Tuesday with the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal would be that a thaw is in the offing in the ties between the two countries.

Saudi-Iranian thaw will take time
M K Bhadrakumar Indian Punchline India August 27, 2014

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The interpretation that comes readily to mind regarding the visit to Riyadh by the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian and his talks on Tuesday with the Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal would be that a thaw is in the offing in the ties between the two countries.

The time for a thaw may appear propitious. The surge of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] is a matter of concern to both Tehran and Riyadh and, arguably, they have a shared interest in countering the tidal wave of extremism and terrorism sweeping Iraq and Syria.

Certainly, Iran played a key role in the replacement of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which also happened to be a long-standing Saudi demand — although Tehran had its own weighty reasons to promote the transition in Baghdad.

Most certainly, Iran is working hard for a national unity government in Baghdad, which is inclusive and would accommodate Sunni aspirations and preserve Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity, as the recent visit to Iraq by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Iraq testifies. The Saudis have been clamoring for an inclusive approach in Iraqi politics.

Again, make no mistake, Iran aspires to be a factor of stability in Iraq. Zarif’s consultations in Iraq displayed the spectacular reach of Iranian influence in Iraq — be it in Erbil, Baghdad, Najaf or Karbala.

Thus, it may come as no surprise that the Iranian account of Abdollahian’s consultations with Faisal is on a manifestly positive note, highlighting their commonality of interests on the grave issues buffeting regional security in the Middle East today. IRNA says the two diplomats “stressed the importance of opening new page in the political relations between the two countries.” (here).

However, there is no word in the report about the languishing invitation from Faisal in May to Zarif to visit Saudi Arabia. Zarif has been extensively touring the Gulf Cooperation Council region but has studiously sidestepped Saudi Arabia so far. (Zarif is currently in Ankara on his second visit to Turkey in, perhaps, as many months.)

Indeed, the Saudi-Iranian tango is never quite visible to the naked eye. What is extremely significant is that even as Faisal was holding Abdollahian’s hand in Riyadh, Tehran let it be known in a characteristically roundabout way quoting ’sources’ that the Israeli spy drone that Iran shot down on Monday had only flown from a Saudi air base.

A senior Iranian commander from the Revolutionary Guards claimed, here, that Tehran spotted the spy drone even as it took off but deliberately let it cross the border with a view to monitor its flight path and identify the ‘targets’ that would excite the Israeli engagement. (The prime ‘target’ turned out to be Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment centre.)

Of course, Tehran has threatened Israel with retaliation — but then, it has ignored Israel’s Saudi partner as unworthy of such high consideration. The Iranian reaction has been very sharp — “Our response to this aggression will not be diplomatic, we will retaliate in the battlefield, but will not necessarily announce it. The enemy will see and understand it.” (here).

What could it be? Quite possibly, Iran may now upgrade the transfer of missile technology to Hamas and bring it on par with the Hezbollah so that a kind of ’strategic parity’ is reached in Palestine, too — like on the Lebanon-israel front.

There is no suggestion in the media reports that Abdollahian had any word with Faisal specifically regarding the Saudi complicity in the affair of the ill-fated Israeli spy drone. Simply put, it is not the Iranian style to be blunt — unlike the Gulf Arabs.

The intricate pantomime playing out in Tehran and Riyadh only goes to show that an enduring ‘thaw’ is hard to achieve in a short term between the two ancient adversaries. There is a fundamental contradiction in the Saudi-Iranian relationship insofar as Iran’s rise as regional power, its normalization with the Western world, its integration with the world community, its full-fledged entry into the world energy market that is imminent, its economic and technological regeneration that will follow once the sanctions are lifted, its support of the stirrings of the ‘Arab Spring’ — all these are antithetical to Saudi interests. Put differently, Iran’s rise ‘diminishes’ Saudi Arabia — its clout as America’s number one regional ally — and Iran’s emergence as an Islamic democracy rattles the Saudi nerves.

The collaboration with Israel on a dangerous intelligence operation directed against vital Iranian nuclear installations only goes to show the Saudi intentions to try a little bit harder to ‘contain’ Iran despite the collapse of the US’s 3-decade old containment strategy as such.

So, why did Abdollahian undertake the mission to Riyadh? Clearly, yesterday’s Saudi-Iranian consultations were scheduled in advance. The curious part is that Faisal, who is reputed to be an implacable hardliner on Shi’ite Iran, would most certainly have known about the invasive flight by the Israeli spy drone into the Iranian air space on the very same day Abdollahian emplaned from Tehran to meet him in Riyadh.

Posted at: August 27, 2014 - 2:44 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

US flags China as a maritime outlaw

The latest government-linked think tank report out of Washington adds the legal justification to the doctrinal imperatives and operational tactics already in place in the argument that Beijing must be confronted as an outlaw in its dispute over Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. Taken together, these elements signal that real muscle will be flexed sooner than later in the South China Sea.

China as an EEZ outlaw in the South China Sea
Peter Lee China Matters Canada August 22, 2014

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A think tank called CNA recently issued a 140 page report titled “China versus Vietnam: An Analysis of the Competing Claims in the South China Sea” authored by Raul (Pete) Pedrozo. It provides a further legal rationale for growing US efforts to inject itself into South China Sea EEZ disputes on behalf of Vietnam and against the PRC.

A few reasons why attention should be paid.

First, the institution.

CNA is described as a non-profit corporation. A fuller description would be a “US Navy analytic division dating to 1942 that works exclusively for and is funded exclusively by the US government but was corporatized in the 1990s so it could dip its beak into non-DoD government work through a division called the Institute for Public Research”.

You could say that “CNA” stands for “Center for Naval Analyses”, the name of its antecedent organization. But you’d be wrong, according to CNA, in a “note to reporters and editors”: CNA is not an acronym and is correctly referenced as “CNA Corporation, a non-profit research and analysis organization located in Arlington, VA.”

So, consider CNA a meaningless collection of letters for a center that does analyses for the Navy and Marine Corps, whose main job is studying systems, tactical, and strategic issues for the USN and USMC. It has one unique regional focus, a “China Studies” division of 20 or so in-house analysts buttressed by “an extensive network of subject-matter experts from universities, government, and the private sector from around the world”.

Second, the author, a “subject-matter expert”, Captain Pedrozo:

Captain Raul (Pete) Pedrozo, U.S. Navy (Ret.). Former Professor of International Law, U.S. Naval War College; Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Pacific Command; and Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Fans of PRC maritime disputes are or should be quite familiar with the work of Captain Pedrozo.

When the PRC harassed the US naval survey vessel USNS Impeccable in 2009 and tried to assert that military surveillance inside the PRC EEZ was a violation of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, Captain Pedrozo produced highly important opinions, Close Encounters at Sea: the USNS Impeccable Incident and Preserving Navigational Rights and Freedoms: The Right to Conduct Military Activities in China’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

In these documents, Captain Pedrozo made a point of declaring that the USNS Impeccable was not engaged in any sort of anodyne mapping exercises, but was actually [conducting] military surveillance against PLAN subs, thereby exempting the Impeccable from any UNCLOS obligations to butt out of the PRC EEZ. This argument, judging by the recent dispatch of a PLAN surveillance into the US EEZ during RIMPAC, has apparently won the PRC’s acceptance.

Captain Pedrozo’s arguments that the PRC was improperly threatening legal military (not commercial) activities inside the PRC EEZ provided the basis for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s declaration at ASEAN in 2010 that the US had a national interest in protecting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and got the whole “pivot to Asia” ball rolling.

Captain Pedrozo, it is safe to say, is a big gun in the anti-PRC lawfare arsenal. In passing, it should be noted he is no friend of the PRC or its maritime pretensions.

Rather amusingly, in 2012 he recommended against against the US government concluding a agreement with the PRC to guard against collisions of naval vessels, largely on the novel grounds that it would encourage what might be termed “excessive Chinese uppitiness”:

[A]lthough an INCSEA [Incidents at Sea] agreement could, in theory, reduce the possibility of miscalculation during un-alerted sea encounters between U.S. and Chinese naval and air forces, there are many reasons that the United States should not pursue such an arrangement. First, unlike the Soviet Navy, the PLA Navy is not a “blue water” navy with global reach and responsibilities. Elevating the PLA Navy to such a stature would not be in the best interests of the United States… [A]n INCSEA agreement with the PRC would significantly enhance the stature of the PLA Navy by suggesting it was a naval power on par with U.S. and former Soviet Navies . It would also force the U.S. Navy to treat the PLA Navy as an equal, something which it clearly is not.

Rather less amusingly and, I suppose, considerably more significantly, lack of an INCSEA agreement also will increase US Navy latitude in peremptorily brushing aside PLAN ships during the maritime confrontations that, if advocates of a more forward US military posture in PRC’s maritime sphere prevail, will becoming more and more common in the upcoming years.

So, despite US government policy of not taking sides in SCS sovereignty issue, US government think tank tasks top Navy lawyer to investigate the issue, and he comes up with his own revisionist take on the dubious issue, assigning sovereignty to the Vietnamese for islands the PRC “will never leave”.

Whassup?

In any case, elements within the US government/think tank universe have developed 1) the legal justification (the Pedrozo analysis) 2) the doctrinal imperative (what I call the Whitehouse Doctrine) and 3) the operational tactics (“paramilitarization”) to confront the PRC as an EEZ outlaw in the South China Sea.

How and when this strategy is implemented is now a matter of speculation only. But, as PRC strength waxes and the US government sees its window of opportunity for effective rollback inexorably closing in the South China Sea, I think something will happen sooner rather than later.

Posted at: August 27, 2014 - 2:03 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Harper again raises spectre of Russian threat in speech to troops & NATO chief eyes more bases in E. Europe to confront Russia


Six CF-18 Hornets from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron take off from Bagotville, Quebec on April 29, 2014 to fly to Romania as part of Canada’s contribution to NATO’€™s reassurance measures in order to ‘promote security and stability’ in Eastern and Central Europe. Photo: NATO

Harper again raises spectre of Russian threat in speech to troops
Steve Rennie CP/National Newswatch Canada August 26, 2014

BAFFIN ISLAND, Nunavut – An emboldened Russia is a threat to it neighbours in the Arctic and Canada must be ready to respond to any Russian incursions in the region, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday as he ended his yearly tour of Canada’s North.

In a chest-thumping address to troops who took part in a series of military manoeuvres off the coast of Baffin Island, Harper spoke of how Canada must never drop its guard in the face of growing Russian aggression.

“In Europe, we see the imperial ambitions of Vladimir Putin, who seems determined that, for Russia’s neighbours, there shall be no peace…,” Harper said.

“And because Russia is also Canada’s neighbour, we must not be complacent here at home.”

The prime minister told military personnel they would always be needed to fend off threats to Canada in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world.

“As we look at the world around us today, we see growing threats in a growing number of places and the growing strength of people who disdain democracy, despise modernity and kill people who don’t share their religion,” Harper said.

“People who, given even a sliver of a chance, would destroy everything that we, as Canadians, hold dear and have repeatedly fought to protect.”

Related: Below: Renee Parsons was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and a lobbyist on nuclear energy issues with Friends of the Earth. in 2005, she was elected to the Durango City Council and served as Councilor and Mayor. Currently, she is a member of the Treasure Coast ACLU Board.

NATO – New York Times convoy fabrications
Renee Parsons CounterPunch USA August 25, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

On Saturday, the entire humanitarian convoy of 227 trucks crossed back into Russia without incident after having successfully delivered its contents to the Luhansk distribution center. The unwavering round trip project from Russia surmounted considerable bureaucratic delays and political obstacles including wild assertions that the convoy’s true purpose was to ‘smuggle weapons’ to the east Ukraine rebels.

Amidst a multitude of frenzied claims from the Kiev government and its western allies that the convoy was intent on fomenting violence and escalating the conflict as it constituted an ‘illegal incursion” and ‘violated the sovereignty of Ukraine,” the trucks peacefully avoided any confrontation with Ukraine military forces by taking advantage of back roads.

Given the very urgent need to provide immediate medical relief and other life necessities to Ukraine citizens, what has been especially noteworthy during the ten day period in which the Russian convoy was stalled at the border is the extent to which the Kiev government and its EU/US/NATO partners would go to impede a convoy carrying humanitarian supplies.

Now that the mission has been successfully completed without any of the predicted dire consequences, the considerable amount of egg on the collective public faces of its opponents who deliberately provoked an unnecessary combative situation would normally be cause for considerable public embarrassment; yet will be easily overlooked by an obedient submissive media. Obviously, the leaders of the western triumvirate were fully conscious of the fact that the convoy was totally dedicated for humanitarian purposes but sought to use the convoy as part of the larger goal of sowing the seeds of distrust and hostility toward Russia and toward Vladimir Putin in particular. Deepening public enmity towards Putin and eroding his reputation as a world leader is essential for the next chapter in Ukraine – that is the take-back of Crimea, after the defeat of the east Ukraine rebels.

With an irresponsible pen more committed to reiterating the Obama Administration’s public relations campaign than journalism, the New York Times again failed in its role as guardian of the truth allowing inaccurate exaggerations and entirely false anecdotes to masquerade as news.

While relying on the usual unnamed, unspecified vague “intelligence reports from several alliance members,” the Times categorically stated that “Russia … escalated tensions with Ukraine…, sending more than 200 trucks from a long-stalled aid convoy and, NATO said, conducting military operations on Ukrainian territory.”

Curiously, the Times article is a somewhat odd, overlapping mixture of reference to the humanitarian convoy interwoven in a story about an alleged Russian military incursion as if the existence of the convoy somehow confirms that a military intrusion has occurred while strangely suggesting that “200 trucks” had something to do with ‘conducting military operations’.

According to the Times “NATO officials said that the Russian military had moved artillery units inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and was using them to fire at Ukrainian forces” and yet the Times reporters did not cite any of NATO’s proof that such artillery movement had occurred or how NATO could confirm that the artillery was firing at Ukrainian forces. In other words, NATO could say that the Moon is made of blue cheese and the Times would run the news in their Food section.

The basis for the assertions were a series of quotes from their favorite prattler NATO Secretary General Rasmussen who insisted (despite a total lack of verification) that “There has been “a major escalation in Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces” and “Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces.” Again, the amazingly-incurious Times reporters dutifully wrote whatever they were told with no independent confirmation or analysis.

So as the Times not only included unsubstantiated, circumstantial quotes as fact but Mr. Rasmussen’s acknowledgment that he “did not say how many Russian artillery pieces had moved into Ukraine or where they were located, but one [unidentified] Western official said the number of Russian-operated artillery units was “substantial.”

Until finally, buried at the end of the lengthy article “There were no signs of Russian military vehicles or any other indications of an armed escort by Russian troops.”

NATO chief eyes more bases in E. Europe to confront Russia
RT Russia August 27, 2014


NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Photo: Laurent Dubrule/Reuters

Under the pretext of an ‘overt’ Russian threat, NATO is pushing for a ‘readiness action plan’ that will bring the Cold War military bloc closer to Russian borders than ever – even despite objections from some NATO members.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the 28-nation military bloc, which meets next week in Cardiff, Wales, would attempt to overcome internal opposition and agree to the deployment of military bases near the Russian border.

Amid the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, which is fracturing the country along east-west ideological lines, NATO is preparing to install for the first time military “reception facilities” in Eastern European countries, including Poland and the three Baltic countries: Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

“We have something already called the NATO response force, whose purpose is to be able to be deployed rapidly if needed,” Rasmussen said in an interview with several European newspapers. “Now it’s our intention to develop what I would call a spearhead within that response force at very, very, high readiness. In order to be able to provide such rapid reinforcements you also need some reception facilities in host nations. So it will involve the pre-positioning of supplies, of equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters.”


British Foreign Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs William Hague (L) and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (R) unveil the logo for the upcoming NATO summit in Wales during a family photo of NATO Foreign Affairs ministers at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 25, 2014. Photo: AFP

The bottom line, according to the NATO chief, is that there will be “a more visible NATO presence in the east.”

Asked whether there would be permanent NATO presence in Eastern Europe, he said, “The brief answer is ‘yes’. To prevent misunderstanding, I use the phrase ‘for as long as necessary’. Our eastern allies will be satisfied when they see what is actually in the readiness action plan.”

Rasmussen, whose term expires on September 30, said the new NATO forces in Eastern Europe could be “deployed within hours.”

Needless to say, NATO’s militarization of the region will not sit well with Moscow, which has watched with increasing alarm since the collapse of the Soviet Union – despite pledges from the Western military bloc not to expand further east – as NATO continues its march towards Russia’s western border.

Currently, the Polish port city of Szczecin, which military experts anticipate will serve as one of NATO’s new “reception facilities,” represents NATO’s easternmost military presence.

Ironically, NATO’s latest enlargement plans are being opposed not just by Russia, but by its very members, some of whom do not see the point in aggravating tensions with Moscow.

It should come as no surprise that the United States and the United Kingdom, distant as they are from any potential fireworks on the European-Russian border, favor a military escalation in Eastern Europe. Other major NATO members, however, including France, Spain and Italy, have expressed serious reservations to the plans.

Meanwhile, Germany, NATO’s second strongest member, remains uncommitted to the expansion plans.

This should come as no surprise considering the recent deterioration in relations between Washington and Berlin.

Two NATO warships heading to Black Sea – report
RT Russia August 26, 2014


The guided-missile destroyer USS Ross. Photo: US Navy/AFP

A US Navy destroyer and a French frigate are expected to enter the waters of the Black Sea next week, a diplomatic and military source said.

“Two NATO warships at once will arrive in the Black Sea on September 3. They are US Navy’s destroyer USS Ross and frigate, Commandant Birot, of the naval forces of France,” the unnamed source told RIA-Novosti news agency.

There’s currently one NATO ship present in the Black Sea, with French surveillance ship, Dupuy de Lome, expected to remain in the area until September 5.

USS Vella Gulf, which was patrolling the black Sea since August 7, recently left for its port of commission.

The maintenance of the operational rotational presence of NATO ships does not promote stability in the Black Sea region in any way, the source noted.

According to the Montreux Convention of 1936, warships of non-Black Sea states can stay in the Black Sea for no more than 21 days.

But, earlier this year, the convention was violated by American frigate USS Taylor, which exceeded the authorized time limit by 11 days, the source said.

In July this year, the grouping of NATO ships in the Black Sea reached nine units, setting a record for the post-Soviet period.

Russia’s Putin says military escalation won’t solve Ukraine crisis
Alexei Anishchuk Thomson Reuters Canada/UK August 26, 2014


Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with high-ranked officials representing Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the European Union in Minsk, August 26, 2014. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin/RIA Novosti/Reuters

MINSK (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday the crisis in Ukraine could not be solved by a further military escalation or without dialogue with representatives of the country’s Russian-speaking eastern regions.

“We are convinced that today, (the Ukraine crisis) cannot be solved by further escalation of the military scenario, without taking into account vital interests of the south-eastern regions of the country and without a peaceful dialogue with its representatives,” Putin said.

Posted at: August 27, 2014 - 8:37 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post