Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Smoking gun: South Korea finds North Korea hacking codes — Russia reads Obama’s email — Nobody reads Hillary’s email

April 26, 2015

Seoul, South Korea (CNN)On March 20, 2013, a cyberattack brought chaos to several banks and media outlets in South Korea.

Then more ominously on December 23 last year, computers at the country’s nuclear operator were breached. Again cybercrime was suspected.

On the way home from work in South Korea banking computers and other internet systems were shut down due to a hacker attack.

The source of these attacks? North Korea. And South Korean investigators say they have proof — the actual malicious codes used in the attacks. They shared this data with CNN.

The 2013 attack, known as “Dark Seoul,” paralyzed an estimated 48,000 computers at a number of major banks and broadcasters, disrupting network systems and wiping their hard disks clean.

A man walks by a sign July 5 at Cyber Terror Response Center of National Police Agency in Seoul, South Korea.

A man walks by a sign July 5 at Cyber Terror Response Center of National Police Agency in Seoul, South Korea. (Lee Jin-man / AP)

“It would try to delete essentially all your files… then restart the system. You would come back up and nothing would be there,” Joshua James, a digital forensic expert, told CNN.

“If it infected more financial systems, it could have deleted all financial data in Korea. I mean, it is dangerous,” the visiting professor at Chuncheon’s Hallym University added.

ATM machines are idle in South Korea as bank’s computer networks were paralyzed in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 20, 2013.  (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Live footage of the breaches showed computer screens at the media companies completely down, while bank customers were unable to make withdrawals, or transfer money online.

Armistice announcement

“Dark Seoul” happened shortly after the North Korean government announced it would end the armistice agreement that brought the three-year Korean War to an end in July 1953 amid growing tensions with its neighbor.

The latest high-profile digital incursion, in December, attempted to steal data from South Korea’s nuclear operator, including plant blueprints and personnel information. Though investigators said no critical data was stolen, the attack raised serious concerns about the safety and security of the 23 nuclear power plants it runs.

The attack itself was described by James as a “spear-fishing” exercise where unsuspecting victims — retired and current employees of the nuclear operator — were prompted to open up a disguised document in their email.

“As soon as you double click on it, it starts running in the background of your computer where you can’t see … it’s also trying to open up your computer — what we call a back door — to give access to the infected system by the attacker,” he told CNN.

The attack, which James said was simpler than “Dark Seoul,” came just a few days after Sony Pictures said their systems has been “hacked,” another attack the South Korean authorities blamed on North Korea.

READ: North Korea denies Sony hack

Proving who did it

“From a law enforcement or investigation side, we’re trying to actually trace back to who did it,” said James.

Seoul announced in mid-March that some of the IP addresses used in December incursion could be traced back to Shenyang, China, which can be easily accessed from the North Korean border. Codes used in the attack were said to be similar in pattern to those used by the North Koreans, South Korean authorities said.

“The malicious codes used in the attack were same in composition and working methods as “Kimsuky” codes known to be used by North Korea,” the prosecutor’s office that leads 17 other government agencies and Internet companies in the investigation said in the statement in March.

Pyongyang has dismissed the claims it launched these attacks, calling them a “plot and fabrication that can never win over the truth.”

But many experts say North Korea appears to be investing more in cyberwarfare because it is cheaper than spending on conventional weapons and can cause significant economic damage to its southern rival. Indeed South Korea’s Defense Ministry estimates that North Korea is operating a “cyberarmy” of 6,000 workers as it focuses on strengthening its asymmetrical warfare capability.

“Hacks are going on all the time, constantly — though how many actually make the news is a very small amount,” said James.

“How many are detected in general? I think the average person would have no clue they’ve been hacked.

“Organizations need to invest the same amount that hackers are investing to protect themselves and right now they’re not,” he added.

Many in South Korea believe not enough effort is being put into defending against cyberattacks. A report by the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, a government-funded think tank, estimates that “Dark Seoul” caused about $820 million worth of damage.

Its report, published in 2014, predicted that by 2020, South Korea could be exposed to hacking attacks causing up to $25 billion in economic damage.

READ: NSA will lead fight against future hacks

Includes videos:



White House

Officials quoted by the New York Times say that the White House cyberspace intrusion in October was viewed as a serious security breach

News For Obama Email

Russian hackers who gained access to the White House computer system last year were able to read President Obama’s unclassified emails, the New York Times has reported.

It said the breach was far more intrusive than previously admitted.

Officials have conceded that sensitive information was in the unclassified system the hackers accessed.

The discovery of the hacking in October led to a partial shutdown of the White House email system.

Highly secure

“The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly,” the New York Times said.

“But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received.”

The paper quoted White House officials as saying that no classified networks were compromised, and that the hackers accessed no classified information.

Many senior officials have two computers in their offices, one which works on a highly secure classified network and another for unclassified communications, the paper said.

But it said that officials have conceded that the unclassified system often contains information that is considered highly sensitive, including schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, debate about policy and forthcoming personnel deployments and legislation.

 President Obama uses his Blackberry mobile phone (18 October 2010)
The hackers are not believed to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr Obama’s BlackBerry


From The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.

The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.

But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.

White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised….

Read the rest:



News for Hillary Clinton

John Boehner said he is thinking about holding a full house, to vote for an order for, Hillary Clinton to attend court, in regards to she not releasing who her email server is. Boehner’s argument was formulated in a previous interview with Bloomberg Politics, where he stated Clinton, broke the law.

Clinton broke the law according to Boehner because she is not using her own server to do handle personal business matters. Recently Clinton has used a private email server after Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), when he changed the number of court hearings she needed to attend from one to two. Clinton’s lawyer responded to Gowdy in a letter stating Clinton answer all of the questions about her use of email, but Gowdy refused to accept the response.

Boehner is trying to accuse Clinton for breaking the law, during her run for the 2016 election.


Her campaign has been stirring everyone’s anger because they have postponed the release of the Benghazi report to be released right before the election….

By Krystle Mitchell


IJ Review

Obama Presidency: America’s Global Foreign Policy In Dangerous Disarray — Hillary Clinton and John Kerry Will Leave a Mess for The Next Administration

April 25, 2015

Hillary Clinton with the Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, at the Apec summit, November 12 and 13, 2011. Since this photo was taken, experts believe China has been in the process of creating up to eight military bases in the South China Sea on tiny islets China may not “own” due to territorial disputes and claims from other nations.

 (The Philippine Star) |

How much the world has changed since the US unveiled its “pivot to Asia” strategy at the dawn of the Obama presidency.

At that time, it seemed to Washington that the war in Afghanistan was surely winding down. The great questions in the Middle East were just about solved. Africa was getting along quite well, pulling itself up by its bootstraps. Europe was in post-Cold War peace. Latin America was well past the ancient leftist insurgencies that bedeviled the continent in the last century.

What better conditions could there be to heed Lee Kuan Yew’s advice to the US: that the last superpower must be part of Asia to be part of this new century.

“Pivot to Asia” was a comprehensive strategy to ride the crest of the surging economies of the western Pacific, manage China’s emergence as an economic superpower by linking closely with it and iron out the remaining flashpoints in this part of the world so obsessed with the business of business.

This was, to be sure, much more than just a slight shift in military strategy – although it was that in large part.

The military component of the strategy involved containing the erratic behavior of North Korea that threatened neighboring South Korea and Japan. It likewise involved managing tensions at the Taiwan straits, guiding Myanmar back to the mainstream of regional affairs, ensuring the accessibility of the vital sea routes through the Malacca strait and up the South China Sea. It also involved terminating the remaining insurgencies, two of them in the Philippines.

No major challenge here, nothing that could not be thought through. The US simply had to show the flag and apply more proactive diplomacy.  The Pacific Century was moving along pretty much like the experts predicted.

Then things began changing.

In Europe, Russia began behaving badly. After a brief war with Georgia that won Russia some territory, tensions between the faded superpower and Ukraine simply flared after the pro-Russian government was expelled by a popular uprising. We know what happened since then.

Over those same years, several Eurozone countries began running into financial difficulty. Greece needed a bailout. Other economies teetered. The viability of the common currency has come under serious doubt.

Then the so-called “Arab Spring” happened. Tunisia, then Libya, then Egypt, saw successful uprisings.  The endings were not happy.

Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo September 11, 2012. Egyptian protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy, tore down the American flag and burned it during a protest. The U/S. State Department attributed the unrest to a video produced in the United States that insulted Prophet Mohammad. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The Libyan Revolution fueled much hopefulness about the possibility of democratization in a society held together for decades only by the brutality of an authoritarian regime. That did not come about. Libya today has pretty much broken up into little tribal enclaves at war with each other.

Worse, the chaos of a failed state proved to be fertile ground for the rapidly spreading radical Islamic movements. Libya is now in a worse condition than it was under Kaddafi.

Egypt, after its own revolution, voted into office the Islamic Brotherhood – the pioneer in Islamic radicalism, causing it to be banned for decades. Eventually, the military overthrew the elected government and Egypt has since been under martial rule.

When the Saddam Hussein regime was overthrown in the course of a US-led invasion, the world somehow hoped Iraq would limp its way to democracy. Instead, the old lines of enmity between the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds simply reappeared. Today, Iraq is really three nations pretending to be one. A large part of it has been overrun by radical fighting units of the Islamic State.

Inspired by the spirit of the “Arab Spring,” Syrians began protesting against the brutal Assad regime. The protests were brutally crushed. Syria has since been in a bloody civil war for the last four years. In the intense passions and boundless chaos of that civil war, Al Qaeda began to take root. Later, a much more virulent strain of Islamic radicalism, the Islamic State, attracted support.

As the Syrian civil war ground to a bloody stalemate, the fighting units of the largely Sunni Islamic State swung to the south and overrun much of northern Iraq. They took over important oilfields and refineries, commandeered to raise funds for the radical movement.

Islamic radicalism took firmer hold in Pakistan while the Taliban was dislodged in neighboring Afghanistan. Both countries now seem ready to become a reinvigorated theater for terrorist attacks.

As trouble brewed all around her, Iran began playing a more assertive role. Tehran supported the Shiite forces in Iraq now battling the Sunni-based Islamic State. Yemen has recently opened up a new front of civil war driven both by tribalism and Islamic radicalism.

President Xi Jinping (right) meets his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rowhani in Jakarta on Thursday, April 23, 2015. Photo: Xinhua

The whole spread of Sub-Saharan Africa, from Somalia to Nigeria, saw the rising power of radical Islamic groups from the el Shabaab to the Boko Haram. This produced major incidents of terrorism and mass murder from Kenya to Nigeria.

Sub-Saharan Africa could become a large battlefield for the war against terror.

Because of all these developments, America’s “pivot to Asia” appears to have been shelved — or at least very much diminished in urgency. The US is scrambling badly to play a stabilizing role in the Middle East and in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Washington, too, is preoccupied with keeping Putin’s Russia in check and establishing a more viable relationship with Iran, which has been threatening to assemble some nuclear weapons capability. The US military is contemplating putting boots on the ground in war-ravaged Iraq. The Syrian puzzle remains irresolvable even as it takes a terrible human toll daily.

The US is again spread thinly across the globe, multi-tasking with very little success. The last superpower is not about to pick a fight with China over small reefs the Philippines claims.

Hong Kong police use pepper spray on pro-democracy and human rights activists on November 30, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Tyrone Siu


From November 16, 2011

Hillary Clinton and the New American (Pacific) Century
Secret no more, US moves openly to block the rise of China.

By Tony Cartalucci

November 16, 2011 – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently published in Foreign Policy magazine, “America’s Pacific Century,” a Hitlerian declaration of imperial intent for American “leadership” in Asia for the next 100 years. The piece, which could just as easily been penned by Neo-Con policy makers begins with, “the future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action. ”

Of course, America’s presence throughout the Middle East and the control it exercises over the region’s oil resources as well as over the region as a logistical hub is essential in tempering the rise of Asia and ultimately hemming in the rise of China and Central Asia. The “Arab Spring” which Secretary Clinton and the US State Department had been a part of preparing, equipping, training, and even arming for at least 2 years prior, is the coup de grâce meant to completely overturn the multi-polar nature of the Middle East and ultimately the world.

Upon reading Clinton’s declaration of intent for American leadership into the next century, readers may recall the similarly named, ranting “Project for a New American Century” signed off on by some of America’s most notorious Neo-Conservatives, which almost verbatim made the same case now made by Clinton. In fact, America’s evolving confrontation with China, marked acutely by Obama’s announcement of a permanent US military presence in Australia just this week, is torn directly from the pages of decades old blueprints drawn up by corporate-financier funded think-tanks that truly rule America and its destiny.

As reported in June, 2011’s “Collapsing China,” as far back as 1997 there was talk about developing an effective containment strategy coupled with the baited hook of luring China into its place amongst the “international order.” Just as in these 1997 talking-points where author and notorious Neo-Con policy maker Robert Kagan described the necessity of using America’s Asian “allies” as part of this containment strategy, Clinton goes through a list of regional relationships the US is trying to cultivate to maintain “American leadership” in Asia.

For example, the recently reinstalled Wall Street proxy regime in Thailand led by Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, has received reassurances by Clinton herself just this week stating that, “it is in the national security and political interest of the United States to have this government succeed.” As reported in-depth in “CONFIRMED: Thailand’s “Pro-Democracy” Movement Working for US,” Thaksin Shinawatra and his political regime have had long standing, well documented ties to Wall Street and London. The US backing of puppet-regimes like Thaksin, installing them into power, and keeping them there is central to projecting power throughout Asia and keeping China subordinate, or as Kagan put it in his 1997 report, these proxy regimes will have China “play Gulliver to Southeast Asia’s Lilliputians, with the United States supplying the rope and stakes.”

It is essential to look past the empty rhetoric of “democracy,” “human rights,” and “progress” used to justify foreign-funding and meddling to install servile autocrats like Thailand’s Thaksin or Malaysia’s stooge dictator-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim and see the greater geopolitical game at play and the disastrous conclusion it is leading us all toward. It is also essential to expose the disingenuous organizations, institutions, and media personalities helping promote this global corporate-fascist agenda. Above all, it is important not to allow ourselves and our countrymen to be manipulated and their lives wasted in the inevitable conflicts that are sure to arise as Wall Street and London struggle to maintain, or even expand their global financial, economic, and military hegemony.

Hillary Clinton: America’s Pacific Century
Foreign Policy Magazine


From October 12, 2011

In a brilliant article in Foreign Policy magazine, Hillary Clinton has turned the page on that decade by announcing that “The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action”.

Clinton’s words are indeed most welcome.  The past ten years have been America’s lost decade.  Ben Benanke once spoke of the great moderation in the economy.  But that was a mirage which presaged the US-created global financial crisis.  And President Bush’s expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also weakened the economy, without making the world a safer place.

As Clinton says, “In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy … One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region”.

The Asia-Pacific region has of course been a very important driver of the US economy. And the region is equally reliant on open US markets and technology.  But there is much more to do to strengthen and consolidate this important economic partnership.

Clinton highlights the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement which will hopefully be approved by Congress this week, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is being discussed.  The TPP would bring together economies from across the Pacific — developed and developing alike — into a single trading community.

While TPP’s goals are laudable, its negotiations are in fact very complex. The US insists that it include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation, and also promote the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology, as well as the coherence of its regulatory system and the efficiency of supply chains. And one can never be sure that the US Congress will be in the mood to approve it when its time has come.  The free trade agreement with Korea has been languishing for years in America’s messy trade politics.

I believe that the best thing that the US could do to forge a meaningful partnership in the Asia-Pacific region would be to implement serious regulatory reforms to its financial sector, so as to avoid future financial crises.  But the US is still a long way from doing that.

The economic rise of the Asia-Pacific region also means that it “has become a key driver of global politics”, reflecting the new economic power balance. Clinton highlights the importance of the US’s treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand, as well as outreach to China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Pacific Island countries.

Clinton reserves the most attention for China which “represents one of the most challenging and consequential bilateral relationships the United States has ever had to manage”.  She acknowledges that “fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific. Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth. We reject both those views. The fact is that a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict … It is up to both of us to more consistently translate positive words into effective cooperation — and, crucially, to meet our respective global responsibilities and obligations.”

One of Clinton’s top priorities has been to work with China to build mutual trust, and to encourage China’s active efforts in global problem-solving, including through the Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

The US and China are also working to increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation or miscues between their militaries.  Clinton argues that both sides would benefit from sustained and substantive military-to-military engagement that increases transparency.  She is pushing China to join the US in forging a durable military-to-military dialogue.

Clinton argues for “a more robust and coherent regional architecture in Asia”, and notes that the United States has moved to fully engage the region’s multilateral institutions, such as ASEAN, APEC and the East Asia Summit.  “Our challenge now is to build a web of partnerships and institutions across the Pacific that is as durable and as consistent with American interests and values as the web we have built across the Atlantic”.

Clinton’s main audience in this paper seems to be the US Congress and the US people.  She is clearly concerned that as the Iraq and Afghan wars wind down, there are many who “seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities”.  As she says, “these impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward — we cannot afford not to.”

She notes the concern that many Asians have about the US’s willingness to remain engaged and to lead.  And although she says “We can, and we will”, there are many of us who doubt.  The recently discovered Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US shows what a constant distraction the Middle East can be.

The world has been blessed to have Hillary Clinton as US Secretary of State. Very few in her position have been as intelligent and hard-working.  But even in these past 2 1/2 years, there are many in Asia who say that she has not been able to bring the Congress with her.

The Asia-Pacific region still has immense potential for driving global prosperity.  But the risks for stability are also enormous.  A strong US presence is necessary for maintaining stability — even if the US sometimes provokes instability itself by selling arms to Taiwan, by receiving the Dalai Lama or sabre-rattling about China’s exchange rate. Indeed, the US is the only country with the diplomatic and intelligence resources to lead the region.

We can only hope that the Congress listens to her carefully.  And that even if there is a Republican administration in office in 2013, it realizes the stakes involved.

One of the big problems is that the easiest way for the US government to obtain Congressional and public support for staying fully engaged in the Asia-Pacific region is to paint China as an enemy — when in fact, the whole point is to make China a friend!


America’s Pacific Century, Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State.  Foreign Policy Magazine.  October 11, 2011



US can focus on Asia-Pacific after Iraq and Afghan wars, says Hillary Clinton–Asia-Pacific–Is-Next-US-Target..-


(March 25, 2015)


The Good News: Many in the World Favor Nuclear Disarmament; The Bad News: Iran Will Likely Have Nuclear Weapons Soon

April 24, 2015


After Iran deal, world looks to jump-start nuclear disarmament


Iranian opposition supporters stage a demonstration displaying a fake nuclear missile ahead of nuclear talks between EU foreign ministers and Iran. AFP/File / by Carole Landry
UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – Nuclear powers join non-nuclear nations on Monday to launch a conference on non-proliferation, buoyed by the Iran deal but alarmed by slow-moving US-Russian disarmament.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will address the conference that reviews the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and he may meet on the sidelines to discuss the hard-fought Iran deal with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Work on the framework Iran agreement must be completed by June 30 but it is already earning praise as a potential happy ending to one of the world’s most vexing nuclear disputes.

Despite applause for the Iran deal, delegates from more than 150 countries are heading into the month-long conference with a sense of gloom over the lack of progress on disarmament and the deadlocked plan for a nuclear weapons-free zone for the Middle East.

The United States and Russia have made little headway in cutting their nuclear stockpiles since 2011, and the crisis over Ukraine is stoking distrust, dimming prospects for future cooperation.

“We have a stalling in the path to a nuclear-free world,” Angela Kane, the UN high representative for disarmament affairs, said ahead of the gathering at UN headquarters in New York.

Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, who chaired the international commission on the NPT, described the state of play as “one of paralysis, of minimal forward-movement and of backsliding.”

– Grand bargain –

Reached in 1968, the NPT is seen as a grand bargain between five nuclear powers — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – and non-nuclear states which agreed to give up atomic weapon ambitions in exchange for disarmament pledges.

But 45 years after the NPT entered into force, non-nuclear states are feeling increasingly frustrated and the global consensus on how to move toward a nuclear-free world is under severe strain.

“The nuclear-weapons states are not living up to their side of the bargain,” Kane said.

“Right now, the non-nuclear states need to be given the sense that they are taken seriously.”

Delegates to the NPT conference are working on an “outcome document” laying out priorities for the next five years, but some diplomats have not ruled out that disagreements could lead to a collapse of the talks.

Pessimism has also focused on Washington’s $1 trillion modernization plan for its nuclear forces that is compounding fears that the United States is not seriously working toward reducing its stockpile.

Another point of contention is a proposed nuclear weapons-free zone for the Middle East that has failed to materialize despite a plan at the last NPT conference to begin talks on the proposal in 2012.

Kane warned that the next five years will be crucial to ensure that the NPT “retains credibility.”

She suggested that there be a roadmap with targets that are “not far off in Never-Never-Land” to reassure non-nuclear states that they have signed on to a treaty that is “worthwhile.”

As a stark reminder of the horrors of a nuclear attack, a group of aging Hiroshima survivors are traveling to New York to attend the conference and make a personal appeal for action.

by Carole Landry

Armenian genocide: world leaders in Armenia to mark 100 years since killings

April 24, 2015

Vladimir Putin tells Armenia “mass murder cannot be justified”, as he and Francois Hollande join country to mark 100 years since the start of the Armenian massacres


Soldiers stand guard in front of the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial in Yerevan Photo: AFP

World leaders including Francois Hollande and Vladimir Putin gathered in Armenia this morning to mark 100 years since the start of the Armenian genocide.

Francois Hollande at the ceremony in Yerevan

A minute’s silence was held in Yerevan, the capital, at a ceremony that saw Serzh Sarkisian, Armenia’s president, and other leaders lay flowers at a hilltop memorial.

Vladimir Putin

Some 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman forces between 1915 and 1917.

The eternal flame burns at the Armenian genocide memorial

Under a leaden sky shedding rain, foreign diplomats followed, each holding a yellow rose to put into the wreath laid at the foot of a monumental 44-metre (144-foot) needle, symbolising the nation’s rebirth.

Clerics take part in the canonization ceremony for the victims of the Armenian Genocide

Mr Sarkisian thanked the other leaders at the genocide memorial, telling them that “nothing is forgotten”.

“I am grateful to all those who are here to once again confirm your commitment to human values, to say that nothing is forgotten, that after 100 years we remember,” he said, to a standing ovation.

Mr Putin said that mass murder cannot be justified.

“There is no and cannot be any justification for mass murder of people. Today we mourn together with the Armenian people,” he said.

Francois Hollande said he “bowed down” in memory of the victims who would never be forgotten.

“I bow down in memory of the victims and I come to tell my Armenian friends that we will never forget the tragedies that your people has endured,” Mr Hollande said.

“Important words have already been said in Turkey, but others are still expected so that shared grief can become shared destiny.”

Hundreds of thousands of Armenians will later join a procession to the genocide memorial – Armenia’s most visited landmark – carrying candles and flowers to lay at the eternal flame.

Members of the massive Armenian diaspora that came into existence as a result of the slaughter that went on until 1917 were also to commemorate the sombre anniversary in cities around the world.

As Armenians marked the centenary, tensions continued to mount over Turkey’s refusal to recognise the killings as genocide.

The patchy list of foreign dignitaries attending commemorations in Yerevan highlights the lack of international consensus over Armenia’s bid to get the massacres recognised internationally as a genocide.

Many foreign leaders shied away for fear of upsetting Ankara.

More than 20 nations – including France and Russia – have so far recognised the Armenian genocide, a definition supported by numerous historians.

German President Joachim Gauck was expected to draw an angry reaction from Turkey after he condemned the massacres as genocide for the first time, speaking at a religious service in Berlin commemorating the bloodletting.

Gauck said on Thursday that the then German empire – the Ottoman Turkey’s ally in WWI – bore “shared responsibility, possibly shared guilt for the genocide.”

Putin visits the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide memorial complex

Germany deployed soldiers who took part in “planning and, in part, carrying out the deportations”, he said.

Putin signs an honorary guest book

Ankara on Wednesday recalled its ambassador to Vienna in response to Austrian lawmakers’ decision to condemn the massacre as “genocide”.

Turkey has said up to 500,000 people were killed, but mostly due to war and starvation, and rejects the use of the term “genocide”.

US President Barack Obama on Thursday would only go so far as to describing the World War I massacres as “terrible carnage”.

In an unusual ceremony on Thursday, the Armenian Church conferred sainthood on those massacred by Ottoman forces a century ago, in what was believed to be the biggest canonisation service in history.

The ceremony outside Armenia’s main cathedral at Echmiadzin, close to Yerevan, ended at 7:15 pm local time, or 19:15 according to the 24-hour clock, to symbolise the year when the massacres started.

“During the dire years of the genocide of the Armenians, millions of our people were uprooted and massacred in a premeditated manner, passed through fire and sword, tasted the bitter fruits of torture and sorrow,” Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church said at the ceremony.

“The canonisation of the martyrs of the genocide brings life-giving new breath, grace and blessing to our national and ecclesiastical life.”

Ex-Soviet Armenia and the huge Armenian diaspora worldwide have battled for decades to have the World War I massacres at the hands of the Ottoman forces between 1915 and 1917 recognised as a targeted genocide.

But modern Turkey, which was born out of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, has refused to do so, and relations remain frozen to this day.

Ankara says 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil – rather than religious – strife when they say Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.

In a rare interview with Turkish television broadcast Thursday, President Sarkisian expressed hope the two countries could mend fences.

“It is obvious that a reconciliation between the two peoples will have to come about through Turkey recognising the genocide,” he told CNN-Turk.

Ahead of the ceremonies, Turkey kicked up a diplomatic storm, condemning growing “racism” in Europe.

Earlier this month Ankara also recalled its envoy to the Vatican after Pope Francis described the killings as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”

Turkey will on Friday host world leaders to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gallipoli, a day earlier than the actual start of fighting.

Sarkisian has accused Ankara of deliberately “trying to divert world attention” from the Yerevan commemorations.


Obama, Republicans push anti-China trade pact

April 24, 2015


By Patrick Martin

Both the US Senate and House of Representatives have begun action on legislation to grant President Obama Trade Promotion Authority, also known as “fast-track” authority, which would enable the US government to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with 11 other countries in Asia and the Americas.

The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, in a 20-6 vote, approved the measure and sent it to the Senate floor, where it will likely face stronger opposition in advance of a vote in the coming weeks. Five Democrats and one Republican on the committee voted “no.”

The Finance Committee vote followed an agreement last week between Republicans and a section of committee Democrats on the terms of the TPA legislation after protracted talks between the committee chairman, Orrin Hatch of Utah, and the ranking Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon.

The House Ways and Means Committee was to begin work on the legislation Thursday, its chairman, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, announced. Ryan participated in the talks with Hatch and Wyden and signed off on the deal.

The bill would give the president authority to negotiate trade agreements under provisions for fast-track congressional approval–the House and Senate would each have up-or-down votes without amendments or procedural delays–for the next three years.

As a practical matter, congressional approval of Trade Promotion Authority is both necessary to reach a trade deal and tantamount to approval of it. No country will sign a trade agreement with the United States if Congress can amend it at will or filibuster it. Congress has never rejected such an agreement in a straight up-or-down vote.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is an economic and trade component of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, which involves the mobilization of US military, political and economic assets against the rising power of China. The 11 other nations now engaged in the TPP talks include Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Canada.

If the 12-nation trading area is established, it will be the world’s largest; comprising 40 percent of the world’s economy- a bigger proportion than is covered by the European Union. Other Asian countries are expected to sign on if the TPP materializes. South Korea has indicated interest and the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia are also potential candidates.

Discussion of TPP in official Washington has proceeded on two separate tracks, one for the corporate elite and its military-intelligence apparatus, and one for those posturing demagogically–and entirely falsely–as defenders of American workers.

Within decisive circles of the ruling elite, the main discussions have revolved around the strategic value of TPP as a means of putting pressure on China and forestalling its rise to a preeminent economic position in the Asia-Pacific region. The central question is the incorporation of Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, into the future bloc, since without Japan the TPP would be little more than an expanded NAFTA: the US, Canada and Mexico, plus a handful of second-tier Asian economies.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due in Washington April 28 for talks at the White House. He will also address a joint session of Congress. The Obama-Abe talks are expected to deal with the main roadblocks to completion of the TPP, particularly US-Japanese conflicts over agricultural and automobile trade.

The Washington Post, in an editorial that left no doubt about the real purpose of the TPP talks, called on the Obama administration to make sure the deal is finalized with Japan and Congress. The newspaper declared that “the TPP is about geopolitics as well as economics.” It added, “The key here is Japan. Aging and economically troubled, the Asian giant is looking to forge a deeper political and security commitment with the United States to offset a rising China.”

The editorial concluded with this warning: “If the TPP fails, there won’t be much left of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia.”

Vice President Joseph Biden made a similar argument April 17, addressing a group of 29 right-wing congressional Democrats, most of whom are expected to back Trade Promotion Authority. “China is a gigantic force sitting on top of all nations smaller, except India, in the region and is able to do what Russia is able to do in Europe with regard to oil,” he said. “They have significant economic power to deny access to their markets or open access to their markets for all of those regional powers.”

Promotion of the TPP is thus tied to the increasingly frenzied efforts of American imperialism to provoke regional conflicts with China and North Korea, effectively a client state of Beijing: with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyou islets; with the Philippines and Vietnam, among others, in the South China Sea; on the Burmese border with China; and between India and China.

In the media coverage of TPP, however, such considerations have been overshadowed by the fake-populist posturing of a large section of the congressional Democratic Party, along with Democratic Party-aligned groups, including the AFL-CIO, environmental groups, the Nation magazine and the pseudo-left International Socialist Organization.

These forces are opposing the trade pact on the basis of anti-Chinese chauvinism and American nationalism, seeking once again to promote the lie that US workers’ jobs and wages can be defended at the expense of the jobs and conditions of workers of other countries. Their attempt to divert working class anger over unemployment and wage cuts along reactionary nationalist channels is linked to the promotion of militarism.

On April 15, four congressional Democrats addressed a rally of more than 1,000 union officials and their supporters, chaired by United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, fresh from his betrayal of the strike by oil refinery workers.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts performed her fist-pumping ritual, shouting into the microphone, “No more secret trade deals! Are you ready to fight? No more special deals for multinational corporations! Are you ready to fight?”

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who may carry out a token challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, declared that Congress was “totally owned by billionaires and their lobbyists.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, another veteran of countless betrayals of struggles of the working class, both as president of the nearly defunct United Mineworkers of America and now as head of the labor federation, testified against the trade agreement at a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee.

Trumka had previously announced a “massive” six-figure ad campaign to lobby Congress against fast-track authority. “We can’t afford to pass fast-track, which would lead to more lost jobs and lower wages,” he declared. “We want Congress to keep its leverage over trade negotiations- not rubber-stamp a deal that delivers profits for global corporations, but not good jobs for working people.”

This demagogic rhetoric covers up the AFL-CIO’s long record of helping corporate America impose “lost jobs and lower wages” on millions of workers. The unions are not defending the interests of the working class, but rather the profits of less competitive sections of the American capitalist class, particularly in manufacturing, which fear they will lose out to foreign rivals in Japan, Mexico and other countries in the TPP talks.

As for the opposition by congressional Democrats, it is largely for show, to keep the campaign dollars flowing from the unions. When push comes to shove, a sufficient number of Democratic votes will likely be found in both the Senate and the House to offset any potential Republican defections.

Obama is playing his part in the charade, highlighting opposition among congressional Democrats while declaring them wrong on the issue. Like Warren and Sanders, Obama claims to be defending the interests of working people. “I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class,” he said in an interview Tuesday with MSNBC.

He went so far as to claim that his six-year record in office was proof that any trade deal would be good for working people–as though the slashing of wages in the auto industry, the destruction of millions of decent-paying jobs, and an economic “recovery” based on low-wage, part-time labor, enforced by drastic cuts in social benefits, had never happened.

Both factions in the ruling class “debate,” the advocates of “free trade” and the advocates of protectionism, represent sections of the capitalist class. Both are implacably hostile to the interests of working people.

Obama, Iran Create “The New Middle East” — U.S. hands the baton. To Iran.

April 24, 2015


Meeting the press at the White House, March 24.  
Meeting the press at the White House, March 24. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Zuma Press

By Charles Krauthammer

In December, President Obama said that he wished to see Iran ultimately become a “very successful regional power.” His wish — a nightmare for the Western-oriented Arab states — is becoming a reality. Consider:

● Gulf of Aden: Iran sends a flotilla of warships and weapons-carrying freighters to reinforce the rebels in Yemen — a noncontiguous, non-Persian, nonthreatening (to Iran) Arabian state — asserting its new status as regional bully and arbiter. The Obama administration sends an aircraft carrier group, apparently to prevent this gross breach of the U.N. weapons embargo on Yemen. Instead, the administration announces that it has no intention of doing anything. Meanwhile, it exerts pressure on Saudi Arabia to halt its air war over Yemen and agree to negotiate a political settlement involving Iran.

● Russia: After a five-year suspension, Russia announces the sale of advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran, which will render its nuclear facilities nearly invulnerable to attack. Obama’s reaction? Criticism, threats, sanctions? No. A pat on the back for Vladimir Putin: “I’m, frankly, surprised that [the embargo] held this long.”

●Iran: Last week, Obama preemptively caved on the long-standing U.S. condition that there be no immediate sanctions relief in any Iranian nuclear deal. He casually dismissed this red line, declaring that what is really important is whether sanctions can be reimposed if Iran cheats. And it doesn’t stop there. The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama is offering Tehran a $30 billion to $50 billion signing bonus (drawn from frozen Iranian assets) — around 10 percent of Iranian GDP.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, before a negotiation session with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, right, over Iran's nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland on Friday.  
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, before a negotiation session with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, right, over Iran’s nuclear program in Lausanne, Switzerland  Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

● Syria: After insisting for years that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria “step aside,” the U.S. has adopted a hands-off policy toward a regime described by our own secretary of state as an Iranian puppet.

● Iraq: Iran’s Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, director of Shiite militias that killed hundreds of Americans during the Iraq War and were ultimately defeated by the 2007-2008 U.S. surge, operates freely throughout Iraq flaunting his country’s dominance. In March, he was directing the same Iraqi militias, this time against the Islamic State — with the help of U.S. air cover.

Major-General Qasem Soleimani

Gen QasemSoleimani

This is the new Middle East. Its strategic reality is clear to everyone: Iran rising, assisted, astonishingly, by the United States.

Obama’s initial Middle East strategy was simply withdrawal. He would enter history as the ultimate peace president, ushering in a new era in which “the tide of war is receding.” The subsequent vacuum having been filled, unfortunately and predictably, by various enemies, adversaries and irredeemables, Obama lighted upon a new idea: We don’t just withdraw, we hand the baton. To Iran.

Netanyahu and Obama. Reuters photo October 1, 2014

Obama may not even be aware that he is recapitulating the Nixon doctrine, but with a fatal twist. Nixon’s main focus was to get the Vietnamese to take over that war from us. But the doctrine evolved and was generalized to deputize various smaller powers to police their regions on our behalf. In the Persian Gulf, our principal proxy was Iran.

The only problem with Obama’s version of the Nixon doctrine is that Iran today is not the Westernized, secular, pro-American regional power it was under the shah. It is radical, clerical, rabidly anti-imperialist, deeply anti-Western. The regime’s ultimate — and openly declared — strategic purpose is to drive the American infidel from the region and either subordinate or annihilate America’s Middle Eastern allies.

President Obama used a Persian New Year video to make the case for a nuclear deal directly to the people of Iran.

Which has those allies in an understandable panic. Can an American president really believe that appeasing Iran — territorially, economically, militarily and by conferring nuclear legitimacy — will moderate its behavior and ideology, adherence to which despite all odds is now yielding undreamed of success?

Iran went into the nuclear negotiations heavily sanctioned, isolated internationally, hemorrhaging financially — and this was even before the collapse of oil prices. The premise of these talks was that the mullahs would have six months to give up their nuclear program or they would be additionally squeezed with even more devastating sanctions.

President Xi Jinping (right) meets his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rowhani in Jakarta on Thursday. Photo: Xinhua

After 17 months of serial American concessions, the Iranian economy is growing again, its forces and proxies are on the march through the Arab Middle East and it is on the verge of having its nuclear defiance rewarded and legitimized.

The Saudis are resisting being broken to Iranian dominance. They have resumed their war in Yemen. They are resisting being forced into Yemen negotiations with Iran, a country that is, in the words of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., “part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

Obama appears undeterred. He’s determined to make his Iran-first inverted Nixon doctrine a reality. Our friends in the region, who for decades have relied on us to protect them from Iran, look on astonished.

Read more from Charles Krauthammer’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Read more on this topic:

Jackson Diehl: Obama rolls the dice on Iran

Moshe Ya’alon: Current Iran framework will make war more likely

Charles Krauthammer: The Iran deal: Anatomy of a disaster

E.J. Dionne Jr.: How to read the Iran debate

Ernest Moniz: A nuclear deal that offers a safer world

Related here on Peace and Freedom:

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech in Tehran (photo credit: AP/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/File)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech in Tehran (photo credit: AP/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/File)

Did Hillary Clinton Sell Half of America’s Uranium To Russia?

April 23, 2015

If this isn’t the appearance of corruption, what is?

Hillary Clinton and U

By James Taranto
The Wall Street Journal

“The Clintons Still Aren’t Corrupt,” declared the headline of a Daily Beast piece by Michael Tomasky. We filed it here yesterday under “Generalissimo Francisco Franco Is Still Alive,” but today’s news prompted us to give it a closer look.

“Now I’m supposed to believe that Hillary Clinton turned the Department of State into a giant shakedown operation?” Tomasky asks incredulously. “Very few people stop to think: [Mrs.] Clinton has been in our faces for 20-plus years. Where is any evidence of real corruption? I don’t mean stuff you may not have liked or that kinda looked funny. I mean actual, Rhode-Island-style, steal-a-hot-stove corruption.”

It does not look good….

Tomasky rehearses some of the scandals from the 1990s, noting accurately that Mrs. Clinton was never prosecuted, much less convicted, in any of them. His conclusion: “Just maybe Occam’s Razor applies here, and she’s never done anything illegal.”

Maybe! He then waves away the first prepublication revelations from Peter Schweizer’s forthcoming book, “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” which have to do with a centimillion-dollar Clinton Foundation donor from Canada, Frank Giustra, and his business interests in countries including Colombia and Kazakhstan.

Tomasky winds up by disparaging the New York Times for undertaking further investigations: “The Times, it seems, has decided to debase itself by following the breadcrumbs dropped by this former adviser to Sarah Palin”—note the ad hominem attack—“because Schweizer devotes a chapter to Giustra and Kazakhstan, which the Times reported on back in 2008, and the Times plans to follow up on that.”

Somebody writing for Forbes pooh-poohed the Times story back then—before Mrs. Clinton arrived at Foggy Bottom—and according to Tomasky, that should be enough to settle the matter. But the Times follow-up dropped early this morning, and the story has developed considerably since 2008, by which point Giustra had sold off his mining concern, UrAsia Energy Ltd., to a company called Uranium One.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing the intention to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised the hope of U.S-Russian cooperation on missile defense Friday on her way to discussions with her Russian counterpart, with a goal of repairing the two nations’ relations. (AP Photo

After the merger, the Times reports, “Uranium One began to snap up mining companies with assets in the United States” with the aim, as a company press release put it, of becoming “a powerhouse in the United States uranium sector with the potential to become the domestic supplier of choice for U.S. utilities.”

Hillary campaign swats at Iran charge in ‘Clinton Cash’

The Smoking (Son of a) Gun

Bill Clinton has given many speeches since he left office in 2001, earning millions of dollars.  (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

But by June 2009, Uranium One was in trouble, its stock “in free-fall, down 40 percent.” Its Kazakh partner “had just been arrested on charges that he illegally sold uranium deposits to foreign companies,” including UrAsia. That’s where the State Department came in. Uranium One “pressed the American Embassy in Kazakhstan . . . to take up its cause with Kazakh officials.” It did: According to State Department cables, an unnamed U.S. “energy official” met with Kazakh officials “to discuss the issues on June 10 or 11”:

Three days later, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom [the Russian atomic energy agency] completed a deal for 17 percent of Uranium One. And within a year, the Russian government would substantially up the ante, with a generous offer to shareholders that would give it a 51 percent controlling stake. But first, Uranium One had to get the American government to sign off on the deal.

“Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department,” headed by Secretary Clinton, the Times notes. Meanwhile at the Clinton Foundation, the money kept coming in:

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.

“Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World,” crowed a Pravda headline in January 2013, Mrs. Clinton’s final month as secretary of state. As the Times puts it: “The deal made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought [President Vladimir] Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.”

So, does this qualify as “real corruption”? We imagine Tomasky would say no, it just “kinda looks funny.” As the Times notes: “Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation.”

But let’s try a thought experiment. Suppose you’re a Democrat and all this “kinda looks funny” to you. You’d support Mrs. Clinton if it came down to a choice between her and Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or Scott Walker, but you’d rather your party chose a nominee free of “special ethical challenges.”

Rosslyn Smith, writing for the conservative American Thinker website, conducts that thought experiment herself:

Watching the “inevitable” Hillary Clinton campaign across Iowa reminded me of another profoundly flawed human being whose nomination was also seen as inevitable 18 month [sic] before Election Day: Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1967.

Actually it was Gene McCarthy I first thought about.

Her analogy to the 1968 race is as follows: LBJ to HRC; McCarthy (whose strong showing in New Hampshire knocked the president out of the race) to Martin O’Malley; and Robert F. Kennedy (favorite of “activists and reporters,” but not a candidate until after McCarthy had exposed LBJ’s evitability) to Elizabeth Warren.

There’s one problem with the analogy: McCarthy’s campaign would have been illegal today. As the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen recounted in a 2012 column:

The late chairman of the Dreyfus Corp. was a wealthy man but . . . a liberal Democrat. [Howard] Stein joined with some other rich men—including Martin Peretz, the one-time publisher of the New Republic; Stewart Mott, a GM heir; and Arnold Hiatt of Stride Rite Shoes—to provide about $1.5 million for Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 challenge to Lyndon Johnson. Stein and his colleagues did not raise this money in itsy-bitsy donations but by chipping in large amounts themselves. Peretz told me he kicked in $30,000. That was a huge amount of money at the time.

That sort of donation would now be illegal—unless it was given to a super PAC that swore not to coordinate with the candidate.

McCarthy and Mott were among the parties who challenged the 1974 contribution limits, which were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo (1976). The justices held that although campaign contributions are a form of speech, regulating them is justified by the government’s “compelling” interest in “the prevention of corruption and the appearance of corruption spawned by the real or imagined coercive influence of large financial contributions on candidates’ positions and on their actions if elected to office” (emphasis ours).

The current justices have looked askance on some measures to limit free speech on these grounds—including, as we noted last week, the effort to suppress a 2008 documentary critical of Mrs. Clinton. But even they have reaffirmed that the contribution limits are constitutionally permissible. And Mrs. Clinton has made opposition to the recent free-speech rulings, including the one affirming the freedom to criticize her, a central plank of her campaign.

It must be acknowledged that it would be impossible to formulate a law directly criminalizing something as subjective as “the appearance of corruption”—or, to put it another way, activity by candidates or elected officials that “kinda looks funny.” And Tomasky may well be right that neither Secretary Clinton nor the Clinton Foundation violated any laws when the latter took money from donors who benefited from the former’s official decisions.

But it does appear as if the effect of the campaign-contribution limits has been the opposite of their ostensible intent—that they have made it much more difficult to prevent “corruption or the appearance of corruption” by mounting a serious challenge against a candidate whose conduct in public office, to say the least, kinda looks funny.


South China Sea and The Silk Road: China Now Has Control Of Military Bases From The East China Sea, Toward Singapore and The Indian Ocean

April 23, 2015

Disputed: China has built the airstrip (pictured) on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands without consulting the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan who all claim the region

Disputed: China has built the airstrip (pictured) on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands without consulting the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan who all claim the region

China has done, what nobody though possible: She was able, in a very short time and in an innovative way, stolen a march on the sleeping U.S. super-power and every other nation with a claim to the seas in Asia. By using dredging and land reclamation, she has built at least eight islands into land-masses big enough to accommodate airstrips, sea ports, supply centers and military bases.
The article below by J. Berkshire Miller tells more of the story. Most readers will find themselves saying, “Now what?”
From Peace and Freedom
Land reclamation projects in Spratlys sets stage for military expansion and control of airspace
April 23, 2015 2:00AM ET

Beijing’s new land-reclamation strategy in the South China Sea has been ringing alarm bells in the region and has prompted the U.S. to accuse China of attempting to force its way to de facto control of disputed waters.

Several high-definition satellite images surfaced this month of China’s land reclamation and construction on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, whose sovereignty is disputed by China, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., has released several photos chronicling Beijing’s rapid expansion of and infrastructure construction on Mischief Reef, Fiery Cross Reef and several other reefs in the Spratlys. The Philippines and Vietnam, two of the most outspoken claimants in the South China Sea, have blasted Chinese land-reclamation activities as a tantamount to the creation of military outposts. Beijing has retorted that the moves fall in line with safeguarding its sovereignty.

When asked earlier this month about the island construction, President Barack Obama said, “Where we get concerned with China is where it is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules and is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions.” Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the Pacific Fleet, put the matter more bluntly, remarking that China “is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers.”

China’s land reclamation projects are likely to continue over the coming months, creating worries about military plans. The projects could permit Beijing to utilize more tools to push its influence in the South China Sea, such as long-range radar, advanced missile systems and eventually aircraft. The Chinese appear to be constructing an airfield on the disputed Fiery Cross Reef despite protests from Washington, its allies and partners. This could be the advance that would enable Beijing to assert its control in the skies around the disputed sea.

Specifically, these moves lay the foundation for China’s potential unilateral declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea. This would essentially oblige aircrafts flying in the zone to accommodate a number of Chinese-imposed rules, including the identification of flight plans, the presence of any transponders and two-way radio communication with Chinese authorities. Earlier this year, there were reports that Chinese defense officials have begun drafting plans for an ADIZ in the South China Sea. Beijing pushed back against this notion shortly after these reports, claiming that “the Chinese side has yet to feel any air security threat from [Southeast Asian] countries and is optimistic about its relations with the neighboring countries and the general situation in the South China Sea region.”

Nevertheless, China maintains that it is well within its rights to impose an ADIZ in its sovereign territory if and when it chooses. Beijing is essentially positioning itself to enforce control over the area’s skies. Although it hasn’t officially declared an ADIZ there, such a step is less important than the leverage its potential imposition affords. It will be kept in the back pocket should tensions rise or if China feels that its claim is threatened. China is essentially conditioning an ADIZ on the behavior of other claimants in the South China Sea and using the threat of its imposition as additional leverage.

This approach should not surprise anyone in the region. In November 2013, Beijing unilaterally announced an ADIZ in the East China Sea over a significant amount territory, including the Senkaku Islands, claimed and administered by Japan. China’s ADIZ in the East China Sea overlapped with an existing Japanese ADIZ. To make matters worse, declaring the zone stoked tensions with South Korea because the ADIZ covered Ieodo, a reef claimed by Beijing and Seoul. Japan and the U.S. strongly condemned the East China Sea ADIZ as a provocation. Beijing’s decision to play this card was largely a result of stalled progress on pressuring Japan to acknowledge their dispute over the Senkaku Islands — or the Diaoyu Islands to the Chinese.

How soon might China take the step and declare an ADIZ in the South China Sea? The decision remains a delicate political choice for Beijing, since it would trigger a severe diplomatic backlash from Southeast Asian nations and the United States. Logistically, however, the declaration could come anytime this year. U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of the Pacific Command, testified this month before Congress that the recent land reclamation allows China “to exert basically greater influence over what’s now a contested area. And it may be a platform if they ever wanted to establish an air defense identification zone.” This gray area gives China the option and leverage of the ADIZ without suffering any of the diplomatic consequences of its imposition.

J. Berkshire Miller is a fellow on Japan for the Pacific Forum CSIS. He is also a fellow for the China and East Asia program at the EastWest Institute.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

More From J. Berkshire Miller


China is using a tactic in the South China Sea known as “salami slicing”: undertaking a series of minor provocations that, by themselves, aren’t enough to start a major crisis or even a war. Each “slice” inches China a little closer to the goal, until the salami is gone.

Long-time readers of Peace and Freedom may recall that China’s Major General Zhang Zhaozhong talked at length in 2013 about the “Cabbage Strategy,” also called “salami slicing.”

 (Includes links to several previous articles)

China already has an ADIZ over parts of the east China Sea


Satellite image analysis South China Sea reclamation in Spratly Islands

Warships from China are frequently seen near the disputed islands.

A runway is believed to be among what China will build at the reclaimed Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef off the coast of Palawan. Photo obtained by Rappler

Satellite image analysis South China Sea reclamation in Spratly Islands

Recent photographs of the reefs and islands in the South China Sea show extensive Chinese construction. Ownership of the islands is a matter before the Permanent Court of Arbitration of the U.N.


In 2009, China published the so-called “nine dash line”: a line on a map submitted to the United Nations that demarcated Chinese territory in the South China Sea. China bases this claim on historical maps and statements going back as far as the third century A.D.

All in all, the nine-dash line claims 1.35 million square miles, approximately 90 percent, of the South China Sea as Chinese territory. Much of this territorial grab, in addition to claiming what were previously international waters, conflicts with competing territorial claims from Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei.

(Anson Chan said “I think it is important for the United States to pay attention to what is happening in Hong Kong — if only as an indication of how Beijing regards its international treaty obligations.”)

(Contains links to several related stories).

China says it owns all the South China Sea north of the “nine dash line” shown above

China claims ownership of about 90% of the South China Sea. Most of China’s neighbors believe otherwise.

The chart below shows the area declared by China on 1 January 2014 as “an area under China’s jurisdiction.” China says “foreign fishing vessels” can only enter and work in this area with prior approval from China. Vietnam, the Philippines and others have said they will not comply with China’s law. Experts say, this could be the geographic area that China could declare an air defense identification zone (ADIZ).


Will Hillary Reap What Bill Was Sowing? Hillary’s Campaign Team Exasperated By: “Absurd right-wing conspiracy theories”

April 23, 2015

Hillary campaign swats at Iran charge in ‘Clinton Cash’

Bill Clinton has given many speeches since he left office in 2001, earning millions of dollars.  (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

With an exasperated swipe at “absurd right-wing conspiracy theories,” Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Wednesday rejected the allegation in a new book that she watered down Iran sanctions to please a corporation that paid Bill Clinton a fortune in speaking fees.

The accusation appears in “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich,” which is due out May 5. Republicans hope the book will cripple her presidential bid. Democrats have underlined conservative author Peter Schweizer’s past credibility problems.

But the charges — and the Clinton team’s aggressive and systematic pushback against them — highlight once again how vulnerable the former first lady, senator, and secretary of state could prove to be to attacks centered on her family’s finances since they left the White House.

Former president Bill Clinton speaks after accepting the Tina’s Wish Global Women’s Health Award on April 14, 2015, in New York. (Frank Franklin II/AP)

“The really troubling thing about Bill’s speeches is the apparent correlation between his fees and Hillary’s decisions during her tenure as secretary of state,” Schweizer writes.

In a chapter obtained by Yahoo News, Schweizer marshals circumstantial evidence to suggest that Sweden-based global telecommunications giant Ericsson effectively influenced Hillary to spare it from punishing economic sanctions for doing business with Iran by paying $750,000 to Bill Clinton to speak at a Nov. 12, 2011, telecom conference in Hong Kong. There is, however, no smoking gun.

“The book relies on widely available data and twists it into absurd, right-wing conspiracy theories,” Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon told Yahoo News, accusing Schweizer of making “ridiculous, unproven claims” that Bill Clinton’s speaking fees swayed Hillary Clinton’s policymaking.

“Clinton Cash” notes that Ericsson had come under pressure from the administration and Congress because the cellular communications giant makes technology, like GPS, that the Iranian regime could use to track and monitor opposition. It notes that the Obama administration, after a monthslong review, unveiled sanctions against Iran one week after Bill Clinton’s speech — sanctions that left out the telecom sector. And it points out that when Obama took aim in April 2012 at the Iranian regime’s use of high-tech equipment, he did not go after makers and sellers of that equipment, only those inside Iran and Syria who used it to hamper dissent.

Fallon points out that the November 2011 sanctions were imposed by Obama via executive action, not by Clinton.

“This is a case of sloppy research,” he said. “Ericsson was not carved out from anything in 2011. That round of sanctions specifically dealt with companies assisting Iran’s petroleum sector and nuclear energy, not the telecom industry.”

Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin. After this photo was taken, Mr. Putin annexed Crimea and “invaded” eastern Ukraine and got America’s uranium….

As for the April 2012 executive order, it “was directed at the users of technology who sought to stifle dissidents, as opposed to the equipment manufacturers like Ericsson.”

Asked why both decisions could not be seen as further evidence of Hillary’s influence over foreign policy, rather than undermining the book’s premise, a Clinton aide replied: “So if Clinton was the impulse for excluding them before, why haven’t they been included in the three years since she left State?”

“This argument hits on the problem with the whole book: It takes policy positions that were true of the whole Obama administration and claims that she was somehow unilaterally responsible for those positions,” the aide said on condition of anonymity.

The Obama administration has consistently struggled with the conundrum of what to do about technology that dissidents use to spread their messages or to organize but that oppressive regimes can also use to disrupt the opposition.

The president himself alluded to this issue when he unveiled the April 2012 sanctions on individuals and agencies inside Iran and Syria that use such technology to crack down on dissent —but not, as critics quickly noted, on Western firms that made or supplied the hardware and software.

These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them,” he said in remarks at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Hillary also discussed the problem at a Dec. 8, 2011, conference on Internet freedom in the Netherlands, a fact the book notes.

“Today’s news stories are about companies selling the hardware and software of repression to authoritarian governments,” like Iran or Syria, she said. “There can be no doubt it will be used to violate rights.”

Clinton said sanctions “are useful tools” but cautioned that “dual-use technologies and third-party sales make it impossible to have a sanctions regime that perfectly prevents bad actors from using technologies in bad ways.”

“The fact is, you can’t wait for instructions” from government, she emphasized. “In the 21st century, smart companies have to act before they find themselves in the crosshairs of controversy.”


Those were fun times, weren’t they?  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing the intention to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left her post as U.S. Secretary of State with a Russia in military resurgence. The button meant “reset to the Cold war” or Putin’s Moscow government, we suppose. (AP Photo)

Obama’s “Change” Mostly Bypasses Congress: The pen is mightier than the vote as executive action rollouts increasing

April 23, 2015


Agenda implementation by fiat

President Obama never used the words “executive action” until nearly three years into his presidency. Now announcements of executive actions have become a routine, almost daily occurrence.

By Gregory Korte, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — As President Obama stood in Everglades swamp to speak on climate change Wednesday, the White House rolled out a package of eight executive actions, implemented by seven government agencies, to “protect the people and places that climate change puts at risk.”

The announcement contained no executive orders, sweeping directives, legislative proposals or bill signings.

Instead, the actions include smaller-bore staples of a “pen-and-phone” strategy that shows no sign of letting up: a report on the value of parks to the environment, a proclamation declaring National Parks Week, and conservation efforts in Florida, Hawaii, Puget Sound and the Great Lakes.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the actions were an effort to deal with the impacts of climate change “even in the face of pretty significant opposition from Republicans in Congress.”

Indeed, the actions have a political component, part of a White House strategy to work around Congress and force Republicans to respond to the president’s agenda.

“Since the election, the president has had a pretty explicit strategy,” said Brian Deese, a senior Obama adviser. “And it has consisted of trying to stay on offense, trying to push where he can to move the agenda through executive action. You’re going to keep seeing the president in that posture going forward.”

“Executive action” — a phrase Obama never uttered publicly in the first two and a half years of his presidency — has now become so routine that new announcements come several times a week.

The actions can take many forms, from formal executive orders and presidential memoranda to more routine reports, meetings and internal bureaucratic changes. That makes any definitive count of lower-level executive actions difficult.

But by one measure, such policy rollouts are actually increasing in pace. The White House often announces executive actions with a fact sheet from the press office, and those spiked last year during what Obama called the “Year of Action.” The White House issued 228 fact sheets in 2014, more than the first three years of his presidency combined.

This year, the White House has already issued three more fact sheets than last year at the same time.

The Obama strategy on executive actions closely parallels that of the Clinton White House. In Bill Clinton’s last two years in office, chief of staff John Podesta launched what would become known as “Project Podesta.” In an effort to flex presidential authority, Podesta canvassed executive agencies for actions Clinton could take without going to Congress.

Podesta came back to the Obama White House last year, and when he departed for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign his responsibility for climate policy fell to Deese.

“One of the ways that the White House plays a role is to think forward and challenge the agencies to be proactive in saying, ‘What more can we do? And what more can we do that’s consistent with certain themes?’ ” Deese said.

This year, the major theme is “middle-class economics.” The Obama White House has also used executive action to lower mortgage insurance premiums and regulate retirement accounts. And coming soon: new overtime regulations from the Department of Labor, which Obama ordered in a presidential memorandum last year.

The actions often don’t originate in the White House. “Sometimes an agency has a particular initiative that they want to push that would benefit from getting a higher profile, or the president making a very concrete call to action,” Deese said.

Executive action wasn’t part of Obama’s strategy when he first came into office.

“I sort of see it as flowing from the failure of the grand bargain negotiations in 2011,” said Andrew Rudalevige, a presidency scholar at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. That’s when Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, tried to reach a permanent budget agreement but instead came up with a “Supercommittee” that failed to reach agreement, triggering across-the-board budget cuts.

“He gets shellacked in the midterm, and then sets up a position where he could actually cooperate — a triangulation strategy, channeling Bill Clinton,” Rudalevige said. “Instead of channeling Bill Clinton, he started channeling Harry Truman taking on the ‘Do Nothing’ Congress.”

In the fall of 2011, Obama went on a “We Can’t Wait” road tour, meant to put pressure on Congress leading up to the 2012 elections. It was during that tour that Obama used the words “executive action” in public for the first time as president.

“I’ve told my administration to keep looking every single day for actions we can take without Congress, steps that can save consumers money, make government more efficient and responsive, and help heal the economy,” Obama said in an October 2011 speech in Las Vegas. “And we’re going to be announcing these executive actions on a regular basis.”

In the 2014 congressional election cycle, that strategy was called the “Year of Action.” It brought often controversial executive actions on climate, immigration and Cuba.

“I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. And that’s all I need,” he said in 2014. “Because with a pen, I can take executive actions.”

Not all Obama’s executive actions get congressional attention, and many involve “soft” powers — like convening meetings, issuing reports or writing internal rules — that are clearly within the president’s authority. But for Republicans in Congress, executive action become synonymous with presidential overreach.

“One of the important roles of Congress is to serve as a check and a balance against the administration, and we’ve seen from this Obama administration many, many times where they’ve overstepped their legal authority,” House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Wednesday. “In fact, 20 different times the Obama administration has had the Supreme Court rule unanimously against executive actions that they’ve taken, that they’ve actually gone before the Court on.”

As the Obama presidency heads into its final furlong, White House officials say their focus is increasingly on getting all those executive actions implemented.

“We will continue to announce more executive actions, but the president is also holding us to account to execute on the executive orders we’ve already announced,” said White House economic adviser Jeff Zients.

Follow @gregorykorte on Twitter.


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