Saturday, April 25, 2015


April 26, 2015, Issue 217
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1.   Quotes of The Month: Ho Chi Minh (May 1890-Sept. 1969)
2.   Photo of The Month: Female Battalion Defends Damascus
3.   The U.S. 40 Years After Vietnam's Victory: Learning Nothing, Forgetting Nothing
4.   Low Wage Workers Fight Back
5.   $18.50 an Hour Minimum Wage is just
6.   Police Are Rarely Convicted for Killing
7.  Jeb Bush Praises Obama’s NSA Expansion
8.   U.S. Carbon Emissions are Rising Again
9.   Where are U.S.-Russian Dynamics Headed?
10. China Banks on Shaping a New Asian Order
11. Protest Target: European Central Bank
12. Armenian Genocide and Geopolitics
13. U.S. Losing Afghanistan's New 'Great Game'
14. Latin America Backs Venezuela at Summit
15. Raul Castro's Speech at The Summit Meeting
16. Raul, Che, Fidel
17. Republicans And Democrats — Who are They?
18. Military Vets Launch Anti-Drone TV Ads
19. Fight Injustices, Support Purvi Patel
20. Stop Solitary Confinement of Youth
Editor's Note:  We encourage our readers to send us their thoughts about a particular issue or one or more articles in the Activist Newsletter. We can benefit from constructive criticism or general thoughts. Email

1.   QUOTES OF THE MONTH: Ho Chi Minh (May 1890-Sept. 1969)

April 30 is the 40th anniversary of the Vietnamese victory of what they call the American War (see article below). Uncle Ho, as he was known to the people of Vietnam and all Indochina, led the 35-year struggle for independence and unification against Japan, then France and then the United States. He is considered by many throughout the world to be one of the most outstanding figures of the 20th century. His was a long struggle from an early age, including years in dreadful confinement recorded in his "Prison Diary" (the last three quotes are from the diary). Ho was elected president of North Vietnam in 1954 after the French defeat and would have been elected president of all Vietnam but the U.S. cancelled UN-ordered nationwide elections because, as President Dwight Eisenhower acknowledged, "Ho would have won." Ho Chi Minh was Chairman of the Communist Party of Vietnam until he died. Reading these quotes you will understand why the United States prefers to fight in the Middle East these days, and not Southeast Asia.

·      If the tiger ever stands still, the elephant will crush him with his mighty tusks. But the tiger will not stand still. He will leap upon the back of the elephant, tearing huge chunks from his side, and then he will leap back into the dark jungle. And slowly the elephant will bleed to death. Such will be the war in Indochina.
·     The Vietnamese people deeply love independence, freedom, and peace. But in the face of United States aggression, they have risen up, united as one man.”
·      You can kill ten of our men for every one we kill of yours. But even at those odds, you will lose and we will win.
·     Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty.
·     To reap a return in 10 years, plant trees. To reap a return in 100, cultivate the people.”
·      Remember that the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability.
·      Soldiers stand guard with rifles at the gate. Above, the moon drifts off on rags of clouds.
Bedbugs crawl here and there like army tanks.
Mosquitoes swarm and flee like fighter planes.
Beyond a thousand miles my heart goes home.
A tangled skein of sorrows weaves my dreams.
Guiltless, I’ve languished a whole year in jail.
 Pen dipped in tears, I write my prison poems.
·      Being stubborn and patient, never yielding an inch, though physically I suffer, my spirit is unshaken.
·      Better death than slavery! Everywhere in my country the red flags are fluttering again. Oh, what it is to be a prisoner at such a time. When shall I be set free to take my part in the battle?

Female Battalion Defends Damascus

A woman tank driver from an all-female Syrian army battalion prepares to close the hatch and continue surveillance through the suburbs of Damascus. All 800 members of the unit are stationed throughout the most vulnerable suburbs. Their task is to function as the first line of defense should anti-government forces seek to attack the capital. The battalion was formed a year ago as part of the Republican Guard, the most elite force in the military. 

    Learning nothing, forgetting nothing

Antiwar veterans of military service toss medals and articles of war clothing over the fence of the Capitol in Washington. They were part of a massive peace movement that helped end Vietnam war.
By Jack A. Smith, editor

Forty years ago on April 30, 1975, the Vietnamese people, led by their Communist Party, were finally victorious in the long just struggle for national independence and unification against the United States and its puppet regime in Saigon.

America experienced an earthshaking lesson in Vietnam — "Stop your unjust wars of aggression!" —but Washington learned nothing from its humiliating defeat except to shift its battlefields of choice from Southeast Asia to Southwest Asia (i.e., the Middle East).

The U.S. went on to fight in Iraq three times and impose long sanctions in 25 continuous years; in Afghanistan the Pentagon has been fighting for 14 years and has achieved nothing; in Libya the U.S. bombed for less than a year but managed to spark a civil war and open the door to the Islamic State in the process.  

Many smaller incursions have taken place since losing the Vietnam war. For instance, the Obama Administration for years took actions to overthrow Syrian President Assad, and all the White House has to show for it is a jihadi war led by the Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front (the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda). Most recently the Obama Administration publicly supported the unjust and illegal bombings and blockade of Yemen by the repressive rightwing dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, the country that helped bankroll the jihadi warriors in Syria.

Most Americans, except for families of the dead, veterans and war opponents, never think about the Vietnam War — one of history's most unequal and vicious. Young Americans in general have received only a bowdlerized trace of information at school. At the same time, the lives of many Americans who protested this shameful war — civilians plus antiwar GIs and draft resisters — were largely radicalized and changed forever. Now in their sixties through eighties and older, they continue to this day to protest war and injustice. For some, myself included, details of this war remain indelibly etched in memory.

The message says:
"President Ho Chi Minh lives 
with us forever."
The day after the U.S. debacle the name of Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital where the American command was situated until being unceremoniously ousted, was changed to Ho Chi Minh City in honor of the great leader of the Indochinese people who died in 1969. Hanoi, to the north, remained the capital of reunified Vietnam.

Droves of Americans, including a substantial number of former soldiers, now visit both cities and other parts of the Vietnam every year. Many tour the war museums, the old battlefields and tunnels used by peasants and fighters to escape from or to attack American forces. The Vietnamese treat such visitors courteously, without a sign of enmity, which is quite remarkable considering the horrors perpetrated upon a country that survived more explosive tonnage than the U.S. deployed during World War II in Europe and Asia-Pacific — 15,500,000 tons of air and ground munitions during the Vietnam War; 6,000,000 tons in WW II.

Vietnam at the time had a population of about 31 million situated on both sides of the 17th parallel, temporarily dividing North and South Vietnam. Over four million (one in eight people of Vietnam) were killed in Washington's aggressive war upon a very poor largely peasant society beginning in the mid-1950s when the U.S. took over from the defeated French colonialist armies. France had occupied and oppressed Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (Indochina) for over 100 years, then it became America's turn. U.S. bombings killed at least a million more people in Laos and Cambodia.

For an American society fearfully fixated on a few 9/11 followup domestic terrorist incidents such as the Boston Marathon killings or the so-called "underwear" bomber, the immensity of the deaths caused by their own government in Vietnam, Iraq, North Korea and so many other countries, is evidently incomprehensible and thus unimportant.

U.S. combat deaths from 1955-1975 were 47,424, nearly all between 1965 and 1973. Officially, Afghanistan is Washington's longest war at 14 years, but unofficially Vietnam is six years longer. In time, Afghanistan may live up to its dubious designation since the U.S. government continues to delay full withdrawal of combat forces.

It may be of interest to learn that the total number of American combat deaths in 76 wars from 1775 to 2015 (including all the dead on both sides during the Civil War) amounts to 846,163. That's less than the UN-verified total of a million Iraqis, half of whom were young children, who died from 1991 to 2003 due to killer sanctions. This was followed by another million dead Iraqis from the 2003-2011 war.

Compare the U.S. total of combat deaths in World War II (291,557) to the number of Russian combat and civilian deaths (27 million). There were no civilian deaths in the U.S, which has not suffered war damage from foreign invasions since the British War of 1812-15. Most of Russia was flattened west of the Ural Mountains in WWII. In Washington's 1950-1953 war against North Korea, every city and most towns were destroyed by U.S. carpet bombings. Several millions were killed. The U.S. suffered 33,686 combat deaths.
Antiwar American students on many hundreds of campuses
went on strike against President Nixon's terror bombings of 
Cambodia during the week of May 4, 1970. Above, 
Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.

Militarism, a principal element in U.S. society, thrives on unequal wars where the weapons, technology and communications of the "enemy" are far inferior and where it is impossible for an inch of U.S. territory to experience the footprint of a foreign soldier. Since the Civil War the American people at home, the landscape and infrastructure have been untouched by war.

This is not as good as it looks. America is the world's principal mass killer since the end of WWII but its people are so accustomed to wars that cause them no pain and suffering that they easily support, or are indifferent to, unjust aggression in the name of protecting America, especially since the Pentagon ended conscription. This allowed recent wars to impact only a tiny minority of American families. Ironically, there's hardly any need to protect America, enclosed between two oceans in an impenetrable fortress. But government fear mongering about the nation's vulnerability is a most useful lie intended to perpetuate Washington's insistence upon functioning as global overlord and military superpower.

The overwhelming majority of Americans knew absolutely nothing about their own country's involvement in Vietnam until around 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson began to vastly increase the U.S. troop component, which reached 549,500 mostly conscript personnel in 1968. By then, a vibrant antiwar movement was shaking the White House to the extent that Johnson announced he would not run for re-election. He retired in disgrace because of his unpopular war, despite being the last Democratic president who authorized and fought for civil rights and important social programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and much more. The domestic achievements of Democrats Clinton and Obama were pathetic compared to LBJ.

Women's march for peace (date and location unknown).
Richard Nixon, Johnson's elected replacement, caused many more Vietnamese (and Cambodian) deaths in the name of seeking peace. But by 1973 the antiwar movement, the American people and rebellious U.S. soldiers in the field forced the White House to withdraw all American combat troops from Vietnam. Thousands of U.S. military advisers, CIA agents, and those Washington delegated to basically control the Saigon government and military, remained in the country for two more years. They were obliged to flee in extreme haste as liberation forces closed in and quickly declared victory.

The 1960s and early '70s were great years of domestic uprisings in the United States against various ills and injustices, from the segregation of African Americans, to the subjugation of women, repressive cultural backwardness, the Vietnam War, the hatred and shunning of LGBT people and other causes.

As the war continued, the majority of the American people began demanding peace. The antiwar movement became extremely large and militant, ultimately contributing strongly to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. By the early 1970s the Hanoi government recognized there were three fronts in the war — the battlefield, the Paris peace talks, and the American people's antiwar movement. I always bring this up when I'm told that peace demonstrations do no good. When antiwar movements become large, rambunctious, militant and long-lived they can stop a war or at least educate millions of people to oppose the next war.

Mass peace march in Washington in October 1967.
A number of activists I knew or worked with during this exciting period of the uprising against a devastating imperialist war are still in opposition today. I'm 80 now and never served in the war (except for 1962-63 in prison for opposing the war machine) but the passionate hatred for colonialism and imperialism emanating from that ruthless conflict remains even stronger with me 40 years later, as I'm sure it does for many other opponents of that war who are still active.

As a quite young journalist for a major international news service I was aware of many details of the Vietnam conflict beginning in the 1950s, mainly after the historic French defeat in the battle of Diên Biên Phu in 1954. My years as a writer and then the editor of the (U.S.) Guardian radical newsweekly (1963 to 1984) made me feel very much a part of the antiwar struggle because few if any other U.S. independent publications labored as long and hard against the war and for the victory of the Vietnamese people.

Our long-time foreign correspondent Wilfred Burchett wrote weekly articles from the battlefields and liberated areas of Vietnam with coverage that far excelled that of the reporters for major American newspapers, stationed in Saigon or with fighting U.S. units, often pegging their stories on official lies and fictitious body counts and on press conference propaganda from the government. It still happens today, of course, but Vietnam opened millions of eyes to Washington's imperial perfidy, and the Internet has become a major source of antiwar news and radical analysis if you know where to look.

To the leftist Guardian, along with many on the U.S. left from progressives to communists, the Vietnam War was imperialist in nature. The Guardian wanted the war to end with the defeat of the American aggressor.

Members of Black Panther Party march for end of Vietnam
War in Washington, DC, in 1969.
Other sections of the broad and diverse peace movement objected strenuously to the term "imperialist" and were fearful of publicly supporting the defeat of their own country despite its having launched one of history's most hideous wars of aggression.

I have been involved in opposing every U.S. war since Korea (1950-53) and have seen the "imperialist" question crop up repeatedly as though it is too radical or leftist instead of what it really is — the truth in terms of most scholarly and political definitions of the concept.

The issue of the Guardian reporting on the April 30 defeat of U.S.-South Vietnamese forces proclaimed in huge type on the front page: "VICTORY IN VIETNAM!" The lead article began: "Vietnam is completely liberated. After 35 years of continuous heroic struggle against Japanese, French and American imperialism, the Vietnamese people from north to south are free and independent."

I was in Vietnam a few months before victory and was told by a government official of Hanoi's "deep appreciation for the Guardian's steadfast opposition to French colonialism and American imperialism, and for its years of efforts on behalf of peace, national liberation and the unification of Vietnam." This was essentially repeated to me in different words by another official on the 30th anniversary celebration in Ho Chi Minh City.

"Colonialists, International Traitors, Think Carefully Before 
You Take on Vietnam"
What remained of the mass U.S. antiwar movement largely dissolved when the war ended in 1975. Likewise, most of what was left of the extraordinary period of radical and revolutionary upsurges known as the Sixties ended around that time as well. With the exhaustion and decline of the mass movements this people-driven epoch of advances in freedom and progressive militancy has been replaced by decades of conservatism and reactionary backlash against the people's victories of the Sixties.

One of the most significant long-term causalities of this right wing strategy was the labor movement, which has been under constant attack by the corporations ever since the mid-70s, not that the unions played a progressive role in the Sixties. Most supported the war and were initially scandalized by the cultural transformations that were taking place.

The union movement was and remains targeted because it fought to improve the wages, conditions and benefits of the working class. In retaliation, among other anti-worker initiatives, Big Business swiftly detached wage increases from productivity gains for the first time since the end of WWII three decades earlier. From 1948 to 1973 productivity increased 96.8% and hourly wages rose 91.3%. From 1973 to 2013 productivity jumped 73% but wages only gained 8.9%. This corporate class war is a major reason for the sorry plight of today's working class, lower middle and sectors of the middle class — and Washington's efforts to protect the workers have been utterly deficient to nonexistent.

Today, far right pro-war Republican forces have taken over Congress and the Supreme Court, and they are swiftly gaining control of state governments and using their powers to wreck the union movement, take back the gains of the women's movement and destroy programs that help the poor. Meanwhile, since there are only two "official" political parties, the only viable alternative within the ruling class-controlled electoral system is now the center-right pro-war Democratic Party, which has proven itself incapable of blocking the reactionary juggernaut, and all too often its conservative sector joins with the opposition, as many House and Senate Democrats are doing today in opposition to the U.S.-Iran talks. They'd rather follow Screaming Warlord Bibi, who presides over an isolated settler country with a population less than that of New York City, than the elected President of the United States. After a short period of tension following Netanyahu's studied insult to the Oval Office by speaking to Congress without a presidential invitation, Obama is now reported "mending fences" and proclaiming Washington's eternal loyalty to Israel.

"Willing to be loyal to
the Communist Party."
Briefly center left during the great Depression and again in the 1960s, today's center right Democratic Party may be better than the right wing know-nothings, but it is definitely part of the problem, not the solution, and simply cannot be counted upon to function as a buffer against the 1%, the Tea Party far right, the bought and paid for buffoons in Congress and the war-mongering neoconservatives of both parties who are making a comeback. The minority progressive congressional Democrats are well meaning  and their political views are superior to Obama's, but they are prisoners within their own party and have no intention of breaking free.

Economic and social gains — or any gains for working families — are hardly likely under present circumstances. There has to be a major change away from our imperialist capitalist system that presides over oligarch control of elections, rampant built-in inequality, wage stagnation, police violence, impotence in the fight against climate change, historic concentrations of wealth in the vaults of the 1% of the people, continuing racism in America and endless imperialist wars. There are better systems, such as socialism, but after 100 years of anti-socialist and anti-communist propaganda the American people have a way to go before that becomes viable.

At this stage, it seems to me, America needs a new Sixties on steroids — a 21st century uprising of mass movements in the streets, meeting halls and cultural events making specific demands on the power structure using whatever tactics are appropriate, including mass civil disobedience, strikes and calculated disruption. And it is about time we realize the absolute need for collective, disciplined leadership. I know there is considerable anti-leadership sentiment in some oppositional movements, such as Occupy when it flourished too briefly, but this has to change before system change ever becomes a reality.

There are those who think significant social change in America is impossible or that the vehicle for change emanates from the ballot box alone. We disagree on both counts

In the politically, socially and culturally repressive 1950s — when teachers were fired and writers, actors, unionists and others were blacklisted for harboring progressive ideas, when African Americans suffered under official and unofficial segregation, and when women were still kept "in their place," who would believe that a "Sixties" was about to emerge?

Who would credit the idea that downtrodden blacks would stand up and risk their lives to confront racist Jim Crow in a couple of years? Who conceived of the possibility that women would stand up and demand their full rights? Who believed that millions of Americans would stand up for years to stop a criminal war? Was there anyone so naïve as to predict LGBT people would stand up, come out proudly, and demand respect? What parents or educators anticipated that many millions of students would stand up against repressive campus and outdated behavioral rules, and then bring the antiwar and radical struggle to the college green and even in some cases blockade their school president's offices. Judging by the 1950s crackdown on left to communist movements, it was not thought reasonable to proclaim that the left would soon stand up and experience a virtual renaissance, gaining members and playing an important role in the fight for peace and justice?"

If a Sixties can emerge from a backward Fifties, why can't a Twenties emerge from a backward Tens? And if that doesn't work, there's always the Thirties and Forties. The key is to work hard now and persistently to bring it about, and to be patient if it takes a long time.

Obviously, serious progressive social change does not drop from the sky, nor is it a gift from the bourgeoisie. It may not have been noticed by history but very many people and organizations were working hard for peace and social justice in the repressive 1950s. This helped bring about the social uprisings in the next decade. First, the oppressed blacks rebelled magnificently as the 1960s began, paving the way for other groups to rise up and express various pent-up demands for social change, compounded by an unjust criminal war that was draining the blood from America and its conscripted youth, not to mention the victim countries.

"For the more beautiful and
 richer nation of Vietnam"

Our decade is not the 1950s, and today's protest movements are much stronger: opposition to endless wars, climate change (and its subdivisions), police brutality, Black lives matter, drone killings, the abrogation of women's rights, the 1%, low wages, economic inequality, Big Money control of the electoral process, militarism, the paucity of social programs for the people, full LGBT rights, inadequate schools and housing, remaining racial oppression, an end to mass incarcerations and deportation, and more. If somehow there could be a cross-fertilization of these issues, and the addition of a few missing ingredients....

The U.S. government may not ever learn the lessons of the Vietnam war, compelled as it is by a socio-economic political system to create a better world first and foremost for the 1%, and empty rhetoric and wars for the rest of us. But I hope the lessons learned from the 1960-1975 era of uprisings for social change are not entirely forgotten but revived, improved and in time put into practice at a much higher and decisive level.

Thanks for listening, so to speak. The anniversary of Vietnam's victory brought all this out.
— The Guardian radical newsweekly attained a paid circulation of 26,000 readers and a pass along readership of at least 100,000 by the 1970s. The entire audience, aside from FBI readers seeking to know what's happening on the left, opposed the Vietnam War. Several years after I left the paper it suddenly and inexplicably folded in 1992, but the Guardian was there when it was needed most — to tell the truth about the war, to identify it as imperialist, to unequivocally support Vietnam against the aggressor, and to report on and help build the peace movement.

— A 13-page article titled "The Guardian the Goes to War," is collected in the 2011 book "Insiders Histories of the Vietnam Era Underground Press, part 1," (Michigan State Univ. Press).

— If you haven't done so, read "Vo Nguyen Giap: Death of a Giant" in the 10-26-13 Newsletter:


Low wage workers demonstrated in many cities April 15. This one is in New York City.
By Steven Greenhouse and Jana Kasperkevic

Workers in Atlanta, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and more than 200 American cities walked out on their jobs or joined marches and protests on April 15 during what organizers claimed was the largest protest by low-wage workers in U.S. history.

Some 60,000 workers took part in the Fight for $15 demonstrations, according to the organizers. The protests are calling for a minimum wage of $15 an hour, more than twice the current federal minimum of $7.25.

Few if any apprehensions had been reported, a marked contrast to last May’s action when more than 100 people were arrested during a protest outside McDonald’s Chicago headquarters.

The demonstrations were the latest in a series of strikes that began with fast-food workers in New York in November 2012. The movement has since attracted groups outside the restaurant industry. Protesters this April included home-care assistants, Walmart workers, child-care aides, airport workers, adjunct professors and other low-wage workers. It also sparked international support, with people protesting against low wages in Brazil, New Zealand and the UK.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the largest U.S. unions and representing
janitors, security guards, hospital aides and nursing home workers, has bankrolled the campaign, pumping in more than $25 million according to documents filed with the Labor Dept.

Mary Kay Henry, international president of the SEIU, told the Guardian: "There is not a price tag you can put on how this movement has changed the conversation in this country. It is raising wages at the bargaining table. It’s raised wages for 8 million workers. I believe we are forcing a real conversation about how to solve the grossest inequality in our generation. People are sick of wealth at the top and no accountability for corporations."

Speaking at a protest in San Francisco, Karen Joubert, a nurse, Fight for $15 organizer and a vice-president of representation with the northern California chapter of SEIU, said: "When you pay someone a decent wage, it helps him to get better healthcare and take care of the family.

"Many of our members who work at fast-food restaurants are not college students. They’ve worked there for 12, 15 years. They are working three jobs so that they can raise a family. We want to see them get better wages."

Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said the protest marked a significant change in labor disputes. "What is really significant about the Fight for $15 movement is – most labor disputes, look inside, they’re about a group of workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement," said Chaison.

"In the Fight for $15, unions are helping to organize on a community basis, a group of workers who are on the fringe of the economy. It’s not about union members protecting themselves. It’s about moving other people up. This is the whole civil rights movement all over again."

— From the Guardian (UK), 4-15-15


By the Economic Policy Institute

The federal minimum wage reached its highest inflation-adjusted value in 1968, when it was worth $9.54 per hour in 2014 dollars. Since that time, infrequent or inadequate increases have allowed inflation to eat away at the minimum wage’s value such that today’s federal minimum of $7.25 has lost roughly one quarter of its purchasing power.

Measuring the minimum wage against changes in prices, however, is only one way to think of where we could set the national wage floor today. Given growth in the economy and improvements in labor productivity over the past 45 years, the minimum wage could have been raised to a point considerably higher than its 1968 inflation-adjusted value.

If the minimum wage had been raised since 1968 at the same rate as changes in average hourly wages of nonsupervisory production workers — a group that comprises roughly 80% of all U.S. workers and excludes highly-paid supervisors and executives — the minimum wage would be almost $11 today.

Had the minimum wage been raised since 1968 at the same rate as growth in productivity—i.e., the rate at which the average worker can produce income for her employer from each hour of work—it would be nearly $18.50 per hour.


Faces of unarmed people of color killed by U.S. police in recent years through 2014.
By Josie Wales

As police killings of unarmed men of color seem to take place with regularity, a new study released by the Washington Post reveals that for every 1,000 people killed by police, only one officer is convicted of a crime. Since 2005, although there have been thousands of fatal shootings by police officers, only 54 have been charged. Of those charged, virtually all were cleared or acquitted.

Alarmingly, the number of people fatally shot by police may be much higher because police departments are not required to keep an updated database of cop shootings

According to the Post article: “The 54 criminal prosecutions were identified by Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip M. Stinson and The Washington Post. Cases were culled from news reports, grand jury announcements and news releases from prosecutors. For individual cases, reporters obtained and reviewed thousands of pages of court records, police reports, grand jury indictments, witness testimony and video recordings. Dozens of prosecutors and defense attorneys in the cases were interviewed, along with legal experts, officers who were prosecuted and surviving relatives of the shooting victims.”

The article noted that in order for prosecutors to press charges, there had to be exceptional factors at play. These include “a video recording of the incident, a victim shot in the back, incriminating testimony from other officers or allegations of a coverup.” Criminologist Stinson declared, To charge an officer in a fatal shooting, it takes something so egregious, so over the top that it cannot be explained in any rational way. It also has to be a case that prosecutors are willing to hang their reputation on.

— From The Free Thought Project, April 16.


Jeb Bush admires the worst aspects of President Obama'a policies and can't wait to continue them.
By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, 4-21-15

One of the most glaring myths propagated by Washington — especially the two parties’ media loyalists — is that bipartisanship is basically impossible, that the two parties agree on so little that they are constantly at each other’s throats over everything.

As is so often the case for Washington partisan propaganda, the reality is exactly the opposite: from trade deals to Wall Street bailouts to a massive National Security and Penal State, the two parties are in full agreement on the bulk of the most significant Washington policies. This is why the leading candidates of the two parties — from America’s two ruling royal families [footnote 1] — will have the same funding base.

However, because policies that command the agreement of the two parties’ establishments are largely ignored by the D.C. press in favor of the issues where they have some disagreements, the illusion is created that they agree on nothing.

To illustrate how true this all is, consider the comments today of leading GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush. He appeared on Michael Medved’s conservative talk radio program, and was asked by the host what his favorite part of the Obama administration has been. His answer? As McClatchy’s Lesley Clark noted on Twitter, Bush hailed “Obama’s enhancement of NSA.” The audio was first posted by Ian Hanchett and is embedded below; here is the full transcript of the exchange:

Medved: If you were to look back at the last seven years, almost, what has been the best part of the Obama administration?

Jeb Bush: "I would say the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using the big metadata programs, the NSA being enhanced. Advancing this — even though he never defends it, even though he never openly admits it, there has been a continuation of a very important service, which is the first obligation, I think of our national government is to keep us safe. And the technologies that now can be applied to make that so, while protecting civil liberties are there. And he’s not abandoned them, even though there was some indication that he might."

It’s hardly unusual for even the most extremist right-wing Republicans to praise Obama’s foreign policy. GOP Congressman Peter King has repeatedly done just that, hailing Obama’s use of drones, assassination of a U.S. citizen with no due process, his upholding of indefinite detention powers, and the truncating of Miranda rights in terrorism cases. Just this week, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham — who has advocated bombing almost more Muslim countries in the last decade than he has fingers — said that he prefers Obama’s foreign policy over Rand Paul’s. A bipartisan coalition of Congressional outsiders tried in late 2013 to defund the NSA domestic spying program and almost succeeded, but the union of the parties’ establishments — the Obama White House, John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi — whipped just enough votes to protect the program.

The cause of NSA mass surveillance has been particularly embraced by many Democrats because it was Obama doing it (as I’ve said before, if Edward Snowden had leaked this information when a Republican was in the Oval Office, there would be a massive statue erected of him outside of the MSNBC studios, where he is now often vilified). And now, Jeb Bush (in contrast to Rand Paul, who vowed to end NSA spying “on Day One”) has declared himself fully in support of that cause, hailing Obama for expanding these capabilities.

The joke's on us when these rich, powerful 
good old boys have a  laugh.
[Footnote 1] The two families noted above, of course, are Clinton and Bush. About which Greenwald also wrote: Having someone who is the brother of one former president and the son of another run against the wife of still another former president would be sweetly illustrative of all sorts of degraded and illusory aspects of American life, from meritocracy to class mobility. That one of those two families exploited its vast wealth to obtain political power, while the other exploited its political power to obtain vast wealth, makes it more illustrative still: of the virtually complete merger between political and economic power, of the fundamentally oligarchical framework that drives American political life.

Then there are their similar constituencies: what Politico termed “money men” instantly celebrated Jeb Bush’s likely candidacy, while the same publication noted just last month how Wall Street has long been unable to contain its collective glee over a likely Hillary Clinton presidency. The two ruling families have, unsurprisingly, developed a movingly warm relationship befitting their position: the matriarch of the Bush family (former First Lady Barbara) has described the Clinton patriarch (former President Bill) as a virtual family member, noting that her son, George W., affectionately calls his predecessor “my brother by another mother.”

If this happens, the 2016 election would vividly underscore how the American political class functions: by dynasty, plutocracy, fundamental alignment of interests masquerading as deep ideological divisions, and political power translating into vast private wealth and back again. The educative value would be undeniable: somewhat like how the torture report did, it would rub everyone’s noses in exactly those truths they are most eager to avoid acknowledging.


But the U.S. government evidently can.
By the Activist Newsletter

U.S. emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide are rising again, posing a potential challenge to President Barack Obama’s climate pledge, the National Geographic reported April 21. In 2014, energy-related carbon emissions increased for the second consecutive year, although by a smaller amount than in 2013, according to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The uptick, after a few years of decline, suggests the United States could have a difficult time meeting its emissions target. Last month, ahead of historic climate talks in Paris, Obama pledged to reduce total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26- 28%, from 2005 levels, by 2025. The bulk (80%) of that total is energy-related carbon emissions, the remainder coming from other gases such as methane.

It is questionable how Obama intends to keep his reduction pledge in view of his program of vastly øincreasing America's hunt for historically high levels of fossil fuels. Here's an example, according to the New York Times April 23:

"The United States is overtaking the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries as the vital
global swing producer that determines prices. That remarkable change has been building since 2008, as American shale fields accounted for roughly half of the world’s oil production growth while American petroleum output nearly doubled. And shale production methods have proven highly adaptable to market conditions....

"There is a strong chance, energy experts say, that this could be the beginning of decades of United States dominance in the oil markets, and that dominance will be accompanied by relatively inexpensive energy. The shale fields around the country are plentiful, and there is much more to be drilled...

The National Geographic continued: "The cornerstone of Obama’s climate plan — proposed rules to slash emissions from power plants by shifting away from coal-fired facilities —faces stiff Republican opposition on Capitol Hill. Unless his plan takes effect, the Energy Department’s EIA projects U.S. carbon emissions will continue to rise slightly in the next two years.

"Emissions are rising largely because of recent economic growth. In four of the five years from 2008 through 2012, they fell as the Great Recession prompted businesses to shrink and people to drive less. In contrast, emissions rose 2.5% in 2013 when gross domestic product, or GDP, expanded 2.2%. Emissions are also up because coal’s decline has slowed. After several years of steep drops, coal consumption jumped in 2013 and barely dipped in 2014. This fluctuation affects emissions because coal produces twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas when burned."

The EIA estimates that the U.S. could become for the first time a net energy exporter within five years. If America comes close to the reductions foreseen by Obama, and this is still conjectural, all it really means is that Washington at the same time intends to profit from exporting its surplus fossil fuels to other countries, which will cancel out any U.S. reductions.

The Yanks have landed in Ukraine, 300 of them. This can only increase tensions.
By M. K. Bhadrakumar

The deployment of 300 U.S. paratroopers in Ukraine, alongside contingents from the UK and Canada, can only be seen as the beginning of so-called "mission creep." The mission claims to aim at training Ukrainian national guards, but then, such missions invariably lead to deeper military engagements. In this case, the commencement of American weapon supplies to Ukraine now seems inevitable once the Ukrainian soldiers have been trained to use them.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has reacted strongly, expressing "alarm" and warning that the U.S. move undermines the Minsk [ceasefire] agreements and is "fraught with the renewal of bloodshed in Russia’s neighbor. The statement also implies that Russian interests are involved insofar as the foreign instructors will be training troops “in more efficient methods of killing Russian speakers in Ukraine."

The European Union and NATO are standing by watching as the U.S. and two of its closest allies in the Euro-Atlantic space have directly intervened in a military conflict in Europe once again after the gap of over a decade and a half since the Kosovo War ended in 1999. In sum, the Ukraine conflict is entering a new phase.

Thus, the German Foreign Minister Walter Steinmeier’s April 20 remark cautioning Russia against any move to accord recognition to the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas could be understood as a look into the future by an experienced statesman.
Russia's S-300 missile defense system will get to
eventually, but not so soon, says Moscow.

There has been a hardline lobby in the U.S. spearheaded by prominent figures in the strategic circuit that has argued all along that arming Ukraine will drive up the cost of the war in Ukraine for Moscow and compel Russian President Vladimir Putin to compromise.

A combined Task Force of Atlantic Council, Brookings and the Chicago Council published a report in February titled "Preserving Ukraine’s Independence, Resisting Russian Aggression." It recommended, among other proposals:

"• The White House and Congress should commit serious funds to upgrade Ukraine’s defense capabilities, specifically providing $1 billion in military assistance this year, followed by an additional $1 billion each in the next two fiscal years; • The U.S. government should alter its policy and begin providing lethal assistance to Ukraine’s military and; • The U.S. government should approach other NATO countries about also providing military assistance to Ukraine."

If anything, the decision last week by Putin to supply S-300 advanced air defense missiles systems to Iran [at a price of $800 million] would have further strengthened this lobby in Washington, eleven though Moscow said April 25 that delivery will be delayed. The expert opinion by a military analyst at the influential Council of Foreign Relations is as follows:

"The S-300 is not a wall in the sky. If we [U.S.] have to, we can attack and defeat it. Doing so, however, requires an effort that is much larger, much riskier, and much more costly. Recently, we have seen a debate on the scale of a potential attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, with some arguing that it would be relatively limited and others taking an opposing view. With the S-300 in place, there is no debate. Overcoming this type of system will require a large deployment of air, sea, and land assets, including our most capable — and expensive — airplanes and missiles. Our people and equipment will be at greater risk, and accomplishing the mission will be more difficult and time consuming.

"No doubt, Moscow has dealt a body blow to the U.S. capability to negotiate with Iran from a position of strength. Although Ukraine and Iran nuclear issue cannot be compared, it will be hardly surprising if the hardliners in Washington were to argue that the Obama administration must pay back in the same coin in Ukraine."

So, why did Obama completely downplay the S-300 issue, making Israeli "jaws drop"? Reuters reported April 18: "Obama admitted he was 'surprised' that Moscow held back resumption of S-300 supplies to Iran for so long." The President continued: "This is actually a sale that was slated to happen in 2009, when I first met with then-Prime Minister Putin. They actually stopped the sale, paused or suspended the sale, at our request."

This is vintage Obama! He is playing the long game and hopes to turn the table on his Russian counterpart at a propitious point in a near future in Ukraine.

To my mind, therefore, Washington will be in no hurry to explore President Putin’s latest offer to "work together" with the U.S. Moscow probably estimates that although the balance of power in the bipolar world order characteristic of the Cold War era does not exist today, there is still a "counterbalance" to the U.S., thanks to a large section of the international community, especially the emerging powers, which is not aligned with Washington,. This works in Russia’s favor in its confrontation with the West.

However, this may or may not necessarily be the case. The emerging powers are preoccupied with their own ambitions and are struggling to cope with their own national priorities. (China, arguably, could be an exception, which cannot remain indifferent if the crunch time comes.)

Meanwhile, neither Russia nor the U.S. is in a mood to step back from the confrontation. Obama cannot afford to be seen as blinking first once the U.S. presidential election campaign kicks off. For all practical purposes, therefore, the two big powers could be stumbling to war.

— From Indian Punchline, April 22. M. K. Bhadrakumar is a longtime ambassador in the Indian diplomatic corps and is now writes frequent articles on international affairs.

— In a related article Aug. 14 Stratfor reported: "Even within NATO, some countries have shown markedly conciliatory positions regarding the fighting in eastern Ukraine. This divergence has highlighted the persistent political rift among NATO members about their strategies regarding Russia. Gen. Christophe Gomart, the head of France's military intelligence, said at a hearing in the country's parliament on March 25 that contrary to NATO reports, French military intelligence believes that Russia never deployed the logistics that would have indicated preparations for an invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, ahead of an April 13 meeting of the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier emphasized that progress has been made in withdrawing heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine.


President Xi Jinping meets Bill Gates at Boao forum.

By Charles Hutzler

BOAO, China (Reuters, March 29) - President Xi Jinping sketched out China’s vision for a new security and economic order in Asia, offering to spread the benefits of Chinese prosperity and cooperation across the region.

In a speech to a regional forum March 28, Xi presented China as a partner willing to "jointly build a regional order that is more favorable to Asia and the world.” He highlighted a new China-led infrastructure bank and other initiatives designed to leverage hundreds of billions of dollars to finance railways, ports and other development projects, and foster regional economic integration.

Throughout the 30-minute speech, Xi stressed that China’s vision, while centered on Asia, was open to participation by all countries. He was careful not to place China at the center of this emerging order, as some regional politicians and security experts have warned could happen.

But Xi said given China’s size, it will naturally play a larger role. "Being a big country means shouldering greater responsibilities for the region, as opposed to seeking greater monopoly over regional and world affairs,” Xi told the Boao Forum for Asia, an annual China-sponsored conference named for the southern seaside town where it is held.

The speech was the latest by Xi to articulate his government’s plans to use China’s growing power to reshape economic and security arrangements in the region — a change from recent decades when Beijing largely worked within a U.S. and Western-dominated international system.

At the center of these efforts is the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and plans to build infrastructure across Asia and along the maritime routes that historically connected China to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

The plans have been welcomed by many countries and companies throughout the region, which the Asian Development Bank estimates is in need of trillions of dollars of infrastructure. Close U.S. allies and other governments have signed on to the infrastructure bank, despite concerns from Washington about the way the bank will be run.

Chinese officials said the bank, which is due to start operations this year, is expected to have about 40 founding member countries.

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov announced Moscow’s participation in Boao on March 28. China’s Finance Ministry said on its website that day that the Netherlands, Brazil and Georgia have also applied to join. Australian officials on Sunday confirmed that Canberra would participate as a prospective founding member in negotiations to set up the bank.

In an illustration of the breadth of China’s plans, dignitaries attending Xi’s speech included government leaders from 15 countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Armenia and Austria — but there was no high-level representation by the U.S.

The Boao Forum, which was conceived as an Asian version of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, has typically focused on business and economic matters.
Xi’s speech was notable for touching upon security issues — though he didn’t raise China’s territorial disputes with Japan and the Philippines.

Without referring to the U.S. by name, Xi suggested the security alliances that have underpinned Washington’s role in the region should be done away with. "No country could have its own security assured without the security of other countries, or of the wider world,” Xi said. "The Cold War mentality should be truly discarded and new security concepts be nurtured as we explore a path for Asia that ensures security for all."

President Xi held out the prospect that China’s own economic growth, even if slowing, would bring opportunities for the region. Over the next five years, he said, China would import $10 trillion in goods, and invest $500 billion abroad.


By the Activist Newsletter

Protesting the austerity policies of the European Central Bank, a young woman named Josephine Witt, 21, decided to make a dramatic display of her displeasure in Frankfurt, Germany, April 15.

Attending a press conference by ECB president Mario Draghi, 67, she leaped on to the table at which he was seated, shouting "End the ECB dictatorship!" and tossed papers and confetti at the stunned bank official.

Security forces wrestled the woman to the ground and carried her away, as she smiled in triumph for succeeding in her objective. Later she was interviewed by a reporter from the Telegraph (UK) who wrote, "Ms Witt said she would continue to engage in 'hardcore activism' in response to what she believed was an undemocratic ECB." CNN reported, "Draghi was shaken but later made light of it."

Mass demonstrations against the ECB took place in Germany March 18 as thousands of mostly youthful protesters expressed their outage against the ECB, an institution they blame for ruining the lives of millions in the eurozone.

The protest was organized by the Blockupy, an activist coalition of more than 90 groups from across Europe, including the Syriza Party, which now governs Greece.
Mass German protest in March.

The demonstration coincided with the opening of the bank's new $1.3 billion headquarters in Frankfurt.
The organization said it opposed "the malicious spread of capitalism" which they held responsible for the increase in poverty and hardship in parts of Europe.

There wereviolent clashes between police and demonstrators, not intended by the organizers. A Blockupy spokeswoman said the group does not condone the clashes: "Blockupy is clearly against violence. Obviously, there are people that go against what we intended for this day. It is not what we planned, but it shows people are very angry about the austerity policies."

Five demonstrators were arrested and around 500 were detained for questioning. A number of police were injured. The protests will certainly continue.

Nearly seven years on from the start of the financial crisis, economic hardship remains a reality for many in Europe. Unemployment in the eurozone is falling but is still around 11%, and growth is stuck at anemic levels. The rate of joblessness among young people is much higher in Spain and Greece.

Teenage Armenian girl guides somber Russian President Putin to April 24 ceremony in Yerevan.
By Stratfor

The United States is not about to be weighed down by the historical baggage of the Caucasus. To Turkey's pleasure and Armenia's regret, U.S. President Barack Obama did not utter the word "genocide" on April 24 when he commemorated the 100th anniversary of a massacre of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks. Obama is not the pope [who recently condemned the  Armenian genocide]; he is the president of the United States, and the global hegemon appears to be in tune with its geopolitical instinct.

A great deal of diplomatic energy has been exchanged between Washington and the Turkish and Armenian lobbies in recent weeks. Not only have decisions had to be made about what word to use to describe the historical event, but there are also questions about the level of official that should attend the Armenian commemoration versus the Turkish commemoration for the Battle of Gallipoli. Putting aside the diplomatic motions, the choice is quite simple for the United States: Either Washington can throw its support behind a tiny landlocked satellite of Russia with negligible strategic value, or it can use the opportunity to deepen its relationship with a country that has the potential to influence two highly active geopolitical arenas, namely, the Russian periphery and the Middle East. [The Activist Newsletter considers Armenia an ally of Russia, not a "satellite."]

Turkey is already showing signs of wanting to be more active in its region. While Saudi Arabia is trying to band together the Gulf Cooperation Council countries as a military force with a common political purpose — to contain Iran, which is on the way to rehabilitating itself through a deal with the United States — Turkey is naturally feeling the urge to establish its own leadership credentials. Washington will encourage this evolution as it places more responsibility in the hands of local powers to manage problems such as the Islamic State.

Turkey is also looking out toward the Black Sea when it comes to recalibrating its foreign policy. Over the past few months, Turkey has increased its engagement with European countries on the front lines with Russia, including Poland, Lithuania and Romania, the leaders of a U.S.-backed European coalition. On April 23, in a policy speech to parliament, the Polish foreign minister mentioned Turkey three times in articulating his country's foreign policy, describing a "duty which involves listening to the voice of history and not turning one's back on nations — like Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia or Moldova — that are prepared to follow the European development." Warsaw's grouping of Turkey with these borderland countries is notable as we track growing efforts by Washington and its European allies to bring Turkey more into the Western fold.

Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be well aware of the shifting tide in Turkey. After Putin's spokesman wavered for weeks over whether the Russian president would attend the ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia's capital, accept Turkey's invitation to attend the Gallipoli commemoration or avoid the political controversy altogether by staying home, it turned out that Putin would indeed walk the red carpet in Yerevan. Putin still went out of his way to call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of his trip to Yerevan to reassure him of the strength of their relationship, but the growing tension between Turkey and Russia will become increasingly difficult for both sides to paper over. Turkish-Russian energy negotiations over natural gas pricing and Russia's Turkish Stream project are already encountering obstacles. And with Turkey starting to become more active in Russia's European periphery and the United States strongly nudging Ankara from behind, Moscow should be eyeing Turkey with suspicion.


By Dilip Hiro

Call it an irony, if you will, but as the Obama administration struggles to slow down or halt its scheduled withdrawal from Afghanistan, newly elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is performing a withdrawal operation of his own. He seems to be in the process of trying to sideline the country’s major patron of the last 13 years -- and as happened in Iraq after the American invasion and occupation there, Chinese resource companies are again picking up the pieces.

In the nineteenth century, Afghanistan was the focus of “the Great Game” between the imperial powers of that era, Britain and Czarist Russia, and so it is again.  Washington, the planet’s “sole superpower,” having spent an estimated $1 trillion and sacrificed the lives of 2,150 soldiers fighting the Taliban in the longest overseas war in its history, finds itself increasingly and embarrassingly consigned to observer status in the region, even while its soldiers and contractors still occupy Afghan bases, train Afghan forces, and organize night raids against the Taliban.

In the new foreign policy that Ghani recently outlined, the United States finds itself consigned to the third of the five circles of importance.  The first circle contains neighboring countries, including China with its common border with Afghanistan, and the second is restricted to the countries of the Islamic world.

In the new politics of Afghanistan under Ghani, as the chances for peace talks between his government credit for those potential peace talks goes to the Chinese leadership, which has received a Taliban delegation in Beijing twice in recent months, and to Ghani, who has dulled the hostility of the rabidly anti-Indian Taliban by reversing the pro-India, anti-Pakistan policies of his predecessor, Hamid Karzai.
and the unbeaten Taliban brighten, the Obama administration finds itself gradually but unmistakably being reduced to the status of bystander. Meanwhile,

Cartoon from the original "Great Game"where Russia and Great Britain were deeply involved.
Within a month of taking office in late September, Ghani flew not to Washington -- he made his obligatory trip there only last week -- but to Beijing. There he declared China “a strategic partner in the short term, medium term, long term, and very long term.” In response, Chinese President Xi Jinping called his Afghan counterpart “an old friend of the Chinese people,” whom he hailed for being prepared to work toward “a new era of cooperation” and for planning to take economic development “to a new depth.”

As an official of the World Bank for 11 years, Ghani had dealt with the Chinese government frequently. This time, he left Beijing with a pledge of 2 billion yuan ($327 million) in economic aid for Afghanistan through 2017.

The upbeat statements of the two presidents need to be seen against the backdrop of the twenty-first-century Great Game in the region in which, after 13 years of American war, Chinese corporations are the ones setting records in signing up large investment deals. In 2007, the Metallurgical Corporation of China and Jiangxi Copper Corporation, a consortium, won a $4.4 billion contract to mine copper at Aynak, 24 miles southeast of Kabul. Four years later, China National Petroleum Corporation in a joint venture with a local company, Watan Oil & Gas, secured the right to develop three oil blocks in northwestern Afghanistan with a plan to invest $400 million.

In stark contrast, 70 U.S. companies had invested a mere $75 million by 2012, according to the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency. What Washington policymakers find galling is that China has not contributed a single yuan to pacify insurgency-ridden Afghanistan or participated in the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in that country, and yet its corporations continue to benefit from the security provided by the presence of American soldiers.

In the other equally important realm of soft power, when it came to gaining popularity among Afghans through economic aid, New Delhi outperformed Washington in every way. Though at $2 billion, its assistance to Kabul was a fraction of what Washington poured into building the country’s infrastructure of roads, schools, and health clinics, the impact of India’s assistance was much greater. This was so partly because it involved little waste and corruption.

Continuing the practice dating back to the pre-Taliban era, the Indian government channeled its development aid for the building of wells, schools, and health clinics directly into the Afghan government’s budget. This procedure was dramatically different from the one followed by the U.S. and its allies. They funneled their aid money directly to civilian contractors or to approved local and foreign nongovernmental organizations with little or no oversight. The result was massive fraud and corruption....

—From TomDispatch, March 31. Dilip Hiro is the author of 35 books.  His latest, The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry between India and Pakistan, has just been published by Nation Books.


Cuban President Raul Castro with Presidents Maduro of Venezuela (on left) and Obama.
[The U.S. lost its iron grip over many Latin American and the Caribbean governments in the last 15 years. They had enough of Uncle Sam's hegemony. To win back a degree of credibility in the region, President Obama is finally seeking to improve relations with the Cuban government, which Washington has sought to crush since 1961. Evidently thinking this gesture provided him carte blanche to undercut Venezuela just before the Summit of the Americas meeting in Panama, he encountered a solid wall of opposition and in effect backed down.]

By Lucas Koerner

The seventh Summit of the Americas, held in Panama City April 10-11, was widely hailed as a victory for left-leaning and progressive forces in the region, particularly Venezuela and Cuba.

The summit involved all nations in the region, with this year's marked by the historic presence of Cuba for the first time. Cuban President Raul Castro addressed the summit and held face-to-face talks with President Barack Obama ― the first Cuban leader to do so since the socialist nation's Washington-imposed expulsion from the Organization of American States in 1962.

However, the much anticipated rapprochement between the two nations was largely upstaged by regional leaders' near uniform rejection of Obama's March 9 executive order labeling Venezuela a "national security threat" to the United States.

This move has been condemned by all 33 nations of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, which unites all nations in the hemisphere except the U.S. and Canada, and other regional bodies.

Collecting petitions for Obama to repeal action on Venezuela.
Castro noted the positive steps taken by Washington to reestablish bilateral ties with Cuba, but criticized Obama's recent executive order branding Venezuela a serious threat to the U.S. "Venezuela," he said, "is not and could never be a threat to the national security of a superpower like the U.S.” Castro called on Obama to “repeal the executive order” and “lift unilateral sanctions." Many of the national leaders joined in denouncing the Yankee declaration during the meeting.

Obama soon publicly acknowledged, "We do not believe that Venezuela poses a threat to the United States," but said he had no intention of repealing the executive order. He continued to justify new sanctions imposed on Venezuela, which are allegedly aimed at "discouraging human rights violations and corruption."

During the summit, Obama met privately with President Castro. He also agreed to a 10 minute closed door meeting with Venezuela's Maduro, who termed their meeting "serious, frank and cordial.... I told President Obama that I am not an enemy of the United States, nor are my people.”

Towards the summit's close, the U.S. and Canada blocked the approval of a final declaration. This was despite it being backed by the 33 other nations of the region, broad agreement that was the result of four months of negotiations.

The final declaration requires approval by consensus. The two North American nations opposed several points in the draft document, including a point declaring health a human right, calling for technology transfers to developing countries, for an end to electronic espionage, and for the repeal of the executive order targeting Venezuela.

— From Green Left Weekly (Australia), April 18, 2015.

[Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz delivered an important speech at the April 11-12 Summit of the Americas in Panama, over half of which follows. We omitted his section on the political history of Latin America (not least because we have published articles on this topic in the past) and some elaborations on current affairs. The entire text is available at]

I appreciate the solidarity of all Latin American and Caribbean countries that made possible Cuba’s participation in this hemispheric forum on equal footing, and I thank the President of the Republic of Panama for the kind invitation extended to us. I bring a fraternal embrace to the Panamanian people and to the peoples of all nations represented here.

The establishment of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) on December 2-3, 2011, in Caracas, opened the way to a new era in the history of our America, which made clear its well-earned right to live in peace and develop as their peoples freely decide, and chart the course to a future of peace, development and integration based on cooperation, solidarity and the common will to preserve their independence, sovereignty and identity.

The ideals of Simón Bolívar on the creation of a “Grand American Homeland” were a source of inspiration to epic campaigns for independence....

We have expressed to President Barack Obama our disposition to engage in a respectful dialogue and work for a civilized coexistence between our states while respecting our profound differences.

I welcome as a positive step his recent announcement that he will soon decide on Cuba’s designation in a list of countries sponsor of terrorism, a list in which it should have never been included.

Up to this day, the economic, commercial and financial blockade is implemented against the Island with full intensity causing damages and scarcities that affect our people and becoming the main obstacle to the development of our economy. The fact is that it stands in violation of International Law, and its extraterritorial scope disrupts the interests of every State.

We have publicly expressed to President Obama, who was also born under the blockade policy and inherited it from 10 former Presidents when he took office, our appreciation for his brave decision to engage the U.S. Congress in a debate to put an end to such policy.

This and other issues should be resolved in the process toward the future normalization of bilateral relations.

As to us, we shall continue working to update the Cuban economic model with the purpose of improving our socialism and moving ahead toward development and the consolidation of the achievements of a Revolution that has set to itself the goal of “conquering all justice.”

Esteemed colleagues:
Venezuela is not, and it cannot be, a threat to the national security of a superpower like the United States. We consider it a positive development that the U.S. President has admitted it.

I should reaffirm our full, determined and loyal support to the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, to the legitimate government and civilian-military alliance headed by President Nicolas Maduro, and to the Bolivarian and Chavista people of that country struggling to pursue their own path while confronting destabilizing attempts and unilateral sanctions that should be lifted; we demand the repeal of the Executive Order, an action that our Community would welcome as a contribution to dialogue and understanding in the hemisphere.

We shall continue encouraging the efforts of the Republic of Argentina to recover the Falklands, the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and supporting its legitimate struggle in defense of financial sovereignty.

We shall maintain our support for the actions of the Republic of Ecuador against the transnational companies causing ecological damages to its territory and trying to impose blatantly unfair conditions.

I wish to acknowledge the contribution of Brazil, and of President Dilma Rouseff, to the strengthening of regional integration and the development of social policies that have brought progress and benefits to extensive popular sectors, the same that the thrust against various leftist governments of the region is trying to reverse.

We shall maintain our unwavering support for the Latin American and Caribbean people of Puerto Rico in its determination to achieve self-determination and independence, as the United Nations Decolonization Committee has ruled tens of times.

We shall also keep making our contribution to the peace process in Colombia.

We should all multiply our assistance to Haiti, not only through humanitarian aid but also with resources that help in its development, and, in the same token, support a fair and deferential treatment of the Caribbean countries in their economic relations as well as reparations for damages brought on them by slavery and colonialism.

We are living under threat of huge nuclear arsenals that should be removed, and are running out of time to counteract climate change. Threats to peace keep growing and conflicts spreading out.

May Day parade in Havana.
As President Fidel Castro has said “[…] The main causes rest with poverty and underdevelopment, and with the unequal distribution of wealth and knowledge prevailing in the world. It cannot be forgotten that current poverty and underdevelopment are the result of conquest, colonization, slavery and plundering by colonial powers in most of the planet, the emergence of imperialism and the bloody wars for a new division of the world. Humanity should be aware of what they have been and should be no more. Today, our species has accumulated sufficient knowledge, ethical values and scientific resources to move forward to a historical era of true justice and humanism. Nothing of what exists today in economic and political terms serves the interests of Humanity. It cannot be sustained. It must be changed,” he concluded.

Cuba shall continue advocating the ideas for which our people have taken on enormous sacrifices and risks, fighting alongside the poor, the unemployed and the sick without healthcare; the children forced to live on their own, to work or be submitted to prostitution; those going hungry or discriminated; the oppressed and the exploited who make up the overwhelming majority of the world population.

Financial speculation, the privileges of Bretton Wood, and the unilateral removal of the gold standard have grown increasingly suffocating. We need a transparent and equitable financial system.

It is unacceptable that less than 10 big corporations, mostly American, determine what is read, watched or listened to worldwide. The Internet should be ruled by an international, democratic and participatory governance, particularly concerning its content. The militarization of cyberspace, and the secret and illegal use of computer systems to attack other States are equally unacceptable. We shall not be dazzled or colonized again.

Raul answers questions in Cuban congress last
December, discussing Obama's overture to Havana.
Mister President (to Juan Carlos Varela, of the Republic of Panama):

It is my opinion that hemispheric relations need to undergo deep changes, particularly in the areas of politics, economics and culture, so that, on the basis of International Law and the exercise of self-determination and sovereign equality, they can focus on the development of mutually beneficial partnerships and cooperation in the interest of all our nations and the objectives proclaimed.

The adoption in January 2014, during the Second Summit of CELAC in Havana, of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Peace Zone made a transcendental contribution to that end, marked by Latin American and Caribbean unity in diversity....

Cuba, a small country deprived of natural resources, that has performed in an extremely hostile atmosphere, has managed to attain the full participation of its citizens in the nation’s political and social life; with universal and free healthcare and education services; a social security system ensuring that no one is left helpless; significant progress in the creation of equal opportunities and in the struggle against all sorts of discrimination; the full exercise of the rights of children and women; access to sports and culture; and, the right to life and to public safety.

Despite scarcities and challenges, we abide by the principle of sharing what we have. Currently, 65 thousand Cuban collaborators are working in 89 countries, basically in the areas of healthcare and education, while 68 thousand professionals and technicians from 157 countries have graduated in our Island, 30 thousand of them in the area of healthcare.

If Cuba has managed to do this with very little resources, think of how much more the hemisphere could do with the political will to pool its efforts to help the neediest countries.

Thanks to Fidel and the heroic Cuban people, we have come to this Summit to honor Marti's commitment, after conquering freedom with our own hands “proud of Our America, to serve it and to honor it […] with the determination and the capacity to contribute to see it loved for its merits and respected for its sacrifices.” End)

By the Activist Newsletter

Raul Castro (left), now 84 and the President of Cuba, is shown here in his 20s in 1958 with Che Guevara in their mountain redoubt. Both were commandants in the 26 of July Movement led by Fidel Castro. Months later on New Year's Day 1959, the rebels took power after a several-year struggle against a dictatorship that was backed, of course, by the Yankee Colossus 90 miles away.

Successive U.S. presidents have continuously sought and failed to crush this small socialist island through war, subversion and extremely punishing sanctions, which are continuing. Raul headed the Cuban armed forces from 1959 to 2008. He has been acting president and president since Fidel was taken ill in 2006.

Che, an Argentine, held important posts in the revolutionary government, but was restless and sought to  use his revolutionary guerrilla experience on behalf of revolutions in countries where governments oppressed their people. He traveled secretly and on his own to Bolivia in 1966 in hopes of building a revolution. Che was captured by the Bolivian Army on the instructions of the CIA and murdered at the age of 39 on Oct. 9, 1967.

Raul and Che's old leader, Fidel (left), has been living in a Havana hospital for years. He's 88 and becoming quite frail. Foreign leaders and other guests are frequent visitors to Fidel's rooms. He writes articles for the Cuban daily Granma. Fidel is one of the great revolutionary leaders of our time, with the added distinction of having kept the imperialist  wolf at bay all these years. 


Following is a statistical breakdown of the constituencies that support the Democratic or Republican parties by the Pew Research Center April 7, 2015:

Democrats hold advantages in party identification among blacks, Asians, Hispanics, well-educated adults and Millennials. Republicans have leads among whites – particularly white men, those with less education and evangelical Protestants – as well as members of the Silent Generation. (footnote1)

A new analysis of long-term trends in party affiliation among the public provides a detailed portrait of where the parties stand among various groups in the population. It draws on more than 25,000 interviews conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014, which allows examination of partisan affiliation across even relatively small racial, ethnic, educational and income subgroups. 

The share of independents in the public, which long ago surpassed the percentages of either Democrats or Republicans, continues to increase. Based on 2014 data, 39% identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans. This is the highest percentage of independents in more than 75 years of public opinion polling.

When the partisan leanings of independents are taken into account, 48% either identify as Democrats or lean Democratic; 39% identify as Republicans or lean Republican. The gap in leaned party affiliation has held fairly steady since 2009, when Democrats held a 13-point advantage (50% to 37%).

Here are five specific categories of party affiliation:

Race and ethnicity. Republicans hold a 49%-40% lead over the Democrats in leaned party identification among whites. The GOP’s advantage widens to 21 points among white men who have not completed college (54%-33%) and white southerners (55%-34%). The Democrats hold an 80%-11% advantage among blacks, lead by close to three-to-one among Asian Americans (65%-23%) and by more than two-to-one among Hispanics (56%-26%).

Gender. Women lean Democratic by 52%-36%; men are evenly divided (44% identify as Democrats or lean Democratic; 43% affiliate with or lean toward the GOP). Gender differences are evident in nearly all subgroups: For instance, Republicans lead among married men (51%-38%), while married women are evenly divided (44% Republican, 44% Democratic). Democrats hold a substantial advantage among all unmarried adults, but their lead in leaned partisan identification is greater among unmarried women (57%-29%) than among unmarried men (51%-34%).

Education. Democrats lead by 22 points (57%-35%) in leaned party identification among adults with post-graduate degrees. The Democrats’ edge is narrower among those with college degrees or some post-graduate experience (49%-42%), and those with less education (47%-39%).  Across all educational categories, women are more likely than men to affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic. The Democrats’ advantage is 35 points (64%-29%) among women with post-graduate degrees, but only eight points (50%-42%) among post-grad men.

Generations. Millennials continue to be the most Democratic age cohort; 51% identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 35% who identify with the GOP or lean Republican. There are only slight differences in partisan affiliation between older and younger Millennials. Republicans have a four-point lead among the Silent Generation (47%-43%), the most Republican age cohort.

Religion. Republicans lead in leaned party identification by 48 points among Mormons and 46 points among white evangelical Protestants. Younger white evangelicals (those under age 35) are about as likely asolder white evangelicals to identify as Republicans or lean Republican. Adults who have no religious affiliation lean Democratic by a wide margins (36 points). Jews lean Democratic by roughly two-to-one (61% to 31%). The balance of leaned partisan affiliation among white Catholics and white mainline Protestants closely resembles that of all whites.

(1) Activist Newsletter: Most generational designations have little relationship to reality and are usually mere products of marketing research companies targeting consumers of certain ages. The "Silent Generation" is the meaningless misnomer that applies to those born in the U.S. between 1925 and 1945, many of whom lived through the Great Depression, WWII, the postwar period of political repression, the political/cultural uprisings of early 1960s to the early '70s, the conservative backlash continuing (and getting worse) to this day, the post-Soviet period of unilateral U.S. global hegemony, and now its gradual decline. Could they actually have been silent during all this?

For those who want more of this article continue at:

By Robert D. Dávila

A group of military veterans is taking aim at U.S. drone strikes overseas with graphic TV ads directly asking Air Force pilots to stop flying the unmanned aircraft, calling the operations immoral and illegal.

The ads are the first commercials opposing U.S. drone operations ever shown on American TV, according to sponsors, which include the Veterans Democratic Club of Sacramento County and the Sacramento chapter of Veterans for Peace. The campaign is spearheaded by an activist website,

The commercials are airing in April on Comcast in Northern California communities near Beale Air Force Base, which is home to Golden Hawk reconnaissance drones. Pilots at Beale remotely fly the spy drones over areas believed to be controlled by terrorists in foreign countries and pinpoint human targets for attack by armed Predator and Reaper drones.

The two 15-second spots show images from a drone operations video screen, an explosion and civilians searching through rubble after a drone attack. On-screen messages read "Drone killings violate law and morality" and "Drone pilots. Please refuse to fly. No one has to obey an immoral law."

One of the ads, which includes images of dead and mutilated children, is being run only after 10 p.m., while the other spot airs from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Both are posted on YouTube.
The commercials cost about $6,000, said Cres Vellucci, president of the Veterans Democratic Club of Sacramento County. The spots are running during popular shows on major cable channels, including AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox News, HGTV and a Comcast Bay Area sports channel.

"If you're a fan of 'Mad Men,' Giants games or Fox News, there's a good chance you'll see it," Vellucci said....

— From the Sacramento Bee. For information and news about drones check out



 Purvi Patel, after being sentenced to 20 years. This is a cruel injustice. She needs support.

[There has been considerable press coverage and vigorous shaking of heads following the recent conviction and 20-year sentence imposed on an Indiana woman for miscarrying a stillborn fetus. Her grim sentence underscores the increase backward decisions and legislation in many states throughout the U.S. Given the magnitude of the sentence and the nature of the so-called "crime," it is surprising that there has not been a much larger and demonstrative outcry from the movement and the public. We need a fight-back.]

By Jessica Valenti, Guardian

Abortion is illegal in the United States. So is having a stillbirth – not officially, perhaps, but thanks to a case in Indiana, we’re halfway there. On March 30 Purvi Patel, a 33 year old woman who says that she had a miscarriage, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for neglect of a dependent and feticide. She is the first woman in the United States to ever be sentenced for such a crime.

In July 2013, Patel went to the emergency room with heavy bleeding. She eventually admitted to miscarrying a stillborn fetus and placing it in a bag in a dumpster. (Patel lived with her religiously conservative parents who did not believe in premarital sex.) After police searched Patel’s cellphone, they found text messages that suggested she bought abortion-inducing drugs online.

Despite the fact that no traces of any abortifacent were found in Patel’s blood work taken at the hospital, the prosecution argued that she had taken the drugs mentioned in her text messages and caused her miscarriage at 23-24 weeks of pregnancy. And, in legal maneuvering that defies imagination, Patel was charged not just with fetal homicide, but with neglecting a child. These charges are completely contradictory: neglecting a child means that you neglected a live child, and feticide means that the baby was born dead.
Her mug shots before conviction.

But logic has never been at the center of the draconian laws and arrest policies that target pregnant women: control is. As Lynn Paltrow, the executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told me last year about laws aimed at drug-using pregnant women, this kind of prosecution “is about making pregnant women – from the time an egg is fertilized – subject to state surveillance, control and extreme punishment.”

And, as with other laws that hurt pregnant women, Indiana’s feticide law was not intended (explicitly, anyway) to be a policy that affected women: it was supposedly designed to target illegal abortion providers. But despite the anti-choice insistence that women are “victims” of abortion providers, the history of how similar laws are used shows just how much it’s women – and women of color in particular – who are directly impacted by “fetal protection” policies.

After a feticide law was passed in Texas in 2003, for example, a local district attorney used the opportunity to send a letter to all doctors in her county that they were now legally required to report any pregnant women using drugs. Doctors complied, and more than 50 women were reported and charged with crimes.

We may never know what really happened in Patel’s case. She has repeatedly said that she had a miscarriage which, if true, means that the state is sending a woman to jail for not having a healthy pregnancy outcome. But even if Patel did procure and take drugs to end her pregnancy, are we really prepared to send women to jail for decades if they have abortions? Even illegal ones?

When women are desperate to end their pregnancies, they will. The answer to this shouldn’t be punitive, but supportive: women need better access to education, affordable contraception and abortion without harassment or delay.

Patel’s case opens the door for any woman who expresses doubt about her pregnancy to be charged if she miscarries or has a stillbirth. It’s a terrifying thought, but one that is already impacting real women: the anti-choice movement is now sending women to jail for what happens during their pregnancies. So tell me again how abortion is totally legal. Or tell Purvi Patel.

— Democracy Now broadcast an interview about the Patel case with Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women. It is available online in video, sound or text format at


Seven demonstrators were arrested in this Oakland protest.
By the Activist Newsletter

Numerous studies have proven that prolonged solitary confinement causes prisoners significant mental harm and places them at grave risk of even more devastating future psychological harm.  The UN says, "solitary confinement should be banned."

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, "It’s practically torture and we’re doing it to our youth. Every day across the U.S., young people (13 and up) are held in solitary confinement with almost no human contact for days or months at a time."

Solitary can amount to torture, and the consequences can be devastating for children because they are still developing — that's why we must stop this cruel practice. That's also why the ACLU has joined with the Student Alliance for Prison Reform (SAPR) and launched a campaign to pressure the U.S. Attorney General to ban solitary confinement for youth in federal custody.

Watch this very brief video, sign the petition and share it with your friends and family. Add your voice to the call for justice now – let's make sure that the Attorney General can't ignore this issue any longer. It's all at: