Month: June 2015

UN Commission: Israel Bombing Elementary Schools Not Considered War Crimes

(ANTIMEDIA) The High Level International Military Group—a UN-commissioned group made up of 11 former chiefs of staff, generals, senior officers, and political leaders from the U.S., Germany, Spain, Holland, the U.K., Italy, Australia, and Colombia—dismissed all charges and allegations of Israel’s war crimes after investigating last summer’s attack on Gaza.

The report was issued on Saturday following the group’s five-day trip to the region in March. It ultimately claims that Israel acted responsibly and with much restraint when the IDF bombarded Gaza last summer during what is known as “Operation Protective Edge.” The report even refers to the attack as “legitimate.”

An excerpt from the report states the following:

“We were well aware of the allegations made by some governments, the United Nations, human rights groups and the media, that Israel acted outside the laws of armed conflict in Gaza. Some have suggested that the IDF lacked restraint or even deliberately targeted innocent civilians.”

Nevertheless, the investigators drew the following conclusion:

“We examined the circumstances that led to the tragic conflict last summer and are in no doubt that this was not a war that Israel wanted. In reality Israel sought to avoid the conflict and exercised great restraint over a period of months before the war when its citizens were targeted by sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza. Once the war had begun, Israel made repeated efforts to terminate the fighting. The war that Israel was eventually compelled to fight against Hamas and other Gaza extremists was a legitimate war, necessary to defend its citizens and its territory against sustained attack from beyond its borders.”

The report appears to be nothing close to the results of a “fact-finding mission,” as was claimed, but rather a written defense of the Israeli government.

It also claims:

“But none of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population in such circumstances.”

Those extensive measures included killing 2,191 Palestinians, 519 of whom were children, injuring 11,231 Palestinians, damaging 61,800 Palestinian homes, displacing 108,000 Palestinians, damaging 220 Palestinian schools, 278 worship centers, and 62 hospitals, and overall costing a total of $7.8 million in damages.

The report gets worse:

via UN Commission: Israel Bombing Elementary Schools Not Considered War Crimes.


Ukraine’s Right Sector rejects Minsk deal, calls for renewed offensive in E. Ukraine — RT News

Fighters of Social Nationalist Assembly (SNA), part of ultra-nationalist Right Sector movement (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

Fighters of Social Nationalist Assembly (SNA), part of ultra-nationalist Right Sector movement (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

The ultranationalist Right Sector political party has once again rejected the Minsk ceasefire agreement, calling on President Petro Poroshenko to renew the military offensive in the eastern part of the country.

“We demand that the Poroshenko regime reject the Minsk agreements, and renew the offensive military operations aimed at liberating occupied territories [in eastern Ukraine],” the statement published on the party’s website reads.

It also urged Poroshenko “to reshuffle personnel in the Defense Ministry and the Army, to fairly punish state criminals of the [former President Viktor] Yanukovich regime, to make real steps in the fight with corruption and to change the oligarchical orientation of the government to a national [one].”

The Right Sector’s statement follows a recent spike in violence on the rebel-held territories in eastern Ukraine. The special mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE ) said in a report Friday that it observed “more ceasefire violations than in recent days” in the area around the former Donetsk airport. It added that “its monitoring was restricted by third parties and security considerations.”

The Right Sector movement which was formed as a coalition of nationalist and neo-Nazi paramilitary organizations during the Maidan protests in Kiev at the end of 2013, decided to become a political party in March 2014. At the same time, it nominated its ultranationalist leader and a member of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovnaya Rada) Dmitry Yarosh for the presidency.

via Ukraine’s Right Sector rejects Minsk deal, calls for renewed offensive in E. Ukraine — RT News.

Leaked IP Chapter, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) FTA, Oct 3, 2014 | Knowledge Ecology International

Attached (here) is the October 3, 2014 version of the Draft Text, of the Intellectual Property Chapter, for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Free Trade Agreement, tabled by South Korea in the negotiations. (More about the RCEP here)

The next round of negotiation will be held in Kyoto, Japan from 8-12 June.

The text is terrible, and includes a number of provisions that are controversial in the TPP negotiations.

For example, for damages in cases involving infringement, Korea has proposed the aggressive standard promoted by the United States in other trade agreements.

(b) in determining damages for infringement of intellectual property rights, its judicial authorities shall consider, inter alia, the value of the infringed good or service, measured by the market price, the suggested retail price, or other legitimate measure of value submitted by the right holder.

Life plus 70 years, or 70 years, for terms not based upon the life of an individual, for the copyright term:

2. Each Party shall provide that, where the term of protection of a work(including a photographic work), performance, phonogram or broadcasting is to be calculated:

(a) on the basis of the life of a natural person, the term shall be not less than the life of the author and 70 years after the author’s death; and . . .

Reference to a 3-step test for patent exceptions, but no reference to the WTO exceptions for compulsory licenses. (See commentary on this issue here: KEI TPP Briefing note 2015:1 Compulsory licenses on patents and the 3-step test).

3. Each Party may provide limited exceptions to the exclusive rights conferred by a patent, provided that such exceptions do not unreasonably conflict with a normal exploitation of the patent and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the patent owner, taking account of the legitimate interests of third parties.

Likewise in the section on copyright and related rights, the agreement would impose a 3-step test on limitations and exceptions (something increasingly common in trade agreements), without acknowledging or protecting the different standards for “particular” or “specific” exceptions found in the Berne or Rome conventions. (See: for more on the Berne exceptions).

Section B : Copyright and Related Rights

Article [X.B.7]: Limitations and Exceptions

Each Party shall confine limitations or exceptions to exclusive rights to certain special cases that do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work, performance, phonogram or broadcasting, and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the right holder.

The provision in the agreement on “undisclosed information” merely makes a reference to Article 39 of the TRIPS, but it gives right holders a new and separate fora for not only enforcing those rights, but interpreting them.

Article [X.F.2]: Undisclosed Information

The Parties shall ensure in its laws and regulations adequate and effective protection of undisclosed information in accordance with Article 39 of the TRIPS Agreement.

via Leaked IP Chapter, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) FTA, Oct 3, 2014 | Knowledge Ecology International.

WikiLeaks reveals new trade secrets

Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Highly sensitive details of the negotiations over the little-known Trades in Services Agreement (TiSA) published by WikiLeaks reveals Australia is pushing for extensive international financial deregulation while other proposals could see Australians’ personal and financial data freely transferred overseas.

The secret trade documents also show Australia could allow an influx of foreign professional workers and see a sharp wind back in the ability of government to regulate qualifications, licensing and technical standards including in relation to health, environment and transport services.

In its largest disclosure yet relating to the TiSA negotiations, WikiLeaks has published seventeen documents including draft treaty chapters, memoranda and other texts setting out the overall state of negotiations and individual country positions in a secret bargaining on banking and finance, telecommunications and e-commerce, health, as well as maritime and air transport.

The leaked documents were to be kept secret until at least five years after the completion of the TiSA negotiations and entry into force of the trade agreement.

Dr Patricia Ranald, research associate at the University of Sydney and convener of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, said WikiLeaks’ publication revealed an “extreme deregulatory agenda” on the part of both the United States and Australia’s negotiators with “serious implications for all service sectors, perhaps human services especially”.

The leaked draft TiSA financial services chapter shows a continuing strong push by the United States, Australia and other countries for deregulation of international financial services, an approach strongly supported by Australian banks keen to increase their business in Asian markets.

via WikiLeaks reveals new trade secrets.

US accidentally sends live anthrax to S Korean army – Al Jazeera English

The anthrax, which was initially sent from a Utah military lab (above), was meant to be shipped in an inactive state [EPA]
The United States military has mistakenly sent live anthrax bacteria to laboratories in nine US states and a US airbase in South Korea, after apparently failing to properly inactivate the bacteria last year, US officials have said.

The Pentagon said on Wednesday that there was no known suspected infection or risk to the public. But four US civilians have been started on preventive measures called post-exposure prophylaxis, which usually includes the anthrax vaccine, antibiotics or both.

Twenty-two personnel at the base in South Korea were also given precautionary medical measures although none have shown sign of exposure, the US military said.

Alex Jensen, a journalist based in South Korea, told Al Jazeera that the Osan base – where the bacteria was sent – was only about 60km from the capital, Seoul.

“It could have been worse,” he said, adding that the other major US base was in the middle of the highly-populated capital.

“I would say that the situation and the panic levels are under control.”

‘Minimal risk’

The four civilians affected in the US face “minimal” risk, said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has begun an investigation of the incident. They had been “doing procedures that sent the agent into the air,” he said.

When anthrax becomes airborne, it can cause a deadly illness called inhalation anthrax. That occurred in 2001, when anthrax sent through the US mail to government and media targets killed five people.

via US accidentally sends live anthrax to S Korean army – Al Jazeera English.

​Russia’s Gazprom and China’s CNPC to exclude dollar from gas settlements — RT Business

Reuters/Laszlo Balogh
Russia and China expect to use the ruble and yuan in payments for gas supplied using the western Altay pipeline. When it and the eastern Power of Siberia pipeline is open Beijing will become the biggest consumer of Russian gas.

READ MORE: Putin, Xi Jinping sign mega gas deal on second gas supply route

“As a sales contract is not signed, then, of course, the currency of payment has not yet been determined. However, the Chinese side and the Russian side are discussing [currency-Ed.] today and are in intricate negotiations on the possibility of paying in yuan and rubles,”Gazprom Export CEO Elena Burmistrova said Tuesday.

Gazprom says it’s not going to disclose the pricing formula for gas supplied to China via the western route because negotiations are underway, and pricing is a commercial secret, she added.

READ MORE:Russia and China seal historic $400bn gas deal

The western Altay route is expected to supply 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year to China. A basic agreement on the supply was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on May 8.

The western route is an addition to the eastern route ratified last year, which will deliver 38 bcm of gas to China annually.

via ​Russia’s Gazprom and China’s CNPC to exclude dollar from gas settlements — RT Business.

FDA takes step to remove artificial trans fats in processed foods – Connecticut (CT) Center For Health – Your Natural Health

Based on a thorough review of the scientific evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today finalized its determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS for use in human food. Food manufacturers will have three years to remove PHOs from products.

“The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans,” said FDA’s Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. “This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

This determination will significantly reduce the use of PHOs, the major source of artificial trans fats, in the food supply. In 2013, the FDA made a tentative determination that PHOs could no longer be considered GRAS and is finalizing that determination after considering public comments.

Since 2006, manufacturers have been required to include trans fat content information on the Nutrition Facts label of foods. Between 2003 and 2012, the FDA estimates that consumer trans fat consumption decreased about 78 percent and that the labeling rule and industry reformulation of foods were key factors in informing healthier consumer choices and reducing trans fat in foods. While trans fat intake has significantly decreased, the current intake remains a public health concern. The Institute of Medicine recommends that consumption of trans fat be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally-adequate diet.

“Studies show that diet and nutrition play a key role in preventing chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and today’s action goes hand in hand with other FDA initiatives to improve the health of Americans, including updating the nutrition facts label,” said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “This determination is based on extensive research into the effects of PHOs, as well as input from all stakeholders received during the public comment period.”

via FDA takes step to remove artificial trans fats in processed foods – Connecticut (CT) Center For Health – Your Natural Health.

Debt Truth Committee: Greece’s debt ‘illegal, illegitimate and odious’

22 JUNE 2015 - Greece offers new proposals
ANA-MPA — The debt imposed on Greece and its residents by its creditors directly infringes on the human rights of Greeks and is “illegal, illegitimate and odious,” according to the preliminary report issued on Wednesday by the Truth Committee on Public Debt.

The Hellenic Parliament earlier released a six-page summary of the debt truth committee’s preliminary findings during hearings conducted since April, when it was convened by Parliament President Zoi Konstantopoulou.
This stresses that the entire adjustment programme imposed on Greece “was and remains a politically orientated programme,” while challenging arguments that the policies imposed on Greece aim to improve its capacity to pay back the debt.
It concluded that Greece was the victim of an “premeditated and organised” attack and of a “violent, illegal, and immoral mission” to shift private debt onto the public sector.
“All the evidence we present in this report shows that Greece not only does not have the ability to pay this debt, but also should not pay this debt first and foremost because the debt emerging from the Troika’s arrangements is a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece. Hence, we came to the conclusion that Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and odious,” the report said.
Among others, the report notes that the unsustainability of Greece’s debt was evident to all involved from the outset, yet Greek authorities and other EU governments, with the assistance of the media, had “conspired against the restructuring of public debt in 2010 in order to protect financial institutions.”
The report is divided into nine chapters, the first of which analyses the growth of Greek debt prior to the advent of the troika, after the 1980s. This asserts that the increase in public debt was not due to excessive public spending but “extremely high rates of interest to creditors, excessive and unjustified military spending, loss of tax revenues due to illicit capital outflows, state recapitalisation of private banks, and the international imbalances created via the flaws in the design of the Monetary Union itself.”
Chapters 2 and 3 look at Greek public debt during 2010-2015, concluding that the first loan agreement of 2010 aimed primarily to rescue Greek and other European private banks. The 4th chapter looks at what it calls a “Debt System Mechanism” set up by the agreements implemented since May 2010, claiming that they created “a substantial amount of new debt” and generated “abusive costs” that deepened the crisis further.
Chapter 5 examines the conditionalities attached to the loan agreements, claiming these “led directly to the economic unviability and unsustainability of debt.”
The following chapter then looks at the human rights impact of the programmes, finding that the measures directly violated rights that Greece and its partners are “obliged to respect, protect and promote under domestic, regional and international law.”

phi in the sky radio: on air now, June 22, 2015

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Today on Phi In The Sky

  • the week that was: a rundown
  • the a-news: bringing you the news the mainstream neglects
  • with regulars
    •    zen master alan watts
    •    stormcloudsgathering
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