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Ukraine’s Rightists Return to Odessa — Monitors Now Arriving as Well

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Odessa_BurningNICOLAI PETRO, nnpetro at gmail.com
Petro is an academic specializing in Russian and Ukrainian affairs. He is currently a professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He spent 2013-2014 as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine. He just wrote the piece “Ukraine’s Rightists Return to Odessa,” which states:

“May 2 will mark the second anniversary of one of the most horrific, politically inspired tragedies in modern European history — the fire in the Odessa trade union building that killed 48 people and wounded another 200.

“Numerous pleas by the United Nations and the European Union for a thorough investigation into the causes of this tragedy have gone unanswered. … Last November, the International Consulting Group, set up by the Council of Europe, issued a scathing report about this lack of progress, and the government’s apparent disinterest in bringing those responsible to trial.

“Now, as we approach the second anniversary of these tragic deaths, and the commemoration of Soviet victory in the Second World War on May 9, some of the same groups involved in the first tragedy are quite openly preparing for a second round. To this end, the leading nationalist spokesman, Dmitro Yarosh, the former leader of the Right Sector, was invited to Odessa this month.

“There he explained his credo to his followers: ‘I am just not a democrat. My worldview is that of a Ukrainian nationalist. I believe that popular national government is very good, but only when democracy does not threaten the very existence of the state. We sometimes play at democracy with the likes of Kivalov [a member of parliament from Odessa], with [Odessa’s mayor] Trukhanov … but in war time this is never good’ he said, adding ‘the enemy needs to be dealt with as he is always dealt with in wartime — neutralized.’

“A significant Western media presence on the ground during the critical week from May 2 to 9, could conceivably lead the radical nationalists to reconsider their violent strategy. Turning a blind eye to the gathering storm, by contrast, will only embolden the most radical elements in society, and further erode respect for law and order in Ukraine.”

JOE LOMBARDO, UNACpeace at gmail.com, @UNAC1
Lombardo is co-coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coalition, which is sending a delegation of human rights activists to Odessa to monitor the memorial planned by the Mothers’ Committee for May 2 to honor their family members who died in the House of Trade Unions fire. The delegation will join other international monitors from France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Poland and Bulgaria.

The UNAC presence is part of a solidarity campaign backed by “more than 150 human rights organizations and activists from 20 countries in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.”

The most recent UNAC statement on Odessa notes: “At the U.S. State Department’s daily press briefing on April 26, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner was asked the U.S. position on the memorial planned for May 2 in Odessa’s Kolikovo square to mark the second anniversary of the day scores of progressives died there at the hands of a reactionary mob.

“In response, Toner said the State Department had strongly condemned the massacre of May 2, 2014, supported holding an investigation to bring those responsible ‘to justice’ and condemned threats being leveled against those attending the memorial.

“‘The most important thing to stress here is that we would obviously support any commemoration of this event … and we would certainly condemn any threats in the run-up to these events,’ Toner said.” See video.

Could Voters Opposed to Both Clinton and Trump Team up Using VotePact?

imgresSAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini  at gmail.com, @votepact
Husseini is the founder of VotePact.org, which encourages disenchanted Democrats and disenchanted Republicans to pair up and each vote for the candidates they genuinely want. His most recent piece is “After Sanders — a Path to Electoral Revolution.”

He said today: “Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have incredibly high negatives. Most people don’t agree with, like or trust either. In a political system responsive to the public, an alternative with broad support would emerge if they become the nominees, as seems increasingly likely.

“Unfortunately, in our system — which enshrines the dominance of the two establishment parties — the negatives of each end up perversely being the basis of support for the other. Voters end up being trapped by the very unpopularity of the candidates. The main things holding the system together are fear and hate — even as the candidates claim to be bringing people together.

“That is, most people supporting Clinton are not doing so because they view her as upstanding, wise or just. They support her because they fear and despise Trump and his misogyny, racism and temperament.

“And the same largely goes for Trump. His supporters back him because they detest the establishment of the Republican Party as well as Clinton, who shares so much with that very Republican establishment even as she postures as a newly born progressive.

“So, voters could end up just cancelling each other out — one voting for Clinton and one voting for Trump, with neither being happy. But if voters who know and trust each other — relatives, coworkers, neighbors, debating partners — team up and vote for their preferred candidates (be they Green, Libertarian, Socialist, Independent, etc.), then they can begin to break out of the prison of the two party system. And if they do this in pairs (forming a VotePact), they can do it without the risk of helping the candidate they want the least.

“Politicians make such alliances all the time — witness the recent alliance between Ted Cruz and John Kasich against Trump. But voters need to do this with a level of integrity and honest dialogue that’s alien to the political class. It’s well past time that the public vote strategically instead of continuing to be the perpetual play thing of the duopoly.

“Certainly there are schisms in each establishment party. Bernie Sanders has made some of those evident on the Democratic Party side, especially in his forthright critique of the healthcare system, Wall Street domination and increasing economic inequality.

“And Trump has made some indications on foreign policy which break from perpetual war orthodoxy and embraces some populist rhetoric. How genuine that is however, is questionable. It’s possible that it’s no more sincere than Clinton’s new-found stated opposition to undemocratic corporate-backed deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Husseini’s past pieces include “A Path out of the Reversible Straitjacket of the Political Duopoly,” “The Need for Real Strategic Voting” and “The Perennially ‘Unusual’ Yet Somehow Ubiquitous Left-Right Alliance: Towards Acknowledging an Anti-Establishment Center.” He is also communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Obama in U.K.: Ensuring Security?

Mairead-MaguireToday, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron proclaimed their continued military ties, stating that they ensure security. [See video.]

AirWars.org reports that over the last 624 days, the U.S., U.K. and their partners have launched 11,773 strikes in Syria and Iraq with a minimum of 1,113 civilians likely killed and a total of 41,697 bombs and missiles dropped.

MAIREAD MAGUIRE, mairead at peacepeople.com
Nobel Peace Laureate Maguire is founder of Peace People and has done peace work based in Northern Ireland for decades. She recently attended a conference opposing “Just War” theory at the Vatican. In an article just after the conference, she wrote: “I believe the misguided age of ‘blessing wars, militarism and killing’ must end. The responsibility lies with Pope Francis and all religious/spiritual leaders to be true shepherds of peace…”

She has lead three peace delegations to Syria in recent years and wrote a piece earlier this year, “We Must Demand a Nonviolent Solution to War and Violence in Syria,” after the most recent delegation. She wrote: “Proxy wars are something they [Syrians] thought only happened in other countries. But now, Syria, too, has been turned into a war-ground in the geo-political landscape controlled by the western global elite and their allies in the Middle East. …

“If the U.K. government, the United States, and the European Union wish to truly help the Syrian people, they should immediately lift the sanctions which are causing great hardship to the Syrian people and try every nonviolent means to end the war. …

“If the situation is not stabilized in Syria and the Middle East, there will be few Christians left. The overall Middle East has witnessed the tragic and virtual disappearance of Judaism, and this tragedy is now happening at an alarming rate to Christians.”

Tubman, Jackson and the Honor of Money

ct-money-twenty-tubman-hamilton-jackson-201506-001AP is reporting today: “A Treasury official says Secretary Jacob Lew has decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, making her the first woman on U.S. paper currency in 100 years.

“The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of Lew’s official announcement, said that the 19th century abolitionist and a leader of the Underground Railroad, would replace the portrait of Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president.”

MARGARET KIMBERLEY, margaretkimberley at gmail.com, @freedomrideblog
Kimberley is editor and senior columnist at Black Agenda Report. She said today: “I have serious mixed feelings about this supposed honor. Slavery existed precisely because of the almighty dollar. How are we honoring her by putting her face on money?

“Tubman is deserving of great respect, veneration even. What she accomplished is unbelievable. She was a soldier and a revolutionary, a liberator. I no longer feel the need for acceptance from the larger society. Our heroes are ours and we can claim them without expectation or need that the U.S. government will give approval.”

DAVID S. REYNOLDS, reyn.sn at gmail.com
Reynolds is a distinguished professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center and is the author or editor of fifteen books, including Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson as well as John Brown, Abolitionist — and most recently,Lincoln’s Selected Writings.

He said today: “Andrew Jackson hardly had a corner on racism. And he reshaped the presidency to a degree that few American presidents have. By squelching secession, facing down monied interests, and, above all, promoting populist democracy, he set the stage for an even greater log-cabin president, Abe Lincoln, who, through similar strategies, saved the nation during the time of its greatest crisis. …

“Jackson did not cower, whether facing South Carolina or a hostile Congress or Nicholas Biddle, the eminent president of the Bank of the United States.”

Editor’s note: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew signaled last year that he would remove the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, from the $10 bill. But Ben S. Bernanke, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, objected. Bernanke instead suggested on his Brookings Institution blog that President Andrew Jackson be removed from the $20 bill — precisely because Jackson opposed prior U.S. central banks. Bernanke wrote: “President Andrew Jackson led the opposition to the Second Bank, vetoing a bill passed by Congress to continue its operations.”

BP’s Settlement, Six Years After

1035x777-GettyImages-98736482(1)National Geographic reports today: “BP Oil Spill Trashed More Shoreline Than Scientists Thought.”

ANTONIA JUHASZ, antoniajuhasz at gmail.com, @AntoniaJuhasz
Juhasz is an energy analyst, author and investigative reporter. Rolling Stone just published her latest piece, “6 Years After Gulf Oil Spill, Residents Demand ‘No More Drilling.’

She said today: “As the legal cases against BP draw to a close on the six-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill, both the risks of offshore oil drilling — and public opposition to it — grow.”

“April 20, 2016 marks the six-year anniversary of the largest offshore drilling oil spill in history. This month, Louisiana Federal District Judge Carl Barbier accepted a final settlement agreement between BP, the federal government, five states and hundreds of local governments, bringing to an end the feds’ six-year case against BP and most major outstanding legal cases against the company stemming from the disaster.

“But what lessons have been learned?

“President Obama is expanding offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, maintaining drilling in the Pacific and, as part of a newly proposed five-year plan (open to public comment until May 2), planning new drilling in the Arctic and even more in the Gulf. In response to overwhelming public opposition, however, the administration shelved a plan to drill in the Atlantic.

“The Department of the Interior has sought to improve offshore drilling safety over the last six years, including over 500 pages of new rules released just last week. Experts warn, however, that these efforts remain woefully insufficient, particularly as companies move to even riskier deeper depths, with 86 percent of new oil production in the Gulf taking place 1,000 to nearly 5,000 feet deeper than BP was drilling the Macondo well, including two projects at depths nearly twice as great.

“But public attitudes are changing, with 68 percent of Americans polled supporting offshore oil drilling before the BP disaster down to 52 percent today. Even more striking, nearly 75 percent of Americans polled now prefer alternative energy to gas and oil production as the solution to the nation’s energy problems, the highest percentage since at least 2011.

“BP has suffered a massive 91 percent decline in profits in the fourth quarter of this year and has laid off thousands of workers. BP’s recent losses have more to do with the collapse of oil prices than fallout from the Gulf oil spill, though both events have a similar origin: oil companies seeking — and governments allowing — drilling to occur virtually unabated everywhere.”

Obama: $50 Billion to Saudi in Weaponry

20Hartung-INYT-articleLargeSHEILA CARAPICO, scarapic at richmond.edu, @SCarapico
Carapico is a professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia who follows Saudi Arabia closely. Her pieces include “A Call to Resist Saudi (and U.S.) Aggression in Yemen,” for The Nation, and “Romancing the Throne,” for MERIP in 2014, about Obama’s prior trip to Saudi Arabia.

ALI AL-AHMED, alialahmedx at gmail.com, @AliAlAhmed_en
Ahmed is director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs and recently wrote the piece “Saudi Arabia Is a Burden, Not a Friend to the U.S.,” for the New York Times.

WILLIAM HARTUNG, williamhartung55 at gmail.com, @williamhartung
Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor.

The New York Times just published his piece “Obama Shouldn’t Trade Cluster Bombs for Saudi Arabia’s Friendship,” which states: “He should avoid doing what he did at Camp David last May, the last time he met with [the Gulf Cooperation Council]: promise more arms sales. Since Mr. Obama hosted that meeting, the United States has offered over $33 billion in weaponry to its Persian Gulf allies, with the bulk of it going to Saudi Arabia. The results have been deadly.

“The Saudi-American arms deals are a continuation of a booming business that has developed between Washington and Riyadh during the Obama years. In the first six years of the Obama administration, the United States entered into agreements to transfer nearly $50 billion in weaponry to Saudi Arabia, with tens of billions of dollars of additional offers in the pipeline. …

“Human Rights Watch has reported that two Saudi strikes on a market in the Yemeni village of Mastaba in mid-March killed at least 97 civilians, including 25 children. This was just one in a series of Saudi strikes on marketplaces, hospitals and other civilian targets, attacks that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have said may constitute war crimes. …

“Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, and Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, have introduced legislation that would stop transfers of air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia until the kingdom focuses its efforts in Yemen on attacking terrorist organizations and takes ‘all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.’ This is a good start.”

Hamilton: “Captain of the One Percent”

18640850The musical “Hamilton” won the Pulitzer Prize drama award on Monday. CBS News reports that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew may be announcing this week that the Treasury Department “may end up adding a female face to the $20 bill, not the $10 bill.” The $20 bill features President Andrew Jackson while the $10 bill features Alexander Hamilton — the first Treasury Secretary.

GERALD HORNE, GHorne at uh.edu
Horne is Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. His books include The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. He recently appeared on The Real News segment “Black Voters and the New York Primary,” and discusses the musical “Hamilton” near the 20 minute mark.

He said today: “The U.S., as an artificially constructed former settler state, has a problem of unity — not least of all with its African American population. Many nations have to construct a mythology to achieve unity.

“The U.S. myth of the Founding Fathers has revolved around Washington and Jefferson, but both have been scrutinized. Alexander Hamilton is now in effect being put forward, but he was the captain of the one percent — he represented the interests of big finance at the beginning of the United States. He personified the grievances that continue, and that the Sanders campaign and — to a degree the Trump campaign — have objected to.

“So, if you have a multiracial, hip hop cast in this musical, you pretend we’re achieving national unity. The actual historical record is so very different. Britain was moving toward abolition, so in 1776, the slave owners rebelled. That’s in large part the origin of the United States.

“In terms of Alexander Hamilton the man, he migrated to the mainland from the Caribbean as the enslaved Africans became more rebellious. The elite whites could no longer control the situation though the region had been considered the crown jewel of the British empire in this hemisphere. His coming to what became the U.S. was actually an example of what we’d call white flight.

“Much of our political climate is continuously obscured because we still haven’t come to terms with the racist and economic realities of the United States from its origin. That allows for many poor whites to align politically with white elites rather than with black folks.”

See “A Winning Democratic Strategy From People Who Hate Democrats,” about then-Senator Barack Obama speaking at the launching of the Hamilton Project in 2006 — a project of the Brookings Institution co-chaired by Robert E. Rubin, who Obama makes reference to in his remarks, video here. The piece notes that Hamilton, the founder of the Federalist Party, was the great rival of Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the Democratic Party.

See also: “‘Hamilton’ and History: Are They in Sync?” and “Why Fans of Hamilton Should Be Delighted It’s Finally Stirring Criticism.”

Coup in Brazil?

1460948345340The New York Times reports: “Dilma Rousseff Is Impeached by Brazil’s Lower House of Congress,” which states: “After three days of impassioned debate, the lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, voted to send the case against [President Dilma] Rousseff to the Senate. Its 81 members will vote by a simple majority on whether to hold a trial on charges that the president illegally used money from state-owned banks to conceal a yawning budget deficit in an effort to bolster her re-election prospects. That vote is expected to take place next month.”

MARK WEISBROT, weisbrot at cepr.net
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and has written extensively about Latin America. He recently wrote the piece “Brazilian Coup Threatens Democracy and National Sovereignty,” which states: “there is no evidence that [Rousseff] is linked to the ‘Lava Jato’ scandal, or any other corruption. Rather, she is accused of an accounting manipulation that somewhat misrepresented the fiscal position of the government — something that prior presidents have done. To borrow an analogy from the United States, when the Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling in the U.S. in 2013, the Obama administration used a number of accounting tricks to postpone the deadline at which the limit was reached. Nobody cared.

“The impeachment campaign — which the government has correctly labelled a coup — is an effort by Brazil’s traditional elite to obtain by other means what they have not been able to win at the ballot box for the past 12 years.”

CECILIA MacDOWELL SANTOS, santos at usfca.edu
Director of the Latin American Studies Program at the University of San Francisco, Santos is among the Latin America scholars to sign the petition “Brazilian Democracy is Seriously Threatened,” which states: “The combat against corruption is legitimate and necessary to improve the responsiveness of Brazilian democracy. But in the current political climate, we find a serious risk that the rhetoric of anti-corruption has been used to destabilize the current democratically-elected government, further aggravating the serious economic and political crisis that the country is facing.

“Instead of retaining political neutrality and respecting due process, sectors of the Judiciary, with the support of major media interests, have become protagonists in undermining the rule of law. … The violation of democratic procedure represents a serious threat to democracy. When the armed forces overthrew the government of President João Goulart in 1964, they used the combat against corruption as one of their justifications.”

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222 at gmail.com
Mendonça is director of Brazil’s Network for Social Justice and Human Rights. She is also professor in the international relations department at the University of Rio De Janeiro.

She highlights the role of social movements against the impeachment. For example, see the website of the MST, the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil, which features “Ten Facts that Brazil and the World Should Know,” which states: “This is precisely why the request for impeachment constitutes a coup d’etat, because a president can only be removed if he or she is found to have committed a crime — and as a crime did not occur, so far, Dilma’s name has not been presented in any corruption investigations: not even the slightest suspicion against her exists.

“Unlike President Dilma, the politicians calling for her dismissal are corrupt and are as dirty as they come. Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ) who, as chairman of the House is responsible for the impeachment process, has received more than 52 million Brazilian Rs. (BR$) from corrupt schemes undertaken in Petrobras, plus he has millions deposited in secret accounts in Switzerland and other tax havens. Of the 65 members of the Parliamentary Commission that will investigate the request for impeachment 37 (more than half!) are under the watchful eye of the Justice Department and are being investigated for corruption. If they manage to depose the president, in exchange they expect to see the charges against them for the fraud they have committed dropped.”

Clinton, Sanders, Israel and The Occupation of the American Mind

title_map_header_bluebg7SUT JHALLY, LORETTA ALPER, lorettaalper59 at gmail.com
Jhally is executive producer of the just-released film “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in The United States,” narrated by Roger Waters. Alper is a producer and co-director on the film. Jhally said today: “During last night’s Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders became the first major presidential candidate in recent memory to talk openly about Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, repeatedly criticizing Hillary Clinton for barely even mentioning the Palestinian people in her speech to AIPAC last month. In response, Clinton reasserted virtually every major Likkud Party talking point: Israel’s right to defend itself, the widely discredited claim that the 2014 Gaza slaughter was the result of Hamas using human shields and the myth that Israel ended its occupation of Gaza when it withdrew its settlers a few years ago.

“But while it was stunning to see a major presidential candidate like Sanders refusing to pander to political pressure and actually question Israeli policy, we shouldn’t forget that even Sanders’ criticism of Israel stayed on relatively safe political ground. While he spoke humanely about the Palestinian people, Sanders nevertheless ceded Clinton’s larger point that Israel had a right to ‘defend itself’ during the 2014 Gaza invasion, as if it’s merely responding and limiting his criticism to the ‘disproportionate’ nature of the civilian slaughter. What went unmentioned by either candidate — and by mainstream media commentators after — was Israel’s ongoing blockade and siege of Gaza, its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, and its continued settlement expansion in violation of international law.”

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @szunes
Professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at University of San Francisco, Zunes said today: “A number of Hillary Clinton’s statements during last night’s debate addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were quite troubling:

“She said she supported the Palestinians having ‘self-government’ and ‘autonomy,’ but she did NOT say they had the right to independence. It is hard to imagine any peaceful resolution to the conflict which does not allow Palestinians to have a viable independent state.

“Despite being prodded repeatedly, she refused to acknowledge that the killing of nearly 1500 Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces during the summer of 2014 (compared with five Israeli civilians killed by Hamas forces) was ‘disproportionate,’ and instead claimed the civilian deaths were because of ‘the way that Hamas places its weapons’ or that ‘it often has its fighters in civilian garb.’ However, Amnesty International and other reputable human rights investigators found that virtually none of the civilian deaths were related to either of these things.

“In addition, she repeated the myth that the U.S.-Israeli proposal put forward at Camp David in July 2000, which the Palestinians rejected, would have created a viable independent Palestinian state. They did not. Subsequent proposals put forward that December and January came much closer to doing so and Palestinian president Abbas has agreed to such terms, but it is Israel that has refused.” See “The Myth of the Generous Offer” from FAIR.

Vatican Conference Rejects “Just War” Theory

The National Catholic Reporter in “Landmark Vatican conference rejects just war theory, asks for encyclical on nonviolence” reports today: “The participants of a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference have bluntly rejected the Catholic church’s long-held teachings on just war theory, saying they have too often been used to justify violent conflicts and the global church must reconsider Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence.

“Members of a three-day event co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international Catholic peace organization Pax Christi have also strongly called on Pope Francis to consider writing an encyclical letter, or some other ‘major teaching document,’ reorienting the church’s teachings on violence.”

COLMAN McCARTHY, cmccarthy at starpower.net
A former Washington Post columnist, McCarthy is founder and director of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C., and the author of several books including I’d Rather Teach Peace.

He said today: “It’s long overdue that the leaders of the Catholic Church renounced and denounced the ‘just war’ theory. Christianity began as a faith totally committed to nonviolence. But then Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas proposed that some wars can be justified, which is completely opposite from the teachings of Jesus Christ. So it’s progress of sort that the church leaders — including Pope Francis — are hopefully coming to their senses. But it will not be enough until Pope Francis forbids Catholics from being in the military — just the way the Quakers, Mennonites and Church of the Brethren do not allow their members to take up arms to kill people. If this current conference doesn’t have such results, it’s just another example of empty talk.”

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