Sunday, June 30, 2013

Snowden still stuck in Moscow Airport transit area

- Ecuador has asked Russia for talks concerning Edward Snowden according to a Russian state broadcaster. Snowden is seeking asylum in Ecuador to avoid trial in the US.
Snowden is believed to be in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. This is confirmed by Russian president Vladimir Putin. As reported earlier in the Digital Journal, President Corea of Ecuador has revoked the travel papers that were issued by the Ecuadorean consul in London. This makes it difficult for Snowden to travel on to Ecuador since his US passport has already been revoked.
Ecuador has insisted that Snowden must be on Ecuadorean territory to be given refugee status. Perhaps the talks are aimed at allowing Snowden transit to the Ecuador embassy in Moscow. Alexei Pushkov, the Russian parliamentary foreign affairs committee chair, said on Twitter that the case was tragic."The idealist Snowden was apparently convinced that it would be like in a Hollywood movie: he would blow the whistle, and democracy would prevail. But life and the US are harder."Perhaps this is a sign that Snowden will be turned over to the US as part of improving relations but we will just have to wait and see.
Ecuador says a decision on asylum could take months. and has asked that the US argue its case for extradition. Translated this probably means that Ecuador wants to know what it can get in return for turning over Snowden. The US has alternated between the good cop, bad cop routine. On the one hand there are threats to end preferential access of Ecuadorean goods to the US and on the other hand Joe Biden is the good cop who was praised by President Corea. Corea noted the good manners of Biden in contrast to some "brats" in the US Congress: "He communicated a very courteous request from the United States that we reject the (asylum) request."
Correa said that he would respect US opinion in evaluating Biden's request but that Ecuador cannot even begin to process Snowden's application until he reaches Ecuadorean soil. By revoking Snowden's travel papers, Corea has made this difficult. Corea is a game theorist and economist and a politician to boot. This hardly makes him trustworthy.
So far, Putin has insisted that he will not extradite Snowden. In claiming that he is in the transit area, Putin can claim as well that he has not even entered Russia. However Russian law requires any travellers staying in the area for more than 24 hours to obtain a transit visa for up to three days. There is no confirmation that Snowden has such a visa or when it might expire. Several refugees have actually stayed in the airport for months. The longer the situation is unresolved the more Russian US ties are strained.

CIA provided information to South African police that led to arrest of Mandela in 1962

While the US now celebrates and praises Nelson Mandela as the father of South Africa, in the past Mandela was regarded as a dangerous revolutionary associated with violence and communists. The CIA apparently helped ensure his arrest in August of 1962.
In an article published in January of 2005, William Blum sets out the background of the CIA involvement in the arrest of Nelson Mandela. Ultimately Mandela was convicted and was jailed for a total of 28 years.
By the time Mandela was released in February of 1990, his stature had changed dramatically and then President George Bush Sr. telephoned Mandela to say that Americans rejoiced at his release. Blum points out that this was the same George Bush who once was head of the CIA and who was second in power during an administration that worked closely with South African Intelligence service to provide information about Mandela's African National Congress. The African National Congress was seen by the US as part of the "International Communist Conspiracy".
In the early forties, Mandela had already contact with communists and went to meetings although he did not join the party because Mandela, as a Christian, opposed their atheism, and he also saw the South African struggle as based primarily on race rather than class:"Staying with a cousin in George Goch Township, Mandela was introduced to the realtor and ANC activist Walter Sisulu, who secured him a job as an articled clerk at law firm Witkin, Sidelsky and Edelman. The company was run by a liberal Jew, Lazar Sidelsky, who was sympathetic to the ANC's cause.[38] At the firm, Mandela befriended Gaur Redebe, a Xhosa member of the ANC and Communist Party, as well as Nat Bregman, a Jewish communist who became his first white friend.[39] Attending communist talks and parties, Mandela was impressed that Europeans, Africans, Indians and Coloureds were mixing as equals. However, he stated later that he did not join the Party because its atheism conflicted with his Christian faith, and because he saw the South African struggle as being racially based rather than class warfare."
On August 5 of 1962 Mandela had been hiding from police for 17 months when his car was flagged down outside the town of Howick in Natal at a roadblock. Only later did stories appear explaining why the police set up the roadblock in that place. Three South African newspapers, and the London Press, ran stories that claim a CIA officer Donald Rickard who worked undercover as a consular official in Durban had tipped off the South African Special Branch that Mandela would be disguised as a chauffeur in a car headed for Durban. Rickard obtained this information through an informant in the ANC.
Apparently, a year later, at a party, he is reported to have said that he had been due to meet Mandela on that night. However, Rickard later refused to discuss the issue when he was approached by CBS. While Mandela went on to serve 28 years in prison where he suffered tuberculosis from the damp cell he was in for years and other health problems, Rickard retired comfortably in Pagosa Springs Colorado. Still, Mandela has managed to survive into his nineties as a revered figure while Rickard is forgotten by most people.
The New York TImes also had an article on the issue citing a report from Cox News:"The report, scheduled for publication on Sunday, quoted an unidentified retired official who said that a senior C.I.A. officer told him shortly after Mr. Mandela's arrest: ''We have turned Mandela over to the South African Security branch. We gave them every detail, what he would be wearing, the time of day, just where he would be.'' "
A good summary of Mandela's political activity is given in Wikipedia.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

US National Security Agency spied on both the UN and the European Union in US and Brussels

The well-known German newspaper Der Spiegel claims that the US National Security Agency spied on European Union computer networks in Washington and also at the the UN.The source of the claims are a September 2010 "top secret" document that whistleblower Edward Snowden had taken with him. Journalists from Der Spiegel had read the document in part. The document shows how the NSA  bugged offices and spied on internal EU computer networks in both Washington and the United Nations. The NSA not only listened to conversations and phone calls but were able also to peruse documents and emails. The document specifically referred to the EU as a target. These reports, if confirmed, could be highly damaging to relations between the US and the EU.
Not surprisingly,[url= t=_blank] EU officials [/url]have already demanded that the US explain the alleged bugging.  The NSA also targeted telecommunications at a building in Brussels that houses the European Council, the group of European Union governments.
 US officials have yet to comment but the European Parliament chief Martin Schulz said that more information was needed , but if the charges of spying were confirmed, it would be a huge scandal. [url= t=_blank]Schultz [/url]said in statement: [quote]"On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations".[/quote]  The Foreign Minister of Luxembourg said that it the reports are true it is disgusting.[quote]"The United States would be better off monitoring its secret services rather than its allies. We must get a guarantee from the very highest level now that this stops immediately."[/quote]

  Snowden is apparently still in a Moscow airport transit area. President Corea of Ecuador revoked his transit papers to Ecuador where he seeks asylum. However Snowden first has to reach Ecuador which will be difficult without the transit papers.[url= t=_blank] Joe Biden[/url] spoke to president Corea and has asked Ecuador to refuse the request for asylum.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Canada-Europe free trade deal is about expanding corporate power and shrinking democratic control

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is busy promoting CETA, the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement while on his travels in Europe. Critics claim that the agreement is less about free trade and more about extending the power of huge global corporations.
The deal has been criticized ever since negotiations began. Among the claims of critics is that the deal could add up to $3 billion to the price of Canadian drugs by extending patent lengths. It could also restrict the manner in which local governments are able to spend money and also ban any buy local policies. The Wall Street Journal reports that Canadian negotiators have agreed that their will be no investment review on any European firm's takeover or investment in a Canadian firm unless it is over $1.5 billion. Currently any deal over $330 million is subject to review. The higher amount would be phased in over several years. As it liberalizes the rules for giant global European based corporations Canada has at the same time increased the scrutiny of international state-owned enterprises. The rules are for the interest of global capital not enterprises that might further the interests and agenda of a particular country. This is seen by the fact that much of the deal has to do with copyright and ensuring that both sides enforce intellectual property laws. As an article in Wikipedia puts it: Part of the Agreement is stricter enforcement of intellectual property, including liability for Internet Service Providers, a ban on technologies that can be used to circumvent copyright, and other provisions similar to controversial ACTA, DMCA, PIPA, and SOPA..., Electronic Frontier Foundation stated that this "trade agreement replicates ACTA's notorious copyright provisions". Americans should take notice since a similar deal is planned between the US and Europe. CETA would ban both 'buy local' or even "buy Canadian policies. In March of this year a UN report on poverty in Canada suggested that poverty reduction measures could be "undermined by the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union, currently in draft form, which would prohibit municipal governments from using procurement of goods and services valued over $340,000 in a way that favours local or Canadian goods, services or labour." Several municipalities from Nanaimo in BC to Toronto in Ontario have requested they be excluded from CETA provisions. The agreement would set up an investor-state dispute settlement process that could stymie attempts to legislate environmental protections or other measures that were regarded as interference in trade. Some Canadian banking regulations could be challenged by European banks. Stephen Harper, Canadian Prime Minister said that although there difficulties within the negotiating process: ".. both of our countries look to considerable gains from an eventual agreement, and we will continue to work with that objective in mind." Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast claims that the deal could boost the Canadian economy by $12 billion a year and create 80,000 jobs. A joint study by Canada and Europe in 2008 shows that Europe would benefit even more. The negative effects pointed out by critics are conveniently left out of the picture. Global capital is busy promoting other "free trade" deals as well including the TPP or Trans-Pacific Partnership. The article on the TTP notes:Anti-globalization advocates accuse the TPP of going far beyond the realm of tariff reduction and trade promotion, granting unprecedented power to corporations and infringing upon consumer, labour, and environmental interests.[56][57] One widely republished article claims the TPP is "a wish list of the 1%" and that "of the 26 chapters under negotiation, only a few have to do directly with trade. The other chapters enshrine new rights and privileges for major corporations while weakening the power of nation states to oppose them."[57] As with CETA negotiations they take place behind closed doors and terms being negotiated are often known only through leaks.

Facebook loses more users in Europe last quarter but is growing elsewhere

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