US Has Budgeted $49M For Venezuelan Right-Wing Since 2009

U.S.-funded violent opposition protests continued into their seventh week. | Photo: Reuters

By Staff of Tele Sur – The funds have now become a mainstay of the U.S. State Department congressional budget for foreign operations. Since at least 2009 the U.S. Department of State has budgeted at least US$49 million in total to support right-wing opposition forces in Venezuela who are now in their seventh week of violent protests to oust democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro. According to the 2010 budget justification, which designated US$6 million that year to Venezuela’s “Economic Support Fund” the budget “will support efforts to preserve and expand democratic space through programs that strengthen and promote civil society, citizen participation, independent media, human rights organizations, and democratic political parties.” In a more detailed breakdown of the 2011 US$5 million budgeted for Venezuelan economic support, the budget indicates that US$1 million was designated specifically for the support of “political competition and consensus building.”

Extremist Saudi Arabia In Partnership With Donald Trump

Trump flanked by the Blackstone CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, a Momentive investor and Trump’s ‘jobs czar’, and the General Motors CEO, Mary Barra. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

By Max Blumenthal for AlterNet – President Donald Trump’s nine-day-long “tolerance tour” will continue this Friday with a visit to Saudi Arabia. The junket offers Trump a brief respite from the suffocating atmosphere in Washington, where he faces a mounting campaign fueled by anonymous leaks from intelligence officials that is aimed at nothing less than his impeachment and replacement by a more supplicant Republican. Trump’s ties to Saudi Arabia run deep. During the campaign, even as Trump blamed the Saudi royal family for the 9/11 attacks, he registered eight companies connected to hotel interests in the kingdom. Once Trump was inaugurated, the Saudis returned the favor, paying for rooms at his Washington, D.C., hotel through Qorvis MSLGroup, a Beltway lobbying firm. The rooms were reserved for a group of veterans flown into town by Qorvis to lobby against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) congressional legislation that would allow the bereaved family members of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks. Many of the veterans had no idea they were acting on behalf of Saudi Arabia, and some, like Tim Cord, staged an open revolt when they realized they had been deceived.

Leaked Draft Shows U.S. Weakened Climate Change Wording In Arctic Declaration

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a former Exxon CEO, brought the United States’ two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council to an end this month. Credit: Nicholas Kamm/Getty

By Sabrina Shankman for Inside Climate News – The day before the Arctic Council met for its biannual ministerial last week, the United States requested six changes to the intergovernmental declaration that was to be issued—each of which weakened the language on climate change. The Arctic Council, an intergovernmental body representing all eight Arctic states, does not make policy, but the diplomatic work accomplished there is intended to trickle back to the countries and result in changes. An important part of that is the declaration issued at the end of each two-year chairmanship, which is signed by top officials from each country, to acknowledge the scientific and diplomatic work that was accomplished and to state the council’s goals going forward. The last-minute move by the United States to weaken the document can be seen as a test case for what we can expect at larger, more consequential meetings of international organizations dealing with global warming issues and policy as President Donald Trump rolls back U.S. climate policies and backslides on international commitments.

10 Reasons Trump Should Not Strengthen U.S.-Saudi Ties

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By Medea Benjamin for “Information Clearing House” – Donald Trump has selected Saudi Arabia as the destination for his first trip abroad, strengthening U.S. ties to a regime that is fueling the very extremism, intolerance and violence that the US government purports to eradicate. Here’s 10 reasons why the United States should not be closely allied with the Saudi kingdom. The Saudis export an extremist interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, around the globe. Over the past three decades, Saudi Arabia has spent about $4 billion per year on mosques, madrassas, preachers, students, and textbooks to spread Wahhabism and anti-Western sentiment. Let’s not forget that 15 of the 19 fanatical hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Saudis, as was Osama bin Laden himself. The Saudis fund terrorism worldwide. A Wikileaks-revealed 2009 cable quotes then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide … More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar e-Tayyiba and other terrorist groups.” In Syria the Saudis are supporting the most extreme sectarian forces. And while the Saudi government condemns ISIS, many experts, including 9/11 Commission Report lead author Senator Bob Graham, believe that ISIS is a product of Saudi ideals, Saudi money and Saudi organizational support.

Gorbachev Warns Of Growing Danger

Ukraine’s anti-Russian President Petro Poroshenko speaking to the Atlantic Council in 2014. (Photo credit: Atlantic Council)

By Rick Sterling for Consurtium News – A group of Americans visiting Russia heard dire warnings from ex-Soviet President Gorbachev that the tensions between the U.S. and Russia are creating a dangerous situation for the world, reports Rick Sterling, who is on the trip. The former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, is 87 years old but still sharp. He told a delegation of 30 Americans in a two-week visit to Russia organized by the Center for Citizen Initiatives, “This is a time to be concerned. We should worry about relations between our two countries. … Things cannot continue as they are.” President Gorbachev recalled his initial meetings with President Reagan, which came after six years of poor relations and hostility. In the first summit meeting, Reagan issued a long list of accusations against the Soviet Union; Gorbachev responded with his own accusations against the U.S. After that meeting Gorbachev said “He’s not a hawk; he’s a dinosaur” while Reagan said about Gorbachev “He’s a die-hard communist.” At the next summit meeting, Reagan continued lecturing Gorbachev. After listening for 15 minutes. Gorbachev stopped Reagan saying, “That’s enough. If you want to talk as equals we can go very far. Differences can be bridged. Problems can be resolved. But as equals.”

The Russian Hacking Fiasco

The Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin: Did the Russians hack U.S. election databases? (Yahoo News photo illustration, photos: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters, Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters, AP, AP)

By Mike Whitney for Information Clearing House – There’s no proof that Russian officials or Russian agents colluded with members of the Trump campaign. There’s no proof that Russia provided material support of any kind for the Trump campaign or that Russian agents hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails or that Russian officials provided Wikileaks with emails that were intended to sabotage Hillary’s chances to win the election. So far, no one in any of the 17 US intelligence agencies has stepped forward and verified the claims of Russian meddling or produced a scintilla of hard evidence that Russia was in anyway involved in the 2016 elections. No proof means no proof. It means that the people and organizations that are making these uncorroborated claims have no basis for legal action, no presumption of wrongdoing, and no grounds for prosecution. They have nothing. Zilch. Their claims, charges and accusations are like the soap bubbles we give to our children and grandchildren. The brightly-colored bubbles wobble across the sky for a minute or two and then, Poof, they vanish into the ether. The claims of Russia hacking are like these bubbles. They are empty, unsubstantiated rumors completely devoid of substance. Poof.

Gorbachev: It Was Worse Than This, And We Fixed It

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By David Swanson for Lets Try Democracy – On Friday in Moscow I and a group from the United States met with former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. He said the current relationship between Washington and Moscow alarmed him. But, he said, it is possible to rebuild trust. “We had a situation that was worse, but we were able to rebuild trust. And people-to-people contacts helped to rebuild trust.” When Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan first met, presidents of the two countries had not met for six years. Members of Reagan’s cabinet opposed the meeting. Gorbachev came out of the meeting saying of Reagan “He’s not a hawk, he’s a dinosaur.” Reagan came out denouncing Gorbachev as “a die-hard communist.” But they kept meeting. Eventually and inevitably Reagan asked what the Soviets would do if the U.S. were attacked by a meteor or aliens. Both men said their countries would help each other. However, Reagan was a fan of Star Wars, both the weapons boondoggle and the movie — which he may have kept distinct from each other in his mind. Gorbachev and Reagan accomplished a great deal of disarmament, not to mention Gorbachev’s accomplishing the nonviolent dissolution of an empire.

Take Action! Dialogue, Not US Interference In Venezuela – No To S-1018

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By Staff of Alliance for Global Justice – The bill claims there are 108 political prisoners, naming a number of opposition figures including some found responsible for deaths during the violent demonstrations following the 2015 presidential election won by President Maduro. While US-dominated financial institutions block international loans to Venezuela, the bill reverses the reality and “calls on Venezuelan President Maduro to permit humanitarian assistance, immediately release all political prisoners, and seek assistance from international financial institutions.” The bill authorizes $10 million for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide “humanitarian assistance” which is code for funding the opposition, including the violent opposition. It backs OAS General Secretary Almagro’s campaign to invoke the OAS Democratic Charter against Venezuela as a means to directly intervene to allegedly “restore democracy.” Almagro’s campaign has failed to pass the OAS General Assembly and has resulted in Venezuela’s announcement to withdraw its membership from the OAS.

The United States Should Listen To South Korea—Or It Will Reap The Whirlwind

From ZoomInKorea.org

 By Tim Shorrock for The Nation – Gwangju, South Korea—On May 2, Moon Jae-in, the Korean politician who is expected to win next Tuesday’s presidential election here, issued a stern warning to the United States. Pointing to the escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States, he told The Washington Post that South Korea must “take the lead on matters on the Korean Peninsula.” Seoul, he added, “should not take the back seat.” Moon, a progressive politician with deep roots in South Korea’s left, has repeated these words throughout his campaign. They signal his wish to change the dynamics of US-South Korean relations and meet his country’s desire for a more independent foreign policy. In particular, he wants to use economic and political incentives to ease tensions with the North—a position anathema to many in Washington. The US government, Congress, and the Pentagon should listen to Moon and his voters. Over the past two months, President Trump has done more to alienate South Korea than any American leader in the past 40 years. If Trump and the American politicians and pundits who support his militaristic approach to North Korea aren’t careful and continue to ignore this country’s wishes, they could spark the most serious wave of anti-Americanism in the South since 1980.

The CIA Has A Long History Of Helping To Kill Leaders Around The World

North Korea’s ministry of state security accused the CIA of an alleged recent assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un. Photograph: Wong Maye-E/AP

By Ewen MacAskill for The Guardian – Some of the most notorious of the CIA’s operations to kill world leaders were those targeting the late Cuban president, Fidel Castro. Attempts ranged from snipers to imaginative plots worthy of spy movie fantasies, such as the famous exploding cigars and a poison-lined scuba-diving suit. But although the CIA attempts proved fruitless in the case of Castro, the US intelligence agency has since 1945 succeeded in deposing or killing a string of leaders elsewhere around the world – either directly or, more often, using sympathetic local military, locally hired criminals or pliant dissidents. According to North Korea’s ministry of state security, the CIA has not abandoned its old ways. In a statement on Friday, it accused that the CIA and South Korea’s intelligence service of being behind an alleged recent an assassination attempt on its leader Kim Jong-un. The attempt, according to the ministry, involved “the use of biochemical substances including radioactive substance and nano poisonous substance” and the advantage of this was it “does not require access to the target (as) their lethal results will appear after six or 12 months”. The person directly responsible was allegedly a North Korean working for the foreign intelligence agencies.

South Korea’s Likely Next President Warns US Not To Meddle In Nation’s Democracy

Flickr/ Tim Green

By Jason Ditz for Anti-War – The split between Moon and Trump is so dramatic, in fact, that Moon has felt the need to publicly warn the US against “meddling” in the nation’s politics, not just directly in the election itself, but also with policy decisions made in the lead-up to the election. Indeed, Moon and his allies warn that the biggest problem is the US rushing through measures in the lame-duck government ahead of the election, noting that agreements on things like the THAAD anti-missile system, and then hastily putting the system in place before any public hearings or environmental assessments were allowed to take place. Analysts even suggest that President Trump’s talk of making South Korea pay for THAAD might help Moon,, because he is seen as more likely to stand up to the US on the deployment, and doesn’t feel particularly wedded to any agreements on the deployment, which were made in the post-impeachment, pre-election environment specifically to avoid real political debate.

North Korea Says U.S. Bomber Flights Push Peninsula To Brink Of Nuclear War

A pair of B-1B Lancer bombers, like these seen flying over Wyoming, were deployed by the U.S. over the Korean peninsula. (Staff Sgt. Steve Thurow/U.S. Air Force/Reuters)

By Staff of Thomson Reuters – The U.S. air force said in a statement the bombers had flown from Guam to conduct training exercises with the South Korean and Japanese air forces. North Korea said the bombers conducted “a nuclear bomb dropping drill against major objects” in its territory at a time when Trump and “other U.S. warmongers are crying out for making a preemptive nuclear strike” on the North. “The reckless military provocation is pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula closer to the brink of nuclear war,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said on Tuesday. Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been high for weeks, driven by concerns that the North might conduct its sixth nuclear test in defiance of pressure from the United States and Pyongyang’s sole major ally, China. The U.S. military’s THAAD anti-missile defence system has reached initial operational capacity in South Korea, U.S. officials told Reuters, although they cautioned that it would not be fully operational for some months. China has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the system, whose powerful radar it fears could reach inside Chinese territory.

US ‘Deep State’ Sold Out Counter-Terrorism To Keep Itself In Business

Yemenis gather around a burnt car after it was targeted by a drone strike, killing three suspected al-Qaeda militants on 26 January 2015 between the Marib and Chabwa provinces, a desert area east of Sanaa. The drone strike saw an unmanned aircraft, which only the United States operates in the region, fire four missiles at a vehicle killing the three suspected militants, a day after Washington vowed to continue its campaign against the jihadist group, despite the Arabian Peninsula country's ongoing political crisis (AFP)

By Gareth Porter for Middle East Eye – After it quickly became clear that the US war in Iraq was already motivating young men across the Middle East to wage jihad against the US in Iraq, the chief architect of the occupation of Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, came up with the patently false rationalisation that Iraq would be a “flytrap” for jihadists. But in January 2005, after a year of research, the CIA issued a major intelligence assessment warning that the war was breeding more al-Qaeda extremist militants from all over the Middle East and even giving them combat experience that they would eventually be able to use back home. In a 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, the intelligence community warned that the number of people identifying themselves as jihadists was growing and was becoming more widespread geographically and even predicted growing terrorist threats from “self-radicalized cells” both in the US and abroad. The war managers continued to claim that their wars were making Americans safer. CIA director Michael Hayden not only sought to sell the flypaper argument on Iraq, but also bragged to the Washington Post in 2008 that the CIA was making great progress against al-Qaeda, based mainly on its burgeoning drone war in Pakistan.

Why Washington Is Terrified Of Russia, China

A man sits in front of a mural in Caracas, Venezuela | Photo: Reuters

By Pepe Escobar for Information Clearing House – April 22, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – “Sputnik” – The Russia-China strategic partnership, uniting the Pentagon’s avowed top two “existential” threats to America, does not come with a formal treaty signed with pomp, circumstance – and a military parade. Enveloped in layers of subtle sophistication, there’s no way to know the deeper terms Beijing and Moscow have agreed upon behind those innumerable Putin-Xi Jinping high-level meetings. Diplomats, off the record, occasionally let it slip there may have been a coded message delivered to NATO to the effect that if one of the strategic members is seriously harassed — be it in Ukraine or in the South China Sea – NATO will have to deal with both. For now, let’s concentrate on two instances of how the partnership works in practice, and why Washington is clueless on how to deal with it. Exhibit A is the imminent visit to Moscow by the Director of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Li Zhanshu, invited by the head of the Presidential Administration in the Kremlin, Anton Vaino.

US Moves Toward Major Intervention In Yemen

by Gerry & Bonni | CC BY 2.0

By Thomas Mountain for Counter Punch – The USA, according to Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” Mattis, he who ordered the use of chemical weapons in Fallujah, Iraq, is about to take a major step towards direct intervention in support of the Saudi Arabia war on the Yemeni people. According to Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of CounterPunch, this war has already seen 90,000 Saudi airstrikes on Yemen, or one every 12 minutes, 123 a day for two years now. With direct US military involvement it will only get worse for the USA has been limiting its involvement to fueling, arming and target selection for the Saudi military. The UN and the international media claim only 12,000 or so deaths in Yemen but this just doesn’t add up. If there have been 90,000 airstrikes that means that only one Yemeni is killed for every 8 strikes? They must take us for idiots, or more likely, just to ignorant and brainwashed to know better. One airstrike is a big deal, for it involves the use of several thousand kilograms of high explosives, enough to incinerate an entire village. And then there are the cluster bombs in their thousands, and the hundreds of markets bombed…so if only 3 Yemenis have been killed per air strike then we are talking upwards of 250,000 dead Yemenis and counting.