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THE UNBIASED VIEW OF WORLD EVENTS

See why Victor O’Frank went into filmmaking career after 6 years of medical study

Victor O’Frank in full Victor Okoye Frank is now a film writer and director. He started making short films while he was in medical school at Lugansk, Ukraine. After transferring from Lugansk due to the crisis which took place some few years back in Ukraine, Victor O’Frank graduated as a medical student from Kiev and later moved to New York to start a new career in filmmaking.

Victor O’Frank said after winning best director for ‘The SOFIES’: “I just won The SOFIES—oh thats the junior brother to Oscars for short film. Best Director — and there’s an amazing twist to the tale.”

Today the question a lot of people ask is why Victor O’Frank chose to focus on filmmaking instead of his medical career. Victor O’Frank has instead said he has not left medicine but has decided to use his knowledge in medicine to heal people’s minds:

“Coming from a medical background, I always get the question, Have you quit medicine? my answer has always been no. I call my craft, Medical Art. Although you won’t find me within the walls of the home for the sick, I do something more than healing the body, I touch minds, in the form of story telling, when asked my response usually is, “If the mind controls the body, I would have saved you a dime, if I told you story that could change your mind” Victor O’Frank said.

“My first film school was the college of medicine. The sole reason I got into filmmaking as a career after 6 years of medical study wasn’t to abandon medicine, In fact, the film making art as I know it is more therapeutic than most form of therapy in the medical field. I made a conscious decision to focus my art on healing minds, as medicine focuses mostly on the body.”

“Taking a look at the system on ground in Africa and most especially Nigeria, we all agree, there must be some improvements made. I’m of the school of thought that the first step should be geared towards creating a new mind set. No other form of art is able to do that but visual story telling. I do hope to channel the messages in film towards that discourse.”

“I never intended to leave medicine, the only difference is that I found a different application of my medical knowledge, yes, I know it’s unusual but if used right, the power that story telling possess can change a nation beyond changing individual minds.”

See Victor O’Frank tell us a bit about his journey in film making and some of his short films.

“My first film (A Man Scorned), was inspired by my life experience, truth be told, I had always wanted to tell a story and never found the right motivation, then came one tragic event that turned it all round for me, right after that I haven’t stopped. I did 3 other films while I was in Kiev, Table no 9, To Catch a Cheetah and Femi.”

“Of all the pictures I ever shot, Femi would be perhaps the one with the most social relevance. Few years prior, before the war broke out in Lugansk, I was a victim of a hate crime, even though I had forgiven the assailants, I needed to tell the story to create an awareness of such treatment of foreigners in Ukraine. Although we never completed the film as it was, we got to our last day of shoot.”

“My most recent film under the title “Purpose” was produced earlier in 2016. It has bagged numerous awards including Judge’s Film at the My rode reel Competition and Best Documentary at the SOFI awards in New York. I created “Purpose” for the sole aim of enlightenment.”

“My advice to anyone venturing into any field is to stay on their track, but be certain that it is what makes you happy. Beyond happiness, you must affirm to yourself that it is the path to your ultimate goal. If you wish to get in the film business, take a leap for it, learn a much as can but most importantly practice what you’ve learnt.”

My next major documentary titled “Birth Of A Slave” addressed quite a number of issues facing us as a continent and a nation and possible way out, I’ll ask that anyone interested in paving a new path for this country should see it when its out.

Mack Beggs a transgender boy wins girls’ wrestling championship in Texas

Mack Beggs a 17-year-old wrestler who was born female and is currently transitioning to male won a Texas state title in girls wrestling.

The victory was controversial in part because Mack Beggs a junior at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, is taking testosterone as he transitions from female to male, which some claimed gave him an unfair advantage and led to so much jeers from the crowd.

“She’s standing there holding her head high like she’s the winner. She’s not winning. She’s cheating,” said Patti Overstreet, the mother of another wrestler, according to the Washington Post. “It’s not equal. It’s never going to be equal.”

Beggs would have rather competed against boys, but a state policy meant his division was determined by the gender on his birth certificate. That policy was enacted last year by the University Interscholastic League (UIL), which oversees Texas high school sports.

The father of another wrestler, who is also an attorney, unsuccessfully sought an injunction to prevent Beggs from competing while he is receiving testosterone treatments. Several parents complained that Beggs was too strong to compete against girls, while others expressed sympathy for him.

Mack Beggs finished with a 56-0 record and had a dominant performance in the final. Beggs said after winning the wrestling: “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my teammates. That’s honestly what the spotlight should be on, is my teammates,” he said after receiving his medal. “The hard work that I put in the practice room with them beside me, we trained every single day, every single day, and that’s what the spotlight should be been on, not me.”

Petco Park flooded on Monday after winter rain storm hits San Diego

Petco Park was flooded on Monday and turned into a swimming pond for ducks. San Diego Padres spokeswoman Shana Wilson told FOX 5: “An amount of rain had fallen so quickly and the drainage was slow to keep up. The rain had inundated the park so quickly on Monday that the park’s drainage system couldn’t keep up.”

The field crews don’t expect any lasting damage to the field, and they were planning on laying new sod next week anyway.

A picture posted on social media showed the Major League ballpark field underwater. But luckily for the Padres, their Spring Training facility is far away in (very dry) Peoria, Arizona.

Wilson also added that there is no grass on the field because they had just taken out all the dirt from the Monster Jam. Field crews had planned to lay down new sod later this week.

The San Diego Padres have just over a month before they’ll play in their home opener at Petco Park (named the best ballpark in baseball by Ted Berg).

Five places you should visit this summer

Five places you should visit this summer

France

In France you can visit Paris, Strasbourg, Marseille, Lyon, Loire Valley and many other interesting cities for tourists. Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, it is accommodating to foreigners you can be sure to see a lot of them there.

Paris is in the center of the Île-de-France region, Paris is known for its fashion, particularly the twice-yearly Paris Fashion Week, and for its haute cuisine, and three-star restaurants. Most of France’s major universities and grandes écoles are located in Paris, as are France’s major newspapers, including Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Libération.

Canada

Canada is located at the north of the United States. The national capital is Ottawa, and the largest city is Toronto; other large cities include Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hamilton. Some best five places to visit in Canada during summer are Vancouver, Toronto, Banff, Quebec City, Montreal.

Vancouver is a small city surrounded by mountains and beaches, Vancouver is both an urban and a natural playground: Its chic atmosphere, high-fashion boutiques and fondness for health-conscious eating have earned it the nickname “Hollywood North.”

Here is a picture of a group of people dining at Quebec.

Toronto is considered one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, with more than half the population born outside of the city. Toronto houses 200 ethnic groups that speak upward of 140 different languages, making this Ontario destination a world all its own. With Greek Town, Little Italy, Koreatown and Chinatown all within city limits, travelers may feel as if they’ve seen more than a couple worlds after a visit to Toronto

Japan

Japan is basically very hot during summer, so it is advisable to travel with a fan. You can visit Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Otaru, Yokohama and many other cities in Japan for fun this summer.

Spain

Madrid, Spain’s central capital, is a city of elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks such as the Buen Retiro. It’s renowned for its rich repositories of European art, including the Prado Museum’s works by Goya, Velázquez and other Spanish masters. The heart of old Hapsburg Madrid is the portico-lined Plaza Mayor, and nearby is the baroque Royal Palace and Armory, displaying historic weaponry.

The shopping malls are a great opportunity to enjoy a shopping day, with the best product offering with a great quality without walking too much. There are more than 130 shopping malls in the Region, considering also the open shopping malls that are proliferating in the urban areas of the main cities.

Open-air shopping areas

Centre of Madrid. The reference shopping area of the capital is located between La Puerta del Sol, la Gran Vía, Preciados y la Princesa Street.

These streets are one of the areas of Madrid that never sleeps due to the continuous passage of people. In this are we can find all kinds of business, like the main franchises of clothes, electronics, etc. where we can buy at affordable prices. If you walk into Plaza de España and Princesa Street you will find shopping malls where we can find the latest trends.

All of this things makes the central are the main open Shopping Mall of Spain. If you come to Madrid, visit it. Its shops are free from schedules, since this area has been declared of Great Touristic Influx and they are usually open all year round.

In the same area we cannot miss El Corte Inglés. It was originally a clothes shop founded in 1890, and it has become a huge chain that is a reference in Spain regarding different sectors like fashion, electronics, culture, food and travelling. It is located in strategic locations like Preciados Street, Paseo de la Castella or Goya Street. Nowadays, El Corte Inglés has more than 40 shops all around the Region of Madrid, and more than 25 in the capital.

The area of Príncipe de Vergara in the Chamartín district is an area where quality and exclusivity predominate. Streets like Príncipe de Vergara, Colombia Street, Costa Rica or Alberto Alcocer will offer you a great variety of shops.

Among the whole ensemble, the Chamartín Market stands out. It has always been at the forefront regarding services and customer service.

THE BIGGEST SHOPPING MALL IN MADRID AT THE CENTER OF THE CITY

  1. NIGERIA

Nigeria, an African country on the Gulf of Guinea, is known for its natural landmarks and wildlife reserves. Safari destinations such as Cross River National Park and Yankari National Park showcase waterfalls, dense rainforest, savanna and rare primate habitats. One of its most recognizable sites is Zuma Rock, a 725m-tall monolith outside the capital of Abuja that’s pictured on the national currency.

The most populated country in Africa, Nigeria has become an untapped tourist paradise with long stretches of exotic beaches, lush mountains, well preserved tradition and culture and enchanting tourist attractions.

From the spiritual shines to the ancient cities of the north, from the river deltas to the Yoruba kingdoms, the Ibo’s stunning environments and among many simply pure sceneries; Nigeria leaves every visitor breathing hard with suspense and excitement. We present to you 30 top attractions in Nigeria:

SEE BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN NIGERIA LIKE:

The Ibeno Beach

A blissful destination for tourists stretched over 245km on a sand bank in Ibeno lies the Ibeno Beach, a little haven for leisure seekers. The roaring waves, spots for sunbathing, unpolluted foliage of the mangrove forest, cool breeze from the water and a lush surrounding give this destination an unimaginable allure for tourists.

Location: Ibeno, Akwa Ibom State

Obudu Mountain Resort

Above the sea level on the Oshie Ridge of the famous Sankwala Mountains sits majestically the Obudu Mountain Resort. The temperate climate, breathtaking views, idyllic tranquility and beautiful scenery has made this resort one of the famous tourists’ sites in Nigeria.

Location: Obudu, Cross River State

Ngwo Pine Forest

The unique forest dynasty that is found in Ngwo Pine is a huge draw for visitors, romantically set by Mother Nature with sharp twists for adventure seekers, beautifully set pine trees and gently flowing stream for lovers, and the loud splashing of the waters inside the dark cleft inside a cave would blow off one’s imagination.

Location: Ngwo, Enugu State

 

YouTube is ready to take on Netflix, Hulu and other streaming media services

YouTube has announced on Tuesday that it will launch a live TV service in the next few months that offers the four major US broadcast networks plus cable channels.

The Google-owned video network announced a new subscription service, YouTube TV, offering a collection of TV channels aimed at cord cutters who think their cable bills are too high.

The charge is $35 monthly, and the 40 channels include the four top broadcast networks, CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox, and top cable channels like USA, Bravo, MSNBC and Fox News.

Missing are the Turner channels, including CNN, Cartoon Network and TNT, the Viacom networks, including Comedy Central, MTV, VH1, and Nickelodeon, Scripps (Food Network and Home and Garden) and HBO.

Unlike the Hulu service, which offers the ability to watch TV shows from NBC, ABC and Fox without commercials, or CBS’s All-Access service, YouTube TV shows from the networks will all have ads.

In announcing the new service, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki noted how the smartphone era changed everything–“mobile put a TV in everybody’s pocket,” she said.

YouTube’s audience of millennial viewers love TV content, “but they don’t want to watch it in the traditional setting, in the living room, waiting for their favorite show to come on. They want to consume TV live or on demand.”

YouTube says the service will launch within the next few months. The company directed consumers to http://tv.youtube.com to sign up for notifications.

YouTube TV will be a stand-alone app and not interchangeable with the current YouTube Red app. However, originals produced for Red will be watchable on YouTube TV.

Washington Whitewashes Israeli Murder

Why not. It whitewashes its own. Washington is a rogue terror state. So is Israel. It denigrates non-Jews. It’s waged war on Palestine for decades. It’s guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. Its rap sheet makes serial killers look saintly.

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos committed premeditated murder. They killed nine humanitarian activists. They did so in cold blood. They executed them in international waters. Doing so also constituted piracy.

Activists were trying to bring vitally needed aid to besieged Gazans. It included food, medicines, medical supplies, clothing, educational and construction materials, kitchen utensils, mattresses, toys for children, and other items.

Eighteen-year old Turkish-American Furkan Dogan was on board. Israel marked him for death. A UN Human Rights Council (HRC) investigation determined that he and eight other Turkish nationals were murdered in cold blood.

Israeli commandos did it execution-style. They did so “at point blank range,” it said. He was “lying on the deck in a conscious or semi-conscious state for some time.”

He was shot in the face. His body was riddled with bullets. The autopsy report was damning. Weeks later, Turkey gave it to the US embassy. It went to the Justice Department. It was done to decide if an investigation was warranted. Whitewash followed.

A State Department official spoke on condition of anonymity, saying:

HRC’s “tone and conclusions (were) unbalanced. We urge that this report not be used for actions that could disrupt direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine that are now underway or actions that would make it not possible for Israel and Turkey to move beyond the recent strains in their traditional strong relationship.”

In mid-June, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Israel ”should be allowed to undertake an investigation into events that involve its national security.”

Its military justice system “meets international standards and is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation.”

Official Israeli policy is coverup and denial. Whitewash followed. Justice was systematically denied.

On May 24, 2011, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a FOIA lawsuit.

It sought “immediate release of documents that the United States government has refused to provide regarding its knowledge of and role in the deadly May 31, 2010 attack by Israeli commandos on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.”

Center for Constitutional Rights v. Department of Defense, et al was filed in the Southern District of New York. Initial FOIA requests were submitted nearly 11 months earlier. Only two federal agencies responded. Both were inadequate.

CCR Senior Staff Attorney Katherine Gallagher said:

“One year after the deadly attack on the humanitarian flotilla, the American public has been told nothing about what actions, if any, the United States undertook to ensure that US citizens and other civilians were protected when they sailed towards Gaza.”

“A US citizen was killed and the US has not conducted an independent investigation into his killing in international waters by a foreign military.”

“Indeed, the State Department did not even mention the killing of Furkan Dogan in its recently released Human Rights report on Israel.”

“We need to know what our government is doing to protect us – and hold those to account who harm US citizens.”

Co-counsel University of Virginia International Human Rights Law Clinic’s Jessica Lee added:

Israel’s blockade “cannot be reconciled with principles of international law.”

“Regardless of how one determines Israel’s legal obligations with respect to Gaza, civilians have the right to receive food and medical supplies.”

“And United States citizens who participate in non-violent humanitarian missions have the right to know what protections they can expect their government to provide in international waters.”

CCR’s legal complaint in part said:

“On May 31, 2010, a six-boat flotilla, carrying more than 700 civilians from almost 40 countries seeking to bring humanitarian and rebuilding supplies to the Gaza Strip as well as to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, was overtaken by Israeli commandos in international waters.”

“Nine passengers were killed, including one Turkish-American citizen.”

“The underlying blockade and the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla both constitute serious violations of international law.”

“Through advocacy, legal analysis and educational materials, and Freedom of Information Act requests, CCR is seeking information regarding these breaches of international law, answers about the US role in and knowledge of the attack and its position vis-à-vis the continued blockade, and an end to the illegal policies and practices that result in the ‘collective punishment’ of the people of Gaza and attacks on civilians seeking to assist Palestinians in Gaza.”

Furkan and 15 other US citizens were on board. Many were beaten and injured. Pathology Professor Ahmet Dogan is Ferkan’s father. He seeks justice, saying:

“Furkan was an American citizen of Turkish origin, and the American government hasn’t done anything for him.”

“I want the United States to demand justice for its citizen, and support decisions related to this (injustice) at the UN.”

“We are very disappointed by the way the US has handled the events until now, because in theory the US is supposed to view all of its citizens equally.”

“What if this was Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton’s child? Would there be an American investigation into the matter?”

“As far as they are concerned, their ties with Israel are more important than my son, and he was an American citizen.”

“If my son was an Israeli who was shot by Turks in international waters, how would the US react? That is what I would like to ask the Americans.”

Dogan condemned Israel’s internal investigation. It “was full of lies,” he said. “It pandered to the Israeli and American publics.”

Furkan just finished high school. He was “granted a place at the medical school of a prestigious university. Why was such a young, successful boy killed by Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night?”

“When he applied to go on the Mavi Marmara, he asked me for permission. It was a very difficult moment for me.”

“But we let him go because he cared and wanted to help. He was a very moral boy. I think that no parent could say no to such a request.”

“Besides….we did not expect Israelis to attack the ship….We thought (at worst they’d intern it at) Ashdod, and because my son was an American citizen and there is a close relationship between Israel and the US, they would not do anything to him.”

“He had big plans. He was very ambitious…How would you feel if it happened to your son?”

Dogan “want(s) those responsible….to face justice.” Nothing less is acceptable. So far it’s been denied.

CCR recently received documents its FOIA suit sought. They contain new information on Washington’s involvement. It reflects complicity with Israel, coverup, and denial.

Emails between US officials in Istanbul and Washington were exchanged. Ankara’s US Consul General Richard Appleton confirmed America’s knowledge of Furkan’s death.

“Here is what we know,” he said. “Turkish-American Furkan DOGAN DOB 20OCT91 was one of the killed in the Gaza Flotilla event.”

In a separate email he said “his family had been calling at least twice a day for several days….Before we contact we are going to get confirmation thru” Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

These and other emails confirmed Washington’s complicity with Israel. America abandoned one of its own. It’s longstanding policy. Israel matters more. Its worst crimes are supported and financed.

In February, CCR headlined “Gaza Flotilla FOIA Production Guide: the US Passengers.” It discusses FOIA documents. It includes emails between Appleton and Washington.

Other information revealed FBI involvement. Counterterrorism agents investigated 561 flotilla participants. Details were largely redacted. So was other material throughout the report.

Co-counsel Lee said those related to Furkan “reveal that the US has an unquestioning deference to” Israel. It’s true “even when the life of an American teenager is at stake.”

“Despite this barbaric murder,” Washington declined to investigate. Dorgan’s demands went unaddressed.

On February 23, 2011, he met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Overseas Citizens Services James Pettit. Months earlier, documents showed Israel “provided (no) detailed information.”

Pettit told Dorgan that Washington wouldn’t investigate Furkan’s death. “As a rule,” he said, America doesn’t do so for its citizens overseas.

In June 2010, then State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said “we have the option of evaluating the circumstances, and if we think a crimes (was) committed, then working with the host government we have the option of our own investigation.”

Dorgan told Pettit about the UN’s damning report. It said Furkan and eight others were executed at point blank range. An internal Turkish investigation produced similar conclusions.

Pettit was dismissive. He called the UN report “rushed.” US government documents discussed consular official Eve Zukerman. Her training includes identifying remains of deceased victims.

She visited Israel’s morgue. CCR said “instead of viewing the bodies of the deceased passengers, she was shown what she was told were photos of nine men killed during the attack, which were frontal photos from the shoulders up.”

“None of photos of the deceased showed evidence of bullet wounds, damage, or distortion, except for bruises and hematomas.”

At America’s Tel Aviv embassy, she viewed Furkan’s photo. She saw no one in Israel’s morgue resembling him. Israeli officials tried suppressing his murder.

FOIA documents also contain information pertaining to electronic equipment Israel seized. It includes Furkan’s video camera. He filmed Israel’s assault.

CCR said: “As of February 2013, property belonging to the US passengers aboard the 2010 Gaza flotilla remains missing, presumably within Israeli custody.”

Washington did nothing to get it returned. Failure provides more evidence of complicity and coverup. Justice remains denied.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Washington Backs Syrian Anti-Goverment Terrorism

Make no mistake. Syria is Washington’s war. It was planned years ago. Regime change is policy. At issue is replacing Assad’s government with a pro-Western puppet one.

Washington tolerates no independent governments. It demands subservience to US policies. Outliers are targeted for removal. Options include war.

Mass slaughter and destruction don’t matter. Unchallenged dominance is policy. It’s longstanding, ruthless and lawless.

Western-recruited death squads ravage Syria. They’ve done so for two years. They’re imported from abroad. Rules of engagement include mass murder, torture, and other atrocities.

Pro-Assad loyalists are prime targets. Innocent civilians are massacred. Doing so is official US policy. Imperial wars are called liberating ones. Terrorism is what they do, not us.

Syria was peaceful before US proxies invaded. So was Libya in 2011. It was ravaged and destroyed. It remains unstable and violent. Libya 2.0 looms.

Syria may become NATO’s latest charnel house. It’s well along the way already. Countries are ravaged on the pretext of liberating them. Empires never say they’re sorry. Policy isn’t pretty. It’s violent and lawless.

It reflects state terrorism. It proliferates death and destruction. It prioritizes wealth, power, privilege and dominance. Direct and proxy wars are waged.

Cutthroat killers are used. They’re recruited abroad. They’re heavily armed, trained, funded and directed. They’re ordered to commit mass murder. Obama bears full responsibility. He’s a war criminal multiple times over.

On February 22, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) headlined “Fifty-Three Civilians Martyred, 235 Others Injured so far in Terrorist Bombing in al-Thawra Street in Damascus.”

Attacks struck central Damascus’ Mazraa neighborhood. Health Minister, Dr. Saad al-Nayef, said “terrorist bombing reflects the criminal nature of its perpetrators.”

Innocent men, women, children, the elderly and infirm were massacred. Syria continues to be ravaged and destabilized.

Al-Hayat Hospital and Abdullah Bin al-Zubir school were heavily damaged. So was Russia’s embassy. Itar Tass quoted a diplomat saying “The building has really been damaged. The windows are shattered.”

Other car bombs struck Damascus’ Barzeh neighborhood. A police station, telecommunications facility, and drug enforcement agency were targeted.

Mortar fire hit Syria’s Army General staff headquarters, Tishreen Sports City and residential buildings. Authorities said a car loaded with tons of explosives was stopped before it exploded.

Perhaps the terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra was involved. It’s become Washington’s lead belligerent. It vows to “liberate” Damascus. It claims responsibility for 17 or more February Damascus area terrorist attacks. They included at least seven bombings.

Syrian communities abroad, Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah condemned Thursday’s bombings.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said:

“Once again, we call upon all countries and parties, which might influence the extremists and radicals, to pressure them and demand immediate stop of such terrorist acts and armed violence in order to create appropriate atmosphere to hold a Syrian dialogue that is based on Geneva statement issued last June, 2010.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon showed which side he supports. He’s an imperial tool. He shames the office he holds. He violates UN Charter provisions. He urged both sides to show restraint. He called for ending Syria’s crisis politically.

Syria’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry addressed two identical letters to the Security Council president and Ban. They condemned Thursday’s bombings. They called them cowardly acts.

They targeted crowded civilian areas. They followed previous ones conducted by Al Qaeda linked groups. They get “financial and logistic support and media and political coverage from regional and (Western) countries.”

SANA said:

“The Ministry added that the credibility of combating terrorism which has always been a matter of concern for the international community is now under unprecedented test as the most disgusting form of terrorism hit the Syrian civilians with no mercy or differentiating between an elderly man or a child.”

“The letters added that Syria, in its previous letters to the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General, called for firm and clear condemnation of these heinous terrorist crimes by the UN member states and for holding countries which support such acts as responsible, whatsoever the form of such support was.”

“The Ministry said that Syria hopes the UN Security Council now will be able to adopt a firm stance which proves its commitment to combating terrorism regardless of its timing or place.”

If the Security Council turns a blind eye, “it will deepen doubts in its seriousness in combating terrorism and its commitment to implementing its resolutions in this regard, in addition to the fact this will be considered as a kind of political concealment of these crimes.”

The international community’s credibility “is at test,” it added. Failure to condemn this type terrorism is morally unconscionable.

It provides evidence of Western double standard duplicity. It reflects support for “organized terrorism.” Doing so won’t deter government forces from defending its citizens. Assad is committed to do so.

On February 21, Washington vetoed a Russian draft statement. It condemned Wednesday’s terrorist attacks. Moscow denounced US policy. It reflects support for what demands condemnation.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov left no doubt where Russia stands, saying:

“This opposition by our American partners….is not the first time in which they seek a form that justifies those who fight the Syrian regime.”

“Russia sees in the American position an application of double standards and a dangerous approach in terms of the Americans moving away from the main principle of condemning terrorism in all its forms.”

Russia’s UN mission issued a statement saying:

“It is obvious that by doing so, the US delegation encourages those who have been repeatedly targeting American interests, including US diplomatic missions.”

It’s not the first time Washington obstructed responsible policy, it added. Moscow called doing so unacceptable. It reflects support for mass murder. It’s official US policy.

It threatens Lebanon. Free Syrian Army General Selim Idriss accused Hezbollah of shelling villages around Qusayr in Homs Governorate.

He issued an ultimatum. He threatened to respond if attacks don’t stop in 48 hours. He accused Hezbollah of sending combatants to Syria.

“As soon as the ultimatum ends,” he added, “we will start responding to the sources of fire.”

Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah categorically denies sending fighters to Syria. At the same time, he said party members may be acting individually. He added that around 30,000 Shitte Lebanese inhabit 22 Syrian villages. Volunteers defend them against terrorist attacks.

On February 21, Lebanon’s Daily Star headlined “FSA claim of strikes on Lebanon false.”

An FSA statement claimed otherwise. It said one of its battalions targeted two Hezbollah bases. It struck with mortars, “machine guns and anti-tank missiles.” It did so near the Syrian/Lebanon border. It vowed more “surprises” ahead.

Longstanding Washington/Israeli policy prioritizes destabilizing Lebanon. At issue is replacing Hezbollah with pro-Western puppets, toppling Assad, isolating Iran, and solidifying US regional control.

Lebanon is small and vulnerable. From 1975 – 1989, it was wracked by internal conflict. From 1982 – 2000, Israel occupied southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah arose out of Israel’s 1982 invasion. It’s falsely called a terrorist organization. It’s for political reasons. It’s part of Lebanon’s government. It’s also a social, charitable, educational, and medical organization.

It provides essential social services. It’s military wing is defensive. It threatens no one. It’s prepared to respond forcefully if attacked. Israel learned the hard way in 2006. Its forces were outfoxed and humiliated. Israel yearns for revenge.

Involving Lebanon in Syria’s war may be planned. Obama and Netanyahu may have that in mind.

On February 21, Mossad-connected DEBKAfile (DF) headlined “Hizbollah on high alert, jockeys for a role in potential Syrian peace accord,” saying:

Its forces went on alert after the FSA’s ultimatum expired. Will its Beqaa Valley serve Assad, DF asked? Will its forces get involved? Are ceasefire talks credible?

According to DF, Assad’s military largely controls most of Syria. Ties to Hezbollah and Iran are firm. Each ally helps the others.

At the same time, FSA fighters may escalate conflict. They may conduct cross-border attacks. They’re no match for Hezbollah’s “far more organized and professional capabilities.”

“If they decide to go on the offensive, they are liable to suffer heavy losses.” Of greater concern is widening Syria’s conflict.

Israel’s currently involved. Last fall, IDF tanks shelled Syrian mortar batteries. Washington OK’d Israeli air strikes. Several targets were struck.

Israeli warplanes invade Lebanese airspace multiple times daily. They do so without permission. Policy is longstanding. It violates international law. Perhaps escalated conflict is planned.

It shouldn’t surprise. Washington and Israel partner in imperial lawlessness. Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran are prime targets. Regional conflict may follow. What’s possible bears watching. Future updates will discuss more.

Guess Who Funds the Climate Denial Industry?

According to the Guardian, a newly released Greenpeace study reveals it’s not just Exxon and the Koch brothers who fund the climate denial industry. In a recent article, they describe how a secretive charity known as Donors Trust enabled anonymous billionaires to donate nearly $120m to more than 100 groups campaigning to cast doubt on the science behind climate change. This money helped to build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups dedicated to redefining climate change as a highly polarizing “wedge issue” for hardcore conservatives – as opposed to a neutral scientific fact. During the same period the oil billionaire Koch brothers, who are usually credited with financing climate change denial, donated only a fraction of this amount.

It’s no mystery why the oil, gas and coal industry wants to stymie efforts by the US and other governments to cut carbon emissions by subsidizing renewable energy, public transportation and other initiatives to cut fossil fuel consumption.

The study sheds new light on the so-called “scientists” Donors Trust pays to produce “research” proving there is absolutely no link between carbon emissions, increasing CO2 concentrations, melting ice caps and the recent rash of catastrophic weather events.

Rafael Correa speaks on ‘Citizen Revolution’

While European governments continue to impose policies aimed at making
working people pay for a crisis they did not cause, the Ecuadorian
government of Rafael Correa has taken a different course.

“Those who are earning too much will be giving more to the poorest of
this country,” a November 1 Reuters dispatch quoted Correa as saying. He
was announcing a new measure to raise taxes on banks to help fund social
security payments.

Ecuador’s banking sector has registered US$349 million in after-tax
profits, a November 8 El Telegrafo article said.

“The time has arrived to redistribute those profits,” said Correa.

Reuters reported that by lifting the tax rate on bank holdings abroad
and applying a new tax on financial services, the government hopes to
raise between $200 million and $300 million a year.

The proceeds will fund a rise in the “human development bonus payment”
from $35 to $50 a month. About 1.2 million Ecuadorians receive the
payment, mainly single mothers and the elderly.

Such a move ? in the opposite direction to the most of the rest of the
world ? is largely explained by the fact the Correa government is a
result of the kind of protests movements now developing in Europe.

Citizen’s revolution

In “an interview published in the September/October issue of New Left
Review, Correa said the backdrop to his rise to power was “a citizens’
revolution, a revolt of indignant citizens” against bankers and
politicians destroying the country.

“In that sense we anticipated the recent indignado movement in Europe by
five or six years,” Correa said.

In 1999, a crisis engulfed Ecuador’s banking sector and the government
of the day tried to make the people carry the cost. Then-president Jamil
Mahuad was toppled by a popular uprising in 2000. The country’s
indigenous movements, spearheading opposition to neoliberalism, played a
leading role.

Ecuador’s economic crisis was soon coupled with a political crisis as
peoples’ illusions in the traditional parties of government collapsed.
“¡Que se vayan todos!” (Out with all of them!) became the rallying cry
of Ecuador’s next popular insurrection, which in 2005 toppled president
Lucio Gutierrez.

It was in this context that a relatively unknown leftist economist,
Correa, was asked to serve as the finance minister for Gutierrez’s
replacement, Alfredo Palacio.

Correa recalled: “In my short time at the Finance Ministry ? around a
hundred days ? we showed that one didn’t have to do the same as always:
submission to the IMF and World Bank, paying off the external debt
irrespective of the social debts still pending.

“This created a high level of expectations on the part of the public.”

Correa’s resignation due to differences with Palacio was greeted by
protests. Perhaps for the first time in history, the protests were not
against a finance minister, but in support.

With a group of close collaborators, Correa decided: “We couldn’t let
the expectations that had been raised, the feeling that things could be
done differently, end in disappointment.

“We travelled across the country and formed a political movement to
secure the presidency. For we saw very clearly that in order to change
Ecuador, we had to win political power.”

In 2006, Correa ran for president on a campaign that, he said, was
“proposing a revolution, understood as a radical and rapid change in the
existing structures of Ecuadorean society, in order to change the
bourgeois state into a truly popular one”.

Correa won in a second round run-off.

Make the bankers pay

One of the first big challenges his government faced was the global
economic crisis that hit in 2008.

The crisis was felt in Ecuador through the loss of foreign markets,
falling oil prices (the country’s chief export), and a sharp drop in
remittances from emigrants, which many Ecuadoreans depended.

Despite this, Ecuador’s economy suffered far less than many others.
Correa said this was due to “a combination of technical know-how and a
vision of the common good ? acting on behalf of our citizens, not
finance capital”.

“For example,” he said, “we used to have an autonomous central bank,
which is one of the great traps of neoliberalism, so that whichever
government is in power, things carry on as before”.

“Thanks to the 2008 Constitution, it is no longer autonomous.”

This meant the government could take back its national reserves that
were held in overseas banks. Together with new loans from China and
obliging private banks to return savings to Ecuador, the government was
able to ramp up public investment.

This helped lift Ecuador out of the crisis quicker than any other Latin
American country.

The government also enacted other measures to ensure peoples’ needs came
before profits. For example, new laws prohibit banks from penalising
low-income, first-time home buyers who default on their loans.

The most ambitious move however, which demonstrate how much had begun to
change in Ecuador, was the government’s decision to renegotiate its
foreign debt.

Correa told NLR: “The cost of the external debt was one of the greatest
obstacles to Ecuador’s development. At one time, servicing the debt
consumed 40 per cent of the budget, three times what was spent on the
social sphere ? education, health and so on.

“The allocation of resources demonstrated who was in charge of the
economy: bankers, creditors, international financial institutions.”

To turn this around, the government initiated the Committee for an
Integral Audit of the Public Debt (CAIC).

“The Commission proved beyond any doubt what we already knew: the
external debt was immoral, a robbery.

“For example, the 2012 and 2030 Global Bonds were sold on the secondary
market at 30 per cent of their value, but we had to pay them at the full
100 per cent. When it looked at the contracts, the Commission also found
a lot of corruption and conflicts of interest.

“So in December 2008 the CAIC ruled that this debt was immoral, and we
declared a unilateral moratorium on those bonds.

This was at a moment when we were in a strong economic position ? oil
prices were high, exports were growing ? which was deliberate. This
meant that the value of the debt dropped, and we forced our creditors to
negotiate and sell back their bonds in a Dutch auction.

“We managed to buy back our debt at 32–33 per cent of its value, which
meant billions of dollars of savings for the Ecuadorean people, both in
capital and in interest payments.

“This freed up a lot of resources which we could dedicate to the social
sphere; now, the situation is reversed from what it was before ? we
spend three times as much on education, health, housing as on debt
service.”

Human needs over greed

Correa said: “Now we are reducing inequality, and poverty with it,
through a combination of four things.

Firstly, making the rich pay more taxes. We have instituted a much more
progressive taxation system, and people now actually pay their taxes ?
collection has doubled.

“These resources, together with oil revenues and the money saved by
reducing the debt burden, can be devoted to education, health and so on.”

The second focus is giving people opportunities by providing free
education and healthcare.

“Thirdly, governing the market and improving the labour system.”

Correa said: “The market is a reality that we cannot avoid; but
believing the market should allocate everything is a different matter.
The market needs to be governed by collective action.

“We are putting an end to forms of exploitation such as subcontracting.
We are improving real wages …

“Around 60–65 per cent of families could afford the basic basket at the
start of our mandate, now we’ve reached 93 per cent, the highest in the
country’s history.

“We’ve disproved orthodox economic theory, the idea that to generate
employment one needs to lower real wages: here the real wage has risen
substantially, and we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the
region?just under 5 per cent.

“We’ve also paid attention to the quality of employment, making sure
businesses comply with labour laws. While raising wages for labour,
we’ve reduced the remuneration for capital.”

The fourth measure, Correa explained, is “distributing adequately our
social patrimony”.

Correa said: “We used to give away our oil: before the Palacio
government, transnational companies would take the equivalent of 85 out
of every 100 barrels and leave us with 15; now we have renegotiated the
contracts, the proportions have been reversed.

“Another example: after the economic crisis of 1999–2000, many
enterprises which were used as collateral for loans should have ended up
in state hands; it was we who finally seized them. In the case of the
Isaias Group, owned by the family of the same name, in 2008 we recovered
around 200 enterprises.”

The result of these measures has been a marked lowering of poverty and
inequality.

This helps explain why, six years after first being elected, Correa
looks set to comfortably win presidential elections next March. Recent
polls show Correa winning with between 55-60% of the vote.

In distant second is a banker, Guillermo Lasso, with about 15% support.

Are we Deserving of a Democracy?

It is often said that we get the government we deserve. So given the fact that the Obama administration has by now clearly demonstrated that they do not do the bidding of the people, but the elites, and given the fact that even with this fact he still has an undeserved large number of supporters, it now becomes compulsory to ask ourselves, not just whether we got the government we deserve, but whether we even deserve democracy today. When people put themselves in compliance to a party, a personality, or a persona, be it Democratic, Republican, or any party or party leader, especially in a party and leadership that has long since demonstrated its hostility to its people (i.e. Democratic and Republican; Bush and Obama), and in the face of that knowledge either ignore or deny it and continue to support the person or party even as “the lesser evil,” then to that extent we deserve what that party or person does to us while they are in power and against which we do not protest simply because of our emotional allegiances; for example, warrantless spying, drones, assassinations, cuts to education and social fabric programs, tax cuts for the wealthy, favoring corporate leaders over the people (e.g. restructuring the auto industry in favor of its executives concerns), etc.

Arguably, there are at least two mental conditions underlying this phenomenon, and they are interrelated. The first is putting emotion over reason in one’s individual motivations; the second is putting a one-sided commitment to party over commitment to the (universally-motivated) common good (I will call the one-sidedness an emotive/ideological commitment to demonstrate its partiality, and will presume that reason plays a subservient role in its motivation). Both of these issues have a common cognitive aspect. It is important to note that the second issue has two facets, both of which are equally threatening to democracy: emotive commitment to party on the basis of self-interest; or emotive commitment to party as a melding of self-interest into group interest—i.e. entering into a group ideology, the implicit intention (or at least direction) of which is to defeat “outsider” ideologies that are not a part of that group’s beliefs. Both cognitive aspects involve a denial of attempting to be rationality objective, in favor of ideologies that are self-serving for that group, and thereby threatening to both a wholesome individual and to a healthy democracy. We will take each of these aspects in turn.

Before doing that, a quick definition is in order. By “rationality,” I mean a consciousness of the unity, structure, and consistency of propositions as well as their relations to each other in the process of justification (normative-guided inferences on the basis of available evidence), and the primary role of these dynamics as necessary conditions for human thought and communication. Along with this comes a focus on both discrimination of discrete concepts and also a universal quantification that comes with certain judgments, such as in ethics. Thus, rationality is the acknowledgement, by use or by conscious recognition, of a set of objective norms for thinking. The emphasis on the normative dimension of rationality here I take to be relatively uncontroversial. The controversy begins with my assertion of both the objectivity of norms (i.e. innate and universal in orientation), and most specifically the primacy of this understanding of human rationality in discourse, ethics, and politics. However, to blunt this potential controversy a bit, I would simply assert that without something resembling this conception of the structure and primacy of human reason, arguments about the best or most proper kind of politics, and the values such assertions are built on, would all be groundless: one metaphor would be just as good as another, and the only difference between them would be subjective taste. Contrary to that, I have met no one who was politically involved who would hold their perspective to be so groundless; reason surely plays an important role in justifying one’s position. Short of that, the only politics available to us is a power contest between ideologies. But this is precisely where my criticism of both desire-based individualism and party politics comes in, so we are now in a position to continue.

First, to self-dismantle the priority of one’s own innate propensity for thinking rationally by opting instead for emotive inspiration for one’s beliefs, and rejecting the rationally required justification for one’s social beliefs and proclamations, is to allow oneself to be led by individual desire and the cognitive and ethical relativism they respectively stand for. Far worse on this score, to have that relativism advocated by academicians and educational institutions (the “no foundational rules” or “no knowledge” approach to either the learning process itself and/or constituting the template for studying a given subject matter) is to automatically make those who embrace it susceptible to the rhetoric and propaganda of the leaders they are only emotionally supporting. Without a strong emphasis on and priority given to rational structures of thought and justification, one has no basis for either for their own views, or for criticism or critique of persons or parties: one has instead only an empty appeal to others having simply “a different metaphor.”

Second, to deliberately limit one’s considerations, knowledge, thinking, and values to the interests of one party pitted against another, or to what one personally feels good about—i.e. to deny the possibility of cognitive equilibrium by refusing to acknowledge, say, the critical importance of the immense gap between the rhetoric of party leaders and their actions, and/or between the interests of the leaders and that of their members, makes one blindly party-allegiant. This in turn entices the followers of a party to surrender to the interests of those rulers and the mechanisms of state the rulers use to pursue their own self-interests under the rhetorical banner of “national interests” or “the safety of the nation.” The reason for this sorry state of affairs is that, in deliberately opting for desire over reason, for relativism over truth, for the power of one party over another, for self-interest over the common good, and even for party over principle, one has surrendered both a rational (i.e. objective; universally-intended) and ethical (i.e. equal justice) ground on which to stand and a grasp of a set of long-term social goods for which to strive, in favor of individual self-aggrandizement, which is inevitably transient, elusive, and short-term.

votePeople who object to this analysis on the basis of a certain form of pragmatism—i.e. who say that the (two) party system is “the only game in town” and/or that “one must work within the party for change”—are not immune from this critique. There are many parties one might work for that more closely aligns with one’s rational sense of universal justice. Thus, the commitment from a pragmatic viewpoint to a single party or institution which has de facto rejected concerns of equality, justice, and universal inclusion, is no objection. Party pragmatists are bourgeois liberals: liberals who have “made it;” that is, they have made their gains within the confines of the institution(s) as it (they) currently exist, and/or have accepted the dogma that the current arrangement is the only foreseeable or workable arrangement to be had. In either case, in refusing to take on the cognitive disequilibrium that would attend it were they to consider otherwise, they are less interested in working for the universal application of the principles of equality, freedom, and justice if it sets their party-based goals back or if it costs them in their personal comfort. With one of those assumptions, they are able to support what the party or party leader does and says without the claims of conscience intruding excessively on their worldview. The perspective of a pragmatist then, is from the viewpoint of an instrumental rationality, a rationality that is geared toward party-based or party-limited ends instead of an objectively-motivated commitment to justice that would break one out of party limitations and into a vision for a new future for American politics.

No one who is drunk on this potion of party-interest, and its one-sided (i.e. party-supporting) information, individual self-interested desire-satisfaction, irrationalism and its emotionally titillating politics—any combination of these intoxicants—will be able to sort out truth from falsehood, rhetoric from reality, or ethical good from pandering to puffed-up feelings encouraged in their leaders’ speeches and corporate commercials. Only those who have made a conscious choice to value reason, logic, and ethical principles, necessarily attuned as they are to the good of the whole as opposed to their own selfish feelings of good and gain, can raise their heads up enough to see that the fox is in the henhouse; that the lies and the liars are in one’s own head as a result of both the self-destructive irrationalism of self-interest supported by the verbal manipulations of elite party leaders, combined with their secret and not-so-secret nefarious deeds.

The primary emphasis on either self or party results in a deflationary view of rationality and with it the recognition of the need for public, rational justification of positions taken and actions engaged—a discursive process that seeks the best, most rational and ethical perspective. On the other hand, blithely supporting a single party results in an inflationary view of one’s emotionally-supported leaders or party. Concretely, that means that one perceives and over-emphasizes only the minor goods done while ignoring far more nefarious deeds and misdeeds done, while at the same time being elated at “great speeches,” rhetorical flourishes, and engaging metaphors that happen to match one’s own feelings. This is the ideology that comes with an over-attachment to party combined with an unspoken because unacknowledged irrational mode of belief subject to the propagandistic manipulation of leadership—both of which reduce human cognition to a function of metaphorical exchange and judging differences between values as simply differences in metaphor. This give no grounding and no telos to human pursuit or exchange, and reduces discourse to exchange of catchy phrases and its resultant score-card of who (i.e. which party or politician) had the more polished turn of phrase instead of who had the position most in accord with both the evidence available and in conjunction with a moral set of principles that one would maintain is more acceptable for human intercourse. Thus, the overall patterns of leadership action and citizen support become the same, when reason and ethics are surrendered to interests of any other sort but the equal and universal concerns expressed by the principle “justice for all.”

The result of such irrationalities that themselves result in party-allegiance over principle: fascism and totalitarianism, in which individual rationality and objective justification is surrendered precisely for what is irrational. Contrary to the claim of relativists, fascism and totalitarianism did not originate in a quest for universal reason and a focus on rationality. Rather, that quest was overcome and put to use by a much deeper—i.e. unconscious—mechanism of the human psyche; one that caused Freud to be so pessimistic about human nature and the future of humanity. That mechanism is the love of control and power over others—be they another political party or another race or another culture—and the masochistic love of inflicting pain on them that is the inevitable concomitant of the pursuit of power. This is the psychological dynamic that put reason to work to achieve its ends in Hitler’s Germany. It still does today in Obama’s corporate America. (Note: I am not analogizing Hitler and Obama. I am simply arguing that the spirit of fascism did not die with Hitler or the Third Reich, and is very much alive in America today, and for the same reasons it was alive in Germany back then.)

By rejecting reason wholesale, and by putting relativism, the groupthink of a “party first” ideology, self-centered desires, and/or the irrational drives of the human psyche as the fundamental guide of human thoughts and action, the culture of the mid-to-late 20th century West guaranteed the decline of democracy and the ongoing dominance of the fascistic spirit we see so prominently today. It inverted the internal, self-ordered rational individual (and how could psyche have an order/cosmos without reason as guide?) with the desiring individual and thus social chaos (the opposite of cosmos) as atomistic, irrational individuals sought their own means of self-aggrandizement without care or concern for the impact they had on local or distant others and the future state of humanity.

The solution advocated here to this problem is what I would call “post party politics.” It is the recognition that the full-throated commitment to the party system has proved to be an utter failure, as has the commitment to individualism and relativism. Thus, the best solution is to find a political place between the Scylla of the party system (i.e. “the party for the party’s sake,” or “the party over and against all other parties”) and the Charybdis of settling for the solipsism of individualism and/or the intellectual complacency of relativism. That will demand two things: first, to put reason and ethical principles back to our deliberation as primary modes of cognition; second, to engage in public discourse on that basis; and third, to give only provisional support, which flexes and changes, to those persons and groups who put these values as primary in their governing methods, even if they are not able to maintain them at all times and all levels. This entails that one is committed to never allying with groups for groups’ sake, or with one’s self-interest alone as the basis of either voting or political involvement.