Revolutionary News

Rebels film execution of 11 Syrian soldiers, as Obama continues anti-Assad rhetoric

As a new video is published showing fighters of the Al Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front in Syria executing 11 men they say are Bashar Assad’s soldiers, Obama talks to Turkey’s Erdogan, renewing threats of action against the Syrian government.
The video, which was posted on YouTube on Thursday, is believed to have been filmed in the eastern Deir-al Zor province and appears to date from some time in 2012, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group with a network of activists in Syria.
The footage shows the commander, his face obscured in a black balaclava, shooting each prisoner in the back of the head as they kneel blindfolded lined up in the sand.
The Islamic militants shout “God is great” each time a man is shot. In some cases the executioner comes back and fires more bullets to make sure they are dead. The Al Nusra Front, which is thought to be behind the footage, has links to Al-Qaeda, and itself has ended up on America’s terrorism list in December 2012.
Rami Abderrahman, the head of the Observatory, told Reuters that the Al Nusra Front has been releasing several videos of their gruesome operations.
The Observatory said that such videos have become increasingly common in Syria’s bloody civil war, which has now claimed 80,000 lives, according to latest UN estimates.
The Nusra video is the second to appear online in the last two days to show executions by fighters who claim links to al-Qaeda.

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on YouTube on May 16, 2013 by user @dirtytrainers

It comes after horrific footage was released on Sunday of a Syrian rebel commander apparently eating one of the lungs of a dead government fighter. Time magazine said they had first seen the footage in April and identified the man as Khaled al-Hamad. Hamad admitted to the magazine that he had mutilated the corpse of the soldier as an act of revenge for allegedly defiling a naked woman and her daughter.
The footage was swiftly condemned by the Syrian opposition. 
Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch told the Guardian that it is “not enough for Syria’s opposition to condemn such behavior or blame it on violence by the government. The opposition forces need to act firmly to stop such abuses.”
But Hamad, who is also known as Abu Sakkar, has also received support amongst the more hardline rebels in Syria. Sakkar’s supporters often make portraits of him with the inscription “We Love You”.
 

Obama repeats warnings of a ‘military option’

The controversy comes as a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minster, Tayyip Erdogan, and President Obama was held Thursday. Obama said that the US reserves the right to resort to diplomatic and military options if there is conclusive proof that Assad has used chemical weapons.
"There are a whole range of options that the United States is already engaged in…  And I reserve the options of taking additional steps, both diplomatic and military, because those chemical weapons inside of Syria also threaten our security over the long term as well as our allies and friends and neighbors."

US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan hold a joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, May 16, 2013. (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

Erdogan, for his part, added that “ending this bloody process in Syria and meeting the legitimate demands of the people by establishing a new government are two areas where we are in full agreement with the US. We also agree that we have to prevent Syria from becoming an area for terrorist organizations. We also agree that chemical weapons should not be used.”
But Aleksandr Lukashevich, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said Monday that the accusation that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons could be a sign that public opinion is being prepared for the possibility of military intervention in Syria.
“A lot of reasoning appeared in a number of Arab and other international mass media regarding the use of chemical weapons in the standoff between the government forces and the opposition guerillas,” he warned.
Speaking to Lebanon's Al Mayadeen TV channel Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow will make no “backstage” agreements on Syria in exchange for Western concessions on missile defense or any other disputed issues.
“This is not serious. I think that those who try suggest that indulge in wishful thinking,” Lavrov said in an interview with Lebanon's Al Mayadeen TV channel.

“Everyone knows well that Russia’s stance on a whole range of crucial issues is not opportunistic,” the Russian top diplomat emphasized.  
On Wednesday, the UN passed resolution 6a, which has condemned Assad’s regime for re-escalating the Syrian conflict. The document was passed with a vote of 107 to 12, and with 59 abstaining.
The support was far lower than a resolution last august, which condemned Assad for cracking down on dissent. The decline in support is seen as a sign of growing unease at increasing extremism among Syria’s fractious rebels.
Russia voted against this year’s resolution, saying it was "counterproductive and irresponsible" to promote a one-sided resolution when Moscow and Washington are trying to get the Syrian government and opposition to agree to negotiations. 
At a meeting in Geneva in June last year the major world powers reached a degree of consent between the positions of Russia and the West who do not often see eye to eye on Syria. They agreed that any future government in Syria could include members of the current regime as well as opposition groups. There was also no specific demand that Assad must step down – something the West has insisted on – and instead an agreement pushed by Russia and China that the future makeup of any Syrian government would be decided by the Syrian people.

Over 70 states refuse to say yes to anti-Syria resolution

More than 70 countries have refused to say yes to an Arab-backed resolution against Syria at the United Nations General Assembly.

Russia, China and Iran were among the 12 countries that opposed the resolution on Wednesday.

Russia called the resolution, co-sponsored by the United States, "counterproductive and irresponsible."

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 107-12 with 59 abstentions. Argentina, Brazil, and more than a dozen other Latin American and Caribbean countries abstained from voting.

Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN Alexander Pankin called the resolution "very harmful and destructive," saying it disregards "illegal actions of the armed opposition." He also accused the resolution’s Arab sponsors of attempting to replace the Syrian government instead of trying to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja'afari also stated that the resolution "seeks to escalate the crisis and fuel violence in Syria.”

The non-binding resolution, which was drafted by a number of Arab states, calls for a “political transition” and refers to the foreign-backed militants in Syria as "effective representative interlocutors” needed for the transition.

The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

Damascus says the West and its regional allies, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, are supporting the militants.

In an interview recently broadcast on Turkish television, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that if the militants take power in Syria, they could destabilize the entire Middle East region for decades.

“If the unrest in Syria leads to the partitioning of the country, or if the terrorist forces take control… the situation will inevitably spill over into neighboring countries and create a domino effect throughout the Middle East and beyond,” he stated.

NT/MHB

'Counterproductive': UN General Assembly votes to condemn Assad's forces in Syria war

The UN General Assembly voted to pass an Arab-backed draft resolution that strongly condemns the Assad government and embraces the political viability of the Syrian National Coalition. Russia’s UN envoy characterized the resolution as “counterproductive.”
The 193-member world body voted on Wednesday to pass the Qatari-drafted resolution condemning Syrian government forces and the “gross violation” of human rights in the country.The final vote tally: 107 in favor, 12 against and 59 abstentions. Russia, China, Syria, Iran and North Korea were among 12 countries to oppose the resolution, while South Africa, India and Brazil were among the dozens who abstained.
The draft resolution further welcomes the establishment of the Syrian National Coalition "as effective representative interlocutors needed for a political transition."
The document noted "the wide international acknowledgment" that the main opposition group is the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding and therefore cannot be enforced. The last Arab-sponsored General Assembly resolution regarding Syria was approved by an vote of 133-12 with 31 abstentions last August. UN diplomats said the decline in support for Wednesday's resolution showed growing concern about the nature of Syria’s fractured opposition fighting against the president of Bashar Assad.
Speaking before the vote, Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’Afari said it was contradictory for the resolution to be tabled under the Assembly’s agenda item on “prevention of armed conflict.” Ja’Afari argued that the resolution would in fact escalate violence by legitimizing the provision of weapons to “terrorists” in Syria and “by recognizing one faction of the opposition as the Syrian people’s legitimate representative."

He further said Al-Qaida-linked terrorists who had committed “unprecedented savage crimes and human rights violations” were operating in Syria thanks to the “involvement of intelligence agencies of well-known States.” He concluded that Syria was in favor of “Syrian-led national dialogue” which would adhere to the will of “the great majority of the Syrian people.”
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had sent letters in the run-up to the vote urging all member states to vote "no" on the new resolution. He called it "one-sided and biased" as well as "counterproductive" in light of the agreement reached between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow last week to convene a follow-up international peace conference on a political transition in Syria.

Rebel fighters from the Al-Ezz bin Abdul Salam Brigade (AFP Photo / Miguel Medina)

The Arab group decided to seek approval of a wide-ranging resolution on Syria in the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes, to express "international outrage" at the more than 2-year conflict which has claimed the lives of more than 70,000 people.
The draft strongly condemns what it characterized as the continued escalation in the Syrian regime's use of heavy weapons, including indiscriminate shelling from tanks and aircraft, as well as the use of ballistic missiles, cluster munitions and other weapons against populated areas.
It further expressed "grave concern at the threat by the Syrian authorities to use chemical or biological weapons, as well as at allegations of reported use of such weapons," demanding that Syria “strictly observe” international laws prohibiting the use of such weapons.
While the draft resolution put the onus of chemical weapon’s use on Damascus, the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria said earlier this month that no evidence had been uncovered implicating the Syrian government in a chemical weapon attack.
In an interview to Swiss-Italian television, the lead commission member Carla Del Ponte revealed that the "investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated."
However, rather than government forces, Del Ponte concluded: "This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities."

‘Worse than death row’: Gitmo hunger strike reaches Day 100 amidst mounting intl pressure

As the Guantanamo hunger strike enters its 100th day, the number of voices, both in the US and around the world, to close the facility are growing stronger and louder.
Lawyers acting for prisoners in Guantanamo say the real figures may be higher, but officially of the 166 inmates in Guantanamo, 100 are currently on hunger strike. Of these, 30 are being force-fed through a nasal tube and three are in hospital.
Follow RT’s day-by-day timeline of the Gitmo hunger strike.

The 166 prisoners have been there eleven and a half years and 90 per cent of them haven’t been charged with a crime.

The hunger strike began in February after an altercation between prisoners and guards, after guards allegedly interfered with the inmates personal belongings including the mishandling of Koran’s.

Original only a few dozen of the prisoners were refusing to eat but by the end of April the authorities in charge of Guantanamo were forced to admit that the number had jumped to 100.

On April 14th, Cindy Panuco, a lawyer for the Afghan detainee Obaidullah told RT that guards were moving prisoners from communal living into single cells under the pretext of stopping them from acquiring weapons, but almost certainly in an attempt to break their resolve and stop them hunger striking.
Feroz Abbasi, who was released from Guantanamo without charges, described how he was psychologically tortured by the Guantanamo guards.

“For some reason on the same night Iraq was bombed in March 2003, I was moved into isolation, solitary confinement, and I was there for two years. Six months of which were without sunlight,” he said.

A view of a common area at the medium security prison inside Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)

Clive Stafford Smith a British human rights lawyer who is representing Sahker Aamer, the last British inmate in Guantanamo, told RT that the conditions his client experiences are worse than “death row ”.
“When a prisoner doesn’t do exactly what they are told, six guys dressed up as if they are in Darth Vader outfits come in and basically beat him up. If [Aamer] wants a bottle of water, they send them, if he wants his medicines, they send them. Now he just doesn’t ask for his medication.” Hunger strikers who have been force-fed describe it as the final humiliation. There are three stages to the pain, firstly there is the sensation of a tube being forced past their sinuses into their throat, which causes their eyes to water, then an intense burning and gagging sensation as it goes down the throat and finally when the tube enters the stomach there is a strong urge to vomit. When the tube has delivered the ‘food’, it triggers the most painful sensation of all: the return of hunger.
Disturbing accounts by lawyers for Guantanamo inmates emerged Monday, that prisoners who wish to talk to their legal representatives are being subjected to humiliating new body searches.
David Remes, a lawyer for a Guantanamo inmate, told AFP that under the new search policy, “a detainee who leaves his camp is subject to a search including his private parts and holding his private parts.” Remes said that the searches were deliberately intended to deter detainees from meeting with their lawyers.
President Obama declared earlier this month that the “Pentagon is trying to manage the situation [in Guantanamo] as best in can”.

In this photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, a Guantanamo detainee speaks with guards inside the Camp 6 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba (Reuters / Brennan Linsley)

But on March 29th, well over a month since the hunger strike began, RT reported that a Pentagon briefing by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made no reference to the strike.
Also in March the Department for Defense requested almost $200 million to renovate the prison camp, while at the beginning of 2013 the state department wound up the office that was in charge of closing down the prison.
As the strike enters its 100th day, it now commands interest from the mainstream western media, but as the British MP George Galloway told RT in March, initially only RT and a handful of other outlets such as the British newspaper the Guardian, gave it significant coverage.

Human Right’s plea

A consortium of 20 human right’s organizations, pressure groups and law bodies including Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, issued a plea Monday to the US defense secretary Chuck Hagel to end the practice of force-feeding in Guantanamo.

The letter noted that the practice of force-feeding at Guantanamo amounts to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and is in violation of the Geneva conventions to which the US is a signatory.

There is also a growing level of discomfort about what is happening in Guantanamo among the medical community. An editorial published in the medical journal the Lancet earlier this month said that in this case force-feeding prisoners who had chosen not to eat as a form of protest “infringes the principle of patient autonomy.”

The hacktivist group Anonymous has also announced it will mark the 100th day of the hunger strike by calling for 3 days of protests.

“We stand in solidarity with the Guantanamo hunger strikers. We will shut down Guantanamo,” an online statement from Anonymous reads.

The group didn’t specify how it would achieve its goal but promised “Twitter storms, email bombs and fax bombs.”

Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)

Petition

While the Pentagon drags its heels on Guantanamo, a number of high profile figures from the US establishment have come forward to actively campaign for its closure.

A petition, which was started by Morris Davis, the former Chief Prosecutor for terrorism trials at Guantanamo Bay, was filed earlier this month and includes a letter to President Obama to bring about the closure of the prison.

Hosted by the Change.org website it has already received 204,642 signatures well over the goal of 200,000. It calls on the president to “Direct Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to use his authority to issue the certifications or national security waivers required by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2013) to affect transfers from Guantanamo.”

Davis served for 25 years in the US air force and was a Guantanamo prosecutor for two years, personally charging Bin Laden’s driver Salim Hamdan.  Davis notes in the introduction to why he started the petition, “There is something fundamentally wrong with a system where not being charged with a war crime keeps you locked away indefinitely and a war crime conviction is your ticket home.”

n this photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, and shot through glass, a guard watches over Guantanamo detainees inside the exercise yard at Camp 5 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba (Reuters / Brennan Linsley)

“The Supreme Court here in the US, every decision they’ve come out with involving Guantanamo has been adverse to the government. So there is no good reason to keep it open other than political talking points for the far right,” Davis told RT earlier this month.
He also said that it is “extraordinarily expensive” to operate.
“It is over a $100 million a year just to operate the facility, not counting the $200 million that General Kelly said he needs to rehabilitate these warn-out facilities,” he said.

Cleared to leave

86 of the 166 prisoners still in Guantanamo have been cleared to leave the facility but haven’t been allowed to leave because there is no arrangement as to where they can be sent.

On the 25th April, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to the Obama administration requesting it re-examine the release of low-level Guantanamo detainees to Yemen.

Following an attempt by the Yemini branch of Al-Qaeda to blow up a Detroit-bound jet liner, the transfer of 56 Yemeni bound inmates was halted.

Detainees talk together inside the open-air yard at the Camp 4 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba (Reuters / Brennan Linsley)

But Feinstein, argues that in light of the unprecedented desperation among detainees, and in light of Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s strong resistance to Al-Qaeda, transfers to Yemen should resume.

'Problems in Guantanamo'

President Obama has repeatedly said he wants to close the detention center, but insists that he must persuade Congress that it is in America’s interests to shut it down.

He promised to “re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people.”

He went on to insist that justice has been served in a way that is “consistent with the rule of law” and the American constitution.

But he conceded that it was no surprise that there were “problems in Guantanamo” and that it isn’t necessary in keeping America safe.

“It is expensive, it is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessons cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed,” he said.

12th US state joins political bid to establish gay marriage as norm

Another US state has legalized same-sex marriage, joining 11 other American states that have done so in a growing political bid pushed by liberal groups in the nation following President Barack Obama’s public support for “the cause” as his reelection campaign strategy in 2012.

Minnesota became the 12th American state to legalize the divisive bid after Governor Mark Dayton signed the gay-marriage bill on Tuesday after the state’s Democratic Party-controlled Senate passed the legislation by a 37-30 vote.

The controversial political campaign by powerful gay and other liberal interest groups to legalize same-sex marriage across the United States contradicts all divine religions across the globe, including the US, offending many of their followers, who commonly reject homosexuality and gay unions as contrary to innate human instincts and ruled strictly forbidden in divine scriptures.

Before the Senate vote, opponents of gay marriage waged a protest rally at the state’s Capitol. A paper tombstone on the Capitol lawn read, "RIP MARRIAGE, 2013."

Minnesota is the third US state in three weeks to legalized same-sex marriage. Delaware became the 11th state to approve the controversial bid last week, followed by Rhode Island a week earlier.

The move was widely viewed by US observers as part of a rapid shift on the campaign to establish same-sex marriage as the norm in liberal parts of the nation, which are largely governed by lawmakers from the Democratic Party, known to be under major influence of Zionist Jewish and homosexual figures.

Supporting same-sex marriage has become “almost a requirement for the Democratic Party’s elected officials, at least on the national level,” according to local media analysts, who add that the move toward legalization in Democratic-leaning states seems likely to continue.

So far, however, there has been little sign of a shift in more conservative, Republican-leaning states, suggesting a major divide across the US on the issue, which may persist for many years.

MFB/MFB

Organ easting of Syria soldier atrocious act, war crime: UN

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called the eating of a dead Syrian soldier’s organ by a foreign-backed militant as a “truly atrocious act,” saying it should be investigated as a “war crime.”

“The video that has just emerged from Syria, apparently showing a rebel leader cutting out and biting the heart of a dead soldier, depicts a truly atrocious act,” Navi Pillay said on Tuesday in comments from Geneva.

On Sunday, the footage posted on the internet showed that Khalid al Hamad, known by his nom de guerre Abu Sakkar, cutting out some of the soldier's organs and biting into one. At the time of the filming, al Hamad believed that he was eating the man’s liver, but a surgeon who saw the video said the organ in question was actually a lung.

“Mutilating or desecrating corpses during a conflict is a war crime,” the High Commissioner said, adding, “I urge the armed opposition groups in Syria to do everything in their power to halt such gross crimes.”

Pillay also called for a probe into other serious violations by the foreign-backed militants in Syria, such as acts of torture, summary executions and extra-judicial killings.

On Tuesday, al Hamad said in an interview with Time magazine conducted via Skype that the video is real and that he did indeed take a bite of the soldier’s lung.

Other Syrian militants condemned the "horrific and inhumane" action, saying he should be arrested or killed for committing the atrocity.

The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

SAB/PR

Guantanamo denying detainees lawyer contact without invasive body search

In a letter sent to British foreign secretary William Hague, a prominent human rights lawyer is alleging that Guantanamo Bay's hunger striking detainees are being threatened with humiliating body searches before they are allowed to contact legal counsel.
See our timeline of the Guantanamo Bay hunger strike.
Clive Stafford Smith, who currently represents several inmates at the US prison camp through the legal charity Reprieve, claims that guards at the facility are requiring invasive searches before detainees can conduct in-person interviews or even phone calls to lawyers.
A copy of the letter was obtained by The Guardian, and states that as a direct result of the new policy two of Smith’s clients were recently barred from speaking with their legal representatives after refusing the searches.
"The US military has started directly abusing prisoners who want to contact their lawyers to tell them what is happening. So anyone who wants to see a lawyer, or have a legal phone call, must have his fingers put up his anus and his genitals touched," Smith writes.
There are currently 100 inmates confirmed by US authorities as participating in the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay since it began in earnest back in February, 29 of whom are being force-fed via tubes.
Five of those prisoners are being observed in the detainee hospital, according to a statement by US Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Samuel House on Monday. The official numbers differ from those of human rights activists, who have put the number of strikers at up to 130.

A US Marine manning an observation tower surveys the outside of Camp X-Ray where 110 Al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees are being currently held by US authorities at the US Guantanamo US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, 17 January 2002.(AFP Photo)

The claims by Smith coincide with failure by one of his clients, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, to speak with him via telephone last Friday, allegedly due to the new policy. Moqbel, who is participating in the hunger strike, was the recent author of a New York Times op-ed which detailed the pain and emotional impact of being force-fed by nasal tubes.  
Agence France-Presse (AFP) has independently reported that another lawyer, David Remes, had two detainees he currently represents decline calls due to the new search procedures.
"Under the new search policy, a detainee who leaves his camp is subject to a search including his private parts and holding his private parts," Remes said.
He added that the "shocking" searches were "designed to deter many detainees from meeting with their [lawyers] … to make their life more miserable and put the detainees in front of an impossible choice."
In response to the allegations, Lt. Col. Samuel House has told The Guardian that the new search procedures do not represent anything beyond a pat down:
"Full frisk searches are conducted in a professional manner to quickly locate and identify contraband hidden on the body. The searches are conducted with clothes on, similar to a pat-down search conducted by an airport security screener," says House.
According to House, the new procedures were enacted "in light of contraband discovered during recent cell searches."
For his part, Smith believes the allegedly invasive searches cannot be justified.
"Any pretext given for these new rules is just that: a pretext. The prisoners do not need to be sexually assaulted in order to be taken to a telephone to talk to their lawyer," he said.

New cables 'expose' US govt lobbies worldwide for Monsanto, other GMO corps

After US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed that the State Department was lobbying worldwide for Monsanto and other similar corporations, a new report based on the cables shows Washington's shilling for the biotech industry in distinct detail.
The August 2011 WikiLeaks revelations showed that American diplomats had requested funding to send lobbyists for the biotech industry to hold talks with politicians and agricultural officials in "target countries" in areas like Africa and Latin America, where genetically-modified crops were not yet a mainstay, as well as some European countries that have resisted the controversial agricultural practice.
After a concerted effort to "closely examine five years of State Department diplomatic cables from 2005 to 2009 to provide the first comprehensive analysis of the strategy, tactics and U.S. foreign policy objectives to foist pro-agricultural biotechnology policies worldwide," nonprofit consumer protection group Food & Water Watch published on Tuesday a report showing in plain detail the depth of the partnership between the federal government and a number of controversial biotech companies that have slowly but surely pushed their GMO products on a number of new countries in recent years.

Protesters against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are chained to a vehicle as they block a delivery entrance to a Monsanto seed distribution facility in Oxnard, California September 12, 2012. (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

At center stage in the report is Monsanto, the St. Louis, Missouri-based makers of genetically-modified crops and genetically-engineered seeds that has continuously generated criticism as of late over its practices both on the growing field and in a court of law. Monsanto is among the most valuable corporations in the US, yet has relentlessly sued small-time farmers across the world over alleged patent violations, often forcing independent agriculturists to go out of business. Legislation signed into law last month provided litigation immunity to GMO companies including Monsanto, and on Monday the Supreme Court sided with the corporation when ruling on a landmark patent infringement case.
“The US Department of State is selling seeds instead of democracy,” Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter told reporters. “This report provides a chilling snapshot of how a handful of giant biotechnology companies are unduly influencing US foreign policy and undermining our diplomatic efforts to promote security, international development and transparency worldwide. This report is a call to action for Americans because public policy should not be for sale to the highest bidder.”
Food & Water Watch published their findings this week after combing through the roughly 260,000 State Department cables that the whistleblower website first began publishing in 2010, but notes that their statistics specifically come from memos not classified as 'secret' or higher.
For the most part, wrote the nonprofit, “The State Department strategy sought to foist pro-biotech policies on foreign governments” using a four-prong approach: promote biotech business interests; lobby foreign governments to weaken biotech rules; protect US biotech exports and press developing world to adopt biotech crops.
As the cables are analyzed, though, the efforts the State Department undertook to advocate for Monsanto demonstrate a willingness to put a US-based company’s profits about the interests and health of those residing in foreign nations.
In a cable sent from the Slovakian consulate in 2005, the State Department is told that the local post “will continue its efforts to dispel myths about GMOs and advocate on behalf of Monsanto.” In 2009, a cable out of Madrid, Spain announced that Monsanto had made “urgent requests” to fight off an anti-GMO opposition campaign that posed problems to the biotech industry. Other revelations show pro-GMO efforts waged by the US on behalf of the biotech industry in Hong Kong, the European Union, Egypt and elsewhere.
However, activists in the areas in question and elsewhere are taking note of Monsanto's dangerous and growing influence, with anti-Monsanto demonstrations planned in 36 cities on six continents for spring and summer 2013.

Members of "Occupy" movements in the Midwest protest against Monsanto's agricultural practices in front of the Missouri Botanical Garden during the "Occupy the Midwest" regional conference in St. Louis, Missouri March 16, 2012. (Reuters/Sarah Conard)

“The State Department’s efforts impose the policy objectives of the largest biotech seed companies on often skeptical or resistant governments and public, and exemplifies thinly veiled corporate diplomacy,” alleged Food & Water Watch.
When Food & Water Watch scoured those cables, they concluded that the State Department was conducting off-the-radar negotiations that didn’t seem to advance democracy or American ideals — instead, rather, it found evidence of lobbying used to advance the agenda of thriving US companies that have already purchased the approval of much of Washington.
“It’s not surprising that Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow want to maintain and expand their control of the $15 billion global biotech seed market, but it’s appalling that the State Department is complicit in supporting their goals despite public and government opposition in several countries,” Ronnie Cummins, executive director of Organic Consumers Association, said in the press release accompanying the report. “American taxpayer’s money should not be spent advancing the goals of a few giant biotech companies.” 
Of the 926 State Department cables analyzed by Food & Water Watch, the group found Monsanto appeared in more than 6 percent of the memos, shining light on how a federal agency “worked especially hard to promote the interests” of an outside company.
When reached for comment by Reuters, Monsanto spokesman Tom Helscher said, "We remain committed to sharing information so that individuals can better understand our business and our commitments to support farmers throughout the world as they work to meet the agriculture demands of our world's growing population.” The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Nancy Brumley, Monsanto Soybean Plant Specialist, ties up a stalk of soybean in the soybean greenhouse at the Monsanto Research facility in Chesterfield, Missouri October 9, 2009. (Reuters)

As RT reported previously, that so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” signed into law last month was co-authored by a senator that has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the company — a revelation that didn’t surprise many given that another important figure in Washington, Justice Clarence Thomas, served as an attorney for the corporation before he was nominated to the high court only to eventually preside over a case involving his former employer. But according to Food & Water Watch, the relationship between Monsanto and the government extends beyond Congress and the Supreme Court. In a statement published on Tuesday to accompany their report, Food & Water Watch wrote that the cables detail “how the US State Department lobbies foreign governments to adopt pro-agricultural biotechnology policies and laws, operates a rigorous public relations campaign to improve the image of biotechnology and challenges commonsense biotechnology safeguards and rules — including opposing genetically engineered (GE) food labeling laws.”
This week’s report comes just one day after Justice Thomas and the Supreme Court sided with Monsanto in reaching a decision in a landmark patent suit. In the case, the high court said that an Indiana farmer infringed on Monsanto’s patent rights by using specially-made seeds he obtained second-hand without signing a contract with the company. That ruling, however, came just days after the company was hit with comparably bad news: on Friday, the US Department of Agriculture ordered an extra round of tests for new GMO breeds being developed by Monsanto and Dow, putting on hold plans to release to the public laboratory-made crops that can withstand heavy dousing of dangerous pesticides. Both companies want to make available crops that are resistant to the chemicals 2,4-D and dicamba, a move that environmentalists fear will prompt farmers to use more of these toxins.
"The danger that 2,4-D and dicamba pose is a real threat to crops…nearly every food crop," Steve Smith, director of agriculture at Red Gold, told Reuters last year.

FARC-EP: Comrade Carlos Patiño: Present and Fighting!

We inform the international community and to the Colombian people that: in the mountain ranges of Northern Nariño, our comrade Carlos Patiño, whom the people knew as “Caliche”, the famous Commander of the Jacobo Arenas mobile column, has died in combat. He died as he lived: fighting on the front line until the ultimate victory, for a new Colombia.
The life and work of Carlos was one of exemplary revolutionary integrity, alongside the likes of Ernesto Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, Martín Caballero and Isaias Pardo.
A revolutionary from an early age, he joined the ranks of the FARC-EP in the Eastern bloc. By his abilities and sacrifice he became a member and Commander of the guard units of the Secretariat, under the direct supervision of his mentor, our Commander in Chief, Manuel Marulanda Vélez.
His years of living and fighting beside comrade Manuel left a deep mark on Carlos. He learned from our Commander in Chief to overcome difficulties, to be always at the forefront, to be disciplined and consistent.
With the gift of command and the banner of combativeness, Carlos became a person of the vanguard, a true soldier of the cause.
In the Green House operation he became a giant, and his legend began to remove the dreams of the bourgeois army officials. The VIII Conference delegated the command of the newly created mobile column Jacobo Arenas to Carlos and as such, he toured much of the country, giving lectures on guerrilla warfare.
Carlos has always been an innovator. FARC-EP owes him many advancements in artillery, explosives, militia tactics, military procurement, mass work, and training of troops. His was the gift of leadership: always respected and loved by the guerrillas, the militias, militants and the civilian population.
Today the enemies of the people and the masters of war denounce Carlos as a bandit, but Indigenous peoples, peasants and the Afro-Colombian people of Cauca fondly remember the love of a kind, good man, firm and consistent in the defense of their interests.
The mountains of Cauca cry today the loss of the brave warrior, proud of what this son of the Eastern Plains planted deep in the region. Thousands of men and women were forged in the school of combat of Carlos currently thresh trails of the Southwest, ready to fulfill their tasks as members of the FARC-EP, knowing that they are the guardians of the legacy of Caliche.
Military commanders may wallow in the physical disappearance of our comrade, but we know very well that Caliche lives of Caldono, Jambaló, militias in the guerrilla resistance of Suarez and Mondomo, at the buzzer tatuco of Toribio in the armament of the popular masses of Silvia and Buenos Aires, in the unerring aim of Timbío sniper, in the growing resistance of masses that runs across the North of Caucathe Pacific, the Patía and the Colombian Massif, in the rebellion of the streets of Cali, Popayán and the capitals of the country.
FARC-EP fighters will pay Carlos the tribute which he wanted in life: to redouble our military preparedness, consolidate our structures at all levels, training and retraining every day of the guerrillas and the militias, consolidate our Clandestine Communist Party and the Bolivarian movement, and move forward with firm steps in the achievement of the dream that we have inherited from Jacobo and Manuel: achieve peace with social justice, a New Colombia, Patria Grande and socialism. 
Comrade Carlos Patiño: Present and fighting! For our dead, a moment of silence, a lifetime of struggle and combat!
Secretariat of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP)

US Justice Department acknowledges wide-ranging surveillance of AP

The president of the Associated Press has sent a letter of protest to US Attorney General Eric Holder over the Department of Justice’s broad surveillance of individual reporters' phone conversations.
In a letter received by the AP on Friday, the Justice Department acknowledged but offered no explanation for the seizure of two months' worth of telephone records of reporters and editors. AP’s president, Gary Pruitt, called the ongoing monitoring a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”
The AP believes that more than 100 journalists are involved in the DOJ’s phone surveillance, which would have involved a wide variety of stories regarding government and other topics. Pruitt has called for the return of obtained phone records, as well as the destruction of all copies.
"There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP's newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP's activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know," said Pruitt.
According to the AP’s own reporting of the alleged phone taps, Justice Department rules require that subpoenas of such records from news organizations must be approved by the attorney general. Notification to the AP was made by a letter sent by Ronald Machen, US attorney in Washington, but did not clarify if such rules had been followed.
It is believed that phone records were obtained as part of a criminal investigation into leaked information about a CIA operation in Yemen that unraveled an Al-Qaeda plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate an explosive on a US-bound jet airliner.
Speculation on a link to that particular story was made by the AP based on the fact that phone numbers were obtained by the DoJ for five reporters and an editor involved in the May 7, 2012 story.
According to the AP, CIA Director John Brennan was questioned by the FBI as to whether he had been the source of the leak. In testimony regarding the story in February, Brennan called the leak an "unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information."

A couple walk past the offices of the Associated Press in Manhattan, New York May 13, 2013. (Reuters / Adrees Latif)

Records obtained by the Justice Department detailed incoming and outgoing calls, as well as the duration of calls, for work and private numbers of AP reporters and offices in New York, Washington, and Hartford, Connecticut, as well as the main number for reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery.
In its statement regarding the phone taps, the Department of Justice cited an exception to notifying a news organization in advance if it would hamper its own investigation:
“We take seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations. Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media. We must notify the media organization in advance unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation. Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws,” the statement reads.
Eric Draitser, an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City who spoke to RT on Monday says that news of the DoJ’s monitoring of the AP has wider implications:

“This kind of surveillance is used for the purpose of persecution, it is the persecution of whistle blowers primarily. So what you see are that the records sought were records of various journalists, in an attempt not to so much surveil the journalists but to track down who their sources are,” says Draitser.

“And much of this emerges out of this case in Yemen, with regard to CIA Director Brennan, and the idea of this leaked information. The Obama administration, perhaps more so than any other administration before it, has been vehemently persecuting whistleblowers of all kinds,” added Draitser.

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