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November 18 2019

mr-absentia

Repubblica.it: A massive scandal: how Assange, his doctors, lawyers and visitors were all spied on for the U.S.

«The videos and audio recordings accessed by the Repubblica reveal the extreme violations of privacy that Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks journalists, lawyers, doctors and reporters were subjected to inside the embassy, and represent a shocking case study of the impossibility of protecting journalistic sources and materials in such a hostile environment. This espionage operation is particularly shocking if we consider that Assange was protected by asylum, and if we consider that the information gathered will be used by the United States to support his extradition and put him in prison for the crimes for which he is currently charged and for which he risks 175 years in prison: the publication of secret US government documents revealing war crimes and torture, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Guantanamo.»

«Sometimes the espionage operations were truly off the wall: at one point spies even planned to steal the diaper of a baby brought to visit Assange inside the embassy. The purpose? To gather the baby's feces and perform a DNA test to establish whether the newborn was a secret son of Julian Assange.»

October 31 2019

mr-absentia
mr-absentia

October 24 2019

mr-absentia

Assange in Court - Craig Murray

«I was badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated ageing. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight.

But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both. I will come to the important content of his statement at the end of proceedings in due course, but his difficulty in making it was very evident; it was a real struggle for him to articulate the words and focus his train of thought.

Until yesterday I had always been quietly sceptical of those who claimed that Julian’s treatment amounted to torture – even of Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – and sceptical of those who suggested he may be subject to debilitating drug treatments. But having attended the trials in Uzbekistan of several victims of extreme torture, and having worked with survivors from Sierra Leone and elsewhere, I can tell you that yesterday changed my mind entirely and Julian exhibited exactly the symptoms of a torture victim brought blinking into the light, particularly in terms of disorientation, confusion, and the real struggle to assert free will through the fog of learned helplessness.

I had been even more sceptical of those who claimed, as a senior member of his legal team did to me on Sunday night, that they were worried that Julian might not live to the end of the extradition process. I now find myself not only believing it, but haunted by the thought. Everybody in that court yesterday saw that one of the greatest journalists and most important dissidents of our times is being tortured to death by the state, before our eyes. To see my friend, the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known, reduced to that shambling and incoherent wreck, was unbearable. Yet the agents of the state, particularly the callous magistrate Vanessa Baraitser, were not just prepared but eager to be a part of this bloodsport. She actually told him that if he were incapable of following proceedings, then his lawyers could explain what had happened to him later. The question of why a man who, by the very charges against him, was acknowledged to be highly intelligent and competent, had been reduced by the state to somebody incapable of following court proceedings, gave her not a millisecond of concern.»

«For the prosecution, James Lewis QC stated that the government strongly opposed any delay being given for the defence to prepare, and strongly opposed any separate consideration of the question of whether the charge was a political offence excluded by the extradition treaty. Baraitser took her cue from Lewis and stated categorically that the date for the extradition hearing, 25 February, could not be changed. She was open to changes in dates for submission of evidence and responses before this, and called a ten minute recess for the prosecution and defence to agree these steps.

What happened next was very instructive. There were five representatives of the US government present (initially three, and two more arrived in the course of the hearing), seated at desks behind the lawyers in court. The prosecution lawyers immediately went into huddle with the US representatives, then went outside the courtroom with them, to decide how to respond on the dates.

After the recess the defence team stated they could not, in their professional opinion, adequately prepare if the hearing date were kept to February, but within Baraitser’s instruction to do so they nevertheless outlined a proposed timetable on delivery of evidence. In responding to this, Lewis’ junior counsel scurried to the back of the court to consult the Americans again while Lewis actually told the judge he was “taking instructions from those behind”. It is important to note that as he said this, it was not the UK Attorney-General’s office who were being consulted but the US Embassy. Lewis received his American instructions and agreed that the defence might have two months to prepare their evidence (they had said they needed an absolute minimum of three) but the February hearing date may not be moved. Baraitser gave a ruling agreeing everything Lewis had said.

At this stage it was unclear why we were sitting through this farce. The US government was dictating its instructions to Lewis, who was relaying those instructions to Baraitser, who was ruling them as her legal decision. The charade might as well have been cut and the US government simply sat on the bench to control the whole process. Nobody could sit there and believe they were in any part of a genuine legal process or that Baraitser was giving a moment’s consideration to the arguments of the defence. Her facial expressions on the few occasions she looked at the defence ranged from contempt through boredom to sarcasm. When she looked at Lewis she was attentive, open and warm.»

«Finally, Baraitser turned to Julian and ordered him to stand, and asked him if he had understood the proceedings. He replied in the negative, said that he could not think, and gave every appearance of disorientation. Then he seemed to find an inner strength, drew himself up a little, and said:

“I do not understand how this process is equitable. This superpower had 10 years to prepare for this case and I can’t even access my writings. It is very difficult, where I am, to do anything. These people have unlimited resources.”

The effort then seemed to become too much, his voice dropped and he became increasingly confused and incoherent. He spoke of whistleblowers and publishers being labeled enemies of the people, then spoke about his children’s DNA being stolen and of being spied on in his meetings with his psychologist. I am not suggesting at all that Julian was wrong about these points, but he could not properly frame nor articulate them. He was plainly not himself, very ill and it was just horribly painful to watch. Baraitser showed neither sympathy nor the least concern. She tartly observed that if he could not understand what had happened, his lawyers could explain it to him, and she swept out of court.»

October 23 2019

mr-absentia

VilaWeb: Eric’s story: an American resident faces deportation over a Catalan pro-independence flag

«On the day of the general strike in Catalonia, Eric was arrested by Spanish police when he demanded to have his pro-independence “estelada” flag returned to him after the officers found it in his pocket and seized it. For this reason he stands accused of terrorism, jihadism and human trafficking, and is also facing deportation. In addition, they are pressing criminal charges against him and he will be prosecuted for public disorder. The police claim he was in possession of two large metal nuts which he was carrying wrapped up in his flag. Eric categorically denies it. He and his wife believe it is an attempt to intimidate foreign residents, to scare them and discourage them from supporting Catalonia’s independence cause.»

Reposted bykudlaty kudlaty

October 16 2019

mr-absentia
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qz.com

Quartz: Hong Kong is exporting its protest techniques around the world

«The months-long protests in Hong Kong have also been studied in Indonesia by students who took to the streets to oppose new laws, and Extinction Rebellion climate activists in the UK, but it is the Catalonia protests that appear to be most directly inspired by the Hong Kong playbook. For weeks, Catalan activists have examined the techniques of Hong Kong’s protesters closely, taking notes on what works and what might be successfully replicated in Catalonia. In late September, the grassroots group Assemblea Nacional Catalana even held a public forum titled,  “Experiences of the use of new technologies in the nonviolent struggle: the case of Hong Kong.”»

Reposted byfinkregh finkregh
mr-absentia

Madrid is making martyrs out of Catalan independence leaders & Spain may not survive the backlash – Salmond — RT World News

«When elected politicians use unelected judges to sentence other elected politicians to 100 years between the nine of them, then things have reached a point which cannot be sustained, and the Spanish state I don’t think will survive this outrage.»

October 15 2019

mr-absentia

The Spoils of Economic War: How the US, Saudis Profit From Sanctions on Venezuela and Iran

«The "almighty" dollar would fall from grace with back up from oil

Trump opens war fronts everywhere, which wouldn't seem to make sense unless they were a distraction. But they're not.

The rise of China as a global power has been silently transforming the international monetary system, another element triggering the U.S. into endless economic bullying.

Since the abandonment of the gold standard in 1971, the U.S. dollar is not linked to any assets, becoming a fiat currency. In these kinds of cases, only a country's output could back the currency in the long term. But what happens when monetary expansion occurs faster than increases in productivity?

Bringing new meaning to the "In God We Trust" motto coined so long ago, the dollar’s value depends on its capacity to remain an international reserve currency; that is, a currency other countries hold as part of their foreign exchange reserves and use in their international transactions.

In a world where economic agents don't ask the Federal Reserve to convert their notes into gold or any other physical asset, trust is the only thing keeping the U.S. upright. As a result, the dollar has remained a mighty currency because most international transactions are traded in U.S. dollars.

On Jan. 30, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, in fact, revealed very little when he blatantly admitted that the coup attempt in Venezuela was really about grasping for oil resources. In reality, aggression by the U.S. hides something much more than that.

If the dollar stops being the world's most traded currency, the U.S. will not be able to issue the notes it needs to finance an almost 50-year-old federal deficit which rose from US$666 billion in 2017 to US$779 billion in 2018.

"The U.S. budget deficit by year is how much more the federal government spends than it receives in revenue annually. The Fiscal Year 2020 U.S. budget deficit is expected to be US$1.1 trillion.

"That's the biggest deficit since 2012," wrote Kimberly Amadeo in The Balance, noting how President Trump has ramped up the U.S. deficit to pay for record-high levels of military spending.

The dollar losing status as the world's preferred currency would give the U.S. problems paying for imports in an economy where its lack of international competitiveness has given it a trade deficit since 1976, which widened to US$50 billion in March.

Last but not least, if the dollar stops being almighty, the U.S. will have a very difficult time maintaining itself as a first-world-class economy, since it's federal debt exceeded US$22 trillion in February. This amount represents over 76 percent of what the U.S. is able to produce in one year. Nevertheless, this is most likely to get worse: the debt-to-GDP ratio in the United States will rise to 150 percent by 2049, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Besides preventing Venezuela and Iran from exporting their natural resources, the U.S. is actively seeking to avoid the dollar's collapse, an inevitability in the next few years, as the history of previous empires has already shown.

This is why the Trump administration is prone to fighting the use of barter, virtual currencies or other alternative international payment methods.

U.S. sanctions are not whimsical expressions of this president. They are tools used to retain hegemonic power in a multipolar world no longer willing to tolerate such an aspiration. At the core of U.S. bullying is not ideological disagreement but economic decline.»

October 12 2019

mr-absentia

A battle for the soul of the city: why violence has spiralled in the Hong Kong protests | World news | The Guardian

«Police brutality is not only strengthening protestors’ resolve, it has also swelled their numbers. Between the violent clashes, people have repeatedly turned out in their millions to protest heavy-handed policing; an independent inquiry has become a key demand at demonstrations.

The police have arrested more than 2,000 people, some as young as 12, the oldest in their 70s. The sight of injured protesters and mass detentions have spurred on others including many Hong Kong residents who say they previously shunned politics, to turn out in support.

“Before when people were gathering and they deployed so many riot police, some people would try to leave. Now they don’t,” said Cathy Lam, 24, part of a crowd of local residents from West Kowloon who waited hours to support protesters being arrested on a bus there. “You can see the conflict between police and citizens escalating day by day.”

There is a risk that violence – and the damage and shutdowns linked to chaotic protests – may alienate supporters, both in Hong Kong and overseas, and provide pro-Beijing critics with ammunition. Chinese state media widely reports examples of vandalism and attacks by protesters.

Yet so far, protesters have largely contained both the extent and focus of their violence, directing it at symbols of the government they are opposing. While authorities have denounced them as rioters, there is little of the random smashing and looting that characterises most riots.

“The so-called vandalism they have done is really exceptional, because here it is only focused on targets related to ‘injustice’ they see,” said professor Lawrence Ka-ki Ho, a specialist in policing and public order management at the Education University of Hong Kong.

“Most vandalism would have indiscriminate targets, but their targets are the metro stations, the police stations – not the luxurious shops, not M&S.”

For the police, by contrast, escalating violence has been disastrous, both sapping their support and bolstering opposition. Yet once authorities or protesters are locked into violence, it becomes difficult for either side to step away.

Negotiations to end the stand-off, which would always be fraught, are particularly problematic in Hong Kong, both because there are no real channels of communication between authorities and protesters, and also because the movement doesn’t have any identified leaders.

This is in part because of sweeping round-ups of prominent figures during past protests, and part reflection of the grassroots nature of the movement which has taken as its motto ‘be like water’ – fast-moving, powerful, but hard to grasp or block.

So even if city authorities want to negotiate, it is not clear if there is anyone with power to call people off the streets.»

October 10 2019

mr-absentia

Six arrested after refusing to participate in CCP celebrations

«Contact between Free Tibet’s research partner, Tibet Watch, and confidential sources in Tibet revealed that Tsegyal, Yangphel, Dudul Lhagyay, Norsang, Shewang Namgyal and Sithar Wangyal were arrested in Tarchen Township in Nagchu, central Tibet, on 20 September.

The six defied instructions to wave Chinese flags, sing patriotic songs and praise the ruling Chinese Communist Party in the run up to the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

According to sources, family members of the six have asked local authorities to permit them to hand over food and blankets. The authorities have rejected these requests and issued threats that they will extend the detention period of those arrested members if they continue to insist.»

mr-absentia
mr-absentia

October 08 2019

mr-absentia

Joe Tsai is on Facebook - When I bought controlling interest in the Brooklyn Nets in September, I didn’t expect my first public communication with our fans would be to comment on…

«Fans in China are calling for an explanation – if they are not getting it from the Houston Rockets, then it is natural that they ask others associated with the NBA to express a view.

The NBA is a fan-first league. When hundreds of millions of fans are furious over an issue, the league, and anyone associated with the NBA, will have to pay attention. As a Governor of one of the 30 NBA teams, and a Chinese having spent a good part of my professional life in China, I need to speak up.

What is the problem with people freely expressing their opinion? This freedom is an inherent American value and the NBA has been very progressive in allowing players and other constituents a platform to speak out on issues.

The problem is, there are certain topics that are third-rail issues in certain countries, societies and communities.

Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for all citizens in China.»

mr-absentia

October 02 2019

mr-absentia

Shooting of Children is never acceptable

Media statement from Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights, Oct. 2 2019

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«The Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights is deeply concerned by several police shooting incidents and the use of live rounds during demonstrations across Hong Kong on 1 October. In one incident, an 18-year-old school boy was hit in the chest by a live bullet fired from close range by a police officer in Tsuen Wan. We are deeply distressed and note that the secondary school student is still under serious conditions.

Our Committee does not accept the explanation of the Commissioner for Police, Stephen Lo to the media last night that “the officer made the right decision in a split second”. We worry that it would normalize police shooting in handling protesters, particularly those involving children and young persons.

Our Committee objects to any kind of violence and would like to call on restraint from all parties, and an immediate end to the escalating use of force. The Commissioner of Police must clearly instruct frontline police officers that any use of arms must strictly follow international standards and police guidelines.

It is imperative that the HKSAR Government must address the recent shooting incidents by commissioning an immediate independent inquiry to ease the public worries, and to mend the serious social conflicts right now in Hong Kong.»

September 30 2019

mr-absentia

Hong Kong Is Winning the Global Public-Opinion War With Beijing - The Atlantic

«The relative success of Hong Kong’s protest movement is all the more significant because it’s occurring alongside Beijing expanding its propaganda efforts globally, as state-owned outlets trumpet China’s vision of the world in multiple languages. This global campaign is the biggest challenge to China’s rulers by the territory since 1989, when, still a British colony, its residents took part in demonstrations in solidarity with protesters in Tiananmen Square, while also providing financial and material support.

From Oslo to Osaka, Congress to the United Nations, Taiwan to Twitter, Hong Kongers have taken their DIY approach to protest to a global audience. Celebrity supporters testify in high-profile settings; highly targeted, crowdfunded media campaigns aim to keep the issue in the spotlight; and viral videos, catchy slogans, and even a movement anthem and flag help magnify the message on social media.»

«…the tendency of Chinese nationalism to backfire on the foreign stage has hampered the Communist cause. Among these incidents are violent Chinese-student reactions to pro–Hong Kong demonstrations at Australian universities, with the Chinese embassy expressing support for the students’ actions on social media afterward. Debate in Australia regarding the ability of China to control public speech there has since intensified. Elsewhere, Montreal’s Pride parade excluded Hong Kong participants after receiving threats from “pro-Communists.” At the parade, many onlookers were aghast when, during the moment of silence for those who have died from HIV/AIDS, Chinese participants sang their national anthem.

“The most basic weakness of the external communications of the Chinese party-state is the fact that foreign audiences, and their values and interests, are never truly considered,” David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project, told me. “Sure, the messages are directed at foreigners, but the language is still the internal and insular language of the party-state.”

In this sense, Bandurski said, these propaganda efforts are not really external at all.

“Try as it might to raise the volume on China's singular, restrained voice, the party-state is still talking to itself, or shouting at its own wall,” Bandurski said. “The louder that voice becomes, the more uncompromising and aggressive it sounds.”»

September 28 2019

mr-absentia
mr-absentia
mr-absentia

Breaking The Media Blackout on the Imprisonment of Julian Assange

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«It is important to ask ourselves what Julian Assange’s real crime is. In an era, dubbed the Information Age, where the strategy of the powerful appears to be to know as much as possible about the rest of us while ensuring that we know as little as possible about them and how they operate, Assange worked to prevent that imbalance from becoming a rout, and stuck like a bone in the throat of the mighty.

A double chorus of voices across the mainstream media spectrum cheered the destruction of the First Amendment. The New York Times applauded Trump, claiming he’d “done well” to charge Assange with an “indisputable crime.” CNN demanded that Assange finally “face justice,” while others claimed the day in court of the “narcissistic” “internet troll” who attacked America with his “vile spite” was “long overdue.”

All around the world, Assange’s treatment seems to have given the green light to governments to intimidate and hassle journalists. Australian police, for instance, recently conducted a raid on journalist Annika Smethurst’s home. Smethurst had not long before that revealed that the government had been secretly requesting permission to spy on its own citizens. Meanwhile, independent media everywhere are being marginalized by the crackdown on internet freedom.

In a clear sign to the world, Assange held up Gore Vidal’s book The History of the National Security State to the cameras while being dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy. The book warns of an increasingly powerful and unaccountable authoritarian government taking over the country. Part of that is silencing dissent and limiting or destroying the freedoms centuries of struggle have won us.

If Assange is successfully prosecuted it will send a message to the world that the era of freedom to speak and publish is well and truly over. He will not be the last to be persecuted. The more a power oppresses and takes away rights, the more it needs to oppress and take away rights, until the last vestiges of opposition are destroyed or driven far underground. We cannot expect corporate media to stand up to the corporate state. We have to do it ourselves, or any citizen of the world can be next. Will you heed this warning?»

Reposted bypressanybeton pressanybeton

September 27 2019

mr-absentia

NYT: China Wants the World to Stay Silent on Muslim Camps. It’s Succeeding.

«The private account by the Malaysian diplomat, reviewed by The New York Times, contradicted China’s contention that the Uighurs were voluntarily attending the re-education centers.

“Delegates could actually sense fear and frustration from the students,” the Malaysian wrote after his December visit with a dozen other diplomats from mostly Muslim nations. “China may have legitimate reasons to implement policies intended to eliminate the threat of terrorism, especially in Xinjiang. However, judging by its approach, it is addressing the issue wrongly and illegitimately, e.g. preventing Muslim minors from learning the Quran.”

The diplomat referred to two cities in Xinjiang — once-bustling Kashgar and Hotan — as “zombie towns,” saying the streets were virtually empty and that China was probably “using the threat of terrorism as an excuse to ‘sanitize’ Uighur Muslims until they become acceptable Chinese citizens.”

The report was never made public. At the time, Malaysia was working hard to repair relations with China over a troubled infrastructure deal. It has also become increasingly dependent on China for purchases of palm oil, its biggest export.

“The $100 billion in annual bilateral trade is enough to focus the minds of Malaysian policymakers,” said Shahriman Lockman, a senior analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Kuala Lumpur. “China is too big a market to lose.”»

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