Tuesday, 28 February 2017

‘Obama & his people’ behind White House leaks, protests – Trump

Donald Trump says Barack Obama is behind the leaks of classified information from the White House and violent protests against the new administration. Obama’s behind it “because his people are certainly behind it,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News.
During the ‘Fox and Friends’ interview, to be aired on Tuesday, the new Republican president was asked whether he thought his predecessor was behind massive protests that have ripped through the country since Trump’s inauguration in late January.
“I think he is behind it. I also think it's politics, that's the way it is,” Trump replied in the clip released on Monday night.
“I think that President Obama is behind it because his people are certainly behind it,” Trump added.
“And some of the leaks possibly come from that group, which are really serious because they are very bad in terms of national security. But I also understand that is politics. In terms of him being behind things, that's politics. And it will probably continue,” he said.
Earlier this month Trump voiced outrage over the leaks of transcripts of his outspoken telephone conversations with the leaders of Australia and Mexico, noting that his administration was hunting “very, very hard” for the whistleblowers.
In an interview with Fox News, Trump accused “Obama people” of giving news outlets the details of his phone talks, saying that the holdovers from the Obama administration still serving on his White House and National Security Council staff were being replaced.
“It’s a disgrace that they leaked because it’s very much against our country,” Trump noted, without offering any evidence for his claims. “It’s a very dangerous thing for this country,” he added.
In early January, Trump also lambasted leaks to several media outlets detailing contents of a classified report on alleged Russian hacking of the presidential election. The leaks came before Trump’s own briefing on those details by the intelligence community.
The Washington Post, CNN and NBC News reported on the classified report, prompting outrage from Trump.
“How did NBC get ‘an exclusive look into the top secret report he [Obama] was presented?’ Who gave them this report and why? Politics!” Trump said in a tweet. He later demanded a congressional investigation of the leak.
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Much like ExxonMobil, Shell lobbied against climate legislation and invested billions in fossil fuels despite knowing dangers of global warming

"Our energy consuming way of life may be causing climatic changes with adverse consequences for us all," the video states. (Photo: FraserElliot/flickr/cc)
Oil giant Shell also knew of the dangers of climate change decades ago, while it continued to lobby against climate legislation and push for fossil fuel development, a joint investigation by the Guardian and the Dutch newspaper The Correspondent revealed Tuesday.

Shell created a confidential report in 1986 which found that the changes brought about by global warming could be "the greatest in recorded history," and warned of an impact "on the human environment, future living standards, and food supplies, [that] could have major social, economic, and political consequences."

The company also made a 28-minute educational film in 1991 titled Climate of Concern that warned oil extraction and use could lead to extreme weather, famines, and mass displacement, and noted that the dangers of climate change were "endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists." The film was developed for public viewing, particularly for schools.

"Our energy consuming way of life may be causing climatic changes with adverse consequences for us all," the video states.

"If the weather machine were to be wound up to such new levels of energy, no country would remain unaffected," it continues. "Global warming is not yet certain, but many think that to wait for final proof would be irresponsible. Action now is seen as the only safe insurance."

Despite its own warnings, Shell invested billions of dollars into tar sands operations and exploration in the Arctic. It has also devoted millions to lobbying against climate legislation.

The revelations about Shell come after a separate investigation into  ExxonMobil   revealed that company had also been waging a climate science suppression campaign and burying its own reports on the global warming impacts of fossil fuel use for decades. Exxon, whose former CEO is now U.S. secretary of state, is currently under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and state attorneys general for allegedly lying to investors about the risks of climate change.
In 2016, a group of lawmakers asked the Department of Justice to look into Shell's knowledge of global warming as well.

"They knew. Shell told the public the truth about climate change in 1991 and they clearly never got round to telling their own board of directors," Tom Burke of the green think-tank E3G, told the Guardian on Tuesday. "Shell's behavior now is risky for the climate but it is also risky for their shareholders. It is very difficult to explain why they are continuing to explore and develop high-cost reserves."

Added Bill McKibben, co-founder of the environmental advocacy group 350.org, "The fact that Shell understood all this in 1991, and that a quarter-century later it was trying to open up the Arctic to oil-drilling, tells you all you'll ever need to know about the corporate ethic of the fossil fuel industry. Shell made a big difference in the world—a difference for the worse."

Patricia Espinosa, the United Nations' climate change chief, said action by fossil fuel companies is critical to combating climate change.

"They are a big part of the global economy, so if we do not get them on board, we will not be able to achieve this transformation of the economy we need," she said.

On Anti-Semitism, Israel, and the Palestinians

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Speech to this year's J Street conference


Sen. Bernie Sanders delivers a speech during J Streets 2017 National Conference at the Washington Convention Center, on February 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mark Wilson/AFP)
The following transcript, as published by Haaretz, is the full speech given by Sen. Bernie Sanders to the J Street 2017 conference in Washington, D.C. on February 27, 2017:

Thank you for inviting me to address you here today. It’s a pleasure to be here with J Street, which has been such a strong voice for saner, more progressive foreign policy ideas. And I am delighted to be in the company of friends from the Middle East and all over the world who I know will continue the struggle for a world of peace, justice and environmental sanity.

Let me begin by noting that in the last several months, since Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race, there has been a significant outbreak of anti-Semitism here in our country. I am very alarmed by the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, with Jewish Community Centers being threatened around the country, and with the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League receiving a bomb threat last week.

When we see violent and verbal racist attacks against minorities – whether they are African-Americans, Jews, Muslims in this country, immigrants in this country, or the LGBT community, these attacks must be condemned at the highest levels of our government.

It was rather extraordinary that in the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, the murder of 6 million Jews was not mentioned by the Trump administration. I hope very much that Pres. Trump and his political advisor Mr. Bannon understand that the world is watching: it is imperative that their voices be loud and clear in condemning anti-Semitism, violent attacks against immigrants in this country, including the murder of two young men from India, and all forms of bigotry here and around the world. This country has struggled too long against racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. We will not go back. We are going to go forward and fight discrimination of all forms.

I must say that I also found it very troubling that, at a recent press conference, when President Trump was given an opportunity to condemn the bigotry and anti-Semitism that has arisen in the wake of his election, he chose to respond by bragging - incorrectly, by the way - about the size of his Electoral College victory. Our society is still riven by tensions from the campaign, and Americans need a president who will try to bring us together, rather than boast about his political victory.

Let me take this opportunity to thank J Street for the bold voice that they’ve provided in support of American leadership in the Middle East and efforts towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I understand that, given the political climate in this capital, that has not always been easy. I also applaud them for being part of a broad coalition of groups that successfully fought for the historic nuclear agreement between the U.S. and its partners and Iran.

That agreement demonstrated that real American leadership, real American power, is not shown by our ability to blow things up, but by our ability to bring parties together, to forge international consensus around shared problems, and then to mobilize that consensus to address those problems.

For many years, leaders across the world, especially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had sounded the alarm about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration was able to do, with the support of groups like J Street and others, was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.

As a member of the United States Senate, I hear a whole lot of speechifying. I hear from many of my colleagues how “tough” the United States has got to be, and how, at the end of the day, military force is what matters.

Well, I say to those colleagues, ‘It’s easy to give speeches in the safety of the floor of the Senate or the House. It’s a little bit harder to experience war and live through the devastation of war. I recall vividly all of the rhetoric that came from the Bush administration, that came from my Republican colleagues, and some Democrats, about why going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do. Well, it wasn’t. In fact, it is one of the great tragedies of modern world history.

Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq, which I opposed, was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude. The war in Iraq led to the deaths of some 4,400 U.S. troops and the wounding, physical and emotional, of tens of thousands of others—not to mention the pain inflicted on wives and children and parents. The war in Iraq led to, conservatively speaking, the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and the wounding and displacement of many more. It created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come. And, by the way, that war in Iraq cost trillions of dollars—money that should have been spent on health care, education, infrastructure, and environmental protection.

The Iraq war, like many other military conflicts, had unintended consequences. It ended up making us less safe, not more safe.

In contrast, the Iran nuclear deal helped the security of the U.S. and its partners – yes, it helped the security of Israel, as many Israeli security experts have acknowledged – and it did this at a tiny fraction of the cost in blood and treasure of the Iraq war. This is the power of diplomacy. This is real leadership.

Some who opposed this nuclear deal have attacked its supporters, including J Street, for being part of a so-called “echo chamber.” The truth is that Washington has for many years had a very loud and powerful echo chamber for war. It’s about time we had an echo chamber for peace. So thank you J Street.

Now, as many of you know, I have a connection to the State of Israel going back many years. In 1963, I lived on a kibbutz near Haifa. It was there that I saw and experienced for myself many of the progressive values upon which the State of Israel was founded. I think it is very important for everyone, but particularly for progressives, to acknowledge the enormous achievement of establishing a democratic homeland for the Jewish people after centuries of displacement and persecution, and particularly after the horror of the Holocaust.

But as you all know, there was another side to the story of Israel’s creation, a more painful side. Like our own country, the founding of Israel involved the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people already living there, the Palestinian people. Over 700,000 people were made refugees.

To acknowledge this painful historical fact does not “delegitimize” Israel, any more than acknowledging the Trail of Tears delegitimizes the United States of America.

But I didn’t come here today simply to revisit history, or to say one historical narrative is wrong and one is right. My question here today is: OK, what now? Where do Israelis and Palestinians go from here? What should be U.S. policy to end this conflict, to end this fifty-year long occupation, and enable a better, more secure and prosperous future for Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians alike?

This decades-long conflict has taken so much from so many. Nobody gains when Israel spends an enormous part of its budget on the military. Nobody gains when Gaza is obliterated and thousands are killed, wounded, or made homeless. Nobody gains when children are trained to be suicide bombers. Nobody gains when year after year, decade after decade, the talk is about war and hatred rather than peace and development. Think of the incredible potential that is being lost when Israelis and Palestinians are not coming together effectively to address the environmental and economic challenges of the region. Our vision, a vision we must never lose sight of, is creating a Middle East where people come together in peace and democracy to create a region in which all people have a decent life. I understand that, given the realities of today, that vision appears distant and maybe even far-fetched. But it is a vision and a dream that we cannot afford to give up on.

So what should we as progressives – American progressives, Israeli progressives and progressives globally -- demand of our governments in bringing this future about?

Let’s take a moment to talk about values.

It’s often said that the U.S.-Israel relationship is based on “shared values.” I think this is correct, but then we also have to ask: What do we mean by this? What values are we talking about?

As progressives, here are the values we share: We believe in democracy. We believe in equality. We believe in pluralism. We are strongly opposed to xenophobia. We respect and we will protect the rights of minorities.

These are values that are shared by progressives in this country and across the globe. These values are based upon the very simple notion that we share a common humanity. Whether we are Israelis or Palestinians or Americans, whether we are Jews, Christians, Muslims, or of another religion, we all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water and breathe clean air, and to live in peace.

That’s what being human is about. And our job is to do everything that we can to oppose all of the political forces, no matter what side they may be on, who try to tear us apart.

Earlier this month, at a White House press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump was asked whether he supported a two-state solution. His answer was, "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like." As if someone asked him whether he preferred Coke to Pepsi.

We should be clear: The two-state solution, which involves the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories occupied in 1967, has been bipartisan U.S. policy for many years. It is also supported by an overwhelming international consensus, which was reaffirmed in December by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. While I understand that they’ve walked that statement back, the casual manner in which President Trump appeared to abandon that policy was extremely concerning, but also unfortunately typical of the carelessness with which he has managed American foreign policy thus far.

The president said that he supports a peace deal, but this doesn’t mean much. The real question is: Peace on what terms, and under what arrangement? Does “peace” mean that Palestinians will be forced to live under perpetual Israeli rule, in a series of disconnected communities in the West Bank and Gaza? That’s not tolerable, and that’s not peace.

If Palestinians in the occupied territories are to be denied self-determination in a state of their own, will they receive full citizenship and equal rights in a single state, potentially meaning the end of a Jewish majority state? These are very serious questions with significant implications for America’s broader regional partnerships and goals.

Friends, the United States and the State of Israel have a strong bond, going back to the moment of Israel’s founding. There is no question that we should be, and will be Israel’s strong friend and ally in the years to come. At the same time, we must recognize that Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territories and its daily restrictions on the political and civil liberties of the Palestinian people runs contrary to fundamental American values.

As former Secretary of State John Kerry rightly said in his speech in December, ‘Friends need to tell each other the hard truths.’ And the hard truth is that the continued occupation and the growth of Israeli settlements that the occupation sustains, undermines the possibility of peace. It contributes to suffering and violence.

As the United Nations Security Council reaffirmed on December 23, the settlements also constitute a flagrant violation of international law. I applaud the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from vetoing UN Security Council Resolution 2334. Those of us who really support Israel have got to tell the truth about policies are hurting chances of reaching a peaceful resolution.

I recognize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most emotionally fraught issues in U.S. politics, involving as it does the legitimate historical claims, identities and security of two peoples in the same region.

So let me be very clear: to oppose the policies of a right-wing government in Israel does not make one anti-Israel or an anti-Semite. We can oppose the policies of President Trump without being anti-American. We can oppose the policies of Netanyahu without being anti-Israel.  We can oppose the policies of Islamic extremism without being anti-Muslim.

As I said during my presidential campaign, peace means security not only for every Israeli, but also for every Palestinian. It means supporting self-determination, civil rights, and economic well-being for both peoples.

These ideas are based in the very same shared values that impel us to condemn anti-Semitic bigotry, condemn anti-Muslim bigotry, and to make our own society better. These are the ideas that should guide us. The values of inclusiveness, security, democracy, and justice should inform not only America’s engagement with Israel and Palestine, but with the region and the world.

The United States will continue its unwavering commitment to the safety of the State of Israel, but we must also be clear that peacefully resolving this conflict is the best way to ensure the long-term safety of both peoples, and for making America more secure.

To my Israeli friends here with us today: we share many of the same challenges. In both our countries we see the rise of a politics of bigotry and intolerance and resentment. We must meet these challenges together. As you struggle to make your society better, more just, more egalitarian, I want to say to you: Your fight is our fight.
Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving 16 years in the House of Representatives. He is the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history. Elected Mayor of Burlington, Vt., by 10 votes in 1981, he served four terms. Before his 1990 election as Vermont's at-large member in Congress, Sanders lectured at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Read more at his website. Follow him on Twitter: @SenSanders or @BernieSanders

With Donald Trump scaring allies, Australia has never been so popular

 Peter Hartcher is international editor.
The leader of the Jewish state was in Australia  last week, the first time in the country's 69 years that any serving Israeli prime minister has set foot here.
Overlapping his time in Sydney was a visit by the leader of the world's biggest Muslim-majority state. Even though the distance from Indonesia to Australia at its closest is only a quarter the distance from Sydney to Melbourne, Joko Widodo is just the fourth serving Indonesian leader to visit in the 72-year history of his country.
Jerusalem and Jakarta do not recognise each other diplomatically. The two leaders were in Sydney on the weekend and studiously ignored each other.
Of course, there was a big element of coincidence that both Benjamin Netanyahu and Jokowi, as he's universally known, happened to be here simultaneously. But is there something more going on here? Each visit, each leader, each country had its own specific reasons, but a much bigger agenda is at work.
"The global order is in disarray," said Zbigniew Brzezinski, an eminence grise of US foreign policy and national security adviser to former US president Jimmy Carter.
"The world is sliding into significant disorder with no international structure capable of handling the kinds of problems that are likely to erupt almost simultaneously," he wrote in the New York Times last week.Some of the biggest countries have become the least reliable. Russia is increasingly aggressive, China coercive, Britain pointless, Europe unpredictable and the US unreliable. Iran and Saudi Arabia vie for ascendancy in the Middle East.
Countries around the world are reaching beyond their customary relationships to seek more options and new partners. 
It's geopolitics, but it's also geoeconomics. Until the global financial crisis, world trade offered easy growth opportunities. In the last decade, trade and growth have choked. Donald Trump threatens to clog growth routes   further.   Capitals and capitalists need to quest anew for trade openings and growth. And this is exactly what's happening. 
Israel has been looking more isolated and its neighbourhood more dangerous. Australia, with the US and Canada, is one of only three developed countries that has consistently voted in its support in the United Nations.  In December Israel was deeply shocked when its staunchest ally, the US, refused to defend it in the UN Security Council. Malcolm Turnbull, almost alone among world leaders, castigated the UN. 
Netanyahu and Turnbull, struck agreements on cybersecurity co-operation, research and innovation and more air links, among other things. "I love Australia!" Netanyahu declared.
Yet Australia's support is not new. "Relations between the two states have been buoyant for nearly seven decades," as Melbourne University's Dashiel Lawrence noted last week. Many recalled that Australia's then foreign affairs minister H.V. Evatt was the "midwife" to Israel's birth at the UN as a modern state.
In truth, Israel has been increasingly out of favour in the fashionable circles of the West over its treatment of the Palestinians.
 Feeling its alienation from the West, Israel has been working hard to broaden its diplomatic and economic contacts into the developing world. Into India, Africa and, remarkably enough, even into the Arab world. 
Why the Arab world, surely hostile territory? In truth, the Arab monarchies are increasingly prepared to do business with Israel because they now share common enemies – a rising Iran and a rampaging Daesh, the so-called Islamic State. 
"We have our differences – let us be clear – but we face very similar problems," said a Netanyahu adviser, Dore Gold, last year.
 Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister  Adel Al-Jubeir  said this month that "my country stands ready with other Arab countries to work to see how we can promote" peace between Israel and the Palestinians, seeking to settle the lesser problem so that they can co-operate on the larger one – survival.
In other words, Israel is seeking friends and trading opportunities wherever it can find them. Even as far south as Australia. 
The particulars of Indonesia's situation are different, of course, but the broad sense of anxiety is the same. "Indonesia is increasingly unsettled by the growing disunity in ASEAN," the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations, says Michael Wesley of ANU.
ASEAN had been the "bedrock of Indonesian security" he says, but China has split it in the last couple of years. "There's a realisation that expecting ASEAN to deliver decisive unity in the face of increasing great-power competition is a fool's errand", says Wesley.
So Indonesia, like Singapore, is seeking stronger relations outside ASEAN as a new source of support and stability. "Australia and Indonesia are looking to each other as anchors for reassurance in a turbulent era," Wesley concludes.
The imperative of Jokowi's presidency is the pursuit of economic growth, and that was top of his agenda in Australia. 
With Indonesia's economy growing around 5 per cent a year against a government goal of 7 by 2019, the president told Fairfax Media in November: "Trade and investment are important for Indonesia's development. We need to grow more than 5 per cent. I think this is a big opportunity to invest in Indonesia now."
He and Turnbull committed to finish negotiations for a trade and investment deal by the end of this year. As an early token of goodwill, Jakarta eased access for Australian sugar and cattle. Australia reciprocated on herbicides and pesticides.
When the earth starts to shudder, you grab any support you can find to keep your balance.