Maduro Announces Implementation of People's Defense System

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said today that in 2018 the people's defense system for peace will be implemented.

This system, along with the people's militias, encourage the participation of the people in favor of peace, something that according to specialists, is a concern for some sectors in the United States that promote an armed aggression against Venezuela.

During the ceremony of the year-end celebration of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (Fanb) at the Ministry of Defense, Maduro said that 2017 was a heroic year, in which Venezuela demonstrated that 'it is capable and that no one will be able to defeat us'.

Maduro also pointed out that 2017 was the year of the unity against oligarchy, as well as the 'triumph of peace over the oligarchic guarimba, it was the year of the people's unity in the Bolivarian National Armed Force, of farmers and workers, a Fanb made up of people. A year of victory for peace.'

He also urged Fanb to develop in 2018 a 'bold deployment and training plan to tune our defensive capacity, our people, and keep on winning respect for our country'.

He said that U.S. imperialism and the Government of U.S. President Donald Trump reached a dangerous point of despair for their failures in 2017, attempting to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution, so he urged the Venezuelan people not to lower their guard.

Maduro also tackled the smuggling affecting the country and urged Fanb to strengthen the fight against that scourge that affects the population.

'They are taking basic products and diamonds, gold, Venezuela's mineral wealth. We are going to make decisions. I expect recommendations to implement them during the first days of January,' he said.

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China: 'US Has No Right to Act as Human-Rights Judge'

"We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge," said China's Foreign Ministry. 

Chinese officials have slammed the U.S. Treasury Department for sanctioning public security official Gao Yan, insisting that the United States has no right to act as a "human-rights judge."

RELATED: China Releases Human Rights Report on US: 'Terrible Problems'

In March 2014, Yan was head of the Chaoyan Detention Center, in Beijing, where rights activist Cao Shunli was detained and interrogated, according to Reuters, before dying in hospital while in police custody.

Human-rights groups have said that Shunli was both tortured and prevented from receiving medical care before she died.

U.S. President Donald Trump has now issued an executive order targeting Yan, blocking the property of foreign nationals involved in human-rights abuses.

Four Russians, including the head of the republic of Chechnya, were also placed on the sanctions list known as the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. law which inters the bank assets of those targeted.

In response, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said: "We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge." 

She went on to state that the Asian country's police maintain public safety according to Chinese laws and the United States should refrain from using its domestic jurisprudence to determine which foreign nationals should be sanctioned.

Beijing officials have often criticized Washington for scrutinizing China's human-rights record. Earlier this year, China's State Council released its own report, denouncing the United States for its "terrible human-rights problems."

"With the gunshots lingering in people's ears behind the Statue of Liberty, worsening racial discrimination and the election farce dominated by money politics, the self-proclaimed human-rights defender has exposed its human rights 'myth' with its own deeds," the report said.

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Palestine Slams US 'Blackmail,' Says Jerusalem Not 'For Sale'

The Palestinian Liberation Organization called President Trump’s threat to countries voting against his Jerusalem decision extortion and blackmail.

The Palestinian leadership responded Wednesday to the U.S. threat to cut aid to countries defying Washington’s decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital saying such tactics of “extortion” would only isolate the United States globally.

RELATED: Abbas Says 'Crazy' Seeing US as Mediator, Turns East in Quest for Statehood

"President Trump should know that there are things that are not for sale or subject to blackmail, particularly issues of principle, legality and morality,”  Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Executive Committee Member at the Palestinian Liberation Organization said in a statement posted on the group’s website.

“Extortion is the most effective way for the US to isolate itself even further and to weaken its influence and standing globally. We will not be deterred or intimidated.”

Ashrawi added that she was confident that most countries at the United Nations will honor their “legal and political obligations on Palestine" in the upcoming vote at the U.N. General Assembly.

On Monday the U.S. vetoed a draft resolution calling on Washington to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at the United Nations Security Council, while the 14 other members of the council voted in favor of the resolution.

Arab and Muslim countries, infuriated by President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, called for an emergency General Assembly meeting in order to vote on the draft resolution. The 193-country body agreed to hold the rare meeting and will be held on Thursday.

As a response to holding the special session U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, in a letter to dozens of U.N. states on Tuesday seen by Reuters, warned that Trump had asked her to "report back on those countries who voted against us." She bluntly echoed that call in a Twitter post: "The U.S. will be taking names."

RELATED: 70 Years of Broken Promises, The Untold Story of Israel's Partition Plan

Ashrawi’s statement came just hours after Trump doubled down Wednesday on the threat, telling reporters that his administration would cut aid to those countries that “voted against us.”

Last month the U.S. president ended decades of Washington’s policy stating that the status of the city of Jerusalem must be decided as part of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, a position that most of the international community continues to fully support.

In the 1967 war Israel took over the eastern part of the city as well as the West Bank from the Jordan. In 1980, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and declared it as its capital, a move that was rejected by most countries in the world.

Palestinians and most of the international community consider East Jerusalem as occupied territory and the future capital of a sovereign Palestinian state.

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US sends 'dangerous message' by turning blind eye to Guantanamo tortures - UN

The US is in “clear violation” of the United Nations Convention against Torture over “gruesome” abuses committed by its agents in locations such as Guantanamo Bay, according to a UN official.

The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, noted in a Wednesday statement that "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse have not been brought to justice, and the victims have received no compensation or rehabilitation," despite a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report acknowledging the use of torture in US custody.

The UN rapporteur also stated that torture reportedly continues at US sites, including Guantanamo, despite former President Barack Obama ending the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in a 2009 executive order.

Britain's opposition Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson © Toby Melville

Melzer accused the US of being in "clear violation" of the UN's Convention against Torture and of sending a "dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world."
He stressed that his particular concern regards detainees who face "prolonged detention in almost complete isolation," according to a release on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Melzer noted the case of Guantanamo inmate Ammar al-Baluci, a Pakistani citizen and alleged 9/11 co-conspirator, who was named 153 times in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report. Baluci is said to have suffered torture during more than three years at CIA "black sites" before eventually being moved to Guantanamo, where he reportedly endures further abuse.

“Mr al-Baluchi has been held in isolation at a severely restricted-access facility at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade,” Melzer said, elaborating that "noise and vibrations are reportedly still being used against him, resulting in constant sleep deprivation and related physical and mental disorders, for which he allegedly does not receive adequate medical attention."

The special rapporteur made clear that the ban on torture and ill-treatment is "absolute and allowed for no exceptions whatsoever," according to the UN release. “This is one of the most fundamental norms of international law, and its violation is listed among the most serious international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Melzer said.

Omar Khadr © Todd Korol

"...I therefore now urge the US to live up to its legacy, to end its policy of impunity and to bring its own perpetrators to justice," Melzer added. He noted that a "society bruised by torture and abuse" can only heal when the "truth about secret policies and practices is fully disclosed to the public and when full reparation and rehabilitation is granted to victims."

Melzer also requested once again to be allowed an official visit to Guantanamo and to interview inmates. "I very much regret that, despite repeated requests, my predecessors and I have consistently been refused access to Guantanamo and other high security facilities, in accordance with the standard terms of reference of my UN mandate,” he said.

Guantanamo Bay, which turned 15 years old in January, has long been the subject of scrutiny from the US and abroad, particularly for its use of torture and for holding prisoners without charge. Although President Obama campaigned with a promise to shut it down, that vow was never fulfilled. Meanwhile, his successor Donald Trump has expressed his support for the facility.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo," Trump tweeted in January, less than three weeks before his inauguration. "These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

@realDonaldTrump There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.

Around 800 prisoners have been detained there over the years, often subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" including waterboarding. Some have reportedly been stripped naked and confined to dark cells for significant periods of time. Inmates went on a major hunger strike in 2013 to protest their detention and treatment at the facility, resulting in authorities force-feeding them.

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Trump loses his big bet on Alabama U.S. Senate race

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‘If US goes to war against N Korea, Pyongyang will fight back’

North Korea, treated as a rogue nation led by crazy people, has developed a nuclear program they consider to be existentially important as a deterrent against the menace they perceive from the US, says Brian Becker from the anti-war Answer Coalition.

North Korea has conducted first missile test since September. The hermit nation fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which splashed down in the Sea of Japan early Wednesday, according to South Korean, Japanese, and US militaries. The Pentagon's initial assessment indicated it was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). 

People watch a news report on the North Korea missile launch in Seoul, South Korea, November 29, 2017 © Kim Hong-Ji

Pyongyang said the missile reached an altitude of around 4,475 kilometers (2,780 miles), more than 10 times the height of the International Space Station. It said it flew 950 kilometers (690 miles) during its flight, which lasted 53 minutes.

RT:Why do you think North Korea decided to conduct a missile test now, after a two-month pause? 

Brian Becker: If you want to have an advanced missile technology program, they must be tested from time to time – at different times of the day, under different weather conditions, from different locations. I think the Kim Jong-un government and North Korea made it very clear in their New Year’s message to the nation that they were planning to go forward in what they call the final stage of the nuclear weapons program, so that DPRK would be understood to be a nuclear power by the world. And by having this kind of very advanced intercontinental ballistic missile test which was successful and traveled 2,780 miles straight up and could have, if flown horizontally, travelled about 8,000 miles, in other words, the distance to Washington DC. It is clear that the DPRK which has been treated as a rogue nation led by crazy people, a bunch of peasants, maybe ignorant, has in fact developed effective missile technology program and nuclear technology program which they consider to be existentially important for their having a deterrent against the menace that they perceive from the US – the largest military in the world. 

A US-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang, South Korea © Kim Hong-Ji

RT: The US Defense Secretary said this latest missile went higher than any previous launch, and yet we've seen quite a muted response from the US administration, with Trump merely saying he will "take care of it". Why is that?

BB: We don’t know. Actually, Trump has been all bluster and bluff. In spite of the fact that Trump says that he’s a great negotiator, the art of the deal, you never what Donald Trump’s bottom line is because there’s so much bluster. He said from the podium of the UN General Assembly that he was prepared to totally destroy North Korea, he called its head of state “little rocket man,” he said that the US would use “fire and fury” the type of which the world has never seen to take out North Korea. And at the same time now he calmly says of this missile test “we’ll take care of it.”…It’s quite clear that if the US – and there are many advocates here who favor this – goes to war, carries out a military strike against the DPRK, the DPRK will not wait, they will fight back, and we will have a major war which will take the lives of tens of thousands…or millions of people. 

Joseph Cheng, a political analyst and professor at Hong Kong City University says that the escalation in North Korea has become “almost routine”.

However, he explained, it is “quite expected because North Korea will certainly continue to improve its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities so as to achieve the objective of processing a minimum credible nuclear deterrent”.

Obviously, Pyongyang calculates to achieve the maximum propaganda impact - it wants to make sure that the world will be reminded of the North Korea nuclear weapons issue,” he told  RT.

According to Cheng, the Trump administration does not have “a credible strategy to deal with the issue”.

Any military options on a part of the US will be very risky and strongly opposed by China and Russia. And will not be supported by South Korea. And it is obvious that economic sanctions alone will not be able to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program,” he added.


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North Korea fires ballistic missile, Pentagon claims it’s an ICBM

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile, which splashed down in the Sea of Japan, according to the South Korean, Japanese and US militaries. The Pentagon says an initial assessment indicates it was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff was the first to report on the launch. "North Korea launched an unidentified ballistic missile eastward from the vicinity of Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, at dawn today," it said, as cited by Yonhap news agency. Seoul and Washington were analysing the missile’s trajectory, it added.

The Pentagon later said it detected and tracked a North Korean missile launch.

© Damir Sagolj

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning described the projectile as an intercontinental ballistic missile, adding that it traveled some 1,000 km before splashing down into the Sea of Japan.

The White House said that the US President Donald Trump had been already briefed on the new Pyongyang’s launch when the missile was still in the air. 

the Japanese prime minister's office also said that the North Korean missile apparently landed in waters off Japan within the country’s exclusive economic zone. 

Japanese PM ordered an emergency meeting of cabinet ministers, according to Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. Tokyo has also expressed a “strong protest” over the launch.

Following the North Korean launch, South Korean military staged a “presision strike” missile exercise, Yonhap news agency reported, citing South Korea's military.

The launch, if confirmed, would be the first test conducted by Pyongyang since September, when the North fired a ballistic missile over Japan.

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Día de los Muertos-Inspired Film Tops US Box Office on Debut

“These are really solid numbers, particularly given how volatile the box office has been this year,” comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

“Coco” tops the U.S. box office on debut, raking in $71.2 million over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

RELATED: Highest Grossing Animated Film 'Coco' Star Dedicates It to Latino Children

The film – which centers on Mexico’s Día de los Muertos celebration – became the highest grossing film in the Latin American country's history ($53.4 million to date), when it opened four weeks ago.

“These are really solid numbers, particularly given how volatile the box office has been this year,” comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

"Pixar not only focused on telling a good story, they focused on making the film as culturally relevant as possible. I think that's one of the things that make the film feel authentic for all audiences, and particularly Hispanic audiences, although this is a story that resonates with everyone," says Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis.

“Coco” is the fourth-best Thanksgiving opening of all time, trailing only “Toy Story 2”, “Frozen” and “Moana.”

“It’s another win for the Pixar brand,” Dergarabedian added.

The animated feature managed to beat out second-weeker and DC Comics heavyweight, Justice League, which fell 57% from its opening week.

“Coco” also debuted in China and is currently tracking to become Pixar’s biggest hit in a country, making $18.2 million so far, after a 25 percent boost from Friday to Saturday receipts.

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