Lavrov: US antimissile deployment in Asia-Pacific ‘disproportionate’ to Pyongyang threat

South Korea’s decision to deploy the THAAD antimissile system from the US is disproportionate to the threat posed by North Korea, which was voiced as justification by both Seoul and Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“We have drawn attention to the serious risks posed by the deployment of the US global antiballistic missile system in Asia-Pacific,” Lavrov said after meeting his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in Moscow. The two ministers met alongside their respective military colleagues, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada.

 
Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors arrive at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea © USFK

“We have voiced our assessments, according to which, if one wants to deal with threats posed by DPRK, the creation of such ABM system as well as pumping weapons into the region are a response far from proportionate,” Lavrov said.

He added that both Moscow and Tokyo condemn Pyongyang’s violation of resolutions of the UN Security Council restricting its missile and nuclear development. Russia believes that international sanctions imposed against North Korea for defying the council “should not be perceived as an instrument of punishment, but rather a stimulus for steering the situation back into political and negotiations track.”

South Korea decided to deploy the THAAD system, due to be fully operational by August, saying it was necessary to protect from a possible missile attack by North Korea. The deployment angered China, which believes that the American system compromises its national security. Beijing is reportedly retaliating against Seoul with a round of economic measures, hitting Korean tourism and export to China.

Russia has similar concerns over the US deployment of ABM shield in Eastern Europe. Washington claims the system is needed to protect European NATO members from an attack by Iran and has brushed aside criticism from Moscow.

 

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Trump's Historically Brutal Budget Guts EPA, Boosts Military

"You see reductions in many agencies as he tries to shrink the role of government," said White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

Ahead of its formal release Thursday, the White House unveiled key details about U.S. President Donald Trump's first budget proposal which would gut key departments, going as far to entirely eliminate 19 federal agencies, all in the name of boosting military spending and increasing "border security".

RELATED: Bolivia’s Evo Bashes Trump’s ‘Inhumane’ Defense Budget

While nothing in the budget is a surprise — even before taking the oath of office Trump and his surrogates hinted at many of the proposed cuts — the sheer breadth and depth of the proposed cuts are unprecedented.

With this initial budget — which only deals with discretionary spending for fiscal year 2018 and will be followed up by a more detailed budget later this spring — Trump is closer than any previous U.S. president to fulfilling the infamous goal of notorious far-right Republican anti-tax guru and Honduran coup supporter Grover Norquist of cutting government "down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub."

"You see reductions in many agencies as he tries to shrink the role of government, drive efficiencies, go after waste, duplicative programs," White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters. "If he said it in the campaign, it's in the budget."

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The biggest cuts would see the Environmental Protection Agency funding reduced by almost 30 percent, the State Department and Department of Agriculture cut by 29 percent each, the Department of Health and Human Services — which oversees Medicare and Medicaid — slashed by 23 percent and the Department of Labour funding diminished by 21 percent.

Funding for the Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development would be cut by 14 and 16 percent respectively.

Trump would also entirely eliminate funding to 19 federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal assistance to low-income citizens.

These cuts will mean thousands of federal workers will be fired, with some estimating that the cuts could mean up to 20 percent of the 2.79 million federal employees could lose their jobs.

RELATED: Trump's Defense Budget Loves Gitmo and Israel, Hates Renewables

"You can't drain the swamp and leave all the people in it," Mulvaney told reporters.

At the same time, Trump plans to boost the Department of Homeland Security budget by 7 percent — largely focused on fulfilling his promise to deport millions of undocumented workers — and increase military spending by 10 percent, meaning US$52.3 billion more in 2018 for U.S. wars around the world.

Also included is a request that Congress immediately approve US$1.5 billion to begin construction of his notorious border wall, with an additional US$2.6 billion when the rest of the 2018 budget is presented in mid-May.

The largest single increase in spending would go to the Department of Transportation, which would see funding boosted by over 13 percent.

Some of the spending increases would actually be directed at moving towards the privatization of key government functions.

The Department of Education, while cut overall, would receive US$1.4 billion in new monies for new "school choice programs," while the Department of Veterans Affairs could see an overall boost of more than 10 percent, much of that new funding which would go toward expanding a program allowing eligible veterans to seek private health care.

Most dramatically, perhaps, Trump is proposing to entirely privatize the national air traffic control system.

Trump will formally present this first phase of the 2018 budget process to Congress on Thursday where it is expected to undergo intense and lengthy scrutiny by both Republicans and Democrats.

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Protests Break out as New Michael Brown Footage Released

“They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,” filmmaker Pollock told the New York Times.

Fresh protests in memory of Michael Brown broke out Sunday evening after new surveillance video featuring the slain Black teen hours before his killing was released, brought to light by a documentary called "Stranger Fruit" which debuted at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Saturday evening.

RELATED: How Racial Justice Movements Are Redefining Black Masculinity

Nearly 100 people gathered outside the Ferguson Market and Liquor Store where Brown was shot dead on Aug. 9, 2014 to demand justice, angered by new revelations uncovered in the documentary, which suggested Brown had not robbed the store — a fact that had been peddled by police to justify Brown’s fatal encounter with then-Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.

The previously-unreleased surveillance video shows Brown inside the store eleven hours before he was accused of robbing it. Filmmaker Jason Pollock argues that Brown was not involved in robbing the store, but instead had conducted a drug deal with store clerks.

The video shows Brown handing them a small bag. The clerks then give Brown a bag with cigarillos. He takes it, but gives it back just before leaving. The film suggests the young teen did not return later that day to rob the store, but to get the bag back.

While the St. Louis County Police Department told CNN that they "cannot confirm its authenticity at this time," Attorney Jay Kanzler, who represents the Ferguson Market and Liquor store and its employees, says the version of events in the film is incorrect.

RELATED: Protests Mark 1 Year Since Mike Brown Murder, Ferguson Uprising

"My clients did nothing wrong," Kanzler told CNN. "They love the people of Ferguson and truly want to get on with their lives."

He said that the full surveillance video, which has still not been released since 2014, is set to be released Monday. He claimed that it will refute the filmmaker's "edited version of events."

The video footage released by police in the days after Brown was killed showed only the part where Brown strongarms his way out of the store with the cigarillos, after grabbing and shoving a clerk. It was recorded just minutes before Brown was shot by Wilson on the street outside.

“They destroyed Michael’s character with the tape, and they didn’t show us what actually happened,” Pollock told the New York Times.

As people chanted into the night, Ferguson and St. Louis County police both arrived on the scene. Near midnight, seven or eight shots were fired at the protest site, but no one was injured.

While the surveillance video has sparked outrage over police not releasing all available information about Brown's death and painting him as an aggressive criminal, many have been quick to point out that the new footage has no impact on the crux of what happened — that Wilson fatally shot Brown in cold blood and was not indicted.

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US Congressmen Interested in Agricultural Exchange with Cuba

US Congressmen visiting Cuba reportedly voiced their interest on knowing about the potential of the island''s agriculture with view to launching bilateral negotiations on this key sector.

On its website, the Cuban Foreign Relations Ministry informs the delegation held a working meeting at the Agriculture Ministry, a gathering seen as a further contribution to the normalization of bilateral relations.

The visiting Congressmen spoke in favor of lifting the economic blockade and maintaining mutually beneficial relations according to the laws governing international trade.

They added they are working to introduce in the US Congress bills to achieve such goals.

The two sides looked into Cuba's strategies to bring young people closer to the agriculture and the likelihood to exchange experiences and know-how on this sector, as well as promote joint research.

The legislative delegation also learnt about the agricultural projects and other business projects approved by the Cuban Government, as well as the damage the US blockade is causing the national economy.

The visiting representatives were Republican John W. Bergman and Tom Emmer, both from Michigan; Jason Lewis (Minnesota); Roger Marshall (Kansas), and James Comer (Kentucky). Four Government officials also made up the delegation.

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Parliament of Catalonia Lashes out US Blockade on Cuba

The parliament of Catalonia today urged the United States to end the blockade imposed on Cuba for over half a century, according to the international community.

At Joan Josep Nuet´s suggestion, deputy of the Catalonia Yes We Can Left-Wing Coalition, the autonomous legislative chamber adopted a motion of condemnation to that economic, commercial and financial siege.

In his presentation, Nuet stressed that despite the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between USA and Cuba, the US government continues applying that siege to the Caribbean island.

He stated that the extraterritorial reach of this unilateral measure is the main obstacle for Cuban people progress and full normalization with its USA.

He denounced that the US administration maintains sanctions to third countries, which, he stressed that it violates international law and contradicts the terms of coexistence expressed in the precepts of the UN Charter.

Similar motions were also confirmed by 77 Spanish municipalities, according to Cuban diplomatic sources.

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Meet the Afro-Latinx Activists Empowering Black Immigrants

Attacks on immigrants in the United States are undoubtedly on the rise across the board, but the experiences of Black immigrants, who face particular forms of racism, are often erased from dominant narratives on migration.

Since U.S. President Donald Trump was elected last November, there have been over 1,000 reported hate crimes against immigrants across the country, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports. In 2015 alone, there were 5,850 reported hate crime incidents nationally, up 6.8 percent from 5,479 in 2014.

While anti-immigrant hate crimes were already heightening prior to Trump’s election, his tirades against immigrants have only made the situation worse.

In Washington state, for example, Trump supporters spray-painted a swastika with a racist message referring to the President on a Mexican family’s home in Spokane. The graffiti read “Can’t stump the Trump, Mexicans.”

“We’re afraid they’re going to do something,” Leticia Rosas told the Spokesman-Review. Rosas lives in the house with her husband and their three children.

And in Michigan, a Trump supporter called a Grand Rapids church with a large Latino population and left a racist voicemail.

“I hope Trump gets ya,” the suspect said. “Trump’s gonna get your asses out of here and throw you over the wall. You dirty rotten scumbags.”

These hate crimes are just a sample of the oppression that most immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, experience on a daily basis.

But for many Black immigrants, there’s an added form of oppression as a result of the anti-Black racism they face.

Black immigrants are much more likely than nationals from other regions to be deported due to a criminal conviction, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, BAJI, reports. Black immigrants also have the highest unemployment rates amongst all immigrant groups.

It doesn’t stop there.

Black immigrants are also least likely to receive Temporary Protected Status, TPS, preventing them from being deported back to often war-torn or environmentally-damaged countries.

It’s no surprise that this particular demographic is among the most persecuted, given the long history of racism against Black communities in the United States. But little known to many is that Black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are one of the fastest-growing immigrant groups in the country.

The immigrant rights movement tends to be dominated by non-Black Spanish-speaking Latinos. But as the population of Black immigrants in the U.S. continues to increase, a growing number of Afro-Latinx organizers are uniting to serve this disproportionately attacked immigrant group.

teleSUR spoke to three Afro-Latinx activists to discuss how they are organizing to empower Black immigrants in their communities and what life for Black immigrants looks like.

Rocio Silverio: Fighting anti-Blackness

Silverio is national coordinator for the Black Immigration Network, a project of BAJI that works for policy and cultural shifts promoting a racial justice and migrant rights agenda. Silverio, based in New York City, is of Dominican heritage and identifies as Black.

For Silverio, the struggle to empower Black immigrants is connected with the struggle against anti-Blackness.

“In our immigrant communities, anti-Blackness and colorism takes shape in different ways,” she said.

“For those in our communities who practice anti-Blackness, it won't save or spare them from the injustices of white supremacy.”

Silverio’s organization is involved in campaigns that bring visibility to Black immigrants through advocacy, organizing and coalition building. BAJI is active in assisting Black immigrants facing deportations with legal resources. The organization also works alongside families from African, Latin American and Caribbean countries to challenge immigration policies that separate children from their parents.

While Silverio believes Trump’s administration is presenting more problems for Black immigrants, she says that previous administrations have been complicit in their oppression.

“The groundwork was laid out with the Clinton and Obama administrations,” she said. “It started with the last comprehensive reform of immigration laws in 1996, which increased deportations and applied them retroactively.”

Silverio has also been involved in campaigns to defend Haitian immigrants living in the Dominican Republic facing persecution. In 2013, when the Dominican government issued a ruling denationalizing an estimated 250,000 Haitians living in the country, she and others immediately hit the streets in protest.

Since then, she’s been active in challenging racism within community spaces in solidarity with Black immigrants.

“As many of us in the African diaspora, we understand the plight of being marginalized under structural racism,” Silverio said.

“It is our responsibility to work with people from other Black immigrant groups fighting for their lives."

Fatima Murrieta: "Blackify-ing" immigrant rights

​​​​​​​Murrieta is co-founder of the UndocuBlack Network, a new organization whose mission is to “Blackify” the undocumented immigrant narrative in the U.S. and facilitate access to resources for the Black undocumented community. Murrieta, based in Los Angeles, was born in Colombia and identifies as Afro-Latinx.

Murrieta believes that the existing immigrant rights structure has not properly welcomed Black immigrants into accessing resources, thus inspiring her to take action.

“Many immigration groups think they should only focus on the ‘majority,’ who are oftentimes non-Black. That has been a huge barrier in integrating Afro-Latinx and Black immigrants,” she said.

“We need to have a movement that actively engages impacted people, and that includes Black immigrants. We need to build trust in their communities.”

UndocuBlack Network was founded in Miami, Florida, in January 2016 as a gathering of over 65 Black undocumented persons in the area. Since then, the organization has been involved in planning similar assemblies across the country, as well as developing mental health initiatives, resource guides and telephone-based support groups.

Murrieta, who spearheads UndocuBlack Network’s Los Angeles branch, has organized workshops for Black immigrants interested in applying for citizenship. While providing legal resources is an important part of empowering their community, she believes addressing their health issues is just as important.

“There is a huge physical and mental hardship that Black immigrants experience in this country,” she said.

“They live under constant stress that isn't healthy. This stress forces them to get things like high blood pressure, which they are disproportionately affected by.”

Murrieta is currently partnering with high schools and colleges in the South Los Angeles area to host “Know Your Rights” trainings, legal fairs and health clinics catered toward Black immigrant youth.

Pablo Blanco: Welcoming the Garifuna Diaspora

Blanco is the founder of Garifuna Nation, a new organization that promotes the culture, identity and economic well-being of the Garifuna diaspora. Blanco, based in New York City, is of Honduran heritage and identifies as Garifuna, an Afro-descendent community that has lived for centuries on the Caribbean coast of Central America, especially Honduras.

For Blanco, who works closely with newly-arrived Garifuna immigrants fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras, immigration resources designed specifically for his community are hard to come by.

“We don’t have a strong support system for all this like other communities do,” he said.

“Since we come from rural communities in Honduras, we’re not used to dealing with other people on a personal basis. There’s sometimes a trust issue. We would rather deal with our own people in regards to something like this, especially because of language.”

Because of this, Blanco is working with other grassroots organizations to create legal clinics for Garifuna people who prefer to speak their native language when seeking immigration help. He is also working alongside elders of his community to create economic development plans for newly-arrived Garifuna immigrants.

He is also actively organizes cultural events across New York City that promote Garifuna history, culture, dance and tradition. For Blanco, it’s a way to teach and build relations with other immigrant groups, which he believes are necessary tasks.

“All of us have to work with each other because we are all fighting for the same dreams,” Blanco said.

“With other Black immigrant communities from Latin America, we can communicate in Spanish. We also have shared experiences travelling to the U.S. that unite us. That’s a starting point.”

Blanco takes inspiration from his grandfather, who helped over 38 Garifuna relatives from Honduras move to their neighborhood in The Bronx. Today, the area has become home to thousands of newly-arrived Garifuna immigrants from Honduras seeking refuge.

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The hijacking of the Munich Security Conference

The Munich Security Conference took place between 16 and 19 February [1]. Like every year, it united more than 500 European Ministers and members of Parliament, as well as a number of foreign guests. This is the most important international meeting on European Foreign Policy and Defence.

Ten years ago, in 2007, Vladimir Putin caused a scandal by claiming that it was in the interest of the Europeans not to follow the Pentagon in its military adventures, but to act independently [2]. He also reminded his listeners that his country, Russia, is also a European state, even though it is excluded from the European Union. The participants had laughed at him and his pretentions. As one, they sought protection under cover of the NATO umbrella.

This time, it was Sergey Lavrov who caused a scandal, by calling for a post-Western world order. We are obliged to admit that NATO has lost its superiority in terms of conventional warfare – even though it easily maintains first place in terms of nuclear war. We are obliged to admit that after 15 years of uninterrupted war in the «Greater Middle East», the mirage of remodelling the region into micro-states, each with less than 10 million inhabitants, and the fantasy of eradicating secular régimes for the benefit of dictatorships run by the Muslim Brotherhood, have failed.

Astoundingly, the Europeans persist in pursuing these goals, which have been imposed on them by Washington, but which the People of the United States and their President Donald Trump do not want any more. So the Europeans are counting on the deep US state (that is to say the Raven Rock Mountain Continuity of Government group who organised the attacks of 11 September). Their political leaders continue, as a preventive measure, to denounce Donald Trump’s supposed racism and Islamophobia, the same people who applauded when George W. Bush and Barack Obama killed more than 3 million people. Their Press continually insults Donald Trump, whom it presents as capricious and incapable [3].

Horrified by the opinions of Donald Trump, according to whom NATO is «obsolete», they were reassured by the declarations of his ministers, who in essence, told them the same thing – NATO no longer needs to exist in its current format - it needs to be transformed into a defensive alliance, and if you want to be part of it, you will have to dedicate 2% of your Defence budget.

Obsessed by their imperialist lunacy, the Europeans were terrified by the possible abandon of their anti-Russian investments in Ukraine and Syria. There too, they were reassured by declarations which were nonetheless as vague as could be. Trump’s ministers repeated that they would give up no interest vital to the USA in Ukraine, and that they would pursue a «political solution in Syria». So why did the Europeans understand that the People of the United States has vital interests on the banks of the Dnipro and that a «political solution in Syria» means replacing the Republic with the Muslim Brotherhood? Simply because that is what they were taught by the Obama administration – the administration that was rejected by the People of the United States.

Of course, everyone can see the struggle between the Trump administration on one side and the «Continuity of Government» group on the other. The mountains trembled when Donald Trump excluded the CIA and the Joint Chief of Staff from the National Security Council [4]. Everyone noticed the way in which the CIA, in response, refused Defence accreditation to six of the President’s advisors, and accused the National Security advisor of being a Russian spy, forcing him to resign, and how they are still pursuing four other representatives from the Presidential team. But losing a few battles does not mean losing the war, and it is distressing that the Europeans – enslaved for so long – do not know this. How can they believe that Donald Trump was going to sweep away such a powerful «deep state» in just a few days? And how could they imagine that his first defeats would be enough to make him give up? [5]

Over the last few years, this Security Conference has been a way for Germany to serve as a link between the United States and their European partners. This year, its only goal was to force the European leaders to confirm their allegiance to the deep US state, without taking into account either the will expressed by the US People, or the change in the White House.

A preparatory document, drawn up by the German organisers of the Conference, was handed to the participants. The Press was careful not to mention it. It contains an article by Volker Perthes, author of the Feltman plan for the total and unconditional capitulation of the Syrian Arab Republic [6]. This eminent «expert» presents his vision of the «Greater Middle East», or rather the vision of the US «Continuity of Government» [7].

- 1. [Even if we have not managed to remodel it,] this region will not be unaffected by the wars and the «Arab Spring». [We didn’t do all that for nothing].

- 2. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran has become a sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Chiites [which masks our geopolitical ambitions].

- 3. While everyone is caught up in this false religious conflict, no-one is paying any attention to the Palestinian situation [for the greater benefit of the colonial state of Israël].

- 4. While the Europeans are unanimously tired of these bloodbaths taking place far from their homes, and hope for the long-awaited triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood, no-one in the Greater Middle East has yet admitted to having been beaten.

- 5. During the war in Syria, the alliances have continually been sealed and unsealed at the regional level, the latest of which was the pact between Russia, Turkey and Iran, which should not last [luckily] any longer than the others.

- 6. Syria and Iraq will not beat terrorism, and will not find peace other than by inclusive government [that is to say, by accepting to introduce al-Qaëda and Daesh into their governments].

- 7. All of this could only end, for all the populations of the Greater Middle East, by a major international conference during which the Westerners would determine their future, just as, at the Congress of Vienna (1814), the Quadruple Alliance decided the fate of the rest of the world.

Quite clearly, neither faced with the vote of the US People, nor the Resistance of the Arab Peoples, do the European leaders intend to change – they can only be dismissed by the European People

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Raul Castro Receives US Congressmen

President Raul Castro has received here a delegation from the United States Congress, led by Democrat Senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy, and Republican Senator from Mississippi, Thad Cochran.

The northern delegation was also comprised of Democratic Senators Thomas Udall (New Mexico) and Michael Bennett (Colorado), Democratic Representatives James McGovern and Seth Moulton (Massachusetts) as well as Charge d'Affaires a.i. Jeffrey DeLaurentis.

During the meeting held yesterday, Raul Castro and the congressmen discussed issues of interest to both countries.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez; Minister for Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca; and the general director of the United States Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Josefina Vidal, participated on the Cuban side.

The congressional delegation had been previously received by Ministers Rodriguez and Malmierca, as well as Agriculture Minister, Gustavo Rodriguez.

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