As self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaidó attempted to stage a military coup in Venezuela, the country’s U.N. ambassador declared President Nicolas Maduro victorious and called the United States a “rogue nation.”
The turbulent situation that has been unfolding in Venezuela for the last few years reached new heights on Tuesday as opposition leader and self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaidó attempted to wrangle power away from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in what many are calling an attempted coup. Early Tuesday morning, Guaidó gave a press conference declaring that he has the support of the Venezuelan people and military, and demanded that Maduro step down. Guaidó also called on Venezuelans to take to the streets and call for an end to Maduro’s reign as president.
During the day’s events, cameras caught armored vehicles, reportedly belonging to the Bolivian military, running into crowds of protesters. Human Rights Watch (HRW) tweeted that 25 peopled were detained and dozens were wounded. HRW also noted that Venezuelan authorities shut down two international television channels and censored one radio station. “The regime should know that it will be held accountable for these abuses,” tweeted José Miguel Vivanco, Executive Director of HRW’s America Division.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s U.N. ambassador Samuel Moncada held a press conference stating that President Maduro has “defeated” opposition leader Juan Guaidó and his supporters. Moncada stated “the country is right now in a situation of perfect normality.” Moncada criticized U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for not supporting Maduro’s government against Guaidó.
Moncada also attacked the United States for what he said was another example of their interventionist policies, singling out President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for their support of Guaidó. “This is one of the most strange and weird situations we are in now, which the superpower of the world is the main rogue state going around, without care, destroying countries, invading countries, and threatening with the use of force,” Moncada stated.
The Ambassador to the UN also noted that the United States’ use of sanctions amounts to an act of war and only hurts the Venezuelan people. “Sanctions kill, as simple as that. Sanctions are criminal sanctions, are weapons of mass destruction. You don’t see the smoke, but you see the effect, you see the deleterious effect of killing and suffering,” Moncada said. “The sanctions use banks sanction, sanctions use ships, sanctions use insurance companies, and financial blockades. They cannot just say that they are concerned about liberty or freedom or the children in Venezuela, and then exercise a ghastly, nasty policy of calculated cruelty. They are acting like torturers, it is a collective punishment.”
Indeed, the Washington D.C.-based Center for Economic Policy Research published a report last week which determined that U.S. sanctions against Venezuela were likely responsible for 40,000 deaths in 2017-2018.
The harsh reality is that Maduro is by no means a perfect leader and his support of censoring media, use of the military to suppress protests (whether engineered or authentic), his suppression of the opposition, and other despicable acts do need to be called out. However, Ambassador Moncada is also correct that the United States does act as an imperialist “rogue” nation, using force on any nation that does not follow the Western Imperialist agenda. Unfortunately, it seems that the Venezuelan people are caught between a leader who is unpopular in some circles and an even more unpopular self-proclaimed “Interim President” with multiple connections to the Western Empire.
Of course, if our readers are unaware of these connections, it is because the corporate media (CNN, WaPo, The Hill, and others) have been running non-stop coverage of why Guaidó should be accepted as the leader of Venezuela while ignoring any bit of evidence that the “uprising” might be less than genuine.
Despite the round the clock support of Guaidó, on April 13 the Grayzone exclusively reported that a who’s who of Trump advisors, right-wing Latin American officials, and Venezuelan opposition figures met to discuss “Assessing the Use of Military Force in Venezuela.” The meeting was hosted on April 10 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank. This meeting included current and former State Department, National Intelligence Council, and National Security Council officials, along with Admiral Kurt Tidd, who was until recently the commander of the US Naval Forces Southern Command, overseeing operations in Central and South America.
The truth is that the Western Empire has been attempting to use Guaidó to install a puppet government in Venezuela. There is also evidence that the U.S. government and its intelligence agencies have attempted to take advantage of electricity blackouts in order to dethrone Maduro. In addition, there are a number of corporations and special interests who stand to benefit from the overthrow of Maduro and the crowning of Guaidó.
Although the American media has failed to report any of the above conflicts, there are still some Americans who are standing against the Venezuelan coup. A group calling itself the Embassy Protection Collective was invited by Venezuela’s government to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington D.C. from illegal seizure by the U.S. government or opposition supporters. The group—which includes members of CODEPINK, Popular Resistance, the Answer Coalition, MintPress News and more—has been working to raise awareness on the attempts by the Western oligarchy to install another puppet government in Venezuela.
The reality of the situation in Venezuela is much more complicated than the likes of CNN would have the American people believe. Only by dissecting the lies from the American media, the Maduro government, and the Guaidó contingent can we hope to get to the truth and support the people who really matter: The Venezuelan People.
NASA Astronomers Shocked After Discovering Solar System with Six ‘Suns’
Scientists at NASA have found a solar system that completely defies our understanding of the universe, where six stars similar to our sun exist in close proximity as three binary systems, orbiting one another in a massive cluster.
While scientists have been aware of the existence of some other sextuplet star systems, the triple-binary arrangement of the new system – dubbed TIC 168789840 – is wholly unique, and challenges researchers’ understandings of how sun-like stars form close to one another at their inception.
“The system exists against the odds,” said Brian Powell, a data scientist at NASA’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center, in an interview with the New York Times.
The scientists learned about the anomalous star system through its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, which launched and began scouring outer space after launching in 2018.
The planet-hunting satellite detected starlight located some 1,900 light-years away that was mysteriously brightening and dimming before they discovered the system of binary stars: three distinct stellar couplets that revolved around three separate centers of mass, with the entire trio remaining bound to one another gravitationally and circling a galactic center as one unified star system.
Additionally, what makes this star system distinct from other six-star systems is the fact that the stars pass in front of and behind one another, eclipsing other members of the “stellar dance troupe” in a process that has played out in the sight of the TESS satellite. As NYT notes, this means that “scientists have found a sextuply eclipsing sextuple star system.”
“Just the fact that it exists blows my mind,” said Powell. “I’d love to just be in a spaceship, park next to this thing and see it in person.”
However, beyond the technical constraints of our still-underdeveloped capabilities to travel through space, the conditions in this star system are so fierce that exoplanets simply can’t form. Four of the six sun-like bodies orbit so close to one another that any planet forming near them would be immediately engulfed and annihilated by two of the binaries.
Yet the remaining two stars are at such a distance that it still remains technically possible that some undiscovered worlds could be orbiting them at a safe distance from the other two binary systems, according to research that was recently accepted for publication by The Astronomical Journal.
As co-author and astronomer Tamás Borkovits of the Baja Astronomical Observatory in Hungary notes, the vision of the night sky from these planets would be entirely unlike anything we know here on earth, as one “could see two suns, just like Luke Skywalker on Tatooine,” along with the four other bright stars making their way around the huge sky.
Scientists are still trying to figure out how exactly the sextuple system formed, but there is a suspicion that the first three stars formed in concert before each successive one grew its own binary companion after passing through a dense clump of cosmic gas. This led to disks forming around the original trio of stars before it eventually resulted in the birth of smaller, accompanying stars.
However, the researchers won’t know how exactly this star system formed without finding a similar system to double check.
Either way, the discovery of TIC 168789840 – along with the exploding comets and star-destroying black holes witnessed by the TESS satellite – are just the latest reminders that we still have plenty of science-fiction-like discoveries to make in the final frontier known as space.
Chinese and Indian Troops in Fresh Clashes as Border Tensions Heat Up
Chinese and Indian troops have reportedly engaged in a clash last week in a disputed area that resulted in “many” injuries on both sides, according to media reports originating in India.
“Indian, Chinese troops in new border brawl, injuries on both sides,” stated AFP. According to Indian media, some 20 Chinese soldiers sustained injuries during the clash while four on the Indian side were injured.
The incident, which is said to have taken place in the north Sikkim region last Wednesday, would be the latest in a string of clashes in the contested border region. Both India and China claim large swathes of the territory.
The alleged incident comes months after around 20 Indian soldiers died in a similar clash in the Ladakh region last June when a Chinese patrol sought to enter Indian-controlled territory. China did not confirm at the time that it suffered fatalities in the clash, which involve fists and wooden clubs.
India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar admitted last month that the relations between the two Asian giants remain “significantly damaged” by the events of last year.
Last Wednesday’s incident also did not involve an exchange of fire, although reports have claimed that the two sides came to blows using sticks and stones.
India’s army claims that the “minor” incident has since been resolved, saying that there “was a minor face-off at Naku La area of North Sikkim on 20 January 2021 and the same was resolved by local commanders as per established protocols,” reports the BBC. The Indian Army also urged media to not overplay the significance of the event.
The Times of India has characterized the incident as a “physical brawl,” with one source claiming that the altercation unfolded after a PLA intrusion, and that the clash was defused after both sides called in reinforcements.
However, Chinese state media has roundly dismissed the reports as fake news, citing an absence of reports by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in its front line patrol logs, according to the Global Times.
The Foreign Ministry of the People’s Republic of China also has said that it has “no information on the incident,” with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying that Chinese troops “dedicated themselves to safeguarding the peace and tranquility” of the border region. “China urges India to work in the same direction,” he added.
The reported incidents come amid ongoing military-level talks between the Asian neighbors, although such dialogue surrounding the border has been constant.
Troops have persisted in facing each other across various flashpoints strewn across the massive contested border, with many observers seeing the exchanges as simply unavoidable given the fluidity of the situation and failure of both sides to settle their territorial disputes.
Both sides agree that it remains essential that the two nuclear-armed neighbors avoid an escalation of hostilities, but tensions have remained high between China and India.
New Delhi has cast suspicion on China’s growing diplomatic and economic clout in the region, which has come through major investment schemes touted by Beijing as key to developing the South Asian region.
The Hindu nationalist government of India has banned some 200 Chinese apps made by its tech giants while also blocking trade deals with Chinese companies. China, in turn, has warned that India will pay a significant economic cost if the dispute continues.
At the heart of ongoing tensions is the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the 2,100-mile (3,379 km) de facto border dividing the two states. Both countries have a range of disagreements about the most basic facts concerning the border, which is largely a result of clashes that have roiled the region since the 19th century, when colonial powers – including a Britain that controlled much of South Asia as a colonial power – fought one another to wrest land from a weakened China. Since both countries gained independence in the mid-20th century, the two have had severe conflicts of interests regarding control of the region and their shared border.
The LAC itself is the result of the Sino-Indian border war of 1962, which resulted in a humiliating defeat for India at the hands of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Since then, there has been intermittent fighting in the region that has claimed the lives of hundreds of soldiers on both sides. In 1996, the two agreed to bar the use of guns and explosives at the LOC.
Early in January, the outgoing administration of U.S. President Trump declassified its 2018 Indo-Pacific strategy that was originally meant to be secret for three decades. The release of the strategy, which envisioned a U.S.-led alliance militarily and diplomatically backing India as a “counterbalance to China,” greatly embarrassed New Delhi as a transparent attempt to to box in Biden’s approach to China.
However, it remains uncertain that the Biden administration, which is also preoccupied by foreign policy challenges vis-à-vis Beijing, will offer the same level of support to New Delhi or follow the same strategy as the Trump administration did. It is equally unclear whether India’s own military and economic capabilities can meet its ambition to challenge the growing power of China.
“I Never Thought I’d Live to See This Day”: The Beginning of the End for Nuclear Weapons
Today is the day the United Nation’s Treaty on Nuclear Weapons goes into effect. It’s the long planned but seemingly impossible day millions — if not billions — of people have waited for since Hiroshima Day, August 6, 1945.
Today, the U.N. treaty declares that the manufacture, possession, use or threat to use nuclear weapons is illegal under international law, 75 years after their development and first use. Actions, events, vigils and celebrations will be held around the nation and the globe to mark this historic moment.
Even though I’ve spent most of my life working for the abolition of nuclear weapons, I never thought I’d live to see this day. The most striking test of faith came in none other than Oslo, Norway, where my friend, actor Martin Sheen, and I were invited to be the keynote speakers at the launch of something called “The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons,” or ICAN, which went on to the win the Nobel Peace Prize.
I have been arrested dozens of times for nonviolent civil disobedience actions against nuclear weapons, including at the White House, the Pentagon, several Trident submarine bases, the SAC command base near Omaha, Nebraska, the Nevada Test Site and Livermore Labs. Since 2003, I have led the annual Hiroshima Day peace vigil outside the national nuclear weapons labs in Los Alamos, New Mexico. I had been planning with friends a major anti-nuclear vigil, rally and conference near Los Alamos, New Mexico to mark the 75thanniversary of Hiroshima, but instead, we held a powerful virtual online conference seen by thousands that featured Dr. Ira Helfand, co-founder of the Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility and one of the leaders of ICAN.
On Dec. 7, 1993, with Philip Berrigan and two friends, I walked on to the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, right through the middle of national war games, up to one of the nuclear-capable F15 fighter bombers and hammered on it, to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that some day people would “beat swords into plowshares and study war no more.” For that act, I faced 20 years in prison, was convicted on several felony counts, spent nine months in a tiny cell, several years under house arrest and continued to be heavily monitored by the government. My friends, Dan and Phil Berrigan, who launched the Plowshares movement dreamed of this day. Other friends sit in prisons across the nation today for their recent actions.
But this was something else. This was a first for me. We had been brought to Oslo by the Norwegian government. We stood before some 900 people that Saturday night, March 1, 2013, at the civic forum, which preceded the global gathering of representatives from over 132 nations. (Of course, the United States refused to attend.) The formal meeting would start Monday morning. As far as we could tell, there had never been such a conference before in history.
Martin began his talk by thanking ICAN for their work to build a global abolition movement, and encouraged everyone to keep at it. He read aloud their general call for nuclear-armed states to completely eliminate nuclear weapons—and a treaty banning any state from developing them.
For the next 48 hours we spoke non-stop, in workshops, to the press, to small groups and large groups. We were given a private tour of the Nobel Peace Prize museum, attended a reception with the Norwegian Parliament and met many members and politicians whom we urged to carry on their initiative for the abolition of nuclear weapons, including Norway’s foreign minister, the Vice President of Parliament, and the Mayor of Oslo.
It was there at that reception that we met Dr. Ira Helfand, who told us that—for the first time in four decades—he felt hopeful about nuclear disarmament. There has never been such an important gathering in history, he said with a smile.
At one point during the ICAN conference, a teenage student asked to speak privately with me. He confided that he was one of the survivors of the massacre a year and a half before, when an insane shooter killed 78 children during their summer camp on an island in a large lake not far from Oslo. My new friend told me how he dodged the bullets and swam far out into the lake and barely survived. He wanted to talk with me about nonviolence and forgiveness. I encouraged him on his journey of healing toward a deeper peace, but was profoundly moved by his connection between the summer camp massacre and the global massacre that can be unleashed through nuclear weapons. He saw now what most people refuse to see. And he was determined to do his part to prevent a global massacre of children.
All of these experiences were so touching and inspiring, but there was something even more powerful afoot. From the moment we landed in Oslo, as we met various dignitaries and longtime anti-nuclear leaders from around the globe, we heard the same statement over and over again: We are going to abolish nuclear weapons.
After a while, Martin and I looked at one another and thought to ourselves: something’s not right with these people. Sure, we do what we can, of course, but we’re not going to live to see the abolition of nuclear weapons. Our new friends were drinking the Kool-Aid.
But we didn’t know who we were dealing with, nor did we yet understand the faith and hope that undergirds lasting global change movements. These were the same people who organized the global campaign to outlaw landmines in 1997. These were the same people who organized the global campaign to ban cluster bombs in 2008. Now, they were telling us calmly, they were setting their sights on nuclear weapons. They intended to use the same tried and true strategy to slowly plot their end. This was going to work. No doubt about it.
All we have to do is get 50 nations to sign a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons, they said; then we can slowly chip away at every other nation in the world, until all that are left of the nine nuclear weapons nations who will eventually be shamed into dismantling their weapons and signing the United Nations’ Treaty. It was a no-brainer.
“Well, good luck with that,” we said.
And here we are. Today, the treaty goes into effect. Today is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.
For my friends and me, this is a day we never quite believed we would see.
“Right now, the treaty does not legally apply to the United States,” said Ken Mayers of Veterans for Peace New Mexico, “because we have not signed or ratified it. But that does not mean we will not be feeling the moral force of the treaty. All nuclear weapons, including the thousands in the U.S. stockpile, have been declared unlawful by the international community.”
Mayers and others will keep vigil today near the labs in Los Alamos, New Mexico, calling for an end to weapons development. Similar vigils will be held across the United States today with banners hung outside nuclear weapons production sites declaring “Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal!”
“The treaty is a turning point,” said Joni Arends, of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. “On the one hand, it is the end of a long process to outlaw nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it is just the beginning of a new movement to confront nuclear weapons states and demand they lift the dark shadow of nuclear annihilation that has loomed over the world for the last 75 years.”
“The U.S. was among the last major countries to abolish slavery but did so in the end,” said Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “To modify Dr. King’s famous quote: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards [the] justice’ of abolishing nuclear weapons. This ban treaty is the beginning of that end and should be celebrated as such.”
Every time we have journeyed up to Los Alamos over the years, we offered the same, simple message: Nuclear weapons have totally failed us. They don’t make us safer; they can’t protest us; they don’t provide jobs; they don’t make us more secure; they’re sinful, immoral and inhuman. They bankrupt us, economically and spiritually.
According to the Doomsday Clock, we are in greater danger now than ever. A limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan is very possible; an all-out nuclear war would end life as we know it. If we spent billions instead on teaching and building nonviolent civilian-based defense systems and nonviolent conflict resolution programs around the world, to be orchestrated by the United Nations, we could make war itself obsolete.
The work of ICAN and the United Nations to get 50 nations to outlaw nuclear weapons and build a process toward their elimination is one of the most exciting, hopeful—if widely ignored—movements in the world today.
Just before Christmas, Dr. Helfand called me. He continues to work morning to night in a Massachusetts clinic treating COVID patients, but he wanted to talk about the treaty. “How can we push Americans to demand that the United States sign the treaty and dismantle our arsenal,” he asked me? “How can we mobilize the movement to make President Biden and the U.S. Congress do the right thing?”
That’s the question. We talked about various efforts we could make, and agreed to do what we could. “The responsibility lies with us,” he said. “We were the first to use nuclear weapons; we must be the ones to end them once and for all.”
A few days later, he sent me an email with the gist of our message. In addition to climate change, the nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world pose an existential threat to humanity. The threat of nuclear war has never been greater, with tensions rising between the United States, Russia and China. Even a limited nuclear war could kill hundreds of millions, and bring about a global famine that would put billions of people at risk. A larger war could kill the vast majority of humanity.
“This is not the future that must be,” Dr. Helfand wrote me. “Nuclear weapons are not a force of nature. They are little machines that we have built with our own hands, and we know how to take them apart. Nations around the world have come together in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is time for us to move back from the brink and eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.”
And so, the day has come when that long dreamed of future has become a real possibility. Our task is to make the possible probable, and then actual. Time to get back to work. We need to call President Biden and Congress, write letters to the editor, mobilize the movement, tell the nation: Let’s abolish nuclear weapons now, once and forever, and use the billions of dollars we spend on these weapons to vaccinate everyone, rebuild our nation, protect the environment, abolish war and poverty, and welcome a new culture of peace and nonviolence.
As I learned in Oslo, anything is possible if you believe.
Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons
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