By far the greatest share of the US government’s public relations budget – more than all the other agencies combined – is spent by the military, an audit has revealed. While that has helped the Pentagon pitch fancy weapons, it hasn’t managed to make them work.
The Department of Defense employs 40 percent of the government’s public relations workforce and accounts for almost 63 percent of all public relations spending between 2006 and 2015, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO report on government PR spending, released last week, showed a $1 billion annual outlay on various forms of public relations, with 5,000 government employees working in PR for a combined annual salary of $475 million in 2015. By comparison, the entire Department of Education has 4,500 employees.
Of those expenditures, the Pentagon spent more than $626 million on average each year, the report showed. Over the 10-year period surveyed, the Department of Defense spent more money on PR than all other departments combined.
Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Additionally, the Pentagon has been paying hundreds of millions to outside contractors – such as the UK-based firm Bell Pottinger, which received $540 million between 2007 and 2011, and another $120 million in 2006. Among the services provided by the agency was the making and dissemination of fake terrorist videos attributed to Al-Qaeda.
The PR spending far outweighs the Pentagon’s share of the government’s overall budget, which official estimates put at 16 percent. For the fiscal year 2017, the Department of Defense has requested a budget of $582.7 billion.
There is no telling where all that public relations funding ends up, either. The military has had to deal with a number of embarrassments lately, from frisky generals to expensive futuristic weaponry that just doesn’t seem to work.
Major General Ron Lewis, the former senior military assistant to Secretary Ash Carter, was sacked in 2015 for inappropriately spending government money to pay for strippers and alcohol, a Pentagon inquiry announced last week. Nor was he the only one: Department of Defense employees, both civilian and military, reportedly racked up 5,000 charges at casinos and strip clubs, totaling more than $1 million over the course of a year.
Though the military has been heavily promoting the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter as the future of combat aviation, the Lockheed Martin jet not only costs a fortune but keeps suffering troublesome setbacks. No sooner did the US Air Force declare its version of the F-35 operational, it had to ground all the planes over concerns that poor insulation inside the fuel tanks was causing the jets to catch fire.
The US Navy’s futuristic designs for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the guided missile destroyer (DDG) have also foundered recently. In August, commander of the Naval Surface Forces, Vice-Admiral Tom Rowden, had to order all LCS to “stand down” for engineering re-training, after a half-dozen ships broke down due to “seawater leaks” in their propulsion systems.
A similar problem was reported aboard the missile destroyer Zumwalt, as it prepared to conduct sea trials at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia on September 19.
Earlier this year, an Army PR stunt backfired when US tankers failed to place in the top three in the “Strong Europe Tank Challenge.” The first NATO competition of the kind since the Cold War took place at the Grafenwoehr training grounds in Germany this May, with two American tank platoons taking part alongside the crews from Denmark, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Slovenia.
German tankers took the top honors, with the Danes coming in second and the Poles bringing up the third place.
The maternal mortality rate in the United States is higher than that of Iran, Palestine, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. The rate has risen since 2000 and is higher than most “high-income locations,” according to a study of health factors in 195 nations.
In 2015, the US had a maternal mortality rate (MMR) per 1,000 livebirths of 26.4, an increase from both 1990 (16.9) and 2000 (17.5), according to the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study. The multi-pronged study, coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), included worldwide data on diseases, life expectancy, nutrition, and a host of other factors.
The 2015 MMR in the US was higher than that of the likes of Vietnam (15.6), Saudi Arabia (15.7), Palestine (16.2), Thailand (20), Iran (20.8), Libya (22.8), and Qatar (25.5), among many others.
Overall, the US had 1,063 maternal deaths in 2015, compared to 28 in Canada, 315 in all of western Europe, and 1,135 in all of central Europe, eastern Europe, and Central Asia, the study found. Russia had 340 deaths, down from 655 in 2000. China had 2,948 deaths, but with an MMR lower than the US, at 17.7.
The US was among the few “high-income locations” that had an MMR of more than 15, the study found.
“By the year 2015 … 49 countries had an MMR of less than 15, including Saudi Arabia, all countries in central Europe, and all high-income locations with the exception of the USA, Argentina, Brunei, Chile, and Uruguay,” the report stated.
The MMR in the US was on par with nations like Kazakhstan (26.5) and Uzbekistan (26.2).
“Several other countries in North Africa and Middle East along with the USA, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam had an MMR between 15 and 30,” according to the study
Many Latin American, Caribbean, Southeast Asian, and African nations had among the highest MMRs in 2015. The Central African Republic had the highest MMR in the world, at 1074.3.
Some of the increase in America’s MMR in recent years, the report said, may be due to increased, official awareness of cause of death.
The US “has high MMR for a high-SDI (Socio-demographic Index, or rates of education, fertility, and income) country—and is one of the few where it is increasing—but following the lead of Mexico and much of Latin America, it is also one of the only countries that has proactively improved its civil registration system with addition of a pregnancy checkbox on the standard death certificate,” the report stated.
It added: “The USA should learn from the experiences of other countries and consider implementing regular, comprehensive confidential enquiries into drivers of maternal mortality.”
The study said that to improve on maternal mortality rates, nations should “expand coverage and improve quality of family planning services, including access to contraception and safe abortion to address high adolescent fertility; invest in improving health system capacity, including coverage of routine reproductive health care and of more advanced obstetric care” among other suggestions.
A separate report released in September found that the state of Texas, ground zero for restrictions to sexual and reproductive health care in the US, has a maternal mortality rate that is among the highest in the industrial world.
Outside of maternal mortality rates, the study included many global health factors that had improved in the last several years, including an increased average life span by 10 years (62 to 72) since 1980 and decreases in deaths from HIV/AIDS and malaria — by 33 percent and 37 percent, respectively — since 2005.
The world has also halved the death rate of children younger than five years old, to 5.8 million per year, the study found. The top conditions that make humans sick but are not necessarily fatal include upper respiratory infections like pneumonia and diarrheal diseases, the study said.
The study included analyses of women’s health and childbirth, healthy life expectancy, behavioral and environmental risks, and child mortality.
“Development drives, but does not determine health,”said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We see countries that have improved far faster than can be explained by income, education, or fertility. And we also continue to see countries – including the United States – that are far less healthy than they should be given their resources.”
Israeli Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem sentenced Palestinian Jerusalemite journalist and activist Samer Hussam Abu Aisha, 29, to 20 months in Israeli occupation prison. Abu Aisha has been imprisoned since 6 January 2016; he was attacked and abducted from inside the Jerusalem office of the International Committee of the Red Cross, where he and Hijazi Abu Sabih had erected a protest tent against the Israeli occupation’s order expelling them from their city of Jerusalem. They held evening events, lectures and cultural programs in rejection of deportation and in defense of the Palestinian identity of Jerusalem.
The two organizers were leaders of a campaign against Israeli occupation orders of expulsion from Al-Aqsa Mosque and from the city of Jerusalem. Their campaign included singing protests and other forms of cultural resistance and creative actions. On 16 December 2015, he and Abu Sbeih were delivered an order of expulsion from the city of Jerusalem for five months, citing “state security and order.” He had previously been arrested and harshly interrogated for 33 days, then released and banned from traveling outside Palestine. As soon as his house arrest ended, the Israeli occupation imposed the expulsion order upon them.
Abu Aisha went on hunger strike for 21 days in August in solidarity with Bilal Kayed’s demand for release from Israeli prison; he was part of a group of 35 prisoners from Gilboa prison who also demanded improved conditions inside the prison. Rawan Abu Aisha, Samer’s wife, said that the strike was in part prompted by ongoing denials of family visits.
Abu Aisha wrote earlier regarding the Israeli charges against him:
I was born in Jerusalem in 1987. I lived there all my life except for a few years during my studies in Egypt. As part of my work, I often travel to participate in conferences and youth exchanges in Arab countries and across the world.
Last August I travelled to Lebanon to participate in the 25th Arab Youth Camp. 28 hours after my return to Jerusalem on 17 August 2015, I was arrested by Israeli occupation forces and subjected to an interrogation that lasted 44 days. Eventually, I was conditionally released under open ended house arrest and accused of traveling to an “enemy state” in violation of the “Israeli” emergency regulations of 1952 which place a ban on travel to enemy state of the Zionist regime. These “laws” and policies are forced on us Palestinians despite the fact that we don’t recognize these laws, and the fact that Palestinians hold Lebanon to be a sister state which is naturally, geographically and culturally connected to Palestine.
The detention of Yasser Qous, Jerusalem director of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, was extended as well by Israeli occupation courts on 9 October; he had been assaulted and arrested by police forces in the Old City of Jerusalem and accused of “obstructing police work.”
Hillary Clinton has been revealed to have a very cozy relationship with the US media, which has been found to work closely with Clinton’s campaign to present her in a favorable, transparent light – even planting stories, new email leaks suggest.
These facts are laid bare in the latest cache of classified Clinton campaign emails seen by The Intercept, which in turn received them from Guccifer 2.0 – the hacker who’s reportedly behind several high-profile intrusions.
The cache of emails includes campaign strategies aimed at keeping the public perception of Clinton favorable, focusing particularly on her transparency, especially in light of the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server. The strategies sometimes reveal the campaign presiding over stylistic points and emphasizing what is to be described as “on the record.”
Of particular note is one January 2015 document which includes references to Maggie Haberman. Formerly of Politico, Haberman now covers the presidential election for the New York Times. According to the leaked document, she’s a “friendly journalist” who has “never disappointed” in painting a positive picture of Clinton.
Haberman was seemingly put to good use, emerging with two stories which were meant to shed light, among other things, on how Hillary Clinton’s thought process works and how successful her cabinet members were. The New York Times piece entitled ‘Hillary Clinton Begins Process of Vetting — Herself’, talks about how open Clinton is to researching herself and how committed to transparency that makes her. Especially given how her opponents mainly focus on her foundation work, or the millions she’s received in paid speech appearances, as well as her relationship to Wall Street.
Neither Merrill nor Haberman responded to the Intercept’s requests for comment, nor did they deny that the document exists.
One of the documents, entitled ‘The Press and Surrogate Plan’, talked of willing personnel in the media who could always be put to good use, at CNN or elsewhere. Clinton staffers were also careful in distinguishing between “progressive helpers” and those who were potentially friendly, but could be further coerced.
These so-called media surrogates would often include TV pundits whose roles would appear to be neutral, but who were enrolled by the campaign. The metadata for the ‘surrogate’ document traces it back to its author Jennifer Palmieri – the Clinton campaign communications director.
Furthermore, as described in an April 2015 memo, there would be secret get-togethers involving media big shots and celebrity TV personalities – a notable one would take place in the aftermath of Clinton’s running announcement at the home of one of her strategists on the Upper East Side. The informal cocktail party was completely off-the-record, and intended to coordinate how Clinton’s campaign would be presented to the American public.
The strategies were not specifically formulated for the Clinton campaign, however. According to a March 2015 memo by campaign manager Robby Mook, the tried and tested tactic of constantly feeding the press positive stories in order to take away its ability to react to constant outside accusations was particularly important.
These controversial strategies have also been employed by the Republicans, although this latest cache of documents is the first glimpse into just how coordinated the effort is to use the media to political advantage.
The revelations from the Intercept come just as the second round of debating between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has wrapped up, looking colder than ever, with not so much as a handshake exchanged.
The leak also comes amid the latest official attack on Russia by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. On Friday they released a statement claiming they are ““confident that the Russian government directed” the hacks of emails and documents and their posting on WikiLeaks, DCLeaks, and the blog of the hacker calling himself ‘Guccifer 2.0.’
Russia has been denying all complicity. The United States has still not presented any evidence of an official link to the Russian government.
“I want to emphasize that what is at stake here is the ambitions and aggressiveness of Russia.
Russia has decided that it is all-in in Syria and they have also decided who they want to see become president of the United States too when it is not me,” Clinton said.
She put the blame for sufferings of the Syrian people on Russia, accusing it of destructive bombing of Aleppo.
“There is a determined effort by the Russian air force to destroy Aleppo in order to eliminate the last of the Syrian rebels who are really holding out against the Assad regime. Russia has not paid any attention to ISIS, they are interested in keeping Assad in power,” she added.
“But I do support the effort to investigate… war crimes committed by the Syrians and the Russians and try to hold them accountable,” Clinton said.
The American election campaign never ceases to amaze in terms of twists.
So far (let’s face it) there is nothing new. But the problem for Clinton, the banks and Barney Frank is the refrain «Tarp Funds»; basically the 2008 financial crisis. The Bush administration, with a $700 billion maxi-loan (made up by citizens’ taxes), granted instant cash and saved the big banks from bankruptcy.
The infamous measure will be called TARP:
The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is a United States government program to purchase toxic assets from financial institutions, and actions to strengthen the financial sector. It was signed by US President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008.
A small detail to keep in mind: the loan was funded with taxes paid by US citizens.
However, the banks were saved, speculation continued, and two years later, a decree that negatively changed the American financial system was passed, the infamous Dodd-Frank.
The words of the Wall Street Journal thoroughly explain how the financial giants and the big banking conglomerates have profited from this other law-saving bank:
«Dodd-Frank was allegedly written thinking of Wall Street, but has hit Main Street. The financial community institutions, which make up most of loans to small businesses, are overwhelmed by the complexity of the new law. Government figures indicate that the country is losing an average of a community bank or credit union each day.
Before Dodd-Frank, 75% of banks were offering a free account. Two years later, only 39% of bank still offer that free-of-charge savings account.
Due to the Dodd-Frank, the financial markets will have less ability to cope with shocks and are more likely to panic [and panic = speculation = profits for banks and financial institutions]. Many economists believe this could be the source of the next financial crisis».
Two further details if you have not already guessed the extent of these revelations. The Frank in question is Barney Frank, the guy mentioned several times in the the donations. Guess who Frank received the money from. Banks, of course! The same banks for whom Frank significantly increased their revenue thanks to the law with his name. What better way for JP Morgan, Goldman, Bank of America and company to show appreciation for their future gains than by raising tens of thousands of dollars for Frank and his party?
The revelations are likely to be a disaster for Clinton and the Democrats. The large banking corporations have funded them using money from the TARP fund. They have given the Democratic Party money collected from taxes and granted for a completely different purpose (namely, to deal with the failure of the financial giants).
These hidden financial mechanisms reveal the backstory behind the US electoral system. An elite made up of financiers, bankers and lobbies are the real stakeholders and decisive contributors in presidential elections. They fund all central and vital aspects of democratic and republican campaigns, becoming an indispensable support for any candidate. In return, politicians allow direct procurement and assign huge projects to large industries, or turn a blind eye in case of financial fraud. The consequences are clearly visible in America’s deterioration, increasingly grappling with corruption cases, postponed projects, a lagging behind, and a general feeling of backwardness in vital infrastructure.
In the military field, for example, large lobby groups of weapons manufacturers have created a procurement system that threatens to squander forever the tactical and strategic advantage obtained by the United States over the last 70 years. Programs such as the F-35 were delayed and costs surged stratospherically due to likely corruption and a lack of competition in the procurement process. Similarly, a perpetual race to produce more and more weapons systems that are in the end unnecessary and redundant, instead of exploring new pathways, has enriched US policymakers and made the military-industrial complex much wealthier, but in the process has served to reduce the gap between the US and her peer competitors.
This whole process is a vicious cycle that can easily be summarized in the following manner. Politicians often derive their strategies and tactics from the reasoning and the conversations that take place in US think-tanks, which are funded and supported by companies involved in such industries as pharmaceuticals, insurance, the military, and the cyber and space spheres. In the case of war involving weapons systems, for example, it is easy to understand why policymakers are being influenced by their contributors, who often suggest courses of action and strategies based on the need to spend huge amounts of money to acquire their new products, thereby enriching said lobbies and manufacturers in the process. This triangular system – lobby-thinktank-policy – is one of the founding pillars of current American war doctrine that is failing miserably.
In the same manner, the banking and financial system of Wall Street also contributes and enjoys the same privileges. The banks were bound to return the favor, in the form of millions of dollars of donations, to the political class that was responsible for saving them from the 2008 financial crisis stemming from wild speculation and accounting deceptions. Within a few months, billions of dollars were transferred for free into the accounts of the banking giants thanks to the TARP decree, effectively preventing a major bankruptcy. The consequences were so devastating that today we are experiencing a systemic and endemic crisis of the financial sector that is likely to completely overwhelm Western economies the next time a too-big-to-fail scenario arises.
Politicians continue to enact laws in favor of the banking giants, pocketing large sums of money for their election campaigns in the process. The attention is constantly drawn towards effectively increasing the gap between the top 0.1% and the remaining 99.9%, and the politicians are the key factor in this strategy. Laws adopted in recent years have created an environment where banks have become untouchable and beyond reach. It is a situation that is exactly the opposite of what should have happened after the 2008 crisis, with increased oversight and transparency in financial transactions.
The extent of the degeneration of this system has been revealed in recent days with the information released by Guccifer 2.0. Even though nothing should any longer be surprising given what has transpired over the last few years, one is still taken aback by revelations that the banking giants are financing the Clinton campaign directly with American taxpayers’ money. If we add to this the funds that were freely handed over by the government to save those same banking institutions from bankruptcy in 2008, we take another step further into the theater of the absurd.
The Associated Press (AP) through a gimmick it calls “AP FACT CHECK,” claimed after a recent US presidential debate that presidential candidate Donald Trump was untruthful about Syrian President Bashar Al Assad fighting the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS).
AP’s article, “AP FACT CHECK: Trump wrong that Assad fights IS,” claims:
Not true. Syria’s President Bashar Assad considers the Islamic State group to be among numerous “terrorist” groups that threaten his government, but his military is not fighting them. It is focused on combatting Syrian opposition groups, some of which are supported by the United States. The fight against the Islamic State militants is being waged by a U.S.-led coalition, with help from Turkey, by training, advising and equipping Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters.
However, despite AP’s claims, AP’s own reporting directly contradicts its “AP FACT CHECK,” as pointed out by Syrian activist and geopolitical commentator Mimi Al Laham in a recent Tweet.
In their April 2016 article, “After Palmyra, Syrian troops take another IS-controlled town,” AP would report that:
A week after taking back the historic town of Palmyra, Syrian troops and their allies on Sunday captured another town controlled by the Islamic State group in central Syria, state media reported.
The push into the town of Qaryatain took place under the cover of Russian airstrikes and dealt another setback to the IS extremists in Syria. An activist group that monitors the Syrian civil war said that government forces are in control of most of the town after IS fighters withdrew to its eastern outskirts.
The advance came a week after Syrian forces recaptured Palmyra from IS and is strategically significant for the government side. The capture of Qaryatain deprives IS of a main base in central Syria and could be used by government forces in the future to launch attacks on IS-held areas near the Iraqi border.
Not only does AP directly contradict its own reporting on Syrian forces over the past year with its recent and clearly disingenuous “AP FACT CHECK,” it also contradicts claims that Russia is also uninterested in fighting ISIS – admitting clearly that Syrian government gains against the terrorist organization took place under the cover of Russian airpower.
Also, AP would even report that Russian ground forces were present at Palmyra, directly on the front with ISIS.
AP’s May 2016 article, “Russia builds military camp near ancient site in Palmyra,” would admit:
Russia has built a military encampment inside a zone that holds the UNESCO world heritage site in the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra, where Islamic State militants were driven out recently by pro-government forces.
The Russian military described the camp Tuesday as “temporary,” saying its few housing units were being used by explosives experts who are removing mines left behind by the militants, and that the Syrian government had given approval to build the camp.
It is uncertain why AP has resorted to such blatant, clumsy lies, especially under a series of articles it is boldly calling “AP FACT CHECK.” However, it is clear – based on AP’s own reporting – that they are in fact lying intentionally and in direct contradiction to their own reporting.
It is also interesting how AP boldly titles its recent series as “AP FACT CHECK” yet provides no citations or evidence for its “fact checking.”
AP has perpetuated intentional lies dressed up as news reporting for years, if not from its inception, deceiving global audiences regarding everything from “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, to the characterization of political conflicts ranging from the so-called “Arab Spring” to political instability in Southeast Asia.
Caught in a blatant lie contradicting its own reporting should put the world on notice that AP is not a legitimate news service, nor should it be trusted as a journalistic source until those responsible for “AP FACT CHECK” are exposed, condemned, and expelled from AP, and AP provides a proper explanation as to how such blatant lies could cross its pages in the first place.
For the Syrian and Russian soldiers and airmen who bravely died fighting ISIS in combat AP itself reported on, no greater disservice could be done than to deny such combat even took place. AP’s recent “AP FACT CHECK” was meant to portray recent political debates in a certain light, but instead, it has only managed to cast AP itself as illegitimate, deceitful, and untrustworthy.
Moscow expects explanations from Washington concerning the reasons behind the recent detention of two Russian citizens and will undertake own steps to clarify details of this case, the Foreign Ministry’s human rights advocate says.
“At this moment we know nothing about any charges and we presume that the US authorities must officially explain the grounds behind the detention of our citizens. Our embassy and consulate in San Francisco continue their work in this direction,” Konstantin Dolgov said in comments to Izvestia daily.
“The Consular convention gives three days for all this. If all these facts are confirmed we would render consular and legal support to our citizen and would press for the US authorities to observe their rights, including the procedure rights,” he added, emphasizing that the US actions were bypassing the 1999 bilateral agreement on aid.
The comment came after US mass media reported last week that American law enforcement officers had detained two Russian nationals – Dmitry Karpenko and Aleksey Krutilin – over a suspected attempt to buy and unlawfully export sensitive electronics from the United States without a mandatory federal license.
Naturalized US citizen Aleksey Barysheff was also detained as a suspect in the case. According to AP the suspects face up to 25 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.
“It’s been a long time since we lost any trust in the unbiasedness and objectivity of US justice. Unfortunately we have a great number of examples in which arrests of Russian citizens had been made without any grounds and with violations of the law, including abduction on the territory of third countries,” Dolgov told the newspaper.
“The court processes in these cases were politicized from the beginning to the end. [Konstantin] Yaroshenko’s and [Viktor] Bout’s cases are vivid examples of such approach.”
The deputy head of the State Duma Committee for International Relations, Aleksey Chepa, confirmed that the US side had not contacted Russian authorities over the detention of Karpenko and Krutilin and also promised to demand explanations over this fact. The MP said in comments that it was obvious to him that the Americans were attempting to heat up the already-tense international situation and suggested that the forthcoming US presidential elections could be the reason.
The Russian Justice Ministry said it could not interfere into the case before the US authorities press official charges, but noted that it was following developments.
Russia has repeatedly expressed concern about methods illegal used by US authorities to prosecute Russian citizens, in particular over the trials of transport company owner Viktor Bout and pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who were sentenced to 25 and 20 years in prison respectively.
Both Russians were convicted as a result of sting operations and the main argument for the prosecution was the testimony of undercover agents, not material evidence. Both men pleaded not guilty in court and continue to protest their innocence to this day.
The Russian Foreign Ministry even issued official warnings to all citizens who travel abroad, saying they might be detained and extradited to the US for a biased trial on inflated charges.
“Without any reason the US administration is refusing to recognize the reunification between Russia and Crimea that fully meets the international legal standards and the UN charter. It tries to make a routine practice out of hunting for Russian citizens in third countries with subsequent extradition and conviction in the USA, usually over dubious charges,” reads one such document, released in 2014.