Allegations that Russian hacking attacks aided the victory of Donald Trump are a myth, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Italian newspaper Corriere della sera. The interview also focused on sanctions against Moscow and NATO-Russia tensions.
In the immediate aftermath of the victory of Donald Trump at the US presidential elections, American and international media were quick to assume the alleged hacking of the camp of the Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by “Russian hackers” was to blame for the result.
Speaking to the Corriere della sera in an interview published late Wednesday, Lavrov stressed that the only ones who really “helped” Donald Trump to become the 45th US president were American citizens.
“It is symptomatic that the authors of such insinuations, who had inflated Russophobic hysteria in the United States on the eve of the vote, are now playing mum. No promised ‘evidence’ of interference in the electoral process has been presented neither to the American, nor to the international public,” Lavrov said.
In October, Washington officially accused Moscow of staging hacking assaults on US officials and institutions, though not delivering any facts or other information backing the serious statement. Kremlin rebuffed the accusations by the US as “nonsense.” The lack of proof has raised numerous questions as to what exact purposes the allegations might have actually served, Lavrov said.
“This confirms once again that the whole story is from the field of myth-making with a goal to solve the short-term political objectives,” the foreign minister added.
On November 29, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also weighed in, linking the recent hacking attacks on the country’s telecommunications group Deutsche Telecom to Moscow. However, the German leader admitted she did not know who exactly the attackers were.
‘Italy businesses dissatisfied with Russia sanctions’
When asked on how Russia is viewing relations with Italy, which is among the countries who imposed sanctions on Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis, Lavrov noted that both sides are suffering from the measures.
“Sanctions introduced by the EU against Russia, joined by Italy, and the Russian retaliatory steps had a negative impact on bilateral trade and economic cooperation,” Lavrov said. He also noted that Italy, which used to be the fourth-largest trading partner with Russia, now ranks sixth, while Washington has surpassed Rome and is now placed fifth.
“Thus, Washington, who became the initiator of a large part of the anti-Russian intentions, is not suffering any losses. Perhaps there is something our Italian and in general European partners have to think about,” Lavrov said. Russia, for its part, has already “adjusted” itself to the restrictions with the country’s economy solidly “standing on its feet.”
The Russian foreign minister also noted that “Italian political, business, public circles are increasingly expressing [their] dissatisfaction with the sanctions policies, advocate for the return” of the growing bilateral ties between the two states.
“A number of regions in Italy adopted a resolution calling for the removal of anti-Russian sanctions,” Lavrov said. He added Moscow hopes that Rome will build relations with Russia “based primarily on self-interest.”
“All the rich history of Russian-Italian relations, which are based on years of experience of fruitful cooperation, is an example that with joint efforts we managed to achieve significant results,” Lavrov said.
On Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, after more than five years of fighting in Aleppo, Syrian government forces recaptured a major portion of the “rebel” enclave often called “east Aleppo”.
It now should be called “southeast Aleppo”, and soon perhaps just “Aleppo”. Thousands of grateful Syrian civilians ran into the arms of the soldiers, and were provided with food, shelter, transportation, medical services, and other needs.
They recounted horror stories of how the “rebels”, under the leadership of the extremist al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (AKA Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), denied them food and water and shot at them when they tried to leave (after confiscating their mobile phones so that no one could hear their story). Nevertheless, hundreds of fighters decided to accept the government offer of amnesty, and laid down their arms, while the rest retreated into the shrinking enclave.
The main water pumping station for the entire city had been in this liberated section of the city, and government engineers promise that service will soon be restored for the first time in many years.
It is a major turning point in the Syrian war, signaling the beginning of the end for efforts by the US, NATO and the Arabian monarchies to create “regime change” and a failed state in place of the secular government supported by the vast majority of Syrian citizens.
But apparently none of this is of any importance. After following what I thought were exciting developments through Twitter, Facebook, RT, and various alternative media sites, I flipped through the evening news of the three major US television networks (ABC, NBC & CBS) to see what sort of coverage they might have. I was expecting denunciations, accusations of Russian and Syrian atrocities, and the usual lies and distortions.
Instead, I found nothing at all. There was no coverage of Syria. Apparently, nothing of any consequence had happened. Instead, there was a story about how a group of US workers had won the lottery and had all become millionaires.
Silly me! I had thought it was a historic turning point. I can only imagine that the lavishly funded Aleppo Media Center and White Helmets “impartial” “volunteer” organizations were too busy running for their lives, along with their head-chopping heroes, to concoct their stories and stage their imitation rescue and black flag operations, and distribute them to the western media. Without these sources, the corporate media were left with nothing to report except stories that contradicted everything they had been reporting for months and years.
Silence is golden.
Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.
Human rights organisation Al-Marsad has written to the EU, European governments and the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council regarding the approval last month by the Israeli government to expand the largest illegal Israeli settlement in the Occupied Syrian Golan by 1,600 settlements units; and the planned appropriation of Syrian land under the guise of the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan. The letter is available here.
In October, the Israeli Finance Ministry approved plans for the construction of 1,600 settlement units in the illegal Israeli settlement of Katzrin. With a population of 8,000, Katzrin is the largest Israeli settlement in the Occupied Syrian Golan. It was built over the destroyed Syrian villages of Qasrin, Shqef and Sanawber whose inhabitants were either forced to leave their homes by the Israeli army or were displaced by fighting during the Israeli occupation in 1967.
Katzrin is also home to various settlement businesses that illegally exploit the natural resources of the Occupied Syrian Golan, such as the Golan Heights Winery and Eden Springs / May Eden mineral water. In addition, Afek, an Israeli oil company that is illegally conducting oil exploration in the Occupied Syrian Golan, has an office in Katzrin. Afek is owned by a US company, Genie Energy, that includes Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney and James Woolsey (former head of the CIA) on its advisory board.
Furthermore, this announcement follows approval by the Israeli government in 2014 for a $108 million investment to establish 750 Israeli settlement ‘farming estates’ on 7,100 acres of land in the Occupied Syrian Golan.
Meanwhile, under the guise of the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan the Israeli authorities are seeking to appropriate 25,000 acres of land that have been used by the residents of Syrian villages, Majdal Shams and Ein Qynia, since Ottoman rule for agriculture and housing. If approved the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan would, in particular, surround Majdal Shams in the north and west. Therefore, the only area available for urban expansion of the village would be agricultural land in the south – a main source of livelihood for the local Syrian population. It is not possible to expand the village to the east given its close proximity to the fortified ceasefire line.
The designation of land by the Israeli authorities as a ‘national park’, ‘abandoned property’ or for ‘military or public needs’ is a regularly used tactic to either prevent the expansion of Syrian and Palestinian communities under occupation, or to appropriate land for settlement construction.
• Calls on the international community to strongly condemn plans for the construction of 1600 settlement units in the illegal settlement of Katzrin and the planned expropriation of Syrian land under the guise of the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan; and obtain binding commitments from Israel that it will stop these activities.
• Invites foreign governments and international organisations to send fact-finding missions to the Occupied Syrian Golan to witness firsthand the deteriorating human rights situation.
Al-Marsad is an independent, not-for-profit, legal human rights organisation – it is the only human rights organisation operating in the Occupied Syrian Golan. For additional information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Washington is offering a grant of up to $800,000 to Ukrainian public organizations that will monitor regional authorities and secure ties with local media. Experts say it’s a way to keep President Petro Poroshenko in power amid declining popularity.
“[The] goal is to enhance the accountability and responsiveness of the Ukrainian government at the local level through civil society advocacy, monitoring, and civic activism,” reads a US State Department funding announcement, published this week on the grants.gov website.
It explains further that the State Department is looking for “civil society organizations,” either non-profit or for-profit (with some conditions) that will provide proposals “to perform a watchdog function and advocate for democratic governance” in Ukraine.
The description states the program is aimed at increasing civic activism in Ukraine at a local level and building and training a network of civic activists throughout the country. These in turn are to keep watch on the activities of local governments and encourage partnerships between civil society and media “to communicate important information about local reforms to the public.”
The organizations applying for the grant must present a program for their activities, along with a financial plan, by January 17, 2017. They are also required to have ties with “thematic or in-country partners, entities and relevant stakeholders, including private sector partners and NGOs” and provide proof of these links or their potential development.
The description states that applicants are also requested to have “demonstrable experience in administering successful, and preferably similar, projects.”
It adds that: “Projects should have the potential to have an immediate impact leading to long-term sustainable reforms, and should have potential for sustainability beyond DRL (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the State Department) resources.”
Among other things, the bureau says it welcomes projects that “advance the rights and uphold the dignity of the most vulnerable or at-risk populations,” with one of the criteria for the selection of candidates being their cooperation with minority groups.
The State Department reserves a significant role for itself in the implementation of the program that receives the grant. It will, for instance, demand quarterly reports on the program’s spending and progress.
‘Chance to keep Poroshenko at helm’ – experts on funding grant
Experts believe that this and other such funding opportunities Washington has offered Ukraine are a means of preventing the fall of the country’s president and Washington favorite, Petro Poroshenko. The Ukrainian leader’s public approval ratings have plunged recently.
According to Liga.Net, in November Poroshenko’s rating drew 14.3 percent of popular support – having plummeted to a low of 10.7 percent in summer. He is still behind former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the ratings.
Speaking to RT Russian, political analyst Nikolay Shlyamin said: “The activists who will work in the country under this program and for the money from this grant will penetrate [Ukraine’s] state agencies to monitor the spending of officials and then publish reports on the expenditures from the state budget.
“In addition, they will attract the media who will cover the process of fighting against corruption in the country. In this case, there is a chance that the Americans will be able to keep their favorite at the helm for the upcoming presidential elections,” Shlyamin believes.
He notes that the Ukrainian people have become disillusioned with Poroshenko’s leadership, with his promises to introduce visa-free travel with the EU and eradicate corruption proving a failure.
“Under Poroshenko, Ukraine has so far been unable to secure European Union and NATO membership. In domestic policy [there have been] also continuous failures,” Shlyamin told RT Russian.
He believes the current grant is one of the final efforts by US President Barack Obama’s administration to maintain US-Ukraine relations as they have been since the coup in 2014.
“Obama will soon leave office. Therefore, he needs to have time to allocate the necessary financial resources to continue the current policy and prevent future president Donald Trump from building a new line of cooperation with Ukraine,” he says.
Some, like film director Oliver Stone, have called the Maidan revolution of 2014 a US-staged coup, while former US Congressman Ron Paul called on foreign actors – like Washington, NATO or Moscow – to stay out of the country.
In 2015, Sputnik news agency reported that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – a bureau much like the DRL, which is offering the current grant – played a significant role in the preparation of the Kiev coup. From 2011 to 2014 it was said to have given some $14 million to Ukrainian NGOs which facilitated media coverage of mass demonstrations and organized youth movements.
After much speculation on the US role in the upheaval of 2014, President Obama last year openly admitted to having a hand in the events, or in his words “broker[ing] a deal to transition power in Ukraine.”
Shlyamin’s colleague Sergey Sudakov said that, given its political significance, a major grant like the one currently being advertised for Ukraine is likely to end up in the hands of someone trusted by Washington, such as billionaire investor George Soros.
“The government must be sure of the loyalty of those who are entrusted with such projects. After all, their goal [is] espionage and site preparation for the implementation of pro-American policy,” he said.
Experts say that under Obama, Washington has been striving to gain full control over Ukraine – a strategically important region due to its location close to Russia. Shlyamin noted that in this “struggle for Kiev,” Washington has been pursuing “soft force,” introducing US democratic values through methods such as education and cultural training.
Indeed, the US government has been known to allocate large sums to work with Ukrainian media, businesses and civil society activists. Last year, Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s top diplomat for Europe, acknowledged that since 1991 America has poured $5 billion of taxpayers’ money into what she said was assisting Ukrainians in building “democratic skills and institutions.”
Grants were distributed through the DRL, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), with the money going to sponsor various NGOs, political parties and media outlets.
However, Ukraine is not the only country whose internal affairs Washington is keen on being closely involved in. Just two months ago it emerged that USAID had assigned $3 million to Russian non-governmental entities, according to data posted on government website usaspending.gov.
The organization, which was banned in Russia in 2012 as “undesirable,” announced the funding opportunity just as Russia was preparing to hold parliamentary elections. The investment was listed under the heading ‘For activity in Russia,’ set to be completed by 2017.
Over the past two decades, the Kosovar government has spent over $2 billion on payments to former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) paramilitary organization. Kosovo received the money from the United States and the European Union and since 2009 mostly from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The Kosovo Liberation Army was formed during the mid-1990s by Kosovo Albanians seeking independence from Serbia and the creation of a monoethnic state. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008.
There have been numerous reports of abuses and war crimes committed by KLA members during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war, including massacres of civilians, prisons camps, allegations of organ theft etc. A special court in The Hague has been established to investigate those crimes. According to different estimates, currently at least 500 KLA veterans are fighting in the ranks of Daesh in Syria.
“Compared to the entire population of Kosovo, this number is the fifth-largest among other European countries. Many of the KLA veterans fighting for Daesh receive payments from the Kosovar budget which [is] regularly funded by the US, the EU and the IMF,” journalist Brankica Ristic wrote for Sputnik Serbia.
Currently, there are 46,000 KLA veterans in Kosovo. A list was made up to identify those who deserve pensions from the budget. The IMF unveiled €106 million ($113 million) for the initiative.
The first payments were made in 2015. Some 12,000 former KLA members, who fought against the Yugoslavian government and law enforcement agencies in the 1990s, received €170 ($181) each.
However, since that time the number of officially registered veterans has increased fourfold. Pristina had to ask the IMF to unveil more funds. The Kosovar budget for 2017 is €2 billion ($2.1 billion), including money to transform the Kosovo security forces into full-fledged armed forces, which will be funded by the IMF. However, the IMF does not want to give money for pensions for 46,000 KLA veterans. The fund asked Pristina to clarify the number of veterans. The government hopes that if the IMF rejects giving the money the US could do [so]. But the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election has put this into question.
“After the 1999 war Kosovo received $3.8 billion of international aid. According to different sources, between 2000 and 2010 the region received up to $40 billion. Part of this money could have been paid to those fighting now in the ranks of Daesh,” the journalist wrote.
The United States, the United Kingdom, France and the United Nations have not yet offered humanitarian relief to 90,000 Aleppo citizens, liberated from militants two days ago, the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman said Wednesday.
“Two days after over 90,000 Aleppo residents were freed from terrorists, no offer of humanitarian assistance came from the office of UN envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, the British and French Foreign Ministries or the US State Department,” the ministry’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.
Konashenkov reminded about the previous US, UK, UN and French demands to provide humanitarian access to eastern Aleppo when it was held by the militants.
“Apparently, the [humanitarian] assistance was destined for certain other people living in the eastern parts of Aleppo,” Konashenkov said highlighting the absence of the above-mentioned sides’ interest in providing civilians with humanitarian aid after all the necessary conditions for the aid delivery had been created.
On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that the Syrian government forces had cleared almost half of eastern Aleppo from militant strongholds, liberating tens of thousands local residents.
While a year has passed since Turkey shot down a Russian jet in Syria and while a few months have passed since the beginning of rapprochement between both countries that includes co-operation in Syria and co-operation in the field of energy, their bi-lateral ties remain uneasy—a situation that largely owes its existence to the still-lingering disagreement over Syria, particularly the future of Assad, and the dual role Turkey happens to be playing there. On the one hand, it has sent its own troops to supposedly fight the Islamic State, and on the other, there are on the ground proxy groups who are receiving support from Turkey. Therefore, while Turkey has repeatedly said that it “respects” Syria’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, it continues to support these “rebel” groups who are in Syria, first and foremost, to oust the Syrian president and to contain the Syrian Kurds—something that not only is a violation of Syrian sovereignty but also pits Turkey against Syria and Russia in the region.
As such, while Turkey rhetorically respects Syria’s territorial integrity, it has still created a “safe zone” inside Syria, in the name of creating a shield against the Islamic State’s incursions into Turkey, and is pushing for bringing more of the Syrian territory under its direct control—a step that is akin to a de facto territorial disintegration of Syria due to a foreign (Turkish) occupation. Hence, the contention that while Turkey may not actually be seeking to create a permanent “zone” in Syria—something that Turkey and Russia have developed some understanding about —Turkey certainly has not changed its mind towards Assad’s future as Syria’s president (read: Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu recently acknowledged in an interview that Turkey and Russia have disagreement over Assad’s future). This un-changed position makes Turkey more of a NATO ally, which it is by all means, and less of a partner of Syria and Russia against terrorism.
What the current nature of relationship between Turkey and Russia implies is that it is yet to convert itself into a full-fledged strategic alliance. Although we have seen a lot of progress towards normalization, this normalization is of tactical nature only wherein Russia appears to be an important actor for Turkey to neutralize the prospects of Kurds, who are being continuously supported by the US, establishing their own state i.e., Kurdistan. Besides it, Turkey also sees in Russia an opportunity to counter-balance its relations with the US and EU and send them a signal that it does have other ‘avenues of support.’
That Turkey’s rapprochement with Russia is of tactical nature only is also evident from the fact that this rapprochement and normalization has not so far created any rupture in NATO. This normalization is likely to stay what it actually is i.e., normalization and, as such, least likely to turn into a strategic re-alignment, although earlier signs had shown that it was not an impossibility.
What impedes this transformation is, as stated above, Turkey’s contradictory dual role in Syria, where it is carrying on NATO’s agenda of ousting Assad and where it is also seemingly targeting IS along with Russia and Syria.
What such a position further implies is that Turkey is tapping into both blocks to take advantage of its geographical location and achieve all of its major objectives i.e., oust Assad and roll back Kurds to other side of Euphrates river. While Turkey does aim at both targets, this perusal puts it in a conflicting position vis-à-vis Syria. Some recent incidents strongly indicate the potential of this conflicting position to transform into yet another war.
For instance, the advance by largely Turkmen and Arab rebels backed by Turkey towards al-Bab, the last urban stronghold of Islamic State in the northern Aleppo countryside, potentially pits them against both Kurdish fighters and Syrian government forces, leading to clashes between them.
Al-Bab is of particular strategic importance to Turkey because Kurdish-dominated militias have also been pursuing a campaign to seize it. Ankara is determined to prevent Kurdish forces from joining up cantons they control along the Turkish border. Turkey is backing the Syrian rebels with troops, tanks and artillery, as well as reconnaissance flights along the border.
However, while Turkey is out there to prevent the Kurds from having any territory under their control in Syria, Syria itself is not ready to ‘host’ Turkish troops on its territory. This has created the threat of direct clashes occurring between them. In fact, such incidents have already started to occur.
On last Friday, the Turkish military said that Thursday, November 24, air strike, which killed three of its soldiers, was thought to have been carried out by the Syrian air force. It would be the first time Turkish soldiers have died at the hands of Syrian government forces. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed this attack on Turkish troops in Syria with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday as Turkish-backed rebels pressed an offensive to take the Syrian city of al-Bab, a report from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency stated.
While no major dispute of diplomatic and military nature has so far been reported developing between Turkey and Russia, this incident unambiguously underlines the fundamental disagreement both have in Syria.
Therefore, it is not energy-co-operation merely that would determine the future of their bi-lateral relations. While co-operation in this field required normalization, which they have already achieved, it is also quite clear today that the transformation of this normalization into a strategic realignment depends upon how smoothly both countries resolve their differences over Syria. In the coming months, the progress of the operation, as well as the battle for Aleppo, will become the decisive points in setting the trajectory of their bilateral relations.
Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.
Turkish President’s intention to depose Syrian leader contradict with previously reached agreements between Russia and Turkey, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Wednesday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s statements on his intention to depose Syrian President Bashar Assad run counter to earlier reached agreements between Russia and Turkey, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Wednesday.
“This runs counter to all agreements. First, Resolution 2254, Resolution 2268, decisions of the Vienna format, Lausanne format. We have been participating in these formats jointly with Turkey,” Bogdanov told reporters.
Erdogan said Tuesday the Turkish armed forces’ military operation in Syria is designed to put an end to the rule of President Bashar Assad.
Imagery date refers to Google Earth capture of land forms. Ice extent is for August 31, 2016 from MASIE. Serenity is docked at Devon Island.
Researchers found that ice conditions in the 19th century were remarkably similar to today’s, observations falling within normal variability. The study is Accounts from 19th-century Canadian Arctic Explorers’ Logs Reflect Present Climate Conditions (here) by James E. Overland, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory/NOAA, Seattle,Wash., and Kevin Wood, Arctic Research Office/NOAA, Silver Spring, Md. H/t GWPF
This article demonstrates the use of historical instrument and descriptive records to assess the hypothesis that environmental conditions observed by 19th-century explorers in the Canadian archipelago were consistent with a Little Ice Age as evident in proxy records. We find little evidence for extreme cold conditions.
It is clear that the first-hand observations of 19th-century explorers are not consistent with the hypothesized severe conditions of a multi-decadal Little Ice Age. Explorers encountered both warm and cool seasons, and generally typical ice conditions, in comparison to 20th-century norms.
There were more than seventy expeditions or scientific enterprises of various types dispatched to the Canadian Arctic in the period between 1818 and 1910. From this number, we analyzed 44 original scientific reports and related narratives; many from expeditions spanning several years. The majority of the data come from large naval expeditions that wintered over in the Arctic and had the capacity to support an intensive scientific effort. A table listing the expeditions and data types is located at http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/arctic/history. The data cover about one-third of the possible number of years depending on data type, and every decade is represented.
Our analysis focuses on four indicators of climatic change: summer sea ice extent, annual sea ice thickness, monthly mean temperature, and the onset of melt and freeze as estimated from daily mean temperature. Historical observations in these four categories were compared with modern reference data; the reference period varied, depending on data availability. Both sea ice extent and the onset of melt and freeze were compared to the 30- year reference period 1971–2000; monthly means are compared to the 50-year period 1951–2000. Modern sea ice thickness records are less continuous, and some terminate in the 1980s; the reference period is therefore based on 19 to 26 years of homogeneous record.
(a) Proxy record of standardized summer air temperature variation derived from ice cores taken on Devon Island. This proxy record suggests that a significantly colder climate prevailed in the 19th century. Shading indicates temperatures one standard deviation warmer or colder than average for the reference period 1901–1960 [Overpeck,1998].
(b) Historical monthly mean temperature observations compared to the 20th-century reference period 1951–2000. Sixty-three percent of 343 monthly mean temperatures recorded on 19th-century expeditions between 1819 and 1854 fall within one standard deviation of the reference mean at nearby stations (reference data from Meteorological Service of Canada,2002; and National Climatic Data Center,2002).
(c) Onset of melt observed by expeditions between 1820 and 1906 expressed as departures from the mean for the reference period 1971–2000. The period of melt transition observed by 19th century explorers is not inconsistent with modern values.
(d) Onset of freeze observed between 1819 and 1905 compared to the reference period 1971–2000. The onset of freeze transition is frequently consistent with modern values,but in some cases occurred earlier than usual. The incidence of an early onset of freeze represents the largest departure from present conditions evident in the historical records examined in this study. Melt and freeze transition dates for the reference period 1971–2000 were calculated from temperature data extracted from the Global Daily Climatology Network data base (National Climate Data Center, 2002).
Fig.2. The ship tracks and winter-over locations of Arctic discovery expeditions from 1818 to 1859 are surprisingly consistent with present sea ice climatology (contours represented by shades of blue). The climatology shown reflects percent frequency of sea ice presence on 10 September which is the usual date of annual ice minimum for the reference period 1971–2000 (Canadian Ice Service,2002). On a number of occasions, expeditions came within 150 km of completing the Northwest Passage, but even in years with unfavorable ice conditions, most ships were still able to reach comparatively advanced positions within the Canadian archipelago. By 1859, all possible routes comprising the Northwest Passage had been discovered.
As stated here before, Arctic ice is part of a self-oscillating system with extents expanding and retreating according to processes internal to the ocean-ice-atmosphere components. We don’t know exactly why 19th century ice extent was less than previously or less than the 1970s, but we can be sure it wasn’t due to fossil fuel emissions.
Explorers encountered both favorable and unfavorable ice conditions. This drawing from the vicinity of Beechey Island illustrates the situation of the H.M.S.Resolute and the steam-tender Pioneer on 5 September 1850 [from Facsimile of the Illustrated Arctic News, courtesy of Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks].
After Fidel Castro passed away Friday night at 90 years old, the obituaries written about him in the American press typified the U.S. government propaganda used for decades to demonize Castro and obscure the tremendous social and humanitarian advances that the Cuban Revolution was able to achieve in the face of unrelenting interference, subversion and destabilization. None were more over-the-top in their bias than the obituary in the New York Times.
A mere 54 words, the lede paragraph contains an astonishing amount of misinformation and innuendo:
“Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959”
It’s hard to imagine any Western leader being called a “fiery apostle.” The phrase suggests Castro was driven by an irrational, religious mission to undertake revolution, rather than having resorted to armed resistance as a last resort after the possibility of nonviolent opposition through political means was eliminated. In 1952, as Castro was favored to win a seat in the House of Representatives, Fulgencio Batista promptly cancelled the upcoming elections as it became clear he would not be able to hold power in a free and fair vote. Only after this did Castro and others start to organize a guerilla resistance in order to prevent rule by a military dictatorship. Calling him a “fiery apostle of revolution” is reductionist and Manichean.
The second part of the sentence is easily disprovable. The Cold War was well underway and active in the Western Hemisphere long before the Revolution came to power in 1959. Five years earlier, the CIA, at the behest of the United Fruit Company and working in conjunction with Congress and the White House, supported the overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected progressive President Jacobo Arbenz by the Guatemalan military. The reason was summed up by Senator George Smathers of Florida, who was quoted in an article in the CIA’s professional journal, Studies in Intelligence, saying: “In all candor, we must admit that the democratic nations of the Western Hemisphere could not permit the continued existence of a Communist base in Latin America, so close to home.”
Aside from misrepresenting the Cold War timeline, the idea that it was Castro who was responsible for Cold War tensions with the United States is laughable. Castro immediately reached out to the U.S. government after taking power in 1959, and even visited the country four months later. Upon arriving he was stood up by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who decided to play golf instead meeting with Castro. The next year, Eisenhower would cancel the sugar quota Cuba depended on for export revenue, provoking Cuba to exercise its sovereign right to nationalize U.S. properties. In return, the U.S. government prohibited delivery of oil to the island, which led to Cuba seeking oil from the Soviet Union.
“and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader”
It is strange that Castro’s commitment not to compromise on the sovereignty of Cuba and its people would be seen as remarkable enough to draw attention to it so prominently. Imagine a Russian obituary to Ronald Reagan stating that he defied the Soviet Union. Such a statement presumes that the natural state of affairs would be subservience to the dictates of a foreign power. Americans would find this notion absurd.
“bedeviling 11 American presidents”
This is one way of stating that Castro survived more than 600 assassination attempts authorized by multiple U.S. executives and resisted their criminal economic war that sought “to bring about hunger, desperation” and “hardship” and to this day continues to deny food and medicine to children.
“and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war”
A year and a half prior to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the CIA directed a mercenary invasion of Cuba that failed spectacularly after it was quickly repelled. Understanding that another invasion was imminent, Castro sought nuclear missiles from the Soviet Union because he believed it would possibly be the only deterrent to another U.S. attack. Meanwhile, the United States had nuclear missiles positioned across Eastern Europe at the Soviet Union. When Kennedy protested to the Soviets, Khrushchev offered to withdraw the missiles before they reached Cuba if the U.S. would likewise withdraw its nuclear missiles from Turkey and promise not to invade Cuba. Kennedy said this would “look like a very fair trade” to any “rational man.” Yet, he was still not satisfied and instead of accepting it decided to engage in a game of chicken that could easily have resulted in a nuclear holocaust. To pin responsibility on Fidel Castro for the escalation of this situation is a gross distortion.
“died on Friday. He was 90.”
This I don’t take issue with.
The rest of the obituary is riddled with other inaccuracies and rhetorical flourishes that all predictably echo decades worth of U.S. government propaganda.
The Times claims Castro “ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl.” In reality, Fidel resigned his position as the President of State in 2006. He did not personally hand power to his brother in a dictatorial display of nepotism. Raúl was at the time Vice President, having been elected in the process stipulated by the Cuban Constitution. Likewise under the Constitution, as Vice President he assumed the role of the Presidency upon the resignation of the current President. No different than how succession would work in the United States.
The piece goes on to make unfounded claims of Castro’s self-aggrandizement (“he believed himself to be the messiah of his fatherland”) and launch evidence-free smears about his abuse of power (“he wielded power like a tyrant, controlling every aspect of the island’s existence”).
No one in recent history has been the subject of such vitriolic and politically biased propaganda emanating from the U.S. government as Fidel Castro. It is unsurprising that the self-declared paper of record in the U.S. would replicate the same disingenuous rhetoric rather than attempt to objectively assess the life of undoubtedly the most important individual of the 20th century based on documented facts placed in historical context.
Your crime, as it were, need not be substantiated with evidence; the mere fact you publicly revealed your anti-Establishment thought convicted you.
One of the most remarkable ironies of The Washington Post’s recent evidence-free fabrication of purported “Russian propaganda” websites (including this site) is how closely it mimics the worst excesses of the USSR’s Stalinist era.
One episode is especially relevant to the totalitarian tactics of The Washington Post’s evidence-free accusation. Solzhenitsyn tells the story of one poor fellow who made the mistake of recounting a dream he’d had the previous night to his co-workers.
In his dream, Stalin had come to some harm. In Solzhenitsyn’s account, the fellow was remorseful about the dream.
Alas, mere remorse couldn’t possibly save him. He was promptly arrested for “anti-Soviet thoughts” and given a tenner in the Gulag–a tenner being a ten-year sentence in a Siberian labor camp.
The Washington Post’s accusation is based on a “behavioral analysis”–in other words, publicly sharing “anti-Soviet thoughts”–in our era, the equivalent is sharing anti-Establishment thoughts.
Your crime, as it were, need not be substantiated with evidence; the mere fact you publicly revealed your anti-Establishment thought convicted you.
This is the Corporate Media’s Gulag of the Mind. We’ll tell you what’s “true” and what is correct to think and believe. Any deviation from the party line is a threat and must be discredited, marginalized or suppressed.
Where is the Post’s hard evidence of Russian ties or Russian influence? There isn’t any–but like Stalin’s henchmen, the Post has no need for evidence: merely going public with an anti-Establishment thought “proves” one’s guilt in the kangaroo court of America’s corporate media (a.k.a. mainstream media or MSM).
While The Washington Post is owned by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the vast majority of what we read, watch and hear is controlled by a handful of corporations loaded with cash and connections to the ruling elite.
This concentration of media control creates the illusion of choice— the same elite-propaganda spin is everywhere you look; our “choice” of “approved” (i.e. corporate) media is roughly the same as that offered the Soviet citizenry in the old USSR.
This is why the billionaire/corporate media is so desperate to discredit the non-corporate media: if an alternative to the corporate media’s elite-propaganda catches on, the corporate media will lose its audience, its advert revenues and a substantial measure of its influence.
The cornered elite-propaganda beast is lashing out, undermining its waning credibility with every attack on an independent free press. As I noted in a recent conversation with Max Keiser, democracy requires the citizenry to sort out who benefits from whatever narrative is being pushed.
That’s what terrifies the elite-propaganda mainstream media: the status quo narrative they’ve spewed for years doesn’t benefit the bottom 95% — rather, it actively impoverishes and disempowers the bottom 95%–and the citizenry is slowly awakening to this reality.
So for goodness sakes, if you have an anti-elitist dream, keep it to yourself or you’ll end up on the ruling elite’s “enemies list.”
The final irony in all this: the real enemy of democracy and freedom of the press is The Washington Post and the rest of the billionaire/corporate media. The only way to escape the Corporate Media’s Gulag of the Mind is to stop watching their TV channels, turn off their radio stations and stop reading their print/digital propaganda–except of course if you have a taste for dark humor.
Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print). For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.
“We entered [Syria] to end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror. [We didn’t enter] for any other reason,” the Turkish president said at the first Inter-Parliamentary Jerusalem Platform Symposium in Istanbul, as quoted by Hurriyet daily.
Erdogan said that Turkey has no territorial claims in Syria, but instead wants to hand over power to the Syrian population, adding that Ankara is seeking to restore “justice.”
“Why did we enter? We do not have an eye on Syrian soil. The issue is to provide lands to their real owners. That is to say we are there for the establishment of justice,” he said.
He went on to say that “in his estimation” almost 1 million people have died in the conflict in Syria, although no monitoring group has provided any similar figures. The latest UN estimate stands at 400,000 people killed in the five-year civil war.
Erdogan said that Turkey could not “endure” the unending killing of civilians and “had to enter Syria together with the Free Syrian Army.”
The Turkish leader also accused the UN of inability to influence the situation in Syria and said that the organization is ineffective in its current state.
“The world is bigger than five,” he said, referring to the number of permanent members on the UN Security Council, as reported by Hurriyet.