On December 30, 1996, 20 years ago today, less than two months after Bill Clinton was returned to the White House and California voters passed Proposition 215, CNN broadcast a press conference at which Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, flanked by Attorney General Janet Reno and Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, reiterated the Clinton Administration’s opposition to the medical use of marijuana. Alan Leshner of the National Institute of Drug Abuse was there, too.
The key visual element was a large chart on an easel to the speakers’ right. The heading read “Dr. Tod Mikuriya’s, (215 Medical Advisor) Medical Uses of Marijuana:” (sic content and punctuation). Twenty-six conditions were listed in two columns of 13. One of the conditions was misspelled — “Migranes.” Another, “Writer’s Cramp,” simply does not appear in the extensive list of conditions Mikuriya had advised Cannabis Buyers Clubs to be tracking.
(Fake news is hardly news at all.)
The day after the press conference, med student Mark Tanaka and I drove up the hairpin curves to interview Dr. Mikuriya at his house in the Berkeley Hills. Flashback 20 years to an account in the Anderson Valley Advertiser of Mikuriya’s response:
Mikuriya, a 63-year-old psychiatrist, calls the McCaffrey chart “a crude dirty trick —the kind of disinformation the U.S. military put out during the Vietnam War. Only in this case the ‘enemy’ is the people of California.”
As Shalala gazed Vannalike at the chart and nodded agreement, McCaffrey told the media, “This isn’t medicine, this is a Cheech and Chong show.” The drug czar warned that the use of marijuana violated federal law and would lead to reprisals, including the loss of prescription-writing privileges for any doctor who recommended it to patients. Reno said that prosecutors would focus on doctors who were “egregious” in recommending marijuana.
Mikuriya felt directly threatened. In a New Year’s Day interview at his home in the rain-drenched Berkeley hills, he analyzed the set-up. “As doctors become more fearful, I’ll obviously get more and more patients who are using cannabis or are considering it. Will that make it seem that there’s something ‘egregious’ about my practice?”
Tod Mikuriya, MD, is a graduate of Reed College and the Temple University School of Medicine. He practices psychiatry in Oakland. (His office is in the grand old Claremont Hotel.) He has been studying the effects of marijuana since 1966, when he directed the first-ever National Institute of Mental Health research project on the forbidden herb. He is considered a leading authority on the pre-prohibition medical literature. In recent years Mikuriya has served as medical advisor to Cannabis Buyers Clubs in San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz and Marin County, and has interviewed several hundred members.
After Proposition 215 won at the polls in November, Mikuriya prepared what he calls “a protocol for buyers clubs,” asking staffers to collect data on efficacy and dosage from as many members as possible. The Oakland club and several others immediately adopted Mikuriya’s protocol. It lists 62 conditions which Mikuriya figures people may now be treating with marijuana. “If the data from these people is not properly compiled,” Mikuriya warns, “a historic opportunity will have been lost.”
Mikuriya says he sent a copy of his proposed buyers club protocol to McCaffrey in mid-November, hoping that the Clinton Administration would view the election results as a sign to rethink its prohibitive approach to medical marijuana use. “What’s saddest and most ominous,” Mikuriya said, “is that the Director of the Drug Control Office and the Attorney General are not willing to challenge this new law on the basis of what it says. They could have chosen a condition that they consider to be in some gray area—say, insomnia, or colitis—and questioned the appropriateness of marijuana as a treatment. But instead they chose to make up some ludicrous falsehoods. I suppose I should take it as a sign that they understand the weakness of their position.”
Mikuriya has retained Gordon Brownell, a St. Helena attorney who likens his client’s situation to the plight of Richard Jewell after the FBI revealed that he was suspected of planting a bomb at a park near the Olympics last summer. “In that case the government had a defense of sorts,” Brownell observes, “in that Jewell actually was a suspect, and the Atlanta Journal found out and printed it. But in this case we have a chart created at the White House for the apparent purpose of misleading the public and shaming a physician.”
Where It Came From
The chart was prepared for McCaffrey by an aide in the Office of Drug Control Policy named David Des Roches. No jokes, please, he’s heard them all. Des Roches his source was a version of Mikuriya’s “Marijuana Medical Handbook,” available on the Internet. The 10-page document includes “every use in recorded history of marijuana for medical purposes,” Des Roches said in a Jan. 3 phone interview with your correspondent
Des Roches defends the identification of Mikuriya as “215 Medical Advisor” because, as advisor to the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, Mikuriya has had a working relationship with Dennis Peron, the initiative’s primary organizer. “Back here in Washington,” Des Roches explained, “we see Prop 215 and the Cannabis Buyers Club as one and the same, the link being Mr. Peron.”
Des Roches is a West Point graduate who spent nine years as an Army officer before taking early retirement. His title in the Drug Czar’s office is “Special Assistant for Strategy;” his informal role is “the Internet specialist.” Des Roches says he culled conditions from Mikuriya’s “Handbook” with an eye towards “showing how ludicrous some of them were.” Of the reference to “writer’s cramp,” Des Roches adds “I had to show that one to General McCaffrey because nobody believed it.”
Des Roches’s chart transforms the voice and tense in which Mikuriya’s “Handbook” was drafted. For example, Des Roches’s entry “Recalling ‘forgotten memories’” is shortened from Mikuriya’s “John Stuart Mill suggested using cannabis for the recall of forgotten memories.”
Des Roches’s “Corn Removal” derives from Mikuriya’s “Concentrated cannabis resin is topical anesthetic. Applied directly to a nerve, the electrical impulses are inhibited. It was mentioned as used on dental cares for treatment of pain. Prior to removal from the market it was combined with salicyclic acid, a proteotic agent, and collodion to keep it in place for callus removal on feet.”
Upon learning the origins of McCaffrey’s chart, Mikuriya said, “There was nothing in that document to suggest that I was recommending marijuana as a treatment for any given condition. The effect, and probably the intent, was to hold me up to ridicule before the whole country. The whole world.” Mikuriya has drafted a letter to McCaffrey demanding an apology. “I want my name cleared at a press conference as widely covered as the original press conference,” Mikuriya asserts. “And I want to hear an apology from Director McCaffrey himself.”
Attorney Brownell commented, “When Pierre Salinger said it was friendly fire that brought down TWA flight 800, the federal government and all the pundits reminded everyone that the Internet was a notorious source of misinformation. Now they take something off the Internet, change it, and use it to humiliate a physician who has actually spent years studying the literature and collecting data on this subject. It’s outrageous.”
San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan expressed extreme disappointment over the Clinton Administration’s strategy. “It’s as if Dan Lungren had designed their response,” Hallinan said Jan. 4. “Apparently they want to make buyers clubs illegal, period.” On Monday, Jan. 13 Hallinan plans to announce protocols developed by the city Health Department under which buyers clubs can operate legally in this city “in the interests of harm reduction.”
Dennis Peron’s line on the McCaffrey press conference: “Good publicity for Cheech and Chong. On Jan. 8 the founder and maitre ‘d of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club returns to Superior Court to argue that the passage of Proposition 215 changes the law under which his Market Street establishment was ordered closed back in early August, and that he should be allowed to reopen forthwith. Judge David Garcia will have read the briefs from each side and will rule from the bench after hearing some more from Peron’s attorney, J. David Nick, and a lawyer from Attorney General Lungren’s staff. Ever the optimist, Peron has announced plans to begin registering members Jan. 15, and to reopen the club under a new name, “The Phoenix,” on Jan. 20.
PS December 30, 2016: In a classic example of liberal “triangulation,” Clinton’s DOJ filed civil suit to close down six Bay Area dispensaries, including Dennis Peron’s San Francisco Cannabis Buyers’ Club and Jeff Jones’s Oakland Club. If only Clinton had said “The people of California have sent the government a message, they want to allow the medical use of marijuana. We’ll be watching closely to see what impact this new approach might have on public health and safety…’ the Democrats would not have lost the White House in 2000 —or 2016. But they were and are in thrall to Big PHARMA.
Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at email@example.com
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova © Grigoriy Sisoev / Sputnik
The new punitive measures imposed on Russia by the outgoing US administration seem to be an attempt to take revenge on Republican Donald Trump for winning the presidency, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has noted.
“The outgoing administration isn’t giving up on its attempts to worsen bilateral relations, not understanding that they can’t get any worse,” Zakharova said in an interview with RIA-Novosti.
“Honestly, there is a feeling that the Democratic team is just trying to take revenge on Trump for his victory, making plainly absurd decisions a month before his inauguration,” she said.
The Foreign Ministry spokeswoman cited the Obama administration’s plans to supply MANPADS to Syrian militants, which Washington still see as a tool to remove Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, as an example of such “absurd decisions.”
Earlier in December, Congress added a provision to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will allow the US to send shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to rebel factions in Syria, where Russia is providing air support for the government forces fighting terrorist groups.
The Democratic camp’s claims that Trump was “Russia’s candidate” and received support from the Kremlin are just “elements in the information war,” Zakharova said, while stressing “they aren’t true.”
When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump established themselves as the main contenders for the White House, “it became clear that one of the candidates was building her campaign on anti-Russian rhetoric,” she said.
“There were no pro-Russian candidates, but one Russophobic candidate,” with Clinton and the Democrats making the “demonization of Russia” one of main focal points of their foreign policy, the spokeswoman explained.
“Of course, it would be impossible [for Moscow] to rejoice over the victory of a person who proclaimed the downfall of Russia as her main foreign policy goal. But even in this scenario, Clinton’s win would have been perceived as a choice of the American people,” Zakharova said.
The Foreign Ministry representative expressed the belief that “all preconditions are in place” for relations between Russia and the US to be restored.
Russia is ready to work with “any team” in the White House, as Moscow understands the necessity of resolving the deadlock that occurred under the Obama administration, she said.
“We are waiting for the new administration to arrive at the White House, and then we will be ready to work with them,” Zakharova stressed.
Trump’s inauguration as America’s 45th president is scheduled for January 20, 2017.
On Thursday, the Obama administration levied a new round of sanctions on Moscow, saying they were being imposed because of what it called “the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of US officials and cyber operations aimed at the US election.”
As a result, 35 Russian diplomats were expelled from the US, and nine Russian entities, including the GRU (Russian Military Intelligence) and the FSB (Federal Security Service), were added to Washington’s blacklist. In addition, two Russian diplomatic leisure compounds in New York and Maryland were closed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow will not respond in kind to the new US restrictions and will instead “make further moves to restore Russian-American relations based on the policies that the administration of President-elect Donald Trump adopts.”
Following the announcement of the latest measures, Zakharova said she hoped that the new sanctions would be “the last weird and unwise decision” of the outgoing American administration aimed at spoiling Russian-American relations.
A report issued by American intelligence services, which claims Russia was behind hacks of the 2016 US presidential election, has failed to satisfy critics who say the Obama administration has no proof Moscow tried to interfere in the vote.
In a joint analysis issued on Thursday, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provided technical details about the tools and cyber infrastructure they said Russian civilian and military intelligence services used for the hack attack, code named Grizzly Steppe.
The document said the cyberattack was carried out to “compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the US election, as well as a range of US government, political, and private sector entities.”
But the critics have turned down the 13-page report, saying it is far from the “proof” that they have called for.
“What they released doesn’t add anything to the discussion [about attribution],” said Rob Lee, founder of the critical infrastructure cybersecurity company Dragos.
Security experts say the technical data provided by the agencies is a very basic footprint pointing to Russian intruders, but it often turns out to be a “false positive”.
“What they released is what we would consider to be the lowest form of indicators of compromise,” Lee said.
According to security experts, the technical indicators the US agencies have released in the report are very weak, and it doesn’t achieve what the government says is the purpose of the document.
“Said more simply: the written portion of the report has little to nothing to do with the intended purpose or the technical data released,” Lee said in a blog post.
Some intelligence experts, however, have pointed out that the report’s sketchy attribution is most likely intentional, and its purpose is preventative, not persuasive.
“That [the DHS/FBI report] doesn’t engage with the question of attribution seems, to me, to be quite deliberate,” said Matt Tait, founder of the United Kingdom-based security consultancy Capital Alpha Security.
“Its purpose is to act as a measure against Russia — by adding a US stamp of approval to private sector information, and making life harder for [Russia] by exposing some of their malware — not to persuade the public that the DNC hack was by Russia,” he stated.
“I suspect that this document will go into more detail about what the US knows about Russian interference in the 2016 election, although even this I suspect won’t satisfy skeptics,” Tait said.
President-elect Donald trump has denied that Russia was involved in the cyber interference, and the Obama administration has been under pressure to provide evidence.
Moscow has rejected the US accusations as “unfounded,” and vowed to retaliate.
The White House said in a statement on Thursday that there was the consensus from the US Intelligence Community that Russia’s intervention in the US election via cyberhacking as “unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Republican Senator John McCain on Thursday called Russia’s alleged cyberattacks against political organizations an “act of war.”
McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has scheduled a hearing for next week on foreign cyberattacks targeting the US, which will also focus on Russian hacking.
On January 1, 1988, just a year and a half before he passed away on June 3, 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini made a historic move, reaching out the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in a gesture of anti-imperialist solidarity, despite the long hiatus in relations with communist Russia. This was at a time of war against Iraq and continued subversion of Iran by the US and Israel.
Ayatollah Khomeini made other prescient gestures in his short and difficult decade as the leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran; in the first place, the transfer of the Israeli embassy to Palestinian representatives, the canceling of recognition of Israel, and the inauguration of al-Quds Day as an annual international holiday on the last Friday of Ramadan. He met with Fidel Castro and other third world leaders, encouraging solidarity against the imperialist foe.
The unprecedented visit of the Iranian delegation to Moscow was a sincere offer of support to the faltering Soviet leader, who had rejected the atheism of the Soviet past. It contrasts with the treatment of the supposedly friendly US to Russia, which was at the same time conspiring to subvert the Soviet Union, even as Gorbachev was sincerely reaching out to the hawkish Reagan, offering a generous plan of world nuclear disarmament. The Ayatollah’s warning not to trust the West was being brought home to Gorbachev graphically as the last Soviet troops were retreating into Uzbekistan in 1988. Despite the unilateral withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the US was continuing to arm the insurgents, killing those doomed soldiers as they crossed the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge, built in 1982. Imperialism takes no prisoners.
Iran played no part in the US-backed ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan in the 1980s that brought the collapse of the Soviet Union. Iranian leaders knew that nothing good would come from working in alliance with America.
The Ayatollah knew this well, and was alarmed at the naiveté of Gorbachev. The Ayatollah warned in his letter that the western world was an “illusory heaven”, that appeared seductive. But the truth lies elsewhere. “If you hope, at this juncture, to cut the economic Gordian knots of socialism and communism by appealing to the center of western capitalism, you will, far from remedying any ill of your society, commit a mistake which those to come will have to erase. For, if Marxism has come to a deadlock in its social and economic policies, capitalism has also bogged down, in this as well as in other respects though in a different form.”
Gorbachev was offended and objected. “This invitation is an interference in the internal issue of a country. Because every country is free for selecting its school of thought.” He took the Ayatollah’s sincere advice as interference, rather than friendly concern. “Imam Khomeini invited us to Islam; do we have to invite him to our school of thought?”
History has proved the fears that the Ayatollah expressed justified. Gorbachev was standing on the edge of the abyss. Sadly, he scoffed at the ability of the Ayatollah to see the danger and to want to help him. But it was too late by then. Gorbachev had lost control, thinking he was handing power to the people, not recognizing that such a wish was an illusion. The disaster of the collapse of the Soviet Union will reverberate for generations to come, as the Ayatollah predicted.
Gorbachev was operating on a different wavelength when he received the letter from the Ayatollah, trying to cozy up to Israel and the US, again, naively thinking goodwill gestures would be reciprocated. He opened the doors to the emigration of Soviet Jews in 1988 and prepared to renew full diplomatic relations with Israel. At the same time Gorbachev promised Arafat during a state visit that year that the Soviet Union would recognize an independent Palestinian state if proclaimed, naively hoping that Israel would show gratitude for his generosity by negotiating a genuine peace with the Palestinians. Arafat declared independence in November 1988 and got Soviet recognition the next year, but it was not much consolation. Israel was busy setting up consular offices in Moscow and elsewhere, issuing eventually a million visas to Soviet Jews to come to Israel.
Hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews got instant Israeli citizenship and emigrated, many of them settling illegally in the Occupied Territories, nominally part of a Soviet-recognized Palestinian state. By the end of 1991 when full diplomatic relations with Israel were restored, over 325,000 Soviet Jews had emigrated. Gorbachev’s hope to bring a quick peace to the Middle East were dashed as he was ousted from power, leaving the PLO abandoned and Israel stronger than ever. Just as the Zionists had hoodwinked Stalin into recognizing Israel, they once again hoodwinked a Soviet leader into re-recognizing it. Instead of increasing Soviet/Russian influence by this dual recognition, all influence was lost, the Palestinians were hurt by the Soviet betrayal, while the Israelis welcomed a million new Jewish immigrants.
Gorbachev’s trust was betrayed by both the US and Israel; the Soviet Union collapsed as Soviet Jews fled to the illusory western heaven. The world logically expected a new era free of the threat of war, a peace dividend that would improve the lot of people everywhere, ensuring that the material imperative behind war was eliminated. But the triumph of empire has never led to an end to empire, and strengthening empire has never led to improving the lot of the periphery.
This was clear in the centuries of imperialism, where the periphery was impoverished at the expense of the center. There was no reason to believe a new Great Game of empire could be any different, even Bush I’s postmodern variant, with the US firmly in control. Indeed, the impoverishment of all who are not part of the center/periphery elite has only accelerated.
Today, the US continues to work with the Saudis to destabilize the Iran-Iraq ‘Shia arc’ replaying the endgame against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, this time with clandestine operations being carried out by the US, Saudis and Israelis—all jealous of Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East.
US support for Islamists continues to haunt the region, notably Syria and Iraq, even as US power ebbs. Following the uprisings in the Arab world in early 2011, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev suggested that the revolts in the Arab world were sparked by outside forces scheming to undermine Russia. “I won’t call any names but a whole range of countries, even those we have friendly relations with, have nevertheless been involved in terrorism in the [Russian] Caucasus.”
In the ideological vacuum created by the collapse of communism, two Russian ideologies have arisen—Atlantism and Eurasianism, both with roots in the nineteenth century, the latter, a geopolitical reaction to the decadence of the West, articulated persuasively by Nikolai Trubetskoi and Lev Gumilev in the mid-1920s and today by Alexander Dugin. Russia and Iran are already playing key roles in establishing this new reality, building on the first step taken by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1988. The world’s problems will only be solved based on a new geopolitical reality with Russia and Iran at its heart, the kernel of truth in the Ayatollah’s historic gesture in 1988.
An Argentine court slapped a new sentence against jailed Indigenous leader Milagro Sala Thursday, just a day after she was handed down a three-year suspended prison sentence for being guilty of “aggravated damages” linked to a protest she led against the conservative government in her home province in Jujuy.
The Jujuy court issued Sala the maximum fine of 3,870 Argentina pesos — nearly half the monthly minimum wage of 8,060 pesos — and prohibited her from participating in any civic and political organizations for three years, the same term as her suspended prison sentence.
Sala was charged with a misdemeanor of “occupying public space, disorderly conduct and the obstruction of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.” The court also ordered the Tupac Amaru organization that Sala leads to shut down its location in Jujuy.
Sala, who has been dubbed the first political prisoner of President Mauricio Macri’s administration, was jailed last January after leading a 52-day sit-in against Jujuy governor and Macri ally Gerardo Morales.
She was initially detained on accusations of inciting mob violence with the occupation — a protest that was reportedly carried out in a peaceful manner — but was soon hit with a barrage of other charges of alleged corruption and illicit enrichment that kept her behind bars for months as investigations continued.
The new three year prohibition of Sala’s participation in social and political organizations extends until the end of Morales’ term as the governor of Jujuy.
After being jailed for nearly a year, on Wednesday a court handed her three years probation with a suspended prison sentence.
Sala is the leader and founder of Tupac Amaru, a 70,000 member-strong organization inspired by the ideals of South American Indigenous liberator Tupac Amaru, revolutionary leader Che Guevara, and former Argentine First Lady Eva Peron, that works with Indigenous and poor communities on a number of political issues.
She is also a lawmaker with the parliament of the sub-regional South American trade bloc Mercosur, known as Parlasur, though her detention has blocked her from being able to fulfill her parliamentary duties.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has slammed Sala’s arrest as arbitrary, calling for her immediate release. President Macri ignored the ruling.
Social movements have also rallied behind Milagro Sala, demanding her release as well as freedom for other political prisoners.
An Argentine federal appeals court will order the reopening of a probe that accuses former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of covering up Iran’s alleged role in the bombing of a Jewish center in 1994, state news agency Telam said on Thursday.
Two years earlier the prosecutor who initially made the accusation, Alberto Nisman, was found shot dead in the bathroom of his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman had said Fernandez worked behind the scenes to clear Iran and normalize relations to clinch a grains-for-oil deal with Tehran.
Nisman’s death rocked Argentina, with some trying to pin the blame on the government of Fernandez, whose late husband President Nestor Kirchner ordered the investigation into the AMIA bombing. However, courts have repeatedly dismissed the allegations of an official conspiracy.
Fernandez’s government said Nisman’s murder was perpetrated by rogue agents from the defunct Secretariat of Intelligence — a holdover from Argentina’s Dirty War era — which was dissolved immediately after his death, but a report by Reuters revealed that President Mauricio Macri’s government wants to revive the infamous agency, sparking fears of a return to authoritarian rule and open class warfare in the country.
Iran has repeatedly denied any link to the bombing, and an Argentine judge in February 2015 dismissed Nisman’s accusations as baseless. A review panel later agreed, finding insufficient evidence to formally investigate the president.
Still, a delegation of Argentine Jewish associations pushed Macri to reopen the case, citing new evidence.
Fernandez has faced numerous criminal charges since leaving office a year ago. Earlier this week, she was indicted on corruption charges arising from allegations she skimmed money intended for public works projects, which her supporters say are being launched used to prevent Fernandez from running for office in the future.
After eight months filming a documentary in Syria, a Bolivian actress and filmmaker is contradicting the mainstream media’s narrative as she argues that the Syrian government has not, in fact, shot at militants leaving Aleppo.
Carla Ortiz, who is filming a documentary on the lives of the people caught in the conflict, said she witnessed the evacuation efforts herself, including that of civilian families as well as of militants. In a video from the upcoming film, titled “Voice of Syria,” she documents the peaceful evacuation process from Eastern Aleppo, effectively debunking mainstream media narratives claiming the opposite.
“I was right there in six different front lines, and I talked to the people when they were getting in the buses…at the shelters, and actually the evacuation wasn’t burning, there was not mass shooting anywhere on the streets,” she exposed during a recent interview with Fox 11 news.
During her eight months there, she covered nearly 75 percent of the country, including in Palmyra as it was recovered by Syrian forces, she told the Fox 11 hosts.
While she makes it clear that she is “not a journalist,” she stressed the fact that she had nevertheless obtained clear video evidence of the evacuation process during the “10 decisive days when Aleppo, from one side was free and liberated from the other side.”
In a Facebook post published afterwards, Ortiz also pointed out that “what the Syrian army and civilians were doing was throwing food through the windows” of the buses that transported the evacuees out of the city, reported RT.
Echoing recent reports from journalists on the ground, she also contested the legitimacy of the “witness reports” supposedly emerging from then-rebel-occupied areas, often claiming to possibly be “their last” message. Noting the lack of Internet connectivity and infrastructure in eastern Aleppo, Ortiz questioned whether those videos were actually coming from the region as well as the motives of those posting them.
“Who are these fake accounts on Twitter that are saying that Aleppo is burning, that there is mass shooting,” she said during the Fox 11 interview. “I’m right here at the front line. I have no Twitter… there is no way, no connection, no electricity for more than 75 days.”
While she recognized that Aleppo had indeed been destroyed by the fighting between Syrian government forces (with Russia’s help) and opposition groups, she stressed that life under the so-called rebels was “really inhuman.” She furthermore noted that, from what she saw, most opposition militants were actually foreign mercenaries.
“When you talk to someone who just left east Aleppo, they tell you that most terrorists are not even Syrians,” Ortiz told RT in another interview.
She also said that despite Syrians’ political beliefs or affiliations, they were all just happy to be free from militant oppression, adding that they are “all praying for a real ceasefire,” and that, despite the mainstream narrative, there is a moderate opposition who simply wanted reforms, not for their government to resign.
On Friday, the Syrian government and opposition groups in the country reached a nationwide cease-fire agreement, which includes measures to monitor the deal and a statement on the readiness to start peace talks to settle the Syrian crisis.
Ortiz’ film will be out in the summer.
The psychodrama over the alleged but unsubstantiated Russian hacking of Democratic emails to influence the U.S. presidential election has yet to reach its climax. Already, though, it has earned nomination as the most surreal and passionate work of fiction of the Twenty-first Century.
In all the excitement, it is easy to lose perspective. Perhaps the biggest piece of the untold story is the United States government’s pioneering role in electronic surveillance and hacking. We seem to have forgotten that the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency eavesdropped on heads of state in Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Iraq, Venezuela – and, at last count, several score other capitals. Also, the United Nations Secretary General, the President of the European Union Commission, the European Central Bank and God knows whom else.
This was not coincidental. It was part of a calculated strategy approved by two successive Presidents to monitor all electronic communications around the globe. Author James Bamford and other knowledgeable experts have provided us with a detailed history of the program.
Yet, the U.S. — as presented to us by the mainstream media and most commentators reflecting Official Washington –is portrayed as the innocent among the main protagonists. The plot line represents America as the victim of unprovoked cyber aggression by the Russians and, in other circumstances, the Chinese – these attacks coming out of the blue, an aggressive blow in an assumed contest for global dominance between the powers.
Is any of this true? Frankly, we haven’t even seen the proof. But let’s assume that there is an element of truth to it (leaving apart the nonsense about a Kremlin plot to manipulate and then destroy American democracy).
On the Offensive
Let us recall that it was the United States that launched the first cyber attacks – some years ago by the NSA. This history is detailed in the Snowden documents whose authenticity never has been questioned. We succeeded in trespassing on the computer networks of several Chinese government agencies and individuals. We boasted about our success in intra-governmental communications. Those occurred at a time when related documents now in the public realm revealed the NSA’s ambition to tap into every electronic communications network in the world and laid out a program for achieving that goal.
Simultaneously, the United States was launching offensive assaults on Iran. The targets there included not just their nuclear research facilities but also critical centers for the oil and gas industry. These are acts of war. Yet there was never a mandate from any international body for doing so, nor a casus belli. We did it in collaboration with the Israelis because we made the unilateral judgment that aggression was in our national interest. Now we are outraged that others are doing what we have done. This is rank hypocrisy. It also is not very bright. For the initial actions made the casual assumptions that the U.S. would always have an advantage; therefore, the setting of norms and rules was unnecessary and undesirable. The same logic operated in regard to drones and targeted assassinations.
Conditions now have changed and now the U.S. is vulnerable to attack. The option of negotiating international rules of the road and perhaps formal regulations is slipping away. We will have to live with the chaotic mess that we have created.
Whatever thinking the NSA did on the subject (and perhaps other agencies) bears an uncanny resemblance to Air Force General Curtis LeMay’s attitude toward nuclear strategy: An emphasis on offense because it played to our advantage; defense only in the form of “massive retaliation” which – for Lemay – was the strategic cover for massive first strike; and a conviction that this was an unavoidable zero-sum game played for the highest stakes. In other words, cowboy strategy. And it is cowboy strategic thinking that has ruled in the NSA.
The most revealing article on this appeared in WIRED in July 2014 by James Bamford. Army General Keith Alexander, who was NSA director from 2005 to 2014, revealed the full scope of his ambition. Here are some of the article’s more noteworthy quotes: “For years, U.S. General Keith Alexander has been amassing a secret cyber army. Now it’s ready to attack. … Alexander’s forces are formidable – thousands of NSA spies, plus 14,000 cyber troops. … Endgame hunts for hidden security weaknesses that are ripe for exploitation.”
Plans included a “launch on warning” doctrine calling for a massive cyber-retaliation against anyone who launched a strategic attack on sensitive U.S. computers. Its code name was “MonsterMind.” But preparations for the Great Cyber War evidently left no time to keep track of smaller attacks (such as the alleged hacking of Democratic emails) or else its radar was badly defective.
[Also see THE INTERCEPT of Oct. 10, 2014, “Core Secrets: NSA Saboteurs in China and Germany” by Peter Maass and Laura Poitras.]
Michael Brenner is a professor of international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. firstname.lastname@example.org
GAZA – Hamas on Friday lauded the ceasefire accord struck between the warring parties in embattled Syria, calling for boosting political solutions to the conflict.
“We’ve been keeping tabs with deep satisfaction on agreements to cease fire in Syria,” said Hamas.
“Hamas welcomes the ceasefire and calls for a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” a statement by the group read.
“The Syrians can well avoid more bloodshed, uphold territorial integrity, and preserve their rights and sovereignty over the land. Such a bloody page should be turned once and for all,” Hamas added.
“The Palestinian people is looking forward to reaching a long-term agreement and to healing all the differences plaguing the nation’s body. The Palestinians are longing for an end to bloodshed,” Hamas further stated.
“The Palestinians hope that our ill nation would get well soon, restore its strength and unity, and stand up for the Palestinian cause,” the group concluded.
War-ravaged Syria was living Friday through the first day of a nationwide ceasefire as the Syrian government battalions and opposition outfits have agreed to terms for a truce brokered by Turkey and Russia in the country’s long-running hostilities.
Military operations by the regime army were reportedly halted at midnight, except against ISIS and other terror groups, state-run news agency SANA reported.
BETHLEHEM – The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) have seized about 13,295 dunums of Palestinian land during 2016, according to a report released on Thursday by the Palestinian Land Research Center (LRC).
Israel’s appropriation of Palestinian land increased by 43 percent during the current year compared to 2015, the report said.
During the reporting month, 9,700 fruitful trees, including 6,550 olive trees, were uprooted or sabotaged by the IOA and settlers.
The center also recorded 110 direct Israeli assaults on farmers and Bedouins and 195 attacks and violations on religious and historical sites, 100 of them occurred at the Aqsa Mosque.
The IOA also established 802 road barriers, most of them makeshift checkpoints, during the same year in different areas of the West Bank and Jerusalem.
LONDON – The Palestinian Return Center (PRC) slammed on Thursday a speech by the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, saying his comments pose a danger for Palestinians’ rights, particularly the right of return.
According to PRC, the call of Kerry to resettle refugees in countries other than their homes is unacceptable and is a flagrant violation of the international law.
On the basis of its committed position in defending the rights of Palestinian refugees and as an organization in special consultative status with the UN ECOSOC, PRC confirmed that breaching the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees is against international law, UN resolutions, and the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, which all grant the right of return.
PRC added that ignoring the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees will indeed make attempts to achieve peace fail.
It noted that any discussions or negotiations should be based on and comply with international law. The right of return is well enshrined in international law.
PRC further stated that the reference of Kerry to the Nakba and Palestinian refugees’ plight is a new recognition of their suffering, adding that the only way to end it is to allow them to return to their native homes and villages.
On Wednesday, Kerry delivered a lengthy speech as part of his so-called “comprehensive peace vision.”
When one is critical of the human-rights violations of the state of Israel, there follows a vehement charge of “antisemitism”. When one supports institutional measures to counter systemic racism, there follows a charge of “reverse racism”. And when a white person is critical of a black person’s apparent support for systemic racism, there again follows a charge of “racism”.
In all these examples, a charge of racism is levied in response to words used to criticize actual physical racism occurring on a spectrum from outright violations of personal safety to exclusion from status and resources.
The reason that such fallacious responses have sting is because there is a strong cultural taboo that racist language is as nefarious as violent physical racism itself. In present middle-class Western society, there is a pathological extreme intolerance against any expression that has cognitive similarity to racist expression.
The said taboo is not as present in the working-class because the economically stressed classes live a high degree of physical and status discrimination themselves. This discrimination is a higher priority to them than identity-tied system-ideology maintenance via personal investments in language policing.
The said taboo is poison because it precludes needed frank discussions and arguments about actual physical racism and hierarchical dominance. It also contributes to creating a class divide between those manipulated to adopt the identity politics of language purity and those who have less to gain from self-censorship and who “fucking need to speak”.
Thus, the taboo against racist and racist-sounding language is of great utility in enforcing an excessively totalitarian social hierarchy. Therefore, the said taboo is systemically promoted and enforced by major institutional instruments, including universities and the legal system.
In a healthy democratic society, free discussion between individuals and classes reigns and shapes a sustainable distribution of power and status. In a defective society, totalitarian encroachment is enabled by class divisions and by suppression of free expression. And there can be runaway encroachment when there are feedback pathologies such as when criticism of racism itself is reflexively tainted with the stigma of racism, or when social-media comments lead to terminations of employment, and so on. Excessive and widespread correctness policing is a recipe for disaster.
In that limited sense, the Trump and Brexit phenomena may well be expressions of natural societal repair mechanisms against runaway totalitarianism, rather than causal factors towards “fascism”. The said phenomena may be “indicators” of totalitarian encroachment by being indicators of responses against totalitarian encroachment (loss of democracy, globalization).
If so, the more the establishment bosses attempt to impose and leverage class-based containment against free expression and free political participation, the greater the danger of large future negative consequences for society as a whole.
Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is a researcher for the Ontario Civil Liberties Association. He has published more than 100 articles in leading scientific journals, on physics and environmental science. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism.