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US Senators Warn Trump Against Returning Seized Russian Diplomatic Compounds

Sputnik – 07.07.2017

WASHINGTON — Three US senators warned President Donald Trump against making any deal with his counterpart Russian President Vladimir Putin to return two seized Russian diplomatic compounds, a letter from the lawmakers showed.

“The return of these two facilities to Russia while the Kremlin refuses to address its influence campaign against the United States would embolden President Vladimir Putin and invite a dangerous escalation in the Kremlin’s destabilizing actions against democracies worldwide,” Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Marco Rubio and Johnny Iakson warned in their letter to Trump on Thursday.

The senators wrote their letter ahead of a scheduled face-to-face meeting between Putin and Trump on Friday on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg.

Senior Trump administration officials have said that the two leaders could discuss the return of the two diplomatic compounds in the US states of New York and Maryland.

But the three senators urged Trump to “remove the return of these facilities from any negotiation or consideration in your discussions with President Putin during your upcoming trip.”

Former President Barack Obama shut down the two compounds in December last year, amid allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

Russia denies meddling in the vote, insisting that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Fatal Courtroom Act Ruins Michael ‘hockey stick’ Mann

By John O’Sullivan | Principia Scientific International | July 4, 2017

Penn State climate scientist, Michael ‘hockey stick’ Mann commits contempt of court in the ‘climate science trial of the century.’ Prominent alarmist shockingly defies judge and refuses to surrender data for open court examination. Only possible outcome: Mann’s humiliation, defeat and likely criminal investigation in the U.S.

The defendant in the libel trial, the 79-year-old Canadian climatologist, Dr Tim Ball (above, right) is expected to instruct his British Columbia attorneys to trigger mandatory punitive court sanctions, including a ruling that Mann did act with criminal intent when using public funds to commit climate data fraud. Mann’s imminent defeat is set to send shock waves worldwide within the climate science community as the outcome will be both a legal and scientific vindication of U.S. President Donald Trump’s claims that climate scare stories are a “hoax.”

As can be seen from the graphs below; Mann’s cherry-picked version of science makes the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) disappear and shows a pronounced upward ‘tick’ in the late 20th century (the blade of his ‘hockey stick’). But below that, Ball’s graph, using more reliable and widely available public data, shows a much warmer MWP, with temperatures hotter than today, and showing current temperatures well within natural variation.

Michael Mann, who chose to file what many consider to be a cynical SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) libel suit in the British Columbia Supreme Court, Vancouver six long years ago, has astonished legal experts by refusing to comply with the court direction to hand over all his disputed graph’s data. Mann’s iconic hockey stick has been relied upon by the UN’s IPCC and western governments as crucial evidence for the science of ‘man-made global warming.’

As first reported in Principia Scientific International (February 1, 2017), the defendant in the case, Canadian climatologist Dr. Tim Ball, had won “concessions” against Mann, but at the time the details were kept confidential, pending Mann’s response.

The negative and unresponsive actions of Dr Mann and his lawyer, Roger McConchie, are expected to infuriate the judge and be the signal for the collapse of Mann’s multi-million dollar libel suit against Dr Ball. It will be music to the ears of so-called ‘climate deniers’ like President Donald Trump and his EPA Chief, Scott Pruitt.

As Dr Ball explains:

“Michael Mann moved for an adjournment of the trial scheduled for February 20, 2017. We had little choice because Canadian courts always grant adjournments before a trial in their belief that an out of court settlement is preferable. We agreed to an adjournment with conditions. The major one was that he [Mann] produce all documents including computer codes by February 20th, 2017. He failed to meet the deadline.”

Punishment for Civil Contempt

Mann’s now proven contempt of court means Ball is entitled to have the court serve upon Mann the fullest punishment. Contempt sanctions could reasonably include the judge ruling that Dr. Ball’s statement that Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn. State’ is a precise and true statement of fact. This is because under Canada’s unique ‘Truth Defense’, Mann is now proven to have willfully hidden his data, so the court may rule he hid it because it is fake. As such, the court must then dismiss Mann’s entire libel suit with costs awarded to Ball and his team.

The spectacular rise and fall of climate alarmism’s former golden boy is a courtroom battle with even more ramifications than the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. To much fanfare at the time, Mann had sued Ball for daring to publish the damning comment that Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn. State.” Dr Ball brilliantly backed up his exposure of the elaborate international money-making global warming scam in his astonishing book, The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science.

In his books, articles, radio and television appearances, Dr. Ball has been resolute in his generation-long war against those who corrupted the field of science to which he had selflessly dedicated his life. Now aged 79, Ball is on the cusp of utter vindication. Despite the stresses and strains on himself and his family, Tim has stood at the forefront of those scientists demanding more openness and transparency from government-funded researchers.

As Ball explains:

“We believe he [Mann] withheld on the basis of a US court ruling that it was all his intellectual property. This ruling was made despite the fact the US taxpayer paid for the research and the research results were used as the basis of literally earth-shattering policies on energy and environment. The problem for him is that the Canadian court holds that you cannot withhold documents that are central to your charge of defamation regardless of the US ruling.”

Likely Repercussions for Science & Climate Policy

A bitter and embarrassing defeat for the self-styled ‘Nobel Prize winner’ who acted as if he was the epitome of virtue, this outcome shames not only Michael Mann, but puts the climate science community in crisis. Many hundreds of peer-reviewed papers cite Mann’s work, which is now effectively junked. Despite having deep-pocketed backers willing and able to feed his ego as a publicity-seeking mouthpiece against skeptics, Mann’s credibility as a champion of environmentalism is in tatters.

But it gets worse for the litigious Penn State professor. Close behind Dr Ball is celebrated writer Mark Steyn. Steyn also defends himself against another one of Mann’s SLAPP suits – this time in Washington DC. Steyn boldly claims Mann “has perverted the norms of science on an industrial scale.” Esteemed American climate scientist, Dr Judith Curry, has submitted to the court an Amicus Curiae legal brief exposing Mann. The world can now see that his six-year legal gambit to silence his most effective critics and chill scientific debate has spectacularly backfired.

But at a time of much clamor about ‘fake news,’ it seems climate scare stories will have a new angle now that the United States has officially stepped back from the Paris Climate Treaty. President Trump was elected on a mandate to weed out climate fraud so his supporters will point to this legal outcome as vindication for a full purge. It makes a mockery of statements made by Mann last February when PSI’s Hans Schreuder and John O’Sullivan publicly backed their colleague, Dr Ball and endorsed the revelations in his book. Mann reacted by moaning:

“It is difficult to keep up with this dizzying ongoing assault on science.”

The perpetrator of the biggest criminal “assault on science” has now become clear: Dr Mann, utterly damned by his contempt of the court order to show his dodgy data.

There can be little doubt that upon the BC Supreme Court ruling that Mann did commit data fraud, over in Washington DC, the EPA’s Scott Pruitt will feel intense pressure from skeptics to initiate a full investigation into Mann, his university and all those conspiring to perpetuate a trillion-dollar carbon tax-raising sting on taxpayers.

With the scent of courtroom victory invigorating pensioner Ball, he reveals he is determined to go for a second such court win this coming Fall. Then he defends a similar libel lawsuit in Vancouver, filed against him by fellow Canadian climate scientist, Andrew Weaver.

On that case Tim reports:

“The second defamation lawsuit involves Andrew Weaver and is scheduled for court in October 2017. We are not sure what will happen as Weaver, who was a lead author for the computer model chapter of four IPCC Reports (1995, 2001, 2007, and 2013), became a politician. He ran for and was elected leader of the British Columbia Green Party and is a sitting member of the provincial legislature. We must continue to prepare for the trial, but it is the prevailing view in the court system that if a scientist becomes a politician their scientific objectivity is compromised – it is considered the bias of a ’noble cause’.”

As a career-long defender of the scientific method, embracing open and transparent verification of important government research, Ball makes this promise to his loyal supporters:

“Regardless of the outcomes I am planning a major campaign to expose to the world how they used the court system to silence me because I dared to speak out against their claims and actions. I am not particularly bright but I had two major threats, I was qualified, and I had an ability to explain in a way the public could understand. These latter abilities were honed in teaching a science credit for arts students for 25 years.”

Saving a final word for his friends and colleagues at Principia Scientific International (PSI) Dr Ball concluded:

“It goes without saying that I could not have done any of this without the support of people [like Gregg Thomspon] who gave money and John O’Sullivan who gave superb advice from a legal and life experience perspective.”

Dr Ball and his PSI colleagues are among those now calling for governments to set aside proper funding for ‘blue team’ scientists and experts skilled in critically examining claims made by so-called government ‘experts’ where they impact public policy. In the final outcome, these ‘devil’s advocates’ of science (or ‘skeptics’) are the best defense against waste and corruption.

To that end, Australian Astronomer and entrepreneur Gregg Thompson has been crucial in providing resources that helped establish PSI as a registered UK charity devoted to this public service. PSI is urging more charitable donations from ordinary citizens to help further the cause of creating more ‘blue team/red team’ initiatives devoted to monitoring government science and prepared to bravely expose negligence and intentional misconduct on the public dime.


Read Tim Ball’s The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

MSM, Still Living in Propaganda-ville

By Robert Parry | Consortium news | July 6, 2017

As much as the U.S. mainstream media wants people to believe that it is the Guardian of Truth, it is actually lost in a wilderness of propaganda and falsehoods, a dangerous land of delusion that is putting the future of humankind at risk as tensions escalate with nuclear-armed Russia.

This media problem has grown over recent decades as lucrative careerism has replaced responsible professionalism. Pack journalism has always been a threat to quality reporting but now it has evolved into a self-sustaining media lifestyle in which the old motto, “there’s safety in numbers,” is borne out by the fact that being horrendously wrong, such as on Iraq’s WMD, leads to almost no accountability because so many important colleagues were wrong as well.

Similarly, there has been no accountability after many mainstream journalists and commentators falsely stated as flat-fact that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” concurred that Russia did “meddle” in last November’s U.S. election.

For months, this claim has been the go-to put-down whenever anyone questions the groupthink of Russian venality perverting American democracy. Even the esteemed “Politifact” deemed the assertion “true.” But it was never true.

It was at best a needled distortion of a claim by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper when he issued a statement last Oct. 7 alleging Russian meddling. Because Clapper was the chief of the U.S. Intelligence Community, his opinion morphed into a claim that it represented the consensus of all 17 intelligence agencies, a dishonest twist that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton began touting.

However, for people who understand how the U.S. Intelligence Community works, the claim of a 17-agencies consensus has a specific meaning, some form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE) that seeks out judgments and dissents from the various agencies.

But there was no NIE regarding alleged Russian meddling and there apparently wasn’t even a formal assessment from a subset of the agencies at the time of Clapper’s statement. President Obama did not order a publishable assessment until December – after the election – and it was not completed until Jan. 6, when a report from Clapper’s office presented the opinions of analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency – three agencies (or four if you count the DNI’s office), not 17.

Lacking Hard Evidence

The report also contained no hard evidence of a Russian “hack” and amounted to a one-sided circumstantial case at best. However, by then, the U.S. mainstream media had embraced the “all-17-intelligence-agencies” refrain and anyone who disagreed, including President Trump, was treated as delusional. The argument went: “How can anyone question what all 17 intelligence agencies have confirmed as true?”

It wasn’t until May 8 when then-former DNI Clapper belatedly set the record straight in sworn congressional testimony in which he explained that there were only three “contributing agencies” from which analysts were “hand-picked.”

The reference to “hand-picked” analysts pricked the ears of some former U.S. intelligence analysts who had suffered through earlier periods of “politicized” intelligence when malleable analysts were chosen to deliver what their political bosses wanted to hear.

On May 23, also in congressional testimony, former CIA Director John Brennan confirmed Clapper’s description, saying only four of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies took part in the assessment.

Brennan said the Jan. 6 report “followed the general model of how you want to do something like this with some notable exceptions. It only involved the FBI, NSA and CIA as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It wasn’t a full inter-agency community assessment that was coordinated among the 17 agencies.”

After this testimony, some of the major news organizations, which had been waving around the “17-intelligence-agencies” meme, subtly changed their phrasing to either depict Russian “meddling” as an established fact no longer requiring attribution or referred to the “unanimous judgment” of the Intelligence Community without citing a specific number.

This “unanimous judgment” formulation was deceptive, too, because it suggested that all 17 agencies were in accord albeit without exactly saying that. For a regular reader of The New York Times or a frequent viewer of CNN, the distinction would almost assuredly not be detected.

For more than a month after the Clapper-Brennan testimonies, there was no formal correction.

A Belated Correction

Finally, on June 25, the Times’ hand was forced when White House correspondent Maggie Haberman reverted to the old formulation, mocking Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

When this falsehood was called to the Times’ attention, it had little choice but to append a correction to the article, noting that the intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”

The Associated Press ran a similar “clarification” applied to some of its fallacious reporting repeating the “17-intelligence-agencies” meme.

So, you might have thought that the mainstream media was finally adjusting its reporting to conform to reality. But that would mean that one of the pillars of the Russia-gate “scandal” had crumbled, the certainty that Russia and Putin did “meddle” in the election.

The story would have to go back to square one and the major news organizations would have to begin reporting on whether or not there ever was solid evidence to support what had become a “certainty” – and there appeared to be no stomach for such soul-searching. Since pretty much all the important media figures had made the same error, it would be much easier to simply move on as if nothing had changed.

That would mean that skepticism would still be unwelcome and curious leads would not be followed. For instance, there was a head-turning reference in an otherwise typical Washington Post take-out on June 25 accusing Russia of committing “the crime of the century.”

A reference, stuck deep inside the five-page opus, said, “Some of the most critical technical intelligence on Russia came from another country, officials said. Because of the source of the material, the NSA was reluctant to view it with high confidence.”

Though the Post did not identify the country, this reference suggests that more than one key element of the case for Russian culpability was based not on direct investigations by the U.S. intelligence agencies, but on the work of external organizations.

Earlier, the Democratic National Committee denied the FBI access to its supposedly hacked computers, forcing the investigators to rely on a DNC contractor called CrowdStrike, which has a checkered record of getting this sort of analytics right and whose chief technology officer, Dmitri Alperovitch, is an anti-Putin Russian émigré with ties to the anti-Russian think tank, Atlantic Council.

Relying on Outsiders

You might be wondering why something as important as this “crime of the century,” which has pushed the world closer to nuclear annihilation, is dependent on dubious entities outside the U.S. government with possible conflicts of interest.

If the U.S. government really took this issue seriously, which it should, why didn’t the FBI seize the DNC’s computers and insist that impartial government experts lead the investigation? And why – given the extraordinary expertise of the NSA in computer hacking – is “some of the most critical technical intelligence on Russia [coming] from another country,” one that doesn’t inspire the NSA’s confidence?

But such pesky questions are not likely to be asked or answered by a mainstream U.S. media that displays deep-seated bias toward both Putin and Trump.

Mostly, major news outlets continue to brush aside the clarifications and return to various formulations that continue to embrace the “17-intelligence-agencies” canard, albeit in slightly different forms, such as references to the collective Intelligence Community without the specific number. Anyone who questions this established conventional wisdom is still crazy and out of step.

For instance, James Holmes of Esquire was stunned on Thursday when Trump at a news conference in Poland reminded the traveling press corps about the inaccurate reporting regarding the 17 intelligence agencies and said he still wasn’t entirely sure about Russia’s guilt.

“In public, he’s still casting doubt on the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election nearly nine months after the fact,” Holmes sputtered before describing Trump’s comment as a “rant.”

So, if you thought that a chastened mainstream media might stop in the wake of the “17-intelligence-agencies” falsehood and rethink the whole Russia-gate business, you would have been sadly mistaken.

But the problem is not just the question of whether Russia hacked into Democratic emails and slipped them to WikiLeaks for publication (something that both Russia and WikiLeaks deny). Perhaps the larger danger is how the major U.S. news outlets have adopted a consistently propagandistic approach toward everything relating to Russia.

Hating Putin

This pattern traces back to the earliest days of Vladimir Putin’s presidency in 2000 when he began to rein in the U.S.-prescribed “shock therapy,” which had sold off Russia’s assets to well-connected insiders, making billions of dollars for the West-favored “oligarchs,” even as the process threw millions of average Russian into poverty.

But the U.S. mainstream media’s contempt for Putin reached new heights after he helped President Obama head off neoconservative (and liberal interventionist) demands for a full-scale U.S. military assault on Syria in August 2013 and helped bring Iran into a restrictive nuclear agreement when the neocons wanted to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran.

The neocons delivered their payback to Putin in early 2014 by supporting a violent coup in Ukraine, overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian regime. The U.S. operation was spearheaded by neocon National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman and neocon Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, with enthusiastic support from neocon Sen. John McCain.

Nuland was heard in an intercepted pre-coup phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should become the new leaders and pondering how to “glue” or “midwife this thing.”

Despite the clear evidence of U.S. interference in Ukrainian politics, the U.S. government and the mainstream media embraced the coup and accused Putin of “aggression” when ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, called the Donbas, resisted the coup regime.

When ethnic Russians and other citizens in Crimea voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to reject the coup regime and rejoin Russia – a move protected by some of the 20,000 Russian troops inside Crimea as part of a basing agreement – that became a Russian “invasion.” But it was the most peculiar “invasion,” since there were no images of tanks crashing across borders or amphibious landing craft on Crimean beaches, because no such “invasion” had occurred.

However, in virtually every instance, the U.S. mainstream media insisted on the most extreme anti-Russian propaganda line and accused people who questioned this Official Narrative of disseminating Russian “propaganda” – or being a “Moscow stooge” or acting as a “useful fool.” There was no tolerance for skepticism about whatever the State Department or the Washington think tanks were saying.

Trump Meets Putin

So, as Trump prepares for his first meeting with Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, the U.S. mainstream media has been in a frenzy, linking up its groupthinks about the Ukraine “invasion” with its groupthinks about Russian “hacking” the election.

In a July 3 editorial, The Washington Post declared, “Mr. Trump simply cannot fail to admonish Mr. Putin for Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. He must make clear the United States will not tolerate it, period. Naturally, this is a difficult issue for Mr. Trump, who reaped the benefit of Russia’s intervention and now faces a special counsel’s investigation, but nonetheless, in his first session with Mr. Putin, the president must not hesitate to be blunt. …

“On Ukraine, Mr. Trump must also display determination. Russia fomented an armed uprising and seized Crimea in violation of international norms, and it continues to instigate violence in the Donbas. Mr. Trump ought to make it unmistakably clear to Mr.Putin that the United States will not retreat from the sanctions imposed over Ukraine until the conditions of peace agreements are met.”

Along the same lines, even while suggesting the value of some collaboration with Russia toward ending the war in Syria, Post columnist David Ignatius wrote in a July 5 column, “Russian-American cooperation on Syria faces a huge obstacle right now. It would legitimize a Russian regime that invaded Ukraine and meddled in U.S. and European elections, in addition to its intervention in Syria.”

Note the smug certainty of Ignatius and the Post editors. There is no doubt that Russia “invaded” Ukraine; “seized” Crimea; “meddled” in U.S. and European elections. Yet all these groupthinks should be subjected to skepticism, not simply treated as undeniable truths.

But seeing only one side to a story is where the U.S. mainstream media is at this point in history. Yes, it is possible that Russia was responsible for the Democratic hacks and did funnel the material to WikiLeaks, but evidence has so far been lacking. And, instead of presenting both sides fairly, the major media acts as if only one side deserves any respect and dissenting views must be ridiculed and condemned.

In this perverted process, collectively approved versions of complex situations congeal into conventional wisdom, which simply cannot be significantly reconsidered regardless of future revelations.

As offensive as this rejection of true truth-seeking may be, it also represents an extraordinary danger when mixed with the existential risk of nuclear conflagration.

With the stakes this high, the demand for hard evidence – and the avoidance of soft-minded groupthink – should go without question. Journalists and commentators should hold themselves to professional precision, not slide into sloppy careerism, lost in “propaganda-ville.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

US rejects Russo-Chinese proposal to suspend drills in South Korea

RT | July 6, 2017

The US rejects a proposal by Russia and China to suspend joint drills with South Korea in exchange for North Korea freezing its nuclear weapons programs, the State Department said, adding that Washington does not see the activities as equivalent.

US drills with South Korea are not the same as North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Thursday.

“These are all things that have taken place since the 1950s. So that wouldn’t change,” Nauert said, describing the drills as lawful and longstanding.

“We do these kinds of exercises and have relationships like this all over the globe. If China and Russia decide to come out against that, that is not going to change our position,” she added.

Moscow and Beijing have called on Washington and Seoul to freeze large-scale military exercises in an attempt to calm tensions on the Korean peninsula after Pyongyang test-fired a missile it said could reach the US mainland.

The US diplomatic offensive to pressure and isolate North Korea is still in its early stages, according to the State Department spokeswoman.

“We continue to believe that China can do a whole lot more to try to bring additional pressure to North Korea,” Nauert said, adding that China has “unique leverage” with Pyongyang because of the “strong trade relationship” between two countries.

One of the measures the US has proposed to other countries is to drastically scale back the number of North Korean guest-workers, Nauert said.

She also referenced last week’s decision by the US Treasury Department to sanction a Chinese bank that did business with Pyongyang, although she declined to say whether more such sanctions were in the works.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt hikes electricity prices by more than 40% as demanded by IMF

Press TV – July 6, 2017

Egypt has decided to raise electricity prices by more than 40 percent as demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to receive a $12 billion bailout loan.

Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker said on Thursday the new charges would apply as of July, which are likely to further deepen the economic woes of most Egyptians.

He said households would now be paying between 18 and 42 percent more on their bills depending on the category and level of their consumption but some of the subsidies would remain in place.

Under the IMF-devised austerity plan, Cairo is obliged to cut subsidies as a condition to receive installments of the three-year loan.

“We were supposed to have been completely done with the (electricity) subsidy in the current and next fiscal years,” Shaker said.

“But considering the special situation related to the large increase in the exchange rate, we extended this period to an additional three years,” he added.

Since November, Egyptian authorities have floated the country’s currency, slashed fuel subsidies twice, and adopted a value added tax as part of the program, which has led to soaring consumer prices.

The value of the Egyptian pound has since plummeted. One US dollar which was worth 8.8 pounds at the official exchange rate in November sells for more than 17 pounds now. Annual inflation reached 30.9 percent in May.

Egypt’s economy has hugely suffered since long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power in 2011, and the country’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was toppled in 2013.

The current president and former head of the armed forces, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, came to power following a military coup.

The country has seen a rise in violence under Sisi and the once-booming tourism sector of Egypt has suffered greatly due to a hike in terrorism.

People also blame Sisi for wasting billions of dollars on mega-projects such as the controversial expansion of the Suez Canal.

The cash-strapped Sisi administration has tried to persuade the public that painful austerity measures would be to the benefit of the country.

However, frustration is high among Egypt’s 90 million population, especially in the wake of a controversial agreement to transfer the sovereignty of two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity | , | 2 Comments

US ‘Can’t Get Facts Straight’ in Threats to Sanction China, Russia Over N. Korea

Sputnik – 06.07.2017

US officials say China has betrayed Washington in efforts to contain North Korea, citing a nearly 40% growth in trade between the two Asian countries. Chinese and Russian observers say the US doesn’t have its facts straight, and that Washington must work with, rather than ignore, Russian and Chinese initiatives on ensuring peace in the peninsula.

US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has warned that Washington might use its “considerable military forces” against North Korea if necessary, and called on Russia and China to cut trade ties with the Asian country.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, a day after North Korea carried out its first test of its new intercontinental ballistic missile, the US ambassador accused Russia and China of failing to fully implement UN-mandated sanctions, and warned that the countries wouldn’t be able to maintain their trade arrangements with the US if the trade with Pyongyang didn’t stop.

Russia and China used the emergency meeting to present their own joint initiative aimed at reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and urged Washington and Seoul to immediately suspend and abolish the deployment of THAAD missile defense on South Korean soil. The two countries also stressed that the US’s apparent willingness to consider the use of military force to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs was “unacceptable.”

At the meeting, Haley proposed tightening the sanctions regime against Pyongyang, adding that the US would “go our own path” if the Security Council didn’t approve the proposal. Russian officials responded by saying that a tightening of sanctions would only “lead to a dead end” in attempts to arrange a diplomatic and political settlement to the crisis. Chinese UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi called on all parties to “exercise restraint, avoid provocative actions and belligerent rhetoric, demonstrate the will for unconditional dialogue and work actively together to defuse the tension.

In addition to threats of unilateral action, including more sanctions, US officials have also warned that Washington might sanction Chinese companies, including banks, which continue to do business with North Korea.

At Wednesday’s Security Council meeting, Haley accused China of failing to enforce sanctions, noting that the country accounted for 90% of North Korea’s total trade volume, and that trade has gone up. The ambassador stressed that the Trump administration would continue to work with China and other countries on the North Korean problem but would not repeat the “inadequate approaches of the past.”

Also Wednesday, President Donald Trump tweeted that trade between China and North Korea had grown “by almost 40%” in the first quarter of 2017. “So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!” he wrote.

Guo Yanjun, deputy director of Center for Asian Studies at the Chinese Diplomatic Academy, said that the US was deliberately distorting the facts on Chinese-North Korean trade statistics, and their relation to UN sanctions resolutions.

“Such so-called warnings are not based on objective data,” the expert told Sputnik.

“It is common knowledge that for the sake of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2321 on sanctions against North Korea, China approved and strictly enforces the list of items prohibited under the resolution from start to finish,” Guo added.

“I suppose that such warnings against Beijing could be based on the fact that Washington has paid attention only to the 37.4 overall increase in trade between China and the DPRK in the first quarter of this year. At the same time, Washington should have seen that during this same period, China’s imports of coal amounted to 267.8 million tons, a drop of 51.6% compare to the same period last year,” the expert noted.

China, Guo stressed, “strictly and unfailingly implements the trade embargo against Pyongyang, but it is necessary to take into account the economic situation in the country and the living conditions of North Korea’s population. China’s trade embargo does not affect bilateral trade which serves the spheres of vital activity of the population. Doing otherwise would lead North Korea to face a humanitarian crisis. This is a threat to China as well, and one that would be difficult to avoid.”

Accordingly, the analyst noted, “on the one hand, we strictly implement the resolutions of the UN Security Council; on the other, we see the warnings and accusations from the US to be unreasonable. In this regard, I would like to stress once again that we should not confuse facts with speculation.”

Commenting on the fact that the US and its allies have ignored the Chinese and Russian proposals – including regarding North Korea’s economic strangulation and the THAAD deployment, Russian military observer Vladimir Evseev told Sputnik that Washington was doing so because these ideas do not fit its own scenario on how to respond to the North Korean nuclear and missile threat.

It’s “perfectly clear,” the expert noted, that what the US was doing now was “only an imitation” of defense against North Korean missiles via the THAAD missile defense system. THAAD, he stressed, is ineffective, and cannot realistically defend against the group launch of North Korean missiles. Furthermore, he noted, Tuesday’s test brings Pyongyang closer to being able to strike Hawaii.

“In these conditions, the US might decide on carrying out a strike to disarm North Korea. Pyongyang’s response to such a decision would not be a nuclear strike against South Korea, but the deployment of special forces troops on South Korean territory. The strength of this well-trained force is at least 50,000 troops, and according to some sources 80,000. They will pass through the demilitarized zone; special tunnels have already been created for this purpose. Passing through the DMZ will not present a serious problem for them. After that, they will carry out sabotage activities in South Korean territory, destroying chemical and nuclear industries, as a result of which the possibility of life on the Korean peninsula will be put under question.”

This, Evseev warned, would also “create serious environmental consequences for Russia, Japan and all other nearby states, including China. Such a scenario, unfortunately, is becoming more and more possible. It is absolutely clear that the policy of the Trump administration is not only completely hopeless, but also reckless, because it is factually leading to a war being unleashed on the Korean peninsula.”

“And the fact that the US does not notice the efforts by Russia and China to deescalate the situation in the region factually pushes Moscow and Beijing to joint efforts to prevent the implementation of the US military scenario,” the analyst added.

Following this week’s events, Russia and China have called for an end to the belligerent rhetoric, and for practical steps to implement the join Russian-Chinese plan to address the North Korean missile and nuclear programs. At the same time, both countries have urged Pyongyang to strictly comply with the demands of UN Security Council resolutions.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Diverse groups push for ‘Anti-Semitism Envoy’ who monitors criticism of Israel


Former Antisemitism Envoy Hannah Rosenthal promoting a “Walk for Israel” event in Milwaukee in 2017 (video below). As envoy, Rosenthal adopted a new, Israel-centric definition for antisemitism, and then used it to train U.S. diplomats. Now groups from the ADL to the Southern Poverty Law Center are disturbed that Trump isn’t filling the position.

By Alison Weir | If Americans Knew | July 6, 2017

The Trump administration has failed to appoint an antisemitism monitor or staff the State Department’s antisemitism monitoring office, drawing fire from diverse groups that range from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Israel lobbying organizations to Think Progress and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, and the “antisemitism envoy” who heads it, haven’t just been keeping tabs on anti-Jewish bigotry around the world. In reality, they have been monitoring international pro-Palestinian activism and promoting a crackdown on such activism in various countries.

Congress created the antisemitism monitoring office and envoy in 2004. Since then, the office has adopted a definition of antisemitism that includes many forms of criticism of Israel and it has pushed for that definition to be used worldwide to crack down on criticism of Israel. (Read more about who else has adopted the definition and how it is being used to curtail criticism of Israel and pro-Palestinian activism.)

Allan C. Brownfeld of the American Council for Judaism is disturbed by this trend, commenting: “The redefinition of antisemitism to mean criticism of Israel is clearly an effort to end freedom of speech and discussion when it comes to Israel and its policies. It has nothing to do with real antisemitism, which this effort trivializes and which, fortunately, is in retreat.”*

In 2015 Brownfeld wrote “What they seek to silence are criticisms of Israeli policies and efforts to call attention to them through such things as campaigns for academic boycotts or BDS. Whether one agrees with such campaigns or not, they are legitimate criticisms of a foreign government and of U.S. aid to that government. Only by changing the meaning of words entirely can this be called ‘antisemitism.’”

The organization Palestine Legal has similarly objected to the new definition, pointing out that the redefinition of antisemitism allows “virtually any criticism of Israel to be labeled as antisemitic.” It states: “The effect of blurring antisemitism with criticism of Israel is to censor speech. It aims to silence those who wish to criticize Israel’s well-documented human rights violations by making it unacceptable and taboo to do so. It silences the everyday observer of Israel’s actions who may wish to comment and draw parallels with other experiences, or do anything at all to oppose it.”

Meanwhile, the antisemitism envoy position has proved a revolving door to Israel lobbying organizations and activities.

State Department Antisemitism Office Monitors Criticism of Israel

The monitoring office’s 2016 report on global antisemitism included monitoring of pro-Palestinian activism. Below are a few quotes from the report:

♦ “50 Palestinian students protested and boycotted a conference presentation by an Israeli professor who was a guest speaker at the Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU). Approximately 50 Palestinian students opened banners during the conference reading, ‘Free Palestine,’ ‘Terrorist Israel,’ and held photos of suffering Palestinian children.”

♦ “Following the September 28 death of former Israeli president Shimon Peres, the FPDC [Palestinian Federation of Chile] labeled him a ‘war criminal’ on its official Twitter account.”

♦ “activists of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, spilled red paint on the facade of the restaurant and posted signs reading: ‘Free Palestine,’ ‘Avillez collaborates with Zionist occupation,’ and ‘Entree: A dose of white phosphorus.’ The attack followed picketing opposite the restaurant by BDS activists…”

In addition, the report cited statements that connected Israeli actions to all Jewish people, reporting, for example, that some Kuwaiti columnists “often conflated Israeli government actions or views with those of Jews more broadly,” and “Swedish Jews were at times blamed for Israeli policies.” While it is incorrect and unfair to associate Israeli actions with all Jewish people, the report entirely omitted reference to the many Israeli leaders and pro-Israel organizations who promote this view, claiming that Israel represents all the world’s Jewish people.

There were additional questionable listings of alleged antisemitism related to Israel, for example: “the RT channel’s June 27 airing of Palestinian allegations [by Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas in an address to the European Parliament] that an Israeli rabbi approved the poisoning of Palestinian wells.” Reporting allegations made by national leaders is what news media do, particularly when there is a context supporting the allegations. There is a documented record of Israeli settlers and, longer ago, the early Israeli military contaminating Palestinian water supply, cisterns, and wells, and of some extremist Israeli rabbis approving – and even calling for – the killing of civilians of all ages.**

Antisemitism Office Promotes Crackdown on Palestine Activism

When Congress created the antisemitism monitoring office and envoy in 2004, the legislation included criticism of Israel among the “antisemitism” to monitor (although that inclusion was buried and not obvious in a quick read of the main legislation).

At that time, the State Department declared publicly that such an office was unnecessary and would be a “bureaucratic nuisance” that would actually hinder the Department’s ongoing work against antisemitism. A State Department press release opposing the new office described the many actions the department was already taking against antisemitism.

After the office was in place, the conflation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism grew incrementally, until it became part of the office’s official definition.

The first antisemitism envoy, Gregg Rickman, endorsed an Israel-centric definition originally proposed by an Israeli government minister and disseminated by Israel partisans in Europe. After his term of office, Rickman went to work for the pro-Israel lobbying organization AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee).

The second antisemitism envoy, Hannah Rosenthal, officially adopted the new Israel-centric definition in 2010, making it “the State Department definition.” She then pushed through a training program about antisemitism for U.S. diplomats that used what she called the new “breakthrough definition.”

After she left the envoy position, Rosenthal headed up the Jewish Federation of Milwaukee, where she worked on numerous activities supporting Israel, including promoting a Stand with Israel event (see her promotional video for the event here and below).

The next envoy, Ira Foreman, also worked for AIPAC, and was instrumental in spreading the new Israel-centric definition to other nations. Indeed, Forman declared that “the United States pushed for a global definition of antisemitism” and that this “changed the global discourse on the issue” during an Anti-Defamation League press conference.

Pressure to Staff Antisemitism Monitoring Office

The administration has indicated it may not fill these positions as part of budget cutting; out of 13 Special Envoy positions in the State Department, 8 are currently vacant (there is no Special Envoy to monitor and combat other forms of racism, for example against African Americans)***. Trump’s failure to fill the antisemitism positions has provoked an escalating bipartisan outcry by Congressional representatives and advocacy groups, amplified by certain media coverage and commentary.

Among those pushing for Trump to fill the office are the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, various pro-Israel groups, diverse Congressional representatives supportive of Israel, and, more mildly, the liberal organizations Think Progress and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

♦ The Anti-Defamation League has long used an Israel-centric definition of antisemitism and is known for hardcore Israel advocacy that leans heavily towards blind promotion of the most extremist right-wing elements of Israel’s government. It has created a petition demanding that Trump fill the envoy position. Former ADL director Abe Foxman said: “The special Ambassador to combat antisemitism at the State Department is one of those things that ‘make America great.’”

♦ The American Jewish Committee says it engages in “pro-Israel advocacy at the highest levels.” It has also called for Trump to name an envoy and has created its own petition.

Think Progress, a progressive organization close to the Democratic Party, featured an article critical of the failure to fill the post, announcing: “Attacks targeting Jews are at a record high at home, but the State Department doesn’t think special monitoring abroad is necessary.”

♦ The Southern Poverty Law Center then featured the Think Progress article about the State Department “abandoning the office” in its “Hate Watch Headlines.” The SPLC is often revered for its important work to oppose bigotry and hate, but it has praised Israel and been criticized for equating anti-zionism with antisemitism. Furthermore, its over $300 million operation has sometimes been brought into question as a cash cow that benefits from finding “hate” where it might not actually exist.

The various advocates, as well as the Think Progress article, have cited an Anti-Defamation League report that antisemitism is on the rise, and fast. On the face of it, this certainly should be disturbing to anyone who supports equality and human rights. However, a number of groups have questioned the ADL report, and an ADL official admits that it is “not a scientific study.” The ADL report does not include a spreadsheet of the incidents it has included for independent researchers to examine, and it is unknown how many of the incidents may have been actually pro-Palestinian activism, but we do know that the “rise” included 2,000 hoax threats made by a young Jewish Israeli reportedly suffering from mental problems.

♦ Members of the House of Representatives’ Bipartisan Task Force Against Anti-Semitism initiated a letter in March calling on Trump to fill the position, another bipartisan letter was sent in June, and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin implored Trump to fill the “critical” position. Legislation was introduced into both the Senate and the House that would elevate the envoy position to ambassadorial level and would require even more detailed reporting than it is already doing.

♦ Most recently, Katrina Lantos Swett, whose father Congressman Tom Lantos sponsored the legislation that created the position, sent a letter to Tillerson outraged that there hasn’t been “great eagerness to move swiftly to fill this post.” The Daily Caller reports her view that the special envoy is the “tip of the sword’ to focus on and combat antisemitism on a global scale.”

On June 26 the ADL organized a conference call with the media in which former envoys Hannah Rosenthal and Ira Forman called on Trump to fill the position, saying that “the envoy’s working definition of antisemitism helped U.S. personnel in foreign countries determine what is and is not antisemitism” — in other words, clarifying to them that they must consider various forms of criticism of Israel as antisemitism.

Rosenthal told NBC News: “This is another example of America losing its leadership role in the world.”

In arguing for the office, ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt pointed out: “These dedicated diplomats drove an exponential growth in U.S. reporting on antisemitism and mobilized a full arsenal of U.S. diplomatic tools and training.”

Prognosis

The next tactic may be for Congress to vote to fund the office. Since Israel lobby bills usually easily pass, often with overwhelmingly positive votes (most recently, 98-2), this will quite likely go through. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism already has a petition telling Congress to “Fully Fund State Department Office for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism.”

Both Forman and Rosenthal say they expect Congress to fund the envoy’s office in the coming budget, and expect this will succeed in pushing Trump to appoint someone to the post.

Unfortunately, given Trump’s failure to failure to reign in bigotry and antisemitism among some of his supporters, it may be unlikely that the new envoy will turn a focused attention to real cases of anti-Jewish bigotry. In fact, given Middle East advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s support for rightwing Israeli settlers, as well as the Islamophobia embraced by elements of the Trump circle, the Trump administration could well move the office even more in the direction of suppressing support for Palestinian rights and criticism of Israel.

Meanwhile, on July 3rd alone, Israeli authorities forced a Palestinian family to demolish its own home, Israeli forces rounded up 18 Palestinians in predawn raids, prisoners in Israel’s notorious Ktziot prison faced life-threatening conditions (40 percent of Palestinian males have cycled through Israeli prisons), and the Israeli military invaded and bulldozed land in Gaza. A typical day in Palestine. But don’t let the special envoy hear you say that.


Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel. Additional citations and information on this topic are in her recent report and timeline: “International campaign is criminalizing criticism of Israel as ‘antisemitism”.

* Allan C. Brownfeld, Publications Editor of the American Council for Judaism, provided the comment below for inclusion in discussing the expanded definition of antisemitism:

The meaning of the term “anti/Semitism” has undergone dramatic change in recent years.  It used to refer to hostility to Jews and Judaism.  It has been redefined by some to mean criticism of Israel. In recent days, establishment Jewish organizations from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to the Simon Wiesenthal Center have called the BDS movement “anti-Semitic”—despite the fact that it is supported by groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and such international groups as Jews for Palestinian Right of Return and the Israeli activist organization Boycott from Within.

The effort to redefine anti-Semitism as criticism of Israel has been going on for more than  four decades.  In 1974, Benjamin Epstein, the national director of the ADL co-authored “The New Anti-Semitism,” a book whose argument was repeated in 1982 by his successor at ADL, Nathan Perlmutter, in a book entitled “The Real Anti-Semitism In America.”  After World War II, Epstein argued, guilt over the Holocaust kept anti-Semitism at bay, but as memories of the Holocaust faded, anti-Semitism had returned—this time in the form of hostility to Israel.  The reason:  Israel represented Jewish power.  Jews  are tolerable, acceptable in their particularity, only as victims,” wrote Epstein and  his ADL colleague Arnold Forster, “and when their situation changed so that they are either no longer victims, or appear not to be,the non-Jewish world finds this so hard to take that the effort is begun to render them victims anew.”

Jewish critics of Israel are as likely to be denounced as “anti-Semites” as non-Jews. For example, columnist Caroline Glick, writing in the International Jerusalem Post (Dec. 23-39, 2011) found New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman guilty of employing “traditional anti-Semitic slurs”  and “of channeling long-standing anti-Semitic charges.”  In a February 2012 Commentary article, Ben Cohen writes that, “The list of flagrant Jew-baiters  is growing;  those with Jewish names provide an additional frisson.”  Among those he names are M.J. Rosenberg, a former employee of AIPAC. Mondoweiss editor Philip Weiss, New Yorker correspondent Seymour Hersh, and Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein.

The redefinition of anti-Semitism to mean criticism of Israel is clearly an effort to end freedom of speech and discussion when it comes to Israel and its policies. It has nothing to do with real anti-Semitism, which this effort  trivializes and which, fortunately, is in retreat.

** Abbas later apologized for and retracted his allegation that the rabbi had approved contaminating wells, which numerous media had compared to Medieval “blood libels” of Jews. The Western media and the antisemitism report did not mention the extensive evidence that Israeli settlers have contaminated wells and that the state of Israel did the same during the conquest of Palestine. The suggestion that evidence of human rights violations cannot be discussed if similar accusations have been unfairly made against other people at another time in history enables current violations to continue.

*** State Department Special Envoys (as of June 30, 2017)

Climate Change (Special Envoy): Vacant

Closure of the Guantanamo Detention Facility (Special Envoy): Vacant

Energy Resources (Special Envoy and Coordinator): Mary Warlick (Acting)

Holocaust Issues (Special Envoy): Thomas K. Yazdgerdi

Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations (Special Envoy): Frank Lowenstein

Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism (Special Envoy): Vacant

North Korean Human Rights Issues (Special Envoy): Vacant

Organization of Islamic Cooperation (Special Envoy): Vacant

Six-Party Talks (Special Envoy): Vacant

Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center: Vacant

Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan: Vacant

Special Envoy for Syria: Michael Ratney

Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons: Randy Berry

Special Ambassadors (A similar but higher position)

Global Criminal Justice (Ambassador): Todd F. Buchwald

Global Women’s Issues (Ambassador-at-Large): Vacant

Office of International Religious Freedom (Ambassador-at-Large): Vacant

Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking In Persons (Ambassador-at-Large): Susan Coppedge 


Below is a promotional video that the second anti-Semitism envoy, Hannah Rosenthal, made to promote a “Walk for Israel” event in Millwaukee in May, 2017 . The event was to celebrate the creation of Israel, “the world’s first Jewish state in 2,000 years.”

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Apartheid illustrated: Israeli soldier shoots another soldier in Hebron

International Solidarity Movement | July 6, 2017

Hebron, occupied Palestine – On Tuesday, 4th July 2017, Israeli forces were conducting a ‘military training’ in a civilian Palestinian neighborhood near Gilbert checkpoint in Tel Rumeida in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron). The result of this ‘military training’ was a fatal shot by one Israeli soldier to the other. The injured commander was immediately evacuated to hospital by an Israeli ambulance, and was later confirmed dead. The Israeli forces immediately closed the whole area to Palestinians by closing all the checkpoints, collectively punishing the civilian Palestinian population. The army, after the incident, announced that these ‘military trainings’ will be suspended in al-Khalil.

The whole incident, though, needs to be contextualized: an occupying army conducted a ‘military training’ near a checkpoint installed for the control and humiliation of the occupied population, in a civilian residential neighborhood. Immediate medical assistance to the injured occupying soldier, with an ambulance that, without any problems, was granted immediate access to the injured.

Military trainings, under international humanitarian law, are prohibited in civilian areas. The Israeli occupying army in al-Khalil, and all over the occupied territories, though, conducts trainings in civilian areas. This serves two functions: for one, it is more ‘real’, a training in the area where the perceived ‘enemy population’ is living, and second, the intimidation of the population. Israeli forces in al-Khalil are sometimes seen ‘practicing’ the ‘neutralization’, as it is called in Israeli rhetoric, of Palestinians at checkpoints. In those cases, a Palestinian that allegedly carries a knife is seen as a threat to the life of the heavily armed and armored occupation forces – and thus has to be shot and, as documented in so many cases, left to bleed to death on the ground without any medical assistance. The idea is always to shoot to kill.

Whereas an Israeli soldier or settler from the illegal settlements would immediately receive medical assistance, as Israeli ambulances are free to pass, Palestinian ambulances, and actually any Palestinian vehicles (often including donkeys and bicycles) are not allowed to drive on one of the (primary artery) roads in al-Khalil – which conveniently connects the settlements in down-town al-Khalil with the Kiryat Arba settlement on the outskirts of the city. Palestinian ambulances, as they are not allowed on this street, instead, are often detained by Israeli forces at the checkpoints, denied to pass and thus denied access to give first aid.

Immediately after the incident, the Israeli forces closed all the checkpoints in the area, effectively putting the area under curfew – for Palestinian residents. Any Palestinian civilian inside the area, thus, was prevented from leaving, and anyone outside trying to reach their homes, was prevented from coming back home. This is clearly collective punishment of the Palestinian civilians, who are not involved in the incident at all – other than living in an area that the Israeli forces are trying hard to rid of any Palestinian presence. Whereas Palestinian movement was completely restricted and Palestinians trying to film the incident and it’s aftermath were stopped and harassed by soldiers. Settlers, however, from the illegal settlements, were allowed to move around freely. In a separate incident, a settler beat up a Palestinian young man, causing his face to be unrecognizable as it was covered in blood. The settler though, can be sure that he’ll enjoy full impunity under the protection of the Israeli forces.

These kinds of military trainings in the aftermath were declared ‘suspended’ in the city of al-Khalil. However, only because a soldier was killed, not because of their illegal nature in civilian areas or a possible threat to the occupied population.

This incident illustrates the apartheid system installed by the Israeli occupying forces in al-Khalil, and all over the occupied Palestinian territories. An apartheid-strategy that aims to displace the Palestinian population from their homeland in favor of illegal settlements.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The National Geographic ‘Hell on Earth’ Syria Hoax

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | July 6, 2017

On April 5, 2017, National Geographic released a preview of its film, Hell on Earth: The Fall Of Syria And The Rise of ISIS, by filmmaker Sebastian Junger and producing partner Nick Quested:

The film itself debuted on April 26, 2017, at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and on the National Geographic channel on June 11. Junger and Quested persuaded NG to release the preview early, following the suspected chemical attacks in Syria on April 4.

There are, unfortunately, several problems with the footage in both the preview and the film, as well as with the claims made by the filmmakers and National Geographic. The most glaring of these is that the opening scene of the trailer is a total fraud.

The scene shows a missile destroying a residential building with a thunderous explosion. Imposed over the footage are the words, ALEPPO, SYRIA. The clear implication is that the missile is part of a Russian or Syrian Air Force attack in the battle for Aleppo.

But how would the videographer have known where to position the camera in preparation for such an attack? Surprisingly, there is a logical answer to this question, because there are, in fact, circumstances where victims are told in advance the location and time of a missile strike.

Such a location is Gaza, and the time is when Israeli soldiers call the inhabitants of a house by phone and tell them to get out in 15 minutes or be blown up. That is enough time for a neighbor to film the event, and, in fact, it has been done on multiple occasions in Gaza, such as here, here, here, here, here and here.

But in Aleppo, Syria? Who would call in advance? In this case, the explanation is rather different; i.e., that the footage is not from Aleppo at all, but, in fact, from Gaza and only labeled as Aleppo. The original source footage comes from 2014, and is from the Israeli operation that took more than 2,200 Palestinian lives that summer, long before the Russians started providing air support for the Syrian army:

The use of this footage in the National Geographic preview, falsely labeling the location as Aleppo and implicating the Syrian or Russian Air Force in the destruction, is therefore a shameless and utter fraud.

The second discrepancy is that, according to the filmmakers, the footage in the preview is from the feature film. That may have been true on April 5, when the public had not yet seen the full film, but at some point, someone must have brought the fraudulent footage to the attention of National Geographic, so that they could replace it with a new opening footage. When did this happen? Was it before the debut on April 26, or later? It would be good to know.

But the reaction of the filmmakers is disappointing in the extreme. When faced with proof positive that their film contained a blatant fraud, did no one question the extent to which the entire film might be filled with fraud? Anyone who would so obviously falsify would hardly limit it to a single segment. The footage was clearly chosen for its effect, not its accuracy, and its quiet removal is more a cover-up than a correction.

To what extent, for example, are the rescue portions of the preview and film, featuring the White Helmets, also fraud? Respected US Marine intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter is convinced that the White Helmets are incompetent in rescue operations, and that their videos are fabrications. Recognized documentary filmmaker John Pilger has called them a “complete propaganda construct”. On occasion, the White Helmets have even been forced to admit the same.

To what extent is the featured family merely acting out the events portrayed and not actually living them? To what extent is it all contrived? These are questions that deserve investigation. More important, how true is the reality that the film tries to portray, whether simulated or not (although if simulated, the filmmakers should say so for the sake of their own integrity, rather than pretending it is genuine)?

The fact is that although half the Syrian population has been displaced by war, the majority have never left Syria. When displaced, they have almost invariably left the areas taken over by “rebels” in order to seek refuge in government controlled areas. Why? Is it because the Syrian government; i.e., the “despised” Bashar al-Assad – despite the disastrous economy and in cooperation with Syrian civil organizations – is somehow housing, feeding, clothing, educating and providing health care to these Syrian citizens? In fact, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees reports that, with the Syrian government reasserting its authority in recovered areas of the country, more than 440,000 displaced persons have returned to their homes.

The film also fails to mention that thousands of “rebel” fighters have laid down their arms, accepted Syrian government amnesty and been allowed to return to their homes. It further omits that the US and its allies could have stopped ISIS by merely denying them funding and arms. Russia was the one that largely put an end to the trafficking of stolen Syrian oil, by bombing the massive convoys of trucks across the Turkish border. No mention of that in the film. The US has avoided serious actions against ISIS and al-Qaeda, and treated them as useful hit men in order to destroy the Syrian military. This made us enablers of the terrorists rather than their eliminators.

As for the filmmakers, the New Yorker reports that “[they] couldn’t get into Syria, so … [the film] was shot by Middle Eastern news outfits, and by activists, witnesses, and citizen journalists.” This is reflected in the credits, which include the Aleppo Media Center, Daryaa [sic] Media Center, Halab News Network and Sham News. These are all affiliates of the White Helmets, which in turn is the front organization for the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, variously called Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabha Fateh al-Sham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Their lavish funding comes from France, the UK, the US, Qatar and other countries. There is no evidence that any of the footage has been authenticated by the filmmakers themselves, and every reason to think that it has not.

It’s not that the film is totally inaccurate or that it does not do a service by revealing the suffering of refugees. It does. But it also perpetuates the worst western myths about the war, which are feeding a continuation of the suffering and the conflict. The US and its allies are the prime cause of the conflict, not the solution. US policy makers see the destruction of Syria as a positive thing, much as they do Iraq and Libya, and US efforts are directed toward destruction and control, not toward resolution and reconciliation.

If the filmmakers were honest, they would take the evidence of fraud as a sign that they need to review all the footage in the film that they have not authenticated and over which they have not exercised control.  Otherwise, they run the risk of being labeled as propagandists and permanently damaging or ruining their credibility as documentary filmmakers.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Film Review, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

Should UK attack Syria? What Parliament might say

By Tim Hayward | July 6, 2017

Has President Assad used chemical weapons in Syria? In 2013, UK parliamentarians were not convinced. Asked to vote on military action, our representatives decided against.

Today, the same question arises again, but this time they may not get a chance to debate it.[1] We face the profoundly worrying possibility that this government could commit us to warfare without seeking or getting democratic approval.

So I want to highlight some points made by our representatives in 2013. [2] If they were true then, they could be as true or even truer now.

On 29th August 2013, UK parliament was recalled early from summer recess to vote on authorising military intervention in Syria. It was alleged that Syria had crossed President Obama’s ‘red line’ by using chemical weapons. Prime Minister David Cameron came to the House of Commons to seek approval for military action.[3]

Cameron told parliament of a report from the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), and he presented a two page summary of it. The first question put to him, by Caroline Lucas, was why the full report was not made available.[4] He replied that the case for action ‘is not based on a specific piece or pieces of intelligence.’ He added, ‘intelligence is part of this picture, but let us not pretend that there is one smoking piece of intelligence that can solve the whole problem. This is a judgment issue…’

In the JIC Chair’s judgement it was ‘highly likely that the Syrian regime was responsible.’

Cameron stated that he had ‘consulted the Attorney-General and he has confirmed that the use of chemical weapons in Syria constitutes both a war crime and a crime against humanity.’ The standard of proof in criminal investigations involves eliminating reasonable doubt, and can be tested with respect to such matters as motive, means and opportunity. MPs were minded to test it because they thought they were being expected to take a lot on trust. What does ‘highly likely’ mean, what is it based on, how is that judged, and is reasonable doubt eliminated?

Motive was a matter that bothered MPs. Peter Bone saw ‘no logic to this chemical attack and that is what is worrying some people.’ Julian Lewis noted ‘the JIC is baffled to find a motive for Assad having done this’, adding, ‘as well it might be’, given that it would have been ‘the height of irrationality for him to do the one thing that might get the west intervening against him.’ Like Mr Godsiff, too, David Davis pointed out that ‘even the JIC says that this is an irrational and incomprehensible act’. George Galloway asked what reason Assad could have to ‘launch a chemical weapons attack in Damascus on the very day on which a United Nations chemical weapons inspection team arrives there’.

Neither Cameron nor the JIC could answer on motive. By contrast, a clear motive could be attributed to Assad’s enemies, as David Davis pointed out: ‘it could have been done by the Syrian rebels with the direct aim of dragging the west into the war.’ He noted that ‘JIC discounted that last possibility’, but he worried it was not clear why.

It was on the grounds of means, not motive, that JIC judged it could rule out rebel responsibility. The JIC’s chair stated that there is ‘no credible intelligence or other evidence’ that the opposition possessed chemical weapons, so it is ‘not possible for the opposition to have carried out a CW attack on this scale’. Yet there were MPs who believed this claim to be false. David Davis noted that ‘the UN representative for human rights for Syria thought there was concrete evidence of rebels having sarin gas. There were reports that the Turkish authorities arrested 12 al-Nusra fighters with 2 kg of sarin gas, and other reports that Hezbollah fighters are in Beirut hospitals suffering from the effects of sarin gas.’ George Galloway was forthright in stating that ‘the Syrian rebels definitely had sarin gas’ and he highlighted the relative ease with which improvised forms of sarin can be produced without sophisticated lab equipment.[5]

On this point I think it is important to note that now, in 2017 a similar claim is asserted by UK government: there is ‘no evidence to suggest that any party to the conflict in Syria, other than the Syrian Government, has access to a complex nerve agent such as sarin.’[6] I am sure there would be MPs with concerns that this could be misleading. Certainly, the reference to complexity suggests they are thinking of how military grade Sarin could perhaps only be produced by the Government; yet the actual evidence suggests the chemicals involved are other grades of sarin that can be made by rebels. Given that the OPCW report is vague on precisely this point – whether it is sarin a ‘sarin-like substance’ that has been found where and by whom – the MPs could rightly pose some challenging questions. Those who had followed some of the debate by independent researchers would know to ask that information be released from the UK’s own labs on both the 2013 and the 2017 samples. The UK scientists would presumably know the chemical profiles of those samples, as would those in USA and Russia too.[7]

The fact is, that if rebels were understood to have Sarin in 2013, they would still have it now. Unless, of course, they had used it all, in which case a major premise of the UK’s government’s stance would be directly kicked away. Furthermore, it is reasonable to assume that with supply lines continuing to operate since 2013 they could have a great deal more by now. In light of all this, would MPs, if allowed to debate, agree that rebel capability is ruled out?

But even if the opposition could have had the means, did they really have the opportunity? MPs would be aware that the incidents of both 2013 and 2017 occurred in areas over which the opposition were in complete control.  Evidence could be managed and produced by them to a great extent without external interference or observation.[8] This means that if they had sought to construct a ‘false flag’ operation, they could have had the opportunity. Exactly how they would have done it involves considering some very horrific possibilities.[9] But if a possible account sounds ‘too horrific to believe’ MPs might still be wary of underestimating the horrors that some of those involved might be capable of.

So where might our elected representatives think evidence concerning motive, means and opportunity points today? Would they be inclined to accept the view of the government that it is so likely Assad was responsible for the chemical attacks that we’d be justified in engaging in acts of war against Syria?

I don’t claim to know how the debate would go today, but we can reflect on how it went in 2013. Andrew Mitchell offered his ‘strong advice to the Government’, in view of doubts about whether the use of chemical weapons is unequivocally the work of Assad, ‘to publish in full the evidence’. Julian Lewis argued that even if not all members could see the full report, at least The Intelligence and Security Committee should be allowed to, given that it had sufficient security clearance. Ed Milliband found that evidence against Assad was not compelling, and John McDonnell agreed that ‘to say that “highly likely” and “some evidence” are not good enough’. Richard Ottaway complained that all they’d been given was ‘bare bones’ with ‘no depth’. He endorsed the proposal that ‘the Intelligence and Security Committee could ​look at the JIC analysis, report to the House on the veracity of the intelligence and confirm that it agrees with the opinion in the JIC intelligence letter before us.’ Alasdair McDonnell expressed concern about acting ‘on the basis of uncertain or confused intelligence, particularly in view of possible consequences of action for the Syrian people, something Galloway urged the house to think about: ‘Every religious minority in Syria—there are 23 of them—is petrified at the thought of a victory for the Syrian rebels, whom the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have been doing their utmost to supply with weapons and money over ​the last two years.’

So much hinges on the reliability of intelligence, and yet so little, in truth, is really known about it by those who uphold democracy in our country. Surely, if we have learned anything at all from the recent history of UK intervention in the Middle East, it is that our leaders’ summary judgements about indirect reports of evidence can let us down, and very badly.

 

syria_vote_uk_parliament_1718483346

Notes

[1] See the worrying discussion of the use of the ‘Enabling Act’ to authorize military action without express approval http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40496773

[2] Source of Hansard references: http://www.parliament.uk Syria and the Use of Chemical Weapons 29 August 2013 Volume 566 [Relevant document: Oral evidence taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee on 16 July 2013, on Developments in UK Foreign Policy, HC 268-i.]

[3] In the event, of course, Obama himself drew back from the direct confrontation with Syria. Did he know the evidence did not in fact support a justification for it, and congress could expose this fact?

[4] The Greens’ Caroline Lucas: asks ‘why he has refused to publish the Attorney-General’s full advice? ​Why has he instead published just a one-and-a-half-side summary of it, especially when so many legal experts are saying that without explicit UN Security Council reinforcement, military action simply would not be legal under international law?’ And the SNP’s Angus Robertson says ‘we have been recalled to Parliament because of potential imminent military action by UK and other forces. We have been called back four days before Parliament was to reconvene anyway, so it is not unreasonable to conclude that there was a high probability that intervention would take place before Monday. The UK Government expected that we should vote for a blank cheque that would have allowed UK military action before UN weapons inspectors concluded their investigations and before their detailed evidence was provided to the United Nations—or, indeed, Members of this House. Following our having been misled on the reasons for war in Iraq, the least the UK Government could have done was to provide detailed evidence. Frankly, they have not, as was underlined in my intervention on the Prime Minister earlier. … Surely we must have definitive evidence that the Syrian regime or opposition was responsible for the use of these weapons—with the greatest respect, that means not just two pages of A4 paper.’

[5] Galloway: ‘The Syrian rebels have plenty of access to sarin. It is not rocket science. A group of Shinto obscurantists in Japan living on Mount Fuji poisoned the Tokyo underground with sarin gas less than 20 years ago. One does not have to be Einstein to have one’s hands on sarin gas or the means to distribute it.’

[6] Statement by H.E. Ambassador Sir Geoffrey Adams, UK Permanent Representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. 5th July 2017 https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/55th-special-session-of-opcw-executive-council

[7] According to a technically well-informed blogger, ‘There is ample evidence that (1) the Nusra Front was producing sarin, and (2) that the sarin used in Syria in 2013 was kitchen sarin that did not match the synthetic pathway used for Syrian military stocks. Mokhtar Lamani, the UN Special Representative in Damascus, had reported to the UNSG in March 2013 that Nusra was bringing nerve agents into Syria through the border at Azaz. The Russian lab that analysed environmental samples from the Khan-al-Assal attack in March 2013 reported that the sarin had been produced under “cottage industry” conditions. It’s likely that Porton Down had obtained similar results from their own analysis of a sarin sample from Uteybah, and were able to compare the Russian findings with their own (very helpful when trying to interpret mass spectrometry results on a complex mixture). This would have helped to establish the credibility of the Russian in this matter.

The phone transcripts of the Nusra team arrested in Turkey in May 2013 showed that they were buying sarin precursors in quantities of hundreds of kilos, including white phosphorus. The OPCW labs reported that the sarin used in Ghouta contained hexafluorophosphate. This indicates that the synthesis started with phosphorus trichloride or elemental phosphorus, and that intermediate reaction products were not purified at each step. The Syrian government’s sarin production started with trimethyl phosphite, bought in large quantities from the UK and India during the 1980s. Finally, Seymour Hersh has reported that the US, which fitted out the ship Cape Ray as a sarin disposal facility, obtained samples of the sarin binaries given up by the Syrian government and determined that their chemical profile did not match the Ghouta sarin.’ ‘On 29 August, just before the House of Commons met to debate the resolution for war on Syria, the UK Joint Intelligence Committee released a report to the Prime Minister stating that there was “no evidence for an opposition CW capability” and therefore “no alternative to a regime attack scenario”. Yet only one day later, Obama had been informed that both these statements were false. It’s clear that the UK defence lab scientists and defence intelligence officials were well aware that the JIC was misleading the House of Commons (a crime against the constitution) and that they resorted to passing information via the military chain of command.’ http://pundita.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/ghouta-sarin-gas-story-i-think-this-is.html

[8] The 2017 incident occurred at (or around) the time of a Syrian bombing raid at the area in question, and some MPs would surely ask how the rebels could have arranged for this. But, apparently, it would not have been as difficult as one might imagine. Given that air raids within a certain radius and timeframe could be known in advance, and given that various elements of testimony could also be prepared ahead, then mobilizing some key parts of material evidence on the day would not be logistically impossible. In fact, there are unresolved discrepancies in accounts of the timing of events on the ground in relation to the bombing from the air as well as surprising vagueness about locations of victims at key times. Independent researchers have discussed at great length every aspect of the reported incidents and seem to be coming towards the sort of view that became a consensus among them regarding the 2013 incidents.

[9] Attentive researchers have examined these and come to some extremely disturbing conclusions about these. Anyone interested is recommended to consult the collective findings and analysis of A Closer Look On Syria: http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Special:AllPages. I find this rather more exhaustive and realistic than Bellingcat’s recent hasty attempt to set out a reductio ad absurdum of what would need to be believed https://www.bellingcat.com/resources/articles/2017/07/04/khan-sheikhoun-false-flag-conspiracy-actually-mean/.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 3 Comments

China warns against escalation of tensions over North Korea

Press TV – July 6, 2017

China has warned against any rhetoric and action that could further escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, two days after Pyongyang test-fired its first ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

“We also call on relevant parties to stay calm, exercise restraint, refrain from words and deeds that may heighten tensions, and jointly make effort for the easing of tensions,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a press conference on Thursday.

North Korea announced on Tuesday that it had successfully tested the ICBM, with the North’s leader Kim Jong-un calling it a gift to the United States on July 4, America’s Independence Day.

Shuang’s comments came after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly condemned the launch and described it as a new escalation of the “threat” to Washington, its allies, the region, and the whole world.

On Wednesday, US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley also told the UN Security Council that her country was prepared to exert force if needed to deal with the perceived threat posed by North Korea and singled out China as key to any diplomatic solution.

Meanwhile, Russia accused the US of attempting to negatively affect Moscow’s relations with Pyongyang by leveling false allegations about the purported abuse of North Korean migrant workers in the Russian Federation.

“These allegations are unfounded. They fabricate and publish this nonsense… and then we stand and feel like justifying ourselves after this fake news,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, in a press conference in the Russian capital.

She added that North Korean migrant laborers work in Russia according to an entirely legal 2007 intergovernmental agreement. She also said that the agreement was not in violation of any UN Security Council resolutions regarding Pyongyang.

Unsettled by North Korean missile and nuclear programs, the US has adopted a war-like posture against Pyongyang. The US recently deployed an advanced missile system on South Korean soil to counter potential threats from the North, angering Pyongyang.

July 6, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment