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The Indonesia Massacre’s Historic Message

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | October 19, 2017

Fifty-four years after the assassination of President Kennedy, historians are still waiting to see whether President Trump will approve the final release of secret records related to that crime by the Oct. 26 deadline set by a unanimous Congress in 1992 with the JFK Records Act.

Senior Republicans in both the House and Senate have called on the President to “reject any claims for the continued postponement” of declassification. “Transparency in government is critical not only to ensuring accountability; it’s also essential to understanding our nation’s history,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Just days before the scheduled release of JFK records, the National Archives — with much less fanfare — declassified nearly 30,000 pages of documents from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta from 1964 to 1968. That might seem in contrast like an obscure matter of interest only to a handful of specialists, but the period covers what the CIA once called “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century”: the massacre of half a million Indonesians, and the arrest of a million more, by the country’s army and its supporters in the name of wiping out Communism.

Whether and how the U.S. government abetted that bloodbath is as “essential to understanding our nation’s history” as learning what transpired two years earlier on the streets of Dallas. Indeed, the two events are related, as the murder of Kennedy prompted a hardline shift in U.S. policy to support a military coup in Indonesia. Yet despite the worthy new release of documents, Washington has been neither transparent nor accountable when it comes to the Indonesia massacre of 1965-66.

In particular, the U.S. government has yet to declassify any but a handful of operational files from the CIA or Defense Department. As a result, “we have only the barest outlines of what covert campaigns the CIA was undertaking and what assistance the United States was providing,” historian Bradley Simpson, founder and director of the Indonesia and East Timor Documentation Project, told me.

The Prelude to a Slaughter

The frightful massacres in Indonesia followed years of growing social, economic and political strife. Following a disastrously botched CIA coup attempt in 1958, Indonesia’s leader and independence hero, Sukarno, treated Washington with deep suspicion. All through the early 1960s, Sukarno adopted an increasingly strident nationalist stance. He flirted with Soviet Russia and even with Communist China while he threatened military confrontations with the Dutch and British, legacy colonial powers. At home, he encouraged the rising influence of Indonesia’s communist party, the PKI.

President Kennedy tried to work with Sukarno. One of JFK’s first acts as president was to invite the Indonesian leader to the White House. Kennedy’s assassination, however, “unquestionably changed the direction of U.S. policy toward Indonesia,” writes Simpson in his authoritative account of U.S.-Indonesia relations, Economists With Guns. Whereas Kennedy was willing to expend political capital to work with Sukarno, President Lyndon Johnson dismissed him as a “bully” who, if appeased one day, would “run you out of your bedroom the next night.”

Administration leaders increasingly looked to Indonesia’s U.S.-trained-and-supplied army as a political alternative to Sukarno.

In the fall of 1964, as relations with Jakarta soured, the CIA proposed a covert action program to “build up strength” among anti-communist groups and instigate “internal strife between communist and non-communist elements.” The Agency raised the possibility of fomenting riots or other disorders that “might force the Army to assume broad powers in restoring order.”

U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies began planting stories about PKI plots to assassinate army leaders and import weapons from Communist China, elements of a “strategy of tension” that the Agency would later use in Chile to provoke the 1973 military coup.

The Johnson administration curbed economic aid — intensifying the country’s economic crisis — while continuing to train and assist the military. “When Sukarno leaves the scene, the military will probably take over,” one senior State Department official told a congressional committee in executive session. “We want to keep the door open.”

Bitter Fruit

In the fall of 1965, Washington’s strategy bore fruit when several junior Indonesian military officers, apparently with the support of certain PKI leaders, killed six Indonesian army generals in a bungled power play that remains poorly understood. The military struck back decisively. It rounded up the alleged plotters, accused them (falsely) of sexually mutilating the murdered generals, and then unleashed a nationwide campaign to murder PKI cadre and sympathizers.

The U.S. ambassador, Marshall Green, was thrilled by the opportunity to crush the communists. “It’s now or never,” he told Washington.

Green proposed fanning anti-communist violence by a covert propaganda campaign to “spread the story of PKI’s guilt, treachery and brutality (this priority effort is perhaps most-needed immediate assistance we can give army if we can find way to do it without identifying it as solely or largely US effort).”

He instructed to U.S. Information Agency to use all its resources to “link this horror and tragedy with Peking and its brand of communism; associate diabolical murder and mutilation of the generals with similar methods used against village headmen in Vietnam.”

As reports filtered in of the execution or arrest of thousands of PKI supporters by the army and allied Muslim death squads, Green said he had “increasing respect for [the army’s] determination and organization in carrying out this crucial assignment.”

The killings occurred on such a vast scale that “the disposal of the corpses has created a serious sanitation problem in East Java and Northern Sumatra where the humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh,” reported Time magazine in December 1965, in one of the first U.S. stories on the massacre.

“Travelers from these areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies. River transportation has at places been seriously impeded.”

Previously classified documents from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta released this week add details to this story.

We learn, for example, from one cable that as prison overcrowding became a problem, “Many provinces appear to be successfully meeting this problem by executing their P.K.I. prisoners, or by killing them before they are captured, a task in which Moslem youth groups are providing assistance.”

By December 1965, the embassy was reporting on the “striking Army success” in taking power, noting its killing of at least 100,000 people in just 10 weeks.

Yet we also learn that U.S. officials had reliable information that the PKI as an organization had no advance knowledge of or involvement in the murder of the six generals that triggered the nationwide bloodbath. A senior embassy officer also reported on the army’s “widespread falsification of documents” to implicate the PKI in various crimes.

We owe these and other revelations to the persistent efforts of human rights activists, scholars, and politicians like Senators Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, to promote full disclosure of U.S. involvement in Indonesia’s mass killings.

Following in their footsteps, Steve Aftergood, head of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, contacted the National Declassification Center (established by President Obama), to urge the release of more Indonesia records. Historian Bradley Simpson and the non-profit National Security Archive then teamed with the U.S. National Archives to digitize 30,000 pages of decades-old embassy files to facilitate public access to the documents.

But without CIA and military operational files, the full, ugly story of Washington’s complicity will remain obscured. Previous administrations have released deeply troubling CIA files on coups in Chile, Guatemala and Iran. Those files cast a terrible stain on our history but their release powerfully demonstrated the commitment of at least some American leaders to learn from the past. In that spirit, the time has come to open up our history with Indonesia as well.

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international relations and history.

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Canada Rejects Venezuela Vote, EU Mulls Sanctions & Russia Congratulates Government

By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas | Venezuelanalysis | October 18, 2017

Twenty-eight European Ministers jointly agreed to “establish the legal framework” for pursuing sanctions against the Venezuelan government Monday in the wake of the country’s regional elections, Europa Press has reported.

Venezuela’s government won eighteen out of twenty-three states in regional elections this past Sunday, but the results have been disputed by the right-wing opposition, the US, Canada and France, on the basis of alleged foul play.

Opposition spokespeople have so far been unable to corroborate their allegations of fraud, while international electoral observers have testified to the veracity of the results. Venezuelan political commentators have said that mass abstention of opposition voters due to disillusionment with their leaders was the reason for the shock result.

Speaking at an EU meeting in Luxembourg Monday, EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini cautiously described the election results as a “surprise” and asked for investigations to “clarify what happened in reality”.

Ministers also agreed to advance in the preparation of “selective, gradual and reversible” sanctions against members of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro administration, with some apparent reticence from Portugal.

The EU has been discussing the potential implementation of sanctions against individuals within the Venezuelan government since the US imposed economic sanctions against Venezuela in August. Canada also followed suit shortly after with asset freezes targeting top Caracas officials.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded to the decision Tuesday, accusing Mogherini of only listening to opposition voices in Venezuela, and inviting her to call him or arrange a meeting in Brussels.

Meanwhile, Canada officially added its voice to the international chorus of condemnation against the regional election results Tuesday.

In an official statement, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that “Sunday’s elections were characterized by many irregularities that raise significant and credible concerns regarding the validity of the results.”

She also added her government would continue to “stand for the Venezuelan people and for the defence and restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”

Freeland had already tweeted on Monday that her government was “”very concerned by yesterday’s polling centre closures & relocations – clearly favouring #Venezuela regime, hindering free + fair elections”. Her stance was criticized by Canada’s Communist Party.

Canada is a member of the so-called Lima Group – a regional organization made up of right-wing regional governments opposed to the Maduro administration, including Argentina, Brasil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru.

On Tuesday, the Lima Group likewise claimed that the elections were marred by irregularities, and demanded a full “independent audit” of results. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had already called for an audit of 100 percent of votes Sunday.

The Lima Group is due next to meet in Canada on October 26, when it will discuss Venezuela’s regional elections and the ongoing stand-off between the government and opposition.

But not all international governments have condemned the elections, and the Maduro administration has received supportive statements from Russia, Cuba, Bolivia and other Latin American leaders.

For its part, Russia said the elections represented a new opportunity to address the “pressing economic and social problems facing the country” and criticised the opposition’s refusal to accept the results.

“The population demonstrated its commitment to civilized, first of all electoral, ways of settling political differences,” reads a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“Given this, the opposition’s refusal to recognize the results of the voting and calls for more street protests and tougher international sanctions are fraught with negative consequences. This may frustrate the emerging scenario of compromise and trigger another spiral of violence and confrontation,” the ministry added.

In addition, Russia urged Venezuelan political forces to refrain from violence, and spoke in support of dialogue between the opposition and national government “to stop attempts at destructive interference from outside.”

“The counter-productiveness of force and sanction pressure on Venezuela is obvious,” the ministry underscored.

Meanwhile, the government of Cuba also congratulated the Maduro government on the election win.

“Dear Nicolas: I congratulate you for the results of state elections. Venezuela has shown another example of peace, democratic vocation, courage and dignity,” Cuban President Raul Castro said in a letter published by Cuba’s Foreign Relations Ministry.

Bolivian President Evo Morales also took to Twitter to say that “In Venezuela, peace triumphed over violence, the people triumphed over the empire. [Organization of American States Secretary-General] Luis Almagro lost, along with his boss [US President] Trump”.

En Venezuela triunfó la paz frente a la violencia, triunfó el pueblo frente al imperio. Perdió Luis Almagro con su jefe Trump.

— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) October 16, 2017

In similar statements, former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said that the election results had “exposed” how biased international media coverage is on Venezuela.

Many international media outlets had predicted that Venezuela’s opposition would sweep to victory on Sunday, in a repeat of the 2015 National Assembly elections.

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

Venezuela Regional Elections: chavismo in triumph, opposition in disarray and media in denial

By Ricardo Vaz | Investig’Action | October 18, 2017

As the President of the Venezuelan Electoral Commission (CNE) read the results from the regional elections that took place on Sunday, October 15, one could feel the agony in the editorial rooms of mainstream media outlets. Chavismo had just won 18 out of 23 (1) governorships, a result that, according to them, could not have happened. International observers praised the electoral process and opposition claims of fraud, while uncritically echoed by the media, do not have a leg to stand on.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) had a tremendous victory in these elections. Among the three quarters of the governorships secured, some were quite significant. Hector Rodríguez, a young and charismatic chavista leader, won the governorship of Miranda state back from the opposition. Miranda includes part of Caracas and was the main hotspot of opposition violence in recent months. Another example was Chávez’s home state of Barinas which also saw some unrest in recent months. Chávez’s younger brother Argenis was the candidate and the state was successfully held by the PSUV.

The opposition lost all three governorships won in 2012 (Miranda, Amazonas and Lara) and won five others (Anzoátegui, Mérida, Nueva Esparta, Táchira and Zulia), with three of them being on the border with Colombia and raising some fears of increased paramilitary activity. Overall participation was 61%, compared to 54% five years ago, and the PSUV had 54% of the vote, some 5.6M votes. This marked a complete reversal from the legislative elections of 2015. It showed that chavismo’s core support remains very strong, and that, due to its less than coherent actions, it was the opposition that failed to mobilise its supporters.

Electoral map after Sunday’s regional elections. Chavismo took 18 (red) governorships, and the opposition took five (blue).

The media reaction was one for the history books. Having not paid much attention to these elections, the run-up had just the same recycled narrative: “if the elections are free and fair, the opposition will win by a landslide”. Once the results came out, rather than look to understand them and figure out what had gone wrong in their predictions, the media simply went down the rabbit hole. According to their biased narrative and historically inaccurate polls, this simply was not possible!

The evidence to back this impossibility was also less than convincing. There were the usual unsubstantiated, or easily disproved, claims of “fraud” (more on that later). The New York Times added the very scientific claim that “turnout appeared to be lower”, while Reuters, with its ever decreasing credibility, went further and talked about voters being forced to vote at gunpoint! Several analysts were paraded to claim that this result was not possible, some even argued it was “inconceivable”. It seems like these journalists and analysts have violated one of the cardinal rules of (information) trafficking: don’t get high on your own supply. Simply put, they have started believing too much in their own propaganda.

A resounding defeat for the Venezuelan opposition

Let us look at the actions of the US-backed Venezuelan opposition in the recent past. First they kicked off a wave of street violence in April that left more than 100 dead (most of them caused by opposition violence). With the media propaganda in overdrive they claimed they were on the verge of “tumbling the dictatorship”. But barring a few isolated occasions, the violence never spread far beyond the opposition strongholds, mainly in eastern Caracas.

After Maduro proposed the Constituent Assembly, the opposition refused to participate and claimed that they would stop it from taking place. They even staged their own “referendum” to reject the Constituent Assembly and call for intervention of the armed forces. But in what was a massive chavista show of strength, as well as a rejection of opposition violence, more than 8M people voted on July 30th. All the opposition, and the media, could do was claim that the figure was false, based on shoddy exit polls and unsubstantiated claims from Smartmatic (2). These elections and the swearing in of the Constituent Assembly effectively brought peace to the streets.

So after all the talk of tumbling the dictatorship and demanding that Maduro step down tomorrow, the opposition turned to their supporters, and with a straight face asked them to go out and vote in the regional elections. Some of the more hardline factions refused to take part (and are now chiding the leadership for having done so) but most of the opposition parties carried on with the absurd discourse of “voting against the dictatorship”. In the end the absurdity caught up to them and the result was a resounding defeat. And then, like clockwork, the opposition claimed the results were fraudulent. Frankly, what else was left for them to do? They can send the defeated candidates to Washington DC and continue forming their “government in exile”. (3)

Opposition leader Julio Borges’ contradictions with regard to the regional elections (Translated from Misión Verdad)

Fraudulent “fraud” claims

If the media coverage of Venezuela had any vestige of honesty, articles would explain how the voting works, so that these “fraud” allegations can be put into context. In a nutshell, voters mark their vote in a machine, a paper ballot is printed, and if this matches the electronic vote, they deposit the paper ballot in a box. After the voting is completed, a audit is conducted in 54.4% of the voting centres, randomly selected. This consists of tallying up the paper ballots and seeing if they match, up to a very small margin, against the electronic tally. This ensures that statistically the results are pretty much final, and that is what the CNE President Tibisay Lucena means when she says the results are “irreversible”.

Chavista, opposition and international monitors take part in pre-voting checks, are present at voting centres during the day, and they are also present during this audit. At the end of this process they sign an act (acta). So it is very hard to claim there was actual electoral fraud. In fact, defeated opposition candidate in Miranda, Carlos Ocariz, said himself that he had the acts and that was not the problem. Therefore it is ridiculous for France and the US State Dept. to claim there is anything wrong with the tabulation process.

The main “fraud” complaint in the media were that over 200 voting centres (out of 13.500) had been relocated away from areas where the opposition is strongest and into traditionally pro-government areas. What, conveniently, was left unsaid, is that these were centres that could not open for the Constituent Assembly elections because of opposition violence, which makes the CNE’s security concerns more than justified.

There were also protests that opposition candidates that had lost a (contentious) primary vote were left on the ballot, with the CNE arguing that the requests to remove them from the ballot were not filed on time. But looking at the results, all the contests were virtually two-horse races, with hardly any votes for third-placed candidates and with the winner taking over 50% of the vote, so any consequence of this was negligible (with the possible exception of Bolívar).

Another complaint was that some of the voting centres did not open on time. But given that, even after polls close at 6PM, everyone who is standing in line still gets to vote, this complaint does not hold water. All in all, the Venezuelan opposition, their sponsors, and the media, would have the world believe the elections were fraudulent because middle-class voters did not want to wait in line and much less see poor people on their way to vote.

Chavista celebrations after the electoral triumph (photo by AVN)

The road ahead

It is hard to see where the Venezuelan opposition can go from here, with signs of in-fighting already clear. With their “doomsday cult” behaviour they are unlikely to have any success in reactivating the street violence, and thus their fate rests essentially on what the US empire can do. They will be hoping that (more) sanctions can inflict enough pain on the Venezuelan people to give them a chance of winning the presidential election next year. The most fanatical ones might hope that Trump follows through on the threats of military intervention.

One thing they can count on is the unwavering, unconditional support from the mainstream media. While opposition voters and supporters may use their memory and call out the inconsistencies and contradictions, no such thing is to be expected from the media. They will keep echoing claims that there was fraud in these elections, that the turnout on July 30th was inflated, and continue to milk the story of the former prosecutor who goes around saying she has proof of corruption involving high government officials. As with everything that can be used against the Bolivarian government, no evidence is ever needed.

As for chavismo, it is unquestionable that the two most recent electoral showings have been tremendous victories. Western analysts time and again fail to grasp the vitality of the Bolivarian Revolution, and belittle chavistas either as brainwashed zealots or people who simply fear losing their benefits (4). The reality is that, even through a deep economic war/crisis that has hit them hard, and regardless of what the leadership should have done differently, the Venezuelan poor and working-class still see this project as their own, one in which they are actors and not just spectators.

Maduro’s term has arguably seen chavismo playing defence all the time, with an economic war, a steep drop in oil prices, two incarnations of guarimba violence and constant international pressure and sanctions. Fresh off this electoral win and with the Constituent Assembly in place, it is imperative that chavismo seizes the moment to radicalise, to go on the offensive, with a year to go until the presidential elections. The support that it has retained through this storm should not be taken for granted, and there is now a window to fight corruption, increase working-class control in the economy, increase the influence of the communes, etc. This is not just a matter of keeping the grassroots involved, this is how the economic war will be won, this is how socialism will be built.

Notes

(1) The initial results were only final for 22 out of the 23 states. In the southern state of Bolívar the PSUV candidate was later confirmed to be the winner in a tight contest.

(2) Smartmatic, the company responsible for the software in the voting machines, claimed that “without any doubt” the turnout had been inflated by at least 1M votes. The claim was rejected by Venezuelan electoral authorities because the company does not have access to electoral data. Several solidarity organisations delivered a letter to Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica on September 8 demanding that the company either present evidence for its claims or issue an apology. There has been no response to this day.

(3) Right on cue, Maria Corina Machado has urged the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which has been in contempt of court since mid-2016, to nominate new electoral authorities. One hopes there is enough office space in OAS headquarters in Washington DC.

(4) If only they had a deep and mature political understanding such as the opposition and their “we do not want to be Cuba” slogans…

Cover photo: President Maduro lauded the election victory as a message against imperialism (photo by AVN)

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Boycott Movement: Arab Delegations Withdraw from International Festival

IMEMC News & Agencies | October 19, 2017

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has welcomed the Palestinian student delegation and other Arab delegations’ withdrawal from the World Festival of Youths and Students, held in the Russian city of Sochi, due to the participation of Israeli delegations.

“We appreciated the principled stand taken by the Arab youths rejecting normalization, especially that the festival alleged to be anti-imperialism, however, Israeli delegations having colonial thoughts and supporting imperialism are invited to take part in it,” the movement said is a press release on Wednesday, according to Al Ray.

The movement praised all students and free voices that had withdrawn from the opening session of the festival.

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Single Payer and the Failure of Democrats in West Virginia

Morgan County USA | October 18, 2017

Congressman Alex Mooney is the former chair of the Republican Party in Maryland. But now he’s a congressman from the second Congressional district of West Virginia.

Talley Sergent

How did that happen? In 2014, Mooney saw that he wasn’t going to win anything in Maryland, so he crossed the bridge over the Potomac River and came on over to West Virginia.

Mooney should have been — and in 2018 should be — easily defeated. Mooney puts the interests of powerful out of state corporations over the interests of the people of his district. He is hardly ever seen in the district. (Instead, he does phone call town hall meetings.)

Aaron Scheinberg

 

Strike three and he should be out.

But he keeps winning.

Why?

Democrats in West Virginia are politically bankrupt.

Take for example the two declared Democratic candidates for the Mooney seat.

One is Talley Sergent. She’s a former public relations executive at Coca-Cola.

The other is Aaron Scheinberg. He has been endorsed by Congressman Seth Moulton of the New Democrat Coalition, a group that raises funds from Big Business and is seeking to move the Democratic Party to the right.

Both Sergent and Scheinberg refuse to take economic positions that would rile big business.

Both, for example, have refused to back the West Virginia Democratic Party platform’s call for a single payer, Medicare for All plan along the lines of HR 676.

HR 676 currently has 120 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives — none from West Virginia.

When asked about this, Scheinberg spokesperson Elizabeth Gale said that “Aaron believes that we have a duty to each other to ensure that all West Virginians have access to comprehensive health care.”

“As a veteran, Aaron is lucky to receive reliable, affordable health care through the VA,” Gale said. “He believes no one should to have to worry about losing or being denied health insurance. That will be a major focus of his agenda if he is elected. As far as commenting on specific bills, Aaron will wait until he can participate in the debate within Congress.”

But Margaret Flowers of Health Over Profit, said that the phrase “access to health care” is used by politicians across the spectrum to dodge the issue of single payer.

“Politicians will say that people have access to health care right now under the current system, it’s just that some people can’t afford it,” Flowers said. “Will Democrats say that a public option gives access to health care? The policies matter and candidates need to show that they understand what policies will solve the crises we face.”

“It is an unwillingness to take strong stances that is one of the reasons Democrats are doing so poorly. The majority of Democratic voters support single payer health care and it is a proven policy, so there is nothing controversial about supporting it. Voters are looking for candidates with the courage to take positions.”

While at Coca-Cola, Sergent worked to promote a Coca-Cola front group called the Global Energy Balance Network.

The message of the network? Exercise more and worry about calories less. Take the focus off of sugary drinks like Coke and put the focus on the couch potato behind the straw.

In August 2015, the New York Times exposed Coke’s front group in an article titled — Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets.

The Times reported that Coca-Cola spent $1.5 million to start the organization.

“Health experts say this message [exercise more important than diet] is misleading and part of an effort by Coke to deflect criticism about the role sugary drinks have played in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” the Times reported. “They contend that the company is using the new group to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet despite evidence that exercise has only minimal impact on weight compared with what people consume.”

“This clash over the science of obesity comes in a period of rising efforts to tax sugary drinks, remove them from schools and stop companies from marketing them to children. In the last two decades, consumption of full-calorie sodas by the average American has dropped by 25 percent.”

“Coca-Cola’s sales are slipping, and there’s this huge political and public backlash against soda, with every major city trying to do something to curb consumption,” Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, told the Times. “This is a direct response to the ways that the company is losing. They’re desperate to stop the bleeding.”

One internal Coca-Cola email shows the head of Coke’s public relations department — Clyde Tuggle — reporting that “Talley has been leading some of our health and wellness work” and that “I’d like her to be my right hand and a core part of the team on this work going forward” — referring to the Global Energy Balance Network.

Gary Ruskin of the public interest group US Right to Know, which helped expose Global Energy Balance Network and make public the internal Coca-Cola emails, said that “Talley Sergent is perhaps the least qualified person in West Virginia to serve in Congress.”

“As a Coke public relations executive, Sergent helped perpetrate a deceit so egregious that it was exploded on the front page of the New York Times. She was a Coke handler for one of its front groups, the Global Energy Balance Network, and their efforts to snooker consumers and public health leaders, and to shield Coke from accountability for its role in helping to create the global obesity epidemic.”

“Now she wants to represent West Virginia in Congress. There is already enough deceit in Congress without her.”

“Coke’s role in West Virginia has been especially destructive of late. The state is suffering from some of the worst levels of obesity in the nation. In a notable insult to public health, the founding dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health was a key Coke ally and a leader in Coke’s Global Energy Balance Network debacle. Gregory Hand left the deanship following the avalanche of negative news coverage about his role in the Coke deceit.  And now comes Talley Sergent.”

Sergent now says it was a mistake for Coca-Cola to fund the Global Energy Balance Network and that after the Times article ran, she helped move Coca Cola into a new, more transparent direction.

In response to an inquiry,  Sergent, a native of Huntington, West Virginia defended her work at Coca-Cola and took a barely veiled shot at Ruskin (based in Oakland, California), Scheinberg (who is originally from Cherry Hill, New Jersey) and Mooney (the former chair of the Republican Party in Maryland) as “outsiders.”

And Coca-Cola isn’t an outsider doing tremendous harm to the state?

“Isn’t West Virginia number one in obesity in the country?” Sergent was asked.

“We’re actually number two — behind Mississippi,” she said.

(Actually, according to a recent listing, West Virginia is number one — with a 37.7 percent obesity rate, with Mississippi coming in second with a 37.3 obesity rate.)

“Outsiders think they know voters here in West Virginia – shoot – we have folks from outside the state moving here just to run,” Sergent said. “But, like most West Virginians, I don’t take cues from special interests or outsiders, just the special people of my home state.”

“On my watch, the Coca-Cola Company transformed its approach to public health, owning up to its mistakes, becoming more transparent with its consumers and starting an open dialogue with the public health community. It wasn’t easy work but it was the right thing to do.”

“Now, I’m taking the same approach to Congress. We need a congresswoman who will take tough obstacles like health care head on, beginning with protecting and improving the Affordable Care Act, which will help break the cycle of opioid addiction, improve lives with preventive care and coverage for pre-existing conditions and encourage every West Virginian to live their best life. West Virginia needs a congresswoman who will stand up for the people and who welcomes an open dialogue with every West Virginian, no matter what. As congresswoman, I’ll do just that.”

But Sergent refused to commit to a public health campaign against sugary drinks or to a single payer, Medicare for All health program.

Some West Virginians aren’t giving up on Sergent or Scheinberg.

West Virginians Cathy Kunkel, Sally Roberts Wilson, and Lynn Moses Yellott, who are active members of grassroots organizations in the state advocating improved Medicare for All, have spoken with both Sergent and Scheinberg.

“We will continue to educate and push these candidates to support a single-payer Medicare for All system as the only real way to fix our broken healthcare system,” Kunkel, Wilson and Yellot said in a statement. “HR 676 is the only solution put forth that will enable the country to afford comprehensive care for everyone. We urge candidates to ask voters the question — ‘Since under expanded and improved Medicare for all, more than 95% of you will pay less through a fair tax than you now pay for premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, are you willing to convert the money you now pay for health insurance and out of pocket expenses to a fair tax so all in our country can have needed care?’ The grassroots will continue to educate and to push candidates to support National Improved Medicare for All.”

In addition to working for Coca-Cola, Sergent was the West Virginia director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign for President.

And unfortunately for the people of the second Congressional district, Sergent and Scheinberg appear to be playing by the same Clinton corporate playbook that brought us President Trump — and that will re-elect Congressman Mooney.

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

Corruption permeates Israel under Netanyahu, goes back decades

Prime Minister Netanyahu faces mounting scandal, as do his wife, friends, and many colleagues. This follows scandals for previous Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, David Ben-Gurion and others for charges that range from financial corruption to sexual assault.

By Kathryn Shihadah | If Americans Knew | October 19, 2017

Certainly every country has its share of shady politicians and dirty little secrets. The US has more than enough to be embarrassed about. We need to vet our elected officials’ campaign funds, study their relationships with non-government operatives, and examine our government’s spending habits.

We need to spend our money where it will have a good return, where it will be invested in ways that reflect our American ideals. And when it comes to foreign aid, we should not support governments that will be wasteful, imprudent, or treacherous toward the people they rule.

About 20% of the American foreign aid budget goes to Israel. Is that a good investment? Is this a trustworthy government?

One would expect that a nation with oodles of Nobel laureates, world-class medical facilities, cutting edge technology, a robust economy, a nation that boasts (erroneously – see embedded links for the truth) a “flourishing democracy,” the “most moral army in the world,” “an absolute reverence for life,” and ancient, deeply religious underpinnings—one would expect that such a nation might be a little cleaner than average.

Human rights violations aside, infraction of international law and disdain for United Nations resolutions notwithstanding, Israel seems to have more than its share of shenanigans.

In fact, misconduct seems to be the norm, rather than the exception in the country that receives $10 million a day from the United States. State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan commented recently that there is nothing to worry about: “A corrupt state is a state that doesn’t fight against corruption” – and Israel is fighting. But from the looks of things, it isn’t fighting nearly hard enough.

Israel is one of the world’s leading exporters of investment scams ($5-10 billion a year–read this or a few of these), with organized crime that has grown to “monstrous proportions.” That cutting edge tech sector? 25% of its revenue comes from “shady or fraudulent industries.” And that government of the people? 75% of Israel’s 120 parliamentarians live in the pockets of special interest groups and their relentless lobbyists. (To be fair, at least that percentage of American congress people live in the pockets of AIPAC.)

Israel is fighting corruption from the highest places in government, right on down to the household help. Here is just a starter list of the fine messes that Israel’s darlings have gotten themselves into.

Charges against Netanyahu

Arnon Milchan

“Case 1,000” – Cigars and Pink Champagne Affair

In 2015, Bibi allegedly accepted “lavish gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars” from a number of people, including billionaire Hollywood producer (and Israeli spy) Arnon Milchan. Milchan admitted that for years he’d been giving the Netanyahus expensive gifts—champagne, jewelry, boxes of cigars—at their request. At the time as the 2015 gifts, Milchan was negotiating a media partnership which, if it had succeeded, would have given him controlling interest over Channel 2 News in Israel. According to the Times of Israel, “if Milchan had succeeded, Netanyahu would have gained valuable influence over Channel 2 News.”

The Netanyahus also reportedly received lavish gifts from Australian millionaire James Packer in exchange for special favors.

The Prime Minister maintains his innocence.

Arnon Mozes

“Case 2,000” – the Newspaper Rivalry Affair

In 2014, Netanyahu allegedly attempted to manipulate newspaper circulation in Israel. Namely, he promised to advance legislation that would effectively reduce the circulation of Sheldon Adelson’s free newspaper, Israel Hayom, and increase Arnon Mozes’ Yedioth Ahronoth. All Mozes would need to do was give Netanyahu more favorable coverage during the election season.

The Prime Minister denies any wrongdoing.

In addition, Netanyahu’s phone records are under investigation: it seems that during the last election he placed calls to Adelson, owner of Israel Hayom. The timing of some of these calls coincided with “particularly sympathetic headlines,” which may constitute illegal campaigning. Adelson is an American citizen and a major donor to the Republican Party.

Previous Netanyahu allegations

During his first term as Prime Minister (1996 – 99), Benjamin Netanyahu was investigated twice for fraud and breach of trust. In both cases, the police recommended that he be charged, but prosecutors declined. Ironically, the first investigation alleged that Netanyahu attempted to influence a corruption investigation.

In both cases, he insisted he was innocent.

History repeats itself

Netanyahu is not the first Prime Minister to be embroiled in scandal; in reality, this has been going on for decades. It can get very distracting.

One member of Israeli parliament – from Netanyahu’s Likud party – came up with a solution to this annoying problem. In 2016, David Amsalem drafted a bill that would shield the prime minister from criminal investigation while in office. He explained on Facebook: “For the past 30 years, there hasn’t been a single prime minister who wasn’t busy with investigations. The prime minister holds the most important job in Israel… [and] can not be preoccupied by investigations practically every day.” The bill is not expected to pass into law.

Yitzhak Rabin

What have these Prime Ministers been getting themselves into all these years?

Yitzhak Rabin (PM 1974-77, 1992-95) was involved in The Dollar Account Affair—an illegal bank account—which led to his resignation from his first stint as Prime Minister in 1977. Interestingly, he was re-elected in 1992. (Earlier, Rabin had been a member of the pre-Israel underground paramilitary group, Haganah.)

Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres (PM 1984-86, 1995-96) is known in the West as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Among Arabs, he is nicknamed “the butcher of Qana” and “the engineer of genocide,” referring to a 1996 attack in Lebanon that killed over 100 civilians. A Time Magazine article stated that “for Palestinians, on the receiving end of this “great” man’s policies, Peres was an integral part of a project that was anything but honorable…his whole history was devoted to establishing and then developing a state founded on dispossession and the ethnic cleansing of another people[.]” (Peres had also been a member of Haganah.)

Ehud Barak

Ehud Barak (PM 1999-2001) Barak was investigated several times for alleged illegal campaign financing, bribery, money laundering, and more. Those charges did not stick. In 2009, While visiting England, Barak almost faced arrest under “universal jurisdiction” as a war criminal for his actions during Operation Cast Lead. Similarly, he, along with Ehud Olmert (see below) and 12 other Israeli political officials, was charged by lawyers in Belgium for war crimes. As long as the officials stay out of Belgium, they are not at risk of arrest. (Barak served in the IDF for 35 years.)

Ariel Sharon

Ariel Sharon: (PM 2001-2006) Sharon was investigated for a number of financial and corruption scandals during his time as Prime Minister, but is best remembered for his efforts as Defense Minister. Sharon launched the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 which resulted in the Sabra and Shatila massacres. The world reacted strongly against this atrocity, and in 1983 Israel set up a commission of inquiry. It determined that Sharon bore “personal responsibility” for the massacre, stating, “Mr. Sharon was found responsible for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge…as well as not taking appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed.” Sharon was forced to resign. Nevertheless, he was later elected Prime Minister 3 times. (Sharon had also been a member of Haganah.)

Ehud Olmert

Ehud Olmert (PM 2006-2009) Olmert was dogged by corruption investigations from the mid-1980s, leading some to believe that he was “corrupt but a master at covering his tracks,” and others to conclude that “the authorities were simply obsessed with harassing him.” Beginning in 2008, his luck changed: Olmert was convicted for accepting bribes, falsifying documents, tax evasion, obstruction of justice, and breach of trust in the Talansky Affair, the Holyland Affair, the Rishon Tours Affair, and the Investment Center Case. (He tried to pin the Holyland case on his secretary, and offered her money – $10k/month – for her prison sentence. But she turned state’s witness and testified against him.) Olmert resigned, was imprisoned in February 2016, and then was granted an early release in July 2017, thanks to “impeccable” behavior, according to the parole board. Ironically, however, the recently released Olmert is now under investigation for allegedly disclosing classified information while in prison.

Shady dealings go beyond the prime minister’s office: Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, has a few issues of her own.

Sara Netanyahu

Sara Netanyahu

“Mealbooking affair” – corruption

Sara Netanyahu, wife of the Prime Minister, already has a full-time chef, but she is about to be indicted for fraud and breach of trust  for hiring an outside chef and having hundreds of lavish meals catered at the official residence – about $100,000 worth – paid for with public funds. (In addition, in 2011 alone, the Netanyahu residence billed Israeli taxpayers $24,000 for take-out food.) The probe alleges that Mrs. Netanyahu falsified documents. The most serious charge carries a possible sentence of five years in prison.

Previous Sara Netanyahu charges

Mrs. Netanyahu’s employees have had additional complaints. In 2015, former caretaker at the PM residence Menny Naftali won a case against her for verbal and emotional abuse. He alleged that she drank “crazy amounts” of alcohol, especially champagne, and then regularly flew into a rage, yelling at and humiliating Naftali and other employees, over 20 of whom had quit during the Netanyahus’ tenure at the residence. The court awarded Naftali compensation of about $43,000.

The Prime Minister stands by his wife, describing her on Facebook as a “courageous and honest woman who has never had any flaws in her actions.”

And the trail of corruption goes on.

Bibi’s inner circle and top powerbrokers

“Case 3,000” – the Submarine Affair, David Shimron et al

Netanyahu climbs out of the Rahav

In 2013-14, in what has been described as the “gravest corruption case in Israel’s history,” David Shimron (Netanyahu’s personal attorney, former chief of staff, close friend, and 2nd cousin) allegedly attempted to push through a $480 million deal (some sources place the value at $1.7 billion) for the purchase of submarines and patrol boats from a German shipbuilding company in which he has a financial interest. Shimron stood to receive millions of dollars. The case includes allegations of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. According to Ha’aretz, “At least ten high-powered individuals have been identified as involved in the scandal, including very close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu,” among them a former Navy commander, a retired rear admiral, and a former deputy head of the National Security Council.

Netanyahu’s hands may or may not be clean in this affair. He has been accused of frivolously increasing the order of submarines from 5 to 6—a wasteful action that former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon claimed “jeopardizes the interests of the country.” One journalist suggested that if Netanyahu knew what was going on around him, “then this is a case of suspected offenses that violate ethical standards.” If he wasn’t aware, then he had “surrounded himself unknowingly with a bunch of allegedly corrupt people, appointing them to the highest and most sensitive positions in government.” Either way, the news is not good.

Netanyahu maintains his innocence.

(As an aside, these submarines and patrol boats were intended to protect offshore natural gas platforms—as Israel extracts natural gas that is also claimed by Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, and the Palestinians. The tangle of claims, counter-claims, and violence that surround this resource located in the Mediterranean Sea is astonishing.)

Moshe Katsav

Rape conviction, 2010 – Moshe Katsav (former Israeli President)
Katsav resigned as President of Israel in June 2007 when he was charged with rape, as well as with molesting or sexually harassing two female employees. The first incident happened in the 1990s when he was cabinet minister; the second and third happened while he was president. He began his sentence in 2011 and was granted early release in 2016 after serving five years for rape.

He has repeatedly professed innocence.

Israeli drone (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Case 630, corruption – Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)
Top management at government owned IAI are under scrutiny for alleged bribery, fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and breach of trust. Suspects include retired IDF brigadier-general Amal Asad and many others at high levels, including executives, board directors,  and board members, as well as individuals who were “supposed to be guardians of the public trust.” Police describe the allegations as “systematic criminal behavior and deep corruption seemingly commonplace in Israel Aerospace Industries.”

Aryeh Deri

Bribery, fraud, breach of trust – Aryeh Deri
Aryeh Deri, one of the founders of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, has had his ups and down. In the 1988, at the age of 29, Deri became the youngest Interior Minister in Israel’s (short) history. In 1999 he was convicted of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust, and served 22 months. In 2013 he was back at the helm of the Shas party. In January 2016, he was re-appointed Interior Minister. And by the end of March that year, he was embroiled in another scandal, suspected of tax offenses, breach of trust, and money laundering.

Faina Kirshenbaum

“Case 242,” corruption – Faina Kirshenbaum et al
In “one of the biggest public corruption investigations that have been uncovered in Israel,” dozens of officials have been arrested, charged, or indicted on a range of activities, including bribery, money laundering, conspiracy, extortion, tax evasion, embezzling, and breach of trust. In the middle of this mess is Faina Kirshenbaum, former Deputy Interior Minister and former director general of far-right political party Yisrael Beytenu (“Israel is our home”). Kirshenbaum is “at the center of some 10 separate corruption cases,” and in the words of her indictment, “acted willfully and intentionally, at times with great sophistication, in order to carry out a series of crimes.” She allegedly used her position as deputy minister to embezzle millions of dollars. Many of those implicated are members of Yisrael Beytenu.

Gil Shefer

Alleged Sexual Harassment – Gil Shefer (Netanyahu’s former chief of staff)
In December 2016, Gil Sheffer was arrested on suspicion of sexual offense that allegedly occurred during his time as Netanyahu’s chief of staff in 2012-13. This was not his first brush with the law: in 2013 allegations came to light of sexual harassment dating back 15 years, too long ago to allow investigation. Coincidentally, he resigned from office at the same time the allegations became public – both Shefer and Netanyahu insist that his departure was unrelated to the scandal. Interestingly, Shefer’s predecessor, Natan Eshel, had also quit amid a sexual harassment scandal. Shefer was also recently questioned in the Mealbooking Affair (see #9 above).

Shaul Elovitch

Case 4000 – “the Bezeq Affair”
Meet Shaul Elovitch, Chairman and owner of telecom giant, Bezeq. He may or may not be a longtime friend of PM Netanyahu. (Bibi stated once that they were “little more than acquaintances,” and later that he had been a “personal friend for 20 years.”) Elovitch himself is already under investigation, and now he is in his own version of Case 2000 (see #2 above): for the last few years, Elovitch’s internet portal, Walla, has been suspiciously pro-Netanyahu. Starting in 2015, Bibi stories were always glowingly positive; photos of Sara Netanyahu were profuse; stories like the Naftali scandal (see #X above) miraculously disappeared from the website; stories of Bibi’s son Yair and his girlfriend miraculously appeared just when rumors were flying of his being gay—and all of this at roughly the same time that Netanyahu’s office was advancing policies favorable toward Elovitch’s business. When Bibi was ordered to turn over information, he refused to comply.

Perach Lerner

Perach Lerner – corruption
A highly influential advisor of Netanyahu, Perach Lerner recently confessed to fraud and breach of trust. She had allowed her husband to take advantage of her position with the prime minister to help his business.

Under-age sex scandal: Tzion al-Grisi

Al-Grisi was not a high-level official, but he was important enough to rub elbows with some powerful people before the scandal. He behaved improperly toward a young girl, starting when she was 8 or 9 years old, which is shocking enough. He was later convicted, but the story doesn’t end there.

Al-Grisi was  was a labor union delegate to Meretz, a leftist, Zionist political party, where he allegedly kept his position for months before Twitter got ahold of the news. He was also regional branch chair of Histadrut, Israel’s national trade union center. Histadrut has reportedly taken no action against Al-Grisi.

(Quick history lesson: Histadrut was founded in 1920 purportedly as a labor union, but acted as a colonizer of Palestine by assimilating immigrants in order to “carry out the conquest of the land.” It rejected Arab workers and products–essentially boycotting Arab labor and produce. David Ben-Gurion (Israel’s legendary first Prime Minister) was the organization’s first secretary-general, and added to the Arabs’ misery with wage scales that favored Jewish workers. Under Ben-Gurion, “class struggle was redefined as the struggle against Arab labor.” He also reportedly helped himself to the treasury–including for “trysts with his mistress in sundry European spas” (The Sacred Chain: A History of the Jews by Norman Cantor, New York: HarperPerennial, 1995, p. 368). Histadrut also founded Haganah.)

Al-Grisi maintains innocence, claiming that the girl seduced him and that the charges were “concocted” by her mother.

Conclusion

Israel is not alone in the corruption within its government, but the magnitude of the mess is critical when considering the amount of aid it receives from the United States–over $10 million per day. Compare this to assistance to the occupied Palestinian territories–averaging $400 million per year–approximately one tenth of what Israel receives. In fact, the US Congress is trying to reduce aid to Palestinians by vilifying the compensation being paid to the families of their slain and imprisoned.

Another serious issue is the Israeli government’s way of creating distractions for the world when a serious scandal comes to light. Israeli political analyst Michel Warschawski warned that Netanyahu “desperately needs distractions from these scandals. A ready-made target is always Gaza.” He added, “The danger is that he tries to heat up things there and starts a war.”


Kathryn Shihadah is a staff writer for If Americans Knew

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

“The Agreement of the Century”

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | October 18, 2017

According to a report circulating unofficially in Arabic, the latest in a sixty-nine year history of proposals to resolve the western Zionist invasion of Palestine (AKA the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict”) is about to see the light of day. It claims Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu originated the proposal and that secret deliberations have been underway for more than five months.

Netanyahu has now presented the proposal to the US, which made some changes and agreed to promote it. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will carry the plan, called “the Agreement of the Century” to Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for review and discussion.

The provisions

The proposal has 21 points, but the main provisions are that the West Bank will be federated (or re-federated) with Jordan, and the Gaza Strip with Egypt. Together, they will be known as the Palestinian Confederation, ostensibly converting the Palestinian “Authority” into a national government, although it is already widely recognized as such and although it will not have any of the authority or sovereignty that nation states are deemed to have under international law.

Israel will govern Jewish settlements directly and Jerusalem is excluded from the proposal, for resolution at a later time. The primary function of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, therefore, will be to take over the security functions currently administered by the Israeli armed forces; i.e., to protect Israel and repress Palestinians. As they say in Israel, “When you have a dirty job, give it to an Arab.”

Other provisions concern development of infrastructure, international guarantees, and conversion of Hamas into a purely political party while integrating its military wing into the Palestinian security forces. The borders will be based on the armistice lines as of June 4th, 1967, with some territorial swaps. Refugees will be permitted to “return” to the West Bank and Gaza, even if it is not the home from which they were displaced. This is not going to be accepted by expatriate refugees in Lebanon, Syria and other countries, but they have always been disenfranchised in all proposals, and this one is no exception.

Unanswered questions

The biggest unanswered question is the status of Jerusalem. Will the Arab leaders accept an agreement that has no assurances at all with respect to Jerusalem? This is hard to imagine, and it was, in fact, the major stumbling block to an agreement at the Camp David Summit in 2000.

Another major unknown is what happens to the West Bank areas designated A, B and C in the Oslo agreement. Area A is the only one of the three where Oslo grants full administrative and security control to the Palestinian Authority, and it comprises less than 15% of the total area of the West Bank, itself only 18% of historic Palestine. Israel is unlikely to hand B and C over to Palestinian authority and limit the settlements to their current footprints, without prospect of outward expansion or new settlements. More likely, they will insist upon continuing the current arrangement, allowing Israel to continue expanding the settlements indefinitely. This is also unlikely to be acceptable to the Arabs and to the Palestinian people.

Analysis

What do the parties to the agreement expect to gain from it?

Israel wants to rid itself of the Palestinians. It wants the land but not the people. It also wants to stop being considered an occupier of someone else’s land. In 1948 it achieved this by massive ethnic cleansing and genocide. In 1967 it used the same methods but was somewhat less successful except on the Golan Heights, where it expelled 94% of the population. Since then, expulsions have been gradual and slower, except for the 2006 expulsion of a million people in south Lebanon, which was subsequently reversed by the victory of the Hezbollah resistance.

If the above assumptions about areas A, B and C are correct, a signed agreement means that Israel concedes nothing at all and will be able to continue with its territorial ambitions. However, it will rid itself of the Palestinians by farming out the occupation to Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The agreement also removes the teeth (such as they are) of Hamas, and makes Israel appear to be a “peacemaker” with a “generous proposal”.

Mahmoud Abbas’s interest is to become the president of a “real” (though not sovereign) country, recognized universally, even by Israel. He also gets Gaza in the bargain, as well as some handsome development funds that will improve the economy, at least in the short run. The recently announced “unity government” between Hamas and Fatah can be seen as a prelude to such an agreement, and a means of strengthening Abbas’s hand in the negotiations (which is why Israel is not very happy about it).

Hamas gains the least of any of the parties, but Israel’s decade-long siege on Gaza is now so debilitating that they are possibly loathe to dash the hopes of their people for relieving their isolation. They are under tremendous pressure to improve the intolerable living conditions, and may not wish to be seen as spoilers.

The Arab monarchies and Egypt want to be rid of the problem and to get on with other concerns, chiefly their rivalry and potential conflict with Iran. In this case they would like to be able to collaborate and ally themselves more openly with a powerful Israel, which the agreement will legitimate. Iraq and Syria, who are friendly to Iran, are not currently on Abbas’s itinerary, which underscores that their views are not likely to be given consideration.

The US also gets a Middle East peace agreement that has eluded eleven administrations since 1948, and which Trump desperately needs to bolster his flagging image on the domestic front. The agreement would also strengthen the hand of both the US and Israel to undertake aggressive action against Iran and destroy it as a regional power, which is an ambition of both countries and the conservative Arab regimes.

All of this assumes that the agreement will be approved. That is still a very big “if”. But Israel is also prepared for failure, which also works to their advantage. In that case Israel will do what it has always done: blame the Palestinians for refusing to be complicit in their own demise. They will then give their military a free hand to commit another pogrom, known in Israel as “mowing the grass”.

In fact, Israel may pull another plan off the shelf, one using a more direct means of ridding themselves of the Palestinians. They learned in Lebanon that they could create a million refugees in ten days, and thereby clear the land of its inhabitants. Instead of “mowing the grass”, this would be more akin to “scorching the earth”, which is also a definition of the term “holocaust”.

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

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Harvey Weinstein and the Politics of Hollywood

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | October 18, 2017

There is something truly exasperating about digesting the steady flow of horror stories relating to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In part, of course, it is because the reports that Weinstein allegedly raped and sexually assaulted women over decades are deeply disturbing. In part, it is because one can be certain that there are still young aspiring actresses desperate for a big break who are being exploited by the Hollywood system – both in “casting” sessions and in the movies they must make to get noticed.

But most of all, these stories are exasperating because the women who are speaking out – and one senses they are still just the tip of the iceberg – and the journalists who are feeding off their revelations are drawing precisely no political conclusions from these incidents.

In fact, the Weinstein story perfectly illustrates how politically disempowering identity politics can be. Certainly, there can be no doubt that Weinstein, who has admitted that he abused his position with many women, while denying many of the actual reports of sexual misconduct, exploited his power. It should hardly surprise us that a rich man who had the ability to give desperate young women a shot at stardom preyed on them. The Hollywood employment system is capitalism in microcosm, at its rawest and most naked.

The Weinstein revelations tell us much less about relations between men and women than they do about the nature of power and the ability of the strong to exploit the weak.

Under capitalism, the weak – the working class – eventually gained the consciousness and discovered the tools to assert their own form of power. As individuals they were vulnerable and exploitable. As a collective, they gained the power to bargain. That led to the trade union movements, and gradual improvements in wages and conditions.

The capitalist class has been trying to reverse those gains ever since. The new turbo-charged form we call neoliberalism has been atomising western societies since the 1970s to return us to new forms of economic dependency, culminating in zero-hours contracts and an Uber culture.

What does this have to do with Weinstein? This week Reese Witherspoon spoke out about her own sexual assault by a movie director when she was 16. She has joined a list of famous actors like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence and Gwyneth Paltrow who have cited their own experiences. One suspects that most of Hollywood’s A-list could tell similar horror stories from their early years in search of stardom.

So what is the lesson that none of them is drawing? Precisely the one that workers learnt more than a century ago. You must get organised.

One can understand why teenage actresses, as Witherspoon was at the time, are fearful of speaking out in a system dominated by predatory men who can destroy their careers. One can also understand that, at the very bottom of the Hollywood food chain, they are in no position to organise against the Hollywood mogul class. But none of that is true for the now fabulously rich and well-connected Witherspoon, Jolie, Paltrow, Lawrence, and all the others who have yet to speak out – or for the A-list men who would surely want to be seen publicly supporting them.

Why are they not organising? There are many things they can do. Here is one simple idea. They could set up a union, a sort of women’s Equity, that would allow actresses, in private, to register incidents of exploitation and sexual abuse with the union, naming those who committed the abuse and their modus operandi. By creating such a database, the union and its lawyers would be able to identify serial abusers and discover patterns of behaviour. The victims could then be encouraged to come forward in a group action, knowing that they would not be facing the Hollwood elite on their own. The union would redress, at least in part, the power of these male producers and directors. They, in turn, would grow more fearful of exposure.

That would be a political act of organised resistance to the power of Hollywood moguls. It would have much more impact than the trickle of stories from immensely successful actresses bewailing their past abuse. Creating such a union would be loose change for Jolie, Witherspoon, Lawrence, Paltrow and the other A-listers.

And yet in the degraded political culture we live in, they prefer to remain disempowered individuals rather than become part of a much stronger collectivity. They prefer their confessionals in the corporate media that exploited and abused them to independent, organised action to curb the corporate system’s excesses.

As long as these household names nurse their individual pain rather than seek to bring about change through organised action, the next generation of young actresses will face the same exploitation and the same abuse they had to endure in their younger days.

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Rohingya resettlement risky business for Myanmar

By David Scott Mathieson | Asia Times | October 19, 2017

Nothing better illustrates the disconnect between Myanmar government policy plans to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Rakhine state and the reality of the ongoing flight of Rohingya Muslims than to view the stunning drone footage by photographer Roger Arnold from the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.

The aerial footage shows around 15,000 civilians crammed on a thin split of land headed to Cox’s Bazar over the past few days to join over 550,000 others who have fled a brutal military campaign which began seven weeks ago in the wake of attacks by the insurgent Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Myanmar security forces.

Yet despite the continued exodus from Myanmar to Bangladesh, the embattled and increasingly maligned Aung San Suu Kyi announced plans on October 12 for a comprehensive resettlement of some of the Rohingya who have fled the conflict.

The de facto national leader outlined three priorities: repatriation of those who have crossed over to Bangladesh and the effective provision of humanitarian assistance; resettlement and rehabilitation; and economic development for Rakhine state that leads to durable peace.

While all fine sentiments, if not badly belated, but are they politically feasible? In recent days, Suu Kyi’s government has established a humanitarian assistance, resettlement and develop body she first broached in a recent speech on the Rakhine situation.

The new ‘Committee for the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance Resettlement and Development Enterprise’, a collective of government, civil society and international groups, will aim to manage both public and private donations for humanitarian relief and resettlement operations, including through an online portal where donors can “Adopt an Area” or make cash donations.

However, the body’s announcement doesn’t once mention the security forces who have driven out over half a million people in one of the swiftest forced population transfers in recent history.

The Union Enterprise appears initially to be a government scheme to spark social support for the reconstruction of Rakhine state, evoking the organic community response and assistance to victims of the devastating 2008 Cyclone Nargis, and the 2015 country-wide flooding when thousands of people raised cash donations and material support for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the natural disaster.

Myanmar’s business identities too, are being tapped to donate as they often do after natural calamities.

The opposed realities of the official announcements and documentation of the extreme state-sponsored violence makes the resettlement and rehabilitation plan seem surreal. State media reported this week about special government plans for the reconstruction of 48 ethnic Mro houses allegedly destroyed by ARSA terrorists, 22 new Myanmar Post and Telecommunications phone towers, and 156 miles worth of upgraded roads in Maungdaw, an epicenter of the recent violence.

Meanwhile, the economic zone long planned near Maungdaw town has been launched amid the death and destruction. The initiatives would all seem progressive if not for the concurrent release of a devastating Amnesty International report, fittingly titled “My World is Finished”, that documents widespread killings, systematic destruction of villages by arson, and sexual violence in the Myanmar military’s recent ‘clearance operations.’

For now, the government’s repatriation ideas are at an aspirational phase. It is impossible to see conditions anytime soon being in any way conducive to large scale refugee returns, which if done without careful planning would inevitable be another dark chapter in the repression of the Rohingya.

While Suu Kyi’s government forms new committees to give the illusion of progress and planning, the absence of an overarching framework of principles and requisite risk assessments could fuel further violence or an even greater humanitarian catastrophe. There are several serious challenges to resettlement, rehabilitation and development.

First is the security dilemma. At this early stage, it’s hard to fathom who would feel safe to return given the sadistic nature of military’s recent lethal security operations. Government initiatives, committees and Suu Kyi’s speeches do not appear to fully comprehend the gravity of the crisis in terms of its scale, speed and savagery.

How many refugees would voluntarily return when those same security forces remain in the vicinity and are likely to have a heavy hand in the implementation of any repatriation? The threat of renewed ARSA attacks, meanwhile, risk provoking another round of violence targeting civilian populations.

The abysmal conditions in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar could soon become a petri dish of desperation ripe for recruitment by extremists, drug dealers, and other exploitative forces. If, as the United Nations and the European Union have said in statements in recent weeks, the security operation was pre-planned, why would the security officials who planned and conducted the operation stand by to watch it be reversed, even partly, by resettlement?

Second, where will the refugees be allowed to return in Myanmar and under what circumstances? The government’s scheme in general terms has the air of a sinister ‘Field of Dreams’ scenario: build it and they will (be forced to) come.

The worst case possible is the resettlement sites become squalid, slow-death camps, locked off from regular access to basic provisions and ripe for ARSA recruitment and extremism. Some already see an early phase equivalent of a social engineering scheme to replicate the isolation of Palestinians in Israel’s West Bank.

The least bad scenario is that they become a Rakhine version of Potemkin villages that Suu Kyi can tour and pronounce success as she rolls out the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations for reconciliation elsewhere in the state.

Her government has already conducted a series of horror tours for diplomats, the media and the UN that clearly illustrate the extent of the carnage in Maungdaw, how the security forces rendered northern Rakhine state a charnel house, and yet then issue blanket denials of the scale of the problem.

Third, what role will Bangladesh play? Bangladesh has had an immense human catastrophe thrown across its border, joining existing Rohingya refugees and migrants the government obviously wants to return. But how much can Dhaka be involved in any returns that reek of refoulement? UN principles of refugee returns being conducted in safety and dignity are a long shot right.

Bilateral relations between Naypyidaw and Dhaka are dreadful and have been for years, and the latest crisis has plunged ties into a new downward spiral. Two previous large scale returns, in 1978 and 1995, were rife with reports of abuses by both sides. What documentation is Bangladesh providing for new arrivals and how will they be accepted under the Myanmar government’s resurrected 1992 repatriation plan?

Those bilateral agreements may have been functionally sufficient then, but the 1992 plan outlines criteria for repatriation, including documents of proof of Myanmar citizenship, almost impossible to fulfill following the several weeks of violence and several years of Myanmar slowly stripping away the legal rights of the Rohingya.

Past bilateral agreements state that after Bangladesh issued Refugee Registration Cards then Myanmar would agree to: “repatriate in batches all persons inter-alia; carrying Myanmar Citizenship Identity Cards/National Registration Cards; those able to present any other documents issued by relevant Myanmar authorities and; all those persons able to furnish evidence of their residence in Myanmar, such as addresses or any other relevant particulars.”

Fourth, what role will the UN and INGOs be allowed to play in the proposed repatriation? The UN is not likely to be willingly complicit in the construction or supply of return settlements that could easily turn out to be detention facilities with even sharper restrictions on basic freedoms than the Rohingya faced before the August 25 ARSA assault that reignited the conflict.

The UN and INGOs were expelled from northern Rakhine state during the first days of this crisis. It is hard to envision a scenario where they will be permitted unfettered access to refugees in need, particularly amid recent vilification as accomplices of ARSA terrorists.

Suu Kyi waving her magic wand of promises seems insufficient to facilitate the reconciliation between Myanmar and the UN anytime soon, even as dysfunctional as the UN’s operations in Myanmar have been. It is not clear Suu Kyi’s government fully comprehends the gravity of the UN’s outrage or that its fact-finding mission is in effect a UN investigation into state security forces.

The issue has incensed UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, seized the attention of the Security Council, and made High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad, apoplectic. The UN Human Rights Council is now on a crusade to document the abuses of the Maungdaw violence and hold Myanmar accountable. Its latest report based on research in Bangladesh concluded widespread abuses that demonstrate pre-planning by security forces to drive out the Rohingya.

Fifth, Myanmar’s domestic appetite for Rohingya returns is at a racist rock-bottom.

If Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy-led government calculated that standing up for the rights of the Rohingya was political suicide before the crisis, then it should be in overdrive for spurious spin to sell the repatriation plan to the country, especially after several weeks of vituperative social media support for the official line against ‘extremist Bengali terrorists.’

Any large-scale returns could inflame the bonfire of Rakhine nationalist anger into a firestorm, and imperil any implementation of the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations in other parts of the state, particularly without a more acute commitment to ‘do no harm’ principles than previously.

Six, the international community, including Western donors, the UN, rights groups and media, has made the issue one of the central global stories of 2017. Myanmar’s reputation, however unfairly overblown and misreported by sections of the media, is now at its lowest point in decades after a period of accolades for a supposedly successful democratic transition.

Even in a peripatetic international news cycle, the issue of repatriation will rightfully evince intense scrutiny and judgement. The government can expect any report of abuses will be amplified and any restrictions on monitoring intensely condemned. The media will likely report from these resettlement sites on the existing prevailing narrative that Myanmar spontaneously violently expelled and pre-planned the extirpation of the Rohingya.

The government and military have shown themselves to be almost pathologically incapable of presenting the complexity of the situation, putting their trust deficit on the issue in the deep red. It has also made an enemy of the international media and will likely never rebuild the relationship if they continue their current mix of denials, threats and vague remedies.

Finally, Suu Kyi’s government will be dragged into addressing all the many other crucial issues it promised to prioritize that have backslid down its agenda. Two years after a partial nationwide ceasefire was signed by eight insurgent groups, Suu Kyi’s peace process is floundering with many ethnic armed organizations criticizing the government and military for its hardline stance and lack of facilitating negations.

Fighting continues in Shan and Kachin states, with sharp curbs placed by the military on humanitarian assistance and over 100,000 civilians still living in internally displaced people camps.

Myanmar still faces immense development challenges in health, education, and employment and business opportunities, issues the NLD’s dreadful handling of the Rakhine situation and the security forces’ resurgent ruthless character have kept on a back-burner.

And while Suu Kyi and her NLD may feel the need to discuss repatriation and set in train planning ideas, the challenges and complexity of the situation are now well beyond her in-denial government’s control.

David Scott Mathieson is a Yangon-based independent analyst

October 19, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | 2 Comments

Kansas Teacher Barred from Employment for Supporting BDS

By Stephen Lendman | October 18, 2017

Barring longtime math teacher Esther Koontz from renewing her teaching contract, solely for her political beliefs, is a flagrant First Amendment violation.

She righteously supports BDS activism, wanting Israel held accountable for its high crimes against Palestinians.

Kansas House Bill 2409 prohibits state contracts with individuals critical of Israel’s agenda. In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. (1982), the Supreme Court unanimously ruled for the plaintiff against state authorities, cracking down on boycotts of white businesses, saying authority over economic relations doesn’t limit or deny political speech.

Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church USA. In July, it voted to divest from US companies, profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation.

She supports Palestinian rights. Her employment papers require a declaration in writing of no support for BDS. She declined and was denied the right to train other teachers.

The Kansas law is unconstitutional. The ACLU supports Koontz. Last week on its web site, she headlined “Kansas Won’t Let Me Train Math Teachers Because I Boycott Israel,” saying:

“Because of my political views, the state of Kansas has decided that I can’t help it train other math teachers.”

“I was chosen last spring to participate in a program that trains public school math teachers all over Kansas. After completing a two-day preparation course in May, I was ready to take on the role.”

As a Mennonite Church USA member concerned about human rights, notably longstanding abusive Israeli practices against Palestinians, she won’t buy products made by Israeli companies or from businesses profiting from its ruthlessness.

She’s inspired by how activism helped end South African apartheid, wanting to help the Palestinian liberation struggle.

Last summer, a Kansas State Department of Education email said to participate in its math training program, she’s required “to sign a certification stating that I don’t boycott Israel,” she said.

She was “stunned,” refusing to sign “as a matter of conscience.” Asking if she could still participate in the state’s training program, she was told she could not.

She’s challenging the decision with ACLU help, a federal lawsuit filed on her behalf. A public school math teacher for nine years, she’s trained to teach others how to teach her discipline.

“The lawsuit argues that the Kansas law violates the First Amendment for several reasons,” said the ACLU:

“(I)t compels speech regarding protected political beliefs, associations, and expression; restricts the political expression and association of government contractors; and discriminates against protected expression based on its content and viewpoint.”

The suit calls for striking down the Kansas law and barring its Department of Education from requiring contractor/teachers like Koontz from certifying no support for BDS activism.

The First Amendment protects the right to boycott, upheld by Supreme Court rulings. American Revolution supporters boycotted British goods.

Colonists refused to obey the UK Stamp Act. They boycotted British goods in protest. Shop owners signed non-importation agreements. They rejected taxation without representation.

America’s first Supreme Court chief justice John Jay boycotted New York merchants engaged in the slave trade.

The mid-1950s Montgomery bus boycott was a major turning point in the struggle for civil rights. Nationwide anti-war protests in the 1960s and early 70s helped end the Vietnam war.

Boycotts and protests are an American tradition – at risk by extremist governance wanting them curtailed or abolished.

The First Amendment protects these rights. Denying them puts all others at risk.

No federal, state or local authority can legally curtail or prevent free expression in all its forms. Nor is requiring individuals indicate their political beliefs a prerequisite for employment.

If justice is to be served, Koontz will prevail in court, including the Supreme Court if her case goes that far, the unconstitutional Kansas law annulled.

Stephen Lendman’s newest book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , | 7 Comments

Canada passes US-style sanctions bill targeting ‘corrupt’ Russian officials

RT | October 18, 2017

The Canadian Senate has passed Bill S-226, known as the Sergei Magnitsky Law, mirroring similar US legislation. Moscow has repeatedly slammed the bill as a violation of international law and vowed to respond.

Although the bill, titled “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law),” envisions imposing sanctions on any foreign national, not only on Russians, it mentions exclusively the high-profile cases linked to Russia in its preamble.

Among them is the death of Sergei Magnitsky in a pre-trial detention facility in 2009. Magnitsky was a tax accountant employed by the US-British investor Bill Browder, who was accused by the Russian authorities of orchestrating large-scale tax evasion and embezzling hundreds of millions of rubles from the Russian budget. The lawyer was a prime suspect in the investigation. Browder, however, insisted that Magnitsky fell victim to persecution and torture by the Russian penitentiary system after he allegedly uncovered corruption crimes by Russian tax officials. As result of a three-year lobbying campaign, spearheaded by Browder, in 2012 the US Senate approved the so-called Magnitsky Act, allowing the US to freeze the assets of, and bar entry to, Russians accused of human rights violations. The bill has soured relations between Washington and Moscow.

The other cases listed in the Canadian bill’s preamble refer to the death of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 In London, which was blamed by British investigators on Russian secret services, the assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in central Moscow in 2015 and the detention of former Ukrainian pilot turned MP, Nadezhda Savchenko, who was tried in a Russian court and found guilty of murdering Russian journalists in Eastern Ukraine. She was subsequently freed in a prisoner swap for two Russian nationals jailed by Kiev.

A foreign national is subject to the restrictions under the Canadian version of the Magnitsky Law if he or she is found to be complicit in torture or other human right violations against “individuals in any foreign country” who wants to shed light on the illegal activity by the government or to “obtain, exercise, defend or promote” human rights. The bill also targets foreign nationals involved in corruption.

Speaking on the bill after it was unanimously approved by the Canadian House of Commons in early October, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the legislation was designed to enable Canadian authorities to impose sanctions and travel bans on foreigners found to be complicit in these offenses.

The bill’s final reading was passed by the Senate on Tuesday. To become law, it now requires royal assent to be given by Canada’s Governor General, which is usually a mere formality.

The legislation’s apparent focus on the alleged misdeeds by Russian officials was slammed by Moscow as aggression that would not be left unanswered.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova described the bill as a copy of the “odious American Magnitsky Act,” saying that it will deal a blow to already strained Russia-Canada relations.

“We warn again that in case the pressure of the sanctions put on us increases … we will widen likewise the list of Canadian officials banned from entering Russia,” Zakharova said in early October.

Konstantin Kosachyov, the head of the Upper House Committee for International Relations, dubbed the bill “yet another confirmation of the existence of the dangerous tendency when national legislation is applied to international relations.” The lawmaker argued that neither Canada, nor any other single country, has the right to play the role of a “global ombudsman.”

“Who has empowered Canada with the right to do such things in the international arena, to decide who is corrupt in other nations and who is not, to apply repressive measures to foreign citizens?” he said.

The spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, Kirill Kalinin, said that while the bill is  “disguised as a pro-human rights and anti-corruption measure” it goes against Canada’s national interests, as it will alienate “one of the key world powers,” in times when diplomacy is of crucial importance.

“Unfortunately, we are witnessing the continuation of failed policies, pressed by Russophobic elements,” he said in a statement, noting that Russia would respond “with resolve and reciprocal countermeasures.”

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

Facespook! Social media giant becomes arm of US intel

By Finian Cunningham | RT | October 18, 2017

Facebook, the world’s top social media platform, is reportedly seeking to hire hundreds of employees with US national security clearance licenses.

Purportedly with the aim of weeding out “fake news” and “foreign meddling” in elections.

If that plan, reported by Bloomberg, sounds sinister, that’s because it is. For what it means is that people who share the same worldview as US intelligence agencies, the agencies who formulate classified information, will have a direct bearing on what millions of consumers on Facebook are permitted to access.

It’s as close to outright US government censorship on the internet as one can dare to imagine, and this on a nominally independent global communication network. Your fun-loving place “where friends meet.”

Welcome to Facespook!

As Bloomberg reports: “Workers with such [national security] clearances can access information classified by the US government. Facebook plans to use these people – and their ability to receive government information about potential threats – in the company’s attempt to search more proactively for questionable social media campaigns ahead of elections.”

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment, but the report sounds credible, especially given the context of anti-Russia hysteria.

Over the past year, since the election of Donald Trump as US president, the political discourse has been dominated by “Russia-gate” – the notion that somehow Kremlin-controlled hackers and news media meddled in the election. The media angst in the US is comparable to the Red Scare paranoia of the 1950s during the Cold War.

Facebook and other US internet companies have been hauled in front of Congressional committees to declare what they know about alleged “Russian influence campaigns.” Chief executives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter, are due to be questioned again next month by the same panels.

Mark Zuckerberg, the 33-year-old CEO of Facebook, initially rebuffed claims his company had unwittingly assisted Russian interference in the last US election in November. But after months of non-stop allegations by politicians and prominent news media outlets vilifying Russia, Zuckerberg and the other social media giants are buckling.

Led, perhaps unwittingly, by US intelligence fingering of Russian meddling, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are now saying they have discovered postings and advertisements “linked to the Russian government.” Notably, the sources impugning the “offending ads” are the intelligence agencies and members of Congress who are hawkish on the Russia-gate narrative.

One glaring weakness in this narrative is that the alleged “Russian ads” involved a spend of $100,000 on Facebook. Twitter identified $274,000 worth of “Russian-linked ads.” Some of the information being promoted appears to be entirely innocuous, such as pet-lovers sharing cute photos of puppies.

It is far from clear how these ads are connected to Russian state agencies allegedly attempting to subvert the US elections. Moscow has dismissed the allegations.

Much of it is assumed and taken on face value from claims made by American intelligence and their political and media associates. But what is clear – albeit overlooked in much US media coverage – is the sheer implausibility that the Russian government intended to warp the US presidential election with a few hundred thousand dollars.

Facebook alone earns billions of dollars from advertising. The alleged Russian ads represent a drop in the bucket. The expenditure and presumed impact on public opinion is also negligible compared to the billions of dollars American corporations donated to the election campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and Facebook are among the top 50 biggest US corporate donors in lobbying the Federal government and Congress. Last year, the top 50 corporations reportedly spent over $700 million, of which Alphabet and Facebook contributed $15 million and $8.7 million, respectively. This expenditure is explicitly intended to influence policy and legislation. So, what’s that about Russia allegedly swaying the presidential election with a fraction of the financial muscle?

Despite the irrational focus on Russian meddling, internet companies like Facebook have become willing participants in the official efforts to clamp down on this illusory “enemy of democracy.”

What’s more is the complete oversight on how the US media environment is increasingly dominated and controlled by vested powerful corporate interests.

While the mainstream media and politicians fret over alleged Russian influence on American citizens, there is an absurd absence in the public debate about the disproportionate power of just six US media conglomerates dominating all major American news services.

Social media and internet companies are vying with the traditional news channels. In a recent article, New York Times technology columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote about the “Frightful Five” – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet (Google). He writes: “The Five elicit worries of total social control.”

The influence these US-owned media giants exert cuts across all cultural sectors, from the news received, to books, film and other entertainment. In effect, these companies are molding citizens into the consumers that they want to maximize their profits.

Facebook’s reported plans to employ US government-validated people who can use their intelligence contacts and prejudices to control what millions of ordinary people will read, watch or listen to is another manifestation of the larger drift into a corporate matrix.

Under the preposterous guise of “protecting” from “fake news” and “foreign meddling in elections,” Facebook is turning into a government censor.

This disturbing trend has accelerated over the last year. Far from Russia or some other foreign impostor tampering with freedom of information and free speech – supposed bedrocks of democracy – it is increasingly American companies that are the very real and formidable constraint.

Robert Bridge, a fellow Op-Edge contributor, said Facebook appears to be deliberately blocking links disseminating particular news stories carried by the channel.

Bridge concurs with the experience of many other ordinary people around the world who also have noticed how US internet companies have substantially curbed the search freedom previously enjoyed on the internet.

“It’s really incredible how Google and YouTube have earnestly started manipulating their algorithms and censoring news, ” says Bridge. “I was researching a story recently, and it was so difficult to pull up any relevant information that was not critical of Putin or Russia.”

A similar finding was reported by the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), which carried out a study on how search traffic to that site and other left-wing, anti-war online journals has plummeted by over 50 percent since Google announced new search engines to curtail “fake news” back in April.

Facebook and the other big US internet companies are instead directing users to what they call “authoritative” news organizations, which by and large are corporate-controlled entities aligned with government interests. Ironically, these news outlets have peddled some of the biggest fake news stories, such as the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which launched a decade-long US war killing over a million Iraqis.

“Russia-gate” is another fabricated narrative which is being used to crush critical alternative sources.

The infernal paradox is that genuinely alternative, critical news sources are now at risk of being censored by internet companies working in league with nefarious US government intelligence.

Read more:

Welcome to 1984: Big Brother Google now watching your every political move

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.

October 18, 2017 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment