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The Polar-Bear-Gate Saga: How a picture is worth a thousand lies – Paul Nicklen and Michael Mann vs Susan Crockford

By Jim Steele | Watts Up With That? | December 16, 2017

What oddly seems to surprise so many people, reality can quickly disagree with the hypotheses and speculative models of scientists. The polar bear is a rich case in point. In 2008, the polar bear was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act as a result of the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) petition. Due to hypotheses regards future effects of increasing CO2 on sea ice and polar bear health, CBD argued polar bears were endangered. However then Interior Secretary Kempthorne made it clear that “the ESA will not be used as a tool for trying to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for creating climate change.” But as seen in other memos and petitions, such as for the bearded seals, the CBD ultimately wants to use the ESA as a tool to regulate CO2.

So the CBD stepped up their demands and petitioned the Obama administration to list the bears as endangered. Climate scientists Ken Caldeira and Michael Mann co-authored a 2010 letter to Interior Secretary Salazar supporting CBD efforts. They warned “sea ice has been projected to disappear in the 2030s or before” and lost sea ice was both a future and “current threat to this important habitat of the polar bear.” The Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) led by researchers like Andrew Derocher, Steve Amstrup and Ian Stirling warned the world that “two thirds of the world’s bears will be lost by mid-century due to climate change”. The PBSG published a status table for all the polar bear sub-populations showing in the best studied populations, 8 were declining.

However, since 2010 those predictions have been unraveling. All the evidence now reveals polar bears are thriving and increasing, and the PBSG’s recent status tables show just that. Research by Chambellant and Stirling determined it was heavy springtime ice that was most detrimental to bears and their main prey, the ringed seal. The loss of Arctic summer sea ice was happening faster than CO2 driven models had predicted, suggesting flawed models. Research revealed that in response to the natural Arctic Oscillation, thick sea ice had been blown into the warmer Atlantic due to a directional shift in freezing winds. Further loss of Arctic sea ice has recently been shown to be caused by cycles of intruding waters from the Pacific and the Atlantic resulting in heat that gets stored in the subsurface of the Arctic Ocean, dynamics that have not been accurately incorporated into global climate models. Accordingly, the loss of sea ice has not accelerated. Instead the loss has slowed considerably.

Skeptics argued such evidence challenges prevailing hypotheses about the polar bears’ demise, and question the contention that greenhouse gases are the primary cause of sea ice fluctuations. Driven by the hubris of scientists like Michael Mann whose careers are totally invested in the “dire predictions” of rising CO2, the normal scientific process of challenging a hypothesis was framed as an “attack on science”.

Again in 2010, in the paper Climate Change and the Integrity of Science Peter Gleick wrote, “We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. Accompanying his paper (below) was a photo-shopped picture of a polar bear stranded on a shrinking piece of ice. A deception that skeptics quickly pointed out.

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So the following correction was placed in the paper’s online version.

“Due to an editorial error, the original image associated with this Letter was not a photograph, but a collage. The image was selected by the editors [of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science], and it was a mistake to have used it. The original image has been replaced in the online HTML and PDF versions of the article with an unaltered photograph from National Geographic.”

That replacement picture (below) was from National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklin, who would become infamous for specializing in dead and skinny polar bear photos. If Gleick or his editors were pulling photos from an archive (National Geographic ?) of photographs, then the question arises if the fake collage was also the work of the same photographer. And if so, for what purpose were they creating such a dishonest photo? The timing of the article and fake photo also raised suspicions from skeptics as it coincided with the Center for Biological Diversity’s campaign to up-list the polar bear from threatened to endangered,

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Despite having “carelessly” used a fake photo, Gleick was anointed the Chairman of the new task force on “scientific ethics and integrity” for the American Geophysical Union in 2011. Leading by example, in 2012 Gleick was outed in a flagrant attempt to anonymously smear the Heartland Institute’s climate skepticism by disseminating documents dishonestly obtained, including a damning but forged memo. Quickly identified by internet skeptics, Gleick finally confessed. Although the forged document was only being disseminated by Gleick, he denied any hand in forgery, and there was not enough evidence to convict him of forgery. In a KQED interview, Michael Mann, likely motivated by self-protection, downplayed Gleick’s underhanded actions as “poor judgement”. Mann then argued the release of the climate-gate emails, emails that had exposed Mann’s own underhanded methods, was a more dastardly deed. To this day, it is still unknown if the release of climate gate emails were the work of a whistle-blower or a hacker.

However, consistent with Mann’s efforts to promote polar bears as an icon of catastrophic global warming, Mann expressed no concern about Gleick’s fake polar bear picture. Indeed Mann was actively trying to pull on heart strings by mewing in the CBD release, “When I ventured up to Hudson Bay in mid-November and saw the undernourished polar bears with their cubs, sitting around at the shore of the Hudson Bay, waiting for the then month-overdue sea ice to arrive so they could begin hunting for food, it suddenly came home for me. For the first time in my life, I actually saw climate change unfolding before my eyes. It was a sobering moment, and one I’ll never forget.” In contrast to such storytelling, the unpublished research data from Stirling and Lunn, determined polar bear’s Body Condition Index for Hudson Bay bears had been improving since 1998 (in Landscapes and Cycles, p. 217). Improving body condition was also consistent with the increasing number of Hudson Bay bears estimated in subsequent surveys.

Susan Crockford runs the website polarbearscience.com, that aggregates the most up-to-date, peer-reviewed science and media releases by polar bear researchers. For example, Crockford reported the latest survey showing a healthy rebounding Western Hudson Bay population, months before the Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) researchers publicized the increase. The PBSG had incorrectly predicted a dramatic decline in Hudson Bay bears, so their tardiness to expose their own shortcomings is understandable. Crockford also reported the lack of consensus among polar bear researchers. While Enviornment Canada agreed with the latest survey that estimated a healthy 1,030 Western Hudson Bay bears, PBSG alarmist Andrew Derocher was actively pushing a much lower estimate of 800 bears to the media and suggesting the bears were doomed. This too is understandable as Derocher was invested in his earlier predictions that “by the middle of this century, two-thirds of the polar bears will be gone from their current populations”

Nonetheless despite multiple surveys suggesting polar bear abundance was and is increasing, others tried to deny the evidence and suggest bears were starving and still on the brink of extinction. In 2015, photos by Kerstin Langenberger and once again by Paul Nicklin were pumped on social media, suggesting bears were suffering from a climate catastrophe. Who were these photographers?

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The dying bear above was put on Facebook by Kerstin Langenberger whom internet articles referred to as just a German photographer. But a little digging revealed she is a Greenpeace activist, which is consistent with her catastrophic narratives that accompanied her photo and contradicted our best science. She stated, “With the pack ice retreating further and further north every year, they tend to be stuck on land where there’s not much food,” and “many times I have seen horribly thin bears, and those were exclusively females – like this one here” and “Only once I have seen a bear getting a big fat ‘5,’ but several times I have seen dead bears and bears like this one: a mere ‘1’ on the scale, doomed to death.” [polar bears’ body condition is often rated from 1(dangerously thin) to 5 (fat)].

However contradicting Langenberger’s narrative, Norwegian Polar Institute researcher Kit Kovacs stated there’s reason to question claims that the number of animals experiencing such hardships is increasing. Our monitoring work indicates that (on-average) bears in the Svalbard population have NOT declined in condition over the last two decades – based on male body masses and fat levels”. Similarly, in the South Beaufort Sea population, female body condition had improved despite reduced summer ice.

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Also in 2015, Nicklin posted his photo of a dead bear that went viral. Journalist Andrew Freedman promoted the picture in Mashable writing, “Global warming may have led to the death of this polar bear.” Presenting a thin veneer of objectivity, he quotes polar bear researcher Ian Stirling who suggested that Nicklen’s photo shows a bear that most likely, but not certainly, died as a result of starvation related to sea ice melt. But Stirling’s remarks must be taken with a grain of salt as there is absolutely no evidence to support why the bear died. Furthermore, Stirling has appeared slightly schizophrenic lately as has been detailed. For example despite his research showing cycles of heavy spring ice had been most detrimental to seals and bears, Stirling and Derocher’s review of polar bear “science” used the very same research to falsely imply that less summer ice was the problem.

In contrast to those 2015 photos, Crockford’s website was one of the few places where scientific reports of a healthy bear population could be found. Contradicting Langenberger and Nicklin’s story-telling of dead bears strewn across Svalbard due to climate change, Crockford posted links to actual researchers from the Norwegian Polar Institute who reported fat bears in Svalbard.

Researchers were reporting:

“The polar bears on Svalbard is round and full, thanks to a good [ice year] and good hunting opportunities.” And “… Polar bears were fat, many looked like pigs”, says polar researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute, Jon Aars to the High North News. Furthermore the Svalbard bears are part of the Barent Sea population and in 2017 Crockford relayed the most recent survey data showing Barent Sea Bears have been increasing. But such facts don’t have the emotional appeal as Nicklin’s fanciful pictorial story telling.

The Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) had created a status table in 2009 to illustrate the trends of each polar bear population. Above is their 2010 version. The trends are boldly shown in red for declining and green for stable or increasing populations. Eight populations were believed to be declining of which 6 were considered very likely to decline further. Only 3 populations were considered stable and only 1 was increasing. These declining PBSG estimates also went viral, and websites such as the one run by psychologist John Cook, who is now part of the well-funded Center for Climate Change Communication, posted an article concluding, “Current analysis of subpopulations where data is sufficient clearly shows that those subpopulations are mainly in decline” and thus support the ESA listing of polar bears as threatened. In contrast in Landscapes and Cycles I documented how bear populations since 2010 were definitely increasing based on latest research. That analysis has been confirmed while earlier PBSG hype of declining populations and speculation of coming extirpations have not survived the test of time.

Fortunately Susan Crockford’s Polar Bear Science blog has continuously discussed population trends as reported by bear experts plus PBSG’s status updates. While the PBSG removes their old tables, Crockford’s website serves as an archive that allows the public to readily witness how the bears have been increasing. For example the 2014 table (below) revealed the good news that only 3 of the past 8 populations were still declining, one was still increasing, and the stable populatons had doubled to 6.

Oddly in 2017 the PBSG eliminated the trends from their population table. The most likely reason for this omission would be that none of the bear populations are currently declining. Every population would be green or data deficient. Despite rising CO2 and reduced summer sea ice, polar bears are doing quite well and that contradicted the their predictions.

Of the 3 previously declining populations listed in their 2014 status report, the Baffin Bay population has now increased from 1,546 in 2004 to 2,826 in the most recent survey. The Kane Basin bears, that suffer from heavy ice, were estimated at 167 in 1997 but rose to 357 in 2014. The South Beaufort Sea population estimation remained unchanged but this population has been heavily criticized for poor analyses of mark and recatpure data.

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In the face of rapid increases in the Baffin Bay bear population, a social media splash of Nicklin’s starving bear on Baffin Island appears to be another orchestrated attempt to resuscitate the failing claim that climate change is killing bears. National Geographic who sponsored Nicklin reports by “telling the story of one polar bear, Nicklen hopes to convey a larger message about how a warming climate has deadly consequences.” The NY Times pushed the video with similar headlines: Video of Starving Polar Bear ‘Rips Your Heart Out of Your Chest’. The Washington Post hyped the bear as evidence of an environmental disaster with the headlines, ‘We stood there crying’: Emaciated polar bear seen in ‘gut-wrenching’ video and photos. If you searched the internet for an objective scientific examination, oddly no matter how many variations of “starving polar bears” are queried Google’s first link brings up the WWF’s plea for money to save the bears, and perhaps a violation of net neutrality.

Snopes who advertises itself as a fact-checker of truth, rated Nicklin’s starving bear video as “TRUE”. But Snopes’ bias is revealed by its discussion on the photo’s relevance, which pushes catastrophic climate change speculation. Snopes quotes polar bear researcher Steve Amstrup, who has flip flopped on several bear issues over his career and whose “expertise model” has been severely criticized by colleagues in released emails. Amstrup promotes the starving bear photo on his website, again with the obligatory thin veneer of objectivity stating, “we cannot say, from the footage captured here, that this bear’s malnutrition was caused by global warming and its associated sea ice loss”. He then launches his speculative catastrophic message, “The problem is that an ever-warmer future means polar bears will have less and less access to their seal prey, so the rate at which bears die from malnutrition/starvation will increase. So, regardless of the proximate cause of this bear’s condition, this heart-wrenching footage provides us with a warning about the future.” Yet not a word about the survey of Baffin Bay bears robustly increasing from 1,546 in 2004 to 2,826 today.

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Amstrup and Mann are facing an embarrassing professional dilemma. With all the polar bear populations increasing or stable, their predictions that two-thirds of the polar bears will be gone by the middle of this century appears destined for utter failure. They had to do something. Otherwise who would trust a doctor whose past diagnoses were absolutely wrong. So, Harvey, Stirling, Amstrup, Mann and a professor of psychobabble Stephan Lewandowsky, banded together as coauthors of the paper Internet Blogs, Polar Bears, and Climate-Change Denial by Proxy that fortuitously gets publicized alongside Nicklin’s starving bear hype.

Their paper acknowledges observations that polar bears have yet to be harmed writing, “Although the effects of warming on some polar-bear subpopulations are not yet documented and other subpopulations are apparently still faring well.” But they then confuse speculation with proven facts by suggesting “the fundamental relationship between polar-bear welfare and sea-ice availability is well established.” Clearly the growing bear populations present an undeniable challenge to any belief in the “requirement” of summer ice.

Their paper argued, “a growing body of scientific research reports the wide array of negative effects of AGW on biodiversity” by citing Parmesan whose bogus claims about the negative effects of climate change on wildlife are well documented. Harvey, Stirling, Amstrup and Mann confuse speculative hypotheses with “fundamental relationship”. Published observations have shown heavy springtime ice is more harmful for seals and bears. Observations by Arrigo determined that reduced ice, whether natural or anthropogenic, has increased phytoplankton productivity and bolstered the Arctic food web, while fishery researchers find that less ice and warmer temperatures increase Arctic cod abundance that is required to sustain the seals that sustain the bears.

Because skeptic websites like Crockford’s polarbearscience.com, Anthony Watts’ WUWT, and many others are the best source for alternative explanations that challenge catastrophic hypotheses, they are denigrated by these supposed objective scientists. As mounting evidence continues to turn against their prior polar bear predictions Harvey, Stirling, Amstrup, Mann and Lewandowsky’s were running low on scientific ammunition. So now they chose to publish a paper, solely aimed at shooting the messengers. They offered no scientific facts about polar bears that contradicted anything Crockford had published. Their arguments were based solely on the fallacy of authority, authorities whose predictions are failing. Their paper is nothing more than a smear campaign hoping to suppress the upwelling call for more debate. Such tactics, tactics that try to obscure any evidence that challenges a failing hypothesis, are the real attacks on the scientific process. That is why Mann has been labeled by some as a disgrace to the profession. And whether or not Nicklin’s latest wretched polar bear photo is part of an orchestrated attempt to resuscitate their failed predictions, the media hype reveals that such photos, taken out of context, are worth a thousand lies.

Jim Steele is Director emeritus Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University and author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

December 16, 2017 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

The myth of the given

By Vladimir Golstein | OffGuardian | December 16, 2017

One of the problems of dealing with establishment, politicians, mass media and their pundits, is that they start with some phony certainties:

  • Serbs committed genocide;
  • Russians grabbed Crimea
  • Putin interfered in US election;
  • He is a killer, who runs autocratic hell.
  • Russian economy is collapsing.
  • US is the most progressive, democratic and fair country on earth.
  • It always has good intentions.
  • People who support Trump are deplorable racists.

And things of that nature. The list can obviously go on.

Paradoxically, the enemies of the hegemonic discourse, have their own certainties. Well, it is given that the world is controlled by Rothschilds, Zionists, capitalists, bankers, white men, sexy women and so on.

Why? How? Well, it is given.

Well, for anyone who cared to think about matters of this world, nothing is given. Mass media does not always lie. Russians are not angels, nor are they devils. Same about Americans, Israelis or Ukrainians.

One character in Lermontov claims that the only given thing is that one day he’ll have misfortune of dying. To which another replies:

Well, I am more rich than you are in certainties. I know that one day, I had the misfortune of being born. A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov

These are the only two given facts. The rest is not given. It is a verbal construction based on approximation or induction.

Consequently, people like Dostoevsky, would proclaim mysteries and enigmas on every corner:

Man is a mystery. I want to solve this mystery, even if I have to spend my whole life doing it. Because I want to become a man.

That’s what nineteen-year old Dostoevsky wrote, and he remained true to this goal. Because he wanted to become human. And we become so when trying to solve mysteries, not when we proclaim banalities.

Indeed, there are so many mysteries paradoxes and uncertainties: capitalism or socialism; globalism or localism; the balance of rights and duties, man’s duty to others and to mother earth. Yet, the fools continue to rush where angels fear to tread.

Because it is given.

Obama has lost all credibility when he declared casually:

Well, Russia does not make anything.

Why? Well, everyone in Washington knows it. It is given!

Honestly, Trump will never say anything even approximately that stupid and that insulting.

And that’s given. At least in my world.

December 16, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

Is TIME’s Afghan “cover girl” really a victim of mutilation by the Taleban?

Zero Anthropology | August 8, 2010

TIME : What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan (story)

 

BOING BOING : What Still Happened Despite 10 Years of Occupying Afghanistan (story)

ZERO ANTHRO : What Happens When We Don’t Fix Problems at Home (story)

The August 9th TIME magazine cover story is about a young Afghan woman whose nose and ears have been allegedly “mutilated” by the Taleban. The story has generated widespread self-serving moral indignation and self-righteous clamor in the U.S. propaganda machine supporting the occupation of Afghanistan run by the Israeli-American weapon-making industry. The American culture cleansing project in Afghanistan must be in need of a booster shot from the radical feminist forces that so fervently collaborated with the American war machine in initiating this racist imperial enterprise in 2001. Perhaps the flaunting of this fictitious story is a desperate attempt by the Obama war regime to offset the steep decline of support for this murderous program against unarmed and helpless pre-industrial Afghanistan. Let us recall the production of the picture of the frightened green-eyed Afghan girl on the cover of the National Geographic magazine to justify the United States sponsorship of local anti-government terrorist gangs who currently host the American occupation of Afghanistan.

TIME’s story does not provide its readers with any specific or credible factual text and context about what has really caused the deformity in this young woman’s face. Like much fiction that has been produced in the shadow of the American war machine in Afghanistan, this “story” appears to be a string of hearings and imaginings about women’s life in Afghanistan put together by Aryn Baker and Jodi Bieber, two young American journalists who probably first encountered Afghanistan in the pages of “the kite runner”. Having the readers see the reporters’ pictures (p. 4) in a “Kabul kite shop” speaks to the compelling impact of the untruths about life in Kabul in that “bestseller” book. What is the relationship of kites to a story about a mutilated nose? TIME’s story by Baker and Bieber has no truth value. Let us have a closer look at some of the cultural content and ethnographic claims in this fabricated telltale.

The narrative in which the Taleban single out this young woman for ears and nose mutilation at the instigation of her husband cannot be credible when exposed to the spatial, temporal, and cultural framework provided by the reporters.  First, Urozgan province is located in central Afghanistan not “southern” Afghanistan. And if the alleged mutilation took place in central or northern Urozgan, TIME’s tale becomes even less credible for these parts of Urozgan are home to non-Paxtuns, especially Hazaras. What is the victim’s ethnic background? Even if the agency of this “mutilation” were the Taleban, why would they devote this amount of precious human resources in a hostile area to the personal disenchantment of a single Taleb foot soldier with his runaway wife, Aisha? This does not make tactical or strategic sense.

The Taleban dragged Aisha “to a mountain clearing near her village” where “[s]hivering in the cold  air and blinded by the flashlights trained on her by her husband’s family, she faced her spouse and accuser… and men moved to deliver her punishment. Aisha’s brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose. Aisha passed out from her pain but awoke soon after, choking on her own blood. The men had left her on the mountaintop to die” (pp. 20-22).  If the men wanted Aisha to die, why did they not kill her on the spot, on the mountain? Why give her a chance to live? Why risk her potential recovery and/or rescue?

To receive her punishment, why would Aisha have to be dragged to the mountain clearing (or is it a “mountainside”)? Where is this mountain clearing or side located in Urozgan? However, it must be at a distance from the village. And if TIME’s narrative is valid, the mutilation is a public affair with the husband, his family, and Taleban officials present. Thus, there are witnesses to the mutilation of Aisha’s nose and ears.  These witnesses, especially members of her husband’s family, can be located. Did Aisha “pass out” from “pain” or loss of blood? How does a victim whose ears and nose have been mutilated and is choking on her own blood, and left alone “on the mountainside to die” survive such virtually fatal injuries? The human face is heavily irrigated with blood. I am not a medical doctor, but based on common sense, it would not take more than a few minutes of suffering heavy blood loss from open veins around the nose and ears to become fatal? How does a rural 19 year girl in such perilous medical condition, bleeding from open veins around her nose and ears, manage to move from a mountainside in remote Urozgan to a “shelter” in downtown Kabul hundreds of miles away? “A few months after Aisha arrived at the shelter, her father tried to bring her home with promises that he would find her a new husband. Aisha refused to leave. In rural areas, a family that finds itself shamed by a daughter sometimes sells her into slavery, or worse, subjects her to a so-called honor killing—murder under the guise of saving the family’s name” (p. 26). Now, what are the prospects (or practical feasibility) for marriage of a woman who has her ears and nose mutilated for having dishonored her own family, husband, and in-laws in patriarchal Afghanistan or for that matter in patricentric United States? What would be the market value of Aisha’s labor? What kind of labor could a severely mutilated woman like this produce as a slave? Only total ignorance of the Afghan cultural plane and complete disregard for the intelligence of the audience by the American popular media would allow such fabricated prattle to see the light of public print.

Aisha’s disposition could be congenital. It could be caused by a bacterial or viral infection such as cancer, a malady not rare in Afghanistan among both men and women. Or it could be related to an injury caused by firearms or explosives. Harelips and other deformities in the mandible, although rare, occur in the population of Afghanistan. Incidents of human body deformities in Afghanistan have steadily increased with the expanding military interference of the United States going back to the 1980s. These incidents have soared since 2001 with the American occupation and experimentation with weapon systems designed for “population centered wars” in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The non-Paxtun Northern Alliance warlords and their inner circles are the only Afghans that pray and beg for the American military presence in Afghanistan. It was these anti-Paxtun American trained and subsidized terrorist gangs who scouted and pimped for the American occupation of Afghanistan. And it is the Northern Alliance that opposes a political solution in Afghanistan because any such solution would remove them from power and expose and punish their criminal deeds. Amrullah Saleh, a known psychopath and a leading member of this criminal gang who headed Afghanistan’s intelligence services, recently expatiated: “I have killed many of them (Taleban) with pride”, killing “them is part of my blood” (Lara Logan interview on “60 Mintes”, August 1, 2010). The informants for TIME’s reporters of this story are the female dependents of the Northern Alliance criminal clique one of whom is credited with this rabid hateful lie “I go running in the stadium where the Taliban used to play football with women’s heads” (p. 24). This woman is pictured standing in Kabul stadium with three Kabuli teenagers in the background clearly running-in-place! There is not a shred of evidence for a football game played with human heads anywhere at any time in Afghanistan. TIME magazine has truly stooped to the lowest standards in journalism. During the 1990s the Kabul stadium was used once for the public execution of a woman found guilty of violating a Taleban decree.

The American intimate love affair during the past three decades with the various gangs of terrorists including Al-Qaeda, Hezb-e Islami, Northern Alliance, and sporadically the early manifestation of the Taleban movement during the 1990s has inflicted irreparable damage on the political, economic, and security prospects of Afghanistan. The ethnic and sectarian divisions caused by the American military operations and criminal deeds in South Asia has brought the frail state structure of Afghanistan to the verge of total collapse. It has destabilized the whole region. Tens of thousands of innocent and helpless Afghans have been slaughtered by the American Zionist-controlled killing machine. These are war crimes and crimes against humanity for which history will condemn its perpetrators.

On an ethnographic level, the manipulation of the body of the subject human population by the state has historical roots in several culture areas including Europe, the Middle East and South Asia. To this day in the popular lore of non-Paxtun areas of Afghanistan (especially among the Farsi-speaking population) a person, male or female, who compromises the interests and standards of the larger community, is symbolically labeled “beeni borida” (Farsi, one whose nose has been cut, one who has lost his nose, i. e. one who has lost her/his honor, a person without honor). The equivalent of this linguistic construct and its cultural content does not exist among Paxtuns.

However, no matter the untruths and distortions from which TIME’s August 9th cover story is concocted, we need a proper comparative cultural framework for the understanding of abuse of the human body including the practice of mutilation of body parts. An informed glance at global ethnographic realities connects such practices with a relation of power called patriarchy—male domination of society. As a system of ideas and practices patriarchy “is a threat to public health everywhere” (Laura Nader, Anthropology News, September 2006, p. 7) including Afghanistan and the United States. In principle the socio-cultural ingredients involved in the mutilation of the human body in Afghanistan are not different than the socio-cultural forces that impose industrial “vaginal rejuvenation”, “pussy tightening” (JoAnn Wypijewski, The Nation, 9/28/2009, p. 8), and breast enhancement in Euro-America. In no other culturally constructed space are women, womanhood, and femininity so universally abused, exploited, demeaned, and vulgarized than in the Euro-American industry of internet pornography—the biggest money making enterprise in cyberspace. Comparative studies reveal that American domestic violence is approximately 25%–about the same as in Syria and Bolivia (Nader 2006:7). The extensive system of shelters for abused women throughout the United States is symptomatic of a widely practiced tradition of physical and verbal abuse of women by men that is qualitatively not different than the abuse of women by men elsewhere in the world.

TIME, you are a beeni borida!

_________

Addendum by Max Forte:

[“In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner” (source). 17.6 % of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape. Of these, 21.6% were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32.4% were between the ages of 12 and 17. 64% of women who reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked since age 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabiting partner, boyfriend, or date. Only about half of domestic violence incidents are reported to police. The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study estimated that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 college women experience completed or attempted rape during their college years. One out of every six American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Factoring in unreported rapes, about 5% – one out of twenty – of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. 19 out of 20 will walk free. The costs of intimate partner violence against women exceed an estimated $5.8 billion. These costs include nearly $4.1 billion in the direct costs of medical care and mental health care and nearly $1.8 billion in the indirect costs of lost productivity and present value of lifetime earnings. A University of Pennsylvania research study found that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to low-income, inner-city Philadelphia women between the ages of 15 to 44 – more common than automobile accidents, mugging and rapes combined. In this study domestic violence included injuries caused by street crime (see sources).]

December 16, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

‘No Evidence’ Russia Threatens Undersea Cables Despite UK Defense Chief’s Claims

Sputnik | December 15, 2017

The chief of the UK defense staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, has said NATO needs to protect its undersea cables from attack by Russia. Sputnik spoke to Steffan Watkins, a Canadian-based open-source intelligence analyst who monitors military naval movements, who said there was no evidence Russia planned any hostile action.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said the UK economy would be “immediately and potentially catastrophically” hit if one of the many undersea cables linking Britain to the rest of the world were disrupted.

The cables, which lie on the ocean floor, ensure communications flow freely to and from the UK.

Sir Stuart pointed the finger directly at Moscow, claiming they were probably plotting to damage the undersea cables.

​Steffan Watkins, a Canadian-based open-source intelligence analyst who monitors military naval movements, said undersea cables were the backbone of the worldwide telecom infrastructure and there were also unmarked military communications cables.

“Sabotage of the world’s undersea telecom infrastructure is not a threat specific to Russia, yet it is being treated as such in the Western media, due to statements leaked by anonymous Pentagon officials in 2015. There has been no evidence provided by any government or non-government agency that shows Russia is planning on cutting any cables, other than anonymous Pentagon officials leaking those accusations to the media, conveniently right before requesting more money, from the Senate Armed Services Committee,” Mr. Watkins told Sputnik.

Russian Ship Which Surveys Seabed

Russia launched the oceanographic vessel, Yantar, in 2015 and it has been surveying large areas of the world’s seas.

“I have reviewed the majority of Yantar’s path at sea since she was commissioned, and it seems like the Russian Navy is surveying the bottom of the ocean, along shipping lanes, and other locations that are important to them, and their allies. They have stopped over areas believed to have Syrian telecom cables, and after they were done, emergency repairs were needed by the Syrian authorities. Did the Yantar expose a tap that had been placed on Syrian telecom cables by another state?” Mr. Watkins told Sputnik.

​”Yantar also positioned itself in the Persian Gulf near Iran, near the location of a cable thought to have an outage before they got there.  Did they show up to repair it, or assess the damage to the cable?  Was the cable damaged as part of another nations’ covert operations? The Yantar’s operations are secret but their movements frequently are not and can be tracked using commercial AIS transponder methods; without evidence from The Pentagon showing some proof of tapping/cutting plans, it’s just more conjecture and fake news,” he told Sputnik.

‘Russian Economy Relies on These Cables’

“It is the job of the military to anticipate all threats, no matter how minor, before a conflict occurs, and hopefully avoid that conflict. Maybe someone figured out this was a potential threat, and explored how much of a threat it could be. The US Navy has good reason to think the Russian Navy could destroy the world’s cable infrastructure, because it could. However, there is a difference between what is possible, and probable. Russia, and every country in the world participating in our global economy, rely on these cables. The US military, or any military, could destroy telecom cables too. I’m much more concerned with terrorism, and cable landing sites are extremely vulnerable to terrorist attack, since such an attack could happen today or tomorrow. The threat of a Russian military operation cutting the worlds’ communication lines is not something that keeps me up at night,” Mr. Watkins told Sputnik.

​”In the initial leak by the Pentagon in 2015 they mentioned the Russians were looking for military secret cable networks. Those networks would be fair military targets in a time of conflict, and would disrupt American military operations globally, not the internet. I believe it is much more likely that the Pentagon wants to get the world worried about the Russians cutting their internet, because it’s easier to explain than their own vulnerable networks,” he told Sputnik.

“It’s much more likely the Russian Navy in a conflict would want all the cables mapped out so they knew which cables to cut to cripple American military communications networks. I believe the Pentagon is much more concerned with their own mesh of secret and uncharted cables that criss-cross the oceans of the world. Public commercial cable networks are already mapped and that information is readily available in the industry; the Russians don’t need to survey them, they can just read a nautical chart,” Mr. Watkins told Sputnik.

‘Crippling Blow’ to UK

In a report for center-right UK think tank Policy Exchange, Conservative MP Rishi Sunak said an attack on the UK’s undersea communications cables could deal a “crippling blow” to Britain’s security and economy.

​”It is not satellites in the sky, but pipes on the ocean floor that form the backbone of the world’s economy,” said Admiral James Stavridis, a former US Navy officer and NATO supreme allied commander, who wrote the foreword to the report.

Adm. Stavridis claimed China, Iran and Russia all posed a threat to the cables.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

Protecting the Shaky Russia-gate Narrative

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the third presidential debate in 2016, during which Clinton called Trump Vladimir Putin’s “puppet.”
By Robert Parry | Consortium News | December 15, 2017

If Russia-gate is the massive scandal that we are told it is by so many Important People — across the U.S. mainstream media and the political world — why do its proponents have to resort to lies and exaggerations to maintain the pillars supporting the narrative?

A new example on Thursday was The New York Times’ statement that a Russian agency “spent $100,000 on [Facebook’s] platform to influence the United States presidential election last year” – when the Times knows that statement is not true.

According to Facebook, only 44 percent of that amount appeared before the U.S. presidential election in 2016 (i.e., $44,000) and few of those ads addressed the actual election. And, we know that the Times is aware of the truth because it was acknowledged in a Times article in early October.

As part of that article, Times correspondents Mike Isaac and Scott Shane reported that the ads also covered a wide range of other topics: “There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads.”

As nefarious as the Times may think it is for Russians to promote a Facebook page about “adorable puppies,” the absurdity of that concern – and the dishonesty of the Times then “forgetting” what it itself reported just two months ago about the timing and contents of these “Russian-linked ads” – tells you a great deal about Russia-gate.

On Thursday, the Times chose to distort what it already knew to be true presumably because it didn’t want to make the $100,000 ad buy (which is not a particularly large sum) look even smaller and less significant by acknowledging the pre-election total was less than half that modest amount – and even that total had little to do with the election.

Why would the Times lie? Because to tell the truth would undercut the narrative of evil Russians defeating Hillary Clinton and putting Donald Trump in the White House – the core narrative of Russia-gate.

Another relevant fact is that Facebook failed to find any “Russian-linked” ads during its first two searches and only detected the $100,000 after a personal visit from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a leading legislator on Internet regulation.

In other words, Facebook’s corporate executives dredged up something to appease Warner. That way, Warner and the Democrats could blame Russia for the Trump presidency, sparing further criticism of Clinton’s dreadful campaign (in which she labeled half of Trump’s voters “deplorables”) and her neo-liberal economic policies (and neo-conservative foreign policies) that have alienated much of America’s working class as well as many progressives.

Leaving Out Context

The Times also might have put the $100,000 in “Russian-linked” ads over a two-year period in the context of Facebook’s $27 billion in annual revenue, but the Times didn’t do that – apparently because it would make even the full $100,000 look like a pittance.

Trimming the total down to $44,000 and admitting that only a few of those ads actually dealt with Clinton and Trump would be even worse for the Russia-gate narrative.

Ironically, the Times’ latest false depiction of the $100,000 in ads as designed “to influence” the 2016 election appeared in an article about Facebook determining that other Russian-linked ads, which supposedly had a powerful effect on Great Britain’s Brexit vote, totaled just three ads at the cost of 97 cents. (That is not a misprint.)

According to Facebook, the three ads, which focused on immigration, were viewed some 200 times by Britons over four days in May 2016. Of course, the response from British parliamentarians who wanted to blame the Brexit vote on Moscow was to assert that Facebook must have missed something. It couldn’t be that many Britons had lost faith in the promise of the European Union for their own reasons.

We have seen a similar pattern with allegations about Russian interference in German and French elections, with the initial accusations being widely touted but not so much the later conclusions by serious investigations knocking down the claims. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com’sGerman Intel Clears Russia on Interference.”]

The only acceptable conclusion, it seems, is “Russia Guilty!”

These days in Official Washington, it has become almost forbidden to ask for actual evidence that would prove the original claim that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails, even though the accusation came from what President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged were “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.

These “hand-picked” analysts produced the evidence-lite Jan. 6 “assessment” about Russia “hacking” the emails and slipping them to WikiLeaks – a scenario denied by both WikiLeaks and Russia.

When that “assessment” was released almost a year ago, even the Times’ Scott Shane noticed the lack of proof, writing: “What is missing from the [the Jan. 6] public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. … Instead, the message from the agencies essentially amounts to ‘trust us.’”

But the Times soon “forgot” what Shane had inconveniently noted and began reporting the Russian “hacking” as accepted wisdom.

The 17-Agencies Canard

Whenever scattered expressions of skepticism arose from a few analysts or non-mainstream media, the doubts were beaten back by the claim that “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” concurred in the conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the hacking to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. And what kind of nut would doubt the collective judgment of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies!

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, John Brennan and other national security aides present. (Photo credit: Office of Director of National Intelligence)

Though the 17-agency canard was never true, it served an important purpose in establishing the Russia-gate groupthink. Wielding the “all 17 intelligence agencies” club, the U.S. mainstream media pounded politicians and policymakers into line, making any remaining skeptics seem more out of step and crazy.

So, in May 2017, when Clapper (along with former CIA Director John Brennan) admitted in congressional testimony that it wasn’t true that all 17 agencies concurred in the Russian hacking conclusion, those statements received very little attention in the mainstream media.

The New York Times among other major news outlets just continued asserting the 17-agency falsehood until the Times was finally pressured to correct its lie in late June, but that only led to the Times shifting to slightly different but still misleading wording, citing a “consensus” among the intelligence agencies without mentioning a number or by simply stating the unproven hacking claim as flat fact.

Even efforts to test the Russian-hack claims through science were ignored or ridiculed. When former NSA technical director William Binney conducted experiments that showed that the known download speed of one batch of DNC emails could not have occurred over the Internet but matched what was possible for a USB-connected thumb drive — an indication that a Democratic insider likely downloaded the emails and thus that there was no “hack” — Binney was mocked as a “conspiracy theorist.”

Even with the new disclosures about deep-seated anti-Trump bias in text messages exchanged between two senior FBI officials who played important early roles in the Russia-gate investigation, there is no indication that Official Washington is willing to go back to the beginning and see how the Russia-gate story might have been deceptively spun.

In a recently released Aug. 15, 2016 text message from Peter Strzok, a senior FBI counterintelligence official, to his reputed lover, senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page, Strzok referenced an apparent plan to keep Trump from getting elected before suggesting the need for “an insurance policy” just in case he did. A serious investigation into Russia-gate might want to know what these senior FBI officials had in mind.

But the Times and other big promoters of Russia-gate continue to dismiss doubters as delusional or as covering up for Russia and/or Trump. By this point – more than a year into this investigation – too many Important People have bought into the Russia-gate narrative to consider the possibility that there may be little or nothing there, or even worse, that it is the “insurance policy” that Strzok envisioned.

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

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

4 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in clashes over Trump decision on Jerusalem

Ma’an – December 15, 2017

BETHLEHEM – Four Palestinians have been declared dead by the Palestinian Health Ministry in the West Bank and Gaza, after a day of violent clashes with Israeli forces on Friday across the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and besieged Gaza Strip.

The ministry reported that 18-year-old Muhammad Amin Aqel al-Adam succumbed to his wounds on Friday evening after he was shot multiple times by Israeli forces in the central West Bank town of al-Bireh, after an alleged stabbing attempt against soldiers.

Al-Adam was a resident of the town of Beit Ula in the western Hebron district of the southern West Bank

In the Jerusalem area town of Anata, in the central West Bank, 29-year-old Bassel Mustafa Muhammad Ibrahim succumbed to his wounds shortly after being shot in the chest by Israeli forces during clashes in the town.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians and injured hundreds others during clashes that broke out along the border between the besieged coastal enclave and Israel.

Yassir Sokhar, 31, a resident of the al-Shujaiyya neighborhood of eastern Gaza City was shot during clashes and declared dead by the ministry of health in Gaza.

The fourth slain Palestinian was identified by the ministry as Ibrahim Abu Thurayya, 29, who was shot in the head during clashes.

Ibrahim Abu Thurayya

Tributes to Abu Thurayya — who was wheelchair-ridden after losing both his legs during Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2008 — popped up across social media, as Palestinians widely circulated a video of him calling on Palestinians to protest against US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Hundreds of Palestinians across the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza had been injured with live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets on Friday during clashes with Israeli forces in protest of Trump’s decision last week.

Friday’s events brought the death toll over the past week to 10 — six Palestinians had previously been killed by Israeli forces over the past week, four in airstrikes and two in clashes.

Palestinians have vowed to continue protesting Trump’s unprecedented decision, which Palestinian and Arab leaders warned would cause instability and unrest in the region.

Trump’s announcement was the first step to a drastic abdication of longstanding US policy that has largely adhered to international standards on Israel-Palestine, which maintains that East Jerusalem is an intricate part of occupied Palestinian territory and the capital of any future Palestinian state, despite Israel’s annexation of the territory.

The fate of Jerusalem has been a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, with numerous tensions arising over Israeli threats regarding the status of non-Jewish religious sites in the city, and the “Judaization” of East Jerusalem through settlement construction and mass demolitions of Palestinian homes.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

Witness Report, Video: Israeli War Crimes Against Palestinian Youth in Hebron

International Solidarity Movement | December 15, 2017 

al-Khalil, Occupied Palestine – Witness accounts and video footage confirm that the Israeli army has been and is committing war crimes in dealing with the current wave of protests against the occupation, colonization, and ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

On Friday, December 8, 2017 around 4:30 PM, ISM activists clearly witnessed and filmed a unit of of around 40 Israeli soldiers and commanders in the H1 area of Hebron – which, according to the 1997 Hebron agreement, should be fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority – intentionally injuring the backs, shoulders, and heads of two randomly arrested teens. Much of this occurred after they had been handcuffed, blindfolded, and were held in custody. … Full article

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Deconstructing the Almighty Russian Hackers Myth

By Patrick ARMSTRONG | Strategic Culture Foundation | 15.12.2017

Sometimes things can be made more complicated than they really are. And such is the case with the story that the Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee so as to help Trump become president.

In July 2016 Wikileaks released a number of documents showing that the nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president had been rigged. A month earlier the DNC had announced it had been “hacked” and the cybersecurity company it hired announced that the Russians had done it – one of the reasons they gave was that the hackers had helpfully left the name of the Polish founder of the Soviet security forces as a clue.

Since then, this story has been broadly accepted and it has spun on and on for eighteen months. But it doesn’t really make any sense.

Let us pretend that Moscow wanted Trump to win. Let us further pretend that Moscow thought that there was a chance that he could win despite the fact that almost all news outlets, pollsters and pundits were completely confident that he could not. And let us pretend that Moscow thought that, with its thumb on the scale, Trump could make it. And, the fourth if, let us pretend that Moscow decided to put its thumb on the scale.

How to do it? Let us pretend (number five) that the strategy was to try and discredit Clinton. Let us further assume (this assumption is the one that’s probably true) that Moscow has very good electronic intelligence capacities. So, we imagine the scene in headquarters as they look for an approach; they quickly find one that is very good, a second that is pretty good and a third area that is worth digging around in.

The Russians would know all about the Uranium One matter where, as even the Clinton-friendly NYT admitted, “a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation“. It would be very easy for them to package this as a case of Secretary of State Clinton selling US policy for personal profit. Russian intelligence organisations would have a great deal of true information and would find it easy to manufacture material to fill in any gaps in the story. Presented as a case of corruption and near treason, the story could have done a great deal of damage to her. And, given that it had happened six years earlier, all the details would have been known and ready to be used. It would have been a very powerful attack that even the complaint media would have had difficulty ignoring.

We know, and it’s very likely that the Russians did too, that she ran a private e-mail server on which there were thousands and thousands of official communications. The server was very insecure and we can assume that Russia’s signals intelligence (and everyone else’s, for that matter) had penetrated it. Think of all the real material from that source that could be revealed or twisted to make a scandal. That would make quite a campaign. Further, it is a reasonable assumption that Russian intelligence would have some of the thousands of e-mails that were “bleached”. There would be enough material for a months-long campaign of leaks.

Finally, Hillary Clinton has been in public life for many years and there would have been ample opportunities, and, many would say, ample material in her scandal-plagued career, for the construction of many campaigns to weaken her appeal.

So, a preliminary look would suggest that there were several angles of attack of which Uranium One would be the easiest and most effective. But, failing that, or as a supplement to that, there was plenty of embarrassing and incriminating material in her illicit private server. Now we have to pretend (number six), contrary to the universal practice of security organs in all times and places, that the (always assumed in the story to be implacably hostile) Russians would decide to forgo the chance of compromising a future POTUS in favour of a harebrained scheme to get another elected.

But we’re supposed to believe that they did. The Russians, the story goes, with all this potential material, with a solid hit with Uranium One, decide instead to expose the finagling inside the Democratic Party structure. And to expose it too late to make any difference. As I said at the beginning, sometimes things are easier to understand when you, as it were, turn them upside down.

In the middle of June 2016 the DNC admits that its documents have been obtained – a “hack” they insist – and almost immediately, “Guccifer 2.0” pops up to claim responsibility and the DNC’s experts (Crowdstrike) claim Russia was behind it. A month passes before Wikileaks releases the first batch of DNC documents showing the extent of the manipulation of the process by Clinton – who had, according to most counts – already secured the nomination about two weeks before. A couple of days before the release, Trump gets the Republican nomination and a couple of days after that Clinton easily wins the Democratic nomination by a thousand-vote majority.

So, the first thing that should have occurred to the observer (but didn’t) was, if the Russians had had this incriminating evidence that the Democratic Party nomination had been fixed in Clinton’s favour, wouldn’t it have been more useful to put it out at a time when Sanders who was, after all, the swindled one, might have been able to do something about it? Instead those supposedly clever Russian state hackers dropped the news out at a time when it made very little difference. No difference in fact: Clinton got the nomination and there was no comeback from Sanders’ people.

So, the “Russian hackers” made their arrow, shot it, hit the target and… no one cared. The people who devoutly believe in the Russian hacking story now have to explain (but don’t) why the Russian state, apparently so determined to bring Clinton down, didn’t immediately hit her with the Uranium One documents and anything else they had that could feed the flames of scandal.

But, as we all know, they didn’t. While long rumoured, and even briefly reported on, we only learned of Uranium One in a big way in October 2017 and the fact that her server contained Special Access material (the very highest classified secrets) was confirmed authoritatively only in November 2017. If the Russians had really had this sort of information and the hostility to Clinton that we’re incessantly told that they had, two years earlier would have been the time.

So, on the one hand we are supposed to believe that the Russian government is so clever that it can hack anything, has innumerable social media trolls that influence elections and referendums around the world (“control the American mind“), drives a “fake news” campaign at a fraction of the cost but with far greater effectiveness than the massed legions of the Western media, is a threat to practically everything we hold sacred… but is too stupid to get it right. Possessing great and powerful secrets and a stunningly powerful machine to spread them, it chooses to fire a damp squib too late to make any difference and passes up the chance to have a compromised US president for it to control.

In other words, it’s nonsense: we don’t really need the forensics of VIPS; we don’t need to argue with people who say it’s fake news about Seth Rich, or that Assange is a Putinbot, or carefully ignore Murray. Those efforts are useful enough but they’re not necessary. In any case, the Russia story is a Gish gallop and a whole academy of wise men and women couldn’t keep up with the latest. (Robert Parry bravely attempts to list the most prominent ones from the Vermont power facility, through all 17 agencies to 14th not 4th.)

Just common sense will do it: if the Russians had wanted to bring Hillary Clinton down, they had far more powerful charges which they could have detonated much earlier. It is not plausible that all they had was the [DNC] rigging evidence and that they then deployed it too late to have an effect.

Or, maybe they’re not so all-competent in which case all the other stuff we’ve had shoved down our throats for months about “Russian information warfare” is even bigger nonsense.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Moscow senses Trump’s travails could be ending

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | December 15, 2017

The ongoing investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller over Russia’s alleged interference in the US election is sputtering. The role of the FBI and the Justice Department in boosting Hillary Clinton’s election prospects last November can no longer be shoved under the carpet.

The email correspondence between top FBI agent Peter Strzok and a bureau lawyer Lisa Page, who were working on the 2016 election (besides having an extramarital affair), suggests that they were fired up with messianic zeal to ensure that somehow Hillary won – and, importantly, that Trump lost. And they probably had ‘in-house’ meetings with then-No. 2 in the FBI Andrew McCabe, presently acting director, who subsequently handpicked Mueller as special counsel.

The same folks appear to have used the alibi of the infamous anti-Trump “dossier” compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele (which was commissioned by the Clinton campaign) to obtain a warrant in mid-2016 from a secret federal court to conduct surveillance of a Trump-campaign official – although the FBI dismissed Steele’s work as “salacious and unverified” in congressional testimony.

The Clinton campaign research project (Steel’s ‘dossier’) involved a Russia analyst who’s the wife of the Obama Justice Department’s associate deputy attorney general. Serious questions arise regarding the role of the Obama FBI and Obama Justice Department – gross misuse of official machinery to boost Hillary’s campaign. Yet, Mueller seems unperturbed that this unsavory aspect is inextricably linked to the alleged Russian interference.

Then, there is the sideshow about Hillary’s emails investigation. The grand jury was denied access to material evidence; Justice Department collaborated with Hillary’s defense lawyers to rein in the FBI from examining digital evidence (and providing immunity grants to suspects) and violated established legal and ethical rules. And the FBI statement exonerated Hillary well before the investigation was complete and key witnesses were yet to be interviewed.

Above all, there was the famous tarmac meeting between Obama attorney general Loretta Lynch and Hillary’s husband Bill Clinton just days before his wife sat for a perfunctory FBI interview, after which the agency’s director announced the decision not to charge her.

Breathtaking climax approaching

This is truly a Kafkaesque situation. The President’s opponent who lost the 2016 election apparently wields more influence to leverage the Washington establishment. Isn’t Trump paying a heavy price for winning the election? A breathtaking climax is approaching. Trump is unlikely to dismiss Mueller for being a partisan and the latter should have recused himself.

It would not be easy to find an attorney of standing in America whom Bill Clinton wouldn’t have known or palled with during his extraordinary political career, to conduct a thorough investigation into his wife’s activities. But if the prospect of a full investigation into Hillary sails into view, the formula for a truce will emerge.

The international community has high stakes in the outcome. The time between now and March will be most thrilling. If a ceasefire in the American civil war is declared by March, when President Vladimir Putin is certain to obtain a renewed six-year mandate in the Russian presidential election, a new beginning may still be possible in Russian-American relations and world politics may change course.

Any old observer of Kremlin politics would have sensed it in his bones that the friendly remarks about Trump by the Russian leadership in recent days wouldn’t have been mere indulgence in politeness. In a nationally televised interview two weeks ago, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made flattering remarks about Trump: “To speak about the outward impression, he (Trump) is a well-wishing political figure who wants to establish full-fledged contacts and perceives absolutely everything adequately.” Yet, Medvedev’s own characterization a few days earlier was that present Russia-US tensions are comparable to the 1980s.

Notably, Putin openly complimented Trump by commending the US’s economic performance – also during a nationally televised news conference on Thursday. This is when anti-US feelings are running high in Russia. Putin, in particular, could have easily tapped into ‘anti-Americanism’ to boost his re-election bid. But he’s doing the exact opposite.

Both Medvedev and Putin may have signaled (with an eye on Washington) to the Russian people that there is new thinking in the Kremlin regarding the future trajectory of relations with the US.

Indeed, Trump promptly took note of Putin’s flattering remarks and called him on the phone immediately to deliver a personal word of thanks. And this is despite the Trump National Security Advisor HR McMaster’s characterization of Putin’s Russia last weekend as an incorrigible revisionist power that is hell-bent on upending the international order.

Most important, the Kremlin has moderated its stance on Jerusalem by distancing itself from the Turkish position – although the Russian Foreign Ministry statement on December 7 was equally critical of Trump’s decision. On Thursday, the Kremlin spokesman spoke cryptically and refused to elaborate.

Back channels seem to be at work between Moscow and Tel Aviv on the one hand and Tel Aviv and Washington on the other. The Kremlin’s calculus on Israel is highly complex. Many elements are at work – Jewish lobby among Russian elites, powerful oligarchs, ethnic Russians’ role in Israeli politics, Moscow’s perception of Israel as a driver of US policies in the Trump administration, etc.

Indeed, Russian self-interest invariably comes first and last in any given situation, and the Kremlin has reason to hope that Israel can swing a course correction in US policies toward Russia. No doubt, Trump’s friendly phone call to Putin last night was an extraordinary gesture on the eve of his unveiling of the new US national security strategy.

Suffice to say, Muller’s investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election can phenomenally change the climate of US-Russia relations.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Al-Houthi Hits back at US Claims on Iran Missile Supply

Head of Yemen’s Revolutionary Council, Mohammad Ali Al-Houthi
Al-Manar | December 15, 2017

Head of Yemen’s revolutionary Committee, Mohammad Ali Al-Houthi hit back at US claims that Iran had been supplying Yemeni revolutionaries with missiles.

“Had we imported Iranian missiles, then we would have boosted our air-defense system,” Al-Houthi said on his Twitter account.

“What’s ironic is that the US is the side who is supplying the Saudi-led aggression with banned weapons that have been killing the Yemeni people,” Al-Houthi said, stressing that the US has failed in Yemen.

Yemen has been since March 2015 under a brutal aggression by Saudi-led coalition, in a bid to restore power to fugitive former president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have been injured and martyred in Saudi-led strikes, with the vast majority of them are civilians.

However, the allied forces of the Yemeni army and popular committees established by Ansarullah revolutionaries have been heroically confronting the aggression with all means, inflicting huge losses upon Saudi-led forces.

The Saudi-led coalition – which also includes UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Kuwait – has been also imposing a blockade on the impoverished country’s ports and airports as a part of the aggression.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

US House passes bill scrutinizing Iran plane sales

Press TV – December 15, 2017

US lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill that will bring the sales of American planes to Iran under the close scrutiny of the Congress.

The bill passed 252-167 — all but four Republicans supported it, and they were joined by 23 Democrats.

It would require the Treasury Department to report to Congress on Iranian purchases of US aircraft and how those sales would be financed.

The key company that would be the primary target of the bill would be US aviation giant Boeing. In December 2016, Boeing sealed deals with Iran’s flag-carrier airliner Iran Air over sales of 80 jets valued at $16.6 billion. They include 50 narrow-body Boeing 737 passenger jets and 30 wide-body 777 aircraft.

US media reported that the new Congress bill had once again brought into the spotlight the question whether undermining plane sales to Iran would break US commitments under the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Republicans argued that the legislation would not bar any aircraft sales to Iran. Instead, it would require the Treasury Department to notify Congress about the activities of the Iranian company that purchases the planes, as well as the financing used for the deal, according to a report by the Washington Examiner.

House Democrats maintained that the bill might provoke Iran to abandon the nuclear agreement, however, by interfering with their ability to work with US corporations as promised under the pact.

“[This bill] would impose a new condition,” Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said on the House floor. “A new condition which would require certification by [the executive branch] and all of the process which would ensue. It is not a stretch, in fact it is fairly clear, that if [this bill] were to pass, the Iranians and others could credibly claim that we have violated our obligations under the JCPOA,” Himes was quoted as saying by the Washington Examiner.

Iran sealed the JCPOA in 2015 with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Britain, France, Russia, and China – plus Germany.

Based on it, Iran would restrict certain aspects of its nuclear energy activities. In return, the parties that signed the JCPOA with Iran – the P5+1 – would act to lift the economic sanctions imposed against the country – generally described as the toughest in modern history.

Iran has previously announced that the US was falling short of its commitments toward the JCPOA by failing to remove the sanctions against the country and even by moving to impose new sanctions against it.

This is while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – which reports Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA – has for multiple times emphasized that the country is fully implementing its commitments toward the nuclear deal.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

Food and medicine can’t get past the Saudi blockade on Yemen, but Nikki Haley thinks missiles can

Nikki Haley once again pushing for war against Iran–this time making an argument that is not only flawed but nonsensical

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | December 15, 2017

Nikki Haley, Donald Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations, has given an extraordinary “press conference”, even by her habitually outrageous standards.

First all, it was hardly a “press conference” as Haley did not answer any of the questions posed to her. Instead, she merely assured journalists that she has evidence to back her up position, although it is not clear what this evidence might look like.

Haley’s position is that since the outbreak of the current crisis in Yemen, beginning in March of 2015, Iran has been supplying Yemen’s Ansar Allah Movement, more commonly known [in western media] as the Houthis, with the missiles they have sporadically used to target Saudi Arabia and allegedly the UAE.

There is a fatal flaw in this line of thinking however. Saudi Arabia has, since the beginning of the conflict, controlled all air and sea traffic coming into Yemen, while monitoring the region with the latest US made technology.

Yemen has subsequently been surrounded by a Saudi Naval blockade, Saudi borders through which nothing can pass and Omani borders through which there is no evidence of anything passing and which in any case, border areas which do not belong to Ansar Allah fighters, but instead have fluctuated between the Hadi government based in Aden, al-Qaeda terrorists and ISIS terrorists.

Not only has the Saudi blockade caused a man made famine which itself has resulted in a mass outbreak of the disease Cholera, but even the UN has found it difficult to convince the Saudis to allow basic medicine, bottled water and dried foods into the always poor and now starving nation.

But for Nikki Haley, who gave her press conference standing in front of what appeared to be a rusty missile casing–it all makes perfect sense. In Haley’s parallel universe, an aid ship with UN flags cannot bring bottles of water and jars of medical pills to Yemenis, but somehow Iranian ships bearing humongous missiles have easily passed through the Saudi blockade undetected.

There is simply no logic to the argument, no matter how it is interpreted.

Even a journalist at Haley’s “press conference” asked how the US can verify the provenance of the missiles and in particular when they were sent to Yemen. She had no answer apart from effectively saying ‘trust us–we know’.

The fact, as the Ansar Allah themselves have always maintained, is that the missiles which they occasionally launch are taken from Yemeni military bases which Ansar Allah have controlled for approximately two years. Video footage of the missile strikes is consistent with these statements.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has Tweeted the following photo, comparing Haley’s accusations against Iran to Colin Powell’s infamous accusations against Iraq, saying that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which he did not possess.

In reality, Haley’s statement is even more ludicrous as there is physically no way for Iran to transport missiles or anything else for that matter, to Yemen without being seen and almost certainly stopped by the Saudi blockade, a blockade which started in March of 2015, nearly four months before the JCPOA even came into effect.

This last point is crucial as Haley’s allegations rest on the fact that in delivering missiles to the Ansar Allah, Iran is in violation of the terms of the JCPOA, a longstanding US allegation that has been rejected by the EU as a whole, as well as individual parties to the agreement: Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the United Nations.

Haley of course repeated what for most American neo-cons is a standard line that Iran sponsors terrorism and is “behaving badly” in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. If fighting groups like ISIS(Daesh) and al-Qaeda is bad behaviour, the mind simply boggles. The closest Iran is to terrorism is fighting terrorism on the field of battle and advising Iraqi and Syrian partners on how better to do such.

Nikki Haley has proved once again that her aptitude is low, her ethics are non existent and her intelligence is a void.

The fact that she is an Ambassador to the UN but acts increasingly like a hybrid of a Secretary of State combined with a Defense Secretary, is a deeply worrying prospect for all those concerned with global peace and stability.

December 15, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Deception, Fake News | , , | 3 Comments