Hundreds of allegations of “fake research” conducted at some of the UK’s top universities were reported between 2011 and 2016, figures show.
According to figures released by 23 of Britain’s 24 Russell Group universities following Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted by the BBC, the scale of fraudulent research is much higher than official Research Councils UK (RCUK) statistics suggest.
The figures reveal at least 300 allegations including plagiarism and fabrication.
Official data, however, suggests about 30 cases were reported between 2012 and 2015.
In response, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has launched an inquiry to reassure the public that its monitoring system is “robust.”
Committee Chairman Stephen Metcalfe stressed the importance of reassuring people that public funds are being invested in accurate and trustworthy research.
“Where research has been found to be fraudulent at a later point it has a big impact on the public – it leads to mistrust,” he told the BBC.
“What we want to do is to investigate how robust the mechanisms are for ensuring that research is ethical, it is accurate, it is, to a degree, reproducible.”
According to the new data, around a third of allegations for plagiarism, fabrication, piracy and misconduct were upheld, while over 30 papers were withdrawn.
Although Metcalfe said the BBC’s findings must be balanced against the overall number of research papers, he said transparency is essential to build trust.
“We do need to have accurate figures that are available so we can all have confidence that the research is being conducted properly, and when it’s not, there is a system that challenges that,” he said.
It is thought that the inaccuracy and sloppiness in academic papers is due to researchers rushing through their copy in order to get grants to carry on with their work.
A spokesman for the Russell Group, however, said it takes “integrity” into thorough account.
“Our universities take research integrity seriously and work continuously to help staff and students maintain high standards of research,” he said, according to the BBC.
“The UK has a global reputation for the quality of our scientific research.
“This is not least because our members are rigorous in their approach to research integrity.”
Deliberate research fraud seldom occurs, but when it does take place it comes with severe risks, such as undermining public health or losing trust in the eyes of the public which funds it.
There are calls for a UK regulatory body to oversee publicly-funded research. Although Metcalfe said the idea could be looked into, he claimed there is currently “no appetite for that in the wider community.”
Under a concordat, to which UK universities signed up back in 2012 to guarantee transparency in reporting allegations of research misconduct, higher education institutions are still not obliged to release figures on allegations of fraudulent research.
According to an audit by vice-chancellors group Universities UK, only 35 out of 131 universities released figures on research misconduct to the public.
Co-founder of Retraction Watch, Dr. Ivan Oransky, backed the BBC findings and said the number of research misconduct cases being reported falls short of the real extent of the issue.
“We do not have a good handle on how much research misconduct takes place, but it’s become quite clear that universities and funding agencies and oversight bodies are not reporting even a reasonable fraction of the number of cases that they see,” Oransky told the BBC.
A Brazilian judge sentenced Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the lower house and mastermind behind the parliamentary coup against former President Dilma Rousseff, to 15 years and four months in jail Thursday for corruption charges.
The sentence is the result of a criminal suit investigating Cunha for fraud related to millions of dollars in kickbacks he received for the 2011 purchase of an oil field in the West African country of Benin by the state-run oil company, Petrobras, which has been at the center of a major anti-corruption probe in the South American country known as Operation Car Wash.
Federal Judge Sergio Moro handed down the sentence over charges of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion. The former head of the lower house has been held in pre-trial detention since last October.
“The responsibility of a federal parliamentarian is enormous, and therefore so is his guilt when he commits crimes,” said Moro. “There is no bigger crime than that of trying to use one’s parliamentary mandate and the sacred trust the people place in it to obtain personal gain.”
According to Moro, Cunha received US$1.5 million in bribes for the Benin oil field contract, which, according to an internal Petrobras investigation reported by local media, resulted in US$77.5 million in losses for the state-run oil company after no oil was found at the site.
The federal public prosecutor’s office had called for Cunha to be forced to pay full damages to Petrobras, but Moro has signaled that a fine equivalent to the US$1.5 million bribe he received will be ordered.
While Cunha’s defense team has said that they will appeal the decision, Moro confirmed that the politician will remain behind bars while the appeals process moves forward.
Despite himself facing multimillion dollar bribery and fraud charges, Cunha was a key architect in painting the impeachment process against Dilma Rousseff as a campaign to root out government corruption.
A member of unelected President Michel Temer’s PMDB party, Cunha is accused of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion linked to raking in at least US$5 million in illicit kickbacks between 2006 and 2012 and hiding the wealth in Swiss bank accounts.
Cunha was removed from his position as speaker of the lower house last September after being suspended in May 2016 — just weeks after the lower house pushed through the impeachment bid against Rousseff — to face an impeachment process over accusations that he intimidated lawmakers and hampered investigations. The Congress voted overwhelmingly by 450 to 10 to remove the unpopular politician.
The overwhelming decision to remove Cunha also stripped him of the parliamentary immunity he long enjoyed, opening him up to the corruption charges. Authorities arrested him at his apartment in Brasilia last October over accusations he hid laundered money in secret Swiss bank account while in office.
Despite the power he has wielded over Brazilian politics, polling over the past year has repeatedly unmasked Cunha as one of the most unpopular politicians in the country, including among his own party.
Several other top Temer allies have also been targeted in the Operation Car Wash investigations that have led to the arrests of dozens of politicans and economic elites over bribery schemes and corruption linked to Petrobras.
RT – March 31, 2017
Who rules? Elected officials or the national security state? The fact this question is being asked reflects the dangerous times we live in. Governments collect intelligence to protect the state and citizens. Is intelligence now a political weapon of unelected stakeholders? CrossTalking with Michael Patrick Flanagan, Philip Giraldi, and Robert David Steele.
WikiLeaks’ latest batch of documents, named ‘Marble’, details CIA hacking tactics and how they can hamper forensic investigators from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to the spy agency . The tool was in use as recently as 2016.
The third release, which contains 676 source code files for the agency’s secret anti-forensics framework, is part of the CIA’s Core Library of malware, according to a statement from WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks said Marble hides fragments of texts that would allow for the author of the malware to be identified, meaning the agency allows another party to be blamed for the hack.
A Marble framework document reveals it supports the ability to “add foreign languages” to malware. “Now comes the fun stuff,” it reads, listing Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi in example code, indicating the potential for the CIA to divert attention to international actors.
It’s “designed to allow for flexible and easy-to-use obfuscation” as “string obfuscation algorithms” often link malware to a specific developer, according to the whistleblowing site.
“This would permit a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion,” WikiLeaks explains, “But there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages.”
The code also contains a ‘deobfuscator’ which allows the CIA text obfuscation to be reversed. “Combined with the revealed obfuscation techniques, a pattern or signature emerges which can assist forensic investigators attribute previous hacking attacks and viruses to the CIA.”
Previous Vault7 releases have referred to the CIA’s ability to mask its hacking fingerprints.
WikiLeaks claims the latest release will allow for thousands of viruses and hacking attacks to be attributed to the CIA.
On January 30 NBC News reported that “On a snowy Polish plain dominated by Russian forces for decades, American tanks and troops sent a message to Moscow and demonstrated the firepower of the NATO alliance. Amid concerns that President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO is wavering, the tanks fired salvos that declared the 28-nation alliance a vital deterrent in a dangerous new world.”
One intriguing aspect of this slanted account are the phrases “dominated by Russian forces for decades” and “vital deterrent” which are used by NBC to imply that Russia yearns, for some unspecified reason, to invade Poland. As is common in the Western media there is no justification or evidence to substantiate the suggestion that Russia is hell-bent on domination, and the fact that US troops are far from home, operating along the Russian border, is regarded as normal behaviour on the part of the world’s “indispensable nation.”
Then Reuters recorded that “Beginning in February, US military units will spread out across Poland, the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Romania and Germany for training, exercises and maintenance. The Army is also sending its 10th Combat Aviation Brigade with about 50 Black Hawk and 10 CH-47 Chinook helicopters and 1,800 personnel, as well as a separate aviation battalion with 400 troops and 24 Apache helicopters.”
As the US-NATO military alliance continues its deployments along Russia’s borders, including the US-UK supported Joint Viking 2017 exercise in Norway that began on March 1 and the deployment of more US troops in Poland “from the start of April, as the alliance sets up a new force in response to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea,” the campaign by the US and British governments against alleged “Russian Aggression” continues to increase in volume and intensity, aided by an ever-compliant media.
During his visit to Washington on March 6-7 Ukraine’s foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin met with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Senator Marco Rubio of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and received assurances of US support in “confronting Russian aggression” while in Britain it was announced that its foreign minister, Boris Johnson, the “mop-haired buffoon” was about to visit Russia in order to tell it to “keep its nose” out of western affairs. Mr Johnson declared that Russia “was up to all sorts of no good” and “engaged in cyber-warfare.”
The splendid irony of the Johnson allegation about cyber warfare is that it came just before the revelation that Britain’s intelligence agencies were deeply involved with those of the United States in cyber-chicanery on a massive scale. WikiLeaks once again showed the depths of deceit and humbug to which the West’s great democracies submerge themselves, and revealed that leaked files “describe CIA plans and descriptions of malware and other tools that could be used to hack into some of the world’s most popular technology platforms. The documents showed that the developers aimed to be able to inject these tools into targeted computers without the owners’ awareness . . . the documents show broad exchanges of tools and information between the CIA, the National Security Agency and other US federal intelligence agencies, as well as intelligence services of close allies Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.”
ABC News then announced, without a shred of proof, that “Julian Assange, the man behind WikiLeaks, appears to have a strong relationship with Russia” but could not disguise the report by CNN that the documents disclosed that “to hide its operations, the CIA routinely adopted techniques that enabled its hackers to appear as if they were Russian.”
There has been no comment on the WikiLeaks revelations by such as US Senator Amy Klobuchar who declared in January that “Russia used cyberattacks and propaganda to try and undermine our democracy. We are not alone. Russia has a pattern of waging cyberattacks and military invasions against democracies across the world.” She was echoed by Senator Ben Sasse who declared that increased US sanctions would “upend Putin’s calculus and defend America from Russian cyberattacks and political meddling.”
Of course it would be impossible for the Senators to revise their rabid hatred of Russia and overcome their dismal pride to acknowledge that on March 1 the US National Reconnaissance Office launched a spy satellite carried by an Atlas V rocket that was powered by a Russian RD-180 engine. In an astonishing example of petty-minded obfuscation, the 1,500-word official report on the launching mentioned RD-180 three times — but failed to state its country of manufacture. The mainstream media followed suit.
There was to be another Atlas V launch in March, carrying supplies to the International Space Station, but it was delayed by “a hydraulic issue that was uncovered on ground support equipment required for launch.” Had it been deferred because of malfunction of the Russian engine that powers it, there would have been gloating headlines.
Reaction by the US government to the WikiLeaks disclosures has been to denounce them because they supposedly “not only jeopardise US personnel and operations, but also equip our adversaries with tools and information to do us harm.” Predictably, Senator Sasse tweeted that “Julian Assange should spend the rest of his life wearing an orange jumpsuit. He’s an enemy of the American people and an ally to Vladimir Putin.”
There should be no surprise about the activities of US and British intelligence agencies, because they already have a proven record of spying on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, French Presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, to name but a few world leaders subjected to the indignity of greasy little eavesdroppers sniggering at their private conversations.
In June 2013 it was revealed that the United States of America had been spying on European Union computer networks in the EU offices in Washington and New York. According to Germany’s Der Spiegel a document of September 2010 “explicitly named the Union’s representation at the UN as a ‘location target’.” Der Spiegel discovered that “the NSA had also conducted an electronic eavesdropping operation in a building in Brussels where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council were located.” Together with their British colleagues, the techno-dweebs of Government Communications Headquarters, the US agencies have been having a ball — but have been unable to prove that Russia “used cyberattacks and propaganda to try and undermine our democracy.”
The faithful CIA mouthpiece, the New York Times, stated in December that “American spy and law enforcement agencies were united in the belief, in the weeks before the presidential election, that the Russian government had deployed computer hackers to sow chaos during the campaign.” Not only this, but “CIA officials presented lawmakers with a stunning new judgment that upended the debate: Russia, they said, had intervened with the primary aim of helping make Donald J Trump president.”
But there is no evidence whatever that there was election-time hacking by Russia, and now there is proof that “to hide its operations, the CIA routinely adopted techniques that enabled its hackers to appear as if they were Russian.”
Although none of the assertions that Russia has been conducting a cyber war against America can be substantiated, Washington’s anti-Russia propaganda campaign will continue for the foreseeable future, while President Trump’s initial intentions to enter into dialogue with his counterpart in Moscow wither away to nothing. Even if he does resurrect the sensible policy he seemed to endorse, his acolytes in Washington will do their best to maintain confrontation by spreading more allegations of Russian “aggression” and “cyberattacks.” The anti-Russia campaign is gathering force, and it is not difficult to put a finger on why such a counter-productive crusade appeals to so many in the West.
The US arms and intelligence industries are the main beneficiaries of confrontation with Russia, closely followed by the hierarchy of the defunct US-NATO military alliance who have been desperately seeking justification for its existence for many years. For so long as the military-industrial complex holds sway in Washington, there will continue to be sabre-rattling and mindless military posturing.
But the International Space Station will continue to be resupplied by rockets powered by Russian engines.
Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.
Several human rights organizations have exposed the complicity of four major French banks and an insurance company in financing Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The revelation was made in a Wednesday report titled “Dangerous Liaisons: French banks and Israeli settlements” on the website of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), an international human rights NGO with 184 member organizations from 112 countries.
The banks of BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, Credit Agricole and Groupe BPCE as well as AXA insurance firm hold shares in or are involved with Israeli banks, which are an “essential political tool in the creation of the settlements (and) finance construction,” the report read.
The five companies are further involved with businesses that help settlement development through the building of “housing, factories, the installation of telephone and internet connections, or surveillance equipment,” it added.
Additionally, the report, which was co-authored by a number of other human rights groups, including the France-Palestine Solidarity Association (AFPS), held France responsible for indirectly supporting the Israeli settlement enterprise by allowing the institutions to finance businesses involved in the construction activities.
“The French government must bring pressure to bear on the banks and insurance companies, demanding that they bring all their support to an end,” the report concluded.
Meanwhile, FIDH Vice President Maryse Artiguelong expressed frustration at the French groups’ involvement “in this illegal activity just to make a bit more money,” adding, “(They) are seeking profit at any cost.”
Moreover, Didier Fagart, an AFPS member, urged the French groups to “withdraw their money from Israeli businesses with a connection to the settlements.”
“French banks cannot say they don’t know what is going on. They must make the right decision,” Fagart said.
Emboldened by the support of US President Donald Trump’s administration, the Tel Aviv regime has given the go-ahead to the construction of many settler units in the occupied territories.
Israel’s settlement expansion defies United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 adopted in December 2016 that condemned the settlements as a “flagrant violation of international law.
Over half a million Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The continued expansion of Israeli settlements is one of the major obstacles to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.
Following in the Senate’s footsteps, the US House of Representatives has approved a piece of legislation that would allow massive telephone and cable companies to sell the data generated by internet users’ browsing habits.
On March 28, the US House narrowly passed a bill that analysts say is a huge win for the bloated telecommunications industry, and a commensurately large invasion on citizens’ privacy – or lack thereof. The resolution cleared its way through the lower chamber of the legislature by a 215-205 vote.
If US President Donald Trump signs the resolution into law, companies will legally be able to create profiles about every internet user, then sell those profiles to the highest bidder, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a statement.
“Considering how much access [internet service providers, or ISPs] already have to highly sensitive data, it is absolutely unacceptable for them to monetize personal information,” Representative Mike Pocan of Wisconsin said Tuesday.
The ability for service providers to collect “essentially any data they can intercept and read for themselves” was supposed to be an opt-in only policy, giving consumers a choice whether to disclose their data, but instead telecommunications companies will have the ability to generate revenue off of the public’s browsing habits, said Matt Erickson on Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary with Eugene Puryear. Erickson is a director with the Digital Privacy Alliance.
”Google and Facebook collect large amounts of information in ways that should be very concerning to people,” Puryear said.
The news comes as a major setback for privacy advocates and a major victory for Comcast, TimeWarner, AT&T and Verizon, which “will have free rein to hijack your searches, sell your data, and hammer you with unwanted advertisements,” the EFF said.
What’s more, at a time when nearly every major financial institution, electrical utilities company, defense and aerospace firm, and governmental agency is seeking to bolster its cyber defense systems, there are a host of reasons to think that these new rules would be detrimental to the US’ collective cybersecurity.
By recording your traffic and building a profile about you, for instance, hackers gain a new target database to breach.
Hava Nagila, y’all
Spring in Washington would not be complete without the city’s famous cherry blossoms and the annual “Policy Conference” meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The 15,000 plus participants began arriving on Sunday and will be here at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center until tomorrow morning, at which point many of them will descend on Congress like a swarm of ravenous locusts to make sure that our Solons on the Potomac are doing what is right by Israel.
AIPAC is the most powerful foreign policy lobby in Washington. It’s annual budget exceeds $77 million plus it has an endowment of $100 million. It has nearly 400 employees and also supports local chapters and initiatives throughout the United States.
What do all those employees do? They mostly lobby Congress and increasingly state legislatures shamelessly on behalf of a foreign country that has little in the way of actual common interests with the United States. When anything happens in the Middle East, AIPAC’s drones get to work, drafting up position papers detailing the Israeli position which are then placed by runners on the desks of every single congressman within a matter of hours. The congressmen, too lazy to engage in any real inquiry into what is going on, rely on the AIPAC research. That is, lamentably, how our system works. And if the congressman ignores the “expert” advice, AIPAC and its friends make sure he or she has a strong, well-funded opponent in the next election, someone who knows how to say “I love Israel” without moving his or her lips.
The current speakers’ list for the 2017 conference includes many of the leading political parasites that have long made the nation’s Capitol a “must miss” destination. I will not attempt to summarize what Michael Pence, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Kevin McCarthy, Steny Hoyer and others said on Sunday night and yesterday as it was all basically the same speech, declaring undying love for Israel and the Jewish people and pledging that the United States will always have “Israel’s back,” whatever that is supposed to mean. Twenty-nine congressmen were featured as attendees on the AIPAC website but more than two thirds of the entire Congress is expected to appear for a photo op while muttering something about that apparently vulnerable “back.” Or do they mean backside? Whatever. I won’t name any more of the specific panderers as the reader probably already has a good idea who they are.
And, of course, the redoubtable Professor Alan Dershowitz was also a featured speaker, a wonderful human being who recently told us goyim that Jewish power in this country is both deserved and granted by Jehovah. It is interesting how Jews among themselves boast about their power but if a gentile so much as suggests the same thing it is anti-Semitism.
There were also two certifiable loonies among the speakers, apart from Dershowitz. They were Nikki Haley, America’s stalwart U.N. Ambassador, and Stephen Harper, until recently Prime Minister of Canada. Those who are following Haley’s meteoric career are probably aware that while governor of South Carolina she took the lead on making her state the first in the nation to legislate against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) which supports peaceful pressure on Israel to abandon its apartheid policies when dealing with its own Arab citizens as well as the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza. Such legislation is an abrogation of First Amendment rights and will likely prove to be unconstitutional if it ever gets to the Supreme Court, but Haley clearly believed then and believes now that nothing is too good when it comes to Israel. Since going to the U.N., Haley has spoken more about Israel than about any possible American interests, pledging full support and protection for Netanyahu and his government. She blocked the appointment of a well-qualified Palestinian to a senior U.N. position purely because he was Palestinian. Ignorant of nearly everything that goes on in the world outside the U.S., it might be said that she is so horribly inept that she actually makes her ghastly predecessor Samantha Power look good.
Stephen Harper is another certified knee jerker when it comes to Israel. A fundamentalist Christian who believes the second coming of Christ is imminent, while Prime Minister he led what was possibly the world’s most pro-Israeli government. Harper described Israel as a light that “… burns bright, upheld by the universal principles of all civilized nations – freedom, democracy justice.” He has also said “I will defend Israel whatever the cost” to Canada, an interesting proposition for those who might have believed that his duty was to protect his own country and advance its interests. Harper, who has received awards from both Canadian and American Jewish organizations, personally endorsed Israel’s bombing of Lebanon in 2006, calling it “measured” even when Canadian peacekeepers were killed in the bombardment.
Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, also spoke at the conference. Why? I don’t know but it probably has something to do with characteristically liberal American Jews pulling their usual doublespeak trick, trying to pretend that fundamentally racist Israelis are not actually racist by inviting a black man to speak at a pro-Israel conference. I’ll bet he was paid handsomely to do so.
And former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, perhaps suggesting that love for Israel is truly international, spoke and was also probably paid handsomely to do so as he an incorporated brand. Between 2007 and 2015 Blair was the “special envoy” representing (and personally profiting from) the Quartet seeking to bring about a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. Marwan Bishara explained in The New York Times: “A natural panderer to power, Mr. Blair morphed his complicity with the United States over Iraq into a new complicity with Israel. The assumption that operates is that schmoozing with the powerful is the only way to make a difference. So while Mr. Blair worked to reform the Palestinian Authority’s finances, security and governance, he turned a blind eye as Israel expanded its illegal settlements and tightened its hold on the autonomous territories. In the process, Mr. Blair helped render the Palestinian Authority more, not less, dependent on Israel. Instead of protecting the Palestinians from the Israeli settlers, Palestinian security forces have since been protecting Israeli settlers from Palestinian resentment.” Blair also attacked the Palestinian leadership’s decision to seek United Nations recognition of the Palestinian state, calling it “deeply confrontational.” Bishara dismisses him as “Israel’s puppy.” As I am extremely fond of dogs, I would modify that to read “Israel and now AIPAC’s butt boy.”
The avenging angel Benjamin Netanyahu also addressed the conference by satellite link and yet again described the threat posed by Iran. The satellite visit was somewhat surprising, as he usually likes to drop by in person so he can pick up his annual tribute money from the U.S. Treasury. This year’s Danegeld will be $3.8 billion thanks to President Barack Obama, guaranteed for ten years, and there will be, of course, various supplements as the Israelis discover things that they just need to have to stave off Netanyahu’s wily Persians and fight the rising tide of anti-Semitism. A rising tide, which we have just learned, was carried out by an Israeli Jew who also holds U.S. citizenship, which again leads to the question why so many Israelis are allowed to have American passports even though they live in Israel and serve in the Israeli Army?
And, of course, Persia was an integral part of the conference as it is tough to want to destroy the entire Muslim Middle East without having a really formidable enemy to focus on. Iran fits the bill quite nicely, but speakers were also prone to skewer those terrible Ay-rabs who just do not want peace. And the Israeli’s settlements are not a problem, nosiree! The theme of this year’s gathering was, in fact, “Many voices, one mission,” the mission presumably being the expansion of Israel so it will stretch east to west from the Nile to the River Jordan and north to the Turkish border. The indigenous inhabitants will have to be removed, but as they are mostly terrorists that should be okay with the world community and Donald Trump. And with the 15,000 AIPAC attendees.
The AIPAC gathering is really all about subverting Congress, so it is a good thing that a large majority of Congressmen were attending, making the necessary bowing and scraping that much easier. And they will enjoy it even more when the 15,000 AIPAC loyalists descend on Capitol Hill as the conference ends to make sure that Congress is listening. Democracy in action is great, isn’t it?
Even though I jest about the absurdity of thousands of Americans who appeared to be confused about what country they actually live in gathering to honor a foreign country that has an army that acts like a terrorist group, does not believe in equal rights even for its own citizens and bans visitors who do not accept its more questionable policies, the AIPAC people are not a joke. They are a deadly serious threat to our own democracy and way of life as they have figured out how to use money and the power that money buys to leverage and corrupt the system in such a way as to produce wars and turmoil that have blown back on the United States and made every American citizen both less safe and poorer.
I have written and spoken before how AIPAC is ultimately doomed as Israel and its basic policies towards Arabs and its neighbors are unsustainable both from a human rights and practical point of view. But that does not mean that it is going away any time soon. The Israel Lobby has the U.S. Congress and media by the throat and the Trump administration promises to be completely uncritical in its relationship with Netanyahu and whatever homicidal kleptocrat might be in line to succeed him.
Ms. Haley and her peers in state governments have successfully pushed legislation in a majority of states that punishes anyone who tries to boycott Israeli institutions or products. On university campuses non-violent criticism of Israel is being suppressed. There is also increasing pressure to define any criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism and therefore a hate crime, modeled on similar legislation in Canada, Britain and France. In a number of European countries it is a crime to challenge the standard narrative on “the Holocaust.” Why should that be? You can in much of Europe stand in a town square and say horrible things about your own country but if you criticize the factual basis of one particular “event” that took place in the 1940s you will go to jail.
So hang on to your hats, my fellow Americans. AIPAC is not going away and it will be doing all it can to keep neighboring Syria a cauldron of death and destruction while also calling for war on Iran. And AIPAC as well as the other bits and pieces of the Israel Lobby will have many Quislings in the Congress and U.S. media who will echo whatever they propose, even if it does grave damage to American interests. Meanwhile the billions and billions of dollars will continue to flow from an increasingly straitened United States to a wealthy Israel. At its conference AIPAC announced the latest windfall from America, applauding “… the U.S. House of Representatives for significantly bolstering its support of U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation in the FY 2017 defense appropriations bill. The House appropriated $600.7 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense programs.” That is on top of everything else Israel gets. Will it ever end? I don’t know.
Right before our eyes, we are seeing the transformation of single payer Bernie Sanders into public option Howard Dean.
During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Sanders took off like a rocket, fueled by the promise of a single payer, Medicare for All single payer system.
His single payer plan paralleled HR 676, the single payer bill in the House of Representatives that now has 72 co-sponsors.
It would deliver one public payer, no deductibles, no co-pays, lower costs, everyone in, nobody out, no more medical bankruptcies, no more deaths from lack of health insurance and free choice of doctors and hospitals.
That was the promise of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 campaign.
But since then, Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.
Then become part of Senator Chuck Schumer’s Senate Democratic leadership.
And this weekend, Sanders has been telling people he will introduce health care reform legislation in the Senate within a couple of weeks.
But it’s not going to be a companion bill to HR 676.
Instead, Sanders is telling reporters he wants to “move toward Medicare for all.”
“Right now we need to improve the Affordable Care Act and that means a public option,” Sanders tweeted yesterday.
The public option?
That would be the plan put forth by the Democratic corporatist Howard Dean, currently a member of the public policy and regulation practice of Denton’s, the multinational corporate law firm.
Dean got into nasty confrontations with single payer activists who confronted him during the Obamacare debates with questions about his corporatist connections and his support of the public option over single payer.
Don McCanne of Physicians for a National Health Program, the premiere single payer health care group in the country, has argued persuasively that the public option — allowing Americans to opt into a public plan — would not solve our healthcare crisis.
“The tragedy is not so much that on this path we will end up with a public plan that will be only one more feeble player in the dysfunctional market of private plans, but rather that we will, once again, have walked away from single payer, perhaps for decades, because of this meme about lack of political feasibility,” McCanne wrote last year. “Instead of making private plans compete with a public option, we should get rid of them and establish our own single public plan.”
And PNHP, in a paper titled The Public Plan Option: Myths and Facts, says that
“the current Medicare experience combined with experience in many different states that have tried this type of reform shows that public plans are left with the sickest patients and fail due to rising costs while the private insurers continue to collect premiums from the healthiest patients and maintain their high profits.”
Sanders also told reporters this weekend that he would consider legislation that would drop the Medicare age from 65 to 55.
David Himmelstein, a PNHP founder, said that while the public option would be a “modest improvement” and dropping the Medicare age to 55 would be a “good step,” “neither could realize most of the vast savings on administration available under single payer, nor would they achieve universal coverage or address the problems of the tens of millions who are currently underinsured.”
“Introducing a public option will divide and confuse supporters of Medicare for all,” said Margaret Flowers, MD a pediatrician who co-directs Health Over Profit for Everyone, www.HealthOverProfit.org. Flowers is also a member of PNHP. “Senators who should co-sponsor Medicare for all will be divided. Sanders seems to be urging a public option to please the Democratic Party, but Sanders cannot serve two masters – Wall Street’s Chuck Schumer and the people. Sanders must decide whom he is working for.”
“While it might seem politically pragmatic to support a public option, it is not realistically pragmatic because a public option will not work,” Dr. Flowers said. “Senator Sanders knows that and he knows that the smallest step toward solving the healthcare crisis is National Improved Medicare for All. This would fundamentally change our health system that currently treats health as a commodity so that people only have access to what they can afford to a system that treats health as a public necessity so that people have access to what they need. Medicare for all achieves the savings needed to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone.”
“If Senator Sanders believes that it is acceptable to promote a policy that leaves some people out, then we want to know who should be left out. The US is already spending enough to cover everyone and that’s what we need to do.”
“The Affordable Care Act, built on a heavily subsidized private insurance industry, is not possible to fix. The ACA must be replaced by a national health policy that serves the needs of the people by replacing private insurance with publicly-financed Medicare.”
“Sanders wants to lower drug prices,” Dr. Flowers said. “Only a single payer system can negotiate lower drug prices. Sanders says healthcare is a human right, but human rights should not be commodities or profit centers. People do not pay for their human rights.”
“We look to Senator Sanders to act on what he promised during his presidential campaign, a National Improved Medicare for All now, not tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes. It is not up to him to decide if single payer can pass in Congress. That task is for the people to decide.”
Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter.
As the Swedish manufacturer Saab experiences growing problems trying to market its Gripen fighter jet, the company is forced to try and woo previously unbeknown markets. This, however, has attracted criticism from peace researchers, who claim the move contradicts Sweden’s long-lasting foreign policy goals.
A group of peace researchers from Uppsala University condemned Saab’s campaigning in Botswana, saying the move was in direct conflict with Sweden’s foreign policy goals. These are peace, human rights and poverty reduction, according to an opinion piece published by the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.
In 2016, a high-ranking Swedish delegation, led by Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, toured Botswana. The subsequent scandal involving ballooning costs diverted Swedes’ attention from more pressing issues, such as Sweden’s plans to market JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets to the African nation. According to peace researchers Johan Brosché, Kristine Höglund and Sebastian van Baalen, the deal is highly controversial, especially given the bribery scandals that followed a similar deal with South Africa.
Firstly, in Botswana, which has long been touted as an African success story in terms of equality, human rights and economic development, democracy has gradually eroded. The country’s government is hardly an eligible partner for Sweden, which is trying to emerge as a champion of human rights on the international arena. Botswana, according to Uppsala University researchers, is clearly heading in an authoritarian direction, with growing surveillance, reduced opportunities for freedom of expression and reprisals against anti-government views.
Secondly, a Saab deal would contradict Sweden’s goal of combating poverty, as Botswana is facing major economic problems. Over a fifth of its population of two million live in absolute poverty and subsist on less than two dollars a day, despite the country’s large diamond resources. The billions to be invested in fighter jets would undermine efforts to curb unemployment, and fight drought and corruption.
Third, the idea of Botswana acquiring a fleet of advanced fighter aircraft may trigger a regional arms race, with Namibia and other neighboring countries to follow suit, with detrimental consequences for everyone but the arms dealers. At present, Botswana is not faced with any direct external threat and it is unclear why huge sums must be invested in the acquisition of advanced fighter jets. Whereas the need to protect the country’s tourism industry, combat poaching and monitor the flow of refugees previously were indicated as reasons, none of these problems can be solved with advanced fighter jets.
The Swedish researchers concluded that the arms deal with Botswana would worsen the economic and democratic development in the country, undermine regional security and mar Sweden’s reputation in Southern Africa.
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft in the same class as Airbus’ Eurofighter Typhoon, the Rafale by Dassault and Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter.
Despite Saab’s ambitious hopes for the Gripen to “dominate the market,” the company’s bids were consequently rejected by Norway, Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands. The Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon are also regarded as favorites in Malaysia, where the government will decide on an aircraft fleet upgrade.
So far, Sweden remains the largest consumer of the Gripen, with an order of 60 new-generation Gripens placed by the Defense Ministry. Saab’s agreement with Brazil on 36 planes worth 40 billion SEK ($4.5bln) remains the company’s largest overseas success. Other Gripen consumers include South Africa and Thailand, while the Czech Republic continues to rent Gripens from Sweden.
Prominent American propagandist Howard French recently published a lengthy editorial in the Guardian titled, “Is it too late to save Hong Kong from Beijing’s authoritarian grasp?,” in which he attempts to buttress an otherwise categorically false narrative surrounding an alleged indigenous struggle for democracy and independence within Hong Kong.
French attempts to hold China accountable for backtracking on an agreement made with Britain over the return of its own territory taken from it by force in 1841. He also attempts to portray Beijing’s crackdown on US-UK subversion in Hong Kong as “authoritarian,” never making mention of the extensive funding and meddling both the United States and the United Kingdom are engaged in within Chinese territory.
The article documents only one side of the so-called “independence” movement in Hong Kong, sidestepping any critical analysis of the colonial background of the ongoing political crisis or the neo-colonial aspects that shape current events even now.
The lengthy piece was paid for by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a Washington D.C.-based front that collaborates with the New York Times, PBS, NPR, Time Magazine and other mainstays of US propaganda. These are the same media outlets that helped sell the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as US-led attacks on Libya and US meddling in Syria beginning in 2011. By supporting French’s work, they now help sell to the public a narrative that undermines Chinese sovereignty an ocean away from American shores.
The entire editorial, its contents, author and the special interests that paid for it as well as its placement in the Guardian, represent a continued and concerted effort to maintain an Anglo-American foothold in Hong Kong, part of the last vestiges of Western hegemony within Chinese territory.
The Truth About Hong Kong
Had Howard French penned an honest account of Hong Kong’s recent political crisis, he would have included the extensive, some may say exclusive, control the United States and the United Kingdom exercised over an otherwise fictitious and impossible pro-independence movement. Quite literally every leader of the so-called “Umbrella Revolution” is either directly funded and directed by the US and/or UK government, or possesses membership within an organisation, institution or front funded by Anglo-American money.
The notion that a teen-aged Joshua Wong was single-handedly defying Beijing is preposterous even at face value. He was but one cog of a much larger, well-documented foreign-funded machine aimed at stirring up conflict within Hong Kong, undermine Beijing’s control of the territory and infect Chinese society as a whole with notions of Western-style “democracy.”
Just months before the 2014 “Umbrella Revolution,” one of its leaders, Martin Lee, was literally in Washington D.C., before members of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), pleading for material and political support for upcoming demonstrations. Toward the end of that same year, and despite NED denying Lee was a protest leader, Lee would find himself in the streets of Hong Kong leading the protests from the front shoulder-to-shoulder with Benny Tai and Joshua Wong.
Ironically, after the protests diminished and were finally pushed off the streets by both local police and impatient residents, Lee, Tai and Wong would be invited to Washington D.C. for a special event organised by NED subsidiary, Freedom House, dubbed, “Three Hong Kong Heroes.” The three protest leaders, having attempted to shake off accusations of being Washington puppets, or even protest leaders altogether, would take to the stage with yellow umbrellas in hand.
Howard French, and others attempting to persuade Western audiences of their version of events in Hong Kong omit these critical facts regarding the foreign-funded and directed nature of the “pro-independence” movement. They do so intentionally, with French himself being a 2011 Open Society fellow, Open Society being one of several fronts the US has channelled money through in support of subversion in Hong Kong.
In reality, there is nothing “pro-independence” about the movement in Hong Kong. It is simply the latest in a centuries-long attempt by Western powers to project geopolitical hegemony into Asia and more specifically, upon China itself.
French’s lengthy lament regarding China’s “authoritarianism” captures what may possibly be frustration that Washington and London’s tricks no longer work, and the more “Umbrella Revolutions” they attempt to organise against Beijing, the more familiar the Chinese public will be with them and subsequently, the more determined they will become to frustrate them.
Additionally, China’s influence over Hong Kong and even across Asia as a whole, is stronger, more sustainable and continuously expanding versus waning Western influence. Spectacular political stunts like the “Umbrella Revolution” attempt to leverage global public opinion over which the US media still maintains considerable influence, but ultimately such strategies have been confounded by Beijing and are, in the long-term, unsustainable.
Hong Kong represents a past, strong bastion of Western colonial power, now struggling to maintain itself even as a minor regional foothold. Despite the efforts of manipulators like Howard French and media platforms that lend themselves to his disingenuous narrative, footholds like Hong Kong will continue to diminish until the last remnants of the West’s colonial past are all but swept from modern geopolitics and permanently assigned to the pages of history.
The latest “breaking” story from the Guardian and Luke Harding is hitting the headlines. Almost exactly 1 year after the explosive anti-climax that was “The Panama Papers”, Harding and the coterie of NGOs for which he acts as de-facto spokesperson have a big announcement to make: Banks launder money, and some of it is Russian.
I don’t know why they use American money with a Russian flag superimposed. They were probably afraid nobody would recognise roubles.
We are nearing the anniversary of the release of the Panama Papers, a “big story” involving years of work, hundreds of leaked documents, a team of exceptional journalists (and Luke Harding) and a dramatic reveal: “Sometimes, very rich people use legal loopholes to avoid paying their taxes.”
The list of implicated parties included heads of state, celebrities, athletes, David Cameron’s dad and a cellist that knows Vladimir Putin. We all remember who the Guardian decided to focus on, and we all know why.
Today the same crack-team (and Luke Harding) are releasing the long-awaited sequel to their original hit. “The global Laundromat”, it’s called. It’s a product of a years-long investigation into money laundering in ex-Soviet states, using British shell companies. I can’t comment on the truth of these allegations, because we don’t get to see the evidence, we are simply told that it’s true “according to letters The Guardian has seen”, and “reports shown to the Guardian ”… and other variations on that theme.
They may well be true. Big business and billionaires take part in shady and/or illegal business practices all the time. Just as was the case in the Panama Papers, they tell us something we all already know to be true, and then act like it was a surprise.
There’s a lot to like here. The simultaneous publication of four different articles on the subject, all practically identical. The implication that it is “breaking news”, when their prize factoid is three years old, and the scheme itself hasn’t operated since 2014. The fact that Luke Harding has to publicly declare the US government’s involvement, to stop people like us from pointing it out and making them look silly (like last time). The persistent use of the old Harding trick of simply dotting your story with plenty of “could haves” and “speculations suggests”. It’s all good stuff.
Where it becomes hilariously cack-handed in their agenda-pushing is in trying to force tenuous links to the Kremlin and, of course, Vladimir Putin in particular.
Last year they plastered their front page with pictures of Putin and videos about Putin and editorials about corruption in Russia… despite having to admit in the text:
… the president’s name does not appear in any of the records…
This year they can’t even go that far. They fall to the level of implication. Talking around inconvenient facts on the one hand, and then wildly speculating on the other. Leaving deliberate dots for the reader to join up, whilst never having the courage of their convictions to make plain their insinuations (probably for fear of being sued and/or corrected in the alt-media).
Much like the Panama Papers launch, there’s an awful lot of verbiage to work through, implications are thick on the ground, evidence less so. No direct sources are named, it is always “an ex-banker living in exile said”, or “a Russian business-man said”. Gorge on words and starve of meaning seems to be the message of the day.
Some interesting bullet points I pulled out:
Now we can reveal Britain’s role in this scheme – and how vast sums of potentially tainted money flowed into and out of western banks, including HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland, without raising any alarm.
This is taken from this piece, one of the four long reads The Guardian is currently devoting to this topic. You can tell it’s a Harding creation because of the prose… for want of a better word… style. It might seem inconsequential at first, but note the use of the phrase “potentially tainted”, that means there is no proof of any wrong-doing at all. It means, the money is “potentially” untainted. As in just totally legal money being used to buy things.
Normally speaking I would expect a crime to at least have definitely happened before a paper put it in their headlines. But maybe I’m being old-fashioned.
The ingenious scheme has its origins in Russia. Put simply, it was a way for Kremlin insiders and other well-known Russians to shift cash abroad.
Not a single “Kremlin insider” is named in any of the four stories currently running on this issue.
Before it was rumbled, the scheme was one of several mafia operations that have allowed the rich to spirit money out of the country to spend in the west.
There’s no evidence to back-up this statement, not a single connection to the mafia is ever mentioned again. But even so it’s worth noting. The money is leaving Russia and coming here. Remember that, because it will be important later on.
“Money laundering is the biggest business in Russia,” one former Moscow banker, now living in exile, explained. “You steal from the budget. You’ve got this dirty money. You have to do something with it.”
The source here, the “former banker living in exile”, is naturally unnamed. As an educated guess it’s probably Sergei Pugachev, a banker and oligarch who has fled both Russia and Britain on charges of embezzling and money laundering. Harding has interviewed him before, it would make sense if he became Harding’s primary source on Russian banking.
Pugachev fled Russia after the government seized his assets and charged him with various financial crimes. That’s an important pattern that will repeat, and has repeated, many times over.
Here we come to the “Putin connection”, are you ready?
It features Russian banks, Moldovan oligarchs, and a network of fake UK companies fronted by fake or “nominee” directors, many of them in Ukraine. It had impeccable Moscow connections. Vladimir Putin’s cousin Igor sat on the board of a bank which held accounts that laundered billions.
His cousin worked at one of the banks that held accounts that may have laundered money. That’s it. These are connections that Harding considers “impeccable”. Is there any evidence connecting the two cousins? Phone calls? Photographs? If any exists, none is presented.
Interestingly, Igor Putin is actually a member of an opposition political party in Russia, which supported an alternative presidential candidate in 2012.
You can put the above quote together with another statement, from this article, to see just how completely meaningless it is:
Accounts held at 19 Russian banks were involved in the scheme. In 2014, it was reported that one financial institution was the Russian Land Bank (RZB). A bank board member at the time was Igor Putin.
Yes nineteen, nineteen(!), different Russian banks are “involved” with the scheme, and the “impeccable Moscow connections” are that Putin’s cousin worked at one of them. At least five different British banks were involved, HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds TSB, NatWest and RSB. It’s hard to imagine that every cousin, of every board member, of every bank is currently under investigation by Scotland Yard.
In fact, nobody is under investigation by Scotland Yard, at all. Every single reference to a criminal investigation is talking about Latvia, Moldova… and Russia.
Once the goods had been cleared the UK firms were liquidated. No duty was paid. Often, Russia’s tax inspectors then took the UK companies to court.
In practice, the Laundromat made possible three different crimes inside Russia: tax evasion, evasion of customs duty and money laundering. In 2013 grey import schemes cost the state $40bn, a Russian parliament committee said.
… alleged ringleader Alexander Grigoriev was detained in November 2015 while eating in a Moscow restaurant… In 2014-15, [Russian] regulators stripped Grigoriev of his banking licences amid concerns that funds were mysteriously vanishing… Russian police sources told Kommersant that Grigoriev was one of a number of prominent people who used the Laundromat to move $46bn in liquid assets out of Russia.
In three separate paragraphs, dotted throughout the four different articles he has contributed to, Harding makes reference to three different Russian governmental efforts to control illegal movement of money: Taking foreign companies to court, parliamentary enquiries, and the arrest and suspension of (alleged) criminal bankers.
He makes no such mention of any British efforts to do the same, because there were none.
The FSB, the Russian security service Harding routinely refers to as “the successor to the KGB” (in fact, in one article today he simply calls them the KGB), have apparently launched an investigation into this scheme. How does Harding address this issue? Very simply:
The Russian investigation into Laundromat has been cursory.
There are suspicions the FSB’s real goal was merely to find out how much investigators knew.
… officers from Russia’s FSB spy agency visited detectives in Moldova. They took away records. It is unclear if this was a genuine investigation or an attempt to discover how much the Moldovans knew. Probably the latter.
No sources are linked to back up these assertions. He completely dismisses, without evidence or argument, the FSB investigations.
He doesn’t dismiss the intentions of Britain’s NCA investigations… because, once again, there were none.
A step back, and a gentle examination, paints a rather different picture from the one with which the Guardian is trying to present us. It shows us Russian oligarchs and bankers shifting vast sums of money OUT of Russia and INTO the EU. Now why would this be?
Logic would suggest that money flows FROM regulation INTO corruption. That’s a natural physical force, like water running downhill. Like osmosis. Russia, since the end of the chaotic Yeltsin era, has been going through a slow process of de-oligarchisation, even Shaun Walker (grudgingly) admitted that. The aforementioned Sergei Pugachev can attest to it (he does so, often and loudly). The Russian government has jailed billionaires for embezzling. Russia prosecutes bankers, and demands companies pay their taxes. Is the same true of Britain? Did a single banker see the inside of jail cell after the 2008 crash? Have Amazon, Google or Vodafone been brought to court for their massive tax evasion?
What you’re looking at here, like the Panama Papers, is just further evidence of that which we already know, that the deregulated bank and business sectors in the UK can be abused by the super wealthy for their own personal gain. And, like the Panama Papers, it was deliberately misrepresented by “investigative journalists” in order to exaggerate any connection with the Russian government, and just generally shine a poor light on Russia.
So, who is behind this revelation?
To answer that, let’s take a look at the about page of the driving force behind this “scandal”, The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). The following is taken directly from their own website:
OCCRP is supported by grants by the Open Society Foundation, Google Digital News Initiative, the Skoll Foundation, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Google Jigsaw, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Knight Foundation. OCCRP also receives developmental funds for improving journalism from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the United States Department of State and the Swiss Confederation.
The bolded are all very familiar to us here at OffG, and should be to anyone that has followed our work on US-back NGOs. They form an argument on their own, you don’t need me to tell you what it means.
All this really tells us, so far, is that the US government, their corporate allies and puppet NGOs have spent years of their time, and God knows how much of their near-limitless resources, trying to tie the current Russian administration to any kind of criminal corruption. What have they found? A cellist legally avoiding his taxes and that Russian oligarch’s think their ill-gotten gains are safer in British banks, than Russian ones. A rather damning fact, when you think about it.
This is the result of years of work from the world’s business and intelligence elites (and Luke Harding), and it is, frankly, pitiful.