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U.N. says Gaza is ‘de-developing’ even faster than expected, but omits main cause

By Kathryn Shihadah | If Americans Knew | July 16, 2017

The United Nations has often provided valuable reports on the situation in the Palestinian Occupied Territories (although in at least one case the UN removed such a report following pressure from Israel and the United States – see this, this, and this).

The UN’s latest report on the region, “Gaza Ten Years Later,” contains much valuable, factual information. However, parts of the report exhibit a troubling lack of proportionality. This flaw is then maintained in quoted comments on the UN report by National Public Radio journalist Daniel Estrin.

Below is the NPR news story on the UN report, with comments in Italics that discuss some of its statements:  

U.N. Says Gaza Is ‘De-Developing’ Even Faster Than Expected,  by Merrit Kennedy, NPR

Five years ago, the U.N. warned that Gaza is expected to be unlivable by 2020. A new report now says conditions are deteriorating there even faster than it forecast.

“What needed to happen has not happened, and the indicators are accelerating instead of slowing down,” Robert Piper, the U.N. Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, told NPR’s Daniel Estrin.

“In a nutshell, Gaza continues to de-develop in front of our eyes,” Piper adds. “From health care, to unemployment, to energy, to access to water, across all of these fields, Gaza’s 2 million people are seeing faster and faster decline in their living conditions.”

The population of Gaza, a 130-square-mile strip of land on the Mediterranean, is growing faster than projected, while infrastructure and services haven’t been able to keep up. The population is now forecast to reach 2.2 million people in 2020, up from the 2012 projection of 2.13 million.

The UN report, and the NPR discussion, correctly highlight the rapid pace at which Gaza is moving toward humanitarian disaster. However, as the discourse continues, a moral equivalence fallacy begins to emerge. Daniel lists three sources of Gaza’s trouble:

“Many of the problems stem from the Hamas takeover of Gaza 10 years ago, Israel and Egypt’s blockade of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority’s recent reduction of electricity to Gaza to pressure its rival Hamas,” Daniel reports.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Undoubtedly, Hamas’ feud with the PA is part of the problem; so are the electricity shortage and the closed crossing to Egypt. But placing these factors on par with Israel’s now ten-year-long blockade ignores the facts—some of which are spelled out in the UN report:

Israel retains full control of all movement of people and goods to and from Gaza by sea, air and land, with the exception of a 12 km strip of border with Egypt…Following the expulsion of the PA by Hamas in the summer of 2007, the Israeli Government declared Gaza “hostile territory” and, again citing security concerns, announced a number of new sanctions and restrictions on the access and movement of people and goods, ultimately amounting to a blockade by sea, air and land. Many of the restrictions imposed then, are still in place. (Italics added)

It is worth taking a moment to discuss the question of Hamas, which continues to be a scapegoat for Gaza’s ongoing crisis. Hamas’ complicated rivalry with, and appropriation of power from, Fatah and the PA–and its reputation as a terrorist organization–need to be challenged.

Hamas won a democratic election in Gaza and the West Bank (in spite of the US spending $2.3 million to support Fatah and Israeli obstruction), and was promptly discredited by the US and the EU. Israel commenced sanctions only 3 days after the election. These reactions were nothing short of collective punishment by world superpowers, simply because the “wrong” party won. The charge that Hamas is nothing but a terrorist group, and Palestinians elected Hamas leaders to destroy Israel, shows a profound misunderstanding of Hamas and its rise to power.

Neve Gordon explained in this excellent 2006 article that “the organization’s popularity in the Occupied Territories actually stems from its being seen as the voice of Palestinian dignity and the symbol of the defense of Palestinian rights at a time of unprecedented hardship, humiliation, and despair…In other words, Hamas was elected not only because it is considered an alternative to the corrupt Palestinian Authority, but also because Israel created the conditions that made it an indispensable social movement.”

Back to the de-development of Gaza. In his discussion of the Gaza crisis, Daniel also neglects to mention the three assaults by Israel in 2008, 2012, and 2014. The UN report does mention them, but the description is problematic:

In addition to the impact of the violent Hamas takeover and ensuing Israeli measures imposed in 2007, three rounds of armed hostilities between Israel and Hamas – with the most devastating round in 2014 – have dealt repeated blows to the Gazan economy and damaged essential infrastructure.

These words may be technically accurate: yes, Hamas took over Gaza amid violence; yes, Israel imposed “measures” in 2007; yes, there have been three rounds of “armed hostilities”—but the statement is egregiously inequitable. It is absurd to suggest that the Hamas takeover was equally as damaging to Gaza as the three deadly assaults by Israel were. And the portrayal of the hostilities as though between two equal, evenly-matched armies when Israel has the latest weaponry and Gaza is essentially unarmed, is patently false. Here is a more precise description of the lopsided outcome of the hostilities, found further along in the UN report:

The first major round of hostilities broke out on 27 December 2008 and lasted for more than three weeks. During this time, nearly 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis18 were killed and some 60,000 homes were damaged or destroyed…The second major escalation of hostilities began on 14 November 2012 and lasted for one week, in which 174 Palestinians, including 107 civilians, and six Israelis, of which three were civilians, were killed, and some 10,000 homes damaged. The latest, and most devastating round of hostilities, took place between 8 July and 26 August 2014. During these 51 days, 2,251 Palestinians, including at least 146 civilians, and 71 Israelis, of whom five were civilians, were killed, and 171,000 homes were damaged.

The death toll after three “rounds of hostilities” was 3,825 Palestinians and 90 Israelis. The total number of homes damaged was 241,000—all Palestinian. In addition, schools, hospitals, and power plants were decimated. This is not a description of the aftermath of “war,” but of blitzkrieg.

The NPR story goes on to mention in passing Israel’s regulation of the border—without acknowledging the seriousness of the closure and how it affects any attempts at reconstruction. He even equates Israel’s meddling with Egyptian actions, although Egypt shares only a 7-mile border vs. Israel’s which is 32 miles long and a much greater object of hostility. Here is the statement:

Israel maintains tight control over the movement of people and goods from all sides of Gaza, aside from the 7-mile-long border Gaza shares with Egypt, which is rarely open.

The UN report describes more fully the impact the closure is having on efforts to rebuild over the last three years. This is not just “tight control”—it is crippling restriction on building materials and other critical supplies:

[Restrictions] imposed on the Strip continue to significantly impact the daily lives of Gaza’s inhabitants and the efforts of the international community to implement humanitarian and development projects. Israel considers many materials needed for these projects to be ‘dual-use’ and posing security concerns, thus subjecting them to severe import restrictions. These include construction materials, raw material for the productive sectors, including wood and pesticides, medical equipment and water pumps necessary to deal with seasonal flooding.

It is worth noting that Israeli limitation of imports included (in 2010, and is mostly still in place) wood for construction, cement, iron, tarps (for roofs on huts), fishing rods, farm animals, many spare parts for farming equipment, notebooks, pens, pencils, and toys.

The NPR report then moves on to the topic of water:

By the end of 2017, the U.N. projects Gaza’s only water aquifer will be depleted. The damage could be irreversible by 2020 due to salt water entering the aquifer. That would be “catastrophic,” the report says, and the “living and health conditions of the people of Gaza can only further deteriorate, exposing the population to water-borne illnesses, and other threats.”

The U.N. had previously said that the aquifer would be depleted by 2016, earlier than the current projection. Piper says this small piece of positive news is more akin to “re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic than really having much to celebrate.”

This is objectively true—although the image of “deck chairs on the Titanic” makes the Gaza situation sound more like a movie trailer than a humanitarian crisis. Let’s add some detail from the UN report to shed light on the reality:

Access to safe drinking water in Gaza through the public water network plummeted [after 2000]…As a result, reliance on water tanks, containers and bottled water rose from 1.4% to 89.6%…Having to rely on water trucking comes at a high cost on consumers, as trucked water is 15-20 times more expensive than water from the network. This particularly impacts the most vulnerable who are often poor and unemployed and do not have access to piped network water. Trucked water is also unregulated and unreliable in terms of quality.

This gives us a clearer picture of not only the expense but also the continued risk posed as the public water network becomes unusable. People of Gaza pay a premium for water that may or may not be safe.

Israel has an obligation to the people of Gaza which should be part of any conversation about the crisis. A number of prominent human rights organizations have determined that whether Gaza is considered occupied, in armed conflict with Israel, or under Israel’s control, international law demands that Israel solve the water crisis. 

NPR then moves on to waste water, describing the nightmare scenario that is happening today:

At the same time, the amount of poorly treated sewage dumped into the sea is increasing, now equivalent to 43 Olympic size pools daily. That is expected to increase by almost 10 percent by 2020, which could have “significant environmental consequences,” the report warns.

The U.N. says new water treatment facilities need to be constructed to address the water crisis. However, Israel is limiting imports on many of the materials needed for construction because it says they could be used for military purposes.

Electricity is another critical need in Gaza. The NPR report continues:

And any future new [sewage treatment] plants would require a steady electrical supply, which at the moment is highly uncertain.

In fact, “an 11-year-old child has not experienced more than 12 hours of electricity in a single day in his/her lifetime,” according to the report. It says that in the most pessimistic 2020 estimate, only 25 percent of Gaza’s electricity demand would be met.

The economy of Gaza, its employment figures, and health care provisions are also notable. NPR reports:

The economy in Gaza has significantly declined in the last decade, with per capita GDP decreasing by 5.3 percent between 2006 and 2016. The report describes Gaza’s economic trajectory as “de-development,” even as the occupied West Bank has seen 48.5 percent growth in per capita GDP between 2006 and 2016.

Gaza’s unemployment rate is at more than 40 percent, according to the latest figures. It’s particularly severe for 20-24 year olds, at 60.3 percent, and for women, at 64.4 percent.

The number of doctors, nurses and hospital beds has also not been able to keep pace with the growing population. The report says, “while the population has doubled since 2000, the number of functioning primary health care clinics has decreased from 56 to 49.”

Given these “unacceptable” conditions, Piper acknowledges that for some, Gaza would already be deemed unlivable. “For many of us, we’d say that threshold is well and truly passed,” he said. “How do you manage in these sorts of conditions?”

In the report, Piper states: “It is profoundly unjust and inhuman to put Gaza’s civilians through such an ordeal.” He calls them “the victims of various policies by many different actors.”

When there is a victim, there is also a perpetrator. Gaza’s often goes almost unnamed. We must not forget who it is or rest until the humanitarian crisis is averted. 

But at least NPR reported on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, unlike most other mainstream news organizations, including the New York Times, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.


 

RELATED:

On 50th Anniversary of Israeli Occupation, Palestinian Opinions Largely Ignored

The Illusion of Balance: NPR’s coverage of Mideast deaths doesn’t match reality

July 16, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Such a “Surprise” in the UK!

By Thomas S. Harrington | CounterPunch | June 12, 2017

I just can’t believe what happened in the British elections.

I can’t get over the fact that that when a politician with real convictions honed over 40 years of political life—generous and forward-looking convictions rooted in an understanding of how social progress for the many has actually been engineered in previous times—speaks out unencumbered by corporate-minded, fraidy-cat image doctors, people actually respond enthusiastically.

It’s shocking, absolutely shocking.

Why am I so confused?

Well, for thirty years, the brilliant people at the NYT, NPR,  PBS,  the BBC and The Guardian  have told me again and again that candidates from Labor in the UK and the Democratic Party  in the US must always  be oh-so-careful careful to not veer too far left in their policy prescriptions,  to not appear too “populist” and, most of all, to not to go “too far outside the mainstream”.

The question of who defines what is the mainstream, or how lavishly-funded pro-business and pro-war think-tanks might actually be the people establishing its functional parameters by funding armies of think-tank “scholars” and “experts” were, of course, a complex hermeneutical problems that I never had the time  nor the energy to ponder or deconstruct.

If those smart Ivy and Oxbridge-type guys and gals in the prestige media were telling us time and again that our societies were all fundamentally center-right collectives with a deep suspicion of government action (except, that is, when it came to making unceasing war on a world-wide scale) who was I, an obscure analyst of Iberian nationalisms and other sundry issues, to say anything about it?

Can you imagine someone like me actually believing he had the right to question brilliant and connected people like David Brooks, Tom Friedman or Jonathan Freeland or Polly Toynbee?

It would have been the height of hubris on my part to do so. After all, unlike them, I don’t spend my time networking each day with ambitious like-minded people deeply enamored of power, nor do I have the option of knowing exactly what stories and messages will provoke society’s centers of financial and military power to pressure a media conglomerate to trim a pundit’s  paycheck or to convince well-heeled seekers of transcendent insight  to stop paying her fat speaking fees.

Because I lack this essential information, I have always assumed my rightful place as an uncritical consumer of their deeply though-out and always prescient nostrums.

True, today I am feeling a little confused and bereft. But I know that by the time the next news cycle comes around they’ll have it all figured out for me, providing explanations that will in no way contradict or vitiate all the brilliant things they’ve been saying over so many years.

June 12, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama vows ‘action’ in response to alleged Russian hacking

RT | December 16, 2016

Barack Obama has vowed to take retaliatory measures against Russia, both public and covert, accusing Moscow of compromising the “integrity” of the US elections through the DNC email hacks. US intelligence has yet to provide any evidence of Russian involvement.

“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections … we need to take action. And we will — at a time and place of our own choosing,” President Obama said in an interview with NPR on Friday.

The US leader did not elaborate on whether the steps would be taken in the five weeks he has left in office.

Neither did he specify what type of action might be taken, saying only that “some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be.”

While Obama spoke of the Russian government’s alleged role in the hacking of Democratic National Committee (DNC) communications as a proven fact, he fell short of accusing Moscow of purposefully aiding US President-elect Donald Trump without a “final report” from US intelligence agencies.

“And so when I receive a final report, you know, we’ll be able to, I think, give us a comprehensive and best guess as to those motivations,” he said.

Obama argued, however, that even without a comprehensive report it should be obvious that “what the Russian hack had done was create more problems for the [Hillary] Clinton campaign than it had for the Trump campaign.”

At the same time, the outgoing president admitted that although the scandal that ensued from the leaks – and the subsequent way it was reported in the media – “had some impact” on the election campaign, “you never know which factors are going to make a difference.”

Earlier, Trump dismissed as a “conspiracy theory” claims made by anonymous CIA officials, and reported by the Washington Post, that Russian intelligence hacked the DNC emails to propel him to the presidency.

Obama was also wary of accusing the Trump campaign of having anything to do with the leaks, refusing to feed into conspiracy theories, while saying that the Republican candidate’s camp had simply exploited the incident to its maximum benefit.

“They understood what everybody else understood, which was that this was not good for Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” Obama said.

Obama is not the first senior US official to threaten Russia with countermeasures to avenge the alleged hack, involvement in which the Russian government vehemently denies.

Back in October, US Vice President Joe Biden told NBC that Washington would be “sending a message to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin” that “will be executed at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact.”

At the time, NBC also cited intelligence officials with “direct knowledge of the situation” as saying that the CIA had been ordered to devise a plan for a “clandestine” cyber strike against Russia in order to “embarrass” Moscow. The outlet reported that the agents had already embarked on preparations for a large-scale attack.

On Thursday, “anonymous CIA officials with direct access to information” went as far as to claim that the Russian president himself might have authorized the alleged hacks.

Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ban Rhodes, reiterated the claims to MSNBC, saying he doesn’t think “things happen in the Russian government of this consequence without Vladimir Putin knowing about it.”

These latest allegations were dismissed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as nonsensical.

“I think that the stupidity and hopelessness of such an attempt to convince people of this is obvious,” he said on Thursday.

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), a group of former CIA and NSA agents, doubt the credibility of this version, adding that “harder evidence of a technical nature” suggests it was an inside job and not a hack by “Russians or anyone else.”

VIPS signed a memorandum published by Consortium News on Thursday. One of the letter’s authors, former NSA technician and whistleblower Bill Binney, told RT that “all points point to leaking, not hacking,” noting that if it was indeed a hack, the NSA would have long ago found a trace route.

Taking into account the scope of the NSA’s “extensive domestic data-collection network” uncovered in Edward Snowden’s revelations, “it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone – Russian or not – attempting to interfere in a US election by hacking,” the veterans wrote, adding that such proof, if it existed, could be presented by the NSA “without any danger to sources or methods.”

Binney recalled that on a similar occasion with Chinese hackers, the NSA was able to trace the route of the hack to the specific building from which it was launched, which made him think that the accusations against Russia put forward by military intelligence were politically motivated.

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan-turned-WikiLeaks operative Craig Murray also challenged the official US version of events, claiming the source of the hacks was an insider who “had legal access to information.”

“The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks,” he told the Daily Mail, claiming that he himself took part in the handover operation in the woods in northwest Washington DC, where a representative of the source of the leaks allegedly gave him a package with the data.

Read more:

Media reporting on hacked DNC emails acted as ‘arms of Russian intelligence’ – White House

DNC docs were leaked, not hacked, intelligence veterans say

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | 1 Comment

Garrison Keillor’s Prophecy and Apostasy

By Sam Husseini | July 4, 2016

On what was billed as his last show, Garrison Keillor, host of “A Prairie Home Companion” got a call from President Barack Obama and they traded extensive compliments, with Keillor telling Obama he was “the coolest president.”

Keillor’s signing off on July 4 weekend was likely calculated to accentuate his presumed ties to all things Americana, but for me it actually highlighted his hypocrisies and contradictions.

For one, my favorite story of his was set on the Fourth. I’d long thought that any reasonable person who hears that story would concur it was his greatest. Unfortunately when I asked him about it last year, Keillor himself clearly wouldn’t fit into that category.

The story — which he told shortly after the 1991 bombing of Iraq — was simply titled “Prophet.” When I heard it at the time, it gave me a sense that there was a sliver of hope in turning the U.S. public around regarding the country’s place in the world. My girlfriend back then gave me the cassette tape collection that included the story as a birthday present.

Until lawyers expunge it from the internet, you can listen to that story here. I’ve excerpted the heart of it below.

I tolerated Keillor’s unevenness for years after that, listening on and off. I had an unsatisfying run in with him in 1999, but I’d overlooked that and his various annoying proclivities, especially his seeming incessant avoidance of the moral sins that created the U.S. — because he told the “Prophet” story. But you never really know someone until you have a chance to ask them a couple of questions, as I did when he spoke at the National Press Club last year.

He began his talk at the Press Club by bemoaning that people rarely addressed particular things he’d written. They’d just say “good job” — as you “would say to a child who had had a bowel movement. … As I look back on my career in broadcasting, nobody had ever complemented me on a specific thing. Nobody had ever quoted back to me some brilliant thing I had ever said. It was always general. ‘We like your show.’ ‘It really relaxes our children.’ ‘We listen to it late at night.’ And it occurred to me that perhaps I had spent 40 years in radio as a sort of comforting baritone presence and that nobody heard anything in particular that I had said.”

I felt so good, because I had submitted a question about the “Prophet” story which he told decades earlier. Surely he’d be floored that someone remembers that story. Perhaps seeing that that’s what resonated with people he would be compelled to use his pulpit to do more of that caliber of commentary.

The moderator of the event, then Press Club President John Hughes did ask that question: “One of your greatest stories on ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ was the ‘Prophet’ which you told during the 1991 Gulf War. What would a prophet tell us now?”

But Keillor basically renounced the story: “I am not in the prophecy business and sort of regret that monologue. I’ve been trying to forget it for years and years. It was one of my ill-advised ventures into political commentary. I had almost erased it from my mind, John. You brought back a little tiny bit of it. That’s p-r-o-p-h-e-t? I have no idea — I have been around and seen a lot of young people in the last month …”

He yada-yada-ed for a bit about passing the mantle, but the point was made. [See video.]

Here’s the most substantial chunks of the “Prophet” story:

I recall when I was a little boy, going to the volunteer fire department Fourth of July picnic. My family doesn’t remember this at all, but they have very poor memories. … I got the beans on my plate and I had the bun and I had just put the wiener in the bun and I was just squeezing the ketchup and the air turned white and it was snowing. Snow was falling and everybody was amazed and then somebody said, “oh no”, they said, “It’s fluff from the cottonwood trees, it’s just seeds coming down from the cottonwood trees”, and so, that was that, but then I looked down at my plate and there was nothing there. Now cottonwood fluff does not melt. Seeds don’t just disappear. It was snow on the Fourth of July. A snow flurry hit Lake Wobegon on the Fourth of July when I was a boy, but if you talk to anybody, including my family who was at the Volunteer Fire Department Bean Feed that day in 1951 on the Fourth of July, they will tell you that was fluff from the cottonwood trees that came down. I was the only one who knew the truth. A terrible responsibility for a child and one more reason to leave town, you know. There were too many things that I was the only one that knew them…

Stunning thought, but when God sends snow down on the Fourth of July, that indicates to me that he is talking to us in a loud voice and apparently I was the only one who saw this and therefore, the only one who might have a hunch what God was trying to tell us, but I turned down the privilege, thank you very much, no thank you. To be a prophet was too much for me then and it’s too much for me now. To be a prophet is hard work anytime and anyplace, but you never want to do it in a town of less than 2,000 population. If you live there and if you come from there. To stand and to tell people the truth that they have been successfully avoiding is not a pleasant business in a small town.

Back in 1918 in my town, back when the streets were lined with flags and when school children sat for hours of deadly nonsense about glory and honor and this war was a war to end all wars, this war would usher in a New World Order. Sat and listened to this there was a man on a bench outside a grocery store and turned to the man next to him and said, “I wish they’d take the flags down, I don’t think there’s any glory in this war, it’s just a bunch of politicians.” And the word got around town of this man’s remarks, this slur on our country … and people would not speak to him again for a long time…

You have become a scourge. You have become a prophet and it’s time to time to hit the road Jack. You gotta get out of this town. Well, that never happened to me and I’m not ever going to have it happen to me. That’s what God was offering me when he had the snow fall on the Fourth of July and I saw it. He was saying, “Witness to people about this. Reveal the truth of this and be a prophet.” I said, “No thank you, I don’t want it.” He said, “This will be a great service to people whom you love, to tell them the truth”. I said, “Well they’re not going to thank me for it. I know that for sure. People hurt prophets. They throw sharp things at them. They rip the clothes off them and they make them sit for long periods of time in uncomfortable positions on top of sharp objects that are extremely flammable. That’s what they do to prophets. I don’t want that. I don’t want any pain whatsoever. I don’t ever want to experience any pain. Minor dentistry is more than enough for me. So, no thank you. I don’t want to be a prophet and tell the truth. What can I do that’s the opposite of that?” And so, I got into this line of work. Telling lies and I’ve never regretted it, which is a terrible thing to say in front of children. To say that you’ve spent your life telling lies, but I have and I’ve had a wonderful time, and I have been very well rewarded for this, and I have been congratulated by all sorts of people including members of the clergy, whereas if I had been prophet and told the truth, I would be broke and I would be unhappy myself and I would be despised and I would be condemned from most pulpits in the country. No thanks, I don’t really care for that. …

No, it’s not that I don’t know what a prophet would say, you see. I do. It’s not for lack of a message. I’m not interested in saying it. If there were a prophet, of course, a prophet would tell us that America is a country that God has blessed so much, we have not suffered as other people have. We don’t know what suffering is like. We have not known war in our country since 1865. That experience of war in 1865 was so horrible in this country, the Civil War, that we did not lift our hand against anybody for years and years after that. [note even here, Keillor ignores wars against the native population.]

But over the years we’ve become so prosperous and we have developed technology that allows us to deliver war to other people, and it never falls on us. We have no idea what war is like in this country. Our soldiers know, but when they come back to tell us, we don’t know what they’re talking about. We don’t know what war is like in this country and so it behooves us to be careful. And to rain down death on people and then to gloat over it is not becoming in God’s eyes. This is not good. To rain down destruction from this country, which knows so little suffering that our own navels become the source of our suffering is not pleasant or good in God’s eyes. We should be very careful, very careful. This is what a prophet would say, I think.

But who wants to say it, because prophets have an approval rating of five percent, only in some places. No, I’d rather be in my line of work. … God was disappointed in me at first, but He’s come around to seeing this more and more from my point of view. … God made mistakes… you spread the truth around and it becomes common and people ignore it. … Whereas, with someone like me, if I ever do tell the truth, people remember it. … I remember every time I told the truth. Like a snowfall in July — you remember every time. [Partial transcripts via “Lying Through Their Teeth” by Danny C. Campbell [PDF]. “The Favored of God” by Rev. Dr. Timothy Ives [doc].]

To me, Keillor’s writings are a self-refutation. There’s almost no need for meaningful commentary. It’s disguised in jest, but the obvious truth is that Keillor is explicitly saying that he doesn’t want to be honest because our society punishes people who are forthright about such truths. If looked at clearly, the indictments to the society and himself could hardly be harsher.

Beyond that, his calling Obama “the coolest president” almost dovetails with his critique of the Bush I bombing of Iraq. Keillor finds it reprehensible that the U.S. would “rain down death on people and then to gloat over” — as much of the country did in 1991. And hearing his revulsion was a welcomed thing for me at the time. But it would seem Keillor mostly doesn’t like the gloating.

Indeed, just around the time that Keillor was taping his final show on Friday, the Obama administration finally released preposterously low-balled estimates of the number of civilians killed in its drone terror program. These were presumably for Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. The numbers excluded “areas of active hostilities” which the administration states “currently include Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.” The timing of the release of the numbers was particularly noteworthy — a Friday afternoon of a July 4 weekend — a transparent attempt to minimize coverage of the story. In a minimally ethical world, the timing of the release would itself be part of the indictment. The episode epitomizes patriotism as the last refuge of scoundrels.

But this works with Keillor admiration of “cool.” You want understated bombings and geopolitical machinations. Soft power. Subtle threats, not craven chest-beating. A massive global terror campaign with a pacifistic veneer. You get the blown up limbs and collapsed states that posed an obstacle to U.S. government elite designs without the handwringing. This is far preferable to what gloating or goading people might have engaged in in 1991 or years since.

Along similar lines, another question of mine did get asked when Keillor spoke at the Press Club last year — or rather a neutered piece of it. I asked: “Do you see contradictions of liberalism — from LBJ to today — proclaiming progress but backing wars, bombings, and increasingly presiding over more economic inequality?”

This was notably truncated by the Press Club management (either John Hughes or someone else who passed him my questions) to exclude the reference to wars and bombings: “What is your opinion on liberalism? Do you see contradictions from LBJ to today, proclaiming progress But also increasingly presiding over more economic inequality?” This prompted English major Keillor’s reply: “That is a powerful, complicated sentence. I am not sure I could diagram that sentence. Yes of course there have been changes Since then and defeats. But we don’t have people running for public office against Social Security and Medicare. So that says a lot right there. You can always run against Washington. Welcome to the club. But they don’t get very specific about their plans for entitlement programs. They talk about them sort of vaguely. The things that LBJ and his cohorts have set up seemed fairly durable to me.”

It’s actually the same theme all round. Keillor on his show ignores bombings of several nations by a Democratic president. And the Press Club in their choice of questioning excluded acknowledgement of same.

Keillor did make some reasonable remarks at the Press Club in my view: “We need to take a deep breath and back away from the Middle East. … You can call this isolationism, you can call it ice tea. Whatever.” His reasoning was convoluted, but he got there in ways I won’t pick apart here, but he got there. The funny part is that on the rare occasion I’ve tuned into his show, he’s more likely to be talking about World War I than any of the wars the U.S. government is waging now.

But perhaps the most bizarre answer from Keillor at the Press Club was in response to a question submitted by someone else. They asked if Somali immigrants were not changing the demographics of Lake Wobegon in Minnesota.

Keillor responded: “I don’t know if I should introduce a Somali character and what he or she would do in Lake Wobegon. I could have a Somali woman who could come as an intern to the Lutheran church. That would be interesting. A conversion and a young woman in training to become a pastor. That’s a possibility.”

This was before liberals were aghast at Trump’s remarks about Muslims. But Keillor almost sounded Trumpish in his statements: “We have many listeners among the Somalis to our shows. … We have all these listeners because they can learn English by listening to ‘A Prairie Home Companion.’ We don’t make references to politics on the show.”

See the depraved thought patterns here from a “liberal”: Keillor can seemingly only figure out a way to work a Muslim character into his stories if they decide not to be a Muslim any more. Of course he does politics on his show, he mocks Trump — and in a sense, his very remarks about only having Muslims on if they convert is quite political in the worst way.

Keillor of course expressed sympathy with the Somalis fleeing their “disastrously war-torn country” — but in a horribly familiar pattern, expressed little interest about how it’s managed to say so “war-torn.” Which brings me to a final irony: One of the best analysts on Somalia, Abdi Ismail Samatar, is at the University of Minnesota. Right around the time Keillor was speaking at the Press Club last year, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Somalia and Samatar told me: “The U.S. should face up to its role in bringing Somalia to its current state. It actually backed the warlords against the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC), which was trying to bring some stability to the country. In 2005, the UIC defeated the warlords and created peace in Mogadishu for the first time in years and without any help from the international community. Rather than engaging with the UIC, the U.S. and its African clients considered them as terrorists and Ethiopia was given the green light to invade and dismantle it. Ethiopian forces took over Mogadishu on December 25, 2006, and the prospect of a peaceful resurrection of Somalia perished.”

But Keillor didn’t need to get into the analysis if he doesn’t want to. The line of thought in the “Prophet” — the missiles “never falls on us” was the heart of it. Connections could and should be drawn between different sorts of tribal tendencies, whether in St. Paul or Damascus. Or just plain among people. It’s tragic that even if we awake to our current state, it may be because of a realization of the vulnerability of people in the U.S. now as well. It’s wildly disproportionate, but the reaper of political violence does now visit upon the U.S. public on occasion. But even with such circumstances, we’re not facing the realities.

Instead, we see a proliferation of brazen hypocrisies and defacto apologetics for political violence. Do we really need a prophet to see what’s right in front of us?

July 4, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

NPR “Correction” Obscures How “Terrorism Correspondent” Falsified How We Might End Threats

By Sam Husseini | June 15, 2016

On Monday, the day after the horrific Orlando massacre, FAIR published a piece of mine: “Commenting on Orlando, NPR Terrorism Reporter Reverses Political Lesson of Madrid Blast,” which stated:

Shortly before noon on Sunday (6/12/16), during NPR’s national coverage of the horrific shooting in Orlando, NPR “counter-terrorism correspondent” Dina Temple-Raston [@NPRDina] made a critical false claim that deserves an on-air correction.

NPR’s hosts were talking about the Orlando shooting, terrorism and the US election. They asked Temple-Raston to chime in on the issue, and she drew a parallel with Spain, claiming that when the 2004 Madrid train attacks happened just before the Spanish election, “the more conservative candidate ended up winning.”

This is exactly backwards.

In fact, the incumbent government, led by the conservative People’s Party, had brought the country into the Iraq War a year before against public opposition, and feared that if the attack were shown to be Mideast-related, voters would be furious. The day of the attack, March 11, 2004, the Spanish government had the United Nations Security Council pass resolution 1530, which condemned in “the strongest terms the bomb attacks in Madrid, Spain, perpetrated by the terrorist group ETA.” Three days later, the day of the election, Al Qaeda claimed responsibility.

Late Tuesday, I got a note from the NPR ombudsperson, Elizabeth Jensen (@ejensenNYC) pointing me to a “correction” on their website, which states: “On June 12, 2016, during a live broadcast about the Orlando shootings, NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston was mistaken when she said commuter trains in Madrid were bombed in 2007. In fact, that happened in 2004. She also was mistaken about the results of elections that were held three days after the bombings. Prime Minister José María Aznar’s party was defeated. Her comments begin around the 42:15 mark in the audio attached to this page.”

I responded with the note below and have not received a response as yet:

If I understand the situation, this is merely being posted online, on the “corrections page” — I don’t see any link to that from the front page. The original falsehood was broadcast live on air on hundreds of stations at what was likely a time of very high listenership, just after the horrific Orlando massacre.

All this is ironically mitigated by the fact that the “correction” does virtually nothing to communicate that Temple-Raston got the story exactly backwards. Temple-Raston claimed that the “more conservative” Spanish party won just after the 2004 Madrid train terror attacks, when in fact, the more antiwar party won — largely because of a 10 percent swing in the polls following the attacks.

Nor does it communicate the critical significance of the underlying point: This was in a discussion about the U.S. election: How would a terror attack affect political campaigns? Virtually no one reading this correction will have any sense of that.

There’s a huge story about what happened in Spain, how Spain has suffered no Mideast related terrorism in over a decade after this dramatic election following the attacks which led to the more antiwar party entering office and ending Spain’s participation in the Iraq war. Do you have plans for that to be shared with your listeners? How it might affect decisions the U.S. makes?

“Counter-terrorism correspondent” Temple-Raston’s getting the year wrong as well is ironically used in the “correction” to further bury the lead of her getting the story backwards.

This can hardly be seen as a response that would compel reporters to ensure they don’t disinform your listeners.

Sincerely,
Sam Husseini

June 16, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

Law Enforcement Misrepresentation of Orlando Killer’s 911 Call Ignores U.S. Foreign Policy Motivation

By Matt Peppe | Just the Facts | June 14, 2016

In the aftermath of the horrific mass murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando over the weekend in which 50 people were killed, media including CNN, USA Today, NPR, NBC News, and CBS News, all reported that the gunman called 911 during his murderous rampage and pledged allegiance to ISIS. None of the journalists writing for any of these news outlets heard the call themselves; they all cite the FBI as their source.

The U.S. government has been engaged in a war against the self-professed Islamic State for the last two years. Their military intervention consists of a bombing campaign against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. Hyping the threat members connected to the terror group – or spiritually loyal to it – pose to American citizens is supportive of U.S. foreign policy. If ISIS, or people claiming to act on behalf of ISIS, are a real danger to Americans, it bolsters the notion that the group is a threat to national security and helps justify the government’s military response.

The FBI seems eager to show itself as disrupting ISIS plots in the States. As Adam Johnson has written in FAIR, the FBI has put Americans in contact with informants who claim to represent ISIS and then led the targets to believe they would help the targets join the terrorist organization. The media have then conflated this with an “ISIS Plot” and “ISIS Support,” when no members of ISIS were ever involved in any way.

The FBI’s motivation to portray events in a way that supports U.S. foreign policy, and its history of portraying its actions in a way that has served to hype an ISIS threat should make journalists cautious about taking officials’ words at face value. Especially in the case of a 911 call, which is a public record in Florida, proper journalistic due diligence would be to consult the actual source of the claims being disseminated.

Instead, not a single journalist appears to have done this with Orlando killer Omar Mateen’s 911 call.

On Tuesday, CNN aired interviews of eyewitnesses to the shooting spree who described their harrowing encounters with the gunman inside the club. Patience Carter, who was inside a bathroom stall feet from the gunman when he called 911, said he told the dispatcher that “the reason why he was doing this is because he wants America to stop bombing his country.” (Mateen is a native of the United States, but he was presumably referring to Afghanistan, where both of his parents are from.) She said he then declared that “from now on he pledges his loyalty to ISIS.”

This demonstrates that his primary motive for his terror attack was retaliation for the U.S. aggression in Afghanistan, where nearly 100,000 people have been killed since the illegal U.S. invasion in 2001. His mention of ISIS seems merely adjunct to what he admits was his justification for the attack. His motivation precedes his ideological alignment with ISIS, not the other way around.

Anti-war activists have long argued that overseas military operations endanger not only the populations whose countries are invaded, occupied and bombed, but Americans in the United States who are at risk of terrorist retaliation from people outraged by the death and destruction war inevitably produces to the point of being willing to resort to violence themselves.

Carter’s version of the 911 call reveals a very different picture than the partial one revealed by the FBI and reprinted by each of the largest news organizations. The complete conversation depicts Mateen as indicating that he considered his actions a response to U.S. foreign policy. Of course, the murder of innocent civilians is always reprehensible and can never be justified by claiming they are a response to a state’s military aggression, regardless of how deadly and devastating such military operations are. But it should be predictable that some people will use this rationalization regardless and seek out soft targets in the country whose government they claim to be retaliating against.

The FBI chose to omit Mateen’s professed motive entirely when recounting the 911 call to the media, and merely state that he professed allegiance to ISIS. Perhaps they recognized how putting Mateen’s call in context may lead people to question whether U.S. wars in Afghanistan (and Iraq) raise the terrorist threat at home.

After all, this is not the first time this has happened. The surviving Boston Marathon bomber cited the U.S. wars abroad as his motivation for committing the attack that killed three people and maimed dozens more.

It is not clear whether any journalist even asked to hear the 911 call themselves. But it is clear that they chose to disseminate second-hand information when the primary source should have been easily accessible. If it was not made available (as required by law), the public deserves to know that it was suppressed and be given an explanation why.

Media stenographers parroted government officials’ descriptions of the call, which left out the killer’s professed motivation for his politically motivated attack and failed to put the ISIS claim in any context. Unsurprisingly, their misrepresentation served the government’s policy agenda and avoided having the incident serve as an example of a negative consequence of U.S. foreign policy – one that anti-war dissenters have used in arguing against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since the War on Terror was launched more than a decade and a half ago.

June 15, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

National Plutocrat Radio

Corporate One-Percenters dominate NPR affiliates’ boards

By Aldo Guerrero | FAIR | July 2, 2015

For a public radio service, NPR is notoriously known for its lack of diversity within its staff, audience and guests invited onto their shows—problems that NPR has itself acknowledged.

A new FAIR study finds that NPR’s diversity problem also extends into the board of trustees of its most popular member stations: Two out of three board members are male, and nearly three out of four are non-Latino whites. Fully three out of every four trustees of the top NPR affiliates belong to the corporate elite.

FAIR studied the governing boards of the eight most-listened-to NPR affiliate stations, based on Arbitron ratings (Cision, 2/13/13). The stations and their broadcast regions are KQED (San Francisco), WAMU (Washington, DC), WNYC (New York City), KPCC (Los Angeles), WHYY (Philadelphia), WBUR (Boston), WABE (Atlanta) and WBEZ (Chicago). (Two top-rated public stations, KUSC in Los Angeles and WETA in Arlington, Va., were not included in the study because they mainly play classical music rather than having a news/talk format.) Board members were coded by occupation, ethnicity and gender.

Out of the 259 total board members, 194—or 75 percent—have corporate backgrounds. Many of these board members are executives in banks, investment firms, consulting companies and corporate law firms. Some of the elite corporations include Verizon, Bank of America and Citigroup.

Of the board members with corporate occupations, 66 are executives in the financial industry. Another 22 are corporate lawyers. Eleven other members appear to be board members by virtue of their family’s corporate-derived wealth, usually with a primary affiliation as an officer of a family-run charitable foundation.

Of trustees with non-corporate occupations, academics are the most common, with 18 individuals—just 7 percent of total board members. Thirteen were coded as leaders of nonprofit organizations not affiliated with family-run foundations.

The other non-corporate occupations were represented on NPR boards in the single digits: eight former government officials, five medical doctors, five educators, four station insiders, three current government officials, three religious educators and three non-corporate lawyers. (Three other board members’ occupations could not be categorized.)

Corporate-affiliated board members were a large majority on virtually every board. New York’s WNYC has the most, with 90 percent corporate representation, followed by Boston’s WBUR at 83 percent. The board of Philadelphia’s WHYY is 80 percent corporate-tied, the Bay Area’s KQED is 79 percent, Chicago’s WBEZ is 76 percent and Washington, DC’s WAMU is 73 percent.

Two stations, Southern California’s KPCC and Atlanta’s WABE, are affiliated with educational institutions. Both stations are governed under a partnership agreement where two boards share responsibility: the educational institution’s publicly elected board that holds the station’s broadcast license along with the board of a nonprofit entity that manages the station’s day-to-day operations.

In KPCC‘s case, Pasadena City College’s Board of Trustees is 29 percent corporate-affiliated, with an equal number of academics, while the board of Southern California Public Radio is 71 percent corporate. WABE is governed by the Atlanta Board of Education (44 percent corporate) and the American Educational Telecommunications Collaborative (60 percent corporate).

Although the Pasadena City College board and the Atlanta Board of Education do not have a majority of corporate occupations, corporate occupations are still the most common on each board.

The corporate composition of the NPR affiliate boards are in line with a previous FAIR study that found that the governing boards of leading public television stations—most of which are PBS affiliates—are stacked with 84 percent corporate board members overall (Extra!, 10/14).

NPR president and CEO Jarl Mohn claims he wants to ask “wealthy donors” for more money and double revenue from corporate underwriting to stabilize NPR’s financial status (NPR, 10/17/14). What easier way to accomplish these goals than by having governing boards dominated by wealthy individuals from the corporate sector? Of course, the inevitable consequence of this is to put legal control of what is supposed to be public radio into the hands of a tiny, highly privileged fraction of the population.

As evidenced in stations’ annual fiscal year reports where major donors are listed, many of these wealthy and corporate-connected board members are relied upon to regularly donate thousands of dollars to their respective stations. For example, an executive from Capital Group International sits on their board of KPCC, while the Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation donates between $100,000-$249,999 to KPCC.

Washington DC’s WAMU was the only station to reveal how much of its revenue specifically comes from corporate underwriting—38 percent (WAMU-FM, 10/8/14). With wealthy donors representing the One Percent class making up a substantial portion of contributions from the “public,” it’s hard to see what essentially distinguishes National Public Radio from its explicitly commercial media counterparts–and what justifies NPR and its affiliates receiving public subsidies via the federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting. … Full article

July 7, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Social Darwinism, Supremacism | , , | Leave a comment

Biased Reporting on Syria in the Service of War

By Rick Sterling | CounterPunch | April 20, 2015

It has been confirmed that TV journalist Richard Engel’s kidnapping/rescue in norther Syria in late 2012 was a hoax. NBC management knew the story was probably false but proceeded to broadcast it anyway.

There are at least two good things about “Engelgate”.

* It is clear evidence of mainstream media bias in their reporting and characterization of the conflict in Syria. The kidnapping was meant to show that “bad” Assad supporters had kidnapped Richard Engel only to be rescued by the Western/Turkey/Gulf supported “good” rebels. NBC management knew the scenario was dubious but promoted it anyway.

* Engelgate is also proof that Syrian anti-government rebels consciously manipulated western media for political gain. An elaborate ruse was performed to demonize the Syrian government &supporters and to encourage more support for the anti-government rebels.

Some analysts have noted that the Engel/NBC deception is more serious than that of Brian Williams. In the Williams case a TV journalist was puffing himself up; in the Engel deception, public policy involving war and bloodshed was being influenced.

Will this confirmation of deception lead to any more skepticism about reports from and about Syria? Will there be any more critical or skeptical look at stories that demonize the Syrian government and favor the western narrative? We have a test case right now.

HRW report on “Chlorine Gas Attacks”

On April 13, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report “Syria: Chemicals Used in Idlib Attacks”. It begins: “Evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government forces used toxic chemicals in several barrel bomb attacks in Idlib”. HRW Deputy Director Nadim Houry accuses the Syrian government of “thumbing its nose at the (UN) Security Council and international law yet again”.

We note that the reported chlorine gas attacks took place in the exact same area where Richard Engel was kidnapped. As shown in the map below, the Engel hoax took place near Maarat Misrin. The alleged Chlorine attacks took place in the adjacent towns of Binnish, Qmenas and Sarmin. The rebel/terrorists were aware of the political ramifications of the kidnapping and rescue hoax in 2012. And now, in 2015, they are very aware of the political implications of the use of chlorine gas.

Certainly, opposition fighters have the motive and the incentive to implicate or “frame” the Syrian government in the use of chlorine gas. Do they have the means? This area is very close to the border with Turkey. Just as opposition brought in Richard Engel and many other western journalists via Turkey, so could they bring in chlorine gas or just about any other weapon.

Eight Significant Problems with the Report

Let us now look at specific problems with the HRW report.

1. The HRW report relies heavily on testimony and video/photo evidence from a biased source known as “Syria Civil Defence”. This organization is not what one might assume. Syria Civil Defence was funded and created by UK and USA. Initial training was provided in Turkey by former British military officer and current contractor based in Dubai. In the past year Syria Civil Defence has been rebranded as “White Helmets” by “The Syria Campaign” which itself is the creation of corporate PR firm. Syrian Civil Defence (aka White Helmets) is heavily into social media and actively campaigning for a No Fly Zone. The HRW report does not include any of the preceding information on Syria Civil Defence, its origins and obvious bias. Shouldn’t “evidence” received from them be considered with a skeptical eye?

2. The photos and videos referenced in the HRW report are unconvincing. Many of the video links in the HRW report do not work. However, many of the videos can be viewed at the Syrian research wiki A Closer Look at Syria. (See the discussion page of the Alleged March 16 Chlorine Attack for video links and comments regarding anomalies in the videos.)

Video of the three dead children is tragic but it’s questionable how they actually died. Scenes from the medical clinic indicate illness but not the cause. Scenes showing the “proof” of a “barrel bomb” containing “chlorine cylinders” is highly dubious. Some of the scenes are almost comical with one person in full hazmat gear, another with mask and another casually with hands in pocket and no mask at all. Then we have someone talking to camera with a bulldozer and some scrap metal on the ground. Then there is the figure holding what they report as a container with a “red liquid”. See sample photos at bottom.

3. The HRW report includes assertions without reference or evidence. For example, “Syrian forces have previously dropped barrel bombs embedded with cylinders of chlorine gas.” and “Syrian government’s previous use of chlorine, suggest this chemical.” What is the source and evidence to support these debatable assertions?

4. The HRW report includes false assertions. For example, the report says “First responders saw and filmed remains of barrel bombs, which can only be delivered by aircraft.” This is not true. Bombs can be exploded on the ground and rebel/terrorists routinely fire gas cylinders from launchers on the ground. See photo below. The implication that chlorine gas attacks can only be done from the air is, of course, nonsense. Chemical warfare and chlorine gas attacks, as excecuted in World War 1, were entirely done from ground based projectiles.

5. The HRW report ignores the issue of motivation and incentive. Normally an investigation will consider the issue of motivation and who benefits from an event or crime. In this case, the Syrian government has nothing to gain and everything to lose by using chlorine gas. Especially after the UN Security Council made a specific resolution regarding use of this industrial gas, why would they arouse world ire and hostility against themselves by using this weapon? Why would they do that when they have conventional explosive weapons which are more deadly? On the other hand, the ones to benefit from such an accusation against the Assad government are the armed opposition and other proponents of a No Fly Zone in northern Syria. How better to frame an adversary in the arena of public opinion? These considerations are curiously lacking in the HRW report. Perhaps that is because the conclusions of the report are at odds with common sense and objective inquiry.

6. The HRW report attempts to buttress new accusations by referring to old and discredited accusations. After the highly publicized events in Ghouta in August 2013, “Human Rights Watch concluded that the evidence strongly suggested that Syrian government authorities used the nerve agent Sarin in attacks on two Damascus suburbs”. Since that time, the HRW analysis has been effectively discredited. Seymour Hersh wrote a two part series of articles which concluded that the chemical attack in Ghouta was by anti-government rebels assisted by Turkey. Another investigative reporter with a proven track record, Robert Parry, directly addressed and discounted HRW’s analysis. Parry concisely summed up the HRW analysis as a “junk heap of bad evidence”. Even the head of the UN Inspection Team, Ake Sellstrom, has acknowledged that the early predictions of missile distance were mistaken. Why has HRW not reviewed and updated its analysis, which they rushed out ahead of the UN report? Instead, it seems they are relying on an old faulty report to justify a new faulty report.

7. The HRW report ignores history of Nusra/Al Queda usage of chemical weapons. The HRW report ignores the evidence that Nusra rebels previously used chemical weapons. For example, UN investigator Carla del Ponte reported there was “strong, concrete evidence” pointing to Nusra rebels having used sarin. There were numerous credible reports of Nusra and other rebel/terrorist organizations possessing sarin.

8. The HRW report ignores the fact that Nusra rebels had control of the major chlorine gas producing factory and stockpile in northern Syria. As reported in a Time magazine article, the major chlorine gas producing factory in northern Syria was over-run and seized by Nusra rebels/terrorists in late 2012. The owner of the factory said “if it turns out chlorine gas was used in the attack, then the first possibility is that it was mine. There is no other factory in Syria that can make this gas, and now it is under opposition control.” The factory owner reported there were about 400 steel cylinders of chlorine gas, one Ton each, captured by Nusra/Al Queda along with the factory.

The article included the following prescient comments, delivered when chlorine gas usage was first reported: “To Faris al-Shehabi, head of the Aleppo Chamber of Industry and a strong government supporter, it was obvious from Day One that the rebels had their eyes on the gas. “Why else would they capture a factory in the middle of nowhere? For the sniper positions?” he asks sarcastically while meeting TIME in Beirut, where he is traveling for business. “We warned back then that chemical components were in the hands of terrorists, but no one listened.”

Was HRW not aware of these important facts or did they think them not relevant?

Conclusion

Hopefully the Engel/NBC hoax will increase public skepticism and critical examination of claims by Syrian “rebels” and their advocates. It should also lead to more scrutiny of media stories, human rights group reports and the words and actions of U.S.government officials.

Unfortunately, since the exposure of the Engel/NBC hoax, Western media and US diplomatic staff have not reduced their bias. A forthcoming article will expose lies and blatant bias on Syria by Robert Siegel of NPR and Ambassador Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

As for Human Rights Watch, their previous bias and “revolving door” with U.S. Government was criticized in a devastating letter to HRW from numerous Nobel Peace Laureates.

It would be a positive sign for HRW to change their staff policy as proposed by the Nobel Laurate group. It would mark another dramatic and positive sign for HRW to reconsider their report on Chlorine Gas Attacks in Syria taking into account the serious shortcomings identified in this article.

As it stands, the biased and faulty conclusions of the HRW report are much more serious than either Engelgate or the Brian William pretense. The HRW report is receiving wide coverage and is being used to justify actions which might move the region closer to even greater war and bloodshed.

PHOTOS REFERENCED IN ARTICLE

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Engel Hoax (Maarat Misrin) and “Chlorine Attack” (Binnish, Sarmin)

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Nusra Video of “Syria Civil Defence.”

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Syria Civil Defence Evidence in HRW Report.

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Nusra Video – Tragic but what really happened?

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Syria Civil Defence: Masked, Unmasked and Hazmat viewing “Barrel Bomb Fragments”

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Syrian opposition loading modified gas canisters into “Hell Cannon.”

Rick Sterling is a founding member of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com

April 20, 2015 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Were US Arms to Egypt Ever Really Frozen?

By PAUL GOTTINGER | CounterPunch | April 12, 2015

On February 31, Obama announced the lifting of what the New York Times called “an arms freeze on Egypt”.

The US arms export restrictions the Times is referring to had been put in place following a 2013 coup, which removed Egypt’s democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi.

This Times piece titled, “Obama Removes Weapons Freeze Against Egypt” states:

“President Obama on Tuesday lifted an arms freeze against Egypt that he had first imposed after the military overthrow of the country’s democratically elected government nearly two years ago.”

The piece states that the “freeze” was imposed after the coup. Given this, readers will naturally assume the Obama administration enacted a significant policy shift towards the Egyptian government as a result of this affront to democracy.

But the Times quickly qualifies the extent of this arms freeze by listing the very small number of “big ticket” items which had been restricted.

The piece states:

“Mr. Obama cleared the way for the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles and M1A1 Abrams tanks, weapons prized by Egyptian leaders, who have smoldered at the suspension.”

NPR handled this same issue in a more confused way. An NPR story called “US Ends Freeze on Military Aid to Egypt” stated:

“Certain types of training and military equipment never stopped flowing. But in 2013, the flow of weapons deliveries was halted after Egypt’s military takeover.”

These seemingly contradictory sentences seem to both admit US arms deliveries never really ended, but then also imply that they in fact had stopped.

Both the Times and NPR do correctly point out that F-16s, Harpoons, and M1A1 Tanks were held up by the Obama administration, and that now these items—along with the full allotment of the $1.3 billion in this year’s military assistance—will again flow to Egypt.

However, what the Times and NPR didn’t mention is that in essence US military aid to Egypt was never really frozen. The ‘freeze”, it turns out, was little more than a light frost.

Export data from the US Census Department shows that in 2014 alone the US shipped Egypt almost $44 million in parts for military aircraft, over $36 million in parts for armored fighting vehicles, and over $68 million in guided missiles.

In addition, both the NPR and Times piece fail to mention the 10 Apache helicopters, which the US delievered to Egypt in October of 2014 (worth $171 million), and which were previously included in the so called “arms freeze”.

What both the Times and NPR do mention is that these weapons are going to an Egyptian government which may be a titch less than perfect. However, they both completely fail to explain the depth of the abuses.

The Times piece mentions that Egyptian authorities have arrested over 40,000 people since the coup, and the NPR story states there are at least 20,000 political prisoners.

Both reports brush over how Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the now president of Egypt, seized control of Egypt following the coup and immediately instituted a serious crackdown on human rights, which continues to this day.

Neither NPR nor the Times mention the 1,300 protesters killed, the mass death sentences, that a major political party has been deemed a terrorist organization, that media outlets have been closed, that activists and journalists remain detained, that protest is essentially outlawed, and that there have been no serious steps towards democracy taken.

Despite these very serious human rights abuses, the US continued shipping, not only parts for advanced weapons systems like jets, helicopters, and tanks, but also smaller arms, which could be used against the Egyptian population.

In 2014, the US shipped a small number of military machine guns, military rifles, as well as over $600,000 worth of parts for military rifles.

These exports are especially troubling given that in August of 2013 the Egyptian security forces opened fire on a protest camp killing at least 1,000 people and injuring almost 4,000. This is a massacre similar in scale to the one in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Times and NPR faithfully played their servile role by peddling the myth that the US froze arms to Egypt. But surely human rights groups got the story right? Well, no.

Human Rights Watch have documented rights abuses perpetrated by the Egyptian government, however they haven’t documented much on the US responsibility for these abuses. This is especially true when it comes to US military support and US arms exports.

Egypt receives the second largest amount of US military aid, and the US and Egypt have a decades long history of military cooperation. Given this, the US could exert a significant amount of influence in Egypt. However, this context is absent in both the Times and NPR articles.

The Times, NPR, and HRW also all fail to mention that the end of US arms restrictions to Egypt means that the last remaining aid and weapons to Egypt, which had been held-up, have now been released.

This means that after a military coup, a massacre, systematic human rights abuses, and even continued detention of Americans, Egypt didn’t lose a single dollar of US taxpayer funded aid, or a single weapons shipment.

Shamefully, NPR, the Times, and HRW all lead readers to falsely believe that the US significantly changed its policy towards Egypt to respond to concerns for democracy and human rights. Unfortunately, the data says otherwise.

Paul Gottinger is a journalist based in Madison, WI whose work focuses on the Middle East. He can be reached via Twitter @paulgottinger or email: paul.gottinger@gmail.com

April 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Do 43 Casualties in Latin America Matter?

The “Free Press” in Action

By NICK ALEXANDROV | CounterPunch | March 20, 2015

In Latin America last year, there were two events that each produced 43 casualties. Which elicited greater outrage?

For the U.S. media, it was the “violent crackdown” leaving “43 people dead” (NPR) in “an autocratic, despotic state” (New York Times ) run by “extremists” (Washington Post ). Surely these charges were leveled at Mexico, where 43 student activists were murdered in Iguala last September. In their forthcoming A Narco History, Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace describe how the victims, “packed into two pick-up trucks,” were driven to a desolate ravine. Over a dozen “died en route, apparently from asphyxiation,” and the rest “were shot, one after another,” around 2:00 a.m. The killers tossed the corpses into a gorge, torched them, and maintained the fire “through the night and into the following afternoon,” leaving only “ashes and bits of bone, which were then pulverized.”

Initial blame went to local forces—Iguala’s mayor and his wife, area police and drug gangs. But reporters Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher, after reviewing thousands of pages of official documents, reached a different conclusion. Hernández explained “that the federal police and the federal government [were] also involved,” both “in the attack” and in “monitoring the students” the night of the slaughter. Fisher added that the Mexican government based its account of the massacre on testimonies of “witnesses who had been directly tortured.”

The Hernández-Fisher findings reflect broader problems plaguing the country. “Torture and ill-treatment in Mexico is out of control with a 600 per cent rise in the number of reported cases in the past decade,” Amnesty International warned last September, pointing to “a prevailing culture of tolerance and impunity.” The UN concurred this month, and “sharply rebuked Mexico for its widespread problem with torture, which it said implicates all levels of the security apparatus,” Jo Tuckman wrote in the Guardian.

Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has done his part to escalate state violence. He gave the orders, while governor of México State, for what Francisco Goldman calls “one of the most squalid instances of government brutality in recent years”—the May 2006 assault on the Atenco municipality. Some 3,500 state police rampaged against 300 flower vendors, peasants and their sympathizers, beating them until they blacked out and isolating women for special treatment. Amnesty International reported “23 cases of sexual violence during the operation,” including one woman a trio of policemen surrounded. “All three of them raped her with their fingers,” a witness recalled.

Peña Nieto responded by asserting “that the manuals of radical groups say that in the case of women [if they are arrested], they should say they’ve been raped.” Amnesty stumbled into a trap laid by attention-desperate women, in his opinion. Regarding Atenco, he stressed: “It was a decision that I made personally to reestablish order and peace, and I made it with the legitimate use of force that corresponds to the state.” Surely this is the “autocratic, despotic state” the New York Times criticized.

The paper’s archives lay bare its views—that Peña Nieto can “do a lot of good,” given his “big promises of change” and “commendable” economic agenda. The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth interviewed Mexico’s president just before the Iguala bloodbath, dubbing him “a hero in the financial world.” A Post editorial praised his ability to summon the “courage” necessary to transform Mexico into “a model of how democracy can serve a developing country.” The Post clarified, with a straight face, that Peña Nieto displayed his bravery by ignoring “lackluster opinion polls” as he pushed through unpopular reforms—a truly “functional democracy,” without question. There was no serious censure of the Mexican president in these papers, in other words. The charges of despotism and extremism, quoted above, were in fact leveled at Venezuela—the site of the other episode last year resulting in 43 Latin American casualties.

But these demonstrations, from February until July, were dramatically different from the Mexican student incineration. What, in the NPR version, was “a violent crackdown last year against antigovernment protesters,” in fact—on planet Earth—was a mix of “pro- and anti-government protests” (Amnesty International) that “left 43 people dead in opposing camps” (Financial Times ). “There are deaths on both sides of the political spectrum,” Jake Johnston, a researcher with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, affirmed, noting that “members of Venezuelan security forces have been implicated and subsequently arrested for their involvement.” He added that several people were apparently “killed by crashing into barricades, from wires strung across streets by protesters and in some cases from having been shot trying to remove barricades.” Half a dozen National Guardsmen died.

In the wake of these demonstrations, the Post railed against “economically illiterate former bus driver” Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan president, for his “hard-fisted response to the unrest” and “violent repression.” The New York Times lamented his “government’s abuses”—which “are dangerous for the region and certainly warrant strong criticism from Latin American leaders”—while Obama, a year after the protests, declared Venezuela a national security threat. His March 9 executive order, William Neuman wrote in the Times, targets “any American assets belonging to seven Venezuelan law enforcement and military officials who it said were linked to human rights violations.”

Compare Obama’s condemnation of Maduro to his reaction to the Iguala murders. When asked, in mid-December, whether U.S. aid to Mexico should be conditioned on human rights, he emphasized that “the best thing we can do is to be a good partner”—since bloodshed there “does affect us,” after all. The Times followed up after Obama hosted the Mexican president at the White House on January 6, noting that “Mr. Peña Nieto’s visit to Washington came at a time of increased cooperation between the United States and Mexico.”

This cooperation has won some major victories over the decades. NAFTA shattered poor farming communities in Mexico, for example, while promoting deforestation, environmentally ruinous mining—and corporate profits. In 2007, U.S. official Thomas Shannon stated that “armoring NAFTA” is the goal of Washington’s security assistance, which “totaled $2.5 billion between FY2008 and FY2015,” the Congressional Research Service reported. The result is a death zone, with perhaps some 120,000 intentional killings during the Felipe Calderón presidency (2006-2012). Tijuana’s Zeta Magazine published a study claiming the slayings have actually increased under Peña Nieto, and the nightmare has deepened to the point where the murder rate “exceeds that of Iraq,” according to Molly Molloy.

None of these developments infuriated Washington like those in Venezuela, to be sure. After Chávez’s first decade in power, “the poverty rate ha[d] been cut by more than half” and “social spending per person more than tripled,” while unemployment and infant mortality declined, the Center for Economic and Policy Research determined. And the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean found, in May 2010, that Venezuela had the region’s most equal income distribution. In Mexico a year later, the Los Angeles Times noted, “poverty [was] steadily on the rise.” Throughout this period, Washington’s aims included “dividing Chavismo,” “protecting vital US business,” and “isolating Chavez internationally,” as former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield outlined the strategy in 2006.

Reviewing this foreign policy record in light of recent Mexico and Venezuela coverage makes one thing obvious. There is, most definitely, a free press in the U.S.—it’s free to print whatever systematic distortions it likes, so long as these conform to Washington’s aims.

Nick Alexandrov lives in Washington, DC.  He can be reached at: nicholas.alexandrov@gmail.com

March 20, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A ‘Child’ Is Missing–From a New York Times Headline

palestinianboy

This is what a Palestinian boy looks like. (cc photo: Giles)
By Jim Naureckas | FAIR | November 18, 2014

Read this headline from the New York Times (11/16/14):

Palestinian Shot by Israeli Troops at Gaza Border

Think for a second about what kind of image that calls up. How much does that image change when you read the story’s second sentence?

A spokeswoman for the hospital said the Palestinian was a 10-year-old boy.

Now, very few people read the full text of every story in any newspaper, so as an editor you have to ask yourself what a headline conveys on its own. I expect that most people who only read that headline assumed that the Palestinian referenced was an adult–and likely had a different reaction to the story as a result.

They were probably also less likely to read the story–the opposite of the effect that you usually want to have with a headline–which makes you wonder why the Times would leave this key fact out. Space, maybe? But “Gazan Boy Shot by Israeli Troops at Border” would have fit just as easily.

Or “Child Shot by Israeli Troops at Gaza Border,” for that matter, since the shooting victim’s likely nationality would be clear from context; there aren’t too many Israeli children near the border with Gaza. In any case, the victim’s age  is arguably a more important fact than his ethnicity.

So–did the editors leave out of the headline the fact that it was a child who had been shot because they didn’t want readers to get too upset about Israel doing the shooting?

Surely they would say no–but recall that New York Times story (7/16/14; FAIR Blog, 7/17/14), accurately headlined “Four Young Boys Killed Playing on Gaza Beach,” that was rewritten for the print edition as “Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife.” Here the boys remained boys, but their deaths disappeared.

When Times public editor Margaret Sullivan (7/22/14) asked why the headline had been changed, executive editor Dean Baquet claimed that print headlines tend to be “a little poetic.” Keats it ain’t.

To take a quantitative look at this phenomenon, let’s move from the New York Times to an outlet that fancies itself to be the New York Times of the airwaves–NPR. FAIR’s Seth Ackerman (Extra!, 11/01) did a study of which deaths it reported in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict over a six-month period. He found that NPR reported 81 percent of the Israeli deaths during that time, and 89 percent of the deaths of Israeli children–but only 34 percent of the Palestinian deaths, and 26 percent of the deaths of Palestinian children.

So while NPR–understandably–thought that being a child made an Israeli victim’s death more newsworthy, if Palestinian victims were children that made NPR less likely to report their deaths.

That’s an odd sort of news judgment–unless what’s being aimed at is not maximizing human interest, but keeping it to a minimum.

November 22, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

NPR’s standards editor & ombudsman minimize and/or ignore NPR ethics requirements regarding David Brooks

By Alison Weir | October 15, 2014

In recent weeks I’ve phoned and emailed the NPR ombudsman’s office several times about commentator David Brooks’ conflict of interest – Brooks’ son has been serving in the Israeli military while Brooks has been commenting on Israel without divulging that his son was in the Israeli army. Ombudsmen are charged with publicly addressing ethical breaches by a news organization’s journalists.

Now I’ve also been in touch with NPR’s Standards and Practices Editor, Mark Memmot, who is in charge of ensuring that NPR journalists adhere to ethics standards. Last week NPR’s ombudsman’s office sent me an email that contained a statement by Mr. Memmott. I discussed this statement in a previous post and now will expand on this a bit more, specifically including information about NPR’s own ethics code.

Below is the email containing Mr. Memmott’s statement:

Dear Alison,
Thank you for contacting the NPR Ombudsman. We appreciate your comments and your thoughts will be taken into consideration as we continue to monitor the reporting.
The Ombudsman is currently working on a blog post about this issue. You may be interested in this statement from our standards and practices editor:

David Brooks is primarily an opinion columnist for The New York Times. He appears on All Things Considered to offer his opinions, not as a reporter. His son’s service with the Israeli Defense Forces is no secretWe [sic] agree with the Times’ editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, that Mr. Brooks’ long-standing views about Israel have been “formed by all kinds of things … [and] are not going to change whether or not his son is serving in the IDF, beyond his natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being.” We also agree with the Times’ public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that Mr. Brooks should not be barred from commenting about Israel. She has recommended that he address the issue of his son’s service in the IDF in a future column [see my comments on the Rosenthal and Sullivan statements here]. That strikes us as a reasonable suggestion. If a situation arises and we feel he should also mention it on our air, we still [sic] discuss that with Mr. Brooks at that time.

There are a number of problems with this statement, one of which is that it largely fails to apply NPR’s own ethics requirements to Mr. Brooks.

The fact is that NPR’s ethics codes place a strong emphasis on impartiality and transparency. They include the activities of family members among the activities that may interfere with impartiality, and decree that NPR journalists inform NPR of any potential conflicts of interest. And they apply these ethical requirements to analyses and commentaries, not just to reportorial activities.

NPR’s full ethics handbook states:

“All NPR journalists, including those of us who work for the arts and music desks, must tell our supervisors in advance about potential conflicts of interest.”

NPR’s ethics handbook states:

“Our methods are transparent and we will be accountable for all we do.”

and:

“We are vigilant in disclosing to both our supervisors and the public any circumstances where our loyalties may be divided – extending to the interests of spouses and other family members – and when necessary, we recuse ourselves from related coverage.”

The handbook has an entire section on the importance of impartiality. Below is a particularly relevant section:

Impartiality in our personal lives

Guideline

Be aware that a loved one’s political activity may create a perception of bias.

Some of our family members — including spouses, companions and children — may be involved in politics or advocacy. We are sensitive to the perception of bias. So we inform our supervisors and work with them to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest [emphasis added].

NPR journalists recuse themselves from covering stories or events related to their family members’ political activities. We may go so far as to change job responsibilities (for instance, moving off the “politics desk” to an area of coverage well removed from that subject). “You have the right to marry anyone you want, but you don’t have the right to cover any beat you want” if the potential conflicts appear to be too great, as Tom Rosenstiel of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said to the Los Angeles Times.

The ethics handbook includes additional statements specifically about commentary, concluding:

Our commentaries must also hew to other Guiding Principles, reflecting honesty, accuracy and transparency.

In other words, NPR’s own standards indicate that Mr. Brooks should have informed his editors of his son’s employment in the Israeli military. They also suggest that he should recuse himself from commenting on Israel. If Mr. Brooks chooses not to recuse himself from this subject matter, and if NPR fails to require this, its ethics codes direct that he should at least divulge to the public the fact that his son is serving in the military of the foreign country he is discussing.

Yet, so far NPR

  • has not informed listeners that Brooks had a close personal interest in a subject in which he was supposedly offering disinterested analysis,
  • has not asked Mr. Brooks to recuse himself from future commentary on a subject in which he has a personal interest, and
  • has not stated clearly that this conflict of interest will be divulged in the future (only saying that they might discuss this with Mr. Brooks “if the situation arises”).

There are a number of factual errors and logical inconsistencies in Mr. Memmott’s statement (which I also discussed in my previous post):

1. While Mr. Memmott claims that Mr. Brooks’ situation is “no secret,” in reality, the large majority of NPR listeners quite likely have no idea of Mr. Brooks’ conflict of interest.

The only place the information about Brooks has appeared in print to date is a Hebrew version of an Israeli newspaper, and possibly the Los Angeles Jewish Journal (whose online article was the first place to reveal it in English; it was also on the New York Magazine website). It has not appeared on any mainstream radio or TV broadcast that I’m aware of.

2. While Mr. Memmott is correct in stating that Mr. Brooks is not a reporter, this does not exempt Mr. Brooks from the necessity of abiding by ethics requirements. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists‘ decrees that opinion writers should disclose potential conflicts of interest.

3. It is entirely correct that Mr. Brooks has “natural concerns as a father for his son’s safety and well-being,” which is precisely why Mr. Brooks should recuse himself from commenting on matters that concern Israel.

The reality is that Mr. Brooks is a powerful and influential journalist whose  commentary about Israel does indeed have the capacity to affect his son’s “safety and well-being.”

Commentary that defends Israel to the American public serves to help keep American tax money ($8-10 million per day) and American diplomatic support for Israel flowing, both of which are extremely important for his son’s safety and well-being.

Commentary that pointed out the illegality and immorality of Israel’s recent killing and injuring of thousands of Gazan men, women, and children by the Israeli military in which his son is serving would quite likely interfere with his son’s well-being, as an increasing number of Americans would join those around the world calling for war crimes tribunals.

Since Mr. Brooks does the former and not the latter, his commentary, at minimum, gives a strong appearance of bias.

According to NPR’s ethics handbook, NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos is also responsible for addressing ethical violations. In fact, the ombudsman is called NPR’s Chief Ethics Officer. He is also responsible for informing the public about such matters.

Yet, so far Mr. Schumacher-Matos has failed to weigh in on this matter, most recently choosing instead to write about what to call the Washington DC football team.

Important as that issue is, it is hard to feel that it is more important than the life-and-death issue of Israel-Palestine and the recent killing and injuring of thousands of Gazan men, women, and children by the Israeli military that David Brooks’ son was serving in while Mr. Brooks was praising Israeli actions on NPR.

I hope that Mr. Schumacher-Matos will eventually step up to the plate and call on NPR, which proclaims its dedication to honesty, transparency, and the highest principles of journalism, to inform the public that commentator David Brooks has been issuing opinions on an issue in which he had a hidden interest. I hope he will also recommend that NPR look for another commentator to replace Mr. Brooks – one who doesn’t believe he is above ethical obligations.

October 17, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment