Archive | October 18th, 2014

5% of Americans hold 63% of country’s wealth: Fed chair

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The US Federal Reserve chair has expressed concern about increasing wealth inequality in the US, saying the richest five percent of Americans hold 63 percent of the country’s wealth.

Janet Yellen made the remarks at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Economic Conference on Inequality of Economic Opportunity on Friday.

According to her, those at the very top have made significant income gains while the majority of Americans are living a stagnant life.

“The wealthiest 5 percent of American households held 54 percent of all wealth reported in the 1989 survey. Their share rose to 61 percent in 2010 and reached 63 percent in 2013,” she said.

Yellen added, “By contrast, the rest of those in the top half of the wealth distribution –families that in 2013 had a net worth between $81,000 and $1.9 million — held 43 percent of wealth in 1989 and only 36 percent in 2013.”

She suggested increased education and encouraging small businesses as two solutions to tackle the problem.

The Fed chair went on to say that the lower half of households by wealth held only three percent of wealth in 1989 and just one percent last year.

She said that income and wealth inequality are at their highest levels since the 19th century.

She added that the rift has seen its most sustained rise over the last decades and it has even widened during US economic recovery in recent years. “The distribution of income and wealth in the United States has been widening more or less steadily for several decades, to a greater extent than in most advanced countries.”

According to a study by Harvard University, the growing income inequality in the US between the richest Americans and the middle and lower classes is “unsustainable” and may worsen.

The study, released last month by the Harvard Business School and titled “An Economy Doing Half its Job”, highlighted problems with the widening US wealth gap, education system, transport infrastructure, and the effectiveness of the political system.

The study said that while large US companies were recovering their competitiveness internationally, workers continue to struggle for better pay and benefits.

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UK minister: Disabled not worth minimum wage

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Freud said in 2012 the poor should take the biggest risks as 'they’ve got least to lose' [Policy Exchange]

A British government minister has been forced to apologise after he said that some disabled people were “not worth” the country’s minimum wage and some could be paid less than a third of the rate.

David Freud, the Tory minister for welfare reform, on Wednesday made a “full and unreserved apology” after it was revealed he made the comments during a meeting on the fringes of the Conservative Party’s conference last month.

In the recording, Freud is heard responding to a question about the disabled: “There is a small … there is a group, and I know exactly who you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage.”

He goes on to say that someone who wants to work for less than the minimum wage, currently the equivalent of $10.35 an hour, should be allowed to do so, and specifically refers to a rate equivalent to $3.20.

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‘Scandalous’: 1.6m UK pensioners living in poverty

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(Reuters)

More than one and a half million British pensioners are “floundering” on low incomes and consigned to poverty, a report by elderly care charity Age UK suggests.

The research, How We Can End Pensioner Poverty, published on Friday, reveals that poverty among pensioners is rife in Britain, with 1.6 million living below the poverty line and a startling 900,000 living in “severe poverty.”

While Age UK acknowledges the number of this category of British pensioner has fallen since 2000, the charity warns progress has stalled recently.

The charity’s research reveals the single biggest cause of pensioner poverty in Britain is older peoples’ failure to claim from the £5.5bn state benefit they are entitled to. These benefits would amount to an extra £1,700 per year, or £33 per week, for the claimants in question.

The charity says it assisted UK pensioners in claiming £160m worth of benefits in 2013. But it warns many continue to “miss out on the money that is theirs by right.”

(Reuters / Luke MacGregor)(Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

As a result, struggling pensioners have difficulty affording life’s most basic essentials, Age UK warns, with fresh produce, warm garments, and adequate heating in winter time unattainable to many.

Age UK argues many of these pensioners have “been walking a tightrope in recent years,” in the wake of increases in the cost of food and utility bills. One 88 year-old pensioner, Lilly, told the charity she “was going to bed at seven o’clock to keep warm” because she “couldn’t turn the heating on.”

Some 2.2 million pensioners are not claiming their Council Tax Benefit – a sum of £728 per year – while 390,000 older people are not claiming £48 of housing benefit per week, Age UK warns.

The charity’s research indicates many pensioners are unaware of their benefit entitlements, while others were simply to embarrassed or too proud to claim the money.

Pensioner poverty ‘scandal’

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says the sheer volume of vulnerable older people living in poverty in Britain is “nothing short of a scandal.”

A large proportion of UK pensioners are “unable to afford decent food, heat their home or live an independent life – when billions of pounds in benefits are unclaimed,” she warns.

Among the charity’s key recommendations is a call for clear targets to reduce poverty with a view to abolishing it altogether. Efforts must be made to increase pensioners’ awareness of their entitlements and ensure they have all the information they require, the report said.

Other policy recommendations include the immediate introduction of a single-tier state pension system, the extension of the “triple lock guarantee” to additional aspects of the state pension, and increased “social support” for financially struggling pensioners.

(Reuters)(Reuters)

RT asked the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) how the government plans to tackle the issue. A spokesman claimed “there are many definitions of poverty,” adding the government’s commitment“to protect pensioners with the triple lock guarantee means the basic state pension is at the highest percentage of earnings since 1992.”

“We are absolutely determined to make sure that pensioners receive the full support they are entitled to with as little hassle as possible,” the spokesman added.

News of widespread pensioner poverty and falling living standards comes as new revelations show financial inequality is rising in the UK.

Britain is the only G7 country where inequality has grown since the start of the 21st century, according to a report by Credit Suisse published on Tuesday. The research indicated the UK’s richest 10 percent have become wealthier since the financial crisis.

Meanwhile, Britain’s highest earning boss, Simon Peckham, earns the nation’s annual living wage in a mere 49 minutes, it emerged on Friday. Peckham earned a startling 2,238 times more than the £13,923 thought to be sufficient to sustain a basic cost of living in Britain.

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India test-fires first home-made cruise missile

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India successfully test-fired its first domestically built nuclear-capable long-range cruise missile Friday, marking another step in building up the country´s defence prowess.

The “Nirbhay”, or “fearless”, missile blasted off from a mobile launcher at the Integrated Missile TestRange in Chandipur in the eastern state of Orissa, the Press Trust of India reported.

“The trial was totally successful,” a senior government official associated with the launch told the Press Trust of India national news agency.

“The outcome of the trial was ascertained by analyzing the data retrieved from radars and telemetry points,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Unlike other ballistic missiles, Nirbhay has a wing and tail fins. The missile is intended to cruise like an aircraft, helped by its small fins, and can be launched from land, sea and air.

The surface-to-surface missile is fitted with a turbojet engine and is capable of flying at low altitudes to avoid detection. It can even hover near the target, striking from any direction without being seen on radar.

With a range of up to 1,000 kilometers (600 miles), it gives India the capability to strike “deep into enemy territory”, NDTV news network reported.

The Nirbhay is regarded by military experts as India´s version of the US Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Friday´s success comes after the subsonic missile´s first test launch in March 2013 had to be aborted midway after it veered off course.

India, which shares borders with arch-rivals Pakistan and giant China, both of which are nuclear-armed, is developing the missile system to strengthen its air-defence capabilities.

India already has in its arsenal the supersonic BrahMos missile which it developed jointly with Russia.

India in 2012 successfully launched its nuclear-capable Agni V ballistic missile with a range of more than 5,000 kilometers.

The Indian military views the Agni V missile as a key boost to its regional power aspirations and one that narrows — albeit slightly — its huge gap with China´s technologically advanced missile systems.

While the shorter-range Agni I and II were mainly developed with India´s traditional rival Pakistan in mind, later versions with longer range reflect the shift in India´s military focus towards China.

Just last month, Indian government scientists were in the news for winning Asia´s race to Mars when its unmanned Mangalyaan spacecraft successfully entered the Red Planet´s orbit after a 10-month journey on a tiny budget.

 

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Britain to re-deploy drones from Afghanistan to Iraq

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Britain will shortly begin re-deploying its unmanned armed drones from Afghanistan to counter Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told parliament on Thursday.

The remotely-piloted Reaper aircraft will provide surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence support to the Iraqi troops and international coalition forces taking on the IS group in northern Iraq.

The drones can also launch bombs and missiles.

It will be the first time Britain has deployed Reapers outside Afghanistan, where Britain is completing a pull-out of combat troops this year.

“We are in the process of re-deploying some of our Reaper remotely-piloted aircraft from Afghanistan to the Middle East,” Hammond said.

Britain already has eight Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado fighter jets conducting bombing raids on Islamic State targets in Iraq.

“Approximately 20-30 percent of Iraq’s populated territory could be under ISIL control. Liberating this territory from ISIL is a medium term challenge, to be measured in months and years, not days and weeks,” Hammond said.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The surveillance capability of Reaper will see it provide vital situational awareness, making it an invaluable asset to the Iraqi government and the coalition allies.

“If strike operations are required then Reaper has the ability to complement the sorties RAF Tornados have already completed.”

The US-made Reapers are normally armed with two Paveway laser-guided bombs and four Hellfire missiles for precision strikes.

The Ministry of Defence also said a small group of British infantry have completed a week training the Kurdish forces fighting extremists in using the heavy machine guns Britain gave them last month.

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U.S. is Responsible for the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa: Liberian Scientist

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Global Research

 

A History of Guatemalas Syphilis Experiment: How a U.S. Led Team Performed Human Experimentations in Central America

Dr. Cyril Broderick, A Liberian scientist and a former professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Liberias College of Agriculture and Forestry says the West, particularly the U.S. is responsible for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Dr. Broderick claims the following in an exclusive article published in the Daily Observer based in Monrovia, Liberia. He wrote the following:

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is funding Ebola trials on humans, trials which started just weeks before the Ebola outbreak in Guinea and Sierra Leone. The reports continue and state that the DoD gave a contract worth $140 million dollars to Tekmira, a Canadian pharmaceutical company, to conduct Ebola research. This research work involved injecting and infusing healthy humans with the deadly Ebola virus. Hence, the DoD is listed as a collaborator in a First in Human Ebola clinical trial (NCT02041715, which started in January 2014 shortly before an Ebola epidemic was declared in West Africa in March.

Is it possible that the United States Department of Defense (DOD) and other Western countries are directly responsible for infecting Africans with the Ebola virus? Dr. Broderick claims that the U.S. government has a research laboratory located in a town called Kenema in Sierra Leone that studies what he calls viral fever bioterrorism, It is also the town where he acknowledges that is the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Is it a fact? Is Dr. Broderick a conspiracy theorist? He says that there is urgent need for affirmative action in protecting the less affluent of poorer countries, especially African citizens, whose countries are not as scientifically and industrially endowed as the United States and most Western countries, sources of most viral or bacterial GMOs that are strategically designed as biological weapons. He also asks an important question when he says It is most disturbing that the U. S. Government has been operating a viral hemorrhagic fever bioterrorism research laboratory in Sierra Leone. Are there others?

Well, Mr. Brodericks claims seem to be true. After all, the U.S. government has been experimenting with deadly diseases on human beings for a long time, history tells us so. One example is Guatemala. Between 1946 and 1948, the United States government under President Harry S. Truman in collaboration with Guatemalan President Juan José Arévalo and his health officials deliberately infected more than 1500 soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners and even mental patients with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chancroid (a bacterial sexual infection) out of more than 5500 Guatemalan people who participated in the experiments. The worst part of it is that none of the test subjects infected with the diseases ever gave informed consent. The Boston Globe published the discovery made by Medical historian and professor at Wellesley College, Susan M. Reverby in 2010 called Wellesley professor unearths a horror: Syphilis experiments in Guatemala. It stated how she came across her discovery:

Picking through musty files in a Pennsylvania archive, a Wellesley College professor made a heart-stopping discovery: US government scientists in the 1940s deliberately infected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis and gonorrhea in experiments conducted without the subjects permission. Medical historian Susan M. Reverby happened upon the documents four or five years ago while researching the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study and later shared her findings with US government officials.

The unethical research was not publicly disclosed until yesterday, when President Obama and two Cabinet secretaries apologized to Guatemalas government and people and pledged to never repeat the mistakes of the past an era when it was not uncommon for doctors to experiment on patients without their consent.

After Reverbys discovery, the Obama administration apparently gave an apology to then-President Alvaro Colom according to the Boston Globe:

Yesterday, Obama called President Álvaro Colom Caballeros of Guatemala to apologize, and Obamas spokesman told reporters the experiment was tragic, and the United States by all means apologizes to all those who were impacted by this.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had called Colom Thursday night to break the news to him. In her conversation with the Guatemalan president, Clinton expressed her personal outrage and deep regret that such reprehensible research could occur, said Arturo Valenzuela, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

The study in Guatemala was led by John Cutler, a US health service physician who also took part in the controversial Tuskegee Syphilis experiments which began in the 1930s. Researchers wanted to study the effects of a group of antibiotics called penicillin on affected individuals. The prevention and treatment of syphilis and other venereal diseases were also included in the experimentation. Although they were treated with antibiotics, more than 83 people had died according to BBC news in 2011 following a statement issued by Dr Amy Gutmann, head of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues:

The Commission said some 5,500 Guatemalans were involved in all the research that took place between 1946 and 1948. Of these, some 1,300 were deliberately infected with syphilis, gonorrhoea or another sexually transmitted disease, chancroid. And of that group only about 700 received some sort of treatment. According to documents the commission had studied, at least 83 of the 5,500 subjects had died by the end of 1953.

Washingtons reaction to the report is a farce. The apology made to Guatemalas government was for the sake of public relations. Washington knows about its human experimentations in the past with deadly diseases conducted by government-funded laboratories that are known to be harmful to the public. The U.S. government is guilty in conducting numerous medical experiments on people not only in Guatemala but in other countries and on its own territory. As the Boston Globe report mentioned, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study occurred between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in the African American population. The U.S. Public Health Service and the Tuskegee Institute collaborated in 1932 and enrolled 600 poor sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama to study the syphilis infection. However, it was documented that at least 400 of those had the disease (they were never informed that they actually had syphilis) while the remaining 200 did not. They received free medical care, food and even free burial insurance for participating in the study. Documents revealed that they were told that they had bad blood which meant that they had various medical conditions besides syphilis. The Tuskegee scientists continued to study the participants without treating their illnesses and they also withheld much-needed information from the participants about penicillin, which proved to be effective in treating Syphilis and other venereal diseases. The test subjects were under the impression that they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government while they were deliberately being lied to by the same administrators who were conducting the tests. Washington is fully aware of its human experimentations with deadly diseases. The government of Guatemala also knew about the Syphilis experiments according to the Boston Globe:

A representative of the Guatemalan government said his nation will investigate, too looking in part at the culpability of officials in that country. The records of the experiment suggest that Guatemalan government officials were fully aware of the tests, sanctioned them, and may have done so in exchange for stockpiles of penicillin.

However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published the study Fact Sheet on the 1946-1948 U.S. Public Health Service Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) Inoculation Study and was forced to admit what happened in Guatemala during the syphilis experiments:

While conducting historical research on the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis, Professor Susan Reverby of Wellesley College recently discovered the archived papers of the late Dr. John Cutler, a U.S. Public Health Service medical officer and a Tuskegee investigator. The papers described another unethical study supported by the U.S. government in which highly vulnerable populations in Guatemala were intentionally infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The study, conducted between 1946 and 1948, was done with the knowledge of Dr. Cutlers superiors and was funded by a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to the Pan American Sanitary Bureau (which became the Pan American Health Organization) to several Guatemalan government ministries. The study had never been published.

The U.S. government admitted to its wrongdoing, 62 years too late. What Dr. Broderick wrote is not conspiratorial in any sense. The U.S. government has been involved in bioterrorism; Guatemala is a case in point. Dr. Broderick summarized what average people can do to prevent governments, especially those from the West from creating and exposing populations from diseases they experiment with in laboratories:

The challenge is global, and we request assistance from everywhere, including China, Japan, Australia, India, Germany, Italy, and even kind-hearted people in the U.S., France, the U.K., Russia, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and anywhere else whose desire is to help. The situation is bleaker than we on the outside can imagine, and we must provide assistance however we can. To ensure a future that has less of this kind of drama, it is important that we now demand that our leaders and governments be honest, transparent, fair, and productively engaged. They must answer to the people. Please stand up to stop Ebola testing and the spread of this dastardly disease.

After Guatemalas ordeal with the U.S. government who deliberately infected people with syphilis, West African nations should be extremely skeptical about the U.S. governments actions combating Ebola. Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois, College of Law questions the Obama administrations actions in West Africa. RIA Novosti recently interviewed Boyle and he said the following:

US government agencies have a long history of carrying out allegedly defensive biological warfare research at labs in Liberia and Sierra Leone. This includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is now the point agency for managing the Ebola spill-over into the US, Prof. Francis Boyle said.

Why has the Obama administration dispatched troops to Liberia when they have no training to provide medical treatment to dying Africans? How did Zaire/Ebola get to West Africa from about 3,500km away from where it was first identified in 1976?

Thats a good question for Washington, but would the public get any answers? Not anytime soon, since it took more than 62 years for the Guatemala syphilis experiments to be exposed to the public, not by the US government, by a medical historian.

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I$raHell ignoring “tectonic change” in public opinion

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Pro-Palestinian demonstration in Britain

By Uri Avnery

If the British parliament had adopted a resolution in favour of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the reaction of our media would have been like this:

“In an atmosphere of great enthusiasm, the British parliament adopted with a huge majority (274 for, a mere 12 against) a pro-Israeli motion… Over half the seats were occupied, more than usual… the opponents of Israel were in hiding and did not dare to vote against…”

Unfortunately, the British parliament voted this week on a pro-Palestinian resolution, and our media reacted almost unanimously like this:

“The hall was half empty… there was no enthusiasm… a meaningless exercise… Only 274 members voted for the resolution, which is not binding… Many members stayed away altogether…”

“Harbinger of very bad news”

Yet all our media reported on the proceedings at length, many related articles appeared in the newspapers. Quite a feat for such a negligible, unimportant, insignificant, inconsequential, trivial, petty act.

A day before, 363 Israeli Jewish citizens called upon the British parliament to adopt the resolution, which calls for the British government to recognise the state of Palestine. The signatories included a Nobel Prize laureate, several winners of the highest Israeli civilian award, two former cabinet ministers and four former members of the Knesset (including myself), diplomats and a general.

The official propaganda machine did not go into action. Knowing that the resolution would be adopted anyhow, it tried to downplay the event as far as possible. The Israeli ambassador in London could not be reached.

Was it a negligible event? In a strictly procedural sense it was. In a broader sense, far from it. For the Israeli leadership, it is the harbinger of very bad news.

A few days before, a similar news item came from Sweden. The newly elected leftist prime minister announced that his government was considering the recognition of the state of Palestine in the near future.

Even in the US, unconditional support for the Israeli government seems to be wavering.

Sweden, like Britain, was always considered a “pro-Israeli” country, loyally voting against “anti-Israel” resolutions in the UN. If such important Western nations are reconsidering their attitudes towards the policy of Israel, what does it mean?

Another unexpected blow came from the south. The Egyptian dictator, Abd-al-Fattah al-Sisi, disabused the Israeli leadership of the notion that the “moderate” Arab states would fill the ranks of our allies against the Palestinians. In a sharp speech, he warned his new-found soul-mate, Binyamin Netanyahu, that the Arab states would not cooperate with Israel before we make peace with a Palestinian state.

Thus he punctured the newly inflated balloon floated by Netanyahu – that pro-American Arab states, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, would become open allies of Israel.

In South America, public opinion has already shifted markedly against Israel. The recognition of Palestine is gaining ground in official circles, too. Even in the US, unconditional support for the Israeli government seems to be wavering.

What the hell is going on?

“Tectonic change” in public attitude

What is going on is a profound, perhaps tectonic change in the public attitude towards Israel.

For years now, Israel has been appearing in world media mainly as a country that occupies the Palestinian lands. Press photos of Israelis almost always show heavily armed and armoured soldiers confronting protesting Palestinians, often children. Few of these pictures have had an immediate dramatic impact, but the cumulative, incremental effect should not have been underestimated.

A truly alert diplomatic service would have alerted its government long ago. But our foreign service is thoroughly demoralised. Headed by Avigdor Lieberman, a brutal heavyweight bully considered by many of his colleagues around the world as a semi-fascist, the diplomatic corps is terrorised. They prefer to keep quiet.

This ongoing process reached a higher pitch with the recent Gaza war. It was not basically different from the two Gaza wars that preceded it not so long ago, but for some unfathomable reason it had a much stronger impact.

For a month and a half, day after day, people around the world were bombarded with pictures of killed human beings, maimed children, crying mothers, destroyed apartment buildings, damaged hospitals and schools, masses of homeless refugees. Thanks to the Iron Dome [anti-missile defence system], no destroyed Israeli buildings could be seen, nor hardly any dead Israeli civilians.

An ordinary decent person, whether in Stockholm or Seattle or Singapore, cannot be exposed to such a steady stream of horrible images without being affected – first unconsciously, then consciously. The picture of “The Israeli” in the mind’s eye changes slowly, almost imperceptibly. The brave pioneer standing up to the savages around him mutates into an ugly bully terrorising a helpless population.

Why do Israelis not realise this? Because We Are Always Right.

Israeli propaganda’s own goal

It has often been said before: the main danger of propaganda, any propaganda, is that its first victim is the propagandist himself. It convinces him, rather than his audience. If you twist a fact and repeat it a hundred times, you are bound to believe it.

Take the assertion that we were compelled to bomb UN installations in the Gaza Strip because Hamas was using them to launch rockets at our towns and villages. Kindergartens, schools, hospitals and mosques were targeted by our artillery, planes, drones and warships. Ninety-nine per cent of Israelis believe that this was necessary. They were shocked when the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, who visited Gaza this week, claimed that this was totally inadmissible.

Doesn’t the secretary-general know that ours is the Most Moral Army in the World?

Another assertion is that these buildings were used by Hamas to hide their arms. A person of my age reminded us this week in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that we did exactly the same during our fight against the British government of Palestine and Arab attackers: our arms were hidden in kindergartens, schools, hospitals and synagogues. In many places there are now proud memorial plaques as a reminder.

In the eyes of the average Israeli, the extensive killing and destruction during the recent campaign was completely justified. He is quite incapable of understanding the world-wide outrage. For lack of another reason, he attributes it to anti-Semitism.

After one of the Lebanon wars (I forget which) I received an unusual message: an army general invited me to give a lecture to his assembled officer corps about the impact of the war on the world media. (He probably wanted to impress his officers with his enlightened attitude.)

I told the officers that the modern battlefield has changed, that modern wars are fought in the full glare of the world media, that today’s soldiers have to take this into account while planning and fighting. They listened respectfully and asked relevant questions, but I wondered if they were really absorbing the lesson.

Soldiering is a profession like any other. Any professional person, be he (or she) a lawyer or a street-cleaner, adopts a set of attitudes suitable to it.

“What the general thinks, Israel thinks”

A general thinks in real terms: how many troops for the job, how many cannons. What is necessary to break the enemy’s resistance? How to reduce his own casualties?

He does not think about photos in the New York Times.

In the Gaza campaign, children were not killed nor houses destroyed arbitrarily. Everything had a military reason. People had to be killed in order to reduce the risk to the lives of our soldiers. (Better a hundred Palestinians killed than one Israeli soldier.) People had to be terrorised to make them turn against Hamas. Neighbourhoods had to be destroyed to allow our troops to advance, and also to teach the population a lesson they will remember for years, thus postponing the next war.

All this makes military sense to a general. He is fighting a war, for God’s sake, and cannot be bothered with non-military considerations, such as the impact on world public opinion. And anyway, after the holocaust…

What the general thinks, Israel thinks.

Israel is not a military dictatorship. General Al-Sisi may be Netanyahu’s best friend, but Netanyahu is not a general. Israel likes doing business, especially arms business, with military dictators all around the world, but in Israel itself the military obeys the elected civilian government.

True, but…

Dominant military mindset

But the state of Israel was born in the middle of a hard-fought war, the outcome of which was by no means assured at that moment. The army was then, and is now, the centre of Israel’s national life. It may be said that the army is the only truly unifying element in Israeli society. It is where males and females, Ashkenazi and Oriental, secular and religious (except the Orthodox), wealthy and poor, old-timer and new immigrant meet and are indoctrinated in the same spirit.

Most Israeli Jews are former soldiers. Most officers, who leave the army in their mid-40s, spread out in the administrative, economic, political and academic elite. The result is that the military mindset is dominant in Israel.

This being so, Israelis are quite unable to comprehend the turn of world public opinion. What do they want from us, these Swedes and Britons and Japanese? Do they believe that we enjoy killing children, destroying homes? (As Golda Meir memorably once declared: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we shall never forgive them for compelling us to kill their children!”)

The founders of Israel were very conscious of world public opinion. True, David Ben-Gurion once declared the “it is not important what the goyim [gentiles] are saying, what is important is what the Jews are doing!” but in real life Ben-Gurion was very conscious of the need to win over world opinion. So was his adversary, the right-wing Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, who once told Menachem Begin that if he despairs of the conscience of the world, he should “jump into the Vistula”.

World public opinion is important. More than that, it is vital. The British parliament’s resolution may be non-binding, but it expresses public opinion, which will sooner or later decide government action on arms sales, Security Council resolutions, European Union decisions and what not. As Thomas Jefferson said: “If the people lead, then eventually the leaders will follow.”

The same Jefferson recommended “a decent respect for the opinion of mankind”.

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Naziyahu: “Hamas Made Us Massacre Innocent Children”

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Nazi Reich Flag -

Zio-Nazi Prime Minister at the United Nations

Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

From a reader:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s September 29 speech at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly was full of lies and distortions of reality that went off the charts.

Unpacking and dissecting ALL the genocidal logic and lies of Netanyahu’s speech is beyond the scope of this article. Right now, let’s fact-check one central aspect of his speech: Netanyahu’s defense of the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians during the onslaught against Gaza in July and August: “…Hamas cynically used Palestinian civilians as human shields. It used schools, not just schools—UN schools, private homes, mosques, even hospitals to store and fire rockets at Israel…. Israel was doing everything to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas was doing everything to maximize Israeli civilian casualties and Palestinian civilian casualties…. Israel dropped flyers, made phone calls, sent text messages, broadcast warnings in Arabic on Palestinian television, always to enable Palestinian civilians to evacuate targeted areas…. As their families were being rocketed by Hamas, Israel’s citizen army—the brave soldiers of the IDF, our young boys and girls—they upheld the highest moral values of any army in the world….”

Basically, Netanyahu declared that “Hamas made us kill all those innocent civilians including children.”

Reality check: Israel fired missiles from U.S.-made jets and drones and shelled Gaza from tanks. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council report of September 22, “Some 1,479 of a total of 2,158 Palestinian fatalities were civilians, of them 506 were children. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and five civilians were killed. More than 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza were left without a habitable home to return to, and 497,000 people had been internally displaced.”

And almost all of the Israelis killed were soldiers who invaded Gaza and were carrying out these war crimes.

Because this UN report exposed some of Israel’s war crimes, Netanyahu denounced the UN human rights group as a “‘terrorist rights council.”

Netanyahu’s charge that “Hamas used civilians as human shields” is a sick perversion. In densely populated Gaza, every neighborhood has some kind of government facility, from schools to health and welfare offices. Israel did deliberately target “schools, private homes, mosques, even hospitals.” And the purpose was not so much to wipe out Hamas, but to terrorize the whole population.

Netanyahu’s claim that Hamas stored weapons in United Nations schools is another big lie that has been endlessly repeated by the rulers and media in the U.S. In the three cases where weapons were discovered in a UN school, these facilities had been closed and were vacant for months. No Palestinian civilians were present there. But many Palestinians lived near these three schools, and inside other UN schools or Palestinian hospitals that were supposedto be safe shelters but were deliberately hit with Israeli missiles on the pretext of targeting Hamas leaders or fighters who were allegedly nearby. One horrific example was the Israeli attack on the UN-run school in Beit Hanoun in Gaza. It was packed with hundreds of Palestinian evacuees seeking shelter under UN protection. The UN had repeatedly certified the school was not being used by combatants or to store Palestinian weapons. On July 24, word spread among those huddled in the school that they were to be evacuated to a safer place. People gathered up their meager possessions and lined up in the courtyard. That was when the rockets hit. Sixteen people were killed on the spot, a hundred more wounded, including women, children and infants. (See Massacre of Palestinians at a UN School: Stop Israel’s Assault on Gaza Now! July 28, 2014. It includes a link to a video of the massacre.)

As for the Israeli “warnings” of imminent attack, where could people go to be safe? People fled from one neighborhood to another, from one refugee camp to another, to UN schools and to hospitals, only to be hit by Israeli missiles and shells over and over again. Result? More than 68 percent of the over 2,000 Palestinian deaths in Gaza were civilians. And, typically, when Israel did issue “warnings” it was only one to 15 minutes before Israel’s death machine struck from the sky.

It is important here to remind readers of some key facts about the desperate conditions of everyday life for the people in Gaza today that have been created and enforced by Israel:

  1. Over half the Palestinians in Gaza have refugee status, having fled, or being children of victims of Israel’s expansionist wars in 1948 and 1967 that grabbed most of Palestine and set up a “Jewish state.”
  2. After Hamas came to power in 2006 in an internationally-monitored election, Israel sealed the border with Gaza and it tightly controls the two border crossings, while the U.S.-backed military regime in Egypt keeps a lid on the third crossing at Rafah.
  3. In 2007, in an act of collective punishment against the whole population, Israel and the U.S. imposed strict and genocidal sanctions that systematically restrict most of the basic necessities of life in Gaza. Fishermen have even been banned from fishing in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza. Israeli leaders have boasted of “putting Gaza on a diet.”
  4. Consecutive Israeli assaults in 2008-09 and this year have deliberately targeted the physical infrastructure including power plants and water and sewage facilities. As a result, more than 90 percent of the groundwater in Gaza is contaminated by sea water and sewage, making the people dependent for water on what Israel allows in.

All this is a continuation and escalation of the genocidal ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the state of Israel.

One last point. Netanyahu stated: “It’s not just our values that are under attack. It’s your interests and your values.”

There is some truth to Netanyahu’s claim about the “values” shared among Israel and the representatives of the oppressors and exploiters—big and small—at the UN, especially the United States.

These “values” are a manifesto of commitment to keeping the world as it is today, starting with maintaining U.S. imperialism’s stranglehold on the Middle East, including the subjugation of the Palestinian people. For the U.S. and Israeli rulers, this is a key to maintaining U.S. global dominance—and its accompanying wars, degradation and enslavement of women, grinding poverty for billions of people, destruction of the environment, and the reduction of every human and every thing into a commodity valued only by the amount of profit that can be squeezed out. Every U.S. president and every Israeli leader invokes these “shared values.”

It seems that part of what framed Netanyahu’s speech is contention between Israel and the U.S., including over moves by the rulers of the U.S. to explore bringing the reactionary Islamic Republic of Iran more into their orbit. But an even more defining reality is that the state of Israel has historically played and continues to play a unique and crucial role in maintaining the status of the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower that sits atop and violently enforces a world of exploitation and oppression. And so whatever spats there are between the U.S. and Israel, the U.S. backed Israel’s war crimes against the people of Gaza all the way, even sending over munitions to restock the Israel military while they massacred hundreds of children in Gaza. (For an in-depth look at the nature and role of the state of Israel, see theRevolution/revcom.us special issue The Case of Israel: Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism.”)

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Naziyahu: “Hamas Made Us Massacre Innocent Children”

Stop the Lies and Slanders: Bob Avakian and the RCP Are the Exact Opposite of a “Cult”!

NOVANEWS

A Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party ON THE STRATEGY FOR REVOLUTION

Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

People who hate the Revolutionary Communist Party, its leader Bob Avakian, and the movement for revolution—who in fact hate actual revolution and communism, and even the idea of truly radical change, far more than they hate how the world is now—sometimes hurl the bullshit accusation that this party and movement for revolution is a “cult.” In addition, there are people who may not be firmly entrenched in an antagonistic stance, and who should—and could—know better who are all too willing to uncritically accept and repeat this accusation. They do so because, whether they know it or not, they are heavily influenced by widespread distortions of and prejudices against communism, communist leaders, and leadership more generally. And they are also influenced by a general culture and society in which slander, snark, pettiness and personal attacks are broadly treated as an acceptable substitute for critical thinking and substantive engagement with points of content.

As this article will briefly speak to, this charge of “cult” is complete and utter nonsense, and it is a charge that both reflects and feeds off this pervasive anticommunism and culture of snark.

The rampant anti-communist prejudices and distortions in our society originate from those who run the capitalist-imperialist system we live under now, which is a worldwide system based on vicious exploitation and oppression and monumental inequalities. Those who run this system have every reason to slander past efforts or future attempts to sweep this system away and organize society in a radically different way, and to slander people who are working towards this.  So, those who enforce and advocate for this capitalist-imperialist system constantly spread absurd lies and prejudices about communism that are then repeated over and over again in the media, educational system, popular culture, and—unfortunately—even by many who call themselves “progressives.” In fact, this very charge of “cult” is a reflection and expression of the sort of crude, unimaginative stereotypes of communism that could be pulled straight from a U.S. Cold War propaganda film, with depictions of communists as “mindless, brainwashed robots who all think the same way”…blah, blah, blah.

One key particular form that this type of anti-communist attack takes is slanders againstcommunist leaders and the role that they play. If you think about it for a minute, people in this society—and those who run this society—follow and promote all kinds of leaders in all different spheres of society, whether in politics, the arts, sports, or elsewhere. But somehow, when people follow and promote a communist leader, they are a “cult.” NO. The way any leader should be evaluated is: What does that leader stand forWhat is the content of that leader’s ideas? What will be the result if these ideas gain broad influence and are taken up? What overall role is that leader playing in society and in the world?    

It is also worth noting that it’s not even only against communists that the slander of “cult” has been leveled. In the radical and revolutionary upsurges of the 1960s and 1970s, the powers-that-be and their mouthpieces warned parents about their radical children joining “cults,” and while there were in fact some cults on the scene in the ’60s and ’70s just as there are today, very often what were being labeled as cults were far from that in reality—they were simply radical social and political movements whose influence the powers-that-be feared.

Haters: We’re calling you out. And to those who may not be haters, but are allowing themselves to swallow the lies spewed forth by the haters, we’re challenging you to bebetter than that. This accusation of “cult” is just bullshit. It is lazy. It is intellectually cowardly. And it is harmful, because it spreads lies and confusion about what Bob Avakian, and the party and movement for revolution he leads, are actually all about; stands in the way of the critically needed theoretical engagement and practical involvement with the movement for revolution to emancipate humanity; and perpetuates rotten standards in which people deal in lies, snark, slander, pettiness and personal attacks rather than principled discussion and debate over the substance of key questions.

As the Revolutionary Communist Party, the movement for revolution, and its leadership continue to gain increasing influence in society and make significant advances, those who feel fundamentally threatened by what they represent will continue to spew their garbage out of desperation. For this reason, it’s worth speaking to this briefly.

Here are three very basic and key points on this: 

Point 1: The Revolutionary Communist Party, its leader Bob Avakian, and the movement for revolution represent the exact OPPOSITE of a cult.

Think about it. What is a cult? Generally, it is a group of people who separate themselves from the rest of society, who literally or figuratively initiate members into some “secret society” or “secret temple of knowledge,” and who adopt an unthinking, uncritical and religious approach to reality. Cults encourage blind following, or religious worship, of their leaders. And yes, they also often adopt practices and rituals that are wacky, or truly horrific—such as mass suicide pacts. And cults have absolutely nothing to do with transforming society or emancipating humanity.

In complete contrast to all of that: The Revolutionary Communist Party, its chairman Bob Avakian, and the movement for revolution engageand seek to learn from and transform, every sphere of society and society as a whole. They do this as part of the process of making revolution and then continuing that revolution all the way to communism. As a critical element of this process, they seek to reach and influence literally millions of people from all sections of society, unleashing them to take up a thoroughly scientific approach to all of realityincluding thinking critically about everything. All of this is for the purpose of changing the entire world through revolution, bringing an end to all the horrific ways in which human beings unnecessarily suffer. It is for that purpose and on that basis that the party, and the movement for revolution, follows and promotes Avakian, based on ascientific and not a blind, religious approach and because of what Avakian, his work, and his leadership objectively represent in relation to the goal of revolution and human emancipation.

All of these points are a matter of public record. For instance, you can read the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and see for yourself the party’s purpose, principles, and basis of functioning. You can dig into Bob Avakian’s works and see for yourself his consistent, unwavering emphasis on the critical importance of taking a scientific approach to all of reality, thinking critically about everything, and learning very broadly. You can find these works, and more generally follow the theory and practice of the revolution, at revcom.us.

Point 2: Saying things like “you guys are a cult” is an awfully convenient way to avoid engaging and discussing—and doing the work of engaging and discussing—the content of what this leader, party, and movement represent.

People need to have the principle, honesty and intellectual courage to go to the source, do the work, and see for themselves. And then let’s get into the content—as well as questions, and points of agreement and disagreement, regarding that content.

This matters too much for humanity to allow any other standards to be accepted. Billions of people on this planet suffer terribly every day, the very future of the planet itself is in danger, and the tremendous potential of humanity as a whole is squashed and suppressed. When a leader, party, and movement step forward and—based on decades of work—present a way that humanity can break free of these horrors once and for all, people have a responsibility to at the very least engage this seriously. Petty, snarky, cynical and absurd dismissals without engagement just will not fly.

Point 3: We need to fight for much better standards within political and social movements, and within society as a whole.

We should be clear that it is especially vicious and harmful when those who have devoted their lives to, and done decades of work on, human emancipation are met with lies, slander and personal attacks. While the particular egregiousness of this should definitely not be overlooked or minimized, there is also a need to fight against the broader, overlapping culture and society of snark, nastiness and slander. A lot of this gets especially disgusting on the Internet, where people hide behind anonymity to spit forth lies and gossip; to degrade, taunt and bully others; and to engage in personal attacks.

On any question, and especially when it comes to questions of what it will take for humanity to get free of oppression, people need to get out of the gutter…and loft things up to principled discussion and debate over matters of substance.

People very broadly need to raise their sights to the vantage point of what it will take to emancipate humanity. And then let’s talk about things on those terms.

Posted in USAComments Off on Stop the Lies and Slanders: Bob Avakian and the RCP Are the Exact Opposite of a “Cult”!

‘Kill the Messenger’: Rare Truth-telling

NOVANEWS

Actor Jeremy Renner as journalist Gary Webb in "Kill the Messenger."

Actor Jeremy Renner as journalist Gary Webb in “Kill the Messenger.”

Exclusive: Much of modern American filmmaking is escapist and vapid, but not “Kill the Messenger,” the new movie recounting the brave Contra-cocaine reporting by Gary Webb and his subsequent destruction at the hands of the mainstream media, writes James DiEugenio.

By James DiEugenio

I only met Gary Webb once – in December 1996 at the late, great activist bookstore, The Midnight Special, in Santa Monica, California. I was writing at Probe Magazine then and had covered Webb’s groundbreaking San Jose Mercury News three-part series, titled “Dark Alliance.”

This fascinating, compelling series outlined a malevolent network which helped fund the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contra forces with profits from the cocaine trade in California. The Nicaraguan supplier was a man named Norwin Meneses, who associated with top-level Contra leader Adolfo Calero.

Meneses’s agent, Danilo Blandon, distributed the cocaine in Los Angeles to a former high school tennis player named Ricky Ross. The Blandon/Meneses brand of cocaine was high grade but cheap, so Ross became a millionaire. He was nicknamed “Freeway Rick,” because he made so much money selling drugs that he purchased properties along the Harbor Freeway, including motels and theaters.

Webb’s story did not actually say the CIA was directly involved with this network. It said the Agency knew about it and turned a blind eye because the overriding objective had been to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua – even if that meant letting the CIA’s clients and their associates import large amounts of cocaine into California and elsewhere in the United States.

The end result was to financially bolster the Contras, while thousands of Americans who could not afford powder cocaine now found themselves addicted to low-cost but high-grade crack. This took the old political adage – “the ends justify the means” – to mind-boggling new heights. In fact, under oath, Blandon testified that Contra military leader Enrique Bermudez used precisely that phrase, “the ends justify the means.”

Webb’s series ran from Aug. 18-20, 1996. And, for several weeks, the story advanced unopposed through talk radio, cable TV and the Internet, which was then still in its formative stages. Webb’s compelling story gained further traction because the Mercury News had created a state-of-the-art, interactive web site which linked to scores of documents and hundreds of pages of supplemental materials.

A Web Revolution

Aided by this web revolution, “Dark Alliance” progressed to the point that Webb’s radio and TV schedule was being printed daily by the Mercury News. And all this was going on outside and around the gatekeeping protective architecture of the MSM, the mainstream media, i.e., the major newspapers (Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times), magazines (TimeNewsweek, US News) and the big-three TV networks (CBS, NBC, ABC).

Webb’s story, in essence, pitted the nascent alternative media, anchored in the Internet and other lower-cost media outlets against the old-line, powerful corporate media. The public seemed to sense that the MSM was never going to report on this immensely important story that resonated with average Americans, many of whom had witnessed the devastation across the country – and especially in black communities – caused by the spread of crack.

After all, the major media had been ignoring or disparaging the Contra-cocaine story since it first bubbled to the surface in 1985 when it was reported by Robert Parry and Brian Barger of theAssociated Press. During the Iran/Contra hearings in 1987, a protester disrupted the testimony by ex-White House aide Oliver North by yelling, “ask about the cocaine,” but no one did (at least not in open session).

The plea was ignored even though, during those same hearings, Rep. Les Aspin pointed out that the numbers in the Contra accounts did not check out. (Boston Globe, June 27, 1988) The available funds officially accrued were not sufficient to cover the reported weapons purchases. And it was not a small shortfall. For the fiscal year 1984-85, it was around $7 million. (Cocaine Politics, by Peter Scott and Jonathan Marshall, pgs. 210-11).

The MSM’s contempt for the Contra-cocaine story continued into the late 1980s when the major newspapers downplayed or disparaged a congressional investigation led by Sen. John Kerry that uncovered more evidence of ties between the Contras, cocaine traffickers and the Reagan administration, both Reagan’s CIA and the State Department.

“It is clear that individuals who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking,” Kerry’s investigation concluded, “and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers.” Kerry’s report added, “In each case, one or another agency of the U. S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring or immediately thereafter.” (Introduction to the Kerry Committee Report.)

Just-Say-No Hypocrisy

But the notion that President Ronald Reagan’s just-say-no-to-drugs crowd was saying yes to cocaine traffickers as long as they chipped in money to the Contra coffers was something deemed unthinkable by the MSM. How could such a charge be true about these rebels whom Reagan had compared to America’s Founding Fathers? It was deemed the journalistically “responsible thing” in the 1980s to simply report the Reagan administration’s denials and ignore the mounting evidence.

But the MSM’s initial silence in 1996 after Webb revived the Contra-cocaine scandal was only the quiet before a very nasty storm. The MSM was going to write about the subject, but the big newspapers had no intention of furthering Webb’s good work or even acknowledging that this scandal deserved much greater attention than the MSM had given it in the 1980s.

To do so would have amounted to a self-indictment. After all, if the major newspapers had performed their journalistic responsibilities in the 1980s, much of the devastation and violence caused by the crack epidemic might have been averted. American lives could have been saved; American prisons might not have filled up with low-level drug dealers and users; American communities and families might not have been blighted and impoverished; the costly “war on drugs” might have been revealed as a failure much earlier than it eventually was.

Indeed, one of the reasons that Webb’s series seemed so new and shocking to the public in 1996 was because the MSM had largely ignored it. In the case of the Kerry investigation, the failure to fully air the committee’s public hearings and highlight its disclosures was especially disgraceful. After all, Kerry’s hearings and the Senate report were official U.S. government proceedings.

In 1996, by documenting some of the human consequences of the Contra drug trafficking – and by circumventing the media gatekeepers – Webb had issued his own indictment: that the U.S. government had, in effect, sanctioned the drug trade in America and that the major U.S. news media had failed to alert the public about this grave national security crime. Another implication of the series was that the MSM was in bed with the CIA.

More Voices

But the MSM’s behavior was actually even worse than that. Because of the sensation over Webb’s series, other ignored voices joined the fray with further exposures of Contra drug running. For example, former DEA agent Celerino Castillo, former CIA agent Bradley Ayers and former Los Angeles police officer Mike Ruppert all began to speak out about CIA-sanctioned drug running.

The high point may have been Ruppert’s confrontation with CIA Director John Deutch at a large gathering at a Los Angeles high school. It was clear that a populist tidal wave was building. Therefore, a dam had to be built before this flood of public outrage engulfed such important institutions as Ronald Reagan’s Legacy, the National Security State and the Corporate Media.

Granted, it would have taken some professional courage and real integrity for the editors and bureau chiefs of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times to put their journalistic duties ahead of their instincts for self-preservation. They would have had to face up to their earlier failures and make amends to millions of readers who had been betrayed. Thus, it was much easier – and safer, career-wise – to put Webb’s series under a microscope and claim to find fault with it, to make Webb “the story,” not the reality of the Reagan administration’s malfeasance and the MSM’s misfeasance.

Although the initial assaults on Webb’s series were mounted by the right-wing news media, including the Washington Times, the MSM soon prepared its own withering counterattack against Webb. It began on Oct. 4, 1996, with a front-page story, with sidebars, in the Washington Post. The lead article was written by Walter Pincus and Roberto Suro, entitled “The CIA and Crack: Evidence is Lacking of Alleged Plot.”

A relentless offensive followed designed to crush the populist uprising in its infancy. In short order, the New York Times joined in. Then came the Los Angeles Times with the most deliberate and vicious attack. Editor Shelby Coffey commissioned the equivalent of a journalistic SWAT team. No less than 17 reporters prepared a three-day series that was actually longer than Webb’s original “Dark Alliance” series. Internally, it was known as the “Get Gary Webb Team.” (LA Weekly, 9/29/14)

As the team worked, its common chorus was: “We’re going to take away this guy’s Pulitzer.” The hit team was headed by Doyle McManus and Leo Wolinsky. (A few months later, Coffey promoted Wolinsky to assistant managing editor.)

One of the most absurd assertions made by the L.A. Times was to dismiss the Blandon/Ross network as a relatively minor player in the crack trade and claim that it only managed to give $50,000 to the Contras. Yet, two years earlier, the Times had described Ross as the “king of crack” with his network selling half a million crack rocks per day, essentially a one-man Wal-Mart for crack retailing. However, when the need was to minimize Ross’s role and thus how much help his operation could have given the Contras, the reality was reshaped.

L.A. Times’ Cover-up

Further, it appears that the Times later cooperated in a cover-up with Sheriff Sherman Block about an important lead in the “Dark Alliance” series. Through the Times, Block announced that, unlike what Webb had reported, a shady and mysterious local character, one Ronald Lister, was not associated with the Contras or any drug running.

But an alternative publication, Orange County Weekly, investigated Lister and came up with something completely different, concluding that Lister – a security consultant, former policeman and partner of Blandon’s – had given Blandon weapons, which he sold to Ross, and helped the drug ring launder money and avoid law enforcement discovery. While Lister was doing all this, he was holding what he called “business meetings” with Salvadoran death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson and “retired” CIA agents locally. (LA Weekly, May 30, 2013)

But was there more to all this than just a vendetta against a reporter from a smaller northern California newspaper unearthing a huge scandal on the Los Angeles Times’ home turf? While professional jealousy clearly played a role in the cruelty inflicted on Webb, the intensity of the counterattack also reflected the symbiotic relationship between the U.S. national security apparatus and Washington-based national security reporters who are dependent on official background briefings to receive pre-approved information that news organizations need, especially during foreign crises when access to on-the-ground events is limited.

Perception Management

A recently released CIA document on how the counterattack against Webb was promoted is revealing in this regard. Entitled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story,” the six-page internal report. described the CIA’s damage control in the wake of the publication of Webb’s story.

The report showed how the spy agency’s PR team exploited relationships with mainstream journalists who then essentially did the CIA’s work for it, mounting a devastating counterattack against Webb that marginalized him and painted the Contra-cocaine trafficking story as some baseless conspiracy theory.

Crucial to that success, the report credits “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists and an effective response by the Director of Central Intelligence’s Public Affairs Staff [that] helped prevent this story from becoming an unmitigated disaster.”

The Agency convinced friendly journalists to characterize Webb’s series as presenting “no real news, in that similar charges were made in the 1980’s and were investigated by the Congress and were found to be without substance.” That, of course, was a lie. In fact, Kerry’s investigation confirmed many of the Contra-cocaine allegations first reported by Parry and Barger for the Associated Press.

According to the CIA’s “Managing a Nightmare” report, journalists were advised to read Webb’s series critically and the CIA considered the initial attack by the Washington Post the key moment in blunting Webb’s story. The CIA distributed the negative stories to other members of the press.

From there, other papers refused to pick up Webb’s articles, but they often carried the articles attacking him. The CIA’s report noted that the tide of the public relations battle had fully turned by October and soon became a rout. Even the American Journalism Review, which – like similar publications – is supposed to stand up for honest journalists under fire, instead joined the all-out charge against Webb.

The Agency crowed how easy it was to work with journalists to first blunt and then turn around this negative national security story. [See Consortiumnews.com’s The CIA/MSM Contra-Cocaine Cover-up.]

Webb wanted to reply to these attacks as he pressed ahead with his investigation. In fact, at that Midnight Special talk, he said his paper would soon publish new work backing up his original series. But panic was sweeping the Knight-Ridder corporation which then owned the Mercury News.

So, the newspaper’s executive editor Jerry Ceppos sounded retreat and abandoned Webb and his investigation. Not only did Ceppos not publish the new work, he began to dismantle the prodigiously successful web site. Then, in May 1997, he printed a letter that amounted to a public apology for publishing the story in the first place. He said the series fell short of the paper’s standards and failed to handle the “gray areas” with sufficient care.

Understandably, Webb was upset with this decision. When he aired his disagreement, Ceppos dispatched him to the newspaper’s back-water Cupertino office, separating Webb from his home and family during the week because of the long commute.

Out of Journalism

The writing was on the wall. Webb took a severance package from the paper in November 1997, effectively forced out “in disgrace.” For betraying Webb, Ceppos received an “Ethics in Journalism Award” in 1997 from the Society of Professional Journalists. He was also got a promotion from Knight-Ridder.

Though Webb’s journalistic career had gone down in flames, he had forced the U.S. government to conduct more thorough investigations of the Contra-cocaine scandal by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich and CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz. Both reports, especially the latter, confirmed the gist of what Webb had written and, indeed, provided shocking new details, revealing a pervasive relationship between the Contras and major cocaine traffickers, including the Medellin cartel and other powerful drug smuggling operations.

The reports acknowledged that the CIA had cast a blind eye on the drug-running activities by the Contras for the entire decade of the 1980s and had even intervened to block potentially damaging investigations. The New York Times and Washington Post gave short shrift to these damaging findings and the Los Angeles Times all but ignored them. There was not a word from Jerry Ceppos about Webb’s (too late) vindication. Gary Webb had become a non-person in his profession. [For details on these findings, see Consortiumnews.com’s The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.”]

Ceppos also sandbagged Webb’s best opportunity to enrich himself and his family over his important work. At the peak of the controversy over “Dark Alliance,” Webb was getting lucrative offers for a book deal. His wife told Webb biographer Nick Schou that publishing giant Simon and Schuster made an initial offer to Webb of a $100,000 advance for a book. Webb’s wife urged him to take it.

But Ceppos told Webb that he could not work on a book about his series while still being employed at the Mercury News. Misguided loyalty kept Webb at the paper as he shunned the offer. He ultimately did write a book, also titled Dark Alliance, for a small publisher, Seven Stories Press. Without the muscle of a large publishing house – and with the MSM-enforced conventional wisdom about the Contra-cocaine issue being a “conspiracy theory” – the book did not get much media play.

A Downward Spiral

Forced out of the only profession he really wanted to be part of, Webb became an investigator for the California legislature. But when there was a power shift in Sacramento, he was without a job. He could not find a new reporter’s position anywhere on any major newspaper. In fact, he could not even get an interview.

Because of his finances, and due to a divorce from his wife, she had garnished his wages. The only job he could get was with a weekly alternative journal called the Sacramento News and Review. And that position did not pay nearly enough for him to keep up his expenses, which included a $2,000 mortgage.

Webb had asked to move back in with his former wife, but she said she would feel uncomfortable with the situation. He also asked a former girlfriend the same. She first agreed but then changed her mind. The only alternative left was to move in with his mother. His one solace in life at this time was his motorcycle rides. But then someone stole his motorcycle.

Faced with a forced move out of his house, Webb arranged for his cremation and typed out letters to his former wife and his three children. Although the letters have never been made public, his wife said he declared that he never regretted any news article that he wrote. He then used his father’s gun to take his own life. The first shot only wounded him, so he fired again. He was 49 years old.

After Webb’s death, Sen. John Kerry wrote the Sacramento News and Review that “Because of Webb’s work the CIA launched an Inspector General investigation that named dozens of troubling connections to drug runners. That wouldn’t have happened if Gary Webb hadn’t been willing to stand up and risk it all.” (LA Weekly, May 30, 2013)

Salvaging the Story

And the story might have ended there, except for one of the reporters who had decided not to deride Gary Webb’s work, but to build on it. Nick Schou of the Orange County Weekly had met Webb and took a liking to him. Upon hearing the news of Webb’s death, Schou felt a personal loss. So he decided to write a biography of his former friend and colleague, called Kill the Messenger,originally published in 2006.

The book is not just a chronicle of the furious and mindless attack that destroyed both Webb and any hope of getting to the bottom of the Contra/crack scandal. It was also an attempt at a biography of the man whom the mainstream media had caricatured as an amateurish, hotheaded, gonzo-type journalist. Schou’s book followed Webb’s career in depth and included many comments from fellow journalists who had worked with him and recalled Webb as a dedicated, hard-working, intelligent reporter who took himself and his job seriously and hated government officials who duped the public and/or broke the law.

Coming alive in Schou’s book was a three-dimensional Gary Webb who fit the classic adage about what journalism should be, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. From the beginning of his career, in college at Northern Kentucky, Webb went on to win dozens of reporting awards, including an H. L. Mencken Award and a Pulitzer Prize for being part of the Mercury Newsteam coverage of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

For instance, when Walt Bogdanich of the Cleveland Plain Dealer met Webb who was working at the Kentucky Post, Bogdanich was quickly impressed and told Schou, “I made it my job to try to get him to come to the Plain Dealer.”

In Cleveland, fellow reporter Steve Luttner told Schou, “I’ve never seen a more dogged reporter in thirty years.” Another reporter, Tom Suddes said, “He had an in-your-face spirit of journalism. He felt we weren’t there to nurture people, we were there to raise hell.”

Mary Anne Sharkey, who worked closely with Webb at the Plain Dealer, told Schou: “Gary was one of the most meticulous and dogged investigators. I’d come into the office, and he’d been there all night, reading documents.”

Bert Robinson at the San Jose Mercury News worked with Webb at the Sacramento office covering the state government. Robinson amplified on Sharkey’s comments about Webb’s ability to work with documents: “It seemed like a gift. He could pick up a 200-page report and skim through it and focus on one sentence on page 63 that suggested some huge outrage. … It was amazing to watch. He was a hell of a reporter.”

Unsmearing Webb

Schou’s book also straightened out another smear about Gary Webb. When the “Dark Alliance” series began stirring up populist anger, the New York Times set up a hit team to go after Webb’s earlier reporting. One of the angles was to check on Webb’s past stories to see if he had ever caused his newspaper to defend itself in a legal action, which did happen on two occasions. And that is what the Times reported in order to create the image of an irresponsible reporter.

But Schou went back and interviewed the newspaper executives involved. The reason the papers settled the lawsuits was not because of any inaccuracy in Webb’s reporting, but because of some hyperbole in the headlines, which Webb did not write. Webb did not want his employers to pay out anything. He wanted to continue the legal process because he felt he could back up everything he wrote in each story.

According to Schou, another investigative journalist, Peter Landesman showed an interest in adapting his book, Kill the Messenger, for the screen shortly after it was published in 2006. Landesman was a writer for New York Times magazine who specialized in writing very long and expensive stories that often made the cover of the weekend journal. Some of the stories, like one he did in 2004 about an international sex trade in young girls, drew some controversy. This may have been his impetus for approaching Schou about adapting the Webb book into a screenplay.

But the script spent years languishing around Hollywood until actor Jeremy Renner got involved. Renner had a major breakthrough role in The Hurt Locker in 2009, for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. This helped launch him into some big-budget films like The Avengers,Mission Impossible-Ghost ProtocolThe Bourne Legacy and American Hustle.

Renner’s Intervention

It was on the strength of that kind of roll that he turned actor/producer and decided to make Kill the Messenger. As he told interviewer Elizabeth Thorp, he was immediately drawn to the David and Goliath aspect of the story. And once he was in, he was all in:

“It was going to be a big hill to climb to get it made. It’s not a movie that people were screaming to make. Having me as a part of it helped. I wanted to get it made, not just sit around and wait for someone else to make that happen.” He added that he was instrumental in acquiring the cast, the director, other producers and the rest of the production team.

What’s amazing is that this is Renner’s first film as a producer. Yet, it’s hard to detect where he made a false step anywhere. From the editing, to the direction, to the casting, everything about this film is extremely well chosen. And we sense that from the start.

The opening credit montage, largely in black and white stills, juxtaposes various presidents’ pledges to fight a war on drugs: Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan. Halfway through, it then breaks into another montage concerning America’s necessity to fight communism in Central America. Brian Kates edits this all very snappily, with a martial rhythm and appropriately loud and threatening music behind it. It is a gripping and pointed way to begin: a sort of visual topic sentence indicating the hypocrisy about to be exposed.

From that memorable opening, the promise is that we are in good hands, with people who understand the material and the forces involved. And we are. One reason I have detailed so much of the story behind Webb’s work and Schou’s biography is this: although the film is only 110 minutes long, what is remarkable is not how much was cut, but how much made it onto the screen.

It begins with the drug asset forfeiture story Webb worked on for the Mercury News. As Webb wrote in his book Dark Alliance, he was doing a story on how the police would file charges, burst into a home, seize property, and then drop the charges later, leaving the defendant much poorer. That story had created a lot of buzz.

A woman named Coral Baca called Webb. She had read his story and was impressed by his honesty, since it had been done to her boyfriend, one Rafael Cornejo. But, she said, there was more to it than that. The government had enlisted a former drug trader turned informant, Blandon, to testify against Cornejo.

Or, as Baca told Webb, “One of the government’s witnesses is a guy who used to work for the CIA selling drugs. Tons of it. … Four tons! And if that’s what he’s admitted to, you can imagine how much it really was.” She promised Webb some official records, so Webb showed up in court to see who Blandon was. And this is what got him interested in the story. All of this is faithfully depicted in the film.

Telling the Story

Approximately the first half of the picture pieces together Webb’s search for the story. It’s an interesting and skillfully handled piece of filmmaking, even for those already familiar with the tale. Besides the inherent drama of the subject, director Michael Cuesta makes it all move very quickly and adroitly through several different locales from Washington D.C., to a prison in Nicaragua, to South Central Los Angeles.

Renner has also gotten some fairly famous actors to take parts that are rather small, but well-delineated: Andy Garcia as Meneses; Oliver Platt as Ceppos; Ray Liotta as a kind of Jack Terrell, CIA soldier of fortune type; and Michael Sheen as a composite of Kerry investigators, based on Jonathan Winer, Ron Rosenblith and Jack Blum, with a mix of journalist Robert Parry who warned Webb about the career risks from the Contra-cocaine story before “Dark Alliance” was published.

Since the movie is done from Webb’s point of view, a mass audience will, for the first time, see what Webb saw, and how he saw it – and how the major media caricatured his work by exaggerating what he actually had written (he never said the CIA plotted to bring crack into the Los Angeles ghetto).

The beauty of Webb’s storytelling is that he showed that, almost through a kind of strange serendipity, a cast of oddball characters who would never have met anywhere else, all coalesced in the background of this CIA-sponsored war in Central America. For instance, Ricky Ross didn’t even knew who Blandon really was. It was Webb’s ability to put names and histories on these faces, and to show not just why they did what they did, but how they did it, that’s what made his series so extraordinary.

And this is the thrill the audience gets as it watches this first half: a gifted reporter wearing out the proverbial shoe leather, as the story of a lifetime first falls into his lap and then assembles itself before him. Director Cuesta lays it all out for us, sometimes using a moving camera in close, sometimes with vast panoramic shots in the jungle of Nicaragua, always keeping up a headlong tempo.

Renner as Webb

To match that directorial tempo, there is Renner as Webb. Renner is not the subtlest actor, but his energy and commitment are perfectly in tune in drawing a man who goes through three stages. The first is one of curiosity and growing interest, as a large, sinister tableaux takes shape. Then, the experience of piecing together the dots on a board from Nicaragua to San Francisco begins to enthrall him. (We actually see Renner arrange those dots in the film on a wall map.)

And finally, when he is thrown overboard by his newspaper, we see a man’s slow deterioration as he loses all that is dear to him in pursuit of a journalistic Holy Grail, which the powers-that-be don’t want him to have. Renner is convincing in all three stages of a difficult role.

Landesman’s script dexterously handles the various story lines of a complex subject without ever being confusing or laying on too much information. The sequence where the major newspapers decide to turn on Webb and the Mercury News is forcefully and concisely written. There is a realism to the MSM’s self-protective decision-making.

For example, we see the Washington Post interacting with the CIA’s Public Affairs Office, which, of course, we now know actually happened. We then cut to a conference room at the Los Angeles Times building, where the “Get Gary Webb Team” is getting chastised for letting a regional newspaper from Northern California steal the story of a generation out from under their noses.

There are other directorial touches showing a quiet, creative imagination at work. Towards the end of his life, one way Webb escaped his frustration was on his motorcycle. Near the end of the film, Cuesta does not shoot these from a distance or from the side with a car camera, Easy Rider style. Both of those would denote a freedom in the landscape. He shoots them head on with a static camera, with the very loud noise of the engine cranked up on the soundtrack. This conveys the tension building in a man as he drives headlong into a buzz-saw.

Some Fiction

There are some Hollywood-style fictional flourishes, of course, but they are not too distracting and make necessary points, such as the scene with the Liotta/Terrell CIA asset waking Webb as he sleeps in a small motel room after his banishment to Cupertino by Ceppos. Webb has brought his files there with him to work on his book.

In the middle of the night, without any noise being made, Liotta is suddenly in the room. The scene is shot as if through a gauze, shadowy and dreamlike. It unfolds slowly, weirdly, inchoately, as if Webb is now in a supernatural netherworld. And it achieves its intended effect, even if it diverges from the realism of many other parts of the movie.

There are other cases of dramatic license. In addition to the pseudonym for the Kerry staffer, there is also one for the late Georg Hodel, a Swiss journalist who was helping Webb on the follow-up stories to his original series, the stories Ceppos failed to run. Although Hodel’s life was threatened in Nicaragua, it was never as blatant as at the end of a rifle as is shown in the movie. [See Consortiumnews.com’s Hung Out to Dry.”]

Webb did wound a man trying to steal his car. But it was not during this crisis period in his life, it was many years before he got to California. In the film, a fictional female character is used as Webb’s direct supervisor (who was actually Dawn Garcia.)

But these are all excusable since they are used to compress the story and to heighten the action and drama. The scene where Webb thinks he sees a man attempting to steal his car is another attempt by Cuesta to get inside Webb’s head: to show how the pressures of defending his story began to take a real toll on him.

I cannot conclude this review without mentioning the simple, moving and symbolic ending. It is one that will stay with me for awhile. Webb and his family appear at a journalism awards banquet at which Webb receives a prize from the California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for his “Dark Alliance” series. The state SPJ had announced the award before the cumulative MSM attacks pushed the Mercury News into its cowardly retreat.

What happened next was that the national SPJ pressured the state chapter to revoke the award to add to Webb’s personal humiliation, but the California SPJ refused to do so. That became the context for the national SPJ granting the “Ethics in Journalism” award to Mercury News executive editor Ceppos for his role in destroying Webb’s career. Since national SPJ could not coerce the state chapter to reverse itself, the special award was given to Ceppos to demonstrate the organization’s extraordinary disdain for Webb and his Contra-cocaine story.

In the movie, the award ceremony is first portrayed as what could have been, with Ceppos and other Mercury News executives celebrating Webb’s courageous reporting. But that dream sequence is replaced with a harsher reality in which Webb walks to the lectern as most of the journalists in attendance sit on their hands.

The End

Webb’s acceptance speech is rather inelegant and leaves Ceppos wincing. Webb explains that he never realized why his pre-Contra-cocaine stories were so well received — because he hadn’t written anything that really mattered. When he steps down from the podium, Webb drops his letter of resignation in front of Ceppos and the editor who handled the series.

Webb and his family go outside. Realizing this is probably the end of his newspaper career — which it was — Webb apologizes to his wife for any pain his ordeal has caused her. Then, in a beautiful, metaphorical stroke, Cuesta has Renner ascend an open air escalator in the atrium of the building. The film ends with on-screen titles saying that Webb never got another newspaper position and later took his own life.

Over the credits, we watch a home movie with the real Gary Webb playing with his children in the kitchen of his house. That ending contains the kind of subtlety, restraint and quiet power that, in this age of Scorsese and Tarantino, has been missing from American cinema for too long.

In December 1996, after seeing Webb at his Midnight Special appearance with fellow journalist Robert Parry, I noted Webb’s still confident attitude in both his story and the corporate structure above him. Having studied the assassinations of the 1960s, I didn’t quite comprehend it. For like those assassinations, the link between CIA and drug running was a radioactive subject. It was on the short list of bête noires of the MSM.

I had seen what happened to people who had tried to get to the bottom of those kinds of stories in the past, e.g., New Orleans DA Jim Garrison and House Select Committee on Assassinations Chief Counsel Richard Sprague. As I walked out, I told the friend I had come with, “I don’t think he understands what is happening to him.” He didn’t. Which is why he took the story on in the first place.

Because of Jeremy Renner and the “Kill the Messenger” movie, Gary Webb has been redeemed.

Many cinema observers, including me, have complained of late about the declining quality of American film – and the genre’s divorce from both fact and the socio-political realities of American life. Renner has worked the near-miracle. He has made a film that is not just technically and aesthetically excellent, but one that tells the truth about the ugly side of the modern American political system. It is a side that was covered up and enabled by the cronyism of the MSM.

The movie also shows the personal tragedy of what that system did to a reporter who wanted to root out the ugliness. See this film as soon as you can. And tell your friends about it. It’s the best and most important American picture I’ve seen in a long time.

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