Archive | November 28th, 2016

‘Fake news’ & ‘post-truth’ politics? What about those Iraqi WMDs?

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By Neil Clark 

The Oxford Dictionaries have named ‘post-truth’ as the word of the year. ‘Fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ politics have been blamed for both the Brexit vote in the UK and the victory of Donald Trump in America.

It seems the uneducated plebs are falling for ’fake news’ they read in ’new media’ and the lies of dreadful rabble-rousing populist politicians who are relying on people’s emotions, instead of ’objective facts,’ to get votes. It’s all terribly worrying and poses a dire threat to Western civilization as we know it.

Well, forgive me for laughing out loud. For this establishment ‘fake news’/’post-truth politics’ concern is the funniest thing I’ve come across in politics since Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, the very grand Chancellor of the University of Oxford, repeatedly called distinguished Sheldonian guest Mikhail Gorbachev, “Mr. Brezhnev.”

Why is it so hilarious? Because the people and the outlets warning of the dangers of ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth politics’ have been the biggest peddlers of ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth politics’ out there. It’s like receiving lectures on the immorality of bootlegging from Al Capone or being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Without a doubt the best, or rather the worst example of ‘fake news’ in the last 25 years or so, was the neocon lie that Iraq had WMDs in 2002/3. That wasn’t peddled by ‘obscure bloggers’ and ‘new media,’ but by mainstream Western politicians, from ‘mainstream’ political parties, establishment-approved ‘experts’ on the BBC/ITV/CNN, etc., and Op-ed columnists in ‘serious’ and ‘respectable’ media outlets.

There was absolutely no evidence that Saddam possessed WMDs. The story was complete and utter BS. Yet this fake news dominated the headlines for months in 2002/3 and led to an illegal invasion in which many people lost their lives. Unlike today’s manufactured ‘fake news’ hysteria the Iraq war was no joke. An entire country was destroyed.

And guess what? Those who pushed the ‘Iraq has WMDs line’ are now coming on television to express their concern over ‘fake news’!

John Hilley notes “The BBC even had Alastair Campbell (Tony Blair’s spin doctor), in the studio defending the term ‘post-truth’ as a way of exposing the ‘dangers’ of ‘fake news.’”

Campbell stated: “It’s acknowledging that politics, which has always been rough, has moved to a different phase where politicians who lie now appear to get rewarded for it.” (BBC2 Jeremy Vine Show, 16/11/2016).

What might Orwell have said about Campbell, master spinner and Blairite warmonger, sitting inside the BBC being rewarded for his thoughts on ‘post-truth and ‘fake news?’ Hilley asks.

Once again, I’m sure old George is spinning in his grave in Sutton Courtenay.

Then there’s that serial warmonger Bernard-Henri Levy. The Sunday Telegraph today told us in its headlines: ‘Leading French philosopher: Marine Le Pen may win election as people have lost interest in whether politicians tell the truth.’

Oh, the irony!

Because if the French people really have ‘lost interest in whether politicians tell the truth,’ Henri-Levy and his fellow liberal interventionist ‘regime changers’ have got a lot to do with it.

Think back to the war against Libya, which the ‘leading French philosopher’ lobbied hard for. To sell the war to the Western public, we were told that Muammar Gaddafi was about to commit a ‘Srebrenica-style’ massacre in Benghazi. Media Lens noted the claims that were made at the time.

But again it was a load of ‘rollocks.’ Five years after Libya, like Iraq before it, had been destroyed by Western ‘interventionists,’ a report of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons declared: “the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.”

It wasn’t the only claim made about Libya by Western politicians that was ‘not supported by the available evidence.’ In February 2011, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted that he had seen ‘information’ which suggested that Gaddafi was on his way to Venezuela. An unnamed ‘diplomat’ said that this was ‘credible information.’ But it wasn’t. It was the same old fake news that we get every time the Western elites are trying to achieve ‘regime change.’

In April 2011 we heard that the devilish Gaddafi (who had not, after all, fled to Caracas), was supplying his troops with Viagra “to encourage mass rape.”

neoconed-bw-768x432“Gaddafi’s security forces and other groups in the region are trying to divide the people by using violence against women and rape as tools of war, and the United States condemns this in the strongest possible terms,” declared Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose supporters are now complaining about ‘post-truth politics.

Again, no evidence was put forward for the Viagra/mass rape claim and, surprise, surprise, none was ever found.

A clear pattern can be discerned. To get public support for its illegal regime change wars, the Western establishment energetically promotes a number of ‘fake news’ stories. These stories are usually reported unquestioningly in ‘respectable’ outlets and are regularly cited by neocon/liberal interventionist commentators as a reason for taking action against the target state. ‘Anonymous’ sources feature heavily in these stories, which like MI6’s ‘Operation Mass Appeal’ are often planted by the security services.

Meanwhile, people’s emotions are shamelessly played upon by the ‘something must be done’ brigade of ‘liberal’ laptop bombardiers, the same crowd, note well, who accuse ‘populist’ politicians of ignoring ‘objective facts’ and playing on people’s emotions.

The fake news continues while the regime change operation is ongoing. After its over, we’re all meant to forget about the false stories we were fed and focus on the next ’New Hitler’ who needs to be dealt with. In 2011, it was the despicable Gaddafi, now it’s the despicable Assad and the despicable Putin who we’re told: “have to be stopped.”

The term ‘post-truth’ politics implies there was a time when politics was truthful. I doubt if that ever was the case, but certainly in the last 25 years, thanks to the influence of neocons and ‘liberal interventionists’, the lies have been off the scale. Remember the Niger uranium forgeries? And Saddam’s horrific ‘People Shredder‘?

And before the Iraq war, we had the ‘humanitarian’ NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, where again fake news dominated. US Defense Secretary William Cohen claimed “about 100,000 military-aged” Kosovan Albanians were missing… “they may have been murdered.”

As John Pilger reminded us, “Kosovo, the site of a genocide that never was, is now a violent “free market” in drugs and prostitution.”

It wasn’t the only lurid claim that was made to sell the war. But again the ‘genocide’ and hundreds of thousands killed stories were false, as a UN court itself ruled in 2001.

Fake news also featured heavily in the neocon campaign to get Iran sanctioned for an entirely unproven nuclear weapons program. It’s dominated the coverage of recent events in Ukraine, with Russia’s non-existent ‘invasion of Ukraine’ routinely referred to as a fact. The conflict in Syria too has been marked by ‘fake news,’ and theories being reported as if they’re 100 percent proven. How many times have you read that “Assad gassed his own people” at Ghouta in 2013, even though we still don’t know for sure who carried out the attack?

If it’s ‘official enemies’ we’re talking about ‘fact-checking’ and citing sources isn’t all that important for those who pounce on a mere typo if it’s an anti-war writer who’s making a claim.

Now, the same people who have disseminated fake news for so long and who are still, even after Iraq and Libya, embedded in the West’s political and media establishments, are lashing out because they no longer control the narrative as they used to. The public is getting their news from a much wider variety of sources and voting for ‘populist,’ i.e., non-neocon/liberal interventionist-anointed candidates/parties at elections.

Instead of admitting that it’s their ’fake news’ and ‘post-truth politics’ which has caused people to switch off from establishment media and to stop voting for status quo candidates, the endless war lobby has the effrontery to accuse others of the things they have been guilty of.

Concern over ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth politics’ from the West’s endless war propagandists?

It’s hard to think of a better example of what psychologists call ‘projection.’

Posted in Iraq, MediaComments Off on ‘Fake news’ & ‘post-truth’ politics? What about those Iraqi WMDs?

Journalist Omar Nazzal, Shadi Jarrar among Palestinians ordered to additional imprisonment without charge

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Omar Nazzal, prominent Palestinian journalist and member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, was ordered on Monday, 21 November to three additional months in administrative detention by the Israeli occupation military. One of dozens of imprisoned journalists, Nazzal was seized by occupation forces on 23 April 2016 as he attempted to cross the al-Karameh/Allenby bridge to Jordan to participate in the General Meeting of the European Federation of Journalists in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since that time, he was ordered first to four months in administrative detention without charge or trial, then again to another three months of arbitrary imprisonment before his detention was again renewed today. Nazzal’s case has drawn international condemnation at the targeting of a prominent Palestinian journalist without charge or trial on the basis of so-called “secret evidence.”

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Nazzal was not the only Palestinian political prisoner ordered to additional imprisonment without charge or trial. Palestinian prisoner Shadi Jarrar, 36, from Wadi Burkin west of Jenin, was ordered to four months in administrative detention for the third time consecutively. He has spent eight months in administrative detention since his seizure by Israeli occupation forces on 12 March as he passed a military checkpoint between Ramallah and Nablus. Jarrar is held in the Negev desert prison. He previously spent 13 years in Israeli jails before his release in 2014 as a Palestinian political prisoner.

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Also ordered once more to administrative detention was Louay Daoud, 41, of Qalqilya, for the fourth time, for four months. Arrested by Israeli occupation forces when they invaded his home on 9 December 2015, he has now been ordered to administrative detention four times consecutively, without charge or trial. Daoud is also a former prisoner who spent 12 years in Israeli prisons until his release in 2003.

ashraf-jibril

Ashraf Jibril, 23, of Qalqilya, was also ordered imprisoned without charge or trial for an additional four months – the third consecutive administrative detention order against him. His home was raided on 10 November 2015 by Israeli occupation forces; he was twice ordered to six months in administrative detention and now an additional four months. The Israeli occupation authorities also renewed the administrative detention of Palestinian prisoner Qusai Hassan Khaliliya, 22, of Jaba village south of Jenin, for the second consecutive time for six months of imprisonment without charge or trial. Khaliliya was seized by occupation forces on 23 May in a pre-dawn raid on his Jaba home by occupation forces, who ransacked his belongings.

There are over 700 Palestinians held without charge or trial out of a total of 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. Administrative detention orders can be issued for one to six months at a time and are indefinitely renewable. Many Palestinian prisoners have spent years at a time imprisoned under repeatedly-extending administrative detention orders. Administrative detention has been used to target political leaders, influential community members, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and other prominent Palestinian figures. Ahmad Abu Fara and Anas Shadid are currently on hunger strike for the 57th day against their own imprisonment without charge or trial.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human Rights, MediaComments Off on Journalist Omar Nazzal, Shadi Jarrar among Palestinians ordered to additional imprisonment without charge

‘Witch hunt’: Report urges UK to ‘map,’ ‘challenge,’ and expose public figures with Russia links

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RT 

An influential right-wing think-tank has proposed a radical clampdown on politicians and other prominent figures sympathetic to Russia by “challenging their credibility,” revealing their “insidious means of funding,” and forcing them to reveal if they receive money for appearing on RT.

The new report, published by the Henry Jackson Society comes as the EU parliament prepares to debate how to resist “disinformation and propaganda” from Russia on Tuesday.

Called ‘Putin’s Useful Idiots,’ the 17-page document was written by Andrew Foxall, the Director of the Russia Studies Centre at the conservative think tank. Foxall said that “Putin makes for a deceptive and dangerous friend” for “those on the left who can be relied upon to stand up for the West’s enemies whoever and wherever they may be, and those on the right who see Moscow as a defender of conservative values.”

Among the examples on the right, are UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who has regularly appeared on RT for a decade, and Nick Griffin, the former BNP leader, who reportedly travels to Russia regularly to participate in nationalist conferences, and has said that he is open to funding from Russia for his anti-NATO activist group.

On the left, the report mentions the Stop the War coalition, which was once chaired by current Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and the Scottish independence movement.

Foxall, a former Oxford University lecturer, called Russia’s supporters “tools in [the Kremlin’s] programme of active measures”. The report also takes aim at RT, Sputnik and other foreign-language Russian media, branding them the result of “heavy investment” from the Kremlin, aimed at “influencing European public opinion and improving its international image,” and even working as a means of funding Kremlin sympathizers.

“Many of those on the extremes of the political spectrum, particularly the left, have appeared on RT. If they received appearance fees, then they have also taken money from the Kremlin, thereby establishing financial links between themselves, their organisations and Moscow,” stated Foxall.

While the report said there is no “silver bullet” that could solve the “problem” of pro Russian opinion-makers, it suggested a list of comprehensive measures.

“Activists, journalists and politicians should point out the pro-Russian connections of individuals and parties on the left and right of the political spectrum and challenge the credibility of these entities via political debates,” said the author.

“The personal and organisational connections of left- and right-wing parties and their Russian counterparts should be mapped across Europe,” said Hoxall, claiming that Cold War-era KGB ‘comrade networks’ have either been resurrected or forged anew, to undermine the West.

“As movements on the left and right grow in influence across Europe, the continent must wake up to their insidious means of funding,” continues the report, suggesting that “Parliament should amend current legislation or pass new legislation that forces politicians to declare all media appearances they make, whether they receive money for them or not.”

’21st-century McCarthyism’

“I am shocked and appalled by this report – it is both dangerous and inflammatory. It should be condemned by anyone who believes in free speech” Marcus Papadopoulos, the editor of Politics First, a UK analytical magazine, told RT.

“In essence it says that any person who gives an interview to Russian media – including RT – is an ‘idiot’ and a traitor to Britain, and should be publicly named and shamed. It’s a witch hunt, and 21st-century McCarthyism.”

Annie Machon, a former UK intelligence officer, who has become a regular RT contributor, said she has experienced first-hand accusations of being a Kremlin “collaborationist.”

“I appear on all sorts of different channels, including the BBC, which is state-funded. Most countries have their own publicly funded organizations and media, what is the problem?” she told RT from London.

“I think there is also a knee-jerk reaction by a UK and US-funded think tank against the election of Donald Trump. The establishment in both countries is worried that he might forge a more cordial relationship with Russia.”

Posted in UKComments Off on ‘Witch hunt’: Report urges UK to ‘map,’ ‘challenge,’ and expose public figures with Russia links

UN Must Name Terrorists Responsible for Killing Civilians in Syria 

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Sputnik 

The United Nations must name those responsible for civilian killings among the ranks of the Syrian Army, but also among the terrorists fighting in Syria as well, Russian Deputy Ambassador to United Nations Vladimir Safronkov said at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday.

Earlier during the discussion, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power named Syrian commanders whom the US government considers guilty of killing civilians and said they would be held accountable for their actions.

“You went as far as naming Syrian commanders and generals. But if you claim is to be unbiased, why don’t we hear the names of the terrorists as well? Who will deal with them?” Safronkov stated.

Sofronikov also noted that the UN Security Council must not be hypocritical on the matter of accountability in Syria.

He explained the UN Security Council must also not forget the golden standard of presumption of innocence, noting that it is up to a court to prove who is to guilty.

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Syria Saudi Zio-Wahhabi get anti-aircraft missiles

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An Ansar al-Islam terrorist tests a shoulder-fired and low-altitude 9K32 Strela-2 surface-to-air missile system in an unknown location in southwestern Syria

A report says members of a foreign-sponsored militant group in Syria have received a considerable amount of shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, a possible indication that the US has eased restrictions on the supply of weapons to the anti-Damascus militants.

In a video published by the a pro-militant television network on Sunday, terrorists from the so-called Ansar al-Islam group can be seen testing low-altitude 9K32 Strela-2 missile systems in the southwestern Syrian provinces of Dara’a and Quneitra.

“We, in Ansar al-Islam Front, have distributed several points of air defense to counter any attempt by the Syrian warplanes or helicopters, which bomb points in Quneitra Province. We have a good number of these missiles,” a militant can be heard saying in the video.

A second militant says his group and the so-called Free Syrian Army are deploying munitions and forces to the towns of al-Harra, Masharah, Sandaniya and Jabata for attack against Syrian government forces within the next few days.

The report comes amid indications that the US administration has given the green light to its allies in the Middle East to send missiles to terrorist groups inside Syria through Jordan and Turkey.

A militant source said in late September that the US has agreed to the start of arms shipments from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

A Reuters report has also hinted at the possibility that President Barack Obama would overturn the ban on the supply of missiles to extremist militants in Syria in the wake of Russian and Syrian forces’ offensives to retake the militant-held eastern part of the city of Aleppo.

Turkish airstrike kills Syrians

Meanwhile, Turkish aerial bombardment against the purported positions of Daesh terrorists near the northwestern Syrian city of al-Bab has killed seven people.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that ten people also sustained injuries in the Monday attack.

On August 24, the Turkish air force and special ground forces kicked off Operation Euphrates Shield inside Syria in a bid to support the so-called Free Syrian Army militants and rid the border area of Daesh terrorists and fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The incursion drew strong condemnation from the Damascus government for violating Syrian sovereignty.

Also on Monday, ten civilians were killed when fighter jets from a US-led military coalition hit an area in the al-Salehiyah Village of the northern Syrian province of al-Raqqah.

Since September 2014, the US and some of its Arab allies have been carrying out airstrikes against what they say are Daesh positions inside Syria without any authorization from Damascus or a United Nations (UN) mandate.

The US-led coalition has done little to stop Daesh’s advances in Syria and Iraq. Some analysts have criticized the US-led military campaign, saying the strikes are only meant to benefit US weapons manufacturers.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Syria Saudi Zio-Wahhabi get anti-aircraft missiles

UN chemical watchdog refused to send experts to Aleppo under Western pressure 

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RT 

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons refuses to send its experts to Aleppo to check substances used by rebels in attacks. The move was “seemingly done under pressure from our Western colleagues,” Russia’s foreign minister said.

“Russian specialists found that militants in east Aleppo used ammunition with poisonous substances, with the ammo targeting west Aleppo. The collected samples leave no doubt that it’s a toxic agent,” Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference with his Belarusian counterpart in Minsk, as cited by Interfax.

However, when the Russian Ministry of Defense addressed the leadership of the UN watchdog OPCW “with the demand to urgently send its experts to Aleppo to participate in the sample analysis,” the organization “refused to carry out this simple task, citing security issues.”

The underlying reason behind this, Lavrov said, seemed to be “tremendous pressure from our Western colleagues,” because “our and Syrian sides guaranteed security [for the experts].”

Russia is now working on the possibility of delivering the samples for analysis to The Hague, Lavrov added.

“It will make it hard [for them] to back out,” the minister said, as quoted by TASS.

Lavrov’s statement comes a day after the Ministry of Defense spoke about the evidence of chemical attacks by rebels, and stressed that the OPCW was refusing to cooperate.

Ministry spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov said that Russian experts collected bioassays from four Syrians injured in the attacks, and made the shocking discovery earlier this month.

In fact, Russian top brass has been warning since September that the militants might use chemical weapons against civilians in Aleppo, and in October, Syrian state media reported toxic gas having been used against a government-held area in the city.

Fifteen people were injured back then, and a local doctor told RT that the symptoms could be those observed after the use of chlorine gas.

Over the past few years, the Syrian government has often come under fire over claims of its alleged use of chemical weapons to attack the rebel-held areas – from activists and the UN, as well as the US State Department.

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US, Saudi Zio-Wahhabi Ammunition Bound for Syrian Moderate Opposition Ends Up in Daesh Hands

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US, Saudi Ammunition Bound for Syrian Moderate Opposition Ends Up in Daesh Hands
Sputnik 

Ammunition supplied by the United States and Saudi Arabia to moderate Syrian opposition groups has been found in the possession of Daesh terrorist group, representatives of a UK-based organization monitoring weapons movement said.

The Conflict Armament Research (CAR) investigators work in the areas recently liberated from Daesh and its research shows that ammunition boxes left by the jihadists can be traced back to factories in Eastern Europe, the BBC reported Monday, citing CAR team leader James Bevan.

Inquiries by Bevan’s team indicated that the factory orders could be traced back to the United States and Saudi Arabia. Ammunition was then shipped to southern Turkey en route to opposition groups in northern Syria.

“Their procurement networks reach out into southern Turkey and they obviously have a series of very strong relationships with very big distributors,” Bevan told the BBC.

The ammunition then found its way into Daesh hands, eventually ending up in Iraq, where Daesh is fighting US-backed government troops. Ammunition boxes in question were found starting late 2015 in Tikrit, Ramadi, Falluja and Mosul, according to CAR.

CAR estimated that the speed of procurement was some two months between factory and the final destination in Iraq. The organization’s report has yet to be published.

Daesh, a militant jihadist organization outlawed in many countries, including the United States and Russia, took over vast swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014 amid the ongoing Syrian civil war.

The US Train and Equip Program aimed at moderate Syrian rebels was canceled in October 2015 after a number of US-trained forces were quickly overrun by extremists while the US-provided weapons were reportedly handed over to the terrorist groups. A part of the US-trained forces defected and fought on the side of terrorists.

Both the United States and the United Kingdom have recently decided to resume training programs in Syria.

Posted in Saudi Arabia, Syria4 Comments

Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt

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Exclusive: The “fake news” theme has captivated The Washington Post and the mainstream U.S. media so much that it is stooping to McCarthyistic smears against news outlets that don’t toe the State Department’s propaganda line, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The mainstream U.S. media’s hysteria over “fake news” has reached its logical (or illogical) zenith, a McCarthyistic black-listing of honest journalism that simply shows professional skepticism toward Officialdom, including what’s said by U.S. government officials and what’s written in The Washington Post and New York Times.

Apparently, to show skepticism now opens you to accusations of disseminating “Russian propaganda” or being a “useful idiot” or some similar ugly smear reminiscent of the old Cold War. Now that we have entered a New Cold War, I suppose it makes sense that we should expect a New McCarthyism.

Lawyer Roy Cohn (right) with Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Lawyer Roy Cohn (right) with Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

After returning from a Thanksgiving trip to Philadelphia on Saturday, I received word that Consortiumnews.com, the 21-year-old investigative news site that has challenged misguided “group thinks” whether from Republicans, Democrats or anyone else over those two-plus decades, was included among some 200 Internet sites spreading what some anonymous Web site, PropOrNot, deems “Russian propaganda.”

I would normally ignore such nonsense but it was elevated by The Washington Post, which treated these unnamed “independent researchers” as sophisticated experts who “tracked” the Russian propaganda operation and assembled the black list.

And I’m not joking when I say that these neo-McCarthyites go unnamed. The Post’s article by Craig Timberg on Thursday described PropOrNot simply as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds [who] planned to release its own findings Friday showing the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”

The Post granted the group and its leadership anonymity to smear journalists who don’t march in lockstep with official pronouncements from the State Department or some other impeccable fount of never-to-be-questioned truth. The Post even published a “blind” (or unattributed) quote from the head of this shadowy Web site as follows:

“‘The way that this propaganda apparatus supported [Donald] Trump was equivalent to some massive amount of a media buy,’ said the executive director of PropOrNot, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being targeted by Russia’s legions of skilled hackers.”

The Shoddy Washington Post

As a professional journalist for more than four decades, it is hard for me to comprehend how a supposedly reputable newspaper like The Washington Post would allow some anonymous character to attack the patriotism of American journalists while hiding the person’s name behind the ridiculous excuse that he or she might be targeted by hackers.

The Washington Post building. (Photo credit: Daniel X. O'Neil)

The Washington Post building. (Photo credit: Daniel X. O’Neil)

In 1985, when I was an investigative reporter for The Associated Press and first exposed Oliver North’s secret White House operation in support of the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, I got some flak for using North’s name because he claimed that he might be targeted by assassins — even though he was not officially a covert operative. His name and title were listed in the White House directory, for instance.

So, as silly and unfounded as North’s worries were – and The Washington Post then followed me in publishing North’s name – at least North’s concerns dealt with his personal safety. But now we have the Post treating an alleged study by supposed “independent researchers” as needing the protection of anonymity to allow the Web site’s executive director to expound on the group’s slanderous assessments without giving his or her name.

In such a case, how is the public supposed to evaluate the smears and whether these researchers are indeed “independent” or are funded by some actual propaganda network, like those financed by the National Endowment for Democracy or USAID or financial speculator George Soros or some military-industrial-complex think tank?

Indeed, isn’t what this Post-promoted Web site doing the essence of McCarthyistic “fake news” – making vague accusations and imposing guilt by association, suggesting that all the Web sites on its list are either treasonous or dupes?

Though the Post doesn’t seem to care about fairness regarding the 200 or so Web sites subjected to this McCarthyism, the smear operation doesn’t even present evidence that anyone actually is part of this grand Russian propaganda conspiracy. The PropOrNot site admits that the criteria for its “analysis” is “behaviorial,” not evidentiary.

In other words, the assessment is based on whether this anonymous group doesn’t like that some journalist is questioning the State Department’s propaganda line or has come up with information that isn’t convenient to the NATO narrative on a topic that also involves Russia, Ukraine, Syria or some other international hot spot.

Then, you and other journalists are slimed as either active Russian intelligence operatives or “they are at the very least acting as bona-fide ‘useful idiots’ of the Russian intelligence services, and are worthy of further scrutiny,” according to PropOrNot.

A Cold War Slur

As the Post recognized in its article, the phrase “useful idiot” or “useful fool” comes from the old Cold War – when journalists and citizens who didn’t march in lock-step with Washington’s propaganda were so stigmatized. That such a grotesque and pejorative phrase was used in this supposedly “independent” study should have been a warning to any professional newspaper to toss the report in the trash can. Instead, The Washington Post embraced it as gospel.

 Sergey V. Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-first session. 23 September 2016 (UN Photo)

Sergey V. Lavrov, Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, addresses the United Nations General Assembly on
Sept. 23, 2016 (UN Photo)

What is further remarkable about this bizarre “study” is that it mixes together a wide variety of diverse political, ideological and journalistic groups, including some of the best independent journalism sites on the Internet, such as Counterpunch, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism, Zero Hedge, WikiLeaks and – I would humbly suggest — Consortiumnews.

Also, neither truth nor fact-based journalism appears to be involved in  this “analysis.” No one from this Web site or from The Washington Post contacted me about any alleged inaccuracies or “propaganda” in Consortiumnews’ stories.

Obviously, there have been times when we have challenged “facts” as claimed by the U.S. government and the Post, including their 2002-03 assertions about Iraq’s fictional WMD. (Back then, we were denounced by George W. Bush’s fans as “Saddam apologists.”)

We also have cited cases of disagreements inside the U.S. intelligence community about other “group thinks” that were being pushed by the State Department and the mainstream U.S. news media, such as the CIA’s internal doubts about who was responsible for the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus, Syria.

Consortiumnews also has cited disclosures buried deep inside articles by the Post and New York Times regarding the important role of neo-Nazis and other ultra-nationalist militias in the putsch that ousted Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014, and in the subsequent civil war.

I guess readers are supposed to ignore these occasional bursts of honesty from some reporter in the field who feels obliged to mention the Swastikas and other Nazi symbols festooning the rooms of these U.S.-backed “freedom fighters” — although the reporter and editors know well enough to stick these references near the end of stories where few people are likely to read. Our “propaganda guilt” is that we read to the end of these articles and highlight these important admissions.

Then, there are times when Consortiumnews has referred to these occasional admissions about neo-Nazis and compared them to positive mainstream references to these same neo-Nazis. For instance, the Times itself included at least one brief reference to this neo-Nazi reality, though buried it deep inside an article. On Aug. 10, 2014, a Times’ article mentioned the neo-Nazi Azov battalion in the last three paragraphs of a lengthy story on another topic.

“The fighting for Donetsk has taken on a lethal pattern: The regular army bombards separatist positions from afar, followed by chaotic, violent assaults by some of the half-dozen or so paramilitary groups surrounding Donetsk who are willing to plunge into urban combat,” the Times reported.

“Officials in Kiev say the militias and the army coordinate their actions, but the militias, which count about 7,000 fighters, are angry and, at times, uncontrollable. One known as Azov, which took over the village of Marinka, flies a neo-Nazi symbol resembling a Swastika as its flag.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Discovers Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis at War.”]

Yet, later the Times published a story about the Ukrainian government’s defense of the port of Mariupol against ethnic Russian rebels and the Azov battalion was treated as the last bastion of civilization battling against the barbarians at the gate. Remarkably, the article left out all references to the Azov battalion’s Nazi Swastikas. [See Consortiumnews.com’s NYT Whites Out Ukraine’s Brown Shirts.”]

It is that exposure of the mainstream U.S. media’s distortions of the reality in Ukraine that has apparently earned Consortiumnews a spot on this strange list of willful disseminators of “Russian propaganda” or “useful idiots.”

Washington Post ‘Fake News’

It also might be noted that Consortiumnews has repeatedly pointed out how The Washington Post falsely reported as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD yet the editors responsible for this acceptance of State Department propaganda, which got some 4,500 American soldiers killed along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, have never faced accountability. [See Consortiumnews.com’sA Media Unmoored from Facts.”]

Washington Post's editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.

Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, who published as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD stockpiles.

Ironically, too, it should be noted that on Saturday, The New York Times, which also has been flogging the “fake news” theme, ran a relatively responsible article revealing how a leading “fake news” Web site was not connected to Russia at all but rather was an entrepreneurial effort by an unemployed Georgian student who was using a Web site in Tbilisi to make some money by promoting pro-Trump stories, whether true or not.

The owner of the Web site, 22-year-old Beqa Latsabidse, said he had initially tried to push stories favorable to Hillary Clinton but that proved unprofitable so he switched to publishing anti-Clinton and pro-Trump articles whether true or not.

The front-page Times article revealed what has been happening – entrepreneurs who want to make money have been peddling pro-Trump “news” because that’s what gets the clicks and thus the advertising dollars. That behavior does not implicate Consortiumnews or any other independent Web site that happens to challenge State Department propaganda. (Consortiumnews relies on donations from readers and some book sales to meet its modest $200,000-a-year budget.)

To merge these two groups – profit-driven sites that don’t care what the truth is and honest journalism sites that show professional skepticism toward government propaganda whatever its source – is a kind of classic example of “fake news” although in this case the mysterious Web site PropOrNot and The Washington Post are peddling the disinformation.

Posted in USA, MediaComments Off on Washington Post’s ‘Fake News’ Guilt

Dispatch From Nepal: The Disaster Didn’t End When the Earth Stopped Shaking

NOVANEWS

By Dinesh Paudel and Gregory Reck 

(Photo: Dinesh Paudel)

The author interacting with disaster-affected communities in Saipu, Nepal. (Photo: Dinesh Paudel)

Writing in a blog post shortly after the Hurricane Katrina disaster in Louisiana, writer and activist Jim Wallis pointed out that often it takes a natural disaster to reveal a social disaster. One can even go further and point out that, when it comes to disasters, the categories of “natural” and “social” are indistinguishable. Natural disasters not only reveal social disasters; they unleash forces that deepen them. All “natural” disasters occur within historical and socioeconomic contexts so that the dividing line between natural and social causes and consequences are inevitably blurred.

While international attention is focused on the recent devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and other Caribbean areas, the hyper-short-term memory of the mainstream media — along with the tendency to see “disasters” as “over” with the passage of time — leads us to forget quickly about ongoing social disasters that were accentuated by natural catastrophes.

The Earthquakes in Saipu, Nepal

The twin earthquakes that struck Nepal on April 25 and May 12 of 2015 are a case in point. Registering around 7.8 and 7.3 on the Richter scale, the earthquakes killed more than 9,000 people, injured another 23,000 and destroyed almost a million homes, thousands of schools and a broad spectrum of basic infrastructure.

Statistics like this conceal as much as they reveal. By describing damage solely in terms of a geological event, they create the illusion that disasters are destructive accidents that disrupt otherwise normal lives. While earthquakes obviously disrupt lives, this view of disasters conceals the reality that they inevitably exacerbate and even increase the suffering that is normalized as part of everyday life in many global spaces. Moreover, this more limited “natural” view of disaster suggests that solutions only involve returning human populations back to their normal lives as much as possible.

In July 2016, we spent almost a month in Nepal talking with local subsistence farmers in the community of Saipu, located in east-central Nepal, not far from the epicenter of the second earthquake. We were interested in unraveling the complexities of post-earthquake recovery, especially as understood by local people, rather than so-called experts. Too often, the voices of people most affected by disasters are marginalized and infantilized by the voices of politicians, disaster specialists, development workers and those embedded in one way or another with the nongovernmental organization (NGO) industry. We simply wanted to know how these subsistence farmers understood the disaster that hit 14 months earlier.

What we learned from the farmers of Saipu was precisely what Wallis referred to with Hurricane Katrina: The actual devastation of the earthquakes was one additional ingredient stirred into a pre-existing brew of suffering.

The stories we heard about the earthquakes and their aftermath were certainly terrifying. A man was cutting a tree in a deep ravine between steep mountains. The mountains began to dance toward one another and, clinging to the ground, he sensed that he would be crushed between them. An elderly grandmother survived by hugging the interior support post of her house as it crumbled around her into a pile of rubble. A mother prevented a group of children playing outside a house from instinctively seeking safety inside as the Earth trembled and the walls of the house collapsed. A family, knocked to the ground, watched in amazement as two buildings appeared to nearly collide as the pulsating earth pushed them in different directions.

Post-earthquake narratives were equally disturbing. Many families still live in temporary shelters constructed out of bamboo, scrap materials salvaged from the devastation and plastic tarps brought in with the first wave of aid. Others live precariously in their damaged houses, fearful about whether more earth tremors might finish the job started over a year ago.

Comfort is difficult to maintain when the rain seeps through the open spaces of these temporary shelters. Packed dirt floors become mud. Insects, frogs and other nocturnal animals invade food prepared for the evening meal. Human dignity, they told us, is difficult to maintain under these conditions.

Yet these stories are told with grace and humor. Intentional irony and humorous paradox produce laughter in both the storytellers and listeners. Local poets who sing their verses in traditional forms perform songs filled with the same biting tragedy and comic relief. Laughter masks the real suffering of terrifying memories and harsh current conditions. But laughter also demonstrates the very real resilience and values of community members, both hiding despair and revealing hope.

The stories are also a form of local resistance to the forces that have descended upon these rural areas. They externalize internal, individual and social struggles, expressing a deep-seated resistance to conditions that often seem beyond local control. The earthquakes may be primary topics, but this oral literature transcends those immediate events to encompass the forces that are seen as even more destructive.

The other ingredients of this toxic brew predate the earthquakes and will without doubt outlast earthquake recovery if and when it happens. The main ingredients of this brew are the geopolitics of India, the NGO industry and global climate change.

Deepening the Crisis

Just four months after the earthquakes, the Indian government quietly initiated an “informal” blockade on goods passing from India to the landlocked country of Nepal. At a time when Nepali people were suffering deeply, India decided to play the economic card in an attempt to collapse the Nepali coalition government. The Modi government in India wasn’t happy with Nepal’s constitution and what it claimed was the mistreatment of people along the Nepali-Indian border. Vital supplies like fuel, medical equipment and reconstruction supplies were effectively cut off for months.

This was just the most recent hand played in the geopolitical games of the region. Sandwiched between the powers of India and China, Nepal is caught inextricably in the squeeze. The earthquakes certainly accentuated the disaster of this geopolitical game, but the geopolitics of suffering in Nepal preceded and will outlast that natural disaster.

The second pre-existing ingredient is the presence of the NGO industry. One might think that people devastated by earthquakes would welcome whatever aid might come their way. Not so.

The negativity toward that industry in rural areas of Nepal has been building for decades. The farmers of Saipu all reacted the same way when we mentioned NGOs — bursts of laughter followed by words of derision. They said NGOs don’t even have Nepali names. They don’t know the communities they work in and the communities don’t know them. They distribute goods unfairly, often making the rich richer and the poor poorer. They serve the goals of their donors, not those they claim to help. They never ask people what they need. They think they know best. They come with projects that no one in the community asks for. NGO workers only care about their jobs.

While this negativism toward outside aid often develops after disasters — since local needs always are more extensive than outside help can manage — the Nepali view of NGOs grows out of a long history with them. Over the past three decades, the NGO industry has exploded in Nepal. Filling the vacuum created by insufficient and inefficient government projects in rural areas, NGOs stepped into the void. Yet, after decades, the lasting impact in Nepal has been negligible. The cynicism that we found is not only due to the lack of substantive help after the most recent disaster, but also the result of long-term experience.

The farmers understand from their direct experience that the NGO world is linked to the power of Western donor countries. They are not fooled by the mystification that claims these NGOs care about their welfare.

There are over 50,000 International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) and national Non-Governmental Organizations registered with the government — approximately one for every 600 citizens, although most are inactive. Dozens of NGOs have visited Saipu since the earthquakes, with almost no positive impact on post-earthquake conditions. As a coordinator of NGOs in the district center of Manthali, who asked to remain anonymous, admitted, “This disaster is like a big festival for NGOs — they access funds, hire new personnel, hold meetings, write reports of success to donors, and little of substance gets done.” Other than the initial emergency relief efforts, there are few visible signs of reconstruction, despite the thousands of INGOs and NGOs working in rural communities like Saipu.

The final and perhaps most deadly ingredient is global climate change. Nepal has experienced erratic weather conditions for the past 10 years or so. Glaciers are receding, snow is melting earlier and earlier, monsoon rains are less predictable, too much or too little rain disrupts traditional farming patterns. For a country of farmers, the nationwide consequences are dire. Recently, the United Nations designated Nepal as one of 34 nations experiencing serious food insecurity conditions due to climate factors.

In July 2016, Saipu should have been receiving its most serious dose of monsoon rain. Instead, the muggy skies were producing brief afternoon and nighttime showers. When we suggested that the monsoon might still arrive, the reply was always something like, “Yes, but every hour that it doesn’t is a disaster.” Farmers have longitudinal knowledge about climate variations, and they uniformly attribute current deteriorating conditions to climate change. Looking us in the eyes, they said, “The people who are causing this are killing us.”

The intentional irony of this statement is apparent. Located in the midst of what some scientists have called “the third pole” of the Earth — the Himalayas — Nepal has little to do with the causes of climate change. Yet, this small country and its inhabitants are a primary recipient of the disaster created by the excesses of the industrialized West and East.

Shortly after the earthquakes, Nepal hosted a donors’ conference and received around $4.4 billion in commitments from a number of countries, including the United States. They had hoped to receive $6.7 billion, an amount still far short of recovery needs. At least half of the pledged amount was in loans. Already an impoverished, indebted country, the conditions that existed prior to the spring of 2015 are bound to worsen. With more debt, more NGO activity serving global capital and declining climate conditions, even if houses can be rebuilt in communities like Saipu, the disaster will continue.

Posted in Far EastComments Off on Dispatch From Nepal: The Disaster Didn’t End When the Earth Stopped Shaking

UK Government Uses Aid Money to Back Oil Drilling in UNESCO World Heritage Site

Image result for UK Government LOGO

British officials are using aid money to support oil drilling in a World Heritage Site in Africa, according to an Energydesk investigation.

Government documents, obtained through freedom of information (FOI), reveal that the Foreign Office pledged thousands of pounds in aid to support drilling in Lake Malawi, where the UN warns that a spill could wreck the fragile ecosystem.

UK oil company Surestream has a stake in two oil blocks overlapping the lake, while United Arab Emirates firm RAK Gas holds the rights to explore in the UN protected zone itself.

UN environmental agency UNESCO warned in a previous statement that: “An accidental spill anywhere in the lake would pose a potentially severe risk to the integrity of the entire ecosystem, including the aquatic zone and shoreline of the property.”

Surestream has already carried out seismic surveys in the region to inform drilling plans.

The documents detail the UK government’s aim to develop the oil industry in Malawi while “establishing the UK as the partner of choice in the sector.”

Energydesk, together with the Guardian, has pieced together diplomatic cables, project plans, official reports, press clippings and company accounts to reveal how British government intervention and foreign aid have been used to pave the way for UK companies exploring for oil in one of the world’s poorest countries.

The news comes after International Development secretary, Priti Patel, announced a move towards tying foreign aid to trade deals.

Energydesk has previously revealed that UK companies hold exploration licences for oil in 29 national parks across sub-Saharan Africa with UK officials offering support for drilling across the continent.

UNESCO Site

In Malawi, campaigners and NGOs have expressed serious concerns over the consequences of any oil exploration.

Most of Malawi’s oil license blocks overlap Lake Malawi, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. The vast body of water is home to Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus, monkeys, and African fish eagles, as well as supporting the livelihoods of more than 1.5 million people living on its shores.

Its southern-most shores are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site and local experts have expressed fears that oil exploration anywhere on the lake could have devastating results.

Rafiq Hajat, chair of the International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa, a network of civil society organisations across the continent, explained:  “If there was any spill on Lake Malawi it will ruin a pristine, aquatic ecosystem. It would take up to 700 years to replenish. It is an incredibly fragile system.”

Oil “Curse”

Despite those concerns, the UK government has been supporting the Malawian government in its drive to produce oil.

Energydesk can reveal that thousands of pounds of foreign aid money — a total of £28,404 in 2016 — have been pledged by the Foreign Office for a project called “oil and gas capacity building for the Malawi government”.

The project outline, released under FOI, details the UK government’s aim to develop the oil industry in Malawi while “establishing the UK as the partner of choice in the sector.”

The money came from the UK’s Africa Prosperity Fund, which included support for clean energy and tackling climate change amongst its objectives.

But the fund was also intended to “capture and leverage strategic opportunities for UK trade and investment”. The conditions of the fund state that: “UK economic interests should be a demonstrable focus of projects.”

Read the project plan here and here.

Campaigners in Malawi have raised concerns that any profits from the oil in Lake Malawi would go to international companies, rather than benefiting the local community.

Rafiq Hajat said: “Malawi will never benefit from this oil, just look at Nigeria, one of the biggest oil producers in the world but every day there people queuing for fuel, there are power cuts. This is not a blessing it is a curse.”

UK Firm Links

UK firm Surestream Petroleum has been active in Malawi since 2011 but has faced problems exploring for oil.

In 2014 its two oil exploration licenses were frozen and, separately, questions were raised about how the company had come to buy the two, potentially lucrative blocks, which both overlap Lake Malawi.

The firm — like many of its peers — has actively cultivated a relationship with the UK government, meeting with a Home Office minister back in 2013 as well as donating hundreds of pounds in 2014 to the British High Commission in Malawi to help fund a party for the Queen’s birthday.

At that event the High Commissioner for Malawi, Michael Nevin, thanked Surestream and others for their donations, and noted that: “DFID too will provide more support to the private sector. This includes working with the Government to create a better enabling environment for business”.

Politician Ben Botolo, who worked for years as Malawi’s Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources, confirmed to Energydesk that he met with both Surestream and UK ambassador Michael Nevin repeatedly: “I’ve spoken with Michael on this issue many times, he was interested in how to get exploration started, both for UK and Malawian businesses.”

Surestream and the UK government deny that any lobbying took place on behalf of the company.

Oil Diplomacy?

In February this year, Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell flew in to Malawi to meet President Peter Mutharika, with the promise of £4.5m of aid for the country.

His trip came just days after the Malawian government had lifted the freeze on the blocks, allowing Surestream and their partners, Hamra Oil, to proceed with plans for exploration.

Whilst there is no suggestion Mundell played a role in this particular decision, diplomatic cables detailing the trip — and released under FOI — include two paragraphs of redacted text titled “Oil and gas”.

The UK government confirmed that Mundell and Mutharika had “a short conversation in the margins of a dinner about the President’s concerns about lack of oil and gas skills in the country, and his understanding that there was considerable expertise in Scotland.” As a result, Mundell agreed to facilitate contact between the High Commission and the UK Oil and Gas Authority.

Then, after the trip, High Commissioner to Malawi, Michael Nevin went on to meet with both Surestream and later with Malawi’s minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, however no minutes were kept of either meeting.

Refusal to Disclose

The FCO rejected some of Energydesk’s enquiries under FOI saying “Failure to protect such commercially sensitive information would […] limit the FCO’s ability to promote the British economy and lobby for the interests of British businesses overseas.”

When contacted by the Guardian, Surestream denied any lobbying took place and refused to comment.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The UK Government’s aid funding for Malawi was not linked to UK business interests, and the UK has a clear commitment to keep aid untied.

“The UK plays a leading role in supporting Africa to make the most of its oil and gas resources, providing vital foreign investment to encourage economic development.

“By fostering sustainable economic growth in Malawi, including exploring opportunities in oil and gas, we will help eradicate poverty, create jobs, increase revenue and reduce dependency on aid. This is firmly in the interests of Malawi and the UK.”

A spokesperson for the Malawian government said: “The Government of Malawi cares about Lake Malawi and it would not want at any point that Lake Malawi to be polluted in any form. Every care will be taken as technology today makes it possible to drill oil in a body of water without causing catastrophic environmental consequences.”

Oil “Stimulates” Growth 

Surestream produced an Environmental Impact Assessment report which it shared with local residents and stakeholders in January 2014.

The report downplayed the dangers of a spill, noting in one instance that “While some studies have found oil to be lethal and decrease photosynthesis in phytoplankton, other sources have found low concentrations of hydrocarbon spills actually stimulate phytoplankton growth”.

But some locals are much more worried. Malawian campaigner Godfrey Mfiti has travelled around the borders of the lake talking with villages chiefs in the area.

“People are not happy with the situation at hand,” he told Energydesk. “They depend on the fisheries for their livelihoods, and their families have lived there for centuries. Even though drilling hasn’t happened yet, in the areas where exploration is being done we’re already seeing low counts of fish.”

He is calling on Surestream to produce a human rights impact report, exploring the impact any drilling would have on local communities.

In March 2014 UNESCO called on the company to publicly commit that it would not drill for oil inside protected areas nearby, as well as noting the protected park’s fluid borders “makes it highly vulnerable to threats originating beyond its boundaries”.

The Malawian government has repeatedly delayed on responding to the UNESCO calls, and as yet has not commented on whether it will ask for these assurances from Surestream and others.

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