Archive | July 6th, 2017

Ecuador’s Public Healthcare System Named Most Innovative by UN

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Public health care in Ecuador was internationally recognized as the most innovative and progressive in the world when they were awarded the United Nations Public Service Award.

The prestigious award, presented on June 23, praised the South American country’s delivery of health services which Ecuadoreans have access to through the Public Health Network (RPIS), from which stem other branches of state medical aid such as the Ministry of Public Health (MSP), Ecuadorean Institute of Social Security (ISSFA), and the National Police Social Security Institute (ISSPOL).

Ecuadoreans will receive medical attention from any one of these institutions at any location, irrespective of their member status or their economic situation per the country’s constitution which guarantees free health care.

Additionally, Ecuador’s public health takes a step further, breaking convention and putting the welfare of its citizens first. In the case that a medical procedure is not available in the country, the patient in sent outside the country to undergo medical aid, free of charge.

One such case was that of Sofia Echeverria, a young woman who had suffered from biliary atresia, a sickness of the liver, since birth. As liver transplant is impossible in Ecuador, she was sent to the Austral Hospital in Argentina to undergo surgery.

Since its initiation, RPIS has treated more than 8 million patients and members the state medical institutions as well as transferred 40,000 to outside private services.

“This has implied great changes in our institutions and state officials attitude since the system was divided and full of barriers that did not allow citizens to benefit from hospital services due to the lack of funds,” Minister of Health, Veronica Espinosa stated.

Espinosa said that despite the progress made, there is still much left to do.

The minister explained the need for a legislative framework which will guarantee universal medical care for future generations – a proposal that will be discussed at the National Assembly.

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What I Hear in Every European Country I Visit

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What I Hear in Every European Country I Visit: The Politicians Are All in Bed with the Israeli Government

By Miko Peled 

I recently returned from a ten – day speaking tour in Europe, to launch the German language translation of “The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.” I had lectures to German speaking audiences and even and interviews with main stream media outlets. The tour also included two lectures in Italy, one in Milan and one in the small town of Biella, which of course were not related to the German edition. All the lectures were well attended and people did not mind sitting through the extreme hot weather plaguing Europe this summer or the lengthy process of translation – indeed the audiences sat for hours and listened and then remained for lengthy discussions and Q&A sessions.

This was the latest of many speaking tours I have had in Europe and there is a line that I hear and that is repeated in every European country I visit: “Here in (fill in the blank) the Zionist lobby is very strong, the politicians are all in bed with the Israeli government and media will not report on Palestine.” This stands in contrast to the prevailing opinion which is, that in Europe there is a strong Palestine solidarity movement. That people in general are sympathetic to the cause of justice for Palestine and the BDS movement has recorded serious accomplishments in Europe. And yet, it is true that European governments and mainstream media and the EU as a body are fully supportive of Israel and collaborate with Israel on every level which means that there is an enormous gap between the politicians and their constituents on this issue.

One example of the official and perhaps true attitude of the European Union to Israel and the issue of “illegal settlements” is the following: In the spring of 2016 a conference was held in Jerusalem under the title of “How to Fight the BDS.” I was in Jerusalem at the time and decided to attend. After all, Israeli television news channel 10 described me as a leader of the BDS movement and “the nightmare of the Israeli Hasbara,” two claims in which there is very little truth. The event was very well attended and among the many panels there was one that included the European Union ambassador to Tel Aviv, his Excellency, Lars Faaborg-Andersen. The ambassador was asked about the EU law demanding that products made in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank be labeled indicating that they are not made in Israel but in the West Bank. “We welcome the products from the Settlements” the ambassador responded, “the labeling is merely for accuracy.”

There have been several attempts by the European states and the EU to pacify the pro-Palestinian sentiment and surprisingly, they seem to have worked. One such attempt is the recognition by several European governments and parliaments of a Palestinian state. This recognition is received by many supporters of the Palestinian cause as a reason to rejoice, a reason to feel that justice is being served. But the recognition of a state that does not exist does nothing to promote justice for Palestinians or change the reality in Palestine. The recognition of a fictional Palestinian state does not change the fact that for seven decades Palestine is occupied, Palestinians are subjected to genocide, ethnic cleansing and are forced to live in an apartheid regime. In fact, even the name Palestine has all but been erased off the map and the area recognized as what may one day be a Palestinian state, i.e., the West Bank, is now Judea and Samaria and has – much like all other parts of Palestine – been settled by Jews and, with the exception of some three million Palestinians living there, has been fully integrated into the state of Israel.

So what has this recognition done? Nothing but placate, sedate and allow the Zionist regime to go on with its policies of extermination and dispossession. Instead of recognizing and declaring that Palestine is occupied and should be freed from the regime that has been on a mission to destroy it and its people, the Europeans have recognized a state that has no defined boundaries, no capital, no citizenry and certainly no sovereignty. But as former colonizers themselves, the European states are quite accustomed to the practice of imposing puppet regimes that have no authority or real legitimacy, recognizing a so called state and then doing with it as they will. This is what they are now allowing Israel – a settler colonial project – to do.

The other placating measure was the law that prohibits the labeling of products made in Jewish settlements in the West Bank as made in Israel. This law, as it happens exists in the US as well since the Clinton Administration. It was reiterated by the Obama administration in 2016, and as JPost reported, “The move signals the Obama administration’s continued resistance to folding recognition of settlement products into goods made within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.” but US government officials claimed this was only for providing guidance and is in no way a boycott “or anything like that.”

This ridiculous demand for labeling forces all involved to put forward enormous efforts to define what is “Israeli proper,” or “Legal Israel” as opposed to the expanded or “greater” Israel which includes the West Bank and the Gaza strip. Where do the occupied territories begin and which of the illegal settlements are to be labeled? Are the settlements that are attached to East Jerusalem legal or illegal? What about products that are grown in other areas but get their water from the West Bank which has an enormous water reservoir from which Israel gets much of its water? But in reality there is no West Bank and there is no “Israel proper.” Whichever way we choose to look at it, all of Israel is occupied Palestine, and all of Palestine is occupied. There is no more a line that defines any single area within Palestine that is not part of the State of Israel. So, its either all legal and acceptable or all illegal and unacceptable.

If we take a moment to discuss the US, in what is a bizarre chain of events, we should thank Donald Trump’s ignorance and his close advisors’ hawkish stance on Israel for changing the conversation on Israel and bringing its apartheid nature of the state into the forefront. In his ignorance Trump suggested that any solution is fine with him, one state, two state – whatever. His advisors, the son-in-law Jared Kushner and his ambassador to Israel David Friedman who have funded and supported settlements and even the notorious IDF, have allowed the conversation to move far away from a two-state solution. This can only mean one thing: Is it going to be a democracy which will require equal rights for Palestinians or an apartheid state with a US stamp of approval? Arguably Kushner and Friedman have no problem with the latter, but now the truth is out and clearly there is no third option.

But the European approach is a more subtle one. Labeling the products of Jewish settlements and pretending that there is such a place as the West Bank, and that Israel must not settle Jews in that West Bank while pretending there is a Palestinian state and at the same time arming and funding Israel as it continues to execute its policies of genocide, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. It is what you might call win-win except that Israel is always winning and the Palestinians keep losing. The US – for comparison sake – wouldn’t dream of recognizing a Palestinian state and blatantly and unapologetically arms and supports Israel even though this violates US law.

The spineless attitude towards Israel and the lack of regard for human rights and human lives that are expressed both by the US and the EU create a reality in which anyone who does not stand clearly in opposition to Israel is in fact complicit with Israeli crimes. And while the European approach is somewhat different than that of the US, the result is the same – in both cases the governments work closely with Israel and ignore the plight of the Palestinian people. This places greater demands on people of conscience who need to act, to organize until the political climate is such that supporting Israel is political suicide.

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Corporate Media Aren’t “The Press”, And Don’t Deserve Your Sympathy

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By Caitlin Johnstone 

You don’t have to be a Trump lover to cheer like a WWE fan every time the powerful media corporations who manipulate the way Americans think and vote smash their brains against this administration like a pigeon into a clean window pane and slide lifeless to the floor. These deep state propagandists have been crying like a spoiled child whose mom can’t afford the latest video game console ever since the president tweeted a video depicting Trump laying the smackdown on CNN, and their tears taste like they were brewed by Oompa-Loompas. […]

CNN and its barely-distinguishable peers from the rest of the corporate media soup have been decrying the tweet with infinitely more vitriol and panic than they have ever applied to any US president’s war crimes, proclaiming that Trump has “declared war” upon the press and is “inciting violence” against them.

Nice. You’re really earning those million dollar paychecks, fellas. “The press! The press! He’s attacking the press! Won’t someone please think of the press?” Personally I’m a little curious about what’s happening in Syria and if we’re all about to be drawn into a world war with a nuclear superpower and its allies, but fuck me, right? We need to worry about Trump retweeting a shooped video about “the press”.

But who is “the press”, exactly? Is it really the handful of extremely powerful media entities that Trump has been criticizing? Would there really be a big empty hole where the press used to be if the president succeeded in undermining them? Is it really accurate to say, as these pundits have been claiming, that Trump is attacking the press whenever they refuse to bend the knee and worship him like a god?

No, no, and no. In reality “the press” is made up of far more than just the handful of corporate media giants that the president has been taking swings at. The Supreme Court found in 1938’s Lovell v. City of Griffin that the press is “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.” It’s not just the few gargantuan media conglomerates who have figured out how to make billions and billions of dollars peddling establishment propaganda for the oligarchs who own them, it’s the alternative media, bloggers, Youtubers, tweeters, social commentators, book authors, and the obscure little zine publisher downtown.

It’s also WikiLeaks.

Contrary to ignorant claims made by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, the First Amendment doesn’t give rights to US citizens, it sets limits on the government’s ability to limit free speech. It doesn’t matter that Julian Assange is an Australian citizen, his press freedom is just as constitutionally protected in the United States as anyone else’s. He is just as much a part of the press as CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times or any of the other corporate media outlets currently shrieking bloody murder claiming Trump’s criticism is “inciting violence” against them. Which is really weird considering how many personnel from these corporate media outlets have actively called for Assange’s actual, literal assassination. Where was the outcry then?

The absolute gall of these corporatist hobgoblins to speak of themselves as though they provide America a service it needs, as though the world wouldn’t be vastly better off if they all went out of business tomorrow, is astounding. You want to know what would happen if these giant corporations folded? It would become harder for the military-industrial complex to manufacture support for its corporatist bloodbaths, a few plutocrats would lose a lot of money, some companies would have to find other television programs to advertise on, and people would start thinking for themselves. That’s it. The press would remain perfectly intact, just minus a few cancerous tumors.

Corporate media are not “the press”. They are a part of the press, and for that reason enjoy the same constitutional protections as all the other parts of the press, but they are by far the least healthy part. As much as I dislike Trump, his administration has undeniably been great for shaking up the media war and creating enough movement to force a lot of the lies and manipulations to stand out against the background. It is only a matter of time before people just can’t stomach these obsolete dinosaurs anymore and they finally fade away once and for all.

And they know it. They can hear their end roaring ever closer. They aren’t afraid of anyone “inciting violence” against them, they’re afraid of the world waking up.

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SHOCK UN WARNING: Only 3 YEARS Left to SAVE THE PLANET!!!

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corbettreport | July 4, 2017

Uh oh. Top (former) UN Climate officials (Costa Rican diplomats with no scientific background) are “calculating” that if we don’t stop emitting carbon dioxide by 2020 the earth is doomed! That’s right: three years left to save the planet! Or is that 50 days? 96 months? Or were we doomed 5 years ago? Or was that 17 years ago?…

SHOW NOTES: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=23202

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Grim Lessons from a Faraway War

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By Don North 

The Battle of Hue in 1968 – the climactic clash of the Tet Offensive, which itself was the turning point of the Vietnam War – exploded the official lies from U.S. commanders about progress toward victory but also delivered a warning about the future costs if the conflict were continued indefinitely.

In that sense, the Battle of Hue has resonance to America’s current “endless war” in Afghanistan and other military interventions in the nearly 16 years since 9/11, conflicts marked by bravery of soldiers on opposite sides as well as the arrogance and careerism of the top brass and feckless politicians.

As author Mark Bowden writes in his epilogue to his new book, Hue 1968, “Alternative history enthusiasts promote the preposterous idea that the U.S. might have won the war if it had thrown itself more heartily into the conflict. As some of the nation’s more recent wars have helped illustrate, ‘victory’ in Vietnam would have been neither possible nor desirable. It would have required a massive and sustained military presence, and a state of permanent war. Hue illustrates just how bitter that war would have been.”

Bowden, author of Blackhawk Down and 12 other books, was a 16-year-old high school student in Philadelphia on Jan. 3l, 1968, when the battle of Hue began. The attack was part of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) assault across South Vietnam at the start of the Tet holiday by an estimated 80,000 fighters. They achieved nearly total surprise in most areas, as they did in Hue, one of the most venerated places in Vietnam.

Hue’s population of 140,000 made it South Vietnam’s third largest city, with two-thirds of the population living within the walls of the old city known as the Citadel, three-square-miles surrounded by walls 20 feet high and 30 feet thick. Within the walls was yet another fortified enclave, the historic Imperial Palace, home of the Vietnamese emperors before the French took control in 1883.

A giant Viet Cong flag was raised over Hue’s Citadel and flew for 25 days while battalions of NVA occupied the Emperors Palace and other positions in the Citadel. Yet, this reality was denied and obscured by the top U.S. commander, General William Westmoreland, whom Bowden describes as inept and dishonest:

“General Westmoreland continually and falsely assured political leaders in Washington and the American public that the city had not fallen into enemy hands. This refusal to face facts had tragic consequences for many of the marines and soldiers who fought there. ‘Westy’ denied that his official casualty estimates [of enemy troops] were inflated and said the enemy’s offensive was a sign of desperation.

“He also wrote that many NVA and VC had fought ‘halfheartedly.’ To a man, American veterans I interviewed told me they had faced a disciplined, highly motivated, skilled and determined enemy. To characterize them otherwise is to diminish the accomplishment of those who drove them out of Hue.”

First-Person Account

As an ABC News correspondent in Vietnam, I was personally aware of General Westmoreland’s fabrications starting with his announcement at a Saigon news conference on Jan. 31, that Hue had been recaptured and NVA soldiers forced out.

Later in February, I joined the U.S. Marines of 1st of the 5th battalion as they fought for ten days to advance the last 1,000 yards along the south wall of the Citadel. Bowden’s clear and vivid descriptions of the desperate daily combat brought back painful memories for me.

“The Battle of Hue is a microcosm of the entire conflict,” writes Bowden. “With nearly half a century of hindsight, Hue deserves to be widely remembered as the single bloodiest battle of the war, one of its defining events, and one of the most intense urban battles in American history.”

Despite Westmoreland’s spin, the Battle of Hue and the broader Tet Offensive had a powerful impact on President Lyndon Johnson and some of his top advisers. The intensity of the fighting exposed Westmoreland as an untrustworthy source of information, not just to the press and public but even in his secret communications with the White House.

Westmoreland’s analysis that the enemy attack on Hue was simply a feint to deflect from the fighting at Khe Sahn destroyed his reputation for accurate foresight. Washington lawyer Clark Clifford, replacing Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense, was ready to reject Westmoreland’s unfailingly upbeat view of the war.

After the first two weeks of Hue fighting Clifford told President Johnson, “On one hand the military has said we had quite a victory out there … on the other hand, they now say it was such a big victory that we need one hundred and twenty thousand more men.”

Shortly after Clifford’s assignment to be Secretary of Defense, Westmoreland’s request for over 100,000 more troops was denied and the General was relieved of command.

“Both sides miscalculated,” writes Bowden. “Hanoi counted on a popular uprising that didn’t come, while Washington, blindsided, refused to believe the truth. The armies on both sides played their roles courageously and to terrible effect. The battle’s clearest losers were the citizens of Hue. The systematic executions of Hue citizens suspected of Saigon sympathies are today denied and are an inconvenient memory for the ruling Communist party of Vietnam.”

Bowden quotes civilian casualty estimates of 4,856 by the Saigon government. He cites the American scholar Douglas Pike who studied the mass graves immediately after the fighting, as being likely closest to the truth with a count of 2,800. Total number of Hue civilians killed by U.S. bombing, crossfire between the two forces, and the executions is recognized as 5,800.

An estimated 80 percent of Hue structures were either destroyed or heavily damaged. A total of 250 American soldiers and Marines were killed and 1,554 wounded. South Vietnamese government troop casualties were put at 458 killed and 2,700 wounded. The Vietcong losses were estimated at between 2,400 and 5,000. The final toll of 25 days of fighting numbers well over 10,000 making it the bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War.

Pro-War Propaganda

Another consequence of the Tet Offensive was the growing hostility among pro-war Americans toward on-scene journalists who described the U.S. military setbacks and contradicted the upbeat assessments from Westmoreland and the military brass, leading to a narrative blaming the press corps for losing Vietnam.

But Bowden disagrees with this complaint, writing: “Journalism has long been blamed for losing the war, but the American reporting from Hue was more accurate than official accounts, deeply respectful, and uniformly sympathetic to US fighting men.”

Instead, Bowden is critical of U.S. military leadership in Hue and documents many examples of bad tactics and particularly misjudging the efficiency of the NVA by sending under-strength units to engage large and entrenched enemy forces.

Bowden’s disdain for senior officers in the battle is at odds with his admiration for the “grunts” on both sides.

“I was moved by the heroism and dedication of those who fought on both sides of the battle,” writes Bowden. “In the worst days of this fight, facing the near certainty of death or severe bodily harm, those caught up in the Battle of Hue repeatedly advanced. Many of those who survived are still paying for it. To me the way they were used, particularly the way their idealism and loyalty was exploited by leaders who themselves had lost faith in the effort, is a stunning betrayal. It is a lasting American tragedy and disgrace.”

Many other books and analyses of the battle have celebrated the valor of U.S. troops while showing little interest in how they were used.

“The conspiracy of denial also explains why this terrible battle has remained, for most Americans, so little known,” writes Bowden. “It has been conscientiously remembered by the US Marine Corps, albeit with more emphasis on the glory than on the leadership blunders that cost so many lives.”

Bowden’s book also may have put to rest fears that history must be written by those who experienced it. In five years of diligent in-depth research, thousands of interviews on both sides of the battle and an ability to analyze his research in terms of what each day’s events meant for the entire war, Bowden has produced a book critics say is the best understanding of the Battle of Hue and its effect on the war.

Some historians say the sweet spot for understanding an historical event is about 50 years – enough time for a measure of perspective, yet while there are still living eyewitnesses. Since the now-unified Vietnam is welcoming Americans, it also was possible for Bowden for the first time to report the battle from both sides.

“Most American veterans were pleased to share their experiences with me,” says Bowden. “The sheer number of interviews gave me multiple perspectives on nearly every event described. I am indebted to previous accounts, Battle for Hue by Keith Nolan; Fire in the Streets by Eric Hammel; The Lost Battalion by Charles Krohn; The Siege of Hue by George Smith; and The Cat from Hue by Jack Lawrence.”

Bowden says he learned a great deal from journalist’s reports written at the time and even more from talking to reporters and photographers who produced them, particularly Gene Roberts, John Olson, and Mike Morrow.

Bowden lists several viewpoints shared by the hundreds of American veterans he interviewed: most were proud of having served; nearly all were angry over the betrayal of their youthful idealism, mostly at American leaders who sent them to fight a war that was judged unwinnable from the start; all felt sorrow for the friends they lost and the horror the war inflicted on everyone involved; many described their difficulties in adjusting to normal life after returning home.

There are also lessons for the present and the future. Urban warfare has become more common since the Battle of Hue as more of the world’s population leaves rural areas. Although untrained in urban warfare, the U.S. Marines — dispatched to reclaim Hue — soon adapted from the jungles and paddies they were used to in Vietnam.

Bowden describes in graphic detail the tactics of avoiding booby-trapped doors and instead smashing through the sides of buildings, clearing room to room, staying off the streets and open areas, hard lessons of the fighting in Hue that the U.S. Marines brought to Iraq in 2004 when they assaulted the city of Fallujah twice.

Today, with U.S.-backed forces battling ISIS militants in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqah, Syria, the bloody lessons of Hue — and memories of the severe civilian casualties — are relevant again.

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The Stink Without a Secret

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By Craig Murray 

After six solid months of co-ordinated allegation from the mainstream media allied to the leadership of state security institutions, not one single scrap of solid evidence for Trump/Russia election hacking has emerged.

I do not support Donald Trump. I do support truth. There is much about Trump that I dislike intensely. Neither do I support the neo-liberal political establishment in the USA. The latter’s control of the mainstream media, and cunning manipulation of identity politics, seeks to portray the neo-liberal establishment as the heroes of decent values against Trump. Sadly, the idea that the neo-liberal establishment embodies decent values is completely untrue.

Truth disappeared so long ago in this witch-hunt that it is no longer even possible to define what the accusation is. Belief in “Russian hacking” of the US election has been elevated to a generic accusation of undefined wrongdoing, a vague malaise we are told is floating poisonously in the ether, but we are not allowed to analyse. What did the Russians actually do?

The original, base accusation is that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC and Podesta emails and passed them to Wikileaks. (I can assure you that is untrue).

The authenticity of those emails is not in question. What they revealed of cheating by the Democratic establishment in biasing the primaries against Bernie Sanders, led to the forced resignation of Debbie Wasserman Shultz as chair of the Democratic National Committee. They also led to the resignation from CNN of Donna Brazile, who had passed debate questions in advance to Clinton. Those are facts. They actually happened. Let us hold on to those facts, as we surf through lies. There was other nasty Clinton Foundation and cash for access stuff in the emails, but we do not even need to go there for the purpose of this argument.

The original “Russian hacking” allegation was that it was the Russians who nefariously obtained these damning emails and passed them to Wikileaks. The “evidence” for this was twofold. A report from private cyber security firm Crowdstrike claimed that metadata showed that the hackers had left behind clues, including the name of the founder of the Soviet security services. The second piece of evidence was that a blogger named Guccifer2 and a website called DNC Leaks appeared to have access to some of the material around the same time that Wikileaks did, and that Guccifer2 could be Russian.

That is it. To this day, that is the sum total of actual “evidence” of Russian hacking. I won’t say hang on to it as a fact, because it contains no relevant fact. But at least it is some form of definable allegation of something happening, rather than “Russian hacking” being a simple article of faith like the Holy Trinity.

But there are a number of problems that prevent this being fact at all. Nobody has ever been able to refute the evidence of Bill Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA who designed its current surveillance systems. Bill has stated that the capability of the NSA is such, that if the DNC computers had been hacked, the NSA would be able to trace the actual packets of that information as those emails travelled over the internet, and give a precise time, to the second, for the hack. The NSA simply do not have the event – because there wasn’t one. I know Bill personally and am quite certain of his integrity.

As we have been repeatedly told, “17 intelligence agencies” sign up to the “Russian hacking”, yet all these king’s horses and all these king’s men have been unable to produce any evidence whatsoever of the purported “hack”. Largely because they are not in fact trying. Here is another actual fact I wish you to hang on to: The Democrats have refused the intelligence agencies access to their servers to discover what actually happened. I am going to say that again.

The Democrats have refused the intelligence agencies access to their servers to discover what actually happened.

The heads of the intelligence community have said that they regard the report from Crowdstrike – the Clinton aligned private cyber security firm – as adequate. Despite the fact that the Crowdstrike report plainly proves nothing whatsoever and is based entirely on an initial presumption there must have been a hack, as opposed to an internal download.

Not actually examining the obvious evidence has been a key tool in keeping the “Russian hacking” meme going. On 24 May the Guardian reported triumphantly, following the Washington Post, that

“Fox News falsely alleged federal authorities had found thousands of emails between Rich and Wikileaks, when in fact law enforcement officials disputed that Rich’s laptop had even been in possession of, or examined by, the FBI.”

It evidently did not occur to the Guardian as troubling, that those pretending to be investigating the murder of Seth Rich have not looked at his laptop.

There is a very plain pattern here of agencies promoting the notion of a fake “Russian crime”, while failing to take the most basic and obvious initial steps if they were really investigating its existence. I might add to that, there has been no contact with me at all by those supposedly investigating. I could tell them these were leaks not hacks. Wikileaks. The clue is in the name.

So those “17 agencies” are not really investigating but are prepared to endorse weird Crowdstrike claims, like the idea that Russia’s security services are so amateur as to leave fingerprints with the name of their founder. If the Russians fed the material to Wikileaks, why would they also set up a vainglorious persona like Guccifer2 who leaves obvious Russia pointing clues all over the place?

Of course we need to add from the Wikileaks “Vault 7” leak release, information that the CIA specifically deploys technology that leaves behind fake fingerprints of a Russian computer hacking operation.

Crowdstrike have a general anti-Russian attitude. They published a report seeking to allege that the same Russian entities which “had hacked” the DNC were involved in targeting for Russian artillery in the Ukraine. This has been utterly discredited.

Some of the more crazed “Russiagate” allegations have been quietly dropped. The mainstream media are hoping we will all forget their breathless endorsement of the reports of the charlatan Christopher Steele, a former middle ranking MI6 man with very limited contacts that he milked to sell lurid gossip to wealthy and gullible corporations. I confess I rather admire his chutzpah.

Given there is no hacking in the Russian hacking story, the charges have moved wider into a vague miasma of McCarthyite anti-Russian hysteria. Does anyone connected to Trump know any Russians? Do they have business links with Russian finance?

Of course they do. Trump is part of the worldwide oligarch class whose financial interests are woven into a vast worldwide network that enslaves pretty well the rest of us. As are the Clintons and the owners of the mainstream media who are stoking up the anti-Russian hysteria. It is all good for their armaments industry interests, in both Washington and Moscow.

Trump’s judgement is appalling. His sackings or inappropriate directions to people over this subject may damage him.

The old Watergate related wisdom is that it is not the crime that gets you, it is the cover-up. But there is a fundamental difference here. At the centre of Watergate there was an actual burglary. At the centre of Russian hacking there is a void, a hollow, and emptiness, an abyss, a yawning chasm. There is nothing there.

Those who believe that opposition to Trump justifies whipping up anti-Russian hysteria on a massive scale, on the basis of lies, are wrong. I remain positive that the movement Bernie Sanders started will bring a new dawn to America in the next few years. That depends on political campaigning by people on the ground and on social media. Leveraging falsehoods and cold war hysteria through mainstream media in an effort to somehow get Clinton back to power is not a viable alternative. It is a fantasy and even were it practical, I would not want it to succeed.

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The Fraud of the White Helmets

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Hollywood buys into yet another lie

White Helmets

By Philip Giraldi 

I actually forced myself to watch the documentary The White Helmets, which is available on Netflix. It is 40 minutes long, is of high quality cinematographically speaking, and tells a very convincing tale that was promoted as “the story of real-life heroes and impossible hope.” It is overall a very impressive piece of propaganda, so much so that it has won numerous awards including the Oscar for Best Documentary Short this year and the White Helmets themselves were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. More to the point, however, is the undeniable fact that the documentary has helped shape the public understanding of what is going on in Syria, delivering a Manichean tale that depicts the “rebels” as always good and Bashar al-Assad and his government as un-redeemably evil.

It has been reliably reported that celebrities like George Clooney, Justin Timberlake and Hillary Clinton really like the White Helmets documentary and have promoted it with the understanding that it represents the truth about Syria, but it is, of course, not the whole story. The film, which was made by the White Helmets themselves without any external verification of what it depicts, portrays the group as “heroic,” an “impartial, life-saving rescue organization” of first responders. Excluded from the scenes of heroism under fire is the White Helmets’ relationship with the al-Qaeda affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra and its participation in the torture and execution of “rebel” opponents. Indeed, the White Helmets only operate in rebel held territory, which enables them to shape the narrative both regarding who they are and what is occurring on the ground. Because of increasing awareness of the back story, there is now a growing movement to petition the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to revoke the Oscar based on the complete and deliberate misrepresentation of what the White Helmets are all about.

Exploiting their access to the western media, the White Helmets have de facto become a major source of “eyewitness” news regarding what has been going on in those many parts of Syria where European and American journalists are quite rightly afraid to go. It is all part of a broader largely successful “rebel” effort to manufacture fake news that depicts the Damascus government as engaging in war crimes directed against civilians.

The White Helmets have certainly saved some lives under dangerous circumstances but they have also exaggerated their humanitarian role as they travel to bombing sites with their film crews trailing behind them. Once at the sites, with no independent observers, they are able to arrange or even stage what is filmed to conform to their selected narrative. They have consistently promoted tales of government atrocities against civilians to encourage outside military intervention in Syria and bring about regime change in Damascus. The White Helmets were, for example, the propagators of the totally false but propagandistically effective claims regarding the government use of so-called “barrel bombs” against civilians.

The White Helmets were a largely foreign creation that came into prominence in the aftermath of the unrest in Syria that developed as a result of the Arab Spring in 2012. They are currently largely funded by a number of non-government organizations (NGOs) as well as governments, including Britain and some European Union member states. The United States has directly provided $23 million through the USAID (US Agency for International Development) as of 2016 and almost certainly considerably more indirectly. Max Blumenthal has explored in some detail the various funding resources and relationships that the organization draws on, mostly in Europe and the United States.

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has described how the White Helmets are not actually trained to do the complicated rescue work that they depict in their self-made videos, which have established their reputation by ostensibly showing them in action inside Syria, rescuing civilians from bombed out structures, and providing life-saving emergency medical care. As an expert in Hazardous Materials handling with New York Task Force 2 USAR team, Ritter reports that “these videos represent de facto evidence of dangerous incompetence or, worse, fraud… The bread and butter of the White Helmet’s self-made reputation is the rescue of a victim—usually a small child—from beneath a pile of rubble, usually heavy reinforced concrete… The techniques used by the White Helmets are not only technically wrong, but dangerous to anyone who might actually be trapped… In my opinion, the videos are pure theater, either staged to impress an unwitting audience, or actually conducted with total disregard for the well being of any real victims.”

Ritter also cites the lack of training in hazardous chemicals, best observed in the videos provided by the White Helmets regarding their activity at Khan Sheikhun on April 4th. He notes “As was the case with their ‘rescues’ of victims in collapsed structures, I believe the rescue efforts of the White Helmets at Khan Sheikhun were a theatrical performance designed to impress the ignorant and ill-informed… Through their actions… the White Helmets were able to breathe life into the overall narrative of a chemical weapons attack, distracting from the fact that no actual weapon existed….”

But perhaps the most serious charge against the White Helmets consists of the evidence that they actively participated in the atrocities, to include torture and murder, carried out by their al-Nusra hosts. There have been numerous photos of the White Helmets operating directly with armed terrorists and also celebrating over the bodies of execution victims and murdered Iraqi soldiers. The group has an excellent working relationship with a number of jihadi affiliates and is regarded by them as fellow “mujahideen” and “soldiers of the revolution.”

So by all means let’s organize to revoke the White Helmets’ Oscar due to misrepresentation and fraud. It might even serve as a wake-up call to George Clooney and his fellow Hollywood snowflakes. But the bigger take-away from the tale of the White Helmets would appear to be how it is an unfortunate repeat of the bumbling by a gullible U.S. government that has wrecked the Middle East while making Americans poorer and less safe. A group of “moderates,” in this case their propagandists, is supported with weapons and money to overthrow a government with which Washington has no real quarrel but it turns out the moderates are really extremists. If they succeed in changing regime in Damascus, that is when the real nightmare will begin for minorities within Syria and for the entire region, including both Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which seem intent on bringing Bashar al-Assad down. And the truly unfortunate fact is that the Israelis and Saudis apparently have convinced an ignorant Donald Trump that that is the way to go so the situation in Syria will only get worse and, unless there is a course correction, Washington will again richly deserve most of the blame.

Posted in Syria0 Comments

Canadian court upholds $1.7 billion ruling against Iran

NOVANEWS

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A Canadian court has accused Iran of supporting terrorism, upholding a previous ruling that requires the Islamic Republic to pay around $1.7 billion in damages to “American victims of terrorism.”

Ontario’s Court of Appeal rejected Iran’s request to reconsider the ruling on Monday night, arguing that doing so would amount to a breach of Canada’s Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act (JVTA).

The JVTA allows victims of terrorism to sue foreign states for damages.

The accusation came despite Iran’s firm response to similar cases in the past, where various American and European courts had taken punitive measures against Tehran over unproven claims of complicity in terror.

The new case was brought by families of American citizens who had been killed in a series of attacks between 1980s and 2002, mostly blamed on Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements Hamas and Hezbollah.

The families claimed that the Iranian government supported the two organizations and was therefore responsible for their actions.

The complaints were first filed in the US but the claimants turned to Canada after finding out that the Iranian government had more properties and bank accounts there.

A one-story house in Toronto, an industrial building in Ottawa and two bank accounts were among the assets that were sought in the case.

Without offering further elaboration, the court also claimed in its ruling that Iran was seeking to “frustrate” the JVTA’s implementation.

The Iranian government had reportedly told the court that it had immunity in the case. It had also argued that the judgment was against international law and exceeded the maximum damages allowable in Canadian law.

Tehran also argued that the victims had to prove Iran’s role in each attack instead of just repeating the US government’s baseless allegations.

The court said Iran was only immune in terrorism cases that had occurred before January 1985, when Canada’s State Immunity Act was passed.

A recurring trend

Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that around $2 billion had to be turned over to the American families of the people killed in a 1983 bombing in Beirut and other attacks blamed on Iran.

Likening the act to “highway robbery,” Iran said back then that it would seek reparations.

The trend of the unfair rulings continued in March, when a New York court ordered Iran to pay $7.5 billion in damage to families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks and $3 billion to a group of insurers over related claims.

The ruling surprised many since Washington had clearly blamed the attacks on the al-Qaeda terror group and even investigated members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family who had proven ties to the terrorist organization.

Various investigations have revealed that 15 of the 19 plane hijackers involved in the attacks were Saudi nationals and some of them had received large sums of money from Saudi royals.

The ruling lost even more weight in September, after the US Congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), clearing the path to sue Saudi Arabia for the tragic death of over 3,000 people.

It was reported in March, however, that a judge in Luxembourg had quietly put a freeze on $1.6 billion in assets belonging to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) to compensate the 9/11 victims.

The Canadian court’s ruling came days after yet another anti-Iran ruling by a US court, which allowed the American government to seize an Iranian charity’s office tower in New York City over claims that it was used to breach Iran sanctions.

Posted in Canada, Iran0 Comments

Empire-Speak

NOVANEWS

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By Jacob G. Hornberger – Future of Freedom Foundation 

One of the most fascinating aspects of living under imperialism is the lexicon that this philosophy brings into existence. It’s called Empire-Speak. Given the complexity of this specialized language, it usually takes people years of education and training to master it.

One of the finest examples of Empire-Speak appeared last week in a Washington Post op-ed by Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, who often appears as a commentator on Fox News. Krauthammer penned an op-ed entitled The Great Muslim Civil War – and Us that is an absolute masterpiece of Empire-Speak.

Comparing what is happening in the Middle East to Europe 1945, Krauthammer describes the “great Muslim civil war” that has enveloped the Middle East, which he writes, is “approaching its post-Islamic phase.” ISIS is about to be defeated on the battlefield, he writes, and the parties are now maneuvering, as they did after World War II, to “determine postwar boundaries and spheres of influence.” Once ISIS loses its hold on Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, “the caliphate dies.”

So does that mean that the Pentagon and the CIA can finally declare victory in the Middle East and come home after more than 25 years of warfare in the Middle East? Does that mean that there can now be a ticker-tape parade in New York City honoring the victorious American forces?

Are you kidding? As Krauthammer points out, all that has gone before is just “the end of the beginning.” Things are just getting started. After all, as Krauthammer points out, “At stake is consolidation of the Shite Crescent.”

Who would have known? I’ll bet that 99 percent of Americans haven’t even heard of the “Shite Crescent” or that it’s being consolidated. Thank goodness we have Krauthammer and other people well-versed in Empire-Speak to tell us about it.

According to Krauthammer, the world is witnessing a gigantic battle between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims.

Leading the Shiite side is Iran. Combined with Russia, Syria, Iraq, and Hezbollah (“which Krauthammer labels the “tip of the Iranian spear”), this is the so-called “Shiite Crescent.” According to Krauthammer, it poses a “nightmare for the entire Sunni Middle East.”

On the opposing side of this gigantic battle are the Sunnis, led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the United States. Needless to say, this is considered the good side of the war.

As I was reading through his op-ed, I kept hoping that Krauthammer would not omit one of my favorite terms in Empire-Speak: “the hegemon.” Isn’t that a great term? Whenever I hear an imperialist refer to the danger of the rise of a “regional hegemon,” I think of Transformers or Godzilla.

Krauthammer didn’t disappoint. He states that Syria is “the central theater of a Shiite-Sunni war for regional hegemony.” Moreover, Russia — yes, that Russia! — Krauthammer labeled “the outside hegemon.” OMG! Scary, right? Maybe even scarier than rise of communism and the Soviet Union, the two official enemies of the Cold War era.

What’s really going on here?

Krauthammer is simply preparing the American people for what lies ahead — more interventionism, more imperialism, more militarism, and more death and destruction at the hands of the US Empire. And, of course, more official enemies as old official enemies are defeated or disappeared.

You see, I bet you thought that once ISIS was defeated, the troops could finally be brought home and revel in their glorious victory. Sort of like “Mission Accomplished” after the US invasion of Iraq.

Not so. Undoubtedly expressing the mindset of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the rest of the US national-security establishment, Krauthammer is telling us that unfortunately we cannot rest. We must continue to soldier on, presumably until the Shiite Crescent is defeated and the world is no longer facing the possibility of a rise of a “regional hegemon.” And don’t even think for a moment that once that is accomplished, the war will finally be over. It will simply spell the beginning of the end of the beginning.

As I stated soon after the 9/11 attacks, the “war on terrorism” is going to be just like the war on drugs, where every drug lord they kill or capture is soon replaced by dozens more.

The real problem is that the US Empire keeps running out of official enemies. If we go back to the maneuvering after World War II to which Krauthammer refers, we see US officials converting their World War II partner and ally, the Soviet Union, to a new official enemy, one that necessitated, they said, the conversion of the federal government to a national-security state.

As we all know, for the next 45 years the Cold War was a bonanza for the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA, and what President Eisenhower called the “military-industrial complex.” Ever-increasing budgets and powers. The best part, for them, was that it was never supposed to end. The Cold War was supposed to go on forever because communism and the Soviet Union were supposed to go on forever.

But life can be cruel. In 1989, the Soviet Union suddenly and unexpectedly dismantled itself, declared socialism a bankrupt philosophy, and unilaterally declared an end to the Cold War, thereby depriving the US Empire of its big official Cold War enemy.

No problem. A new official enemy was soon announced: Saddam Hussein, dictator of Iraq and former partner of the US Empire (just like Stalin had been). Throughout the 1990s, Americans obsessed over Saddam Hussein and how he was coming to get us and the rest of the world with his WMDs.

To oust Saddam from power, the Pentagon and the CIA began wreaking death and destruction in Iraq, including 11 years of sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.

That led to terrorist blowback and a new official enemy: “terrorism,” which ultimately enabled US officials to invade Iraq and oust their official enemy, Saddam Hussein, from power, and install a new regime in Iraq, a Shiite Muslim regime.

Over time, the “terrorists” have morphed into “the Muslims,” which are now viewed as the new official enemy.

Which brings us back to Krauthammer’s op-ed. If the Muslims are the new official enemy, how is that the United States is on the side of the Sunnis in what Krauthammer describes as a giant Muslim civil war that is now supposedly taking place? Aren’t Sunnis Muslims too?

Hmmm. So does this mean that we are no longer supposed to focus on Muslims in general or even “radical Muslims” or “extreme Muslims” but instead on “Shiite Muslims” as the new official enemy?

Oh, another thing Krauthammer doesn’t make clear: If we are now battling the Shiite Muslims, why did the US government use its invasion and occupation of Iraq to install a Shiite regime there? And why is it that US troops have been killing and dying for some 14 years to preserve the existence of that Shiite regime? Why are they still doing so? Were Americans wrong to thank the troops for their service in Iraq by bringing into existence a regime that is now part of the “Shiite Crescent,” which, according to Krauthammer, is now facing us on the field of battle?

Boy, imperialism sure is hard to learn and comprehend. Just like Empire-Speak.

Posted in Middle East0 Comments

US Raqqa offensive killing more civilians than claimed – airstrike monitor

NOVANEWS
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UN warnings of the “staggering” number of civilian casualties in Raqqa, Syria that were denied by coalition commanders are no exaggeration, a monitoring group insists.

Airwars, a UK-based group that monitors airstrikes and civilian casualties in Iraq, Libya and Syria, reports it has tracked 119 alleged civilian casualty events at Raqqa, claiming up to 770 deaths, between June 6-29.

The coalition began its assault on the so-called capital of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) caliphate, Raqqa, on June 6. It has been accused of having no plan in place for civilian evacuations, and Airwars reports a number of civilians have been killed attempting to flee in boats.

The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights warned at least 173 civilians have been killed by air and ground strikes in Raqqa since June 1, saying this is “likely a conservative estimate and the real death toll may be much higher.”

The coalition’s Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR) – denies the coalition isn’t being careful enough, with coalition commander General Stephen Townsend saying, “show me some evidence of civilian casualties.”

In June, the UN’s chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Paulo Pinheiro, warned the UN Human Rights Council that the fight in Raqqa shouldn’t be “at the expense of civilians,” saying it is “gravely concerned with the mounting number of civilians who perish during airstrikes.”

Pinheiro said the airstrikes had resulted in a “staggering loss of life.”

Townsend called the UN’s concerns “hyperbolic,” saying the coalition is being, “careful as we need to be and as we can be.”

“I would challenge anyone to find a more precise and careful campaign in the history of warfare on this planet,” he told the BBC last week.

“The UN’s Commission of Inquiry is one of a number of international agencies, NGOs and monitors which have expressed significant concern in recent weeks at high numbers of reported civilian fatalities around Raqqa from Coalition actions,” Airwars’ Chris Woods told RT.

“Rather than attacking the messengers, the US and allies should urgently examine their tactics at Raqqa, improving where necessary protections for civilians on the ground.”

“Our present estimate is that around 370-450 civilians have been killed by Coalition airstrikes and artillery at Raqqa in just three weeks,” Airwars said. The group is still working through a significant number of cases to garner a final number of civilian casualties for the month.

“All local monitors, plus UN agencies, reporting high civilian casualties at Raqqa for months. Gen Townsend comments smack of complacency,” Airwars said in tweetpointing to the additional 132 civilian casualties in both Iraq and Syria that the coalition itself reported in June.

According to Airwars and its sources, the coalition has been targeting boats which are carrying civilians fleeing the battle. The coalition refers to such strikes as hitting “ISIS boats.”

“Four June cases where (mostly named) civilians reportedly bombed as they fled Raqqa by boat. Cars also being bombed as civilians flee,” Airwars said in a Tweet.

The coalition says it has nearly sealed off Raqqa, as the Syrian Democratic forces fight on the ground. Two bridges on the northern bank of the Euphates River have been destroyed by the coalition, “and we shoot every boat we find,” Townsend told the New York Times.

“If you want to get out of Raqqa right now, you’ve got to build a poncho raft,” he added.

Townsend’s comments don’t bode well for civilians desperate to flee the battleground. Between 50,000-100,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in the city.

Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RIBSS), a group of journalists with alleged ties to Turkish authorities, says people have been trying to flee the bombardment with help from local smugglers, but that IS have already planted hundreds of landmines and banned people from leaving. It has reported 358 civilian casualties in Raqqa in June, with 177 coming from ‘warplane attacks’.

Between June 21-26 specifically, 88 civilians have died or are missing after coalition shelling or bombing. At least 18 of these were fleeing via car or boat, according to RIBSS, as cited by the Daily Beast.

Human rights groups have also criticized the coalition for its use of white phosphorus near civilians, which is against international law.

READ MORE:

Civilian death toll rises to 484 from US-led coalition strikes in Iraq & Syria

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