Archive | May 23rd, 2018

Pharma Paid and Trump Delivered

NOVANEWS

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By Martha Rosenberg | CounterPunch 

How high are Pharma’s prices? Novartis wants $475,000 a patient for its new cancer therapy. Hep C drugs cost $95,000 for a course of treatment. The immune drug, Actimmune, costs $52,321.80 a month. The parasite drug Daraprim costs $45,000 a month. And the gallstone drug Chenodal costs $42,570 a month.

But this week in his long-awaited speech, Trump blamed foreign countries for high drug prices in the US and reversed his campaign pledge to use Medicare’s buying power to negotiate lower drug prices. Pharma stock prices rose; the shilling paid off.

Pharma has two lobbyists for every member of Congress. It spends more on lobbying than tobacco, oil and defense contractors combined. It parades patients before public and consumer panels to “provide media outlets a human face to attach to a cause when insurers balk at reimbursing patients for new prescription medications,” writes Melissa Healy of the Los Angeles Times.

And that is not enough for Pharma. Companies also try to incorporate in the UK, Ireland and other overseas locations to dodge the US taxes that fund them such as Medicare. They already manufacture and test drugs overseas because the labor is cheap.

The US government is captured. Pharma operatives head both Health and Human Services and the FDA. The CDC Foundation which receives millions from corporations (not that it affects policies or anything) lists as donors Abbott, AbbVie, Bayer, AstraZeneca, Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, Eli Lilly, Amgen, Genentech, Gilead and many more. (Is that why the CDC allows its name to be used in Gilead ads for its Hep C drug?)

Until 2010, PhRMA, Pharma’s top lobbying group, was headed by former Louisiana Rep. Billy Tauzin who resigned from Congress where he chaired the committee which oversees the drug industryonly to immediately reappear as the leader of PhRMA where he drew a $2 million salary. No conflict of interest there.

Tauzin had played a key role in shepherding the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill through Congress which prohibited government negotiation of lower drug prices and Canadian imports. “It’s a sad commentary on politics in Washington that a member of Congress who pushed through a major piece of legislation benefiting the drug industry, gets the job leading that industry,” Public Citizen’s President Joan Claybrook said.

Two-thirds of Pharma lobbyists previously worked for Congress or federal agencies reports the New York Times. An aide to former Michigan Rep. John D. Dingell now works for PhRMA, and an aide to former Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who was the chairman of the Senate health committee “is now a top lobbyist for Merck.” Gary Andres, former staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee now lobbies for biotech companies. And the list goes on.

Having captured Congress, you wouldn’t think Pharma would need a charm offensive. Yet it spends millions trying to convince the public it has our interests at heart as it raises our taxes and health care costs. Currently, “America’s Biopharmaceutical companies” are running their “Go Boldly” campaign, ennobling their work with the pay-off line “here’s to permission to fail.”

Yes, Pharma knows a lot about “permission to fail.” Over 20 of its drugs have been withdrawn from the market -after maximum money was made of course- in recent years because they were so dangerous. They include Vioxx, Bextra, Baycol, Trovan, Meridia, Seldane, Hismanal, Darvon, Raxar, Redux Mylotarg, Lotronex, Propulsid, phenylpropanolamine (PPA), Prexige, phenacetin, Oraflex, Omniflox, Posicor, Serzone and Duract.

Pharma also runs a sappy “Hope to Cures: The Value of Biopharmaceutical Innovation and New Drug Discovery” campaign that showcases patients whose lives were saved by expensive drugs. “If you object to our six-digit drug prices you are signing the death warrant for these patients,” the sleazy campaign seeks to convey.

Two lies lurk under the PR stunt. First, most of Pharma’s profits come from non life-saving drugs that treat acid reflux, ADHD, poor eating habits and a host of  trumped up psychiatric illnesses. Secondly, research accounts for only one-fifth of Pharma’s drug costs. Most drug costs Pharma seeks to recoup are for marketing––the ask-your-doctor ads you see on TV––and, of course, lobbying.

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Why I Support Russia Today (and So Should You)

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By Dennis Morgan | CounterPunch 

In the age of globalization during the last quarter of the 20thcentury, the English language achieved global hegemony as the “lingua franca” for international communication. It is no small coincidence that during this same time, after the end of the Cold War, the US rose as the sole and dominant superpower with stated aims to achieve global hegemony.  Just as English was the language of the British Empire, so English retained its imperial role when the US Empire succeeded that of the British. And as has been said of language, the power to control language is the power to control minds.

As a result, a number of countries realized that if they wanted to have a say in global affairs, they were going to have to be able to say it in English. In other words, unless they were happy with the embedded worldviews in the news narratives of CNN and the BBC and preferred no voice of their own, then they were going to have to create their own international broadcasts in English. Moreover, since the Internet revolutionized communications during this same time period, it became much easier to broadcast and thus imperative for countries to project their own perspectives on global affairs and engage in international discourse on issues that concerned them. Hence, at the end of the 20thcentury and particularly during the beginning of the 21stcentury, English news broadcasts sprang up from around the world to compete with established news organizations.

So, that’s the backdrop and context for the grand entrance of the state-sponsored broadcast station, Russia Today (RT), onto the global media arena in 2005. When Margarita Simonyan was appointed editor-in-chief (at the age of 25), she stated that RT would provide the same professionalism of mainstream international news channels but would “reflect Russia’s opinion of the world” and provide a “more balanced picture” of Russia. The late Danny Schechter, a renowned journalist who was on the staff of CNN at its launching, saw something similar at RT’s launching, describing it as another channel “of young people who are inexperienced, but very enthusiastic about what they are doing.”

However, almost immediately, Western pundits, officials, and MSM cried “foul,” as Cold War stereotypes of “communist propaganda” resurfaced. When RT began airing its counter-hegemonic narratives, challenging mainstream (particularly US) news coverage through Internet and satellite broadcasts, it quickly attracted millions of viewers throughout the world. It seemed that the more popular RT became, the more alarmed the US and the West became, accusing RT of being a “propaganda bullhorn” of Putin, spewing disinformation and lies.

So, is this true? Is RT merely Kremlin propaganda, spreading disinformation and lies, or is it a platform to present a more balanced picture of Russia, expressing the Russian perspective on global affairs? In my opinion, from extensive viewing of the news coverage and programs offered by RT, I would say that RT critics’ “propaganda” claim does not hold up to close scrutiny and is, in fact, propaganda itself; on the other hand, the alternate claim of offering a “balanced picture of Russia” and expressing the “Russian perspective,” though certainly closer to the truth than the “propaganda” claim, is not a truly accurate description of RT either. In other words, while the news coverage can be said to reflect the Russian perspective on global affairs, most of the hosts are not Russian; moreover, as far as providing insight into Russia and everything “Russian,” proportionally speaking, only a fraction  of the programming or coverage revolves around Russia or Russian affairs.

So, now that I’ve told you what RT isn’t, I’ll explain what it is, the reason why I view and support it, and why I think the US establishment, including its corporate media, has been fiercely attacking RT and are out to shut it down. To put it plainly, RT is the #1 international broadcast that allows a platform for alternative narratives and dissenting views to be expressed. Just take a look at the hosts of the “shows” section of RT’s website, and you’ll understand what I mean. These are very independent-minded individuals, whose dissenting views are simply not allowed on MSM; in fact, some of them, like Larry King, Ed Schultz, and Thom Hartmann,[1] held celebrity status on MSM and only joined the RT staff because they were free to air their views without censorship. Ed Schultz, for example, stated that, unlike the usual censorship tactics of MSNBC, RT never quizzed him in advance about his guests or the content of his show; instead, he says that the very reason he likes RT is because of its policy of absolute freedom of speech. Imagine that! Here we have Ed Schultz, a media refugee from MSM, stating that, unlike MSNBC, he’s allowed to say anything he wants to on RT, without any editorial oversight whatsoever.

This is quite phenomenal when you consider the outrageous charges of American politicians and the corporate media that RT is a mere “propaganda tool of the Kremlin,” and that those who work at RT are “useful idiots’ or “Putin’s puppets.” Really? Just take a look at the kind of individuals, most of them Americans or British, hosting their shows on RT. These are very independent, very smart people who refuse to be anyone’s “puppet”; in fact, the very reason they came to RT was because they didn’t want to be puppets of the corporate media. Do you really believe that people like Larry King, Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Jesse Ventura, Chris Hedges, Lee Camp, and George Galloway are all stooges for Putin? Give me a break.

The fact that their portrayal of RT is a complete fabrication tells you who the real propagandists are, who truly are guilty of spreading disinformation and lies to the public. Yes, in spreading their malicious lies about RT, they reveal themselves, and if they are deceiving you about this, they are probably deceiving you about just about everything else too. Actually, MSM has been in the public deception business for quite some time; as long as it’s good for the ratings, it’s called “news.”

Take the RussiaGate conspiracy theory, for example, which has zero evidence to support it with. Is it “hacking,” “collusion,” or “trolls?” I forget which meme is current. Similar to the various justifications (one after the other, all of them lies) to support the Iraq War, as soon as one conspiracy is debunked, it is followed by another, in the blink of a media eye, without comment on the fraudulent nature of the prior allegation, as in Orwell’s novel, as if it didn’t exist. And the familiar villain, the usual suspect, the Russian whipping boy, comes to their rescue once again.

Several months ago I penned a piece in CounterPunch about the anti-Russia hysteria that’s been sweeping the nation, so I won’t rehash that. However, what I find telling is that a disproportionate amount of this hysteria is actually directed at Russia Today. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the FBI report in January of 2017, based on the investigation of supposed Russian interference into the 2016 election: roughly a quarter of it is about RT. When you think of it, that’s a large percentage devoted to a media outlet, especially when you consider that RT was never all that pro-Trump. As I mentioned, RT has a diverse blend of the hosts of featured programs, and they were anything but homogeneous in their views on the presidential candidates. It’s true that Peter Lavelle, the host of CrossTalk, believed that Trump should be given a chance, and Larry King gave a favorable interview to Trump; on the other hand, a number of other hosts were highly suspicious and critical of Trump. Okay, well, I admit that there wasn’t a whole lot of support for Hillary Clinton on RT, it’s true, but when you compare lackluster support for Clinton on RT with the overwhelming support that she enjoyed on CNN, can you really justify the claim that RT “interfered” in the 2016 election and CNN didn’t? The FBI report is a joke, really, as a CNN producer described it in private – a “nothing burger.”

So, if it’s true that Putin made so much effort to interfere in the American elections to ensure that Trump would win, and if it’s true that RT is Putin’s propaganda arm, then why didn’t Putin do more to use RT to propagandize in favor of Trump? Are you telling me that the tepid support of Trump on RT was the best propaganda that Putin could come up with? As an ex-KGB officer, I’m sure he could do better than that. It’s the same kind of “nothing burger” sock pocket, failed hot dog sales people that Mueller indicted – the 13 Facebook trolls who failed to wake Sleeping Beauty but were indicted for trying.

Okay, I realize I’m getting into fantasy here, but that’s my point: its total fantasy that MSM has been spinning 24/7. Wake up, people, and smell the Rachel Maddow koolaid you’ve been drinking; these people are professional liars – it’s what they do for a living. When RT’s press credentials were withdrawn at the White House, when their algorithms were suppressed on Google, Twitter, and Facebook, when the Russian Consulate in San Francisco was raided at hardly a moment’s notice, and when RT was singled out and forced to register as a “foreign agent” with FARA – an unprecedented move against a single media outlet – where was CNN or MSNBC? Did they protest this blatant form of media censorship? Only when Russia retaliated with a tit-for-tat response did they even mention it. And this media silence, aside from reporting on the Russian response, was not only true in the case of MSM, but sadly enough, Democracy Now! joined the media silence. Not a word was uttered in protest of this outrageous attack on the press freedom of RT. It boggles the mind to think that no one seemed to consider that this was not just an attack on RT but an attack on the freedom of press everywhere: to attack one is to attack all, especially when the justifications are based on “trumped up” allegations, which essentially boil down to: “We say Russia Today is a propaganda bullhorn of the Kremlin, and because we say it, you should believe us. After all, have we ever lied to you?” And then all the media bows down and assents to this madness. Forgive me if I’m not impressed with fairy tale logic.

To sum up, I support RT mostly because they are professionals and feature a line-up of fantastic programs and documentaries, which are informative and insightful. As far as I’m concerned, whether it serves Putin’s “agenda” (whatever that is) is beside the point. What matters is the authenticity of the journalism. Americans should be grateful for this source of alternative views that challenge homogeneous and hegemonic “mainstream” narratives. While all media either have some interest to serve or ideology to peddle, the health of the media in general can only be measured by its diversity. So, it’s not about whether you “agree” or “disagree” with the Russia Today broadcast; more importantly, the principle of fair play in media access and reach is crucial for the health and future of democracy. That’s why I support Russia Today, and so should you.

Notes

[1] Though no longer at RT, Tom was the host of  “The Big Picture” for at least a couple of years and left the broadcast on good terms.

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Facebook & Atlantic Council unite: Now social media giant serves NATO’s agenda

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By Bryan MacDonald 

Facebook has engaged a think tank funded by weapons manufacturers, branches of the US military and Middle-Eastern monarchies to safeguard the democratic process. It’s akin to hiring arsonists to run the fire brigade.

If Facebook truly wanted to “protect democracy and elections worldwide,” it would build a broad coalition of experts and activists from a wide and disparate range of the countries it serves. Instead, the American social media giant has outsourced the task to NATO’s propaganda wing.

For the uninitiated, the Atlantic Council serves as the American-led alliance’s chief advocacy group. And its methods are rather simple: it grants stipends and faux academic titles to various activists that align with NATO’s agenda. Thus, lobbyists become “fellows” and “experts,” while the enterprise constructs a neutral sheen, which is rarely (if ever) challenged by Western media outlets – often reliant on its employees for easy comment and free op-eds.

While that has always been ethically questionable, Facebook’s latest move, given its effective monopoly position, is far more sinister. Because it is now tied to a “think tank” which has proposed terrorist attacks in Russia and has demanded Russian-funded news outlets be forced to register as “foreign agents” in the United States.

Make no mistake: this is a dream scenario for NATO and those who depend on it for their livelihoods and status. Because the Atlantic Council is now perfectly positioned to be the tail wagging the Facebook dog in the information space.

On Thursday, the social network announced how it was “excited to launch a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, which has a stellar reputation looking at innovative solutions to hard problems.” It then added that “experts” from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL) will liaise closely with Facebook’s “security, policy and product teams” to offer “real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world.”

Now, this sort of talk would be fine if Facebook had assembled a diverse group, comprised of stakeholders from a wide range of democracies. But, by selecting a clearly biased actor to police “misinformation and foreign interference” during “elections and other highly sensitive moments” and also work to “help educate citizens as well as civil society,” Mark Zuckerberg’s team has essentially made their company a tool of the US military agenda.

Just look at who funds the Atlantic Council: donors include military contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon, all of whom directly profit from tensions with powers like Russia and China. Meanwhile, in addition to NATO itself, there are also payments made by the US State Department, along with bungs from the US Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines.

Other major paymasters include the government of the United Arab Emirates, which is, of course, an absolute monarchy. And more UAE cash comes via the Abu Dhabi state oil company and Crescent Petroleum. Not to be outdone, Morocco, again not noted for its freedoms, also throws significant coin into the bucket.

Clear bias

And here’s the absurdity inherent in Facebook’s approach. It has essentially handed over control to activists who are funded by enemies of democracy and entities which benefit from stirring up hysteria about malevolent external influence in Western elections. Not forgetting, naturally, how the US itself has been, by some distance, the biggest election meddler around.

What’s more, the paucity of Western media coverage of Thursday’s announcement is alarming, because big-hitters like CNN, the Washington Post, BBC and the New York Times (who all frequently use Atlantic Council lobbyists as guests, “experts” or analysts) more-or-less ignored the story. And the outlets who have covered it, such as CNET and The Hill, failed to reference the think tank’s agenda. Notably, influential media journal Adweek even began its report with a description of the lobby group as “non-partisan.”

Now, if you are sitting in Washington, non-partisan may mean supporting neither the Democratic or Republican parties, but in the rest of the world, the Atlantic Council is clearly factional. Because it exists to promote, via NATO, US foreign policy objectives, particularly in Europe.

And, let’s be clear, without Moscow as an enemy, NATO ceases to exist. Which means smearing Russia is an existential matter for the Atlantic Council.

As a result, Facebook’s new partners bear a vested interest in creating the impression that Moscow is interfering in Western elections. Indeed, given the platform’s penetration rates in the country itself, they now also have the power to potentially meddle in Russia’s own polls. This hasn’t been lost on officials in Moscow who appeared alarmed at the development on Friday.

As for why the Atlantic Council was chosen? Well, only last month Mark Zuckerberg was the subject of an intense grilling at the US House of Representatives. And what better way to assuage the Washington establishment’s fears than to employ workers from NATO’s own propaganda adjunct as fact-checkers?

Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist based in Russia.

Read more:

To ‘protect democracy,’ scandal-fearing Facebook teams up with ‘unbiased’ Atlantic Council

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Canada’s Shameful Hypocrisy on Display!

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By Marion Kawas | Canada Palestine Association

Six weeks after Israeli snipers started killing and maiming Palestinians, including children, journalists, and medical workers, Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau finally released a carefully worded statement regarding the situation. The statement came only after the wounding of a Canadian doctor on the ground in Gaza, Tarek Loubani.

Activists familiar with the long history of complicity and duplicity of successive Canadian governments cautioned that the statement missed the mark on two main points.

Firstly, it studiously avoided any mention of the culpability of the Israeli government by name, anywhere in the statement.

Secondly, although there was a call for an independent investigation, it was worded this way:

“Canada calls for an immediate independent investigation to thoroughly examine the facts on the ground – including any incitement, violence, and the excessive use of force…We will work closely with our international partners and through international institutions to address this serious situation.”

Calling for investigations is usually diplomatic code for stalling and not taking action. But note also the wording and the ordering of possible facts on the ground, “including any incitement, violence and the excessive use of force”.

However, no-one had to wait long to have the hypocrisy of the Canadian government revealed. Two days after the statement, on May 18, Canada stated it would not support the resolution that was then passed by an overwhelming majority at the UN Human Rights Council. This is what Canada had to say:

“Canada was gravely concerned about the numerous deaths and countless injuries in the Gaza Strip over the past several weeks.  However, it could not support the draft resolution because it prejudged the outcome of an international investigation.  The resolution was one-sided and did not advance the prospects for a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution singled out Israel, without making reference to other actors.”

So, there we have it. Either the UNHRC is not an “international institution” that the Trudeau government wants to work closely with or the resolution made the serious error of actually naming who was firing the shots and dropping the tear gas on unarmed protestors.

Or the Trudeau government was just playing politics from the beginning, and after realizing that the issue of Israel slaughtering Palestinians was becoming very unpopular and the Liberal Party was losing support for its deafening silence, decided to issue a statement that said little and achieved less.

This way, they (and their supporters) could claim they have indeed responded and stood up to the pro-Israel lobby. Actually, it is a sad tradition in Canada that most of the major political parties play “political football” with the lives and struggles of Palestinians. One eye always on the win/loss column to decide when and how to speak out.

We say enough, over 100 Palestinians have not died in the last 6 weeks just so the Canadian government can shed crocodile tears while still defending Israel. We need to focus less of our resources and time on what politicians have to say and more on developing concrete and grassroots work, like BDS campaigns, that have a long-term benefit to the Palestinian people.

 

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Making Excuses for Russiagate

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By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News 

The best evidence that Russia-gate is sinking beneath the waves is the way those pushing the pseudo-scandal are now busily covering their tracks. The Guardian complains that “as the inquiry has expanded and dominated the news agenda over the last year, the real issues of people’s lives are in danger of being drowned out by obsessive cable television coverage of the Russia investigation” – as if the Guardian’s own coverage hasn’t been every bit as obsessive as anything CNN has come up with.

The Washington Post, second to none when it comes to painting Putin as a real-life Lord Voldemort, now says that Special counsel Robert Mueller “faces a particular challenge maintaining the confidence of the citizenry” as his investigation enters its second year – although it’s sticking to its guns that the problem is not the inquiry itself, but “the regular attacks he faces from President Trump, who has decried the probe as a ‘witch hunt.’”

And then there’s the New York Times, which this week devoted a 3,600-word front-page article to explain why the FBI had no choice but to launch an investigation into Trump’s alleged Russian links and how, if anything, the inquiry wasn’t aggressive enough. As the article puts it, “Interviews with a dozen current and former government officials and a review of documents show that the FBI was even more circumspect in that case than has been previously known.”

It’s Nobody’s Fault

The result is a late-breaking media chorus to the effect that it’s not the fault of the FBI that the investigation has dragged on with so little to show for it; it’s not the fault of Mueller either, and, most of all, it’s not the fault of the corporate press, even though it’s done little over the last two years than scream about Russia. It’s not anyone’s fault, evidently, but simply how the system works.

This is nonsense, and the gaping holes in the Times article show why.

The piece, written by Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, and Nicholas Fandos and entitled “Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation,” is pretty much like everything else the Times has written on the subject, i.e. biased, misleading, and incomplete. Its main argument is that the FBI had no option but to step in because four Trump campaign aides had “obvious or suspected Russian ties.”

‘At Putin’s Arm’

One was Michael Flynn, who would briefly serve as Donald Trump’s national security adviser and who, according to the Times, “was paid $45,000 by the Russian government’s media arm for a 2015 speech and dined at the arm of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.” Another was Paul Manafort, who briefly served as Trump’s campaign chairman and was a source of concern because he had “lobbied for pro-Russia interests in Ukraine and worked with an associate who has been identified as having connections to Russian intelligence.” A third was Carter Page, a Trump foreign-policy adviser who “was well known to the FBI” because “[h]e had previously been recruited by Russian spies and was suspected of meeting one in Moscow during the campaign.” The fourth was George Papadopoulos, a “young and inexperienced campaign aide whose wine-fueled conversation with the Australian ambassador set off the investigation. Before hacked Democratic emails appeared online, he had seemed to know that Russia had political dirt on Mrs. Clinton.”

Seems incriminating, eh? But in each case the connection was more tenuous than the Times lets on. Flynn, for example, didn’t dine “at the arm of the Russian president” at a now-famous December 2015 Moscow banquet honoring the Russian media outlet RT. He was merely at a table at which Putin happened to sit down for “maybe five minutes, maybe twenty, tops,” according to Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein who was just a few chairs away. No words were exchanged, Stein says, and “[n]obody introduced anybody to anybody. There was no translator. The Russians spoke Russian. The four people who spoke English spoke English.”

The Manafort associate with the supposed Russian intelligence links turns out to be a Russian-Ukrainian translator named Konstantin Kilimnik who studied English at a Soviet military school and who vehemently denies any such connection. It seems that the Ukrainian authorities did investigate the allegations at one point but declined to press charges. So the connection is unproven.

Page Was No Spy

The same goes for Carter Page, who was not “recruited” by Russian intelligence, but, rather, approached by what he thought were Russian trade representatives at a January 2013 energy symposium in New York. When the FBI informed him five or six months later that it believed the men were intelligence agents, Page appears to have cooperated fully based on a federal indictment filed with the Southern District of New York. Thus, Page was not a spy but a government informant as ex-federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy has pointed out – in other words, a good guy, as the Times would undoubtedly see it, helping the catch a couple of baddies.

As for Papadopoulos, who the Times suggests somehow got advance word that WikiLeaks was about to dump a treasure trove of Hillary Clinton emails, the article fails to mention that at the time the conversation with the Australian ambassador took place, the Clinton communications in the news were the 30,000 State Department emails that she had improperly stored on her private computer. These were the emails that “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about,” as Bernie Sanders put it. Instead of spilling the beans about a data breach yet to come, it’s more likely that Papadopoulos was referring to emails that were already in the news – a possibility the Times fails to discuss.

FBI ‘Perplexed’

One could go on. But not only does the Times article get the details wrong, it paints the big picture in misleading tones as well. It says that the FBI was “perplexed” by such Trump antics as calling on Russia to release still more Clinton emails after WikiLeaks went public with its disclosure. The word suggests a disinterested observer who can’t figure out what’s going on. But it ignores how poisonous the atmosphere had become by that point and how everyone’s mind was seemingly made up.

By July 2016, Clinton was striking out at Trump at every opportunity about his Russian ties – not because they were true, but because a candidate who had struggled to come up with a winning slogan had at last come across an issue that seemed to resonate with her fan base. Consequently, an intelligence report that Russia was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee “was a godsend,” wrote Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes in Shatteredtheir best-selling account of the Clinton campaign, because it was “hard evidence upon which Hillary could start to really build the case that Trump was actually in league with Moscow.”

Not only did Clinton believe this, but her followers did as well, as did the corporate media and, evidently, the FBI. This is the takeaway from text messages that FBI counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok exchanged with FBI staff attorney Lisa Page.

Andrew McCarthy, who has done a masterful job of reconstructing the sequence, notes that in late July 2016, Page mentioned an article she had come across on a liberal web site discussing Trump’s alleged Russia ties. Strzok texted back that he’s “partial to any women sending articles about nasty the Russians are.” Page replied that the Russians “are probably the worst. Very little I finding redeeming about this. Even in history. Couple of good writers and artists I guess.” Strzok heartily agreed: “f***ing conniving cheating savages. At statecraft, athletics, you name it. I’m glad I’m on Team USA.”

The F’ing Russian ‘Savages’

This is the institutional bias that the Times doesn’t dare mention. An agency whose top officials believe that “f***ing conniving cheating savages” are breaking down the door is one that is fairly guaranteed to construe evidence in the most negative, anti-Russian way possible while ignoring anything to the contrary. So what if Carter Page had cooperated with the FBI? What’s important is that he had had contact with Russian intelligence at all, which was enough to render him suspicious in the bureau’s eyes. Ditto Konstantin Kilimnik. So what if the Ukrainian authorities had declined to press charges? The fact that they had even looked was damning enough.

The FBI thus made the classic methodological error of allowing its investigation to be contaminated by its preconceived beliefs. Objectivity fell by the wayside. The Times says that Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 agent whose infamous, DNC and Clinton camp paid-for opposition research dossier turned “golden showers” into a household term, struck the FBI as “highly credible” because he had “helped agents unravel complicated cases” in the past. Perhaps. But the real reason is that he told agents what they wanted to hear, which is that the “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years” with the “[a]im, endorsed by PUTIN, … [of] encourage[ing] splits and divisions in [the] western alliance.” (which can be construed as a shrewd defensive move against a Western alliance massing troops on Russian borders.)

What else would one expect of people as “nasty” as these? In fact, the Steele dossier should have caused alarm bells to go off. How could Putin have possibly known five years before that Trump would be a viable presidential candidate? Why would high-level Kremlin officials share inside information with an ex-intelligence official thousands of miles away? Why would the dossier declare on one page that the Kremlin has offered Trump “various lucrative real estate development business deals” but then say on another that Trump’s efforts to drum up business had gone nowhere and that he therefore “had had to settle for the use of extensive sexual services there from local prostitutes rather than business success”? Given that the dossier was little more than “oppo research” commissioned and funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, why was it worthy of consideration at all?

The Rush to Believe

But all such questions disappeared amid the general rush to believe. The Times is right that the FBI slow-walked the investigation until Election Day. This is because agents assumed that Trump would lose and that therefore there was no need to rush. But when he didn’t, the mood turned to one of panic and fury.

Without offering a shred of evidence, the FBI, CIA, NSA, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a formal assessment on Jan. 6, 2017, that “Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election … [in order] to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

The New Yorker reports that an ex-aide to John McCain hoped to persuade the senator to use the Steele dossier to force Trump to resign even before taking office. (The ex-aide denies that this was the case.)

When FBI Director James Comey personally confronted Trump with news of the dossier two weeks prior to inauguration, the Times says he “feared making this conversation a ‘J. Edgar Hoover-type situation,’ with the FBI presenting embarrassing information “to lord over a president-elect.”

But that is precisely what happened. When someone – most likely CIA Director John Brennan, now a commentator with NBC News – leaked word of the meeting and Buzzfeed published the dossier four days later, the corporate media went wild. Trump was gravely wounded, while Adam Schiff, Democratic point man on the House Intelligence Committee, would subsequently trumpet the Steele dossier as the unvarnished truth. According to the Times account, Trump was unpersuaded by Comey’s assurances that he was there to help. “Hours earlier,” the paper says, “… he debuted what would quickly become a favorite phrase: ‘This is a political witch hunt.’”

The Times clearly regards the idea as preposterous on its face. But while Trump is wrong about many things, on this one subject he happens to be right. The press, the intelligence community, and the Democrats have all gone off the deep end in search of a Russia connection that doesn’t exist. They misled their readers, they made fools of themselves, and they committed a crime against journalism. And now they’re trying to dodge the blame.

 

Posted in RussiaComments Off on Making Excuses for Russiagate

University Professor Sacked for Telling-the-Truth

NOVANEWS

Peter Ridd as a first year undergraduate science student at James Cook University back in 1978 – forty years ago.
By Jennifer Marohasy 

BACK in 2016, when I asked Peter Ridd if he would write a chapter for the book I was editing I could not possibly have envisaged it could contribute to the end of his thirty-year career as a university professor.

Considering that Peter enrolled at James Cook University as an undergraduate back in 1978, he has been associated with that one university for forty years.

Since Peter was fired on 2 May 2018, the university has attempted to remove all trace of this association: scrubbing him completely from their website.

But facts don’t cease to exist because they are removed from a website. The university has never challenged the veracity of Peter’s legitimate claims about the quality of much of the reef science: science on which billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded research is being squandered. These issues are not going away.

Just yesterday (Friday 18 May), Peter lodged papers in the Federal Court. He is going to fight for his job back! […]

Peter deliberately choose to frame the book chapter about the replication crisis that is sweeping through science.

In this chapter – The Extraordinary Resilience of Great Barrier Reef Coral and Problems with Policy Science – Peter details the major problems with quality assurance when it comes to claims of the imminent demise of the reef.

Policy science concerning the Great Barrier Reef is almost never checked. Over the next few years, Australian governments will spend more than a billion dollars on the Great Barrier Reef; the costs to industry could far exceed this. Yet the keystone research papers have not been subject to proper scrutiny. Instead, there is a total reliance on the demonstrably inadequate peer-review process.

Ex-professor Peter Ridd has also published extensively in the scientific literature on the Great Barrier Reef, including issues with the methodology used to measure calcification rates. In the book he explains:

Like trees, which produce rings as they grow, corals set down a clearly identifiable layer of calcium carbonate skeleton each year, as they grow. The thicknesses and density of the layers can be used to infer calcification rates and are, effectively, a measure of the growth rate. Dr Glenn De’ath and colleagues from the Australian Institute of Marine Science used cores from more than 300 corals, some of which were hundreds of years old, to measure the changes in calcification during the last few hundred years. They claimed there was a precipitous decline in calcification since 1990, as shown in Figure 1.2.

The LHS chart suggests a problem with coral growth rates – but the real problem is with the methodology. When corals of equivalent age are sampled, there has been no decline in growth rates at the Great Barrier Reef – as shown in the RHS chart.

However, I have two issues with their analysis. I published my concerns, and an alternative analysis, in the journal Marine Geology (Ridd et al. 2013). First, there were instrumental errors with the measurements of the coral layers. This was especially the case for the last layer at the surface of the coral, which was often measured as being much smaller than the reality. This forced an apparent drop in the average calcification for the corals that were collected in the early 2000s – falsely implying a recent calcification drop. Second, an ‘age effect’ was not acknowledged. When these two errors are accounted for, the drop in calcification rates disappear, as shown in Figure 1.2.

The problem with the ‘age effect’, mentioned above, arose because in the study De’ath and colleagues included data from corals sampled during two distinct periods and with a different focus; I will refer to these as two campaigns. The first campaign occurred mostly in the 1980s and focused on very large coral specimens, sometimes many metres across. The second campaign occurred in the early 2000s due to the increased interest in the effects of CO2. However, presumably due to cost cutting measures, instead of focusing on the original huge coral colonies, the second campaign measured smaller colonies, many just a few tens of centimetres in diameter.

In summary, the first campaign focused on large old corals, while, in contrast, the second campaign focused on small young corals. The two datasets were then spliced together, and wholly unjustifiable assumptions were implicitly made, but not stated – in particular that there is no age effect on coral growth…

Dr Juan D’Olivo Cordero from the University of Western Australia collected an entirely different dataset of coral cores from the Great Barrier Reef to determine calcification rates. This study determined that there has been a 10% increase in calcification rates since the 1940s for offshore and mid-shelf reefs, which is the location of about 99% of all the coral on the Great Barrier Reef. However, these researchers also measured a 5% decline in calcification rates of inshore corals – the approximately 1% of corals that live very close to the coast. Overall, there was an increase for most of the Great Barrier Reef, and a decrease for a small fraction of the Great Barrier Reef.

While it would seem reasonable to conclude that the results of the study by D’Olivo et al. would be reported as good news for the Great Barrier Reef, their article in the journal Coral Reefs concluded:

Our new findings nevertheless continue to raise concerns, with the inner-shelf reefs continuing to show long-term declines in calcification consistent with increased disturbance from land-based effects. In contrast, the more ‘pristine’ mid- and outer-shelf reefs appear to be undergoing a transition from increasing to decreasing rates of calcification, possibly reflecting the effects of CO2-driven climate change.

Imaginatively, this shift from ‘increasing’ to ‘decreasing’ seems to be based on an insignificant fall in the calcification rate in some of the mid-shelf reefs in the last two years of the 65-year dataset.

Why did the authors concentrate on this when their data shows that the reef is growing about 10% faster than it did in the 1940s?

James Cook university could have used the chapter as an opportunity to start a much-needed discussion about policy, funding and the critical importance of the scientific method. Instead, Peter was first censored by the University – and now he has been fired.

When I first blogged on this back in February, Peter needed to raise A$95,000 to fight the censure.

This was achieved through an extraordinary effort, backed by Anthony WattsJoanne NovaJohn Roskam and so many others.

To be clear, the university is not questioning the veracity of what ex-professor Ridd has written, but rather his right to say this publicly. In particular, the university is claiming that he has not been collegial and continues to speak-out even after he was told to desist.

New allegations have been built on the original misconduct charges that I detailed back in February. The core issue continues to be Peter’s right to keep talking – including so that he can defend himself.

In particular, the university objects to the original GoFundMe campaign (that Peter has just reopened) because it breaches claimed confidentiality provisions in Peter’s employment agreement. The university claims that Peter Ridd was not allowed to talk about their action against him. Peter disputes this.

Of course, if Peter had gone along with all of this, he would have been unable to raise funds to get legal advice – to defend himself! All of the documentation is now being made public – all of this information, and more can be found at Peter’s new website.

Posted in EducationComments Off on University Professor Sacked for Telling-the-Truth

France’s Role in Africa

NOVANEWS
Image result for France in Africa CARTOON
By Yves Engler | Dissident Voice 

Fake news, propaganda, public relations, advertising — it goes by many names, but at the core of all these terms is the idea that powerful institutions, primarily governments and corporations, strive to manipulate our understanding of world affairs. The most effective such shaping of opinion is invisible and therefore unquestioned.

Left criticism of French imperialism in Africa provides a stark example. Incredibly, the primary contemporary criticism North American leftists make of French imperialism on that continent concerns a country it never colonized. What’s more, Paris is condemned for siding with a government led by the lower caste majority.

To the extent that North American progressives criticize ‘Françafrique’ they mostly emphasize Paris’ support for the Hutu-led Rwandan government after Uganda/Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded in 1990. Echoing the Paul Kagame dictatorship’s simplistic narrative, France is accused of backing Rwandan genocidaires. In a recent article for thevolcano.org, a leftist outlet based on unceded Coast Salish Territories, Lama Mugabo claims, “the organizations that organized this anger into genocide, and the instruments of murder that they wielded, were outfitted by French colonial power.” In Dark Threats and White Nights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping, and the New Imperialism Sherene H. Razack writes that “French peacekeepers made a number of decisions that prolonged and exacerbated the conflict.” The “post-colonial” Canadian academic also decries “French support for him [Hutu President “Hanyarimana” — her (repeated) misspelling] scuttled any fledging peace efforts.”

In taking up Kigali/Washington/London’s effort to blame France for the mass killings in Rwanda (rather than the Uganda/RPF aggressors and their Anglo-American backers), Razack and others even imply that Paris colonized the country. But, Germany conquered Rwanda and Belgium was given control of the small East African nation at the end of World War I. The nearest former French colony — Central African Republic — is over 1,000 km away.

What Razack, Mugabo and other leftists ignore, or don’t know, is that Washington and London backed the 1990 Uganda/RPF invasion. Officially, a large number of Rwandan exiles “deserted” the Ugandan military to invade (including a former deputy defence minister and head of military intelligence). In reality, the invasion was an act of aggression by the much larger neighbour. Over the next three and a half years Kampala supplied the RPF with weaponry and a safe haven.

Throughout this period Washington provided the Ugandan government with financial, diplomatic and arms support (Ottawa cut millions in aid to Rwanda, prodded Habyarimana to negotiate with the RPF and criticized his human rights record while largely ignoring the Uganda/RPF aggression). Washington viewed the pro-neoliberal government in Kampala and the RPF as a way, after the Cold War, to weaken Paris’ position in a Belgium colonized region, which includes trillions of dollars in mineral riches in eastern Congo.

Echoing Kigali/Washington/London/Ottawa, many leftists have taken up criticism of Paris’ policy towards a country France never colonized and where it sided with a government from the lower caste (over 85% of the population, Hutus were historically a subservient peasant class and the Tutsi a cattle owning, feudal ruling class). Concurrently, leftists have largely ignored or failed to unearth more clear-cut French crimes on the continent, which Washington and Ottawa either backed or looked the other way.

In 1947–48 the French brutally suppressed anticolonial protests in Madagascar. Tens of thousands were also killed in Cameroon during the 1950s-60s independence war. Paris’ bid to maintain control over Algeria stands out as one of the most brutal episodes of the colonial era. With over one million settlers in the country, French forces killed hundreds of thousands of Algerians.

To pre-empt nascent nationalist sentiment, Paris offered each of its West African colonies a referendum on staying part of a new “French community”. When Guinea voted for independence in 1958, France withdrew abruptly, broke political and economic ties, and destroyed vital infrastructure. “What could not be burned,” noted Robert Legvold, “was dumped into the ocean.”

France hasn’t relinquished its monetary imperialism. Through its “Pacte Coloniale” independence agreement, Paris maintained control of 14 former colonies’ monetary and exchange rate policy. Imposed by Paris, the CFA franc is an important barrier to transforming the former colonies’ primary commodity based economies. As part of the accord, most CFA franc countries’ foreign exchange reserves have been deposited in the French treasury (now European Central Bank), which has generated large sums for Paris.

Alongside its monetary imperialism, France has ousted or killed a number of independent-minded African leaders. After creating a national currency and refusing to compensate Paris for infrastructure built during the colonial period, the first president of Togo, Sylvanus Olympio, was overthrown and killed by former French Foreign Legion troops. Foreign legionaries also ousted leaders in the Central African Republic, Benin, Mali, etc. Paris aided in the 1987 assassination of famed socialist Burkina Faso leader Thomas Sankara.

While undermining independence-minded leaders, Paris has backed corrupt, pro-corporate, dictatorships such as four-decades long Togolese and Gabonese rulers Gnassingbé Eyadema and Ali Bongo Ondimba (their sons took over).

France retains military bases or troops in Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gabon, Mali, Chad and Niger. French troops are also currently fighting in Mali and Niger.

Compared to Paris’ role in Rwanda, French influence/violence in its former colonies gets short shrift from North American leftists. Part of the reason is that Washington and Ottawa largely supported French policy in its former colonies (Ottawa has plowed nearly $1 billion into Mali since the 2013 French invasion and gave Paris bullets and other arms as 400,000 French troops suppressed the Algerian independence struggle). Additionally, criticizing France’s role in Rwanda dovetails with the interests of Kigali, Washington, London and Ottawa.

The North American left’s discussion of France’s role in Africa demonstrates the influence of powerful institutions, especially the ones closest to us, in shaping our understanding of the world. We largely ignore what they want us to ignore and see what they want us to see.

To build a movement for justice and equality for everyone on this planet, we must start by questioning everything governments, corporations and other powerful institutions tell us.

 

Posted in Africa, FranceComments Off on France’s Role in Africa

Strongest sanctions in history’: Pompeo issues 12 demands to Iran, vows ‘unprecedented pressure’

NOVANEWS

Image result for Pompeo CARTOON

 

Tehran will struggle to “keep its economy alive” if it does not comply with a list of 12 US demands, including Iranian withdrawal from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed on Monday.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing Washington think tank, Pompeo laid out a list of 12 “basic requirements” for Iran. The demands call on Iran to withdraw from Syria, “release all US citizens,” end support for Houthi rebels in Yemen, stop “enrichment” of uranium, and promise never to process plutonium. Iran must also allow “unqualified access to all nuclear sites throughout the country,” Pompeo said.

He promised that the US would impose the “strongest sanctions in history” if Iran failed to comply with these demands.

Pompeo said that “the sting of sanctions will be painful” and Iran will struggle to “keep its economy alive” if Tehran “does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen.”

“Thanks to our colleagues at the Department of Treasury, sanctions are going back in full effect and new ones are coming … These will indeed end up being the strongest sanctions in history,” Pompeo said.

The secretary of state also pledged that the US “will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world, and we will crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.”

Speaking directly to the Iranian people, Pompeo claimed that “President [Hassan] Rouhani and Foreign Minister [Javad] Zarif… are your elected leaders. Are they not the most responsible for your economic struggles?” He added: “The United States believes you deserve better.”

Pompeo also said he’s sure that over time, Washington’s allies will warm to the Trump administration’s now unpopular stance on Iran.

Washington’s strategy is to weaken Iran economically, rather than engage in an actual war, Dr. Said Sadik, Professor of political sociology at the American university of Cairo, told RT in response to Pompeo’s address. “What the [US] is doing now is increase sanctions trying to undermine the power of Iran regionally, economically with the hope that that would lead to unrest and disturbances in Iran, that it would make the Iranian government stop trying to help its allies or extend its influence in the area. This is basically what they want.”

Sadik added: “I don’t think they want a war because war is very expensive and dangerous in this strategic area…What they want is to weaken Iran financially, economically, with the hope that the Iranian government will not be that powerful in the area as it is now.”

The speech comes after Trump announced earlier this month that he was pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal. Europeans allies had pleaded with Trump not to withdraw from the historic accord, which put tight restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani described the US pull-out from the deal as a “historic experience for Iran,” adding that “by exiting the deal, America has officially undermined its commitment to an international treaty.”

Iran says it expects the EU to continue to honor the agreement, despite Washington’s withdrawal from the accord. Inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have repeatedly confirmed that Iran is in full compliance with its obligations under the deal.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on Strongest sanctions in history’: Pompeo issues 12 demands to Iran, vows ‘unprecedented pressure’

Ex-Spy Skripal’s Mother Asks UK on Russian TV to Let Her Talk to Son

NOVANEWS

Image result for Ex-Spy Skripal CARTOON

A frail elderly lady who presented herself as the mother of a former Russian intelligence officer, who was allegedly poisoned in England in March, made a public appeal requesting to be allowed to talk to her son.

A 90-year-old woman, who identified herself as the mother of Sergei Skripal, made an appearance on Russian state television, pleading that the British authorities let her speak with her son via phone – something that she effectively still hasn’t been allowed to do.

“I haven’t seen my son for 14 years. I want to meet him, to hug my son tightly. I’m ninety years old, I pose no threat to anyone. Please, let me make at least one phone call to my son,” she said.

The woman added that she simply couldn’t comprehend why her son wasn’t allowed to contact her.

“Why won’t they let him call me? Why? For what reason? When he was at home, we talked with each other [by phone] every week, but now we can’t for some reason. Please, grant him permission so that he and I could talk.”

She also asked the British authorities to allow Viktoria Skripal, Sergei’s niece, to visit him.

“I cry every day as I wait for a message from my son,” the elderly lady said, sobbing.

Despite the claim, there have been no official comments from the UK authorities or media reports confirming that Skripal’s mother previously asked London to talk with her son on the phone.

On May 18 the British National Health Service announced that Sergei Skripal has been discharged from Salisbury District Hospital.

The exact whereabouts and the fate of Sergei and Yulia, who were released from hospital on April 11, are currently unknown.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer currently living in Britain, and his daughter Yulia were allegedly poisoned in Salisbury on March 4.

A week later, London blamed Moscow for the attack, which the British authorities claimed was carried out using a military-grade nerve agent called A-234 Novichok.

Moscow denied the allegations and proposed a joint investigation, which the UK refused.

Posted in Russia, UKComments Off on Ex-Spy Skripal’s Mother Asks UK on Russian TV to Let Her Talk to Son

Egypt demolished 3,600 Sinai buildings in three months

NOVANEWS

Image result for sisi cartoons

The Egyptian army has “vastly expanded” the destruction of homes, commercial buildings and farms in Egypt’s North Sinai region since 9 February 2018, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.

Since 2014 the Egyptian government has pursued plans to create a buffer zone along its border with Gaza on the pretext that fighters and weapons are being smuggled through the tunnels that connect the peninsula to the Strip.

Activists have said this war on terror is better described as a war on civilians. Between July 2013 and August 2015 the Egyptian Army demolished at least 3,250 buildings to this effect, according to HRW.

In late 2017 authorities resumed demolitions with the view to creating another buffer zone around Al-Arish airport following a missile attack on an air base and military helicopter. On 9 February 2018 the Egyptian military intensified this military campaign with the launch of “Operation Sinai” which they said would rid the region of terrorism once and for all.

Under this operation demolitions have escalated. By analysing a time series of satellite imagery HRW has revealed that the military destroyed at least 3,ooo homes – the largest number since the 2014 campaign began – in just two months. Homes of alleged terrorists, activists and their relatives in North Sinai’s largest city Al-Arish have also been set on fire and then demolished.

There has been no judicial oversight of the demolitions and the government has cut electricity and water of the houses they are evicting to force people to leave.

According to the report residents were given between 24-48 hours warning to evict, no assistance for moving to temporary housing, no process to appeal compensation decisions or for destruction of or damage to farmland.

Middle East Director at HRW Sarah Leah Whitson said: “Turning people’s homes into rubble is part of the same self-defeating security plan that has restricted food and movement to inflict pain on Sinai residents.”

The Egyptian army claims it is protecting people from militants, but it’s absurd to think that destroying homes and displacing lifelong residents would make them safer.

The demolitions and forced evictions have exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation in North Sinai, according to HRW, which has calculated that 420,000 residents in North Sinai have been in urgent need of humanitarian assistance since “Operation Sinai” began. With the destruction of farms entire extended families have lost their livelihoods.

Because it is illegal to enter Sinai without a permit, the lack of journalists and human rights workers there means there is an information blackout on the atrocities committed.

Posted in EgyptComments Off on Egypt demolished 3,600 Sinai buildings in three months

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