Archive | July 17th, 2018

Why Has a U.S. Republican Attack Operation Opened Shop in the UK?

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And who is paying for their services?

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Speaking to a Conservative commentator this week, I asked was he aware of any changes in the UK lobbying industry. Had he, for example, noticed the arrival of any specialists in ‘opposition research’ – the practice of digging up damaging information on political, or corporate rivals – which has long been a feature of US politics?

Oh no, I was assured. We don’t have anything like that here.

Well, maybe we didn’t, but we do now.

UK Policy Group was established in January last year by two senior Republican lobbyists: Matt Rhoades, who ran Mitt Romney’s bid for the White House in 2012, and Joe Pounder, former head of research for the Republican National Committee, a “master of opposition research”.

Rhoades and Pounder run an elite Republican lobbying firm in Washington called Definers Public Affairs. Both men are also closely associated with a US political fund, or ‘super PAC’, called America Rising, with whom Definers shares an office, and there is a well-oiled revolving door between the two. UK Policy Group was set up as the London ‘affiliate’ of this group.

Definers and America Rising are both specialists in ‘opposition research’.

America Rising exists solely to attack Democrat politicians. It sees its job as exposing the ‘truth’ on political opponents and uncovering ‘Democrat hypocrisy’, as the super PAC puts it. During the 2016 US election cycle its purpose was to erode support for Hillary Clinton, which included targeting material to deter potential Clinton supporters on the left. Pounder revealed in 2016 that their file on Clinton, which they had compiled over four years, ran to ‘over 7,000 pages of distilled research’ and more than 10,000 video clips.

America Rising, whose biggest donor is hedge-fund billionaire and ‘vulture capitalist’, Paul Singer, is now taking aim at potential 2020 Democrat presidential candidates including Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Cuomo and Bernie Sanderswith the aim of attaching negative ‘narratives’ to opponents early in the campaign cycle. It uses ‘trackers’ to follow target Democrats around, filming their public appearances in a bid to catch them saying something that could be used now, or in the future, to undermine, or embarrass them.

Dubbed the ‘unofficial research arm of the Republican Party’, America Rising is a clearinghouse for opposition research within Republican campaigns.

Rhoades and Pounder originally registered their London affiliate with Companies House as ‘UK Rising’, aligning it with the political attack fund they co-founded rather than their commercial lobbying firm, Definers Public Affairs (UK Rising underwent a name change to UK Policy Group in May last year). The US lobbying firm also registered the web domain UKRising.co.uk.

Definers, like America Rising, also creates ‘dossiers on opponents, competitors and agitators’, but for corporate clients, trade bodies and wealthy individuals. It does this, it says, by searching the public record, including social media, news reports and legal records, to find ‘high impact information’, which it then packages up in ‘media-friendly formats’ that can be used to influence public debates. This is ‘painstaking’ work, says Definers, trawling through documents, or YouTube videos to find its opponent’s ‘vulnerability’.

Employees in the London branch are now being trained up in these skills by their American counterparts. UK Policy Group similarly promises to provide ‘dossiers’ on ‘targets’ that provide ‘comprehensive, detailed analysis’ of an opponent’s record, background and views, information which, they say, can be used to shape stories in the media. UK Policy Group has said that its services will be aimed at private sector clients.

UK Policy Group’s all-male leadership team isn’t from the commercial world though, but appears instead to be drawn almost exclusively from the Conservative Party, including some with a background in opposition research.

Andrew Goodfellow, who leads the UK operation, was until his appointment director of research for the Conservative Party where he specialised in opposition research. The Guido Fawkes blog describesGoodfellow a ‘super sleuth’. ‘You may not have heard of him,’ it says, ‘but you’ve certainly read his work.’

UK Policy Group also employs James Caldecourt, another specialist in opposition research from the Conservative Research Department, whose biography says he was part of George Osborne’s Treasury team. The Tories’ head of media monitoring operation until July 2017, Pelham Groom, now runs UK Policy Group’s ‘media monitoring war-room’. The team also includes Matthew van Horen, who previously worked for the Conservative Party and for the lobbying firm of its election guru, Lynton Crosby, and Louis McMahon, an ex-Parliamentary aide, who says he worked for two government ministers.

Chris Brannigan, recent special adviser to Theresa May in No.10, is also an advisor to UK Policy Group, among other firms. He recently told openDemocracy that he has “never carried out research on opposition politicians”.

Both UK Policy Group and Definers Public Affairs were contacted and invited to comment on this article, including on the apparent similarities between America Rising and UK Policy Group, but has yet to receive a reply.

The “dark art” of opposition research

Writing on the UK Policy Group website, founder Joe Pounder says that opposition research is unfairly maligned and in need of a rebrand. He criticises the media for using terms such as “dark arts”, “peddling” and “salacious” to describe what he and his employees do for a living.

But the weaponisation of information in elections – for the explicit purpose of defining a political opponent in the eyes of voters, increasing their ‘negatives’, depressing their support, and driving away potential voters – is not like ‘any other type of information-gathering’, as Pounder suggests. Yes, the Democrats are at it too. But, it is anti-democratic.

Democracy requires the free flow of opinions and debate; a robust political opposition; and a healthy media – all of which can be undermined by the type of opposition attacks, propagated through social media, that were deployed in the 2016 ‘Big Oppo’ election in America, as Pounder described it.

Also crucial to a functioning democracy is transparency, including public knowledge of the actors involved. And around UK Policy Group, there is none. The firm, which arguably looks like an alternative research arm of the Conservative Party, says that the current political turbulence in the UK makes it an ‘ideal location’ for Definers and any clients seeking to ‘influence public opinion’.

But, who is paying UK Policy Group for these services? And which opponents are they being employed to target? Are they political, as well as corporate? And to what end: how are their tactics, honed by their US colleagues, influencing public debate in Britain?

As Brexit gathers pace, and four years out from the next general election, it is in the public interest to know.

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Climb Down From the Summit of Hostile Propaganda

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Featured image: First Lady Melania Trump during a joint press conference between President Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation | July 16, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Throughout the day before the summit in Helsinki, the lead story on the New York Times home page stayed the same: “Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead.” The Sunday headline was in harmony with the tone of U.S. news coverage overall. As for media commentary, the Washington Post was in the dominant groove as it editorialized that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is “an implacably hostile foreign adversary.”

Contempt for diplomacy with Russia is now extreme. Mainline U.S. journalists and top Democrats often bait President Trump in zero-sum terms. No doubt Hillary Clinton thought she was sending out an applause line in her tweet Sunday night:

“Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”

A bellicose stance toward Russia has become so routine and widespread that we might not give it a second thought — and that makes it all the more hazardous. After President George W. Bushdeclared “You’re either with us or against us,” many Americans gradually realized what was wrong with a Manichean view of the world. Such an outlook is even more dangerous today.

Since early 2017, the U.S. mass media have laid it on thick with the rough political equivalent of a painting technique known as chiaroscuro — “the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition,” in the words of Wikipedia. The Russiagate frenzy is largely about punching up contrasts between the United States (angelic and victimized) and Russia (sinister and victimizer).

Countless stories with selective facts are being told that way. But other selectively fact-based stories could also be told to portray the United States as a sinister victimizer and Russia as an angelic victim. Those governments and their conformist media outlets are relentless in telling it either way. As the great journalist I.F. Stone observed long ago,

“All governments lie, and nothing they say should be believed.”

In other words: don’t trust, verify.

Often the biggest lies involve what remains unsaid. For instance, U.S. media rarely mention such key matters as the promise-breaking huge expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the brazen U.S. intervention in Russia’s pivotal 1996 presidential election, or the U.S. government’s 2002 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, or the more than 800 U.S. military bases overseas — in contrast to Russia’s nine.

An Open Letter for Sanity

For human survival on this planet, an overarching truth appears in an open letter published last week by The Nation magazine:

“No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false.”

The initial 26 signers of the open letter — “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security” — included Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, writer and feminist organizerGloria Steinem, former UN ambassador Gov. Bill Richardson, political analyst Noam Chomsky, former covert CIA operations officer Valerie Plame, activist leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II, filmmaker Michael Moore, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, former U.S. ambassador to the USSR Jack F. Matlock Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Alice Walker and Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, former senator Adlai Stevenson III, and former longtime House Armed Services Committee member Patricia Schroeder. (I was also one of the initial signers.)

Since its release five days ago, the open letter has gained support from a petition already signed by 30,000 people. The petition campaign aims to amplify the call for protecting the digital infrastructure of the electoral process that is now “vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere” — and for taking “concrete steps… to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.”

We need a major shift in the U.S. approach toward Russia. Clearly the needed shift won’t be initiated by the Republican or Democratic leaders in Congress; it must come from Americans who make their voices heard. The lives — and even existence — of future generations are at stake in the relationship between Washington and Moscow.

Many of the petition’s grassroots signers have posted comments along with their names. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • From Nevada: “We all share the same planet! We better learn how to do it safely or face the consequences of blowing ourselves up!”
  • From New Mexico: “The earth will not survive a nuclear war. The weapons we have today are able to cause much more destruction than those of previous eras. We must find a way to common ground.”
  • From Massachusetts: “It is imperative that we take steps to protect the sanctity of our elections and to prevent nuclear war anywhere on the earth.”
  • From Kentucky: “Secure elections are a fundamental part of a democratic system. But this could become meaningless in the event of thermonuclear war.”
  • From California: “There is only madness and hubris in talk of belligerence toward others, especially when we have such dangerous weapons and human error has almost led to our annihilation already more than once in the past half-century.”

Yet a wide array of media outlets, notably the “Russiagate”-obsessed network MSNBC, keeps egging on progressives to climb toward peaks of anti-Russian jingoism. The line of march is often in virtual lockstep with GOP hyper-hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The incessant drumbeat is in sync with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.”

Meanwhile, as Dr. King said,

“We still have a choice today: nonviolent co-existence or violent co-annihilation.”

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Criminalization of War, Nazi Biggest Concentration Camp

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Stronger together: your donations are crucial to independent, comprehensive news reporting in the ongoing battle against media disinformation. (click image above to donate)

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Oil-rich Neuquén, Argentina – Site of a New U.S. Military Base

By W.T. Whitney Jr., July 18, 2018

Obsessive media focus on President Trump’s personal indecencies undoubtedly contributes to important news stories not seeing the light of day. In that regard, it’s no wonder the U.S. public is generally unaware of U.S. military interventions in parts of the world, particularly in Latin America. That way, U.S. imperial excess gets a pass.

Africa: Contradictions between Regional Security and Imperialist Interventions

By Abayomi Azikiwe, July 18, 2018

This gathering took place amid the burgeoning challenges facing the African continent involving the efforts to realize a meaningful peace process in the Republic of South Sudan, an ongoing independence movement to liberate the Western Sahara from Moroccan occupation, gender equality and end to violence against women, the recently-announced African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the role of imperialism as it relates to the question of national and regional security.

India: The Assault on Scholar and Social Activist Swami Agnivesh

By Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, July 18, 2018

The assassins are allegedly from the youth wing of the BJP, the ruling party. They had torn his clothes and hurled abuses at Agnivesh. They were angry that the activist had made a statement defending the consumption of beef. In recent months, the consumption of beef in a society where the cow is venerated has become a volatile issue with cases reported of Muslims being killed because they had eaten the meat of the animal even within the confines of their homes.     

A Short History of the Costs of Military Air Shows

By Dr. Gary G. Kohls, July 18, 2018

Pilots from the US Department of the Navy returned from World War II flush with pride at winning the war in the Pacific. So, in 1946, the Navy established a base of naval air operations on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico where the Blue Angels began doing air shows for the public, partly for recruiting future pilots and partly for raising unit morale. 

Helsinki – Trump and Putin – a Showdown for Summer Doldrums or a Genuine Attempt Towards Peace?

By Peter Koenig, July 18, 2018

President Trump, opened the meeting by saying that up to now relations between the United States and Russia were bad, and confessing that the US was to blame for it. He wanted them to improve and hoped that this meeting – he indicated that others of similar nature may follow – may be a first step towards normalizing relations between the two atomic super-powers which together, he said, control 90% of the world’s nuclear destructive force. A timely admission, but ignoring the most dangerous and unpredictable atomic power, the rogue nation of Israel.

Video: Criminalization of War, Israel’s Biggest Concentration Camp. Michel Chossudovsky

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky and Astro Awani, July 18, 2018

Watch the interview of Prof. Michel Chossudovsky with Malaysia’s Astro Awani on the Criminalization of War, focus on Israel’s massacre in Gaza.

According to Prof. Chossudovsky, “… the problem is in addressing the complicity of the international community in closing their eyes regarding these atrocities.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Criminalization of War, Nazi Biggest Concentration Camp

Gaza: From the Freedom Flotilla ‘Video’

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Former Israeli Air Force Pilot Calls for a Boycott of Israel

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Featured image: Yonatan Shapira (Source: The Electronic Intifada)

Yonatan Shapira says Israel’s ‘democracy’ is in fact an apartheid state led by fascist Jewish supremacists.

Watch the video below.

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DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris, reporting for The Real News Network from the port of Naples, Italy. We are seated in front of the ships of the Gaza flotilla, the Freedom Flotilla, which have been docked here for a couple of days, and I’m pleased to be joined today by Yonatan Shapira. Yonatan is a former rescue pilot in the Israeli Air Force. He’s also a founding member and prominent activist of the Israeli movement Boycott From Within.

And I’d like to thank you very much for joining us today, Yonatan.

YONATAN SHAPIRA: Thank you. Thank you for coming.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: So I’d like to start by talking about your experiences within the Israeli Air Force, and your decision ultimately to become a dissenter from military service. Could you tell us about that?

YONATAN SHAPIRA: Well, there is a long story to tell here, but I’ll just try to say in a few words that in 2003, after more than 10 years of service in the Israeli Air Force, I was a Blackhawk helicopter pilot doing rescues and flying soldiers, and doing everything that I was asked. I realized together with other friends in the air force that we are fighting for the wrong side, and we are part of an organization that commits a crime against innocent Palestinians, and we do not want to be part of it anymore. So together with a group of about 27 pilots from all different squadrons of the Israeli air force, attack pilots, rescue pilots like me and others, veterans and active, we send this letter to our commander and the whole society in Israel telling them that we are no longer willing to obey the orders and be part of this illegal and criminal, immoral, occupation. That’s what started my life as an activist fifteen years ago, on the eve of the Jewish year, Rosh Hashanah.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: And subsequently you became a prominent member, as I mentioned, at the outset of this movement, Boycott From Within. Can you tell us, what is it like being an Israeli citizen advocating for the imposition of a boycott given the attitude of the Israeli government towards the whole boycott movement?

YONATAN SHAPIRA: As a human being, I’m very proud of it. I feel super confident about what we, we are many activists. We are still a minority of a minority. But there are activists in Israel who are calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions because we believe it’s for the benefit of all people; Palestinian people, and Jewish people, and everyone living there and everyone in the world. Of course, the Zionist society in Israel doesn’t like it. So you pay the [little] price of being a dissenter in an apartheid. So you get some benefit, some of your privilege away. But overall I’m still able to be there when I’m there, and lead a relatively comfortable life.

And slowly, slowly, the apartheid system is trying to make it harder and harder and more difficult on us. But again, when I look and compare my life to the life of a Palestinian or a refugee in Israel, or even a non-white Ashkenazi Israeli man in Israel, I’m still able to live quite comfortable. As we speak there are many trying in Parliament to make the apartheid in Israel more official. So different laws that are trying to constitute, that will make it even harder for us to still be free to still act.

And it’s just important to remember that Israel claims to be a democracy. It is not. It’s, it’s an apartheid. It’s led by a group of fascist Jewish supremacy people, and prime minister, and ministers. But if you’re a Zionist Jew, you can feel great democracy. If you are not a Zionist, and if you’re not a Jew, you’re living in apartheid.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Now, you’ve participated in prior missions of the Freedom Flotilla. Could you tell me why, and also how you were received by your former colleagues within the Israeli military when the vessels were intercepted on those occasions?

YONATAN SHAPIRA: The first time I tried to break the blockade with a group of activists was 2010. About three months after what happened on the Mavi Marmara, where Israeli, the Israeli army shot and killed about 10 activists from Turkey, most of them. The helicopter that landed, the soldiers that killed and massacred people on the Mavi Marmara, were helicopters from the squadron I used to fly in, this Blackhawk squadron in the Israeli air force. And therefore I decided that I must participate in the second boat that will try to break the blockade. It happened in September 2010. We were very small, and we were intercepted by many warships, small and big. And if we were Palestinians or Turks I guess they would shoot us and kill us, maybe, but I got the better treatment of a Taser gun in my heart. So maybe they thought that they will resuscitate my Zionist behavior. My Zionist heart will start beating again.

But instead it just made me more clear about my decision, and confident about the need to struggle against apartheid and against this illegal crime of ghettoization and that concentration of two million people. The second attempt was 2011, a year, about a year later. I was on a crew of The Audacity of Hope. It was a big American boat, and we were part of the second flotilla trying to leave from the port of Piraeus in Greece. Unfortunately, the Greek government was coopted by Israel and the U.S., and with different pressure, I guess, they obeyed Bibi Netanyahu. And we had a big sign saying, who’s your commander, Netanyahu or Poseidon? Who is the god of the sea. Is it Israel, or the Greek Poseidon?

Unfortunately, it was Netanyahu and on a gun show on a gunpoint. We were stopped by the Greek coast guard just a few minutes after leaving the port of Priaeus, and we had to go back, and were detained by the, by the Greeks. And the third attempt was 2012, with the Ship to Gaza, the Swedish group that was with many international organizations, and the Finnish flagged boat. We had other Israelis on board. And we were also stopped about 40 miles from, from shore, from Gaza. This time it was a big operation. I guess they used it as a maneuver for training their forces, because they know that we are not posing any threat, like military threat, on them. So they were hundreds, maybe thousands of soldiers participating. About 15 warships, big and small. And also one Blackhawk helicopter that came in circled above us. And when I looked at it on the tail I could see that the number on the tail is 852, which is the same helicopter, tthe same piece of metal that I used to fly some years before. They again arrested us, tasered us, and took us to the Navy base of Ashdod, and we spent a few days arrested.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: I’d like, I’d like to talk to you about the future, to conclude. And you know, those of us in the West watching with trepidation what’s happening seem, it seems to be that every day the predicament of the Palestinian people is worse, and that the Israeli government’s sense of impunity is on the increase, if anything. Do you, are you feeling hopeful, based upon what you see, for the cause of Palestinian justice, justice for the Palestinian people? Do you see signs that this is a battle that is being won, ultimately, and that this is something that may actually be won within your lifetime?

YONATAN SHAPIRA: Well gives me hope is nothing about the governments and the system that controls us in your country, in my country. I see a lot of hypocrisy all over Europe and elsewhere, and also Canada. What gives me hope is to see the popular struggle of Palestinians that are showing incredible bravery. That reminds me what I grew up on, you know, the struggle in the ghettos, in the Warsaw Ghetto, in other ghettos. With the, with all the courage to walk into the fence, towards the fence of this biggest prison in the world, without bearing any arms. Walking and trying to protest this siege. It gives me a lot of hope, because I think that’s where the mighty power of the Israeli military collapses, when we have thousands and thousands of Palestinians that are uniting, holding hands and standing in front of the Israeli snipers.

That gives me hope. That means that it’s not going to be able to last forever. And things like that gives me hope to be together with the Spanish, Italians, Americans, Canadians, Norwegians, Swedish, everyone. It means that somewhere on a deep nerve of many people around the world, it’s quite clear that this symbolic struggle of the Palestinians for freedom will be won at some point. And our job is to not be deterred, and not be, not lose our hope when we see the hypocritical governments in one hand saying something against Israel’s crimes, and on the other hand still doing arms trade with them and giving them all the impunity and all the actual support to continue with this massacre and this illegality.

But it’s important to to say to everyone who listens to us that we need you. We need the person that now maybe sits in Canada, or in the U.S., or in elsewhere in Europe, or somewhere else. We need you to join this struggle. And this struggle is not just about freedom for Palestinians. It’s about the struggle against what Europe and the U.S. and other countries are doing to refugees that are trying to escape the horrors in Africa. It’s the same struggle. It’s the struggle of the people who have less to be recognized and to get their basic human right. So if you want to be part of the struggle, wherever you are, you don’t have to come all the way and join us in this flotilla. You can be active on your, in your local community, for justice for, for everyone. And then you are part of the struggle for justice for Palestine.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: I’d like to thank you very much for speaking with The Real News today, Yonatan. It’s been a pleasure.

YONATAN SHAPIRA: Thank you for coming here. And good luck with your health.

DIMITRI LASCARIS: Thank you very much. And this is Dimitri Lascaris, reporting for The Real News from Naples, Italy.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human RightsComments Off on Gaza: From the Freedom Flotilla ‘Video’

As Saudi Zio-Wahhabi Led Attack on Hodeidah Escalates, Yemeni Tribes Bolster Resistance

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As Saudi-Led Attack on Hodeidah Escalates, Yemeni Tribes Bolster Resistance

Since 2015, when the U.S.-Saudi-led coalition launched its military campaign against Yemen, about 15,000 civilians have been killed and 3,000 injured, according new statistics made available to MintPress by The Legal Center for Rights and Development.

  

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The attack on Hodeidah — Yemen’s fourth largest city and predominant port on the Red Sea, responsible for providing over 70 percent of Yemenis’ food, aid and medicine — has gained speed this week as the U.S.-Saudi-led coalition rejected an initiative from the United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, aimed at ending the fighting in the port city and surrounding area.

Griffiths had presented a plan on June 3, during his visit to Sana’a, in an effort to stop the fighting along Yemen’s West Coast, but the plan was rejected by the Saudi-led coalition despite having been supported by the Houthi rebels.

“We have accepted that the United Nations have a technical and logistic role in the port of Hodeidah but the enemies have refused to do so,” stated Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi during a televised speech on Friday marking the anniversary of Al-Sarkha (“the slogan”) — the day of Houthis’ declaration of opposition to U.S. policies in the Middle East in 2002. “The enemies’ excuses were cut off by our initiative,” he added.

Earlier this month on July 4, Martin Griffiths said that he had held talks with al-Houthi. During a press conference that same day, Griffiths stated

“I’m greatly reassured by the messages I have received [from the Houthis], which have been positive and constructive.”

The Saudi-led coalition, however, rejected Griffiths’ efforts. The coalition, which has been waging a war against Yemen since early 2015, claims that the Houthis are using Hodeidah for weapons deliveries, an allegation rejected by Hodeidah`s local residents and the Houthis.

However, the Hodeidah port is the lifeline for the majority of Yemen’s population, which is why Saudi Arabia has make it into a target, attacking the Yemenis’ lifeline to survival. An attack against it threatens over 70 percent of the population, who are in need of relief aid like food, fuel and medicine owing to Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war against the poorest country in the Middle East.

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A Short History of the Costs of Military Air Shows

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Squandering the Planet’s Increasingly Scarce Fossil Fuels for our Amusement

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Featured image: The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform the “Diamond pass and review” at Travis AFB, California on July 30, 2011.   (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt Richard Rose Jr.)

“Knowledge is power; but who hath duly Considered the power of Ignorance? Knowledge slowly builds up what Ignorance in an hour pulls down. Knowledge, through patient and frugal centuries, enlarges discovery and makes record of it; Ignorance, wanting its day’s dinner, lights a fire with the record, and gives a flavor to its one roast with the burned souls of many generations.” — George Eliot, from the author’s last novel, Daniel Deronda 

Pilots from the US Department of the Navy returned from World War II flush with pride at winning the war in the Pacific. So, in 1946, the Navy established a base of naval air operations on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico where the Blue Angels began doing air shows for the public, partly for recruiting future pilots and partly for raising unit morale. 

Within a few years the US Air Force established a base in Texas, where the first USAF Thunderbird team began doing air shows in 1953. 

The Gulf of Mexico has been the Blue Angels’ base of operations ever since 1946, first at Jacksonville, Florida (until 1950), then at Corpus Christi, Texas (from 1950 to 1954), and finally settled in its permanent home at Pensacola, Florida. 

The Thunderbirds started in Texas but have been based near Las Vegas, Nevada for decades. Every US military base has suffered serious environmental damage, just like every military base in the history of the world, and the Blue Angels and Thunderbird bases are no exception. Many US military bases are so seriously polluted that they have acquired the infamy of being designated EPA SuperFund sites. The process is called “fouling your own nest”.

The Blue Angels have been petrochemically poisoning the Gulf of Mexico when the Navy thought it wise to have its jets dump their excess fuel over the Gulf just prior to landing, in order to decrease the remote possibility of a lethal fireball engulfing the plane and pilot in case of a crash landing. 

No records seem to have been kept quantifying the volume or frequency of such fuel dumps, and, simply out of ignorance or arrogance, no environmental impact study was ever done or even considered. I have heard that the Blue Angels have discontinued fuel dumping a decade or so ago when the price of fuel rose dramatically; so now they only dump fuel before landing in certain emergencies.

JP-5 Jet Propellant is Highly Toxic Whether Burned or Dumped

The fuel that the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds use is a highly toxic propellant, a recent permutation of which is called JP-5. The many additives in the fuel do not burn “clean”, no matter what the Navy or Air Force says.

Image result for blue angels air show

Blue Angels air show

JP-5 is actually a highly refined kerosene that also contains a complex mixture of hundreds of volatile chemical additives, some of which are carcinogenic. Many of them can be toxic to liver, brain, kidney and human or human or animal immune systems.

The post-combustion exhaust from jet engines is equally poisonous to air, water, soil, animal, plant and many forms of aquatic life. 

The military personnel that handle the JP-5 fuel are at high risk of being poisoned by the chronic inhalation of either the raw fumes or the engine exhaust. Those exposed can easily develop, in a delayed fashion, chronic illnesses because of the toxicity of the volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in the fumes.

The Sobering Economics of Military Air Shows

The fuel consumption data for the Blue Angel and Thunderbird air shows are generally kept secret – and for good reasons. The alarmingly high fuel consumption would tend to dampen the enthusiasm of all but the most patriotic, thrill-seeking or willfully ignorant ticket-buyers.

The aviation industry says that JP-5 jet fuel costs 2-3 times more than automotive fuel. A few years back JP-5 cost the Pentagon between $8 and $12/gallon!

In 2014, the Blue Angels were in Duluth, headlining the biannual air show, which many of those critical of US militarism, US imperialism and US exceptionalism derogatorily call the Dulut Hairshow). During the 2014 pre-show promotional build-up, a local reporter for the Duluth News-Tribune was given a publicity ride, and he enthusiastically wrote in his column that the jet burned 1,200 gallons of fuel per hour! That number should sober up every thinking person, for a very fuel-efficient car that gets, say, 40 mpg, could drive 48,000 miles on the 1,200 gallons.

Back in 2014, 1,200 gallons of JP-5 cost the military upwards of $12,000 (at $10/gallon). If one multiplied that consumption by 6 (the number of jets in each performing team) the fuel costs would be $72,000 per hour just for the fuel used up doing the performance. And that is not counting the essentially daily practice sessions year-round that also last an hour. Nor does that count the fuel consumption for the round trip to Florida and back for each of the 70 air shows that the Blue Angels do in a typical year. 

How much of the Pentagon’s “missing” $23 trillion dollars can be Blamed on Military Air Shows?

Do the math and you will start to reconsider the wisdom of supporting such environmentally-insensitive and earth-unsustainable entertainment events. Surely some of the “missing” $23 trillion dollars (23,000,000,000,000 dollars) that the Pentagon recently reported that it can’t account for can be blamed on fuel wastage and other expenses that air shows incur.

On Bastille Day of 2014 (July 14) eight USAF Thunderbird F-16 jets arrived in Duluth along with the obligatory C-17 cargo plane carrying 30 support staff and spare parts for the jets (for air shows the support contingent usually numbers 50-55 members). 

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Three of six U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds take off simultaneously as they begin their aerobatic performance at the Duluth Airshow in 2016. (Source: Duluth News Tribune)

The next day, 6 of the 8 Thunderbird jets left Duluth to do a 10 second flyover for the start of the Major League Baseball All-Star game at Target Field in Minneapolis – the only reason for them to be in Minnesota! (No information on the economics of the event was published. Hopefully, Major League Baseball footed the bill.)

The flyover was to coincide with the last strains of the Star-Spangled Banner. The two spare jets, who made the trip for nothing except as back-ups, were left sitting on the tarmac in Duluth, thus saving us taxpayers $10,000. The News Tribune reporter covering that story wrote that “each of the multi-million-dollar fighter jets will consume about 500 gallons of fuel just to make the 30-minute round trip to and from Minneapolis”. 

The cost of the fuel just for that quick trip from Duluth to Minneapolis and back for 10 seconds of entertainment? Here’s the math: $10 dollars/gallon X 500 gallons, X 6 Thunderbirds = $30,000!! And that is not considering the costs of the maintenance and the crews of the other planes involved, the practice sessions, the salaries and pensions and health care costs of all the military personnel involved.

We’re talking big bucks and a massive amount of fuel wastage every time the two stunt-flying teams perform or practice, even if one acknowledges that a portion of the costs are covered by civilian event sponsors. But there is more to understand about US military air shows that should raise additional concerns.

More Sobering Math: How much does it Cost to Train the Pilots?

A Duluth News-Tribune reporter covering one of Duluth’s past air shows wrote that the commanding officer of one of the flight teams was required to fly a minimum of 3,000 training hours (paid for by the US taxpayer) to qualify for the role of commander. The other team members had to fly 1,350 training hours. The reporter noted in that article that there were 15 pilots in the team, although only 6 perform at a time. The team members (the subs as well as prime time flyers) practice their highly technical and dangerous stunts virtually every day of the year in order to keep their skills honed and the air shows relatively safe. 

As of 2006, there had reportedly been 230 fighter pilots since the Blue Angels started their stunt-flying for audiences. Since the Blue Angels teams began flying in 1946, about 25 of their pilots have died in crashes, which means that as many as 25 multimillion-dollar planes went down in the crashes as well (this figure does not factor in the number of planes that were demolished while the pilot survived by ejecting safely). 

In 2011, 70 Blue Angel air shows (two shows per weekend) were presented at 35 different sites, with rehearsal flights the day before each performance. When they are not touring, the Blue Angels practice their routines year-round, usually over the Gulf of Mexico at their Pensacola base of operations. The Thunderbirds practice over Nevada’s vast desert north of Las Vegas, which is where a rookie Thunderbird pilot recently died in a practice session crash on April 4, 2018, just a couple of months before he was to be in Duluth. The crash was the third Thunderbird accident in the past 22 months. 

Using the figures that the journalist obtained from the Blue Angels, the 3,000 hours of training for the single Commanding Officer (CO) used up as many as 2,400,000 gallons of jet fuel just to qualify (3,000 hours X 800 gallons/hour = 2,400,000 gallons, which at $10 per gallon amounts to $24,000,000 for every qualifying commanding officer)! Of course, this training number does not include the equally enormous amounts of fuel consumed during the air show performances, the rehearsals or the flights to and from Pensacola. 

The 1,350 training hours for the other pilots on the team (at one time there were as many as 15 pilots on Blue Angels teams) consumed as much as 1,080,000 gallons for each pilot’s training (which costs us taxpayers, at $10/gallon, $10,800,000 for each Blue Angel pilot that qualified!). For the 14 non-commander pilots, the total fuel costs expended just to qualify comes to $15,120,000! 

And those costs do not factor in the airmen’s or support crew’s salaries, the pensions or the tens of millions of dollars that each jet costs. 

I challenge readers to try to estimate in dollar figures the enormous fuel costs for all of the US military shows/year, and then try to calculate the fuel used up in the flights to and from Pensacola or Las Vegas (in the case of the Thunderbirds). And then add in the costs of the huge transport planes that carry all the repair parts and the 50-55 support crew members that work in supply and maintenance. 

Of course, the costs to the American taxpayer are impossible to calculate precisely, but surely it must be many billions of dollars per year, admittedly partly offset by ticket sales. Nevertheless, since so many of America’s military excursions are for control of oil, the burning of precious fuel for whatever reason must be taken into account if and when the future of fuel-wasting military air shows is to be re-considered.

Squandering Increasingly Scarce Fossil Fuel for our Amusement

In 2016 the USAF Thunderbirds headlined what used to be biannual Duluth air shows. But in 2017 the Blue Angels were back again. At every show there are any number of other stunt-flying participants, all using up increasingly scarce petroleum products for purposes of entertainment plus, of course, for the recruitment of starry-eyed, vulnerable young boys (and girls) who are being primed, partly because of their extensive experience with first person shooter videogames, to want to join the death-dealing military professions that make homicidal violence normal and attractive. 

The world is over-populated and heading for catastrophic economic and climate change cliffs, so isn’t it about time for people to get serious about what should be the sobering realities mentioned above? We live in a world of dwindling, irreplaceable fossil fuel resources that are already being squandered by thousands of corporate misleaders on Wall Street and War Street, including Big Oil, Big Agribusiness, Big Chemical, Big Food, Big Media and Big Armaments. Each of these industries – in one way or another – profits from wars and rumors of war, and so the mesmerizing beat goes on. 

Far too many US military veterans are physically, neurologically and/or spiritually dead or dying. Often the deaths are by suicide – 22 per day for active duty soldiers and veterans combined! These once-gung-ho wounded warriors were easily seduced by the pseudo-patriotic jingoism coming from the “military-industrial complex” often wasting the best years of their lives. And then they were sacrificed, not for American “democracy”, but for American capitalism and the money-hungry, pro-militarism, war-profiteering corporations (and the subservient politicians and presidents of both political parties) that cunningly waved the flag and dutifully wore the flag pins on their suit coat lapels. 

Now we know that these corporate entities never really cared about the well-being of their “cannon fodder” warriors who were doing the dirty work to ensure the success of their evil enterprises abroad. The flag that corporate CEOs pledge allegiance to is NOT the Stars and Stripes but the flag that has their corporate logo on it. 

Millions of dead and dying American veterans from every war since 1898 (the year that the US military captured the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico and Cuba from Spain and started feeling their imperialistic oats) joined the US military partly out of a sense of patriotic duty, partly to “see the world” and partly to get out of their poverty; but most of them soon found themselves either

1) disillusioned by the atrocities they witnessed or had been ordered to commit; 

2) sickened from their exposures to military toxins (including the obligatory, massive over-vaccination agendas for every member, no matter how irrational); 

3) malnourished or sickened from the, toxic, non-organic, highly processed, chemically-treated, pseudo-food in their rations; 

4) neurologically and/or psychiatrically sickened from the ubiquitous overuse of alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs or the cocktails of legal psych drugs given to them by military psychiatrists, medics and the VA; and/or 

5) tormented by the post-combat demons, the nightmares and the suicidality – while at the same time earning less than the minimum wage. 

And part of the process that led many of the above victims (of America’s endless military adventurism) to think that there somehow was glory involved in killing and dying for their nation’s financial elites, may have begun with the thrill of experiencing military air shows.

America’s soldiers, airmen, seamen and Marines have been, in reality, working not for the US Constitution to which they pledged allegiance, but rather for a whole host of nefarious special interest groups that stopped supporting them when their broken bodies, their broken brains and the body bags came home under cover of darkness. 

Hopefully, acknowledging these unwelcome realities may someday set us free from the war-glorifying, war-profiteering, war-mongers on Wall Street and War Street. Good examples would include Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas/Boeing, the suppliers of the Thunderbird planes, who depend on wars and rumors of war to continue doing business, maintain dividend payments and ensure high stock prices for their investors.

So, while thousands of patriotic Duluthians watched in wide-eyed wonder last week-end as the highly skilled jet pilots did their breath-taking stunts, there were, at the same time, tens of thousands of Duluthians that refused to spend their time and money attending and supporting these pro-militarization air shows. 

Sadly, the Thunderbirds, their sponsors and fans are unconsciously hastening America’s impending moral, energy, climate and financial collapse by ignoring the wastefulness of burning up precious, expensive, non-renewable fossil fuel resources while simultaneously poisoning the planet and risking the health of everybody, including America’s progeny.

Posted in USAComments Off on A Short History of the Costs of Military Air Shows

Gaza Patients Appeal to the World to Save Their Lives

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Patients in Gaza’s hospital’s organised a sit-in in central Gaza City to appeal to the international community, Quds Press reported, Tuesday.

The sit-in included those wounded by Nazi army as well as rights groups. It took place in front of Erez Crossing where Gazans can pass through to receive treatment in ‘Israel’ or Palestinian hospitals in West Bank.

Speakers at the sit-in said that Gaza’s hospitals suffer from shortages in medicines, lab equipment and testing materials due to the Palestinian Authority (PA) sanctions and the Nazi siege of the strip.

First aid crews and patients lying on stretchers take part in a protest against the impairment of health due to Israel's over a decade long blockade in front of Beit Hanoun Border Gate in Gaza City, Gaza on 17 July, 2018 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

First aid crews and patients lying on stretchers take part in a protest against the impairment of health due to Nazi over a decade long blockade in front of Beit Hanoun Border Gate in Gaza City, Gaza on 17 July, 2018 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu Agency]

The patients called for the international community to save their lives by lifting the siege and sanctions.

Spokesman of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, Ashraf al-Qidra, called for an, “immediate and unconditional end of the suffering of the Gaza patients.”

Al-Qidra said that the Nazi regime had killed 141 Palestinians and wounded 16,000 others during the protests of the Great March of Return. This put a heavy burden on the ministry of health and consumed most of the medical supplies.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human RightsComments Off on Gaza Patients Appeal to the World to Save Their Lives

IRAN – A SAFE PLACE FOR JEWS ‘ Video’

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Image result for IRAN Jews CARTOON

IRAN – A SAFE PLACE FOR JEWS UNTIL ISRAEL STARTS BOMBING THEM…

THIRTY CENTURIES OF CO-EXISTENCE

Would you believe that…

Iran is a safe place for Jews to live?

It has been for going on for thirty centuries?

It has the largest population of Jews in Middle East, second only to Israel.

What’s going on?

Reality is what’s going on.

And non-stop 24/7/365 propaganda in the US news is what’s going on too.

How is it possible this kind of basic factual information is not common knowledge?

– Honoring the memory of Anthony Bourdain (1956 – 2018)

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Global Jewish Groups Issue Joint Statement in Support of BDS Movement

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The BDS solidarity campaign includes 37 Jewish groups in 15 different countries, including South Africa, Brazil and Germany.

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An unprecedented joint statement has been issued by dozens of Jewish groups in several countries offering their support to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. They affirmed that their condemnation of the Israeli state does not amount to antisemitism.

“As social justice organizations from around the world, we write this letter with growing alarm regarding the targeting of organizations that support Palestinian rights in general and the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in particular,” the letter began.

“These attacks too often take the form of cynical and false accusations of antisemitism that dangerously conflate anti-Jewish racism with opposition to Israel’s policies and system of occupation and apartheid.”

The letter went on to note that history has made Jewish people “all too aware of the dangers of increasingly fascistic and openly racist governments and political parties.”

“The rise in antisemitic discourse and attacks worldwide is part of that broader trend. At times like this, it is more important than ever to distinguish between the hostility to – or prejudice against – Jews on the one hand and legitimate critiques of Israeli policies and system of injustice on the other.”

The Jewish-based solidarity campaign was initiated by the Jewish Voice for Peace, or JVP, a U.S.-based organization, along with 36 Jewish groups in 15 different countries, including South Africa, Brazil and Germany, according to The New Arab.

Activists and supporters of the BDS movement have taken inspiration from the boycott and sanctions campaign undertaken in the 1980s to help bring an end to South Africa.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Global Jewish Groups Issue Joint Statement in Support of BDS Movement

Apartheid Rule Over Palestinians Enacted Into Nazi Basic Law

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Apartheid Rule Over Palestinians Enacted Into Israeli Basic Law

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From inception, democracy in Israel was pure fantasy. Now rights for Jews alone is official with Knesset enactment of apartheid rule over Palestinian citizens.

The new Basic Law, the equivalent of US constitutional law, way exceeds contentiousness.

It’s the Jewish state’s version of Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws. Israel is to Palestinians what Hitler’s regime was to Jews – in both countries treated like subhumans, forced to endure virtually every type indignity, degradation and crime against humanity.

Palestinians and Israeli Arab citizens are discriminated against in virtually all aspects of their lives – their fundamental freedoms denied, their personal safety jeopardized by what the late Edward Said called “refined (Israeli) viciousness.”

Ahead of enactment of Israel’s Nation-State law, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said the following:

The Basic Law “falls within the bounds of absolute prohibitions under international law and is therefore illegitimate as a colonial law with characteristics of apartheid.”

Last Sunday, Adalah’s general director Hassan Jabareen said:

“The Nation-State Basic Law is illegitimate, as it establishes a colonial regime with distinct apartheid characteristics in that it seeks to maintain a regime in which one ethnic-national group controls an indigenous-national group living in the same territory while advancing ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies in the most basic aspects of life.”

Adalah attorney Sawsan Zaher earlier explained that the Nation-State Law conveys to Israeli Arab citizens that “Jewish rights are superior” to theirs.

Click here to read Adalah’s July 16, 2018 position paper on Israel’s Nation-State Law.

Separately, Adalah said

“(n)o country in the world today is defined as a democratic state where the constitutional identity is determined by ethnic affiliation that overrides the principle of equal citizenship.”

Enacting the measure illegitimately enshrines Jewish supremacy over equal rights for Arab citizens into Israeli Basic Law – what apartheid is all about.

It exceed the worst of South Africa’s version – including murder, extermination, enslavement, torture, arbitrary arrests, illegal imprisonments, denial of the right to life and liberty, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and other abusive acts imposed by Jews on Arabs.

Former UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine, Richard Falk, earlier said

“Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid in relation to the Palestine people should be taken with the utmost seriousness by all those who affirm human solidarity and care about making visible the long ordeal of a suffering and vulnerable people.”

Writing for the Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid, Karine MacAllister earlier said:

It “involves or necessitates the denial of the other; of their presence, rights and existence on the land and reconstruction of the past, namely that the land was empty before the advent of Zionist settlement, hence the movement’s slogan, (creating the myth about) ‘a land without people for a people without land,” adding:

Zionism is “a sophisticated legal, social, economic and political regime of racial discrimination that has led to colonialism and apartheid as well as the dispossession and displacement of the Palestinian people.”

“Colonialism flourishes by separating indigenous people from their land and heritage.”

Article 7(1)(j) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court calls apartheid a crime, stating:

“For the purpose of this Statute, (a) ‘crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:

(a) Murder;

(b) Extermination;

(c) Enslavement;

(d) Deportation or forcible transfer of population;

(e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;

(f) Torture;

(g) Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;

(h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court;

(i) Enforced disappearance of persons;

(j) The crime of apartheid;

(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”

From inception, Israel stands guilty of virtually all of the above abuses and other high crimes against Palestinians – yet remains unaccountable because the world community supports the Jewish state, doing nothing to hold it accountable, nothing supporting fundamental Palestinian rights.

Apartheid is racism on steroids, institutionalized in Israel – now illegally codified under its Basic Law, defying international law, declaring the country to be the exclusive “nation-state of the Jewish people (and their) historic homeland…they have an exclusive right to…”

On Thursday, the measure was enacted by a 62 – 55 vote – officially adopting apartheid rule as the law of land, ending the myth of democratic rule once and for all.

Joint (Arab) List chairman Ayman Odeh denounced the bill, saying it

“declare(s) (Israel) does not want us here,” affirming “Jewish supremacy…tell(ing) us that we will always be second-class citizens.”

Netanyahu praised enactment of the apartheid law, calling it “a defining moment.”

Indeed so – revealing Israeli viciousness in the cold light of day, its discriminatory nature, its contempt for Palestinians rights, officially denying what’s affirmed under international laws, norms and standards.

*

 

Posted in ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Apartheid Rule Over Palestinians Enacted Into Nazi Basic Law

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