Archive | May 15th, 2019

Illegal Bt Brinjal Growing in India: A Call to Initiate Criminal Proceedings against Regulators and Corporations

NOVANEWS
 

What is the point in central government orders and carefully thought out regulatory norms if government officials and regulators act with blatant disregard? This is precisely what we now see happening in India where genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are concerned.

India has the greatest brinjal germplasm in the world with 2,500 varieties, including wild species. Following news in April that (genetically engineered) Bt brinjal is being illegally cultivated in Haryana, prominent campaigner and environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues says:

“These varieties are now under threat of irreversible contamination (cross-pollination) because of cumulative acts over time of senseless and criminally irresponsible regulatory oversight. More properly expressed: a virtual vacuum in GMO regulation.”

The cultivation of Bt brinjal (aubergine/eggplant) contravenes the indefinite moratorium that currently exists on the commercial release of Bt brinjal in India.

The moratorium has been in place since 2010 following a unique four-month scientific enquiry and public hearings regarding field trial data and crop developer Mayhco’s application for the commercialisation of Bt brinjal. Back then, the decision to reject commercialisation was supported by advice that the then Minister Jairam Ramesh received from several renowned international scientists.

At the time, Ramesh’s decision to place a moratorium on Bt brinjal was founded on what he called “a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach.” The moratorium is still in place and has not been lifted. All the environmental and health hazards acknowledged at the time remain.

Legal notice issued

On 12 May 2019, Prashant Bhushan, public interest lawyer in the Supreme Court of India, issued a legal notice in a letter to Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The letter discusses the violation of the moratorium on the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal. Given the gravity of the matter, the letter is also to be distributed to the prime minister, the minister of agriculture and all members of parliament.

The letter also includes a lab report: a definitive test carried out at accredited laboratory SGS in Ahmedabad, which states that the brinjal sample from Haryana sent to it tested positive for a plant GMO: the test confirms that the brinjal in question is genetically modified.

Aruna Rodrigues paid for the test herself and says:

“When this news about the cultivation of Bt brinjal came out in April – knowing our regulators bent of mind, intent, conflict of interest and undiluted support of the biotech industry, knowing they probably welcome this – I decided to get a definitive test done at an accredited lab. I paid for it of course. It is civil society that is keeping a watchful eye on the biosafety of India, not the government.”

She adds that the planting of Bt brinjal in Haryana is an egregious violation of a central government order:

“This is not only an illegal planting of a GMO food that has not been approved, but a gross violation of an active central government indefinite order. This raises the violation to a different level and order of magnitude. It is the most serious breach of India’s biosafety, brinjal genetic diversity and therefore biosecurity of India.”

In a similar vein, Prashant Bhushan’s letter discusses blatant regulatory malfeasance regarding Bt cotton, herbicide-tolerant cotton seeds (now also illegally available in the country) and the illegal import of other GM seeds of various food crops. He also informs the minister in some detail about the issues surrounding Bt Brinjal and the reasons for the moratorium in 2010. Bt cotton is India’s only legal GM crop (a Mahyco-Monsanto venture): that too involved a strategy of illegally cultivate then approve. It’s an industry tactic.

Bhushan notes:

“ln the fourteen years since the filing of a PIL (Aruna Rodrigues v Union of lndia) for a moratorium on GMOs in 2005, there has been a disregard for the most basic norms governing the regulation of GlVlOs in lndia.”

Further on in his letter, he states:

“l am constrained to say that we are looking at a collective failure of our regulatory bodies and connected institutions, with the final blame falling squarely on the apex regulator, the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) in your Ministry, the body solely responsible for all environmental releases of GMOs. The illegal planting of Bt brinjal demonstrates the vacuum that exists in the oversight of GMOs in lndia.”

Bhushan makes it clear that the current situation represents the most dire and unconscionable violation of lndia’s constitutional safeguards of its biosecurity and biosafety with potentially irreversible consequences:

“These matters justify criminal proceedings being initiated against individuals and corporations that have participated in and facilitated the illegal sale and cultivation of Bt brinjal. ln the event of any contamination, the GEAC/others may be in contempt of the supreme court’s order of “No contamination”. Any delay on the part of your ministry in taking swift and strict action to stop the spread of Bt brinjal may not only be illegal but constitute contempt as well.”

Source of seeds

So, just where did these Bt Brinjal seeds come from?

In a report in the Hindustan Times (12 May), it is stated that the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) says it had not stored any GM seeds from the field trials conducted prior to the moratorium in 2010. Mahyco and the two universities (Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and University of Agricultural Sciences in Karnataka) involved in the trials were in possession of the seeds.

The newspaper reports that minutes of GEAC meetings held in February and May of 2010 reveal the committee decided that NBPGR would store Bt brinjal seeds from all three seed developers and take affidavits from the company and institutions confirming that all seed stock has been deposited with NBPGR. But this was never done.

Bt brinjal has been grown in Bangladesh since 2013. The seeds could have come from there or might be old seeds that were supposed to be deposited with NBPGR. Further ‘event identification’ (involving an analysis of the construct of the genetically modified organism) tests might be able to determine the original source.

In a letter (11 May) to Minister Harsh Vardhan, the Coalition for a GM Free India stated:

“For any illegal cultivation of Bt Brinjal found in India, the crop/event developer should be held responsible… and it is clear that Mahyco and the two state agriculture universities have to be investigated immediately.”

Of course, as Prashant Bhushan implies, it’s not just the crop developers who should eventually have their day in court.

The GMO biotech sector has not been able to mount a convincing argument for the introduction of GM crops in India, whether it has involved Bt brinjal in 2010 or the ongoing case in the Supreme Court concerning GM mustard. Aruna Rodrigues’s many submissions to the Supreme Court have shown that the crop developer’s field trials and the overall case for GM mustard have failed to establish a need for this crop and are based on scientific fraud and unremitting regulatory delinquency.

But the push for GM continues unabated because Indian agriculture presents a potentially massive cash cow for the industry. It’s a case of any which way, as Kavitha Kuruganti, convener of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, notes:

“The biotech industry’s strategy of ‘leak illegal seeds first, contaminate and spread the cultivation and present a fait accompli’ for obtaining approval is well known.”

It’s exactly what happened with Bt cotton in India.

Read Prashant Bhushan’s letter here.

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The Propaganda Multiplier: How Global News Agencies and Western Media Report on Geopolitics

NOVANEWS

This study was originally published in 2016.

Introduction: “Something strange”

“How does the newspaper know what it knows?” The answer to this question is likely to surprise some newspaper readers: “The main source of information is stories from news agencies. The almost anonymously operating news agencies are in a way the key to world events. So what are the names of these agencies, how do they work and who finances them? To judge how well one is informed about events in East and West, one should know the answers to these questions.” (Höhne 1977, p. 11)

A Swiss media researcher points out:

“The news agencies are the most important suppliers of material to mass media. No daily media outlet can manage without them. () So the news agencies influence our image of the world; above all, we get to know what they have selected.” (Blum 1995, p. 9)

In view of their essential importance, it is all the more astonishing that these agencies are hardly known to the public:

“A large part of society is unaware that news agencies exist at all … In fact, they play an enormously important role in the media market. But despite this great importance, little attention has been paid to them in the past.” (Schulten-Jaspers 2013, p. 13)

Even the head of a news agency noted:

“There is something strange about news agencies. They are little known to the public. Unlike a newspaper, their activity is not so much in the spotlight, yet they can always be found at the source of the story.” (Segbers 2007, p. 9)

“The Invisible Nerve Center of the Media System”

So what are the names of these agencies that are “always at the source of the story”? There are now only three global agencies left:

  1. The American Associated Press (AP) with over 4000 employees worldwide. The AP belongs to US media companies and has its main editorial office in New York. AP news is used by around 12,000 international media outlets, reaching more than half of the world’s population every day.
  2. The quasi-governmental French Agence France-Presse (AFP) based in Paris and with around 4000 employees. The AFP sends over 3000 stories and photos every day to media all over the world.
  3. The British agency Reuters in London, which is privately owned and employs just over 3000 people. Reuters was acquired in 2008 by Canadian media entrepreneur Thomson – one of the 25 richest people in the world – and merged into Thomson Reuters, headquartered in New York.

In addition, many countries run their own news agencies. However, when it comes to international news, these usually rely on the three global agencies and simply copy and translate their reports.

logos_agenturen

The three global news agencies Reuters, AFP and AP, and the three national agencies of the German-speaking countries of Austria (APA), Germany (DPA) and Switzerland (SDA).

Wolfgang Vyslozil, former managing director of the Austrian APA, described the key role of news agencies with these words:

“News agencies are rarely in the public eye. Yet they are one of the most influential and at the same time one of the least known media types. They are key institutions of substantial importance to any media system. They are the invisible nerve center that connects all parts of this system.” (Segbers 2007, p.10)

Small abbreviation, great effect

However, there is a simple reason why the global agencies, despite their importance, are virtually unknown to the general public. To quote a Swiss media professor: “Radio and television usually do not name their sources, and only specialists can decipher references in magazines.” (Blum 1995, P. 9)

The motive for this discretion, however, should be clear: news outlets are not particularly keen to let readers know that they haven’t researched most of their contributions themselves.

The following figure shows some examples of source tagging in popular German-language newspapers. Next to the agency abbreviations we find the initials of editors who have edited the respective agency report.

agenturen-quellen

News agencies as sources in newspaper articles

Occasionally, newspapers use agency material but do not label it at all. A study in 2011 from the Swiss Research Institute for the Public Sphere and Society at the University of Zurich came to the following conclusions (FOEG 2011):

“Agency contributions are exploited integrally without labeling them, or they are partially rewritten to make them appear as an editorial contribution. In addition, there is a practice of ’spicing up‘ agency reports with little effort; for example, visualization techniques are used: unpublished agency reports are enriched with images and graphics and presented as comprehensive reports.”

The agencies play a prominent role not only in the press, but also in private and public broadcasting. This is confirmed by Volker Braeutigam, who worked for the German state broadcaster ARD for ten years and views the dominance of these agencies critically:

“One fundamental problem is that the newsroom at ARD sources its information mainly from three sources: the news agencies DPA/AP, Reuters and AFP: one German/American, one British and one French. () The editor working on a news topic only needs to select a few text passages on the screen that he considers essential, rearrange them and glue them together with a few flourishes.”

Swiss Radio and Television (SRF), too, largely bases itself on reports from these agencies. Asked by viewers why a peace march in Ukraine was not reported, the editors said: “To date, we have not received a single report of this march from the independent agencies Reuters, AP and AFP.”

In fact, not only the text, but also the images, sound and video recordings that we encounter in our media every day, are mostly from the very same agencies. What the uninitiated audience might think of as contributions from their local newspaper or TV station, are actually copied reports from New York, London and Paris.

Some media have even gone a step further and have, for lack of resources, outsourced their entire foreign editorial office to an agency. Moreover, it is well known that many news portals on the internet mostly publish agency reports (see e.g., Paterson 2007, Johnston 2011, MacGregor 2013).

In the end, this dependency on the global agencies creates a striking similarity in international reporting: from Vienna to Washington, our media often report the same topics, using many of the same phrases – a phenomenon that would otherwise rather be associated with »controlled media« in authoritarian states.

The following graphic shows some examples from German and international publications. As you can see, despite the claimed objectivity, a slight (geo-)political bias sometimes creeps in.

“Putin threatens”, “Iran provokes”, “NATO concerned”, “Assad stronghold”: Similarities in content and wording due to reports by global news agencies.

The role of correspondents

Much of our media does not have own foreign correspondents, so they have no choice but to rely completely on global agencies for foreign news. But what about the big daily newspapers and TV stations that have their own international correspondents? In German-speaking countries, for example, these include newspapers such NZZ, FAZ, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Welt, and public broadcasters.

First of all, the size ratios should be kept in mind: while the global agencies have several thousand employees worldwide, even the Swiss newspaper NZZ, known for its international reporting, maintains only 35 foreign correspondents (including their business correspondents). In huge countries such as China or India, only one correspondent is stationed; all of South America is covered by only two journalists, while in even larger Africa no-one is on the ground permanently.

Moreover, in war zones, correspondents rarely venture out. On the Syria war, for example, many journalists “reported” from cities such as Istanbul, Beirut, Cairo or even from Cyprus. In addition, many journalists lack the language skills to understand local people and media.

How do correspondents under such circumstances know what the “news” is in their region of the world? The main answer is once again: from global agencies. The Dutch Middle East correspondent Joris Luyendijk has impressively described how correspondents work and how they depend on the world agencies in his book “People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East”:

“I’d imagined correspondents to be historians-of-the-moment. When something important happened, they’d go after it, find out what was going on, and report on it. But I didn’t go off to find out what was going on; that had been done long before. I went along to present an on-the-spot report. ()

The editors in the Netherlands called when something happened, they faxed or emailed the press releases, and I’d retell them in my own words on the radio, or rework them into an article for the newspaper. This was the reason my editors found it more important that I could be reached in the place itself than that I knew what was going on. The news agencies provided enough information for you to be able to write or talk you way through any crisis or summit meeting.

That’s why you often come across the same images and stories if you leaf through a few different newspapers or click the news channels.

Our men and women in London, Paris, Berlin and Washington bureaus – all thought that wrong topics were dominating the news and that we were following the standards of the news agencies too slavishly. ()

The common idea about correspondents is that they ‘have the story’, () but the reality is that the news is a conveyor belt in a bread factory. The correspondents stand at the end of the conveyor belt, pretending we’ve baked that white loaf ourselves, while in fact all we’ve done is put it in its wrapping. ()

Afterwards, a friend asked me how I’d managed to answer all the questions during those cross-talks, every hour and without hesitation. When I told him that, like on the TV-news, you knew all the questions in advance, his e-mailed response came packed with expletives. My friend had relalized that, for decades, what he’d been watching and listening to on the news was pure theatre.” (Luyendjik 2009, p. 20-22, 76, 189)

In other words, the typical correspondent is in general not able to do independent research, but rather deals with and reinforces those topics that are already prescribed by the news agencies – the notorious “mainstream effect”.

In addition, for cost-saving reasons many media outlets nowadays have to share their few foreign correspondents, and within individual media groups, foreign reports are often used by several publications – none of which contributes to diversity in reporting.

“What the agency does not report, does not take place”

The central role of news agencies also explains why, in geopolitical conflicts, most media use the same original sources. In the Syrian war, for example, the “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights” – a dubious one-man organization based in London –  featured prominently. The media rarely inquired directly at this “Observatory”, as its operator was in fact difficult to reach, even for journalists.

Rather, the “Observatory” delivered its stories to global agencies, which then forwarded them to thousands of media outlets, which in turn “informed” hundreds of millions of readers and viewers worldwide. The reason why the agencies, of all places, referred to this strange “Observatory” in their reporting – and who really financed it – is a question that was rarely asked.

The former chief editor of the German news agency DPA, Manfred Steffens, therefore states in his book “The Business of News”:

“A news story does not become more correct simply because one is able to provide a source for it. It is indeed rather questionable to trust a news story more just because a source is cited. () Behind the protective shield such a ’source‘ means for a news story, some people are quite inclined to spread rather adventurous things, even if they themselves have legitimate doubts about their correctness; the responsibility, at least morally, can always be attributed to the cited source.” (Steffens 1969, p. 106)

Dependence on global agencies is also a major reason why media coverage of geopolitical conflicts is often superficial and erratic, while historic relationships and background are fragmented or altogether absent. As put by Steffens:

“News agencies receive their impulses almost exclusively from current events and are therefore by their very nature ahistoric. They are reluctant to add any more context than is strictly required.” (Steffens 1969, p. 32)

Finally, the dominance of global agencies explains why certain geopolitical issues and events – which often do not fit very well into the US/NATO narrative or are too “unimportant” – are not mentioned in our media at all: if the agencies do not report on something, then most Western media will not be aware of it. As pointed out on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the German DPA: “What the agency does not report, does not take place.” (Wilke 2000, p. 1)

“Adding questionable stories“

While some topics do not appear at all in our media, other topics are very prominent – even though they shouldn’t actually be: “Often the mass media do not report on reality, but on a constructed or staged reality. () Several studies have shown that the mass media are predominantly determined by PR activities and that passive, receptive attitudes outweigh active-researching ones.” (Blum 1995, p. 16)

In fact, due to the rather low journalistic performance of our media and their high dependence on a few news agencies, it is easy for interested parties to spread propaganda and disinformation in a supposedly respectable format to a worldwide audience. DPA editor Steffens warned of this danger:

“The critical sense gets more lulled the more respected the news agency or newspaper is. Someone who wants to introduce a questionable story into the world press only needs to try to put his story in a reasonably reputable agency, to be sure that it then appears a little later in the others. Sometimes it happens that a hoax passes from agency to agency and becomes ever more credible.” (Steffens 1969, p. 234)

Among the most active actors in “injecting” questionable geopolitical news are the military and defense ministries. For example, in 2009, the head of the American news agency AP, Tom Curley, made publicthat the Pentagon employs more than 27,000 PR specialists who, with a budget of nearly $ 5 billion a year, are working the media and circulating targeted manipulations. In addition, high-ranking US generals had threatened that they would “ruin” the AP and him if the journalists reported too critically on the US military.

Despite – or because of? – such threats our media regularly publish dubious stories sourced to some unnamed  “informants” from “US defense circles”.

Ulrich Tilgner, a veteran Middle East correspondent for German and Swiss television, warned in 2003, shortly after the Iraq war, of acts of deception by the military and the role played by the media:

“With the help of the media, the military determine the public perception and use it for their plans. They manage to stir expectations and spread scenarios and deceptions. In this new kind of war, the PR strategists of the US administration fulfill a similar function as the bomber pilots. The special departments for public relations in the Pentagon and in the secret services have become combatants in the information war. () The US military specifically uses the lack of transparency in media coverage for their deception maneuvers. The way they spread information, which is then picked up and distributed by newspapers and broadcasters, makes it impossible for readers, listeners or viewers to trace the original source. Thus, the audience will fail to recognize the actual intention of the military.” (Tilgner 2003, p. 132)

What is known to the US military, would not be foreign to US intelligence services. In a remarkable  report by British Channel 4, former CIA officials and a Reuters correspondent spoke candidly about the systematic dissemination of propaganda and misinformation in reporting on geopolitical conflicts:

Former CIA officer and whistleblower John Stockwell said of his work in the Angolan war,

“The basic theme was to make it look like an [enemy] aggression in Angola. So any kind of story that you could write and get into the media anywhere in the world, that pushed that line, we did. One third of my staff in this task force were covert action, were propagandists, whose professional career job was to make up stories and finding ways of getting them into the press. () The editors in most Western newspapers are not too skeptical of messages that conform to general views and prejudices. () So we came up with another story, and it was kept going for weeks. () [But] it was all fiction.”

Fred Bridgland looked back on his work as a war correspondent for the Reuters agency: “We based our reports on official communications. It was not until years later that I learned a little CIA disinformation expert had sat in the US embassy, in Lusaka and composed that communiqué, and it bore no relation at all to truth. () Basically, and to put it very crudely, you can publish any old crap and it will get newspaper room.”

And former CIA analyst David MacMichael described his work in the Contra War in Nicaragua with these words:

“They said our intelligence of Nicaragua was so good that we could even register when someone flushed a toilet. But I had the feeling that the stories we were giving to the press came straight out of the toilet.” (Hird 1985)

Of course, the intelligence services also have a large number of direct contacts in our media, which can be “leaked” information to if necessary. But without the central role of the global news agencies, the worldwide synchronization of propaganda and disinformation would never be so efficient.

Through this “propaganda multiplier”, dubious stories from PR experts working for governments, military and intelligence services reach the general public more or less unchecked and unfiltered. The journalists refer to the news agencies and the news agencies refer to their sources. Although they often attempt to point out uncertainties with terms such as “apparent”, “alleged” and the like – by then the rumor has long been spread to the world and its effect taken place.

The Propaganda Multiplier: Governments, military and intelligence services using global news agencies to disseminate their messages to a worldwide audience.

As the New York Times reported …

In addition to global news agencies, there is another source that is often used by media outlets around the world to report on geopolitical conflicts, namely the major publications in Great Britain and the US.

For example, news outlets like the New York Times or BBC have up to 100 foreign correspondents and other external employees. However, Middle East correspondent Luyendijk points out:

“Dutch news teams, me included, fed on the selection of news made by quality media like CNN,the BBC, and the New York Times. We did that on the assumption that their correspondents understood the Arab world and commanded a view of it – but many of them turned out not to speak Arabic, or at least not enough to be able to have a conversation in it or to follow the local media. Many of the top dogs at CNN, the BBC, the Independent, the Guardian, the New Yorker, and the NYT were more often than not dependent on assistants and translators.” (Luyendijk p. 47)

In addition, the sources of these media outlets are often not easy to verify (“military circles”, “anonymous government officials”, “intelligence officials” and the like) and can therefore also be used for the dissemination of propaganda. In any case, the widespread orientation towards the Anglo-Saxon publications leads to a further convergence in the geopolitical coverage in our media.

The following figure shows some examples of such citation based on the Syria coverage of the largest daily newspaper in Switzerland, Tages-Anzeiger. The articles are all from the first days of October 2015, when Russia for the first time intervened directly in the Syrian war (US/UK sources are highlighted):

us-medien

Frequent citation of British and US media, exemplified by the Syria war coverage of Swiss daily newspaper Tages-Anzeiger in October 2015.

The desired narrative

But why do journalists in our media not simply try to research and report independently of the global agencies and the Anglo-Saxon media? Middle East correspondent Luyendijk describes his experiences:

“You might suggest that I should have looked for sources I could trust. I did try, but whenever I wanted to write a story without using news agencies, the main Anglo-Saxon media, or talking heads, it fell apart. () Obviously I, as a correspondent, could tell very different stories about one and the same situation. But the media could only present one of them, and often enough, that was exactly the story that confirmed the prevailing image.” (Luyendijk p.54ff)

Media researcher Noam Chomsky has described this effect in his essay “What makes the mainstream media mainstream” as follows: “If you leave the official line, if you produce dissenting reports, then you will soon feel this. () There are many ways to get you back in line quickly. If you don’t follow the guidelines, you will not keep your job long. This system works pretty well, and it reflects established power structures.” (Chomsky 1997)

Nevertheless, some of the leading journalists continue to believe that nobody can tell them what to write. How does this add up? Media researcher Chomsky clarifies the apparent contradiction:

“[T]he point is that they wouldn’t be there unless they had already demonstrated that nobody has to tell them what to write because they are going say the right thing. If they had started off at the Metro desk, or something, and had pursued the wrong kind of stories, they never would have made it to the positions where they can now say anything they like. () They have been through the socialization system.” (Chomsky 1997)

Ultimately, this “socialization process” leads to a journalism that generally no longer independently researches and critically reports on geopolitical conflicts (and some other topics), but seeks to consolidate the desired narrative through appropriate editorials, commentary, and interviewees.

Conclusion: The “First Law of Journalism”

Former AP journalist Herbert Altschull called it the First Law of Journalism:

“In all press systems, the news media are instruments of those who exercise political and economic power. Newspapers, periodicals, radio and television stations do not act independently, although they have the possibility of independent exercise of power.” (Altschull 1984/1995, p. 298)

In that sense, it is logical that our traditional media – which are predominantly financed by advertising or the state – represent the geopolitical interests of the transatlantic alliance, given that both the advertising corporations as well as the states themselves are dependent on the US dominated transatlantic economic and security architecture.

In addition, our leading media and their key people are – in the spirit of Chomsky’s “socialization” –  often themselves part of the networks of the transatlantic elite. Some of the most important institutions in this regard include the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Bilderberg Group, and the Trilateral Commission (see in-depth study of these networks).

Indeed, most well-known publications basically may be seen as “establishment media”. This is because, in the past, the freedom of the press was rather theoretical, given significant entry barriers such as broadcasting licenses, frequency slots, requirements for financing and technical infrastructure, limited sales channels, dependence on advertising, and other restrictions.

It was only due to the Internet that Altschull’s First Law has been broken to some extent. Thus, in recent years a high-quality, reader-funded journalism has emerged, often outperforming traditional media in terms of critical reporting. Some of these “alternative” publications already reach a very large audience, showing that the „mass“ does not have to be a problem for the quality of a media outlet.

Nevertheless, up to now the traditional media has been able to attract a solid majority of online visitors, too. This, in turn, is closely linked to the hidden role of news agencies, whose up-to-the-minute reports form the backbone of most news portals.

Will “political and economic power”, according to Altschull’s Law, retain control over the news, or will “uncontrolled” news change the political and economic power structure? The coming years will show.

Case study: Syria war coverage

As part of a case study, the Syria war coverage of nine leading daily newspapers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland were examined for plurality of viewpoints and reliance on news agencies. The following newspapers were selected:

  • For Germany: Die Welt, Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)
  • For Switzerland: Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), Tagesanzeiger (TA), and Basler Zeitung (BaZ)
  • For Austria: Standard, Kurier, and Die Presse

The investigation period was defined as October 1 to 15, 2015, i.e. the first two weeks after Russia’s direct intervention in the Syrian conflict. The entire print and online coverage of these newspapers was taken into account. Any Sunday editions were not taken into account, as not all of the newspapers examined have such. In total, 381 newspaper articles met the stated criteria.

In a first step, the articles were classified according to their properties into the following groups:

  1. Agencies: Reports from news agencies (with agency code)
  2. Mixed: Simple reports (with author names) that are based in whole or in part on agency reports
  3. Reports: Editorial background reports and analyzes
  4. Opinions/Comments: Opinions and guest comments
  5. Interviews: interviews with experts, politicians etc.
  6. Investigative: Investigative research that reveals new information or context

The following Figure 1 shows the composition of the articles for the nine newspapers analyzed in total. As can be seen, 55% of articles were news agency reports; 23% editorial reports based on agency material; 9% background reports; 10% opinions and guest comments; 2% interviews; and 0% based on investigative research.

artikel-gesamt

Figure 1: Types of articles (total; n=381)

The pure agency texts – from short notices to the detailed reports – were mostly on the Internet pages of the daily newspapers: on the one hand, the pressure for breaking news is higher than in the printed edition, on the other hand, there are no space restrictions. Most other types of articles were found in both the online and printed editions; some exclusive interviews and background reports were found only in the printed editions. All items were collected only once for the investigation.

The following Figure 2 shows the same classification on a per newspaper basis. During the observation period (two weeks), most newspapers published between 40 and 50 articles on the Syrian conflict (print and online). In the German newspaper Die Welt there were more (58), in the Basler Zeitung and the Austrian Kurier, however, significantly less (29 or 33).

Depending on which newspaper, the share of agency reports is almost 50% (Welt, Süddeutsche, NZZ, Basler Zeitung), just under 60% (FAZ, Tagesanzeiger), and 60 to 70% (Presse, Standard, Kurier). Together with the agency-based reports, the proportion in most newspapers is between approx. 70% and 80%. These proportions are consistent with previous media studies (e.g., Blum 1995, Johnston 2011, MacGregor 2013, Paterson 2007).

In the background reports, the Swiss newspapers were leading (five to six pieces), followed by WeltSüddeutsche and Standard (four each) and the other newspapers (one to three). The background reports and analyzes were in particular devoted to the situation and development in the Middle East, as well as to the motives and interests of individual actors (for example Russia, Turkey, the Islamic State).

However, most of the commentaries were to be found in the German newspapers (seven comments each), followed by Standard (five), NZZ and Tagesanzeiger (four each). Basler Zeitung did not publish any commentaries during the observation period, but two interviews. Other interviews were conducted by Standard (three) and Kurier and Presse (one each). Investigative research, however, could not be found in any of the newspapers.

In particular, in the case of the three German newspapers, a journalistically problematic blending of opinion pieces and reports was noted. Reports contained strong expressions of opinion even though they were not marked as commentary. The present study was in any case based on the article labeling by the newspaper.

artikel-zeitung

Figure 2: Types of articles per newspaper

The following Figure 3 shows the breakdown of agency stories (by agency abbreviation) for each news agency, in total and per country. The 211 agency reports carried a total of 277 agency codes (a story may consist of material from more than one agency). In total, 24% of agency reports came from the AFP; about 20% each by the DPA, APA and Reuters; 9% of the SDA; 6% of the AP; and 11% were unknown (no labeling or blanket term “agencies”).

In Germany, the DPA, AFP and Reuters each have a share of about one third of the news stories. In Switzerland, the SDA and the AFP are in the lead, and in Austria, the APA and Reuters.

In fact, the shares of the global agencies AFP, AP and Reuters are likely to be even higher, as the Swiss SDA and the Austrian APA obtain their international reports mainly from the global agencies and the German DPA cooperates closely with the American AP.

It should also be noted that, for historical reasons, the global agencies are represented differently in different regions of the world. For events in Asia, Ukraine or Africa, the share of each agency will therefore be different than from events in the Middle East.

anteil-agenturen

Figure 3: Share of news agencies, total (n=277) and per country

In the next step, central statements were used to rate the orientation of editorial opinions (28), guest comments (10) and interview partners (7) (a total of 45 articles). As Figure 4 shows, 82% of the contributions were generally US/NATO friendly, 16% neutral or balanced, and 2% predominantly US/NATO critical.

The only predominantly US/NATO-critical contribution was an op-ed in the Austrian Standard on October 2, 2015, titled: “The strategy of regime change has failed. A distinction between ‚good‘ and ‚bad‘ terrorist groups in Syria makes the Western policy untrustworthy.”

kommentare-interviews-gesamt

Figure 4: Orientation of editorial opinions, guest comments, and interviewees (total; n=45).

The following Figure 5  shows the orientation of the contributions, guest comments and interviewees, in turn broken down by individual newspapers. As can be seen, Welt, Süddeutsche Zeitung, NZZ, Zürcher Tagesanzeiger and the Austrian newspaper Kurier presented exclusively US/NATO-friendly opinion and guest contributions; this goes for FAZ too, with the exception of one neutral/balanced contribution. The Standard brought four US/NATO friendly, three balanced/neutral, as well as the already mentioned US/NATO critical opinion contributions.

Presse was the only one of the examined newspapers to predominantly publish neutral/balanced opinions and guest contributions. The Basler Zeitung published one US/NATO-friendly and one balanced contribution. Shortly after the observation period (October 16, 2015), Basler Zeitung also published an interview with the President of the Russian Parliament. This would of course have been counted as a contribution critical of the US/NATO.

kommentare-interviews-zeitung

Figure 5: Basic orientation of opinion pieces and interviewees per newspaper

In a further analysis, a full-text keyword search for “propaganda” (and word combinations thereof) was used to investigate in which cases the newspapers themselves identified propaganda in one of the two geopolitical conflict sides, USA/NATO or Russia (the participant “IS/ISIS” was not considered). In total, twenty such cases were identified. Figure 6 shows the result: in 85% of the cases, propaganda was identified on the Russian side of the conflict, in 15% the identification was neutral or unstated, and in 0% of the cases propaganda was identified on the USA/NATO side of the conflict.

It should be noted that about half of the cases (nine) were in the Swiss NZZ, which spoke of Russian propaganda quite frequently (“Kremlin propaganda”, “Moscow propaganda machine”, “propaganda stories”, “Russian propaganda apparatus” etc.), followed by German FAZ (three), Welt and Süddeutsche Zeitung (two each) and the Austrian newspaper Kurier (one). The other newspapers did not mention propaganda, or only in a neutral context (or in the context of IS).

verortung-propaganda

Figure 6: Attribution of propaganda to conflict parties (total; n=20).

Conclusion

In this case study, the geopolitical coverage in nine leading daily newspapers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland was examined for diversity and journalistic performance using the example of the Syrian war.

The results confirm the high dependence on the global news agencies (63 to 90%, excluding commentaries and interviews) and the lack of own investigative research, as well as the rather biased commenting on events in favor of the US/NATO side (82% positive; 2% negative), whose stories were not checked by the newspapers for any propaganda.

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English translation provided by Terje Maloy.

Sources

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Becker, Jörg (2015): Medien im Krieg – Krieg in den Medien. Springer Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften,Wiesbaden.

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Chomsky, Noam (1997): What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream. Z Magazine, MA. (PDF)

Forschungsinstitut für Öffentlichkeit und Gesellschaft der Universität Zürich (FOEG) (2011): Jahrbuch Qualität der Medien, Ausgabe 2011. Schwabe, Basel.

Gritsch, Kurt (2010): Inszenierung eines gerechten Krieges? Intellektuelle, Medien und der „Kosovo-Krieg“ 1999. Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim.

Hird, Christopher (1985): Standard Techniques. Diverse Reports, Channel 4 TV. 30. Oktober 1985. (Link)

Höhne, Hansjoachim (1977): Report über Nachrichtenagenturen. Band 1: Die Situation auf den Nachrichtenmärkten der Welt. Band 2: Die Geschichte der Nachricht und ihrer Verbreiter. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden.

Johnston, Jane & Forde, Susan (2011): The Silent Partner: News Agencies and 21st Century News. International Journal of Communication 5 (2011), p. 195–214. (PDF)

Krüger, Uwe (2013): Meinungsmacht. Der Einfluss von Eliten auf Leitmedien und Alpha-Journalisten – eine kritische Netzwerkanalyse. Herbert von Halem Verlag, Köln.

Luyendijk, Joris (2015): Von Bildern und Lügen in Zeiten des Krieges: Aus dem Leben eines Kriegsberichterstatters – Aktualisierte Neuausgabe. Tropen, Stuttgart.

MacGregor, Phil (2013): International News Agencies. Global eyes that never blink. In: Fowler-Watt/Allan (ed.): Journalism: New Challenges. Centre for Journalism & Communication Research,Bournemouth University. (PDF)

Mükke, Lutz (2014): Korrespondenten im Kalten Krieg. Zwischen Propaganda und Selbstbehauptung. Herbert von Halem Verlag, Köln.

Paterson, Chris (2007): International news on the internet. The International Journal of Communication Ethics. Vol 4, No 1/2 2007. (PDF)

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Schulten-Jaspers, Yasmin (2013): Zukunft der Nachrichtenagenturen. Situation, Entwicklung, Prognosen. Nomos, Baden-Baden.

Segbers, Michael (2007): Die Ware Nachricht. Wie Nachrichtenagenturen ticken. UVK, Konstanz.

Steffens, Manfred [Ziegler, Stefan] (1969): Das Geschäft mit der Nachricht. Agenturen, Redaktionen, Journalisten. Hoffmann und Campe, Hamburg.

Tilgner, Ulrich (2003): Der inszenierte Krieg – Täuschung und Wahrheit beim Sturz Saddam Husseins. Rowohlt, Reinbek.

Wilke, Jürgen (Hrsg.) (2000): Von der Agentur zur Redaktion. Böhlau, Köln.

Featured image is from UK Column

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Trump Intent on Erasing Palestine

U.S. President Donald Trump has come up with what he calls the “Deal of the Century,” the sole purpose of which is to finally remove Palestine from the world stage and put an end to the existence of the state.

***

U.S. President Donald Trump has come up with what he calls the “Deal of the Century,” the sole purpose of which is to finally remove Palestine from the world stage and put an end to the existence of the state.

With great fanfare, the tycoon-come-president, using several of his advisors, intends to deceive the world with a formula to fully favor Israel and deny territory and freedom for the Arab population.

According to a document leaked in Tel Aviv, the deal would be a “tripartite agreement” signed between Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and Hamas to establish a so-called “New Palestine” in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but this would exclude Israel’s illegally built settlements, which will remain in the hands of the Zionist government.

Jerusalem would remain under Israeli control, and the Arab population that lives there would be citizens of the New Palestine. The deal represents a coup de grâce to the Palestinian right to East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, recognized by the UN and other international bodies.

According to the leak, “New Palestine” would not have an army, just a police force. A protection treaty would be signed with Israel, with Palestine having to pay for its services to defend it from any external attack. Hamas would hand all its weapons, including personal weapons, to Egyptian authorities.

I do not think it necessary to write any more on the matter to know that this so-called “Deal of the Century,” conceived by Trump, is doomed to failure.

In recent days, the Israeli army has killed more than a dozen Palestinians in Gaza, in an attack that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) has described as a “prelude” to the Deal of the Century.

The PNA also stated that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to further Israeli and U.S. interests by consolidating the division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sputnik cites Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who notes that any deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a road to nowhere if the principle of two States, one Arab-Palestinian and one Jewish, is ignored.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that those who believe that PLO will be pressured by the United States are mistaken.

“We say no and 1,000 no’s to any initiative that does not meet the minimum demands of the Palestinian people,” he stressed.

And since everything that comes from Trump ultimately carries with it a threat, this time Washington has warned that if the PLO and Hamas reject the agreement, the United States will cancel all its financial support to the Palestinians.

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British Government Forced to Delete Millions of Illegal Citizen Biometric Voiceprints

NOVANEWS

Last year, TruePublica published an article about how the British government were now going ‘full Orwellian‘ in their attempt to build a national biometric database. The opening line to the article was – “We said that the government would eventually take the biometric data of every single citizen living in Britain and use it for nefarious reasons.  DNA, fingerprint, face, and even voice data will be included. But that’s not all.” 

And so it came to pass. The government has indeed been building a biometric database – the equivalent of a digital ID card for every UK citizen and it is illegal. But the legality of the creation of a centralised biometric database will not stop a government who have been repeatedly caught breaking the law when it comes to privacy and data collection.

Police, immigration, and passport agencies already collect DNA, face, and fingerprint data. On the latter, police forces across Britain now have fingerprint scanners on the streets of Britain with officers providing no more than a promise that fingerprint data taken will be erased if the person stopped is innocent of any crime.

The government’s face database already has 12.5 million people – or so it has admitted to. The Home Office, embroiled in all sorts of privacy and surveillance legal cases caused a scandal last April when an official said it would simply be too expensive to remove innocent people from its criminal face databases of mugshots.

A health database is being added along with other data collected by one of the 23 official government department’s involved – and that even includes the creation of a voiceprint database.

In June 2018, TruePublica published a Big Brother Watch investigation, which revealed that HM Revenue and Customs had accumulated a little-known database of 5.1 million taxpayers’ voiceprints from callers to the helplines without their consent. The Government scheme not only broke taxpayers’ trust, but it also breached their data protection and privacy rights. HMRC was building a biometric ID database by the backdoor – the largest state-held voice database in the world.

Big Brother Watch handed their findings to the Information Commissioner and formally requested that the ICO conduct an investigation. An investigation subsequently began.

In January 2019, BBW conducted a six-month review using Freedom of Information requests. They found that HMRC had updated their system so that callers who had previously been railroaded into the ID scheme were offered the option to delete their voiceprint. We also found that the shady scheme had suffered a huge backlash and, within months, 160,000 people had utilised the option to delete their voice record from the Government database.

BBW cautioned that this change was not enough. Their director, Silkie Carlo, said:

Now it is down to the ICO to take robust action and show that the Government isn’t above the law. HMRC took millions of Voice IDs without taxpayers’ legal consent – the only satisfactory outcome is for those millions of Voice IDs to be deleted.”

Following the investigation and BBW’s report to the Information Commissioner’s Office, HMRC has now been told by the ICO to delete 5 million of these records which were obtained unlawfully, without people’s consent.

The announcement marks one of the most robust enforcement actions the ICO has taken against a Government department. It is the biggest ever deletion of biometric data from a state-held database in the UK.

Director of Big Brother Watch Silkie Carlo, said:

“This is a massive success for Big Brother Watch, restoring data rights for millions of ordinary people around the country. To our knowledge, this is the biggest ever deletion of biometric IDs from a state-held database.

This sets a vital precedent for biometrics collection and the database state, showing that campaigners and the ICO have real teeth and no Government department is above the law.”

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C.I.A puppet Guaido Requests US Military ‘Cooperation’ to Oust Maduro

NOVANEWS

Guaido Requests US Military ‘Cooperation’ to Oust Maduro as US Vessel Violates Venezuelan Waters

Self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido has ordered the setting up of a meeting with the US Armed Forces to discuss “cooperation” in his efforts to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

During a gathering of supporters in the upper middle class Caracas district of Las Mercedes on Saturday, Guaido informed that he was instructing his representative in the United States, Carlos Vecchio, to establish a “direct relationship” with the US Southern Command(SouthCom), which plans, oversees, and controls all US overt and covert military operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The initiative by Guaido stokes increasing fears that he looks to oust Maduro using a foreign-led intervention. Italian newspaper La Stampa published an interview with Guaido Friday, in which the opposition leader explained that “If the North Americans proposed a military intervention, I would probably accept it.”

In a letter to US SouthCom chief Admiral Craig Faller Monday, Vecchio requested a meeting to discuss “strategic and operational” cooperation, alongside concerns over what he describes as “the [existing] presence of un-invited foreign forces” in Venezuela. No evidence for this claim was provided by Vecchio.

CARLOS VECCHIO

@carlosvecchio

: siguiendo instrucciones del Pdte. (e) @jguaido solicité oficialmente al Comando Sur @Southcom reunión con delegación técnica para avanzar en planificación estratégica y operativa con el fin prioritario de detener sufrimiento de nuestro pueblo y restaurar democracia.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

CARLOS VECCHIO

@carlosvecchio

: following instructions of Interim President @jguaido, we officially requested the @Southcom a meeting with a technical delegation to advance in strategic and operational planning with the priority goal of stopping our people’s suffering and restoring democracy. pic.twitter.com/x3ckEn39cM

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Venezuelan authorities were quick to respond to the opposition’s move, with Vice President Delcy Rodriguez qualifying it as “repulsive” and “doomed to fail.” Recent polls suggest that over 86 percent of Venezuelans oppose a foreign-led military incursion into the country.

While SouthCom are yet to confirm if they will meet Guaido’s team, Faller had earlier tweeted that he looked forward to discussing how to “restore [the] constitutional order” in Venezuela and that his forces stood “ready.”

View image on Twitter

U.S. Southern Command

@Southcom

When invited by @jguaido & the legitimate gov’t of , I look forward to discussing how we can support the future role of those @ArmadaFANB leaders who make the right decision, put the Venezuela people first & restore constitutional order. We stand ready!

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Guaido and US officials have repeatedly stated that all options, including a military intervention, are “on the table.” However, other countries that have voiced support for Guaido have publicly rejected the possibility of intervention, including ChilePeruColombiaSpain and Canada.

The overtures to the US SouthCom come on the heels of a failed military putsch on April 30 and numerous unheeded calls by Guaido for the Venezuelan armed forces to support him.

After swearing himself in as “interim president” on January 23, the National Assembly president received the backing of roughly 25 percent of the world’s governments. His unsuccessful efforts to remove the Maduro government, which included a humanitarian aid “showdown” on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, have seen his support dwindle in numbers.

More sanctions from Washington

Guaido’s call for cooperation with the US military came as Washington unveiled a new set of sanctions against Venezuela on Friday.

The latest measures added two private oil shipping firms, Monsoon Navigation Corporation and Serenity Maritime Limited based in the Marshall Islands and Liberia respectively, to the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklist. Two Panamanian oil tankers associated with these firms, the Leon Dias Chemical and Ocean Elegance, were also named.

According to the Treasury Department, the firms and tankers have delivered crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba since late 2018. Venezuela delivers around 50,000 barrels per day of crude to Cuba as part of wide ranging cooperation agreements which include the presence of roughly 20,000 Cuban medical and agricultural technicians in Venezuela.

The sanctions follow similar measures announced in April, while the Venezuelan economy has recently seen restrictions imposed on its banking and mining sectors, as well as a de facto oil embargo.

Similarly, Guaido also called on those European countries which recognise him as the “legitimate” president to “amplify” economic sanctions against Caracas this weekend, as well as urging assistance in international courts to oust Maduro.

Sanctions have repeatedly been declared illegal by independent multilateral agencies. Recentcomments from the UN Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy argued that the sanctions also violate human rights, while an April report from the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) indicated that US economic sanctions have directly caused over 40,000 deaths in Venezuela since 2017.

Apart from calling for more sanctions, Guaido also urged European governments to grant “maximum legitimacy” to his appointed representatives. European governments largely continue to have complete or partial diplomatic relations with the ambassadors named by the Maduro administration.

Efforts by Guaido’s representative in the US, Carlos Vecchio, to take over the vacated embassy building in Washington also continue to be frustrated by a group of US solidarity movements who have been occupying the building, with the permission of the Venezuelan government, since April 12.

US coast guard vessel penetrates Venezuelan waters

Amidst discussions of military “cooperation,” tensions remained high following the incursion of an armed US Coast Guard patrol vessel into Venezuelan waters on Thursday.

Action was taken by the Venezuelan Navy and Air Force when the USCG James approached a distance of 13 nautical miles (15 miles) off Venezuela’s northern coast. The vessel changed course away from Venezuela’s coastline following a radio request to do so.

According to US Southern Command spokesperson Colonel Amanda Azubuike, the vessel was carrying out “a mission to intercept drugs.”

“I don’t know if other Republics would accept actions like these in their maritime jurisdiction, but we won’t,” Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez stated Saturday, describing the incident as a “provocation.”

US Coast Guard James 754 (@rocaLaMolesta / Twitter)

US Coast Guard James 754 (@rocaLaMolesta / Twitter)

“All operations of law enforcement in this place where the US vessel was correspond to Venezuela by international law. This was an armed coast guard patrolling these waters,” he went on to state.

The USCG James was detected in the so-called contiguous zone of Venezuelan waters which covers 12-24 miles from the coastline. In this maritime band and according to international law, the free passage of foreign ships is allowed, but Caracas has full sovereignty in political, migratory, border, sanitary, and fiscal matters, including law enforcement and “intercepting drugs.”

According to the US Navy website, the USCG James (WMSL 754) is one of the most advanced patrol vessels in its fleet, carrying modern surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, as well as being able to serve as a command post for “complex law enforcement and national security missions involving the Coast Guard and numerous partner agencies.”

The border incursion comes as Caracas reopened its borders with Brazil and the Dutch island of Aruba on Friday, in efforts to boost border trade. The borders had been closed for over three months since Guaido’s failed attempt to force humanitarian “aid” into the country on February 23.

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Is Canada’s Minister of Defence an Arms Pusher?

NOVANEWS

Would it surprise you to learn that Canada’s minister of defence is an arms pusher?

Last Friday members of Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix interrupteda $135-a-plate luncheon to confront defence minister Harjit Sajjan. At an event sponsored by SNC Lavalin, Bombardier, Rio Tinto, etc., we called for cutting military spending, for Canada to withdraw from NATO and an end to weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

While Sajjan’s responsibility for NATO and military spending are straightforward, his role in fueling the Saudi led war in Yemen is less obvious. But, the Department of National Defence (DND) plays a substantial role in Canadian arms exports to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

As he did the last three years, Sajjan is set to speak at the CANSEC arms bazar in Ottawa later this month. For more than two decades the annual Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) conference has brought together representatives of arms companies, DND, Canadian Forces (CF), various other arms of the federal government and dozens of foreign governments. In 2018 more than 11,000 people attended the two-day conference, including 16 MPs and senators and many generals and admirals.

The corporation supplying Saudi Arabia with more than $10 billion in Light Armoured Vehicles produces the same LAVs for the CF. In a 2012 Canadian Military History article Frank Maas writes, “the CF has continued to purchase LAVs because they have been successful in the field, and they support a domestic producer, General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (GDLS-C), that cooperates closely with the military.” GDLS’ London, Ontario, operations exist largely because of interventionist military industrial policy. A 2013 Federal government report on “Leveraging Defence Procurement Through Key Industrial Capabilities” lists GDLS as one of three “Canadian Defence Industry Success Stories.”

Beyond contracts, subsidies and various other forms of support to Canadian weapons makers, DND has long promoted arms exports. Its website highlights different forms of support to arms exporters. “Learn how the Department of National Defence can assist in connecting Canadian industry to foreign markets”, explains one section. Another notes: “Learn how the Department of National Defence keeps Canadian companies informed of business opportunities at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).”

Based in 30 diplomatic posts around the world (with cross-accreditation to many neighbouring countries), Canadian Defence Attachés promote military exports. According to DND’s website, Defence Attachés assist “Canadian defencemanufacturers in understanding and accessing foreign defence markets … facilitate Canadian industry access to relevant officials within the Ministries of Defence of accredited countries … support Canadian industry at key defence industry events in accredited countries … raise awareness in accredited countries of Canadian defence industrial capabilities … provide reports on accredited country defence budget information, items of interest, and trade issues to Canadian industry.”

Representatives of DND often talk up Canadian military equipment as part of delegations to international arms fairs such as the UK’s Defence Security and Equipment International exhibition. According to a FrontLine Defence story titled “Representing Canada in the UAE IDEX”, representatives of DND helped 50 Canadian arms companies flog their wares at the Abu Dhabi-based International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in February. To help the companies move their wares at the largest arms fair in the Middle East, Commander of the Bahrain-based Combined Task Force 150, Commodore Darren Garnier, led a Canadian military delegation to IDEX.

International ports visits by naval frigates are sometimes designed to spur arms sales. Lieutenant Bruce Fenton writes, “Canadian warships can serve as venues for trade initiatives, as examples of Canadian technology, and as visible symbols of Canadian interest in a country or region. In countries where relationships are built over time, as is the case with many Asian and Middle Eastern countries, a visit by a Canadian warship can be an important part of a dialogue that can lead to commercial opportunities for Canadian industry.”

To get a sense of the interaction between the various components of the military industrial complex, the FrontLine Defence story detailing Canada’s participation in IDEX was written by Brett Boudreau. His byline notes that he “is a retiredCAF Colonel, a Fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and former Director of Marketing and Communications at CADSI.” Boudreau’s trajectory — from the CF, to arms industry spokesperson, to militarist think tank, to writing for a militarist publication — is a stark example of one individual moving through the various components of the military industrial complex. But Boudreau is not unique. It is common for retired CF and DND officials to take up arms industry posts, including senior positions. It wouldn’t be surprising if Sajjan ended up on the board of an arms company after he leaves politics.

Harjit Sajjan heads a ministry intimately tied to a globally oriented corporate weapons industry that profits from war. Is this something Canadians understand and support? Or would the majority of us be upset to learn their Minister of Defence is an arms pusher, promoting sales to anti-democratic, repressive regimes?

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Tel Aviv Is Afraid of “The Axis of Resistance”

The Australian political economist and author Professor, Tim Anderson, has emphasized that the Zionist entity is afraid of the unrelenting Palestinian resistance, of Syria’s looming victory and of an enhanced Axis of Resistance facing the occupied parts of Lebanon and Syria.

“Tel Aviv has looked to Trump for reassurance, but the US leader’s gestures over Jerusalem and the occupied Golan have no force in international law,” the professor told the Syria Times e-newspaper

He went on to say:

“Given that Washington (whether under Bush, Obama or Trump) has done nothing to restrain the extended colonization and attempted ethnic cleansing on the West Bank, it is hard to imagine that The Kushner Plan (given a name which sounds like a TV game show) could do much more than throw some money around; all the more humiliating that this seems likely to be Arab (Saudi) money and perhaps a little Arab (Egyptian) land.”

The professor believes that all the recent statements from the Trump regime (on Jerusalem, on the occupied Syrian Golan and on some new yet-to-be-explained promises over Palestine) run in parallel to the violent expeditions by the Netanyahu regime.

Asked about the purpose of the Zionist entity’s recent intensive strikes on Gaza strip in the occupied Palestine, prof. Anderson said:

“The Zionists seem to believe, as do most fascist regimes, that an extremely vicious response to what they regard as the slightest provocation will act to terrorize the population and so repress all forms of resistance. While there are constant acts of resistance within occupied Palestine, the series of Israeli massacres in Gaza have demonstrated extreme and disproportional brutality. “

“Ruthless Reprisal”

He underlined that civilian casualties amongst Palestinians are, by all accounts, the great majority of Israel’s victims.
“The United Nations reported that “at least” 1,483 (67%) of the 2,205 Palestinians killed in Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza were civilians, while only 4 (6%) of the 71 Israelis killed were civilians. (See this). So, contrary to much of the western media hype, the Palestinian resistance uses far more targeted violence compared to that of the Zionist forces. Notice though that the Zionist kill ratio in 2014 was more than 30 to one,” the professor clarified.

He referred to the fact that the Netanyahu regime since then has enhanced its policy of ruthless reprisal.
“In March the Zionist intelligence site Debka reported (see this) that “a new IDF policy had gone into force for hitting back at all manifestations of Palestinian terror”. This has resulted in immediate attacks “even though there were no Israeli casualties”. The same site noted multiple small acts of resistance, and that “thousands of convicted terrorists in Israeli jails [were] restive over cutbacks in their privileges”.

Prof. Anderson added that the increase in Palestinian resistance’s military capacity, with Gaza rockets reaching Tel Aviv for the first time, in March 2019, might help explain the relatively short punitive assault on Gaza in May.

“The Israeli regime has been notoriously insensitive to the killing of Palestinians, but remains highly sensitive to casualties on its own side,” he affirmed, explaining why the UN had not held an emergency meeting to discuss the Israeli aggression on Gaza.

“As everyone knows, three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have launched multiple wars against the peoples of the region, precisely to divide the resistance to Zionism and imperialism, seeking to embed a controlling role for the Zionist colony in Palestine. Fortunately, in recent years, Russia and to a lesser extent China, have begun to exert a counter-veiling force. However this simply renders the Security Council ineffective. Elsewhere in the UN there are some useful initiatives, for example the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures. This is, of course, mainly aimed at US economic aggression. Such initiatives can help mobilise peoples against the economic and propaganda arms of today’s hybrid wars.”

The multiple 21st century wars

Moreover, the professor doubts that Washington is stupid enough to go to war with Iran, despite the threats.

“Declaring economic war on half the world will not help, in the medium term. The ‘Americans’ have not failed to notice that their game plan in Syria has failed badly; they just have great trouble admitting it,” he said, pointing out that both Tel Aviv and Washington fear the rising influence of the largest independent state in the region, and they fear Iran’s deeper integration with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

“Their great fear is what they call an ‘Iranian land bridge’ from Tehran to Beirut. Of course, such economic, transport, communicational and cultural integration would be of enormous benefit to the peoples of the region, helping lift them out of an under-development enforced by fragmentation and neocolonial division. But this is the last thing Tel Aviv and Washington want,” Prof. Anderson asserted.

He concluded by saying:

“The wars against Iraq and Syria must be defeated and consolidated by a united front across the region. That would be the definitive answer to the multiple 21st century wars launched by Washington against the peoples of the region. Internal cohesion of the resistance within Palestine is also essential.  Only then can sufficient pressure be brought to bear on the Zionist entity to democratize what has become an apartheid state.”

It is worth mentioning that Dr. Tim Anderson is Director of the Center for Counter Hegemonic Studies in Sydney. He worked and taught at several Australian Universities for more than 30 years.

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Posted in ZIO-NAZI, SyriaComments Off on Tel Aviv Is Afraid of “The Axis of Resistance”

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC): Crucial to the Convergence of Civilizations?

NOVANEWS

The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) opens in Beijing on Wednesday and will be graced by a keynote speech from President Xi about the importance of civilizational harmony. China envisages a community of shared destiny where the world’s diverse civilizations are connected through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of this global series of infrastructure investments and is correspondingly slated to play a crucial role in China’s inter-civilizational development.

Pakistan sits at the nexus of Chinese, Russian, Persian, Turkish, Arab, Central Asian, South Asian and Southeast Asian civilizations and is therefore perfectly positioned to serve as their point of convergence through the CPEC, seeing as how each of them will likely participate in conducting business with China through this overland corridor and therefore interacting with one another.

Pakistan is already a very diverse country as it is but it retains its national unity through the concept of Pakistaniat, or “Pakistan-ness,” which preaches harmony between its many different people so that the country as a whole becomes stronger through its individual parts. This principle is applicable to China’s BRI vision as well and perfectly complements the message that Beijing is promoting through the CDAC.

Globalization is inevitable in the economic sense and there’s no going back to the previous paradigm where countries could isolate themselves from global processes. This inevitably has socio-cultural and political consequences because the governments of many homogeneous countries oftentimes receive different degrees of pushback from some of their citizens whenever foreign influences enter their country through the aforesaid economic globalization process. Even some historically heterogeneous countries also feel challenged by this foreign influx.

The first international freight train between Lanzhou and Islamabad opened on October 23, 2018. /VCG Photo

Regrettably, radicalized fringe forces sometimes exploit society’s fears in an attempt to justify acts of violence against the people that they associate with these foreign influences, which sometimes even results in terrorist attacks. This is very dangerous not only in the obvious humanitarian sense, but also in the geostrategic one since hostile third-party actors could weaponize this process through their intelligence services in order to destabilize some of China’s partners through the Hybrid War on the BRI.

That’s why it’s so important for people all across the world to receive education about the benefits of inter-civilizational partnerships and the fruits that these mutually beneficial interactions can bring in order to proactively combat the information warfare narrative about a supposedly impending “Clash of Civilizations.”

Samuel Huntington is credited with popularizing that paradigm in his seminal work of the same name, which nowadays serves as the blueprint for dividing and ruling the Eastern Hemisphere in the 21st century. Asia’s many diverse civilizations must therefore resist the concerted efforts presently underway to pull them apart and pit them against one another, which is why the forthcoming CDAC is so important and the reason why the CPEC must be upheld as the Convergence of Civilizations.

The Press Center of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations on May 12, 2019. /VCG Photo

There’s no better proof that civilizations can co-exist in harmony and engage in win-win exchanges than the example of Pakistan and its role in the BRI. In fact, not only can Pakistan serve as the convergence point of Asia’s many civilizations, but its branch corridors (CPEC+) could even extend to Africa and Europe, thereby connecting the entire Eastern Hemisphere and powerfully counteracting the so-called “Clash of Civilizations.”

It’s important that the rest of the world is made aware of these inter-civilizational plans and the integrative role that the BRI is playing in bringing them about, especially through the CPEC, which is exactly what the CDAC aims to achieve.

The concept of Pakistaniat is pivotal to showing the world’s people that diversity is strength and that cosmopolitan societies can retain their unique sense of national identity even while being at the forefront of economic globalization processes, which contradicts the fear-mongering narratives being spread by some radicalized fringe forces that could be exploited by hostile third-party actors for waging the Hybrid War on the BRI.

Altogether, it’s clear to see that China’s many development visions are finally coming together through the BRI, CPEC and CDAC in creating the community with a shared future for humankind after the Convergence of Civilizations is complete.

Posted in China, Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC): Crucial to the Convergence of Civilizations?

Putin Just Pulled a Bush on “Missile Defense Shield”. Russia’s Dominance in Hypersonic Missiles

NOVANEWS

Despite almost two decades of criticizing the Bush-era missile defense shield plans for threatening to disrupt the sensitive strategic balance between the US and Russia, Putin now wants his country to be the world leader in hypersonic missile defense technology in order to retain its global dominance in this field, essentially embodying the exact same principle that he previously railed against for years.

Putin tried to pull a fast one on the world earlier this week when he thought that nobody would notice the hypocrisy of him calling for Russia to deploy a hypersonic missile defense shield before its rivals catch up to it and develop hypersonic armaments too. RT quoted the Russian President as saying that

“we also have a perfect understanding that the world’s leading nations will develop such weapons sooner or later(, therefore) we must obtain the means of protection against such systems, before hypersonic weapons are put in service by the [foreign] militaries.”

In other words, Russia wants to retain its global dominance in the field of hypersonic missiles by being the first state to deploy both offensive and defensive systems related to this technology, the first of which provides it with a credible nuclear second-strike capability that can pierce through the US’ missile defense shield while the second ensures that it can thwart others’ efforts to do the same against it.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Bush-era missile defense shield plans have been fiercely criticized by almost all of Russia’s state representatives over nearly the past two decades since they were announced, with none other than President Putin regularly railing against them for disrupting the sensitive strategic balance between the US and his country. His government was entirely right in pointing out that the US aimed to undercut Russia’s nuclear second-strike capabilities in order to eventually place it in a position of nuclear blackmail, ergo why Moscow made the decision to urgently prioritize the research and development of hypersonic missile technology in the first place. Now that it’s the world leader in this field, it doesn’t want to risk losing its position by being unprepared for the eventual deployment of these armaments by its rivals and unable to defend itself from them in the same way that the US isn’t able to do at this moment.

In other words, the Neo-Realist theory of International Relations is especially apt in explaining what’s happening here because Russia and its rivals seem to be trapped in the so-called “security dilemma” whereby outwardly defensive moves by one state (such as Russia’s development of hypersonic missiles and shields) are interpreted by others as offensive ones because they’re seen as occurring at the zero-sum expense of their own security since they don’t trust that the leading state won’t abuse its dominant position. Interestingly, this is very similar to what happened back during the Bush Administration when the US originally sought to roll out conventional missile defense technology all across the world in order to preserve its dominant position in that sphere, which in turn provoked Russia into making rapid advancements in hypersonic missile technology to offset the expected disadvantages that the success of the US’ plans would have for its security.

Therefore, in terms of the Neo-Realist theory of International Relations, there’s no difference between the US and Russia in this respect, unless one incorporates the Constructivist theory of (changing) perceptions and begins to differentiate the grand strategic intent being pursued by both Great Powers.

Whether objectively the case or only subjectively so, there’s a prevailing notion that the US wanted to deploy its conventional missile defense shield for aggressive reasons related to preserving its unipolar hegemony across the world, while Russia is doing this in the hypersonic sense in order to maintain the strategic balance that it restored through this technology. In any case, there’s no avoiding the uncomfortable optics that Putin just pulled a Bush on missile defense, so Russia should launch a supportive information campaign in parallel with the development of its hypersonic missile defense shield in order to explain to the world how its intentions differ from the US’.

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on Putin Just Pulled a Bush on “Missile Defense Shield”. Russia’s Dominance in Hypersonic Missiles

The NY Times Invokes Russia & Conspiracy Theories in Attempt to Stifle 5G Opposition

NOVANEWS

On the eve of the May 15th 5G Day of Action, the first national campaign to push back against the unchecked deployment of 5G-ready small cell infrastructure, the New York Times has published a shameful and wildly inaccurate hit piece asserting that opponents of 5G are being unwittingly manipulated by Russia.

The article, “Your 5G Phone Won’t Hurt You. But Russia Wants You to Think Otherwise,” focuses exclusively on a television network most people have never heard of – RT America – and argues that the tiny network, controlled by the Russian government, is the sole driving force behind the growing public opposition to 5G.

The Times cleverly conflates 5G-enabled smart phones with 5G small cell antennas, and fails to note that RT America is just one of many media outlets that are covering the controversy over 5G antenna deployment, including Fox News and CNN.

It also neglects to mention the hundreds of recently published, peer-reviewed, independent scientific studies from highly credible academic institutions and our own National Institutes of Health that demonstrate biological harm, including cancer, from exposure to RF microwave radiation. A listing of some of the most recent studies is located here.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg welcomes New York Times CEO Mark Thompson at a recent announcement of their 5G joint venture.

Although the Times acknowledges its investment in a 5G joint venture with the telecom giant Verizon, it fails to mention another clear conflict of interest: the pages of the Times are filled with full-page color ads for wireless companies like Verizon which stand to make billions from new services made possible by the deployment of 5G-enabled small cell antennas on virtually every block of every street in America.

In the article, the Times attempts to disparage a highly credible academic researcher and medical professional with no financial stake in the debate, while quoting so-called “experts” with ties to industry but no credentials or experience in public health. Without any evidence, the Times smugly concludes that there is absolutely no risk related to 5G.

Based on the science, we are certain of the risk, and believe that widespread exposure to wireless radiation will soon become a national public health issue. We are particularly concerned for children, who, notwithstanding the casual assertion of the Times to the contrary, are more vulnerable than adults to environmental exposures of all kinds.

The Times owes an apology to its readers for failing to disclose its own economic stake in the successful deployment of 5G, and for publishing this transparent attempt to stifle legitimate concerns about an exposure that has been proven harmful.

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on The NY Times Invokes Russia & Conspiracy Theories in Attempt to Stifle 5G Opposition


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