Archive | March 13th, 2020

Coronavirus vs. the Mass Surveillance State: Which Poses the Greater Threat?

…by Jonas E. Alexis and John W. Whitehead

Jonas E. Alexis: During the 1950s and 60s, the CIA covertly and diabolically directed scientists to dose unsuspecting human guinea pigs with LSD and other drugs. The eminent journalist and historian Stephen Kinzer has recently written a meticulously detailed book on this issue entitled, Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control.[1]

One of those individuals who was dosed by the CIA was none other than the late Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. Bulger was dosed over 50 times! As the leader of the Winter Hill Gang, Bulger would go on to antagonize much of the South Boston area. In other words, the CIA essentially created the Winter Hill Gang.

The LSD program which the CIA set in motion was known as MK-Ultra, and the scientist behind of all this was a Jewish chemist by the name of Sidney Gottlieb, who, according to Kinzer, had “a license to kill.” This “license to kill” allowed Gottlieb to run dangerous experiments with LSD on unsuspecting Americans. The goal of Gottlieb’s entire project? Manipulation, mind control, assassination plots, and murder if necessary.

In Gottlieb’s world, nothing was forbidden, and every crime you could possibly imagine was a fair game. Morality to him was simply a relic of the past. Timothy Leary, the Harvard psychologist who eventually became the drug guru of the 60s, was a product of MK-Ultra; Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, was also a victim of MK-Ultra; the poet Allen Ginsberg, Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead, all had mystical experiences after taking LSD which the CIA had surreptitiously provided. John Lennon, the founder of the Beatles, was a vehicle for the CIA and indeed MK-Ultra. Lennon once said: “We must always remember to thank the CIA and the Army for LSD. That’s what people forget…[The CIA] invented LSD to control people, and what they did was give us freedom.”[2]

Well, only dope heads like Lennon actually thought that LSD was equivalent to freedom. The seven blacks who were given triple doses of LSD every day for seventy-seven days at the federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky, under the supervision of Gottlieb himself, would certainly disagree with Lennon.

LSD doesn’t and can never bring freedom. LSD has always been a form of political control. That was why the CIA promoted it.[3] As we all know, this LSD program turned America upside down, and largely brought about the sexual revolution, which in itself is a form of political control[4] and which deliberately excluded morality as a guiding principle. As Wilhelm Reich, one of the fathers of the sexual revolution, put it way back in 1971:

“The first prerequisite for healthier human and sexual relationships is the elimination of those moral concepts which base their demands on allegedly supernatural commands, on arbitrary human regulations, or simply on tradition…We do not want to see natural sexual attraction stamped as ‘sin,’ ‘sensuality’ fought as something low and beastly, and the ‘conquering of the flesh’ made the guiding principle of morality!”[5]

The logic here is pretty straightforward: the CIA and the US government have been involved in covert activities since the beginning of time. We did not know about MK-Ultra until years later. But the US government is just the tip of the iceberg. As George Orwell puts it in 1984, we are living in a time where the government of any country wants to control and manipulate its citizens via covert means. Aldous Huxley, another dope head, was very cognizant of this as well. He wrote in the 1958 preface of A Brave New World:

“Impersonal forces over which we have almost no control seem to be pushing us all in the direction of the Brave New Worldian nightmare; and this impersonal pushing is being consciously accelerated by representatives of commercial and political organizations who have developed a number of new techniques for manipulating, in the interest of some minority, the thoughts and feelings of the masses.”

James Dacre of the Guardian writes that Huxley wrote his dystopian novel “in the shadow of the first world war, the Wall Street Crash and a devastating flu virus that had claimed millions of lives.”[6] We are currently in the middle of another devastating virus.

Francis Boyle, a professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, has said that the coronavirus is biological warfare.[7] He drafted the U.S. domestic implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention. Former CIA intelligence analyst Philip Giraldi and others have also argued the same thing. Giraldi wrote in a recent article:

“There has been some speculation that as the Trump Administration has been constantly raising the issue of growing Chinese global competitiveness as a direct threat to American national security and economic dominance, it might be possible that Washington has created and unleashed the virus in a bid to bring Beijing’s growing economy and military might down a few notches. It is, to be sure, hard to believe that even the Trump White House would do something so reckless, but there are precedents for that type of behavior.

“In 2005-9 the American and Israeli governments secretly developed a computer virus called Stuxnet, which was intended to damage the control and operating systems of Iranian computers being used in that country’s nuclear research program. Admittedly Stuxnet was intended to damage computers, not to infect or kill human beings, but concerns that it would propagate and move to infect computers outside Iran proved to be accurate as it spread to thousands of PCs outside Iran, in countries as far flung as China, Germany, Kazakhstan and Indonesia.

“Inevitably there is an Israeli story that just might shed some light on what has been going on in China. Scientists at Israel’s Galilee Research Institute are now claiming that they will have a vaccine against coronavirus in a few weeks which will be ready for distribution and use within 90 days. The institute is claiming that it has been engaged in four years of research on avian coronavirus funded by Israel’s Ministries of Science & Technology and Agriculture.

“They are claiming that the virus is similar to the version that has infected humans, which has led to breakthroughs in development through genetic manipulation, but some scientists are skeptical that a new vaccine could be produced so quickly to prevent a virus that existed only recently. They also have warned that even if a vaccine is developed it would normally have to be tested for side effects, a process that normally takes over a year and includes using it on infected humans.

“If one even considers it possible that the United States had a hand in creating the coronavirus at what remains of its once extensive biological weapons research center in Ft Detrick Maryland, it is very likely that Israel was a partner in the project. Helping to develop the virus would also explain how Israeli scientists have been able to claim success at creating a vaccine so quickly, possibly because the virus and a treatment for it were developed simultaneously.”

Is this theory entirely farfetched? I don’t know. Perhaps we won’t know all that is to know about the virus until ten to twenty years later. But the media has almost certainly hyped up the coronavirus outbreak. My oldest brother, Chris, has raised a point which deserves a fair hearing:

“This is the twenty-first century, and not one son or daughter has gone online or on YouTube to explain that one of his/her family members, even himself/herself has contracted the virus to explain what it feels like and maybe express concerns that this might be it. We’re living in an age where people voluntarily share information for the sakes of others. Has anyone met anyone or heard from anyone? So many deaths being reported everywhere in the news, I would think there would be first-hand and second-hand accounts?”

This is certainly a genuine concern, and the inquiring mind would like to know the answers. We are certainly not saying that the entire coronavirus incident is all bunk. We are also not saying that people ought not to take precautions in order to prevent deadly contagions. What we are saying is that there is a bigger picture that people have to see: perhaps, just perhaps, much of this coronavirus stuff is another suggestion that we are living in a brave new world—a world in which the population is forced to accept virtually everything that the government has jammed down their throat. If you down this statement, then listen to this:

Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director of the Washington-based but Israeli government connected Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) boasted on twitter Tuesday that ‘Coronavirus has done what American economic sanctions could not: shut down non-oil exports.’”

One last point is simply this. Which is a bigger threat: Coronavirus or perpetual wars in the Middle East? Keep in mind that the world hasn’t done a damn thing about the very people who brought one disaster after another upon the world. As the late Vincent Bugliosi convincingly argued, George W. Bush should certainly be put on trial for destroying Iraq.[8]

As we have said elsewhere, the war in Iraq will cost Americans at least 6 trillion dollars.[9] How many people died in the Iraq war? In 2018, the Washington Post itself reported that nearly 5,000 servicemen died[10] in a war that was based on colossal hoaxes, complete fabrications, and just plain lies.[11] That doesn’t even count the Iraqi civilians who were literally obliterated by the disaster.

The estimate of lives lost in the war in Iraq alone is between 100,000 to 600,000, including thousands of civilians. In 2003, at least 12,000 civilians lost their lives.[12] The first three years of the war produced between 104,000 and 223,000 civilian deaths.

When it was over, 2.3 million Iraqis had been forced to flee their homes and towns; by 2008, another 2.7 million Iraqis were displaced, and nearly half a million civilians ended up losing their lives.[13] Thousands upon thousands of other people went missing by 2008.[14]

This is out of a total Iraqi population of about 30 million people![15] The Iraq war, says Kukis, shook the entire nation and created havoc even by 2006.[16] Factions of society that once coexisted were dismantled.

In a nutshell, Iraq was in exponential decay. Buildings and farmlands were destroyed.[17] And the fringe benefits of the war? Between 300,000 and 360,000 veterans returned home with brain injuries,[18] some of which went untreated.[19] Listen to USA Today:

“Pentagon officials estimated…that up to 360,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans may have suffered brain injuries. Among them are 45,000 to 90,000 veterans whose symptoms persist and warrant specialized care.”[20]

In 2005, more than 6,000 suicides took place among our soldiers serving in Iraq.[21] By 2012, more soldiers committed suicide than died in combat,[22] making it the year with the highest suicide rate since 2001.[23]

Homelessness among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has more than doubled over the past two years, and by the fall of 2012, it was reported that at least “26,531 were living on the streets, at risk of losing their homes, staying in temporary housing or receiving federal vouchers to pay rent.” In addition, about 307,000 soldiers want to leave the military.[24]

Once again, why haven’t we prosecuted the perpetrators? Why did Bush, Cheney, Rice, and the very people who lied about the war end up writing New York Times best-selling books? Why are they still enjoying their lavish lifestyle? If coronavirus is dangerous—and I’m taking the position here that it is—then the US government and the Deep State are poisonous with respect to foreign policy.

John W. Whitehead: Emboldened by the citizenry’s inattention and willingness to tolerate its abuses, the government has weaponized one national crisis after another in order to expand its powers.

The war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on illegal immigration, asset forfeiture schemes, road safety schemes, school safety schemes, eminent domain: all of these programs started out as legitimate responses to pressing concerns and have since become weapons of compliance and control in the police state’s hands.

It doesn’t even matter what the nature of the crisis might be—civil unrest, the national emergencies, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters”—as long as it allows the government to justify all manner of government tyranny in the so-called name of national security.

Now we find ourselves on the brink of a possible coronavirus contagion.

I’ll leave the media and the medical community to speculate about the impact the coronavirus will have on the nation’s health, but how will the government’s War on the Coronavirus impact our freedoms?

For a hint of what’s in store, you can look to China—our role model for all things dystopian—where the contagion started.

In an attempt to fight the epidemic, the government has given its surveillance state apparatus—which boasts the most expansive and sophisticated surveillance system in the world—free rein. Thermal scanners using artificial intelligence (AI) have been installed at train stations in major cities to assess body temperatures and identify anyone with a fever. Facial recognition cameras and cell phone carriers track people’s movements constantly, reporting in real time to data centers that can be accessed by government agents and employers alike. And coded color alerts (red, yellow and green) sort people into health categories that correspond to the amount of freedom of movement they’re allowed: “Green code, travel freely. Red or yellow, report immediately.”

Mind you, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese surveillance state had already been hard at work tracking its citizens through the use of some 200 million security cameras installed nationwide. Equipped with facial recognition technology, the cameras allow authorities to track so-called criminal acts, such as jaywalking, which factor into a person’s social credit score.

Social media credit scores assigned to Chinese individuals and businesses categorize them on whether or not they are “good” citizens. A real-name system—which requires people to use government-issued ID cards to buy mobile sims, obtain social media accounts, take a train, board a plane, or even buy groceries—coupled with social media credit scores ensures that those blacklisted as “unworthy” are banned from accessing financial markets, buying real estate or travelling by air or train. Among the activities that can get you labeled unworthy are taking reserved seats on trains or causing trouble in hospitals.

That same social credit score technology used to identify, track and segregate citizens is now one of China’s chief weapons in its fight to contain the coronavirus from spreading. However, it is far from infallible and a prime example of the difficulties involved in navigating an autonomous system where disembodied AI systems call the shots. For instance, one woman, who has no symptoms of the virus but was assigned a red code based on a visit to her hometown, has been blocked from returning to her home and job until her color code changes. She has been stuck in this state of limbo for weeks with no means of challenging the color code or knowing exactly why she’s been assigned a red code.

Fighting the coronavirus epidemic has given China the perfect excuse for unleashing the full force of its surveillance and data collection powers. The problem, as Eamon Barrett acknowledges in Fortune magazine, is what happens after: “Once the outbreak is controlled, it’s unclear whether the government will retract its new powers.”

The lesson for the ages: once any government is allowed to expand its powers, it’s almost impossible to pull back.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the government thus far has limited its coronavirus preparations to missives advising the public to stay calm, wash their hands, and cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze.

Don’t go underestimating the government’s ability to lock the nation down if the coronavirus turns into a pandemic, however. After all, the government has been planning and preparing for such a crisis for years now.

The building blocks are already in place for such an eventuality: the surveillance networks, fusion centers and government contractors that already share information in real time; the government’s massive biometric databases that can identify individuals based on genetic and biological markers; the militarized police, working in conjunction with federal agencies, ready and able to coordinate with the federal government when it’s time to round up the targeted individuals; the courts that will sanction the government’s methods, no matter how unlawful, as long as it’s done in the name of national security; and the detention facilities, whether private prisons or FEMA internment camps, that have been built and are waiting to be filled.

Now all of this may sound far-fetched to you now, but we’ve already arrived at the dystopian futures prophesied by George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report.

It won’t take much more to push us over the edge into Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, in which the majority of humanity is relegated to an overpopulated, diseased, warring planet where the government employs technologies such as drones, tasers and biometric scanners to track, target and control the populace.

Mind you, while these technologies are already in use today and being hailed for their potentially life-saving, cost-saving, time-saving benefits, it won’t be long before the drawbacks to having a government equipped with technology that makes it all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful——helped along by the citizenry—far outdistance the benefits.

On a daily basis, Americans are relinquishing (in many cases, voluntarily) the most intimate details of who we are—their biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)—in order to navigate an increasingly technologically-enabled world.

Consider all the ways you continue to be tracked, hunted, hounded, and stalked by the government and its dubious agents:

By tapping into your phone lines and cell phone communications, the government knows what you say. By uploading all of your emails, opening your mail, and reading your Facebook posts and text messages, the government knows what you write. By monitoring your movements with the use of license plate readers, surveillance cameras and other tracking devices, the government knows where you go. By churning through all of the detritus of your life—what you read, where you go, what you say—the government can predict what you will do.

By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists—and in turn, the government—will soon know what you remember. By mapping your biometrics—your “face-print”—and storing the information in a massive, shared government database available to bureaucratic agencies, police and the military, the government’s goal is to use facial recognition software to identify you (and every other person in the country) and track your movements, wherever you go. And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.

Of course, none of these technologies are foolproof.

Nor are they immune from tampering, hacking or user bias.

Nevertheless, they have become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The ramifications of a government—any government—having this much unregulated, unaccountable power to target, track, round up and detain its citizens is beyond chilling.

Imagine what a totalitarian regime such as Nazi Germany could have done with this kind of unadulterated power.

Imagine what the next police state to follow in Germany’s footsteps will do with this kind of power. Society is rapidly moving in that direction.

We’ve made it so easy for the government to watch us.

Government eyes see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet.

Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line.

Chances are, as the Washington Post has reported, you have already been assigned a color-coded threat assessment score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about your potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether you’ve had a career in the military, posted a comment perceived as threatening on Facebook, suffer from a particular medical condition, or know someone who knows someone who might have committed a crime.

In other words, you’re most likely already flagged in a government database somewhere.

The government has the know-how.

Indeed, for years now, the FBI and Justice Department have conspired to acquire near-limitless power and control over biometric information collected on law-abiding individuals, millions of whom have never been accused of a crime.

Going far beyond the scope of those with criminal backgrounds, the FBI’s Next Generation Identification database (NGID), a billion dollar boondoggle that is aimed at dramatically expanding the government’s ID database from a fingerprint system to a vast data storehouse of iris scans, photos searchable with face recognition technology, palm prints, and measures of gait and voice recordings alongside records of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos.

Launched in 2008, the NGID is a massive biometric database that contains more than 100 million fingerprints and 45 million facial photos gathered from a variety of sources ranging from criminal suspects and convicts to daycare workers and visa applicants, including millions of people who have never committed or even been accused of a crime.

In other words, innocent American citizens are now automatically placed in a suspect database.

For a long time, the government was required to at least observe some basic restrictions on when, where and how it could access someone’s biometrics and DNA and use it against them.

That is no longer the case.

The information is being amassed through a variety of routine procedures, with the police leading the way as prime collectors of biometrics for something as non-threatening as a simple moving violation. The nation’s courts are also doing their part to “build” the database, requiring biometric information as a precursor to more lenient sentences. And of course Corporate America (including Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) has made it so easy to use one’s biometrics to access everything from bank accounts to cell phones.

We’ve made it so easy for the government to target, identify and track us.

Add pre-crime programs into the mix with government agencies and corporations working in tandem to determine who is a potential danger and spin a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports using automated eyes and ears, social media, behavior sensing software, and citizen spies, and you having the makings for a perfect dystopian nightmare.

This is the kind of oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought crime package foreshadowed by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Phillip K. Dick.

Remember, even the most well-intentioned government law or program can be—and has been—perverted, corrupted and used to advance illegitimate purposes once profit and power are added to the equation.

In the right (or wrong) hands, benevolent plans can easily be put to malevolent purposes.

Surveillance, digital stalking and the data mining of the American people add up to a society in which there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence.

This is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.

It turns out that we are Soylent Green.

The 1973 film of the same name, starring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson, is set in 2022 in an overpopulated, polluted, starving New York City whose inhabitants depend on synthetic foods manufactured by the Soylent Corporation for survival.

Heston plays a policeman investigating a murder, who discovers the grisly truth about the primary ingredient in the wafer, soylent green, which is the principal source of nourishment for a starved population. “It’s people. Soylent Green is made out of people,” declares Heston’s character. “They’re making our food out of people. Next thing they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food.”

Oh, how right he was.

Soylent Green is indeed people or, in our case, Soylent Green is our own personal data, repossessed, repackaged and used by corporations and the government to entrap us.

Without constitutional protections in place to guard against encroachments on our rights when power, technology and militaristic governance converge, it won’t be long before we find ourselves, much like Edward G. Robinson’s character in Soylent Green, looking back on the past with longing, back to an age where we could speak to whom we wanted, buy what we wanted, think what we wanted, and go where we wanted without those thoughts, words and movements being tracked, processed and stored by corporate giants such as Google, sold to government agencies such as the NSA and CIA, and used against us by militarized police with their army of futuristic technologies.

We’re not quite there yet. But that moment of reckoning is getting closer by the minute.

In the meantime, we’ve got an epidemic to survive, so go ahead and wash your hands. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. And stock up on whatever you might need to survive this virus if it spreads to your community.

We are indeed at our most vulnerable right now, but as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s the American Surveillance State—not the coronavirus—that poses the greatest threat to our freedoms.

About John W. Whitehead:  John is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead’s concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, nonprofit civil liberties, and human rights organization whose international headquarters are located in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Deeply committed to protecting the constitutional freedoms of every American and the integral human rights of all people, The Rutherford Institute has emerged as a prominent leader in the national dialogue on civil liberties and human rights and a formidable champion of the Constitution. Whitehead serves as the Institute’s president and spokesperson. Widely recognized as one of the nation’s most vocal and involved civil liberties attorneys, Whitehead’s approach to civil liberties issues has earned him numerous accolades and accomplishments, including the Hungarian Medal of Freedom and the 2010 Milner S. Ball Lifetime Achievement Award for “[his] decades of difficult and important work, as well as [his] impeccable integrity in defending civil liberties for all.”

Whitehead earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arkansas in 1969 and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1974. He served as an officer in the United States Army from 1969 to 1971.


  • [1] Stephen Kinzer, Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control (New York: Henry & Holt, 2019).
  • [2] Ibid.
  • [3] See for example Maia Szalavitz, “The Legacy of the CIA’s Secret LSD Experiments on America,” Time, March 23, 2012.
  • [4] For a cultural history on this, see E. Michael Jones, Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control (South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 2000).
  • [5] Wilhelm Reich, The Sexual Revolution: Toward a Self-Governing Character Structure (New York: Doubleday, 1971) 53.
  • [6] James Dacre, “Are we living Brave New World’s nightmare future?,” Guardian, September 18, 2015.
  • [7] http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/53001.htm.
  • [8] Vincent Bugliosi, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (New York: Vanguard Press, 2008).
  • [9] Ernesto Londono, “Study: Iraq, Afghan war costs to top $4 trillion,” Washington Post, March 28, 2013; Bob Dreyfuss, The $6 Trillion Wars,” The Nation, March 29, 2013; “Iraq War Cost U.S. More Than $2 Trillion, Could Grow to $6 Trillion, Says Watson Institute Study,” Huffington Post, May 14, 2013; Mark Thompson, “The $5 Trillion War on Terror,” Time, June 29, 2011; “Iraq war cost: $6 trillion. What else could have been done?,” LA Times, March 18, 2013.
  • [10] Philip Bump, “15 years after the Iraq War began, the death toll is still murky,” Washington Post, March 21, 2018.
  • [11] For scholarly studies on these issues, see Paul R. Pillar, Intelligence and U.S. Foreign Policy: Iraq, 9/11, and Misguided Reform (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); John J. Mearsheimer, Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Michael MacDonald, Overreach: Delusions of Regime Change in Iraq (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014); John M. Schuessler, Deceit on the Road to War: Presidents, Politics, and American Democracy (New York: Cornell University Press, 2015); Murray Friedman, The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
  • [12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War.
  • [13] Mark Kukis, Voices from Iraq: A People’s History, 2003-2009 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011),xvii.
  • [14] Ibid.
  • [15] Ibid., xiii.
  • [16] Ibid., xiv.
  • [17] Ibid.
  • [18] Gregg Zoroya, “360,000 Veterans May Have Brain Injuries,” USA Today, March 5, 3009; Denise Grady, “Brain Injuries Are Seen in New Scans of Veterans,” NY Times, June 1, 2011; “Mental Health Injuries Scar 300,000 U.S. Troops,” MSNBC, April 17, 2008.
  • [19] Lizette Alvarez, “War Veterans’ Concussions Are Often Overlooked,” NY Times, August 25, 2008.
  • [20] “360,000 veterans may have brain injuries,” USA Today, March 4, 2009.
  • [21] Armen Keteyian, “VA Hid Suicide Risk, Internal Emails Show,” CBC News, July 30, 2010.
  • [22] Allison Churchill, “The Military Is Losing More Troops to Suicide than Combat,” Business Insider, October 25, 2012; Helen Pow, “More U.S. Troops Committing Suicide Than Being Killed Fighting in Afghanistan in ‘Tough Year’ for Armed Services,” Daily Mail, October 24, 2012.
  • [23] Kelley Vlahos, “Surviving War, Falling to Suicide,” American Conservative, January 1, 2012; for other similar stories, see also James Dao and Andrew W. Lehren, “Baffling Rise in Suicides Plagues the U.S. Military,” NY Times, May 15, 2013.
  • [24] Gregg Zoroya, “Homeless, At-Risk Veterans Double,” USA Today, December 27, 2012.

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Frontex deploys additional 100 border guards at Greece’s land border


KeeptalkingGreece.com


Frontex deploys additional 100 border guards at Greece’s land border

Frontex has deployed an additional 100 border guards at the Greek land border as part of a rapid border intervention following a request by Greece.

Border guards from 22 member-state arrived on Thursday in the region of Evros.

Member States will also provide technical equipment, including vessels, maritime surveillance aircraft and Thermal-Vision Vehicles, for the Frontex maritime Rapid Border Intervention Aegean 2020.

The short amount of time it took us to organise Frontex rapid border interventions at Greece’s land and maritime borders highlight the commitment by the Greek authorities to protect Europe’s borders, the Frontex said in a statement.

Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri : “We stand here barely a week after the Greek authorities turned to Frontex to provide more officers and more equipment to help protect their borders, which are also our common EU external borders.”

The presence of 100 officers from all around Europe underlines the fact that the protection of the European area of freedom, security and justice is a shared responsibility of all Member States and Frontex,” Leggeri added during the launch of the operation in the Greek town of Orestiada.

Greece has been trying to stop a massive wave of migrants pushing in from Turkey, in a crisis that erupted last month.

Athens says more than 45,000 attempted entries have been thwarted, including more than 500 on Thursday — when for a second day migrants threw Molotov cocktails at Greek border troops and police. Greek units were also attacked with tear gas and responded in kind.

Earlier in the week, two Frontex border surveillance planes were deployed to Greece.
The rapid border interventions will last two months and be further extended if needed, the Frontex said.

Frontex already has more than 500 officers in Greece, as well as 11 vessels and other equipment.

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“Blue No Matter Who!”

By Keith Harmon Snow

Global Research,

There is something profoundly offensive about this declaration and, worse, there is something profoundly insufferable about the sentiments and beliefs behind it.

First of all, it is a matter of extreme white privilege to be able to “Vote Blue No Matter Who!”  What this says is that anyone that appears on the ballot as the Presidential challenger to Donald Trump is better than Donald Trump.

Anyone. What this means is that if _______ (fill in the blank) wins/won the Democratic nomination, well, it wouldn’t matter what his/her policies are, what his/her age is, what his/her mental acuity is, or their voting record, or what they smell like: he or she is Blue [read: Democrat], we have to converge and unite behind him/her, our candidate of choice, our ONLY hope to oust the guy in Washington.

Are the people who created and those who advance this slogan unable to discriminate between the various candidates, some of whom are barely indistinguishable from Donald Trump and everything he stands for, and who certainly no better?

What this says to me is that they—the Democratic Party and its supporters—have no consciousness or awareness about the true state of the Union (U.S.), or the true state of the world, or if they do they just don’t care. There’s the privilege: people of color, poor people, women and children, and many other demographics that have historically and routinely denied that space to exist on this earth don’t have such privileges.

So why then would anyone vote for ANY Democratic candidate that the system advances?

Clearly, let’s throw out Bernie Sanders as a “choice”, since the “Vote Blue No Matter Who” is not meant to include Sanders.

The propaganda system has for a long time now daily churned out reports meant to demean and devalue Bernie Sanders, reports designed to shape and direct the voting public away from Sanders and towards someone, anyone, else who will insure that Business as Usual takes the day.  However, the slogan was apparently created by the Democratic Party after Super Tuesday with the intention of channeling all voter energies and frustrations into voting for Joe Biden.

Anyone who makes the statement—with or without the insufferable self-righteousness that seems to often accompany it—whether in a Facebook post or in a NYT editorial or sitting at the lunch counter of their local small town diner needs to be prepared for the response that their sloganeering may provoke. In 2016, the response was the victory of Donald Trump.

“Blue no matter who!” is like a slap in the face to a great number of conscious, caring, compassionate people.

What is it that drives the repetition and regurgitation of this vacuous slogan: Callousness? Hope? Obliviousness? Blind faith? All of these?

Second, who is “we” that these people are purportedly speaking for when they say that “we” have to unite and get behind “our” candidate? It’s clearly the Royal “we” and I don’t know about you but I bristle when anyone presumes to speak for me, or does. The greater the propaganda anti-social propaganda venue (e.g. the New York Times or Boston Globe or Daily Hampshire Gazette) where the presumptuous slogan is expressed, the greater the insult, the more insufferable.

This is the perfect prescription for a repeat of the last election: not only do a lot of conscious caring intelligent people absolutely DESPISE the Democratic Party, and just about everyone in it, but I’m seeing a lot of these caring conscious people saying they would vote for Donald Trump before they would vote for Joe Biden. Ditto if Elizabeth Warren were the candidate of choice. Ditto Pete Buttieg. Ditto, for example, for someone as corrupt and egomaniacal as House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

No matter what propaganda the Pew Center poll pundits and anti-social media like the Washington Post are pumping out, it was not the “failure of voters to cast their votes” in 2016 that lost the first election to Trump: it was the insufferable ugliness of the candidate that people were faced with as a “choice” that drove people’s refusal to participate in the charade of voter ‘choice’.  Next to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump looked pretty fresh (albeit, for many of us, akin to a hot steaming pasture patty).

Even almost four years later, far too many devoted Democrats still refuse to see, admit, hear or consider the corruption of the Clinton administration, of Bill Clinton, or Hillary Clinton.

On top of these denials and refusals, and what is apparently a very clear example of historical amnesia, there is the overwhelming failure of large segments of the population to recognize, admit and see the equally ugly and chronic pathologies of the Obama administration, in which Hillary Clinton played a pivotal role in advancing global chaos, human rights wrongs, war and destruction, while further eviscerating domestic policies meant to protect the environment, limit the power of corporations, institute any kind of health care reform, and provide some real equality for people of color.

I mean, let’s be clear: the Democratic Party comprises a large percentage of the rotten-to-the-core-political-center of the United States and the wasteland we call ‘congress’ and the people who run and ruin it.  The two party system comprises the heartless heartland. It is an ugly soulless duopoly that serves the one percent.

There are so many good people in our circles—I don’t care who you are—in our towns and cities and country, who won’t have anything to do with the Democrats or the Democratic Party. God bless you. God bless them.

Now, for those people reading this who are cognitively challenged, this does not automatically mean that these people who reject the Democrats and the Democratic Party are devout Republicans, or any kind of Republican, or that they voted for Donald Trump. It surely does mean, however, that they celebrated when Hillary Clinton lost.

I was one of them. I worked in Central Africa for a decade, and saw so many ruined lives, so much destruction, sadness, meanness and corruption. And that’s where I learned of the very personal role of the Clinton’s in the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide across the region.

Hillary Clinton is so shamelessly arrogant, oblivious, egomaniacal and elitist—to mention just a few of her psycho-pathologies—that she appears to still be stewing and scheming to hatch a plan to seize the Presidential nomination and occupy the Oval Office. She’s like Gollum, the drooling soulless caricature of a creature, in the Lord of The Rings, completely and insanely preoccupied with securing and holding and coveting “my precious” [read: the Oval Office]. Forget about Killary’s vile behavior and culpability in international crimes committed during the downfall and assassination of Muammar al-Gaddafi.

There remain the ugly historical records and their contemporary ongoing repercussions in Central Africa, the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans. We should never forget how the Democrats and Republicans have advanced the genocide against the Palestinian people.

People are unable to forget what they never knew. The propaganda system has so completely obliterated the true historiography of U.S. interventions in Central Africa, Somalia, Sudan, Yugoslavia and Libya during the Clinton years that people either don’t at all know what happened or simply chose a pathological collective amnesia. Along with these U.S. and allied (Canada, Israel, NATO) interventions came the unprecedented loss of life and unspeakable atrocities committed by U.S. Special Forces, blood diamond dealers and their oil & gas mercenaries connected to the Clintons, and their proxy warriors under the commands of John Garang (Sudan), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Paul Kagame (Rwanda), and, well, let’s not even get into the Californication of the historigrapphy of Somalia facilitated by the ficticious but patriotic whiteout of the truth under the enterprise known as Black Hawk Down.Just Rumors or Is Hillary Clinton Seriously Considering Another Run for U.S. President in 2020?

Hillary and Bill Clinton’s ties to diamond kingpin Maurice Tempelsman are never discussed. From 1993 to 1997, for example, Tempelsman was a White House guest at least ten times, while he also met Hillary Clinton in private more than once. Tempelsman enjoyed vacationing with the Clintons and the Kennedys in Martha’s Vineyard, but he also flew to Moscow and back with President Clinton on Air Force One and was one of the 101 people who traveled with the Clinton’s on their ‘victory’ tour in Africa in 1997, even as hundreds of thousands of innocent Hutu refugees were being slaughtered in plain sight.

Tempelsman and the Central Intelligence Agency sucked the blood out of the heart of Africa for decades, propping up the dictatorship of Joseph Mobutu. And, following in the footsteps of Reagan, Clinton and the Bush gang, did Obama do anything to advance the plight of the Hutu people and stop the ongoing genocide against them or the Congolese? No. Where was Joe Biden when this was all going down? It appears he was floating around the inner circles with Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein.

The killing that the Clinton regime initiated in Central Africa was advanced by the policies and actions of the Bush and Obama administrations. The genocides in Rwanda and Congo and the absolute military dictatorships in Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan—replete with all the usual human rights horrors of outright butchery, assassinations, and disappearances—continue to this day. They are whited out of the press, or if something does appear it is expedient propaganda, fully serving the interests of the corporate elites and the corporations, continuing the process of clouding, shrouding or destroying the true history of these places and the people who live and die there.

“Vote Blue No Matter Who?”

I don’t think so.

Do black lives matter?  Only as far as posting a sign on your gentrified well-manicured lawn.

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China Steadily Continues to Promote Influence on the African Continent

By Lucas Leiroz de Almeida

Global Research,

Every day the news about Chinese investments in the Africa are highlighted in newspapers around the world. On the one hand, western critics believe that Beijing is seeking to expand its area of influence outside Asian territory, and on the other, pro-China analysts say the country is only looking at a space forgotten by world powers. Neither view is entirely right or wrong, but Chinese action in Africa deserves further investigation.

In the past week, Kenya celebrated a thousand days of installing the train line connecting Mombasa, Nairobi and Naivasha, financed and built by China. The Chinese rail project has proved to be profitable, as repeatedly stressed by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta himself, significantly boosting tourism and investments in the communications area, according to data from Reuters. The benefits for China are clear and indisputable, when lending is absolutely profitable for investors. However, as Liu Yun, a researcher at the University of Zhejiang, explains, “China’s investments in African rail projects are not just about lending, but working together on the basis of mutual benefits and common gains (…) Furthermore, construction of railway lines is in line with the strategy of modern industrialization in Africa”.

This case perfectly illustrates what has generated the Chinese advance in Africa: a sum of factors in which the struggle for expansion, profit and resources undertaken by the Chinese finds the desire for growth, modernization, investment and development of Africans. China seems to be paying attention to an area hitherto forgotten or unduly treated by the other economic powers. Recently, the American Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, visited several African countries in an attempt to bring the United States closer to Africa. Without major resolutions and agreements, the American visit was basically summarized by exaggerated criticisms from Pompeo to the rapprochement between the countries he visited and China, without presenting new projects of interest that could arouse interest higher than that aroused by Beijing.Bolton Threatens to Force Africa to Choose Between the US and China

“They [the US and China] are great competitors… The US has recently neglected its main partners, but that does not mean they are abandoning them. On the contrary, China has increased and continues to strengthen its presence – in different countries and in different directions. This creates discomfort in the US. In addition to the fact that China’s investment volume in some sectors is dozens of times greater than that of the United States”, said Georgy Scherbakov, professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Another point to be highlighted is the issue of the investment strategy. The western bet on Africa is generally made in the private and commercial sector, paying attention to particular interests and generating little result in social issues concerning Africa. On the other hand, China seeks to invest heavily in state-level agreements with African countries, operating mainly in the sectors of infrastructure and industrial production. Also, U.S. exports to Africa grew from U$22 billion to U$26 billion between 2017 and 2019, while trade between China and Africa reached an incredible U$208 billion last year.

Clearly, China’s interest in Africa stems from the need for resources to feed its current economic potential. Spanish researcher Sebastián Ruiz Cabrera points out that “effectively, China, as a great power, needs resources to maintain its current growth wave. And these resources are found, above all, in the African continent”. Certainly, China is not the only one interested in African resources, however, it seems to be the most shrewd in establishing strategies that allow it to satisfy its interests. In addition to seeking to invest in sectors where African countries are most in need, China does not impose an ideological agenda on these countries as a condition of existence for their economic relations, unlike European embassies, which prioritize the effectuation of the human rights when establishing businesses.

There is also a minor factor that helps China to build good relations with African countries, which is the history of international cooperation between developing countries that was established during the Mao Tse-Tung years.

“Especially in the 1960s, with the cultural policy of Mao, there was a massive sending of teachers, doctors and cultural agents (…) [it’s a kind of] South-South cooperation relationship. I mean, more ‘equal to equal’, and not only in economic terms. And that still lasts”,

emphasizes Ruiz Cabrera.

In general, this record also favors the priority given to China over European countries – former colonial powers that have exploited Africa for centuries – and the USA – global hegemonic power.

For China, in addition to the search for resources and profits, operations in Africa and cooperation with poor countries generate a highly positive political image on the international scenario. Having reached the status of a world economic power, China starts to undertake humanitarian and welfare projects, which strengthen its international image. In short, China invests in Africa in pursuit of its own interests, however, it does so by seeking to meet the main needs of African countries, which has attracted more attention from them in relation to Beijing than to Western countries. The Chinese project is promising and really seems to serve mutual interests, being an example to be followed by other emerging powers.

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The US Federal Reserve’s Baffling Response to the Coronavirus Explained

By Ellen Brown

When the World Health Organization announced on February 24th that it was time to prepare for a global pandemic, the stock market plummeted. Over the following week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by more than 3,500 points or over 10%. In an attempt to contain the damage, on March 3rd the Federal Reserve slashed the fed funds rate from 1.5% to 1.0%, in their first emergency rate move and biggest one-time cut since the 2008 financial crisis. But rather than reassuring investors, the move fueled another panic sell-off.

Exasperated commentators on CNBC wondered what the Fed was thinking. They said a half point rate cut would not stop the spread of the coronavirus or fix the broken Chinese supply chains that are driving US companies to the brink.

A new report by corporate data analytics firm Dun & Bradstreet calculates that some 51,000 companies around the world have one or more direct suppliers in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus. At least 5 million companies globally have one or more tier-two suppliers in the region, meaning their suppliers get their supplies there; and 938 of the Fortune 1000 companies have tier-one or tier-two suppliers there. Moreover, fully 80% of US pharmaceuticals are made in China. A break in the supply chain can grind businesses to a halt.

So what was the Fed’s reasoning in lowering the fed funds rate? According to some financial analysts, the fire it was trying to put out was actually in the repo market, where the Fed has lost control despite its emergency measures of the last six months. Repo market transactions come to $1 trillion to $2.2 trillion per day and keep our modern-day financial system afloat. But before getting into developments there, here is a recap of the repo action since 2008.

Repos and the Fed

Before the 2008 banking crisis, banks in need of liquidity borrowed excess reserves from each other in the fed funds market. But after 2008, banks were reluctant to lend in that unsecured market, because they did not trust their counterparties to have the money to pay up. Banks desperate for funds could borrow at the Fed’s discount window, but it carried a stigma. It signaled that the bank must be in distress, since other banks were not willing to lend to it at a reasonable rate. So banks turned instead to the private repo market, which is anonymous and is secured with collateral (Treasuries and other acceptable securities). Repo trades, although technically “sales and repurchases” of collateral, are in effect secured short-term loans, usually repayable the next day or in two weeks.

The risky element of these apparently-secure trades is that the collateral itself may not be reliable, since it may be subject to more than one claim. For example, it may have been acquired in a swap with another party for securitized auto loans or other shaky assets – a swap that will have to be reversed at maturity. As explained in an earlier article here, the private repo market has been invaded by hedge funds, which are highly leveraged and risky; so risk-averse money market funds and other institutional lenders have been withdrawing from that market.

When the normally low repo interest rate shot up to 10 percent in September, the Fed therefore felt compelled to step in. The action it took was to restart its former practice of injecting money short-term through its own repo agreements with its primary dealers, which then lent to banks and other players. On March 3rd, however, even that central bank facility was oversubscribed, with far more demand for loans than the subscription limit.

The Fed’s March 3rd emergency rate cut was in response to that crisis. Lowering the fed funds rate by half a percentage point was supposed to relieve the pressure on the central bank’s repo facility by encouraging banks to lend to each other. But the rate cut had virtually no effect, and the central bank’s repo facility continued to be oversubscribed the next day and the next. As observed in a March 5th article on Zero Hedge:The Fed Protects Gamblers at the Expense of the Economy. “Helicopter Money”

This continuing liquidity crunch is bizarre, as it means that not only did the rate cut not unlock additional funding, it actually made the problem worse, and now banks and dealers are telegraphing that they need not only more repo buffer but likely an expansion of QE…

The Collateral Problem

As financial analyst George Gammon explains, the crunch in the private repo market is not actually due to a shortage of liquidity. Banks still have $1.5 trillion in excess reserves in their accounts with the Fed, stockpiled after multiple rounds of quantitative easing. The problem is in the collateral, which lenders no longer trust. Lowering the fed funds rate did not relieve the pressure on the Fed’s repo facility for obvious reasons: banks that are not willing to take the risk of lending to each other unsecured at 1.5 percent in the fed funds market are going to be even less willing to lend at 1 percent. They can earn that much just by leaving their excess reserves at the safe, secure Fed, drawing on the Interest on Excess Reserves it has been doling out ever since the 2008 crisis.

But surely the Fed knew that. So why lower the fed funds rate? Perhaps because they had to do something to maintain the façade of being in control, and lowering the interest rate was the most acceptable tool they had. The alternative would be another round of quantitative easing, but the Fed has so far denied entertaining that controversial alternative. Those protests aside, QE is probably next on the agenda after the Fed’s orthodox tools fail, as the Zero Hedge author notes.

The central bank has become the only game in town, and its hammer keeps missing the nail. A recession caused by a massive disruption in supply chains cannot be fixed through central-bank monetary easing alone. Monetary policy is a tool designed to deal with “demand” – the amount of money competing for goods and services, driving prices up. To fix a supply-side problem, monetary policy needs to be combined with fiscal policy, which means Congress and the Fed need to work together. There are successful contemporary models for this, and the best are in China and Japan.

The Chinese Stock Market Has Held Its Ground

While US markets were crashing, the Chinese stock market actually went up by 10 percent in February. How could that be? China is the country hardest hit by the disruptive COVID-19 virus, yet investors are evidently confident that it will prevail against the virus and market threats.

In 2008, China beat the global financial crisis by pouring massive amounts of money into infrastructure, and that is apparently the policy it is pursuing now. Five hundred billion dollars in infrastructure projects have already been proposed for 2020 – nearly as much as was invested in the country’s huge stimulus program after 2008. The newly injected money will go into the pockets of laborers and suppliers, who will spend it on consumer goods, prompting producers to produce more goods and services, increasing productivity and jobs.

How will all this stimulus be funded? In the past China has simply borrowed from its own state-owned banks, which can create money as deposits on their books, just as all depository banks can today. (See here and here.)

Most of the loans will be repaid with the profits from the infrastructure they create; and those that are not can be written off or carried on the books or moved off balance sheet. The Chinese government is the regulator of its banks, and rather than putting its insolvent banks and businesses into bankruptcy, its usual practice is to let non-performing loans just pile up on bank balance sheets. The newly-created money that was not repaid adds to the money supply, but no harm is done to the consumer economy, which actually needs regular injections of new money to fill the gap between debt and the money available to repay it. As in all systems in which banks create the principal but not the interest due on loans, this gap continually widens, requiring continual infusions of new money to fill the breach. (See my earlier article here.) In the last 20 years, China’s money supply has increased by 2,000 percent without driving up the consumer price index, which has averaged around 2 percent during those two decades. Supply has gone up with demand, keeping prices stable.

The Japanese Model

China’s experiences are instructive, but borrowing from the government’s own banks cannot be done in the US, since our banks have not been nationalized and our central bank is considered to be independent of government control. The Fed cannot pour money directly into infrastructure but is limited to buying bonds from its primary dealers on the open market.

At least, that is the Fed’s argument; but the Federal Reserve Act allows it to make three-month infrastructure loans to states, and these could be rolled over for extended periods thereafter. The repo market itself consists of short-term loans continually rolled over. If hedge funds can borrow at 1.5 percent in the private repo market, which is now backstopped by the Fed, states should get those low rates as well.

Alternatively, Congress could amend the Federal Reserve Act to allow it to work with the central bank in funding infrastructure and other national projects, following the path successfully blazed by Japan. Under Japanese banking law, the central bank must cooperate closely with the Ministry of Finance in setting policy. Unlike in the US, Japan’s prime minister can negotiate with the head of its central bank to buy the government’s bonds, ensuring that the bonds will be turned into new money that will stimulate domestic economic growth; and if the bonds are continually rolled over, this debt need never be repaid.

The Bank of Japan has already “monetized” nearly 50% of the government’s debt in this way, and it has pulled this feat off without driving up consumer prices. In fact Japan’s inflation rate remains stubbornly below the BOJ’s 2% target. Deflation continues to be a greater concern than inflation in Japan, despite unprecedented debt monetization by its central bank.    

 The “Independent” Federal Reserve Is Obsolete

In the face of a recession caused by massive supply-chain disruption, the US central bank has shown itself to be impotent. Congress needs to take a lesson from Japan and modify US banking law to allow it to work with the central bank in getting the wheels of production turning again. The next time the country’s largest banks become insolvent, rather than bailing them out it should nationalize them. The banks could then be used to fund infrastructure and other government projects to stimulate the economy, following the model of China.

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The Case of Professor Tariq Ramadan: Calling on France’s Minister of Justice to Cease “Masquerade of Justice”

By International Movement for a Just World

Madame Nicole Belloubet, Minister of Justice:

As international scholars, politicians and journalists, we are writing to you, the French Minister of Justice, to demand an immediate halt to the indictment of Tariq Ramadan case.

This process has gone on far too long by French investigating judges, Camille Guillermet, Camille Palluel and Cyril Paquaux. heir bias, lack of impartiality, neglect of key evidence, delaying of key information and ignoring investigations brought forward by the French Criminal Division has been astonishing. In their role as “investigating judges”, it is surprising that they have chosen to ignore exculpatory evidence and suspicious connections between the plaintiffs and long-time critics of Professor Ramadan.

Let us be clear: We, the signatories of this letter, endorse France’s commitment to uphold the values of “liberté, égalité, fraternité” threatened today around the world. It is not for us to judge Tariq Ramadan’s guilt or innocence. We fully recognize the rights of the plaintiffs to have their case heard without prejudice. However, we wish to remind the country that has affirmed the inalienability of human rights and equality of the importance of respect for the principles that ensure the integrity of French justice.

It has been two years since professor Ramadan was indicted, nine months of which were spent in pre-trial solitary detention, despite the chief prison medical authority confirming his health was incompatible with incarceration due to illness. Professor Ramadan was also denied access to his case file and thus to the necessary means of preparing his defence. His right to a speedy judicial process has been ignored. Since his release in November 2018, the turn of events has been even more worrying. The following are a few examples:Tariq Ramadan: Oxford Professor, Detention Without Trial

The judges mandated an expert psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Zagury, to see if there was a notion of “psychological grip” on the plaintiffs, an extremely rare procedure. The whole case depends now on his report. This is a clear conflict of interest as Dr. Zagury’s is an active member of the pro-Zionist Schibboleth association, which is ideologically opposed to Professor Ramadan. He also has friendly links with the opposing counsel Me Francis Szpiner and Me Eric Morain. We request that he recuse himself immediately.

The fourth complainant, “Elvira” was completely invalidated by the Criminal Division. The judges and prosecutors continued to hear her complaint until she recanted and it was clearly determined she did not even know Tariq Ramadan. Elvira and Mounia Rabbouj have both publicly stated, on social media, that they have been pushed and manipulated by the Israeli French paparazzi Jean-Claude Elfassi. The Criminal Division discovered that the latter has actually been in touch with the four plaintiffs (he, himself, acknowledged on I24 TV channel he was in touch with the fifth complainant in Switzerland). Surprisingly, after 28 months of investigation, Jean-Claude Elfassi has not been heard by the investigating judges.

The judges have indicted Tariq Ramadan on the basis of two witnesses whom they have not even questioned, and whom they encouraged to come forward (even though they did not file a complaint).

Has Professor Ramadan been granted the equal treatment so prized by France when high-ranking political figures, artists, and film producers accused of similar offenses have their rights protected like a gold standard? Is there one form of justice for Muslims in France and another for everyone else?

In short, we respectfully ask, has Professor Ramadan benefitted from a fair and equitable legal process, one in which he is presumed innocent until proven guilty?

Call to action

We appeal to your commitment to France’s reputation as a defender of justice. We trust that as the Minister of Justice you will respond to our appeal and address our concerns that a fair and just process be implemented. In particular, we suggest that if the Magistrates in charge of Tariq Ramadan’s case are not able to properly do their work with the impartiality required by the Judiciary’s code of ethics, they should be removed and replaced by truly impartial judges.

Signatories

Professor John Esposito, University of Georgetown, USA
Professor Tariq Modood, University of Bristol, UK
Professor Kalypso Nikolaïdis, University of Oxford, UK

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Top Saudi Intelligence Official ‘Chased’ to Canada by Crown Prince MBS

Even after he reached Canada, source says Saad al-Jabri was harassed by crown prince and may have been the target of a rendition attempt

By Dania Akkad

Global Research,

The Canadian government gave refuge to a powerful former Saudi intelligence official deemed a threat to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s rule, three sources familiar with the matter have told Middle East Eye.

Saad al-Jabri, once a trusted top adviser to the crown prince’s rival Mohammed bin Nayef, the former interior minister with deep ties to western intelligence agencies, is described by some observers as the most wanted Saudi outside the kingdom.

Jabri fled the kingdom in 2017 just before bin Nayef was put under house arrest and replaced as crown prince by his 31-year-old cousin.

His refuge in Canada raises new questions about an unprecedented diplomatic row between Ottawa and Riyadh in the summer of 2018.

On Friday, bin Nayef was among several royal family members and officials arrested by the crown prince in what is believed to be his latest bid to consolidate power. The Saudi government has yet to make an official statement on the arrests.

Three years earlier, it was his loyalty to bin Nayef, his decades-spanning knowledge of the inner workings of the kingdom’s powerful interior ministry and his substantial personal wealth which made Jabri a target of the young crown prince and sent him running.

“Let’s assume that there might be a coup in Saudi,” said a source familiar with the situation who spoke, as did all those briefed on the events, on condition of anonymity. “He’s the biggest threat. He would have the money and power to do something.”

A second source says even in Canada, the former official continued to be pursued, receiving intimidating messages from Mohammed bin Salman. There was also concern that there was a rendition attempt on Canadian soil to bring Jabri back to the kingdom, the source said.

MEE has been unable to independently verify this source’s account. Canadian Security Intelligence Services declined to comment.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokesperson told MEE:

“Generally, only in the event that an investigation results in the laying of criminal charges would the RCMP confirm its investigation, the nature of any charges laid and the identity of the individual(s) involved.”

MEE sought comment from Jabri and his family through several channels, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

But sources briefed on what happened say they believe it is important that details of his ordeal come out because they further reveal the lengths to which the crown prince will go to pursue his perceived rivals.

Power struggle

During his time in the kingdom’s interior ministry, Jabri was closely involved in counterterrorism activity and served, in particular, as a conduit between bin Nayef and Saudi religious leaders.

With the beginning of Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power in January 2015 following the death of King Abdullah and the accession of King Salman, a power struggle brewed inside the ministry between Jabri and another high-ranking ministry official, General Abdulaziz al-Huwairini, two sources told MEE.

Both Jabri and Huwairini are understood to have had close ties with US intelligence services under the leadership of bin Nayef who had established himself as a key interlocutor even before the 9/11 attacks for the Americans.

graphic

But the tensions came over their loyalties, said the sources. Jabri supported bin Nayef, who was then the crown prince, while Huwairini favoured Mohammed bin Salman, setting the stage, as the young prince grew increasingly powerful, for both Jabri and bin Nayef to eventually be pushed out.

In September 2015, Jabri reportedly met with then-CIA Director John Brennan during a trip to Washington that Mohammed bin Salman had not been made aware of. When Jabri returned home, he was fired by royal decree.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius would later write that Jabri’s dismissal should have been an early warning sign that Mohammed bin Salman could “jump-start the kingdom – or drive it off a cliff”.“America First” Defends the Indefensible. Trump Family Financial Ties to the Saudi Royals

By June 2017, it was bin Nayef’s turn. That month, he was deposed, ousted from his roles as both crown prince – and heir apparent – and interior minister, and placed under house arrest in a palace.

After bin Nayef’s ordeal, Huwairini, too, was reportedly removed from his position and confined to his home briefly. US officials told the New York Times at the time that the loss of both bin Nayef and Huwarini could impair intelligence sharing with the kingdom.

But within a month, Huwairini was promoted to lead the newly created State Security Directorate which is in charge of national security and reportedly took domestic intelligence, special operation forces and counter-terrorism activities off the interior ministry’s hands.

By then, Jabri was already weeks into his escape.

Chased to Canada

After initially fleeing through Germany in the summer of 2017, Jabri travelled on to the US and is believed to have stayed in the Boston area. During this time, he wrote a blog post for Harvard University’s Belfer Center.

However, despite extensive relationships with the US intelligence community as bin Nayef’s aide, two sources informed on the matter said he did not feel safe in the US with Donald Trump in power. Instead, he went to Canada where officials secured his refuge in November 2017 and, a month later, several members of his family.

A third source with knowledge of Jabri’s situation told MEE that when he arrived in Canada, he was being chased by the Saudis who were willing to do anything to get him back.

He suggested that Jabri preferred Canada over the US not necessarily because of any specific security concerns, but because it may have been easier to bring his family to join him.

MEE asked Global Affairs Canada, Canada’s foreign ministry, if the government had protected Jabri and his family and why, and whether the Saudi government had given the impression they wanted him back in any communications with Ottawa.

A spokesperson responded only: “Global Affairs Canada does not comment on bilateral communications between states.”

A spokesperson at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said the ministry does not comment on individual cases.

MEE contacted Saudi embassies for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.

‘MBS is the camel’

Revelations of the Canadian government’s assistance to Jabri and his family will raise questions about the diplomatic row that broke out between Ottawa and Riyadh in August 2018.

Until now, the spat appeared to the wider public to have started after Canada’s embassy in Riyadh tweeted in Arabic, calling for the release of rights activists, although experts say there were frustrations already brewing in Riyadh.

Within 48 hours of the tweets, Saudi Arabia withdrew its envoy, expelled the Canadian ambassador to the kingdom and froze all new business and investment transactions, leaving seasoned observers dumbfounded.

“Routine stuff,” wrote a leading columnist in the Globe and Mail of the tweet. “But the Saudis went inexplicably berserk.”

Sources informed about Jabri’s refuge in Canada say they believe the harbouring of the former official better explains why the row escalated so quickly.

“The tweet is just the straw that broke the camel’s back and MBS is the camel,” said one of the sources.

A Canadian diplomatic source, however, cautioned against connecting Jabri’s presence in the country to the dispute which he said he believed was not related.

Thomas Juneau, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, said he had interviewed many of the diplomats and others involved in the Saudi-Canada row and Jabri “never came up”. But he now has questions.

“I have no reason to believe that it shaped the dispute. I think the reasons that MBS did what he did [in August 2018] are clear. But was this a small irritant that added to his frustration with Canada?” he said.

“There must have been some kind of interplay between the two story lines.”

Off the radar

Aside from his blog post, Jabri has been off the public radar since he left the kingdom although several Saudi and Gulf sources told MEE that they had heard that he was in Canada.

“He’s kept out of the public eye,” said a Saudi dissident, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “A few people spotted him by chance, but not because he approached opposition people.”

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and director of the Brookings Intelligence Project, said he was not surprised Jabri would have found Canada “more welcoming than the US”.

“Anyone who is a dissident is at some point at risk of being forced to come back or killed on the spot,” he said. “The Trump administration ignores the problem.”

Trump has come under fire for downplaying the role of Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in November 2018 even though the CIA concluded that the crown prince ordered the operation.

Saudi dissidents, both in the US and in other countries, have told MEE that Trump’s response to the killing, paired with the administration’s close ties to the kingdom, has left them anxious about their security in the US.

The FBI, as MEE first reported last year, was warning Saudi dissidents within weeks of Khashoggi’s murder that they faced potential threats to their lives from the kingdom.

And earlier this year, Abdulrahman al-Mutairi, a young Saudi living in California who has spoken out against the crown prince, told the Daily Beast and the LA Times that the FBI had thwarted an attempt by the Saudi government to kidnap him on US soil.

Saudi dissidents have told MEE that in their dealings with the FBI, the agency has sought to distance itself from the White House.

“I told them that I’m kind of afraid to deal with you guys because the current government has worked closely with [Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi government,” one who met with agents shortly after Khashoggi’s murder in 2018 told MEE.

“They said, ‘Don’t worry. We are here to protect people from everywhere. It doesn’t matter who is in the White House.”

Juneau said there was no doubt in his mind that Saudis who have fled the kingdom are justified to feel concerned for their safety, but he was unconvinced their fears should be pinned specifically on Trump.

Saudi dissidents and royals were being forcibly brought back to the kingdom before 2015. Since then, it’s simply a trend that has ramped up at the impetus of the crown prince.

“That Saudis wouldn’t feel safe abroad, 100 percent I agree. Where I would be very sceptical is that it’s because of the Trump administration. I think it’s because of MBS that Saudis shouldn’t feel safe abroad.”

Specifically of Jabri, Riedel said: “What he hasn’t done is say anything public.” When asked how he interprets Jabri’s silence, he said, “I think he’s scared. Wouldn’t you be?”

Related Articles:

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Trump Regime Approves Sale of Sensitive Nuclear Technology to Saudis

Saudi Crown Prince MBS Stripped of Some Powers?

Saudi Diplomatic Offensive Seeks to Put Khashoggi Behind It and Thwart Qatar

Who Killed Jamal Khashoggi? Did US Intelligence have Prior Knowledge?

“America First” Defends the Indefensible. Trump Family Financial Ties to the Saudi Royals

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Saudi ArabiaComments Off on Top Saudi Intelligence Official ‘Chased’ to Canada by Crown Prince MBS

MIT Study Finds No Evidence of Fraud in Bolivian Election that Resulted in a Coup

By Dave DeCamp

Global Research,

Back in November 2019, former Bolivian President Evo Morales was ousted in a coup after claims of election fraud from the Organization for American States (OAS). A new MIT study into the October 20th presidential election does not support the conclusions of the OAS and casts further doubt on the already flimsy claims. Much damage has already been done, Morales fled the country, members of his Movimento al Socialismo (MAS) party have been arrested, and dozens of his supporters were shot and killed by police in the unrest that followed the coup.

The claims of election fraud stem from a 24-hour pause of the preliminary count system on election day. The counting was paused after 84 percent of the votes were tallied, at the time it showed Morales leading his closest opponent Carlos Mesa by just under eight percent. When the counting resumed the next day, Morales’ lead increased to over 10 percent. In Bolivia’s election system, a candidate is required to have over 40 percent of the votes, and a 10 percent lead to their nearest opponent to prevent a runoff vote.

The OAS claims that during this 24-hour pause in the preliminary count, manipulations occurred that resulted in Morales taking a large enough lead to prevent the runoff vote. The new MIT study examined the data and concluded, “The OAS’s claim that the stopping of the trep (preliminary count) during the Bolivian election produced an oddity in the voting trend is contradicted by the data … Therefore, we cannot find results that would lead us to the same conclusion as the OAS. We find it is very likely that Morales won the required 10 percentage point margin to win in the first round of the election on October 20, 2019.”

The MIT study was commissioned by the Center for Economic Policy and Policy Research (CEPR). The CEPR conducted their own study on the election shortly after it happened that found “no evidence that irregularities or fraud affected the official result that gave President Evo Morales a first-round victory.” In a press release that came out with the MIT study, CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said, “The OAS greatly misled the media and the public about what happened in Bolivia’s elections, and helped to foster a great deal of mistrust in the electoral process and the results.”

The MIT researchers wrote an article in The Washington Post on their findings. The OAS angrily responded to the article and said the researchers ignored the OAS findings in their final report on the election and focused mostly on the preliminary report.

After the OAS released their preliminary report on the election in November 2019, Morales agreed to hold fresh elections and even said he would replace members of the electoral board that were responsible for the alleged fraud. These concessions were not enough for Morales’ opposition, who, along with the military, demand Morales step down. Morales fled to Mexico and eventually ended up in Argentina, where he was granted asylum.

At least 35 people were killed, and 700 were wounded in the post-election day unrest. Most of those killed and wounded were Morales supporters who protested against the coup. Bolivia has a large indigenous population, and Morales being the country’s first indigenous president, has much support in the community.Bolivia: The OAS and US Help Overthrow Another Latin American Government

Morales’ resignation was celebrated in Washington. In a statement, President Trump called it “a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere.” Florida Senator Marco Rubio also celebrated the news and said, “Morales was illegitimately holding on to power in Bolivia after the recent presidential elections.” Rubio’s statement doesn’t make much sense, considering Morales’ term was not set to end until January.

Rubio, along with the OAS, expressed doubt over Morales’ victory by a ten percent margin before the final votes were tallied. On October 21stRubio tweeted,

“In Bolivia all credible indications are Evo Morales failed to secure necessary margin to avoid a second round in Presidential election. However some concern he will tamper with the results or process to avoid this.”

Leaked audio recordings of coup plotters discussing their plans surfaced shortly after election day and was reported on by many Spanish-language media outlets. Among the topics discussed was the support the plotters had from US Senators Marco Rubio, Bob Menendez, and Ted Cruz, who would be willing to push for economic sanctions against Bolivia if Morales stayed in power. A report from The Grayzone shows that some of the military officials involved in these conversations attended WHINSEC, a military training school in Fort Benning, Georgia, formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA).

The SOA is a notorious training ground for coup plotters and human rights abusers of Latin America. For example, graduates of the SOA took part in the 1981 El Mozote massacre in El Salvador, where a US-backed death squad slaughtered over 800 civilians. After being connected to such atrocities, and years of bad publicity, the SOA changed its name to WHINSEC. Antiwar activists still keep a close eye on the school. SOA Watch is a grassroots organization that publishes data on the school’s graduates.

Morales expelled the US Agency for International Development (USAID) from Bolivia in 2013. US media outlets portrayed it as a paranoid move, but documents released in 2009 show that USAID poured millions of dollars into anti-Morales opposition groups and programs from the time he was a presidential candidate in 2004. After Morales was elected at the end of 2005, those efforts were ramped up, USAID focused on decentralization and separatist projects in Eastern Bolivia. In January, President Trump waived a restriction on US assistance to Bolivia, paving the way for USAID to reenter the country.

The US-government funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) maintains a strong presence in Bolivia. In 2019, the NED spent nearly one million dollars on programs like, “Monitoring the National Election Process,” “Promoting an Informed Electorate,” and “Providing Independent News and Election Information.”

Like Venezuela, Bolivia is rich in natural resources and sits on one of the world’s largest lithium reserves. As the world becomes more reliable on batteries and electronics, lithium may replace oil as the most sought-after resource. This fact certainly gave Washington some motivation to kick out a leftist president who would likely nationalize lithium.

The OAS also plays its part in advancing Washington’s policies in Latin America. While the OAS consists of 35 member states, it is mostly funded by one member, the US. Since January 2019, the US and its allies have been pushing hard to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Before Juan Guaido declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January 2019, the OAS Permanent Council agreed “to not recognize the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s new term as of the 10th of January of 2019.”

Under Morales, Bolivia remained one of the few OAS countries that still recognized Maduro as president of Venezuela. That changed rather quickly once right-wing Senator Jeanine Anez declared herself acting president of Bolivia. One of Anez’s first moves was to recognize Juan Guaido as the “legitimate” president of Venezuela.

Since Anez took office, many members of Morales’ MAS party have been arrested or are wanted by authorities. The most common charge the party members face is related to claims of election fraud. New presidential elections are set to take place on May 3rd, and the candidate leading the polls is Luis Arce, a member of the MAS party. The government of Jeanine Anez just opened a corruption case against Arce, in a move many see as an attempt to hinder his presidential run. It is tough to say what the future holds for the people of Bolivia, but it looks like the post-coup government is going to make every effort to keep the MAS party from power.

In 2017, Bolivia’s supreme court ruled against term limits, paving the way for Morales to run for a fourth term. The court’s ruling went against a referendum that was held in 2016, where Bolivians voted in favor of term limits in a close vote of 51-49. Whether or not Morales’ bid for a fourth term was legitimate is certainly up for debate, but that is a discussion for Bolivians to have.

It appears Morales was thrown out for false claims of election fraud, and while the post-coup government has the support of the OAS and Washington, it is unlikely much will be done to rectify it. The US has a long bloody history of overthrowing governments in Latin America, and these policies continue today through organizations like the NED and USAID. What President Trump called “a significant moment for democracy” was just the result of modern-day imperialism in Latin America.

Posted in BoliviaComments Off on MIT Study Finds No Evidence of Fraud in Bolivian Election that Resulted in a Coup

Elon Musk Is Acting Like a Neo-Conquistador for South America’s Lithium

by VIJAY PRASHAD – ALEJANDRO BEJARANO

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Elon Musk, the head of Tesla, wants to build an electric car factory in Brazil. He was supposed to meet Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, in Miami in early March, but he was too busy; instead, Musk will go to Brazil sometime this year. All eyes are on the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, whose Secretary of International Affairs Derian Campos is in direct contact with Musk. Two automobile manufacturers—BMW and GM—already have factories in Santa Catarina. Marcos Pontes (Minister of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communications) held a video conference with Anderson Ricardo Pacheco, a senior Tesla official. They were joined by Daniel Freitas, a congressman, and Claiton Pacheco Galdino, who is the business development director for Criciúma, a city in Santa Catarina. They are eager for Tesla to open a Gigafactory—Tesla’s name for a big factory—in South America’s largest economy.

It helps that Brazil has considerable lithium deposits—mostly in the southeastern states of Minas Gerais and Paraíba and in the northeastern states of Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte. The production of lithium is limited, largely having been used for ceramics and glass production. The Bolsonaro government is interested in increasing the production of lithium, including as a key raw material for the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars such as those made by Tesla. But Brazil’s lithium will not be sufficient. Tesla would need to import lithium from elsewhere.

The Lithium Triangle

Over 50 percent of the world’s known lithium deposits are in the “Lithium Triangle”—the lithium concentrated brine sources in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Bolivia’s high mountain deserts—the Salar de Uyuni—have by far the largest known reserves of lithium.

In a bizarre tweet, the Bolivian entrepreneur Samuel Doria Medina wrote that since Elon Musk and Jair Bolsonaro will discuss the Tesla plant in Brazil, they should add to this initiative the following: “build a Gigafactory in the Salar de Uyuni to supply lithium batteries.” Doria Medina is not just an entrepreneur. He is the vice-presidential candidate alongside the “interim president” Jeanine Áñez for the May 3, 2020, Bolivian presidential elections. Áñez came to power only because of the coup d’état against Evo Morales in November 2019. Doria Medina’s welcome mat to Tesla should, therefore, be seen as having the full authority of the coup government behind it.

Morales’ government had been very cautious with these lithium reserves. It had made clear that these precious resources were not to be turned over to transnational corporations in deals favorable to the firms; what gains come from lithium, Morales had pointed out, must be properly shared with the Bolivian people. The point that Morales’ government made is that any deal must be done with Comibol—Bolivia’s national mining company—and Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos—Bolivia’s national lithium company. The monetary gains from the mining would come into the Bolivian exchequer and then fund the social programs so necessary for the country. This sensible socialist policy was too much for three major transnational firms—Eramet (France), FMC (United States), and Posco (South Korea)—all three of whom turned tail and went to Argentina.

The Lithium Coup

It was Morales’ socialist policy toward Bolivia’s resources that doomed his government. The oligarchy, which was angry with Morales’ government and its socialism, used every mechanism to undermine the election of 2019. Forest fires in the northern and eastern regions of Bolivia provided the oligarchy’s media with the weaponry to suggest that Morales had abandoned his commitment to the environment and to Pachamama (Mother Earth), and that he was now working to benefit the cattle ranchers; it is important to point that this is not only ridiculous, but that as soon as the coup government of Áñez came into office, it passed legislation that allowed the ranchers to extend their lands into forested areas.

Morales’ opponent—Carlos Mesa—and other senior leaders of the oligarchy’s political parties openly said long before the election that Morales could only win by fraud. A self-proclaimed Council for the Defense of Democracy said that Morales was an illegitimate candidate because he had lost the 2016 constitutional referendum. The media—backed by these corporate and neofascist interests—banged the drum of fraud, while Carlos Mesa—on the night of the election—said that there was “monumental fraud” in the election. These provocations from Mesa, the neofascists, and the corporate elites resulted in street violence; in the midst of this, the police—sections of whom were angry with Morales for cracking down on police corruption—mutinied. The 36 Bolivians who died in the immediate post-election aftermath are victims of Mesa’s incendiary language. The Organization of American States (OAS), egged on by the U.S. government, came up with a “preliminary report” of fraud in the election; the hard conclusions in the report were not substantiated by the data in it. The OAS report played an important role in legitimizing the coup against Morales.

It is important to point out that there was no controversy about Morales’ election in 2014; in that election, Morales won 61 percent of the votes to defeat the entrepreneur Samuel Doria Medina, who won 24 percent (Doria Medina is the same person who is now running for vice president and welcomes Tesla to Bolivia’s lithium). Morales’ term, from the 2014 election, had not yet expired in November 2019; the removal of Morales then violated the mandate of 2014, a point that has received almost no discussion either inside Bolivia or abroad.

John Curiel and Jack Williams of the Election Data and Science Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) went over the Bolivian election data and found no fraud: “There is not any statistical evidence of fraud that we can find,” they wrote conclusively in the Washington Post. Curiel and Williams contacted the OAS, but they note, “We and other scholars within the field reached out to the OAS for comment; the OAS did not respond.” By their assessment, Morales won the election in November 2019 and should have been inaugurated this year to a new term.

Terrible pressure by the coup government against the party of Morales (the Movement for Socialism, or MAS)—as well as the presence of USAID monitors and a U.S.-backed head of the election commission, Salvador Romero—suggests that this election on May 3 is not going to be at all fair; it will likely favor the coup government, including the entrepreneur who wants to turn over Bolivia’s lithium to Elon Musk’s Tesla and Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

A World of Lithium

In 2019, the benchmark Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s “Energy Storage Outlook 2019” report anticipated that by 2030, the price of the lithium-ion battery would drop dramatically, and that—as a consequence—renewable energy (solar and wind) plus storage of energy in batteries will expand exponentially. By 2040, there is an expectation that wind and solar will produce 40 percent of world energy consumption, rather than the 7 percent it now produces. For this, demand for energy storage will increase. “The total demand for batteries from the stationary storage and electric transport sectors is forecast to be 4,584GWh (Gigawatt hours) by 2040,” write the Bloomberg analysts, “providing a major opportunity for battery makers and miners of component metals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel.” The current use is merely 9GW/17GWh.

The key point to emphasize here is that this will provide “a major opportunity” for “miners of component metals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel.” When Bloomberg’s analysts use a word like “miners,” they do not mean the Bolivian miners or the Congolese miners, but the transnational firms, such as Tesla and its chief, Elon Musk. As far as Bloomberg and Áñez are concerned, South America is no longer to follow the resource nationalist project of Evo Morales; this is Elon Musk’s South America, a place for the neo-conquistadors to make money and leave behind them social carnage.

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Blowing in the Whirlwind: As Ye Sow, Joe Shall Ye Reap

by CHRIS FLOYD

Artwork by Nick Roney

Joe Biden’s manifold and manifest vulnerabilities in a contest with the obviously addled but still media-savvy Donald Trump are often offered by supporters of Bernie Sanders as a reason to back their man as the more likely winner.  “Biden will lose,” they say; “if you really want to defeat Trump, then Sanders is the only one who can do it.”

There are strong arguments for that case – not least the fact that Sanders has consistently, since 2015, outdone every Democrat in head-to-head polls against Trump. Certainly, I would rather see Sanders as the nominee. And certainly, I have been railing against Biden in print and on line for more than 20 years, excoriating him as a corporate bagman who has played a key role in inflicting enormous suffering on ordinary Americans with his draconian bankruptcy and crime bill obsessions, not to mention the multitudes of innocent people around the world who have died from the hawkish warmongering policies he has unfailingly supported.

But while I sorely hate undercutting any argument against Biden, I do believe it is possible for old Joe to defeat Trump. Here’s how it’s likely to play out, if Biden is the nominee.

Both he and Trump will lumber around the country for months, dribbling out word salad to adoring supporters who don’t have the slightest interest in what the doddering old men at the rostrum are saying. Both will spout inane and barely coherent platitudes without offering anything remotely resembling actual policies or programs or solutions to the myriad of dire crises we face. Both will have their contentless, incoherent ramblings presented as cogent “debating points” and “policy positions” suitable for “deep analysis” by the shallow savants of the national press. There will be various gaffes, outrages, mini-scandals, along with a crazy quilt of polling numbers changing wildly by the day, even by the hour.

And none of it will matter. America’s electoral politics are so far removed from the actual reality of how power is really exercised in our society – and from the actual state of degeneration our dying society is really in – that it is nothing more than a badly rendered cartoon, a medicine show with clowns and con-men, a white noise machine howling down any genuine thought and feeling. It is, quite literally, sound and fury, signifying nothing: precisely because it no longer has any connection to the true operations of power and the reality of decay.

Trump recognized this first, but the Democrats have caught up. You don’t have to have any real policies. You don’t have to offer any real hope. You don’t even have to make any sense. Most people are so battered by the decay and tormented by the white noise that all they can do is grab hold of some emblematic figure offered to them by the system and project all their hopes and dreams and fears and desires onto them. Even if the offered figures are a pair of doddering, blubbering old men, lumbering around the country dribbling out word salad.

Sanders’ defeat in Michigan will for many signal the end, or the beginning of the end, of his nomination quest. And in the wake of that defeat, Sanders supporters will – very rightly – point out DNC rigging and interference in the campaign, the astonishing series of  “problems” with every vote count that might benefit him, the outsized role that Big Money played (exemplified by new Biden supporter Mike Bloomberg and the Wall Street tycoons that Biden is floating as possible cabinet members), and, perhaps most crucial of all, the fact that Sanders has been relentlessly, ceaselessly, mercilessly demonized and vilified by the media – and by the “liberal” media most of all.

For it’s a fact that most Americans – who get what little political news they care to imbibe from casual glances at the media – will never have heard a single report about Sanders that wasn’t negative in some respect, or in all respects. Again, this goes double for casually liberal Democrats, who get their news and views from the NYT, MSNBC, NPR, CNN, CBS, ABC, WP, etc. There, Sanders is portrayed either as the horned spawn of Chavez and Che, come to ravage your 401k and execute millionaires in Central Park – or else as a unicorn-chasing fantasist with no sense of gritty, savvy realpolitik, which dictates that we must always hew slavishly to the centrist mean. (Whatever that happens to be in any given year – although, whatever it is, it is always to the right of what it was before.)

Sanders has had to wage his campaign with the entire weight of the bipartisan power structure against him: the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Wall Street, the Pentagon, the “security organs,” the national media across the board. The vote counts in caucuses and primaries are obviously being obfuscated or, when all else fails, simply left uncounted in large numbers, as in Texas and California.

But if and when the Sanders’ campaign is subsequently derailed down the road, I no longer think it can be laid entirely at the door of the conniving players in the power structure. The lion’s share, perhaps – but there seems to be something else in the air of Campaign 2020. (Aside from Covid-19.) I think, perhaps, that we have come to such a crisis point on so many fronts that things are simply too overwhelming for most people to process, much less deal with, in any realistic way. Some strange combination of fatalism and magical thinking seems to have taken hold of large swathes of the electorate.

There seems to be the feeling that we can’t really do anything at all about the problems that are bearing down on us like a runaway train – climate disruption and all its ever-rippling repercussions;  the rise of hyper-powerful rich elites manipulating our increasingly hollowed-out institutions for their own benefit; the economic demise of industry after industry, region after region, community after community; the endless wars, covert and overt, with their gargantuan corruption and pointless cycles of violence; the healthcare atrocities that leave millions of people literally begging on the internet to obtain even the barest minimum of medical help, and so on. In the face of all this, many people long to embrace some figure or another who promises us a return to the “status quo”: either some mythologized post-war era when America was “great,” or just back to the Obama years, when things were “normal.”

Overwhelmed, battered, beset, anxiety-ridden, suffering, confused, many people don’t want to hear that hard work and big changes will be necessary if we are to have a chance for things to get better. They just want to latch on to something that will let them feel – if only for a moment – that the anxiety can go away, that someone up there in the circles of power will take care of it for us.

This is not the wisest course when faced with overwhelming crises – but it is an entirely natural and understandable one. When you couple this natural reaction to extremity with the aforementioned systematic effort to undermine and thwart the Sanders’ campaign, then it’s not surprising you end up with a blank screen like Joe Biden as your candidate.

And consider this: the blank screen of Donald Trump has now had four years in power, yet still those overwhelming, battering, confusing anxieties have not gone away – indeed, they’ve only multiplied. In this situation, it’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that enough people will turn away from the torn screen of Trump and try a new cure for their anxiety.

So yes, I think it’s very possible for Biden to beat Trump. Because for so many people, it doesn’t matter what Biden says or doesn’t say, how incoherent he is, how many outright lies he tells, how atrocious his record is or how diligently he is serving the domineering elites who have blighted our society to such a degree. It doesn’t matter that he has made it clear that he is not going to do anything about climate change, student debt, the healthcare crisis, rampant militarism, police brutality, economic injustice, low pay, ICE, and on and on. What matters that he is a fresh screen where our most unworthy fears and unrealistic hopes can be projected, for a time; where we can forget, for a time, the massive disasters that are looming ahead and pretend that things can somehow go back to “normal.”

Of course, this can only be done by ignoring that it was the previous “normality” that brought us here in the first place – and by ignoring the fact that big changes and upheavals are coming no matter who is elected.  We can’t escape it. The only question is: do we want to try to manage these big changes for the greater common good – or will we just allow them to ravage our lives in the worst way possible while we pine for a status quo of peace and quiet that never was, and thus can never return?

I fear the answer to this, my friend, is blowing in the whirlwind: the one we are reaping after sowing the wind for so many years with so many misdeeds – and which we apparently do not have the wisdom even to mitigate, much less avoid.

Posted in USA, CampaignsComments Off on Blowing in the Whirlwind: As Ye Sow, Joe Shall Ye Reap

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