Saturday, 29 February 2020

In the Vaping News: Hip Hip Hurry for Public Health Northamptonshire!

Northamptonshire To Promote Vaping

Public Health Northamptonshire are implementing a series of innovative changes to their Stop Smoking Service, to help reach the government target of a smoke-free generation by 2030. From February 2020, smokers in Northamptonshire have the option to choose a free e-cigarette starter kit and a supply of e- liquid when they take part in the 12 week stop smoking programme.

Despite significant reductions in the amount of people smoking in Northamptonshire over the last 20 years, there are still more than 87,000 smokers in the county. The Service says: “Smokers can expect to die 10 years earlier than non-smokers, and for every 1 smoker that dies, 30 live with a serious smoking related illness, placing an increased strain on our health and social care system. Each year, smoking takes the lives of hundreds of Northamptonshire residents, and costs the local economy more than £160 million.”

It is for these reasons that tobacco control has remained high on the agenda for Public Health Northamptonshire. The service is embracing vaping as a way to significantly reduce the harm caused by cigarettes. It acknowledges Public Health England stating that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and adds that “vaping carries a small fraction of the risk of smoking and has been found to be almost twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy in helping smokers to quit.”

The Stop Smoking Service already have advisors working across the county to provide expert behavioural support and advice to any Northamptonshire smokers looking to kick the habit, but now those who choose to use an e-cigarette will be given a Totally Wicked ‘Skope S’ starter kit and up to 16 bottles of e-liquid, in various strengths and flavours.

Over the next 12 months the service will also be running a series of workplace interventions, providing e-cigarettes and voucher incentives to those looking to stop smoking. This work, funded by the East Midlands Cancer Alliance, gives routine and manual workplaces the opportunity to significantly improve the health and wellbeing of their employees at absolutely no cost.

Northamptonshire’s rate of smoking in pregnancy has reduced, but it remains significantly higher (worse) than the national average. Smoking can be linked to complications in pregnancy, stillbirth, premature births, and sudden infant death syndrome. Services in other parts of the United Kingdom have already started using e-cigarettes as a way to improve outcomes for babies and expectant mothers, and this option will now be available to pregnant women in Northamptonshire.

Councillor Ian Morris, Cabinet member for Public Health and wellbeing said: “Whilst not entirely risk free, vaping is considerably safer than smoking. The consequences of continuing to use tobacco, which kills 1 out of every 2 lifetime users, far exceed any potential harm posed by e- cigarettes. Public Health Northamptonshire is encouraging all smokers to switch to e-cigarettes as soon as possible, and to engage with the Northamptonshire Stop Smoking Service for expert support and advice.”

The Service recommends: “If you don’t smoke, don’t start vaping. If you do smoke, make the switch as soon as possible.”

If you are a Northamptonshire resident that would like to stop smoking please contact 0300 126 5700 or email


Thursday, 27 February 2020

Trump: "NYT Did a Bad Thing!"

REPORTER: Your campaign two days sued the New York times for an opinion. Is it your opinion or is it your contention that if people have an opinion contrary to yours that they should be sued?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, when they get their opinion totally wrong as the New York Times did and frankly they have got a lot wrong over the last number of years so we will see how that--let that work its way through the courts.
If you read it you will see it is beyond an opinion, that is not an opinion, that is something much more than an opinion. They did a bad thing and there will be more coming. There will be more coming.


Sunday, 23 February 2020

Airstrip One to Buy its Nukes from Oceania

Furious Brits have accused their government of being a lapdog for Washington, after it was inadvertently revealed that the UK had quietly inked a nuclear weapons deal with the US, forgoing public debate.

The Pentagon recently disclosed that Britain has agreed to purchase new US nuclear warheads to replace Trident, its own homegrown nuclear program. However, the deal came as a surprise to British lawmakers, who were reportedly kept in the dark about the nuclear weapons.

The agreement, which involves the US sharing the technology used in its W93 sea-launched warhead, is expected to cost billions of pounds.

A spokesperson for the ministry of defense declined to go into detail about the deal, stating only that Britain has a “strong defense relationship with the US” and remains committed to having nuclear capabilities compatible with US technology.

While some hailed the secretive deal as necessary to ensure NATO’s nuclear deterrence capabilities, the move was blasted by opposition parties. Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said it was outrageous that the pricey tech transfer was being carried out with “zero consultation and zero scrutiny.

He blasted the Tory government, arguing that “Johnson increasingly looks like putty in Trump’s hands.

MP Stewart McDonald, who serves as the Scottish National Party’s spokesperson for defense, said that Defense Minister Ben Wallace should face Parliament and answer for the secrecy behind the deal. Fellow SNP member Douglas Chapman cautioned the US and UK against “spending too much time” on the deal, claiming Scotland would soon gain its independence.

A Green Party official expressed similar disillusionment, describing the incident as an example of “how it feels to live in a failed democracy.

Similar views were aired on social media.

“We really are the 51st state of America,”lamented one Twitter user.

Another comment argued that, in the eyes of the US military, the UK is little more than a “static aircraft carrier” to be used for its own purposes.

Others jokingly suggested that the secretive program was nothing out of the ordinary.

That's the price of [a] ‘special relationship’!”, read one reply, referring to the fabled close bilateral ties between Washington and London.


Saturday, 22 February 2020

Rachel Madcow disease: Russiagate, the 2020 Sequel!


Still, it’s abundantly clear now that many liberal outlets overdid it in their fervor. And Maddow, MSNBC’s ratings juggernaut of the Trump era, is the embodiment of this overzealousness. The Mueller investigation was covered more on MSBNC than any other television network, and was mentioned virtually every day in 2018. No twist was too minuscule or outlandish for Maddow; every night, seemingly, brought another nail in the coffin of the soon-to-be-dead Trump presidency.

There was the time Maddow theorized that Trump was “curiously well-versed” in “specific Russian talking points”, strongly implying press briefings were dictated from the Kremlin. An American missile attack on Syria, Maddow concurred, could have been orchestrated by Putin himself. During a cold snap, the Russian government could shut down our power supply. Putin could blackmail Trump into pulling troops from Russia’s border.

Maddow was not only certain that Russians had rigged the election. On air, she would talk about the “continuing operation” – the idea that the Kremlin was controlling the Trump presidency itself. In more sober times, this brand of analysis would barely cut it on a far-right podcast. In the Trump era, it was ratings gold.

Maddow is much smarter than this. But the siren song of ratings is too difficult for a TV personality ignore, especially when a television network is transformed from an also-ran into a top contender.

This is not to say, of course, Trump is not a future criminal and the Mueller investigation didn’t perform a service. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, are headed to prison. Trump’s conflicts of interest are almost comical. Between the dubious family business dealings and Cohen’s hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels, there’s plenty of material for prosecutors in New York to investigate. Did Trump, in his reckless stupidity, obstruct justice? It’s possible.

But none of it will have to do with a fantastic collusion case. Rather, it will concern old-fashioned, sloppy corruption of the type Trump and his ilk – greedy pols and fraudulent businessmen – have engaged in for generations. It’s more destructive and more banal. It will not end his presidency, because federal prosecutors have reached a consensus that a sitting president probably cannot be indicted. Once Trump is out of office, the prosecutorial wheels can keep turning.

The case of Russian collusion served as soma for the Democratic masses addicted to cable TV and prestige news outlets, where the story could never die. Focus enough on Trump’s “illegitimate” presidency – Russian agents installed him! – and forget the catastrophic failure of the Democratic party to elect Hillary Clinton and stop Trump’s shambolic candidacy.

Forget too America’s structural inequities, its warped version of representative democracy, its original sins of slavery and Native American genocide, and its history, first and foremost, of elevating presidents who routinely flouted the constitution, whether it was Franklin Roosevelt imprisoning Japanese Americans, Abraham Lincoln suspending habeas corpus, or even George W Bush launching the Iraq war, a cataclysmic blunder that will reverberate across the Middle East for decades to come.

All of this is easy to wave away with the Trump-Russia wand. In this mythos, America was an unsullied country until Kremlin power brokers dropped Trump in the White House to control from afar. It is the cold war paradigm reborn, Russia the dark nemesis that must be slayed. Just as conservatives once ranted about communist infiltrations into all facets of American life, it’s liberal Democrats who now see Russia in every Trump foible.

Maddow surely understands this. There will be no deus ex Russia to save the American republic. Once Mueller’s name fades into history, she will have to find someone else to fill her primetime hours.


Thursday, 20 February 2020

The Boogaloo: Extremists’ New Slang Term for A Coming Civil War

It’s not often an old joke evolves into a catchphrase for mass violence, but that’s just what’s happened this past year when a variety of extremist and fringe movements and subcultures adopted the word “boogaloo” as shorthand for a future civil war.

From militia groups to white supremacists, extremists on a range of online platforms talk about—and sometimes even anticipate—the “boogaloo.” The rise of “boogaloo,” and its casual acceptance of future mass violence, is disturbing. Among some extremists, it may even signify an increased willingness to engage in violence.

“Boogaloo” has its roots in decades of jokes about an old movie: the 1984 breakdancing film Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Almost from the moment of the movie’s release, people exploited the format of the movie’s title for humorous purposes, replacing “Breakin’” with some other film, event or person of their choice.

These jokes included “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo” references, made every so often by gamers and history buffs, among others. But its most recent, and most serious, iteration caught on and spread very quickly. Though some still use the phrase as a joke, an increasing number of people employ it with serious intent.

Gun Rights Activists Threaten Violence

This new usage seems to have started with gun rights activists intimating or promising violence if the government were to “come for their guns.” The full phrase has been used this way before; for example, in June 2018 someone started a Reddit thread titled “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo” featuring a 2012 Facebook post by Gavin Newsom, then California’s lieutenant governor, telling the National Rifle Association, “we ARE coming for your guns.” The implication made by the poster was clear—that any such effort would result in civil war.

In 2019, usage spread widely among pro-gun activists on a variety of online platforms, so much so that it was quickly pared down simply to “boogaloo” or “the boogaloo.” In August, a Twitter user warned others to buy whatever guns and ammo they wanted now, because soon the ability to do so would be “severely curtailed,” adding, “Button up for the #boogaloo. Now.” That same month someone else tweeted the hashtag #boogaloo, warning about 100 million “active shooter” situations “when the cops try to do nationwide gun confiscations.”

A range of boogaloo-related phrases also emerged this year, as the term became more popular, including: “showing up for the boogaloo,” “when the boogaloo hits,” “being boogaloo ready” and “bring on the boogaloo.” Boogaloo-related hashtags have surfaced, including #boogaloo2020, #BigIgloo (igloo-related images are now also used as boogaloo references), #boojahideen, and #boogaloobois.

Some people predicted that proposed “red flag” laws (laws allowing the temporary seizing of firearms from individuals deemed to present a danger to themselves or others) would bring on the boogaloo. Boogaloo-related hashtags now often appear along firearm-related tags, such as #2a, #gunrights, and #ShallNotBeInfringed. Many boogaloo references are directed against the “alphabet boys” or “alphabet gang” – federal agencies like the FBI and ATF – which people assume would assist in any gun confiscations.

In September, then-presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke called for a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons, sparking a rash of boogaloo references. “You realize your gun confiscation plan would set off the boogaloo, right?” one person asked O’Rourke on Twitter in October. “Do you know that you will start a boogaloo?” demanded another. “Once Beto starts taking the guns away, the boogaloo will start,” asserted a third.

The boogaloo meme soon spread from angry gun-rights activists to the militia movement and survivalists. The Telegram channel “Boogaloo: How to Survive” claims to show “how to survive in a post society world through understanding the psychology of violence, attaining resources, and organizing to accomplish post society tasks.” It currently has more than 1,700 members. A militia movement-related website now sells a “Boogaloo 2020” t-shirt—and it is hardly alone. Now one can buy boogaloo-related clothing and accessories from a variety of online marketplaces, including Amazon. Items include patches, pins and apparel (such as “Big Igloo” t-shirts).

The boogaloo meme has spread to other movements with anti-government beliefs, primarily minarchists and anarcho-capitalists, which are essentially conservative alternatives to anarchism, as well as a few apparent anarchists. Use of the term by adherents of these philosophies often refers to violence against the state and its institutions, especially law enforcement.

White Supremacists Take Up the Term

White supremacists have also adopted the boogaloo concept. A particularly disturbing boogaloo t-shirt (currently available online) features the word boogaloo under a photograph of John Earnest, the white supremacist who opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, California, in April 2019, killing one person.

Whereas the militia movement, radical gun rights activists typically promote the boogaloo as a war against the government or liberals, white supremacists conceive of the boogaloo as a race war or a white revolution. Some promote boogaloo-related phrases alongside hashtags such as #dotr or #DayOfTheRope, both of which are references to neo-Nazi William Pierce’s The Turner Diaries, a novelized blueprint for a white revolution.

Accelerationist white supremacists are particularly apt to use “boogaloo” – they seek the violent collapse of modern society in order to bring about a new, white-dominated world. Among them is Paul Nehlen, who gained notoriety by running for U.S. Congress in Wisconsin in 2016 and 2018. After the Poway synagogue shooting, Nehlen embraced both accelerationism and the term boogaloo and has even posted photos of himself wearing the John Earnest/boogaloo shirt.

In August, the accelerationist “Terrorwave Refined” Telegram channel posted the following call to arms:

If they are ever dumb enough to come for your guns, let the executive, legislative, and judicial workers and their kike handlers know that they had better confiscate all the manure and trucks in America…because the first places you’ll visit will be the courthouses, legislatures, barracks, and next, their personal homes, their parents [sic] homes, their kids [sic] homes…and it will truly be the beginning of the White Man’s Boogaloo.
The reference to manure and trucks is likely an allusion to Timothy McVeigh’s use of an ammonium nitrate truck bomb to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

The white supremacist (and accelerationist) group Feuerkrieg Division recently posted a song about a race-war boogaloo to its official Telegram channel. A sampling of the lyrics makes its thrust clear:

Do the Boogaloo!
Kill the kikes, and save the whites
Come on, it’s time to go!
Do the Boogaloo!
Plug a pig, and then a Yid
Let’s do the Boogaloo, all together now!

Care must be taken when evaluating boogaloo-as-civil-war references, as some people—even those in extremist movements—still use the phrase jokingly, or to mock some of the more fanatical or gung-ho adherents of their own movement.


Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Australian MPs say Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is 'a man under enormous pressure' following prison visit

Australian MPs Andrew Wilkie and George Christensen have raised concerns over Julian Assange's mental wellbeing after meeting with him in a British jail.

Assange has been held there since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London last April and arrested for skipping bail.

Prior to that he had spent seven years inside the embassy after seeking asylum in 2012, and Mr Christensen said his lack of exposure to the outside world showed.

"It was kind of state you'd expect from a man who has been absolutely and utterly isolated and who doesn't know what has been going on," he said.

"It was clear to us that his mental state isn't good."

Mr Wilkie echoed Mr Christensen's assessment.

"I'm not a psychologist. but it was obvious that there's a man who's under enormous pressure," he said.

"Clearly his health and mental health has deteriorated during what is effectively years in captivity."

The 48-year-old is fighting extradition to the US, where he faces 18 charges including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law, and Mr Wilkie said if Assange is found guilty it would almost amount to a death sentence.

"If he is convicted of those charges he faces up to 175 years in a US federal prison," he said.

"It's a life sentence and it could be said to almost a death sentence."


Christensen ain't no bleedin' heart leftie:

Christensen said: “I am a big fan of Trump, I am a big fan of Bojo [Boris Johnson] but I’ll tell you what I value more: free speech,” he said [my emph.] “There are a lot of Australians on the right and left who think that Julian Assange is a rat bag, that I am a rat bag, but that he should be brought home.”

Stratfor's Hacked Emails Expose Some Very Tangled Intelligence Gathering

The anti-secrecy group Wikileaks began publishing more than five million internal emails from the U.S. based private intelligence company, Stratfor on Sunday. It includes a memo allegedly written by George Friedman, the CEO of the company that reads like something out of a spy novel.

The document is allegedly Friedman’s own wry rundown of intelligence lingo that his employees use in their work for corporate and government clients.

The document dump explains that an "All-Source Fusion Cell" is: "A trans-compartmentalized group of analysts who get to see everything and have to make sense of it. Don't wish it on your worst enemy."

A "Barium Meal" is defined this way: "When there is a leak, feed bits of radioactive (traceable, false) information to suspects. See which bit leaks. You will know who leaked it. The leaker will know you know. Livens up a dull day like nothing else we’ve ever seen. Bring the kids."

And a “Code Crypt,” in turn, is described as “the code name and control of a source in encrypted form. If this confuses you, it’s working.”

The spy lingo glossary is just one document amid an enormous cache from Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based private intelligence company that counts government agencies and some of the world’s biggest companies among its clients.

In a press release late Sunday, Wikileaks said the emails “reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.”

"The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods," the Wikileaks press release said. The organization claimed that the emails expose "how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world."

Business Insider.

Monday, 17 February 2020

A Republican Plutocrat Tries To Buy The Democratic Nomination

No Democrat should consider Michael Bloomberg as a candidate.

The idea of Michael Bloomberg becoming the Democratic presidential nominee should be too absurd to even consider seriously. For one thing, he is a conservative who openly believes that the poor should be ruled over by the super-rich and is trying to buy the nomination outright. He has a history of saying monstrously offensive things about women and transgender people, and oversaw an infamous racist police regime that terrorized Black and Hispanic New Yorkers. If he did somehow manage to spend his way to the nomination, bypassing the democratic process, it would be such an outrage—and so demoralizing to the Democratic base—that it would guarantee Trump’s reelection. If the choice were between two sexist billionaires who hate the poor, how many young people would drag themselves to the polls to support “our side’s” billionaire? It would permanently disillusion an entire generation and vindicate every cynical theory of politics as a domain where money rules absolutely.

But, troublingly, Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy has not entirely been laughed out of the room. A number of prominent Democratic officials, liberal intellectuals, and celebrities have endorsed him, including San Francisco mayor London Breed, Illinois congressman Bobby Rush, Stockton mayor Michael Tubbs, Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo, TV’s Judge Judy, and singer John Mellencamp. Henry Louis Gates promoted Michael Bloomberg, and Evicted author Matthew Desmond effusively praised Bloomberg’s housing plan (without officially endorsing him). Some of this seems a little strange—why is a sociologist known for studying evictions boosting the guy responsible for the New York homelessness crisis? Why are dozens of liberal elected officials suddenly stumping for a Republican billionaire?

In the case of some elected officials, the answer seems to be simple bribery. Bloomberg “has supported 196 different cities with grants, technical assistance and education programs worth a combined $350 million” and “now, leaders in some of those cities are forming the spine of Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign.” The mayors have all “attended his prestigious boot camp at Harvard that gives the mayors access to ongoing strategic advice from Bloomberg-funded experts” and “more than half have received funding… worth a total of nearly $10 million.” Bloomberg has been good to them and promises to keep being good to them in the future; endorsing him will probably guarantee the cash keeps flowing. Bloomberg hands out bags of money, they come on board.

But, beyond people he outright bribes, Bloomberg has another potential source of support: Democratic elites who desperately want to stop Bernie Sanders from being the party’s nominee. With Joe Biden having collapsed in Iowa, Pete Buttigieg incapable of winning the votes of young people and African Americans, and Elizabeth Warren currently trailing Sanders, there are plenty looking for a last-minute candidate to stop the Sanders surge. As a Bloomberg adviser put it, “Mike may end up as the only thing standing between Bernie and the nomination.”

Bloomberg plans to “exploit the chaotic outcome of the Iowa caucuses” by doubling his spending on advertising, and his advisers have been making overtures to high-ranking Democrats. There are still many in the Democratic Party who insist you need to be a centrist to win, and Bloomberg portrays himself as the candidate who “would be acceptable to the moderate Republicans you have to have.” They may be prepared to use any means necessary to keep Sanders from being nominated, even using the superdelegate system to override the popular will. If they do so, the excuse they give will be is that stopping Trump is “too important” to be interfered with by mere democracy.

But the biggest boost to Bloomberg is his giant pile of money, which he has vowed to use to obtain the nomination for himself. He hasn’t ruled out spending $1 billion on the presidential race. In the first five weeks, he spent $200 million on advertising. He’s opening nearly 20 offices in Texas alone, and is even paying people money to say nice things about him online (so if you see someone praising Bloomberg, remember: There’s a good chance they were paid to do it). He has donated significant sums to the DNC, and has surrogates on the rules committee. The DNC recently changed the requirements to qualify for the debates in a way that now allows Bloomberg and his money pile to participate. (It used to be that you had to get a certain number of donors. Bloomberg, having no donors but himself, was ineligible. The donor requirement has now been scrapped.) It is unclear precisely what Bloomberg’s strategy is. But he would not be spending a billion dollars if he didn’t think it could somehow buy him the nomination.

The Definition of a Plutocrat

Bloomberg does not see anything wrong with trying to purchase the presidency for a billion dollars. When asked about whether this is fair, he has become annoyed, as if it is a stupid question. He says that his rivals “had a chance to go out and make a lot of money,” but simply chose not to, and says there is no difference between himself and the other candidates: “I’m doing exactly the same thing they’re doing, except that I am using my own money.” The others are “using somebody else’s money and those other people expect something from them,” because “nobody gives you money if they don’t expect something.” He says he doesn’t see the problem.

The problem, of course, is that this is plutocracy, rule by the rich. If I have little money, and have to work tirelessly to build a grassroots movement of supporters to buy a few ads, while you have a billion dollars and can simply buy 10 times as many ads without lifting a finger, I have no real chance to compete. (This is precisely how Bloomberg gets his way. He simply uses his money as a “bulldozer” to “drown out the opposition.”) When I followed Abdul El-Sayed’s campaign in Michigan, one thing that saddened me was that, just to keep his campaign afloat, he had to spend 40 hours a week just on making donor calls to ask for fairly small sums. That was all time he couldn’t spend out meeting people, which put him at a considerable disadvantage. Vast wealth inequality makes democracy impossible, because it just means the rich can bury the less rich, not with better ideas or more grassroots support, but just by having more money to blast their message out.

In fact, Bloomberg has long practiced a politics of bribery. As mayor, when he “wanted to win over cocky state legislative leaders, he packed them aboard his private jet, headed for his Bermuda mansion and a friendly round of golf.” When he decided that he wanted to seek a third term in office, despite the law’s two-term limit, he donated $60 million to nonprofits, then his aides asked recipient organizations to push for changing the law. “It’s pretty hard to say no,” one leader said. After successfully getting the law changed, Bloomberg still spent another $109 million to secure his third term, which gave him the honor of having spent “more of his own money than any other individual in United States history in the pursuit of public office.” Bloomberg is frank in his belief that rules are for little people.

It’s especially remarkable that Bloomberg has chosen to seek the Democratic nomination, because he wasn’t actually a Democrat until right before starting this campaign, and ran for New York City mayor as a Republican. He supported war criminal George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. He set a record for donations to the New York Republican Party, and heaped “piles of cash at the feet of city and state Republican leaders.” In 2016, he spent $11.7 million helping Republican Pat Toomey keep his Senate seat, an election that Toomey won by less than two points and that helped Mitch McConnell maintain control of the Senate. He endorsed Scott Brown in his reelection campaign against Elizabeth Warren. Bloomberg “not only backed Republicans in competitive and pivotal races” but “has also sunk money into Republican primaries on behalf of McConnell allies” like Lindsey Graham and Thad Cochran. While Bloomberg’s donations have more recently leaned Democratic—an attempt to purchase political influence on his personal issues like gun control—his support for New York Republicans helped maintain the state senate’s decades-long Republican majority, with all of the reactionary policy that entailed, like delaying marriage equality. This is what plutocratic governance looks like: billionaires deciding which party will be in charge, in accordance with their whims and policy preferences.

Current Affairs.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Anti-BDS laws are meant to censor & control speech, claims journalist Abby Martin

American Zionism's attack on freedom of speech:

Barred from speaking at a public university over her refusal to sign a pledge of allegiance to Israel, journalist Abby Martin is now suing the state of Georgia, arguing its anti-BDS legislation sets fire to the First Amendment.

Slated to give a keynote talk at a media literacy conference at Georgia Southern University later this month, Martin was asked to sign what amounts to a loyalty oath to the State of Israel, mandated under a 2016 Georgia law barring the government from hiring contractors who boycott Israeli products or associate with the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Martin told RT she was “shocked” when she saw what she was asked to sign.

I was not anticipating this whatsoever,” she said. “I was aware of the issue – I’ve talked about how over two dozen states have employed this measure for independent contractors – but I just never connected the two.

Declining to sign the pledge, explaining that pro-Palestine activism is “central” to her work, the university swiftly called off Martin’s talk. When her colleagues came to her defense, the entire event was shut down, a move she says is “emblematic of the state of academic freedom in the United States at large,” where similar laws have been passed in 28 states.

I think that’s really interesting, because there’s essentially no discussion on left-wing speakers like myself discussing issues like Palestine, which are literally being blocked on the state level,” Martin said, calling the censorship a “direct violation of the First Amendment.

It’s not only about the right to boycott and the right to participate in peaceful political action, it’s also about the right to just have free speech, especially on college campuses.

With right-of-center organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heritage Foundation pushing ‘free speech acts’ on college campuses across the country to protect conservative speakers, Martin said the anti-BDS laws are clearly hypocritical, wielded to blot out certain viewpoints and control the public narrative around Israel.

There’s a stark hypocrisy going on when it really isn’t about free speech at all,” she said.

When you look at these laws... to protect certain kinds of speech and block out other kinds of speech, it’s really about what kind of speech you want and what kind of speech you don’t want.

Shut out of Georgia Southern University solely due to her political views, Martin filed a lawsuit against the state on Monday, insisting her First Amendment rights were being trampled in the decision to cancel her talk. The former RT host said she’s “confident” about the case, hoping it will mean that “no independent contractors will have to forfeit their civil liberties and constitutional rights in order to just work in the state.

These are laws that should never have been passed in the first place. This is the fault of state legislatures that have passed these laws in direct violation of the US Constitution.

There is hope for the suit. Last April, a Texas judge blocked the state government from enforcing a similar anti-BDS law, ruling it an “impermissible content- and viewpoint-based restriction on protected expression,” which sought to “manipulate the debate [around Israel] through coercion rather than persuasion.

Martin faces an uphill battle, however, with many forces arrayed against her cause – in the US and beyond. With the Israeli prime minister’s office admitting in a tweet this week that Tel Aviv has “promoted [anti-BDS] laws in most US states,” overturning the legislation could mean competing with a powerful foreign lobby, in addition to fighting it out in the courts. (US)

Click! (or click image.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

1994 (Netflix)

The election year of 1994 was a tumultuous one in Mexico; President Carlos Salinas had selected Colosio, who was his hand-chosen leader of the dominant PRI party and later a part of his cabinet, as his successor. Colosio, whose history pointed to the fact that he wanted to reform not only the Mexican government but his party, as well, made people in and out of PRI uncomfortable.

In 1994, director Diego Enrique Orsono takes a look at this tumultuous year, starting with Colosio’s assassination after a rally in Tijuana. Orsono not only interviews Salinas, but many members of Colosio’s campaign, journalists, and other PRI loyalists. He also reaches back to 1968 to see the seeds of reform that were sown by reformists that started to bear fruit during the contested 1988 presidential election, where PRI candidate Selinas was elected and inaugurated despite real evidence that ballots were not counted, that dead people voted, and that other ballots were destroyed. By the following year, the first candidate from the opposition PRN party won the gubernatorial election in Baja California — an election that Colosio took pains to ensure that all votes were legal and counted.

Colosio did not want to take dirty corporate money, nor did he want illegitimate votes to help him get elected. He also felt that the PRI was more of a dictatorial party that impeded democracy, and he sought to reform it. Not only did that make people uncomfortable, but at the same time NAFTA was about to go into effect, an agreement that Salinas helped shepherd into being. As soon as it went into effect on January 1, 1994, things changed.


Friday, 14 February 2020

Is the US heading towards a FOUR party system?

Slavoj Zizek: US enters brutal ideological civil war as four-party system begins to take form

Despite Trump’s impeachment victory, the US is entering into an ideological civil war, because the real conflict is not between the Democrats and the Republicans, but within each of those parties themselves. Two weeks ago, while promoting his new film in Mexico City, Harrison Ford said that “America has lost its moral leadership and credibility.

Really? When did the US exert moral leadership over the world? Under Reagan or Bush? They lost what they never had, ie, they lost the illusion (the “credibility” made in Harrison’s claim) that they’ve had it. With Trump, what was already true merely became visible.

Back in 1948, at the outset of the Cold War, this truth was formulated with brutal candor by US diplomat and historian George Kennan: “[The US has] 50 percent of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 percent of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period…is to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality…we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation.

In this we find an explanation of what Trump means by “America first!” in much clearer and more honest terms. So we should not be shocked when we read that “the Trump administration, which came into office pledging to end ‘endless wars,’ has now embraced weapons prohibited by more than 160 countries, and is readying them for future use. Cluster bombs and anti-personnel landmines, deadly explosives known to maim and kill civilians long after fighting has ended, have become integral to the Pentagon’s future war plans.

Those who act surprised by such news are simply hypocrites: in our upside-down world, Trump is innocent (not impeached) while Assange is guilty (for disclosing state crimes).

So what IS going on now?

It’s true that Trump exemplifies the new figure of an openly obscene political master in disdain of the basic rules of decency and democratic openness.

The logic that underlies Trump’s actions was spelled out by Alan Dershowitz (who is, among other things, an advocate of legalized torture). The Harvard Law professor stated that if a politician thinks his re-election is in the national interest, any actions he takes towards that end cannot by definition be impeachable. “And if a president did something that he believes will help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” Dershowitz argues.

The nature of power out of any serious democratic control is clearly spelled out here.

What was taking place in the ongoing debates about Trump’s impeachment was a case of the dissolution of the shared common ethical substance which makes argumentative polemical dialogue possible: the US is entering into an ideological civil war in which there is no shared ground to which both parties to the conflict can appeal – the more each side elaborates its position, the more it becomes clear that no dialogue, even a polemical one, is possible.

We shouldn’t be too fascinated by the theatrics of the impeachment process (Trump refusing Pelosi’s handshake, Pelosi tearing up a copy of his State of the Union address) because the true conflict is not between the Democrats and the Republicans but within each of the parties.

The US is now transforming itself from a two-party state into a four-party state: there are really four parties that fill in the political space - the establishment Republicans, establishment Democrats, alt-right populists and democratic socialists.

There are already offers of coalitions across party lines: Joe Biden hinted that he might nominate as his vice-president a moderate Republican, while Steve Bannon mentioned, a few times, his ideal of a coalition between Trump and Sanders.

The big difference is that, while Trump’s populism easily asserted its hegemony over the Republican establishment (a clear proof, if one was ever needed, that, in spite of all Bannon’s ranting against the “system,” Trump’s reference to ordinary workers is a lie), the split within the Democratic party is getting stronger and stronger – no wonder, since the struggle between the Democratic establishment and the Sanders wing is the only true political struggle going on.

To use a little bit of theoretical jargon, we are thus dealing with two antagonisms (“contradictions”), the one between Trump and the liberal establishment (this is what the impeachment was about), and the one between the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party and all the others.

Brutal battle ahead

The move to impeach Trump was a desperate attempt to regain the moral leadership and credibility of the US – a comic exercise in hypocrisy. This is why all the moral fervor of the Democratic establishment should not deceive us: Trump’s open obscenity just brought out what was always there. The Sanders camp sees this clearly: there is no way back, US political life has to be radically reinvented.

But is Sanders a true alternative or, as some “radical Leftists” claim, is he just a (rather moderate) social democrat who wants to save the system? The answer is that this dilemma is false: Democratic Socialists started a mass movement of radical re-awakening, and the fate of such movements is not predestined.

Only one thing is certain: the worst imaginable stance is the one of some Western “radical Leftists” who tend to write off the working class in developed countries as a “workers’ aristocracy” living off the exploitation of developing countries and caught in racist-chauvinist ideologies. In their view, the only radical change can come from “nomadic proletarians” (immigrants and the poor of the Third World) as a revolutionary agent (maybe linked to some impoverished middle-class intellectuals in developed countries) – but does this diagnosis hold?

True, today’s situation is global, but not in this simplistic Maoist sense of opposing bourgeois nations and proletarian nations. Immigrants are sub-proletarians, their position is very specific, they are not exploited in the Marxist sense and are as such not predestined to be the agents of radical change. Consequently, I consider this “radical” choice suicidal for the Left: Sanders is to be unconditionally supported.

The battle will be cruel, the campaign against Sanders will be much more brutal than the one against Corbyn in the UK. On the top of the usual card of anti-Semitism, there will be wide use of the race and gender cards – Sanders as on old white man… Just recall the brutality of Hillary Clinton's latest attack on him.

And all these cards will be played on grounds of a fear of Socialism. Critics of Sanders repeat again and again that Trump cannot be beaten from his (Sanders’) all-too-leftist platform, and the main thing is to get rid of Trump. To this we should just answer that the true message hidden in this argument is: if the choice is between Trump and Sanders, we prefer Trump…

RT via Farmer John's blog.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Crypto AG Unmasked: CIA Spied on Governments For Decades

A Swiss company thought to have sold among the most secure encryption products in the world was actually owned by US and German intelligence, allowing the CIA and BND to spy on allies and enemies around the world, it has emerged.

A new report from The Washington Post and Germany’s ZDF claims that Crypto AG, founded during the Second World War, struck a deal with the CIA in the 50s and then passed fully into the hands of US and German intelligence two decades later, before being wound up in 2018.

Internal reports about the operation, codenamed “Thesaurus” and then renamed “Rubicon” in the 80s, reportedly claim it was “the intelligence coup of the century.”

“Foreign governments were paying good money to the US and West Germany for the privilege of having their most secret communications read by at least two (and possibly as many as five or six) foreign countries,” the article claimed.

This “five or six” figure would seem to suggest that countries belonging to the Five Eyes intelligence sharing partnership also benefited. In fact, it is claimed that the UK was handed vital intelligence intercepted from the Argentinian military during the Falklands war.

The US was also able to monitor Iranian communications during the 1979 hostage siege and Libyan officials celebrating after terrorists exploded a bomb in a Berlin nightclub in 1984.

Then-President Ronald Reagan raised suspicions about Crypto AG after citing some of these Libyan communications publicly, but the rumors were never confirmed.

It is claimed the Americans didn’t request backdoors be inserted into the Crypto AG products, they simply made sure that the encryption itself was weak enough to crack fairly easily. When countries suspected something may be up, the US/Germany sent representatives like respected academic Kjell-Ove Widman to reassure governments that their products were the most secure in the world.

The revelations may raise new fears about the security or otherwise of platforms like Tor, which arose from a US Defense Department project, and of the potential for China to interfere with Huawei-built equipment.

Source: Infosecurity.

The School of the Americas is Still Going Strong – Its Purpose? To Keep Latin America Safe for US Multinationals

Founded in 1946 and renamed in 2001 the School of Americas is where Latin America’s Dictators and Torturers are Trained in the Dark Art of Subverting the Peoples’ Will

In 2001, after being in the public spotlight, the institution where so many torturers and mad dog dictators had learnt their skills was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. However the role it performed was exactly the same as it had been before.

In 1961, US President John Kennedy ordered the school to focus on teaching “anti-communist” counterinsurgency training to military personnel from Latin America. According to anthropologist Lesley Gill, the label ‘”communist” was a highly elastic category that could accommodate almost any critic of the status quo.

‘Beginning in 1961, Nicaraguan Dictator Anastasio Somoza sent Nicaraguan officers to the school to attend a 46-week course in their final year of training. Somoza himself made occasional visits to the school. In 1963 it changed its name from the U.S. Army Caribbean School to the School of the Americas.

According to Major Joseph Blair, a former instructor at the school, “the author of SOA and CIA torture manuals […] drew from intelligence materials used during the Vietnam War that advocated assassination, torture, extortion, and other ‘techniques’.”[ The authors of the manuals “believed that oversight regulations and prohibitions applied only to U.S. personnel, not to foreign officers.” Use of the manuals was suspended under Jimmy Carter over concerns about their correlation to human rights abuses but were reinstated under Ronald Reagan.

Between 1970 and 1979, cadets from Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Panama, Peru, and Honduras made-up 63% of the school’s students. In 1980, the United States increased economic aid to Honduras. Journalist Ray Bonner reported that much of this aid would go toward training military officers at the School of the Americas and training programs within the continental United States. Hundreds of Hondurans were trained at the school during the 1980s, when the country became increasingly critical to Reagan’s efforts to overthrow and defeat the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and other revolutionary guerrilla movements in the region. During the 1980s, Mexico, El Salvador, and Colombia made-up 72% of the school’s cadets.

On September 21, 1984, the school was expelled from Panama.

School of the Americas Watch is an advocacy organization which was founded by Father Roy Bourgeois and a small group of supporters in 1990 to protest the training of mainly Latin American military officers by the School of the Americas (SOA). SOA Watch conducts a vigil each November at the site of SOA, located on the grounds of Fort Benning, a U.S. Army military base near Columbus, Georgia, to protest human rights abuses committed by some graduates of the academy or under their leadership, including murders, rapes and torture and contraventions of the Geneva Conventions.

Military officials state that even if graduates commit war crimes after they return to their home country, the school itself should not be held accountable for their actions. Responding to “mounting protests” spearheaded by SOA Watch, in 2000 the United States Congress renamed the School of the Americas the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), rather than closing the academy. In addition, all students must undergo a minimum of eight hours of class on human rights and the principle of civilian control of the military.

Inspired by the case of slain Archbishop Óscar Romero, who said “we who have a voice must speak for the voiceless,” former priest Roy Bourgeois, Larry Rosebaugh OMI, and Linda Ventimiglia posed as military officers and crossed into Ft. Benning in 1983. They climbed a tree near the barracks housing Salvadoran troops and read the final homily of Archbishop Oscar Romero through megaphones. Bourgeois and his companions were arrested and Bourgeois was sentenced to 18 months in prison for trespassing onto Federal property. Protesting against the teaching of torture is an offence in the United States!

Bourgeois and his followers began to research the School of the Americas, conduct public education campaigns, lobby Congress, and practice nonviolent resistance at the School of the Americas facilities.

Following the November 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter at the Central American University in El Salvador in which graduates of the School of the Americas were involved, SOA Watch organized an annual protest to be held on the anniversary of the massacre beginning the next year. The event has been held every year since then.

Moar over @ Tony Greenstein

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Is Duterte about to Die a Mysterious Death?

Philippines president Duterte moves to scrap military pact with U.S.

The Philippine government on Tuesday said it was scrapping a 20-year-old security pact with the United States that allows American troops to take part in military exercises and humanitarian operations in the country, endangering a key foothold for the Pentagon in the region as China adopts an increasingly aggressive tone.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has long questioned the value of the relationship between the armed forces of both countries. The 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement, known as the VFA, will expire in 180 days unless both countries agree that it should continue.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, in Europe this week for a NATO defense ministerial summit, called the decision “unfortunate” but said the Pentagon was still seeking details. “I do think it would be a move in the wrong direction,” he said.

Poisoned cigar? Faulty GPS? Seafood gone bad? False flag car bomb? The possibilities are endless! It couldn't happen to a nicer guy...;-)


Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Is Bloomberg's Goose Cooked?

Oh dear, another one bites the dust, it seems:

Michael Bloomberg is distancing himself from a 2015 speech in which the former New York City mayor defended aggressive police tactics in minority neighborhoods.
Audio of the talk began recirculating online, generating fresh debate over stop and frisk, one of Bloomberg's signature policies as mayor, forcing him to back away from the remarks.
Bloomberg, in a statement, noted how he had apologized for championing stop and frisk before kicking off his presidential bid.
"I should've done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized — and I have taken responsibility for taking too long to understand the impact it had on Black and Latino communities," Bloomberg said in the statement. "This issue and my comments about it do not reflect my commitment to criminal justice reform and racial equity."
Bloomberg made the remarks at the Aspen Institute on Feb. 5, 2015. In the audio, he can be heard saying: "95% of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities 15 to 25."
He continues: "That's true in New York. That's true in virtually every city in America. And that's where the real crime is. You've got to get the guns out of the hands of the people that are getting killed."
Bloomberg's idea of a solution? Flooding minority neighborhoods with law enforcement.

Source: NPR.

Monday, 10 February 2020

The Socialism benefiting DJT

Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday, asked the Vermont Senator, who identifies as a social democrat, an ubiquitous question about him being slammed by his opponents as a communist. The program played a clip of Trump saying that he thinks “he is a communist.

I think of communism when I think of Bernie. You can say socialist. Didn’t he get married in Moscow?” he said at one of the rallies. Sanders laughed in response and called Trump a “pathological liar.

No, I did not get married in Moscow. I participated in creating a sister city program,” he said.

Obviously, I am not a communist. I presume the president knows the difference. Maybe he doesn’t.

Taking a more serious tone Sanders explained that the US was a socialist society with a huge budget allocated to different areas.

Donald Trump, before he was president, as a private business person, he received $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies to build luxury housing in New York. Now, what does that mean when the government gives you $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies?” Sanders wondered explaining that the fossil fuel industry and the pharmaceutical industry are enjoying the same brakes.

The difference between my socialism and Trump’s socialism is I believe the government should help working families, not billionaires,” he said.

Sanders is leading in many polls ahead of New Hampshire primary next week, he is in tie with Pete Buttigieg in Iowa where count was botched by a faulty app and results delayed by several days.

Putin TV ;-).

Sunday, 9 February 2020

The Far-Right Is Going Global

An unofficial visit by nationalist European leaders to Kashmir highlights the solidarity of far-right movements across the globe.

In October 2019, 23 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) visited Kashmir, just two months after the Indian government removed the region’s special autonomous status. The trip sparked controversy when it was revealed that most of the MEPs belonged to far-right political parties, including France’s National Rally (formerly National Front) and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). It wasn’t just the affiliations of these visitors that drew attention: The MEPs had been granted access to Kashmir even as foreign journalists and domestic politicians were barred access to the region, and the Indian-administered government had imposed an internet shutdown since August.

This visit was the latest example of the growing ties between the far-right in India and Europe, a connection that is rooted primarily in a shared hostility toward immigrants and Muslims, and couched in similar overarching nationalistic visions. Today, with the populist radical right ascendant in India and in several European democracies, the far-right agenda has been increasingly normalized and made a part of mainstream political discourse.

The link between far-right ideologies in these regions long predates the relatively recent rise of right-wing populist leaders. In the 1930s, Hindu nationalists collaborated with key figures in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in order to help advance their extreme right-wing projects.In the 1930s, Hindu nationalists collaborated with key figures in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in order to help advance their extreme right-wing projects. One of the pioneers of Hindu nationalism, V.D. Savarkar, once wrote that India should model its approach to its “Muslim problem” on that used by the Nazis to deal with their “Jewish problem.”

Similarly, European ideologues like Savitri Devi (born in France as Maximiani Portas) described Hitler as an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Nearly four decades after she died, her ideology remains popular among American white nationalists. The manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011, also expressed an affinity for the Hindu nationalist approach to Islam that highlights many contemporary European attitudes toward Muslim immigrant populations.

The only positive thing about the Hindu right wing is that they dominate the streets. They do not tolerate the current injustice and often riot and attack Muslims when things get out of control, usually after the Muslims disrespect and degrade Hinduism too much,” Breivik wrote before bombing a government building in Oslo and killing dozens of children at a summer camp. “India will continue to wither and die unless the Indian nationalists consolidate properly and strike to win. It is essential that the European and Indian resistance movements learn from each other and cooperate as much as possible. Our goals are more or less identical.” [my emph.]

More recently, Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and editor in chief of the far-right site Breitbart News Network, had considered creating a Breitbart India in 2015 after Narendra Modi became prime minister of India. Bannon has long admired Modi, once calling him “a Trump before Trump.” Meanwhile, European supporters of Modi and his nationalist message include the leader of the Dutch far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) Geert Wilders.

The MEPs’ visit to Kashmir sheds light on the solidarity of the global far-right. Although they were sent invitations on behalf of Madi Sharma, a Brussels-based entrepreneur and president of the NGO Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT), the visit itself was funded and organized by an NGO registered in New Delhi called the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS)—a group that shares the same IP address as the obscure news website New Delhi Times.

This website, in turn, is connected to a global network of think tanks, companies, NGOs, and, significantly, over 265 local media outlets in 65 countries. EU DisinfoLab, which conducts research on disinformation campaigns targeting European Union member states, recently concluded that the media outlets tied to the New Delhi Times are attempting to influence international institutions and elected representatives.

While the ideological leanings of the New Delhi Times are unclear, its network of media outlets syndicate content criticizing Pakistan’s role in Kashmir, and they regularly take Islamophobic editorial stances. Although those positions are not unusual in the Indian media landscape, it is rare for such outlets to lobby on a global scale. Two notable websites in this network—EP Today and Times of Geneva—maintain strong connections to NGOs and think tanks in Brussels and Geneva, in effect serving as lobbying interests to the EU and the United Nations.

Sharma promised invitees “a prestigious VIP meeting” with Modi in addition to their trip to Kashmir. The MEPs stated that the purpose of the visit was to “gather information” on the situation in Kashmir. Although the MEPs were technically an unofficial delegation, they received clearance not just to tour Kashmir, but also to meet with several senior members of the Indian government and military. Government ministries have publicly stated that they were not involved in arranging the visit, although it is unlikely that such clearance could have been obtained without approval from high-level authorities.

Before visiting Kashmir, the MEPs went to New Delhi to meet Modi, who said that the delegation would gain “a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region.” While in Kashmir, the European delegation went on a guided tour through the capital of Srinagar before having lunch at the Indian Army Headquarters, where they saw maps of supposed terrorist training camps in Pakistan, where attacks in Kashmir are allegedly plotted.

Several MEPs, including far-right Czech MEP Tomas Zdechovsky and National Rally MEP Thierry Mariani, later used social media to share their experience meeting the prime minister; Mariani, for example, tweeted in support of the Indian government’s policy in Kashmir. Mariani also told reporters that “we stand with India in its fight against terrorists,” while AfD MEP Lars Patrick Berg accused the media of branding them “Muslim-hating Nazis.” Both Mariani and Berg have called for stronger border security in the EU, linking migration to potential Islamist terrorist attacks.

The Kashmir issue is a rallying cry for much of Europe’s far-right. Europe’s nationalists share a deep concern over Islamist extremism, as well as an overarching vision of national strength. In many ways, they see Modi’s hardline stance in Kashmir as indicative of their own aims.

The latest crisis in Kashmir began when Modi’s government revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, thereby removing Jammu and Kashmir’s special autonomous status. Wilders openly tweeted his support of the revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy the day it was announced. The British columnist Katie Hopkins also expressed solidarity and has more recently claimed that Hindus are the victims of ethnic cleansing in Kashmir.

The Kashmir issue is a rallying cry for much of Europe’s far-right. Europe’s nationalists share a deep concern over Islamist extremism, as well as an overarching vision of national strength.

The immediate pretext for Modi’s move was brewing unrest in the region. An ongoing separatist insurgency has gripped Kashmir since 1989, and Pakistan has played a substantial role supporting violent separatist groups in the region. Islamist terrorist attacks remain an everyday reality on the ground, and they have sometimes spilled over into India itself. This includes the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in which Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Pakistan-based Islamist group seeking Kashmiri unification with Pakistan, launched a massive attack in Mumbai killing 164 people.

The situation continued to escalate in February 2019, when Pakistan’s Air Force launched a series of airstrikes in Indian-controlled Kashmir, leading to Indian retaliation. Periodic airstrikes have been conducted intermittently since—arguably boosting Modi’s popularity with his base and helping him win reelection last year.

Although the pretext for the constitutional change was regional unrest, there are broader goals. Hindu nationalists have long sought to expand India’s territorial reach into what was once British-controlled India—including not only Kashmir but also Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other parts of South Asia.


Saturday, 8 February 2020

RAY McGOVERN: German TV Exposes the Lies That Entrapped Julian Assange

A major German TV network has aired an interview with the UN rapporteur on torture that reveals the invention of the Swedish “rape” case against Julian Assange.

By Ray McGovern

Truth has broken through for those confused about how a publisher ended up in a maximum security prison in London with a one-way extradition ticket to court in the U.S. and the rest of his life behind bars.

One of the main German TV channels (ZDF) ran two prime-time segments on Wednesday night exposing authorities in Sweden for having “made up” the story about Julian Assange being a rapist.

Until last night most Germans, as well as other consumers of “major media” in Europe, had no idea of the trickery that enmeshed Assange in a spider-web almost certainly designed by the U.S. and woven by accomplices in vassal states like Sweden, Britain and, eventually, Ecuador.

ZDF punctured that web by interviewing UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer. One ZDF “Heute Sendung” segment (in German) is especially telling from minute 13:00 to 15:30 . The second is ZDF “Heute Journal” (minute 25:49 to 30:19.)

Both ZDF programs show Melzer being interviewed, with minimal interruption or commentary, letting his findings speak for themselves about how allegations against Assange were “made up” and manipulated to hold him captive.

The particularly scurrilous allegation that led many, including initially Melzer, to believe Assange was a rapist — a tried and tested smear technique of covert action — was especially effective. The Swedes never formally charged him with rape — or with any crime, for that matter. ZDF exhibited some of the documents Melzer uncovered that show the sexual allegations were just as “invented” as the evidence for WMD before the attack on Iraq.

Melzer had previously admitted to having been so misled by media portrayals of Assange that he was initially reluctant to investigate Assange’s case. Here is what Melzer wrote last year in an op-ed marking the International Day in Support of Torture Victims, June 26.

No major media would print or post it. posted it under the title “Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange.”


“But surely, I found myself pleading, Assange must be a selfish narcissist, skateboarding through the Ecuadorian Embassy and smearing feces on the walls? Well, all I heard from Embassy staff is that the inevitable inconveniences of his accommodation at their offices were handled with mutual respect and consideration.
This changed only after the election of President Moreno, when they were suddenly instructed to find smears against Assange and, when they didn’t, they were soon replaced. The President even took it upon himself to bless the world with his gossip, and to personally strip Assange of his asylum and citizenship without any due process of law.
In the end it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed.” (Emphasis added.)

Melzer ended his op-ed with this somber warning:

“… This is not only about protecting Assange, but about preventing a precedent likely to seal the fate of Western democracy. For once telling the truth has become a crime, while the powerful enjoy impunity, it will be too late to correct the course. We will have surrendered our voice to censorship and our fate to unrestrained tyranny.” (Emphasis added.)

Melzer’s indefatigable efforts to expose what Assange has gone through, including “psychological torture,” met with some modest success in the days before the German ZDF aired their stories. Embedded in the linked article is by far the best interview of Melzer on Assange.

Opposition to extraditing Assange to the U.S. is becoming more widespread. Another straw in an Assange-favorable wind came last week when the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called for Assange’s immediate release, ending years of silence by such European institutions.

It remains, nonetheless, an uphill struggle to prompt the British to think back 800 years to the courage of the nobles who wrested the Magna Carta from King John.

Consortium News (many useful links inside).

Conspiracy 101! Iowa,'Acronym' and Dark Money...

In print: Acronym group that sabotaged Iowa caucus birthed by billionaire who funded Alabama disinformation campaign.

Silicon Valley billionaire Reid Hoffman funded the creation of ACRONYM, the group that sabotaged the Iowa caucus results, after bankrolling voter manipulation campaigns including the notorious online “false flag operation” in Alabama’s 2017 senate race.

By Max Blumenthal

Friday, 7 February 2020

Boris Johnson: Trump Tribute Act?

Journalists stage mass walk-out after Downing Street bars critical reporters

Downing Street ordered senior journalists from some of the UK’s major news organisations to leave before a briefing on Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans – prompting a walkout by colleagues from across the media.

One of those present described Downing Street’s actions as ‘sinister and sad’. Selected journalists were invited to Number 10 for a briefing from officials, but correspondents from organisations who were not on Downing Street’s hand-picked list also tried to get in.

According to those present, when political correspondents arrived inside Number 10 they were asked their names and told to stand on opposite sides of the entrance hall – either side of a rug.

The Independent’s political editor Andy Woodcock said Number 10’s director of communications Lee Cain then invited those on one side to enter and told those on the other to leave.


Lobby correspondents – the political journalists based in Westminster – have also seen their regular briefings moved from Parliament to 9 Downing Street, raising fears about the prospect of Number 10 banning reporters.

A Number 10 source said the Prime Minister’s Europe adviser David Frost was due to speak to ‘senior, specialist members of the lobby’ – a so-called ‘inner lobby’.

The source added: ‘We reserve the right to brief journalists which we choose whenever we wish to, and that is not something abnormal.’

Read more here.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Purdue and the Story of OxyContin

Netflix’s latest offering, ‘The Pharmacist’ is a tale of true-justice that sheds light to America’s devastating opioid epidemic at its infancy. The past decade has witnessed drugs destroying over half a million lives across the country. But where did it all begin? For several thousands, the answer was OxyContin; an opioid medication used to treat severe pain.

The four-part docuseries centres around Dan Schneider, a father who lost his only son to drug related violence, and his efforts to make his community drug-free. As a pharmacist, he begins to notice the growing abuse of OxyContin and its addiction, tracing almost all prescriptions to a single doctor. Schneider eventually manages to collaborate with the authorities and shut down the most notorious “pill mill” in New Orleans’ history. But the doctor behind the unethical operation is merely a pawn.

The real perpetrators still walk free despite killing thousands. The perpetrators in question are the Sacklers who owned Purdue Pharma, and everyone else who was complicit. Not only did they introduce the drug in the market, but they sold it excessively despite being aware of its harms. In fact, they marketed the product with misleading and false information. In many ways, Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin can be seen as the genesis of the current opioid epidemic in the country. But what happened to Purdue Pharma after all that it led to? Is it still in business? Here’s everything you need to know.

Opioid Epidemic

The controversial pharmaceutical company was founded in 1892 by two doctors, John Purdue Gray and George Frederick Bingham. But it was incorporated as Purdue Pharma L.P. only in 1991, under the Sacklers, shifting its focus majorly to pain management medication, calling themselves “pioneers” in the field. OxyContin, was first introduced in 1995, and can be considered Purdue’s breakthrough drug for chronic pain relief.

The company aggressively marketed the drug, despite it being an opioid, pressing doctors to prescribe it, and the drug was an instant success. It was meant to offer 12 hour of pain relief because of its time-release properties, with low abuse potential, and less than 1% chance of addiction. This was, of course, not backed with clear scientific evidence. In contrast, there has been over centuries worth of evidence that suggests the highly addictive nature of opioids. It’s also been recorded that most overdose deaths are attributed to this drug.

Oxycontin was soon being used as a substitute to heroin, with its high potential of being abused when injected, crushed or snorted. Doctors soon became dope dealers in white coats, and “doctor shopping” became a thing. Individuals would go to various doctors to get prescription the painkiller, and then abuse it, and deal with it. Along with this, several innocent individuals who were suffering from severe pain too became addicts.

In an article by The New York Times in 2018, it became known that Purdue Pharma was aware of OxyContin’s abuse in the early days. In fact, the company had reports of these, including how the drug was being stolen from pharmacies. There were apparently over a hundred internal memos before 2000 that spoke of the drug’s “street value”, and how it was being crushed and snorted. There were also reports relating to its withdrawal symptoms that made patients addicted to the medicine. Along with this, studies later showed that 76% of the people seeking help for heroin addiction began by primarily abusing OxyContin.


The past years have seen over 2,800 lawsuits against Purdue Pharma for devastating thousands of life and fueling the opioid addiction in America. In 2007, the company finally pleaded guilty to federal charges that it misled the public despite being aware of the drug’s harm, and that it deceptively marketed OxyContin as non-addictive. This eventually led to one of the largest pharmaceutical settlements in America’s history as Purdue Pharma agreed to pay a fine of $600 million.

Along with this, members of the company, which included the company’s former president, lawyer and former chief medical officer, all pleaded guilty individually to misbranding charges. Certain other members were also charged with felony. But this was only the beginning. The company continued to be involved in lawsuits, and by January 2019, 36 states had sued Purdue Pharma. Unfortunately, the Sackler family has not yet felt brunt of of their actions.


In September 2019, Purdue Pharma filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which potentially gives the company a fresh start. According to this agreement, the company would be restructured as public beneficiary trust, while the Sacklers would give up complete ownership. The company and the family were in negotiations to settle the claims for a payment of $10-12 billion, along with all profits of Purdue going to the plaintiffs in the case. The company is also supposed to give addiction-treatment drugs to the public free of cost. The Sacklers need to contribute another $3 billion in cash.

Unfortunately, the Sacklers would not be criminally charged for their role in the opioid epidemic, and remain a billionaire family. Recent reports have revealed that the family withdrew 10.7 billion from the company and spread them across their trusts and other companies. This has led to a much-needed scrutiny of the family’s finances.

From the 36 states that sued the company, around 24 have refused to sign the agreement because of the Sacklers’ current contribution, as they believe the family should pay more. The Sacklers were directly involved in creating, marketing and selling the drugs. Along with this, their actual worth has not been properly calculated. But it is widely believed that the family needs to pay a much bigger price for all the lives they’ve destroyed.


Wednesday, 5 February 2020

1979: Washington Hawks and the Shah's Final Days

How a Chase Bank Chairman Helped the Deposed Shah of Iran Enter the U.S.
The fateful decision in 1979 to admit Mohammed Reza Pahlavi prompted the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran and helped doom the Carter presidency.

One late fall evening 40 years ago, a worn-out white Gulfstream II jet descended over Fort Lauderdale, Fla., carrying a regal but sickly passenger almost no one was expecting.

Crowded aboard were a Republican political operative, a retinue of Iranian military officers, four smelly and hyperactive dogs and Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the newly deposed shah of Iran.

Yet as the jet touched down, the only one waiting to receive the deposed monarch was a senior executive of Chase Manhattan Bank, which had not only lobbied the White House to admit the former shah but had arranged visas for his entourage, searched out private schools and mansions for his family and helped arrange the Gulfstream to deliver him.

“The Eagle has landed,” Joseph V. Reed Jr., the chief of staff to the bank’s chairman, David Rockefeller, declared in a celebratory meeting at the bank the next morning.

Less than two weeks later, on Nov. 4, 1979, vowing revenge for the admission of the shah to the United States, revolutionary Iranian students seized the American Embassy in Tehran and then held more than 50 Americans — and Washington — hostage for 444 days.

The shah, Washington’s closest ally in the Persian Gulf, had fled Tehran in January 1979 in the face of a burgeoning uprising against his 38 years of iron-fisted rule. Liberals, leftists and religious conservatives were rallying against him. Strikes and demonstrations had shut down Tehran, and his security forces were losing control.

The shah sought refuge in America. But President Jimmy Carter, hoping to forge ties to the new government rising out of the chaos and concerned about the security of the United States Embassy in Tehran, refused him entry for the first 10 months of his exile. Even then, the White House only begrudgingly let him in for medical treatment.

Now, a newly disclosed secret history from the offices of Mr. Rockefeller shows in vivid detail how Chase Manhattan Bank and its well-connected chairman worked behind the scenes to persuade the Carter administration to admit the shah, one of the bank’s most profitable clients.

For Mr. Carter, for the United States and for the Middle East it was an incendiary decision.

The ensuing hostage crisis enabled Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to consolidate his theocratic rule, started a four-decade conflict between Washington and Tehran that is still roiling the region and helped Ronald Reagan take the White House. To American policymakers, Iran became a parable about the political perils in the fall of a friendly strongman.

Although Mr. Carter complained publicly at the time about the pressure campaign, the full, behind-the-scenes story — laid out in the recently disclosed documents — has never been told.

Mr. Rockefeller’s team called the campaign Project Eagle, after the code name used for the shah. Exploiting clubby networks of power stretching deep into the White House, Mr. Rockefeller mobilized a phalanx of elder statesmen.

They included Henry A. Kissinger, the former secretary of state and the chairman of a Chase advisory board; John J. McCloy, the former commissioner of occupied Germany after World War II and an adviser to eight presidents as well as a future Chase chairman; a Chase executive and former C.I.A. agent, Archibald B. Roosevelt Jr., whose cousin, the C.I.A. agent Kermit Roosevelt Jr., had orchestrated a 1953 coup to keep the shah in power; and Richard M. Helms, a former director of the C.I.A. and former ambassador to Iran.

Charles Francis, a veteran of corporate public affairs who worked for Chase at the time, brought the documents to the attention of The Times.

“Today’s corporate campaigns are demolition derbies compared to this operation,” he said. “It was smooth, smooth, smooth and almost entirely invisible.”

Records of Project Eagle were donated to Yale by Mr. Reed, the campaign’s director. But he deemed the material so potentially embarrassing to his patron that Mr. Reed, who died in 2016, stipulated that the records remain sealed until Mr. Rockefeller’s death. Mr. Rockefeller died in 2017 at the age of 101.

Some of the information may embarrass others as well. Hawkish critics have often faulted Mr. Carter as worrying too much about human rights and thus failing to prop up the shah.

But the papers reveal that the president’s special envoy to Iran had actually urged the country’s generals to use as much deadly force as needed to suppress the revolt, advising them about how to carry out a military takeover to keep the shah in power.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Carter did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Carter at the time of the crisis was not immediately available.

After the hostages were taken, the Carter administration worked desperately to try to free the captives, and on April 24, 1980, authorized a rescue mission that collapsed in disaster: A helicopter crash in the desert killed eight service members, whose charred bodies were gleefully exhibited by Iranian officials.

The hostage crisis doomed Mr. Carter’s presidency. And the team around Mr. Rockefeller, a lifelong Republican with a dim view of Mr. Carter’s dovish foreign policy, collaborated closely with the Reagan campaign in its efforts to pre-empt and discourage what it derisively labeled an “October surprise” — a pre-election release of the American hostages, the papers show.

The Chase team helped the Reagan campaign gather and spread rumors about possible payoffs to win the release, a propaganda effort that Carter administration officials have said impeded talks to free the captives.

“I had given my all” to thwarting any effort by the Carter officials “to pull off the long-suspected ‘October surprise,’” Mr. Reed wrote in a letter to his family after the election, apparently referring to the Chase effort to track and discourage a hostage release deal. He was later named Mr. Reagan’s ambassador to Morocco.

Mr. Rockefeller then personally lobbied the incoming administration to ensure that its Iran policies protected the bank’s financial interests.

The records indicate that Mr. Rockefeller hoped for the restoration of a version of the deposed government.

At the start of the Iranian upheaval, the papers show, Mr. Kissinger advised Mr. Rockefeller that the probable conclusion would be “a sort of Bonapartist counterrevolution that rallies the pro-Western elements together with what was left of the army.”

Mr. Kissinger, in a recent email, acknowledged that the prediction “reflects my thinking at the time” but said “it was a judgment, not a policy proposal.”

But Mr. Rockefeller evidently continued to advocate for some form of restoration long after the shah fled Tehran.

As late as December 1980, Mr. Rockefeller personally urged the incoming Reagan administration to encourage a counterrevolution by stopping “rug merchant type bargaining” for the hostages and instead taking military action to punish Iran if the hostages were not released. He suggested occupying three Iranian-controlled islands in the Persian Gulf.

“The most likely outcome of this situation is an eventual replacement of the present fanatic Shiite Muslim government, either by a military one or a combination of the military with the civilian democratic leaders,” Mr. Rockefeller argued, according to his talking points for meetings with the Reagan transition team.

An heir to his family’s oil fortune, Mr. Rockefeller styled himself a corporate statesman and personally knew many White House officials, including Mr. Carter. He had known the shah since 1962, socializing with him in New York, Tehran and St. Moritz, Switzerland.

As Tehran’s coffers swelled with oil revenues in the 1970s, Chase formed a joint venture with an Iranian state bank and earned big fees advising the national oil company.

By 1979, the bank had syndicated more than $1.7 billion in loans for Iranian public projects (the equivalent of about $5.8 billion today). The Chase balance sheet held more than $360 million in loans to Iran and more than $500 million in Iranian deposits.

Mr. Rockefeller often insisted that his concern for the shah was purely about Washington’s “prestige and credibility.” It was about “the abandonment of a friend when he needed us most,” he wrote in his memoirs.

His only advocacy for the shah, Mr. Rockefeller wrote, had been in a brief aside to Mr. Carter during an unrelated White House meeting in April 1979.

“I did nothing more, publicly or privately, to influence the administration’s thinking.”

Yet the Project Eagle papers show that Mr. Rockefeller received detailed updates on the risks to Chase’s holdings, and that even his aside to Mr. Carter in April had been planned out the previous day with Mr. Reed, Mr. McCloy and Mr. Kissinger.

Over lunch at the Knickerbocker Club in New York, Mr. Carter’s special envoy to Tehran, Gen. Robert E. Huyser, told the Project Eagle team that he had urged Iran’s top military leaders to kill as many demonstrators as necessary to keep the shah in power.

If shooting over the heads of demonstrators failed to disperse them, “move to focusing on the chests,” General Huyser said he told the Iranian generals, according to minutes of the lunch. “I got stern and noisy with the military,” he added, but in the end, the top general was “gutless.”

Mr. Rockefeller had his own special envoy to try to help the shah: Robert F. Armao, a Republican operative and public relations consultant who had worked for Mr. Rockefeller’s brother Nelson, the former governor of New York and former vice president.

Mr. Armao became one of the shah’s closest advisers, and after Nelson Rockefeller died at the start of 1979, he reported to the Project Eagle team at Chase nearly every day for more than two years.

“Everybody had the hope that there would be a repeat of the 1953 events,” Mr. Armao recalled recently, referring to the American-backed coup that restored the shah the first time he fled.

When the shah’s rule became untenable at the start of 1979, the State Department first turned to David Rockefeller for help relocating the Iranian monarch in the United States.

“Not large enough for my very special client,” Mr. Reed wrote to a Greenwich, Conn., broker who had offered two estates priced at around $2 million each — about $7.4 million today.

But while the shah tarried in Egypt and Morocco, an Iranian mob briefly seized the American Embassy in February. Diplomats warned that admitting the shah risked another assault, and Mr. Carter changed his mind about offering haven.

Mr. Rockefeller refused to deliver this bad news to the shah, afraid that it would hurt the bank by alienating a prized client.

“The risks were too high relating to the CMB position in Iran,” he responded, referring to Chase Manhattan Bank, according to the records.

Instead, Mr. Rockefeller scrambled to find accommodations elsewhere — first in the Bahamas, and then in Mexico — while strategizing with Mr. Kissinger, Mr. McCloy and others about how to persuade the White House to let in the shah.

During a three-day push in April, Mr. Kissinger made a personal appeal to the national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and a follow-up phone call to Mr. Carter. Mr. Rockefeller buttonholed the president at the White House.

And in a speech, Mr. Kissinger publicly accused the Carter administration of forcing a loyal ally to sail the world in search of refuge, “like a flying Dutchman looking for a port of call” — the seed of what became a “who lost Iran” campaign theme for the Republicans.

Mr. McCloy flooded the White House with lengthy letters to senior officials, often arguing about the danger of demoralizing other “friendly sovereigns.” “Dear Zbig,” he addressed his old friend Mr. Brzezinski.

Finally, in October, Mr. Reed sent his personal doctor to Cuernavaca, Mexico, “to take a ‘look-see’” at the shah.

He had been hiding a cancer diagnosis. The doctor, Benjamin H. Kean, determined that the shah needed sophisticated treatment within a few weeks — in Mexico, if necessary, Dr. Kean later said he had concluded.

But when Mr. Reed put the doctor in touch with State Department officials, they came away with a different prognosis: that the shah was “at the point of death” and that only a New York hospital “was capable of possibly saving his life,” as Mr. Carter described it at the time to The Times.

With that opening, the Chase team began preparing the flight to Fort Lauderdale.

“When I told the Customs man who the principal was, he almost fainted,” the waiting executive, Eugene Swanzey, reported the next morning.

The plane’s bathroom was malfunctioning. The shah and his wife hunted in vain for a missing videocassette to finish a movie. And their four dogs — a poodle, a collie, a cocker spaniel and a Great Dane — jumped on everyone. The Great Dane “hadn’t been washed in weeks,” Mr. Swanzey said. “The aroma was just terrible.”

When Mr. Reed met the plane on its final arrival in New York, he recalled the next day, the shah seemed to be thinking, “‘At last I am getting into competent hands.’”

But as he checked the shah into New York Hospital, Mr. Reed was circumspect.

“I am the unidentified American,” he told the inquisitive staff.

Mr. Reed, Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Kissinger met again three days after the hostages were taken.

“Noted was the feeling of indignation as being high and nothing useful to say,” read the minutes.

The White House said the shah had to depart as soon as possible, but Project Eagle continued.

“The ideal place for the Eagle to land,” Mr. Reed wrote to Mr. Armao on Nov. 9, forwarding a brochure for a 350-acre Hudson Valley estate.

A week later, Mr. Rockefeller personally urged Mr. Carter in a phone call to direct the secretary of state to meet with the shah about “the current situation.” Mr. Carter did not and the shah soon departed, for Panama, then Egypt.

Only after the death of the shah, on July 27, 1980, nine months after his landing in Fort Lauderdale, did the Project Eagle team shift to new objectives. One was protecting Mr. Rockefeller from blame for the crisis.

Over roast loin of veal and vintage wine at the exclusive River Club in New York, Mr. Rockefeller and nine others on the team gathered on Aug. 19. Amid discussion of a laudatory biography of the shah by a Berkeley professor that the team had commissioned, some warned that a Rockefeller link to the embassy seizure would be hard to escape.

Why was the shah admitted? “Medical treatment/DR recommended,” one said, using Mr. Rockefeller’s initials, according to minutes of the dinner. “This association cannot be ignored.”

But Mr. Kissinger was reassuring. Congress would never hold an investigation during an election campaign.

“I don’t think we are in trouble any more, David,” Mr. Kissinger told him.

The hostages were released on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1981, and a few days later Mr. Carter’s departing White House counsel called Mr. Rockefeller to inquire about how the release deal affected Chase bank.

“Worked out very well,” Mr. Rockefeller told him, according to his records. “Far better than we had feared.”

Source: NYT.