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Guilt By Insinuation — How American propaganda works July 22, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Russia, Ukraine.
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ROGER’S NOTE: MORE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY.

 

opednews.com

Cross-posted from Paul Craig Roberts

From youtube.com/watch?v=xvERIT3kjbo: As U.S. officials blame pro-Russian separatists and their sponsors in Moscow, Russia is deflecting responsibility for the deadly MH 17 shoot down.
As U.S. officials blame pro-Russian separatists and their sponsors in Moscow, Russia is deflecting responsibility for the deadly MH 17 shoot down.
(image by YouTube)

Why hasn’t Washington joined Russian President Putin in calling for an objective, non-politicized international investigation by experts of the case of the Malaysian jetliner?

The Russian government continues to release facts, including satellite photos showing the presence of Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missiles in locations from which the airliner could have been brought down by the missile system and documentation that a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet rapidly approached the Malaysian airliner prior to its downing. The head of the Operations Directorate of Russian military headquarters said at a Moscow press conference today (July 21) that the presence of the Ukrainian military jet is confirmed by the Rostov monitoring center.

The Russian Defense Ministry pointed out that at the moment of destruction of MH-17 an American satellite was flying over the area. The Russian government urges Washington to make available the photos and data captured by the satellite.

President Putin has repeatedly stressed that the investigation of MH-17 requires “a fully representative group of experts to be working at the site under the guidance of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).” Putin’s call for an independent expert examination by ICAO does not sound like a person with anything to hide.

Turning to Washington Putin stated: “In the meantime, no one [not even the "exceptional nation"] has the right to use this tragedy to achieve their narrowly selfish political goals.”

Putin reminded Washington: “We repeatedly called upon all conflicting sides to stop the bloodshed immediately and to sit down at the negotiating table. I can say with confidence that if military operations were not resumed [by Kiev] on June 28 in eastern Ukraine, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”

What is the American response?

Lies and insinuations.

Yesterday (July 20) the US Secretary of State, John Kerry confirmed that pro-Russian separatists were involved in the downing of the Malaysian airliner and said that it was “pretty clear” that Russia was involved. Here are Kerry’s words:

“It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists. We know with confidence, with confidence, that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point and time, so it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.”

Kerry’s statement is just another of the endless lies told by US secretaries of state in the 21st century. Who can forget Colin Powell’s package of lies delivered to the UN about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” or Kerry’s lie repeated endlessly that Assad “used chemical weapons against his own people” or the endless lies about “Iranian nukes”?

Remember that Kerry on a number of occasions stated that the US had proof that Assad crossed the “red line” by using chemical weapons. However, Kerry was never able to back up his statements with evidence. The US had no evidence to give the British prime minister whose effort to have Parliament approve Britain’s participation with Washington in a military attack on Syria was voted down. Parliament told the prime minister, “no evidence, no war.”

Again here is Kerry declaring “confidence” in statements that are directly contradicted by the Russian satellite photos and endless eye witnesses on the ground.

Why doesn’t Washington release its photos from its satellite?

The answer is for the same reason that Washington will not release all the videos it confiscated and that it claims prove that a hijacked 9/11 airliner hit the Pentagon. The videos do not support Washington’s claim, and the US satellite photos do not support Kerry’s claim.

The UN weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq reported that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. However, the fact did not support Washington’s propaganda and was ignored. Washington started a highly destructive war based on nothing but Washington’s intentional lie.

The International Atomic Energy Commission’s inspectors on the ground in Iran and all 16 US intelligence agencies reported that Iran had no nuclear weapons program. However, the fact was inconsistent with Washington’s agenda and was ignored by both the US government and the presstitute media.

We are witnessing the same thing right now with the assertions in the absence of evidence that Russia is responsible for the downing of the Malaysian airliner.

Not every member of the US government is as reckless as Kerry and John McCain. In place of direct lies, many US officials use insinuations.

US Senator Diane Feinstein is the perfect example. Interviewed on the presstitute TV station CNN, Feinstein said: “The issue is where is Putin? I would say, ‘Putin, you have to man up. You should talk to the world. You should say, if this is a mistake, which I hope it was, say it.'”

Putin has been talking to the world nonstop calling for an expert non-politicized investigation, and Feinstein is asking Putin why he is hiding behind silence. We know you did it, Feinstein insinuates, so just tell us whether you meant to or whether it was an accident.

The way the entire Western news cycle was orchestrated with blame instantly being placed on Russia long in advance of real information suggests that the downing of the airliner was a Washington operation. It is, of course, possible that the well-trained presstitute media needed no orchestration from Washington in order to lay the blame on Russia. On the other hand, some of the news performances seem too scripted not to have been prepared in advance.

We also have the advanced preparation of the youtube video that purports to show a Russian general and Ukrainian separatists discussing having mistakenly downed a civilian airliner. As I pointed out earlier, this video is twice damned. It was ready in advance and by implicating the Russian military, it overlooked that the Russian military can tell the difference between a civilian airliner and a military airplane. The existence of the video itself implies that there was a plot to down the airliner and blame Russia.

I have seen reports that the Russian anti-aircraft missile system, as a safety device, is capable of contacting aircraft transponders in order to verify the type of aircraft. If the reports are correct and if the transponders from MH-17 are found, they might record the contact.

I have seen reports that Ukrainian air control changed the route of MH-17 and directed it to fly over the conflict area. The transponders should also indicate whether this is correct. If so, there clearly is at least circumstantial evidence that this was an intentional act on the part of Kiev, an act which would have required Washington’s blessing.

There are other reports that there is a divergence between the Ukrainian military and the unofficial militias formed by the right-wing Ukrainian extremists who apparently were the first to attack the separatists. It is possible that Washington used the extremists to plot the airliner’s destruction in order to blame Russia and use the accusations to pressure the EU to go along with Washington’s unilateral sanctions against Russia. We do know that Washington is desperate to break up the growing economic and political ties between Russia and Europe.

If it was a plot to down an airliner, any safety device on the missile system could have been turned off so as to give no warning or leave any telltale sign. That could be the reason a Ukrainian fighter was sent to inspect the airliner. Possibly the real target was Putin’s airliner and incompetence in implementing the plot resulted in the destruction of a civilian airliner.

As there are a number of possible explanations, let’s keep open minds and resist Washington’s propaganda until facts and evidence are in. In the very least Washington is guilty of using the incident to blame Russia in advance of the evidence. All Washington has shown us so far is accusations and insinuations. If that is all Washington continues to show us, we will know where the blame resides.

In the meantime, remember the story of the boy who cried “wolf!” He lied so many times that when the wolf did come, no one believed him. Will this be Washington’s ultimate fate?

Instead of declaring war on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and Syria, why did Washington hide behind lies? If Washington wants war with Iran, Russia, and China, why not simply declare war? The reason that the US Constitution requires war to begin with a declaration of war by Congress is to prevent the executive branch from orchestrating wars in order to further hidden agendas. By abdicating its constitutional responsibility, the US Congress is complicit in the executive branch’s war crimes. By approving Israel’s premeditated murder of Palestinians, the US government is complicit in Israel’s war crimes.

Ask yourself this question: Would the world be a safer place with less death, destruction and displaced peoples and more truth and justice if the United States and Israel did not exist?

 


WORLD

Downed Airliner: Fake Audio Tape Shows US-Backed Hit to Frame Russia

Finian CUNNINGHAM | 21.07.2014 | 10:30
In a devastating twist to emerge over the weekend it now seems that the Malaysian civilian airliner downed over Ukraine was most probably brought down as a result of sabotage by the US-backed Kiev regime.

The purpose of this audacious act of mass murder – in which 298 lives were lost – was carried out with the intention of framing the Russian government. Washington, the chief sponsor of the Kiev regime, must have known about the plot, if not being fully complicit in it.

The key to this dramatic twist is the identification of incriminating audio tapes over the weekend as fake – tapes that were created initially to implicate Moscow, as part of a massive black operation involving the destruction of the civilian airliner and all those onboard.

Within hours of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashing into a wheat field in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine last Thursday, Western governments and media have gradually stoked a frenzy of accusations that Moscow had a hand in the disaster.

Nationals from more than 12 countries were onboard the doomed Boeing 777, most of them Dutch, Malaysian, Australian, as well as American, Canadian, British and several other European states.

Western fingers of blame began pointing at Russia the day following the crash when US President Barack Obama announced that unnamed American intelligence sources said that the suspected surface-to-air missile believed to have taken the jet down was fired from territory held by anti-Kiev self-defence militias. Or as Obama put it: «Russian-backed separatists».

The American president did not accuse Moscow outright then but he implied Russian involvement in the incident with the reasoning that Russia (allegedly) provided «technical assistance» in the firing of the sophisticated missile system, known as a Buk SA-11.

The missile system can fire warheads up to an altitude of 70,000 feet – well within range of civilian long-haul jumbo jets – with the armed projectile soaring at three times the speed of sound. The system is Soviet-era make, and is also used by the Ukrainian state forces.

Over the weekend the accusations against Russia from Western governments and media have steadily grown to a crescendo. In his usual round of Sunday television programmes, US Secretary of State John Kerry went as far as claiming that American intelligence was now certain that Russia had supplied the missile system to the militia in eastern Ukraine…

Kerry told CNN: «It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists».

Kerry added: «We know with confidence that the Ukrainians [that is, the Western-backed Kiev regime forces] did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point in time. So it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.» Kerry’s claim is contradicted by Russian intelligence, as we shall see.

The American press were also chiming in with the same story. The Wall Street Journal reported: «US officials believe the anti-aircraft systems were moved back across the border into Russia…»

The Sunday edition of the Washington Post headlined: «Russia supplied missile launchers to separatists, US official says».

So what began as a circumspect implication on Friday from President Obama soon snowballed into a full-blown grave accusation against Russia within 48 hours.

Meanwhile, Washington’s closest European ally, Britain, was also turning up the pressure on Russia over the downed airliner.

In an unusual Sunday Times article, British Prime Minister David Cameron laid the blame on Moscow for unleashing instability in Ukraine and called for tougher sanctions in response. Cameron said: «Tougher EU [European Union] sanctions against Russia will be needed if Moscow does not change its approach to the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine.»

Subordinate ministers went even further in their accusations. Britain’s new Defence Minister Michael Fallon told media that Russia was «sponsoring terrorism» in Ukraine, on the back of the stricken airliner incident.

However, it is clear from a closer reading of the media reports carried in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the British press that the alleged case for implicating Russia relies on a mixture of anonymous assertions by unidentified «US intelligence officials, fragments of unverified phone intercepts, and unverified video and photographs. The latter images purport to show a Buk launcher and its missiles being driven across the Ukrainian border into Russia. It is impossible to verify if the alleged location and time is accurate.

The second aspect of the «evidence» – anonymous, unspecified US intelligence – has no credibility whatsoever given the numerous times that such a formula has been invoked previously; and subsequently has been shown to be baseless or, worse, concocted, as in the Iraqi «weapons of mass destruction» that sparked off the US-led Gulf War in 2003, or in the allegations of chemical weapons allegedly used by the Syrian army last August against civilians, which also turned out to be false.

That leaves us with the third element – the alleged communication intercepts. Since the fatal crash of Flight MH17, the Western media have given prominence to audio files that purportedly relate to conversations between members of the anti-Kiev militia, in which individuals appear to acknowledge that militia units mistakenly hit a civilian airliner, thinking that it was a warplane belonging to the Kiev military forces.

The intercepts were supposed to be the central damning evidence of culpability against the pro-Russian militia, and by extension, Russia itself. The files, posted on the internet by the Kiev secret services, were referred to in all the major Western news media outlets as being «a smoking gun».

The Western media frenzy over the weekend based on all of the above «evidence» produced headlines such as: ‘Putin’s rebels blew up plane’ in Britain’s Daily Express; ‘Ukraine claims ‘compelling evidence’ of Russian involvement’ in the British Guardian; and ‘US sees evidence of Russian link to jet’s downing’ in the New York Times.

This political and media stampede to impugn Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin in particular is telling in itself of a premeditated black operation.

But then came this devastating twist. Russian audio recording experts revealed over the weekend that the intercepts invoked by Kiev and its Western supporters turn out to be fake.

Reputed digital sound analyst Nikolai Popov and his expert team examined the files made public by the Kiev intelligence services, and they found that the files had been doctored from separate and unrelated conversations.

On first hearing, the alleged conversations tend to implicate the self-defence militia in firing a missile at the passenger plane. But on closer examination, the digital fingerprints show that the files were fabricated, taken from separate recordings and spliced together to give the impression of integral conversations.

«This audio recording is not an integral file and is made up of several fragments,» Popov told Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

Moreover – and this is crucial – the sound analysis of digital data shows that the tapes were engineered the day

before Flight MH17 was seemingly hit by a missile and blown out of the sky.

This latest discovery makes for some incontrovertible and deeply unsettling conclusions: firstly, parties were involved in deliberately forging the files with the purpose of framing others – the self-defence militia and Moscow; secondly, and more disturbingly, the people who faked the files must have known that the airliner was going to be hit with a missile, or some other catastrophic external force, in order to bring it down with all the horrific loss of life entailed.

In all the maelstrom of Western innuendo against Russia over the doomed airliner, the obvious anomaly is that neither the Moscow nor the anti-Kiev rebels would have anything to remotely gain by carrying out such a dastardly act.

Furthermore, the eastern Ukraine self-defence militia have categorically denied possessing such weaponry and the skill to operate these radar-controlled systems.

But here is more potentially damning information on who the culprits are. Russia’s ministry of defence says that it has radar data showing that an anti-aircraft Buk missile launcher was operated by the Kiev forces in the vicinity of the doomed airliner and that these Kiev forces had the plane in their radar target sites. A digital recording could easily verify that claim.

In addition, there are several other troubling questions that the Kiev regime has so far refused to answer: why was Flight MH17 instructed by Kiev Air Traffic Control to fly on this unusual more northerly route on that fateful day, through a dangerous conflict zone? Also, why were the pilots of MH-17 instructed to fly at the lower altitude of 33,000 feet instead of 35,000 feet?

Taken all this into account, the finger of suspicion now points not at Moscow, but rather at the Kiev regime and its military forces.

More damningly, given the close dependence of the Kiev junta on American government sponsorship for its military operations, the ongoing deep involvement of the CIA in bringing this regime to power in the first place with the illegal coup back in February; and given the concerted way that Washington has sought to exploit the airliner disaster for geopolitical gains – all that strongly points to a deeply criminal collusion. A criminal collusion that involves the deliberate shooting down of a civilian flight and the killing of nearly 300 people.

 

Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer

Russians still deny supplying missiles but imply presence of fighter may be linked to tragedy

 Monday 21 July 2014

A senior Russian officer has claimed that a Ukrainian military jet was flying just a few kilometres from the Malaysian Airlines plane minutes before it was downed, while also refuting allegations that it had provided separatists with BUK missile

Scroll down to see video

In a statement to a press conference today, Lieutenant-General Andrei Kartopolov said the Defence Ministry would like to know “why the military jet was flying along [the same civil aviation lines] at almost the same time and at the same level as a passenger plane.”

The SU-25 was, Mr Kartopolov says, gaining height and reached a distance of three to five kilometres from the Boeing 777.

Mr Kartopolov, a senior member of the Russian military forces, said that Ukraine’s claims that no military jet operated near the site of the crash last Thursday are “false.”

He told the room that the jets “can briefly climb up to 10,000metres [and are] regularly equipped with air-to-air missiles R-60 that can capture and destroy targets of a distance up to 12km and up to 5km as guaranteed.”

Russian officials say they have evidence of the jet’s presence following images taken by the Rostov monitoring centre, and has urged the US to release satellite images taken at the time of the crash.

“According to the statement by the US representative, they have some pictures from space that confirm that the missiles were launched by the rebels. By nobody has seen these shots,” Mr Kartopolov added.

He said that a US satellite was present over Ukraine territory at the time of the crash and and would like American authorities to release these images to the “world community for further investigation.”

The audience was shown graphics and video that purport to be three civilian aircrafts flying at the same time at MH17, including a Copenhagen to Singapore flight.

 

“Ukrainian officials reported that on the day of the Boeing 777 crash there were no military aircraft available in the region, so as you can see, this doesn’t appear to be true.”

He said that Ukraine had self-propelled, anti-aircraft BUK missile launchers 8km north-western from Lugansk, close to the territory controlled by the rebels and that images show it was present on 14 July, but absent on 17 July.

He also denied that the Russian military had supplied pro-Moscow rebels with any weapons, according to journalists tweeting from the meeting.

“Ukrainian officials reported that on the day of the Boeing 777 crash there were no military aircraft available in the region, so as you can see, this doesn’t appear to be true.”

He said that Ukraine had self-propelled, anti-aircraft BUK missile launchers 8km north-western from Lugansk, close to the territory controlled by the rebels and that images show it was present on 14 July, but absent on 17 July.

He also denied that the Russian military had supplied pro-Moscow rebels with any weapons, according to journalists tweeting from the meeting.

What Did US Spy Satellites See in Ukraine? July 21, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Russia, Ukraine, War.
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Roger’s note: here are a couple of antidotes to the Western corporate media’s gung-ho coldwar mongering coverage and analysis; both from credible sources.

 

Exclusive: The U.S. media’s Ukraine bias has been obvious, siding with the Kiev regime and bashing ethnic Russian rebels and Russia’s President Putin. But now – with the scramble to blame Putin for the Malaysia Airlines shoot-down – the shoddy journalism has grown truly dangerous, says Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

In the heat of the U.S. media’s latest war hysteria – rushing to pin blame for the crash of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin – there is the same absence of professional skepticism that has marked similar stampedes on Iraq, Syria and elsewhere – with key questions not being asked or answered.

The dog-not-barking question on the catastrophe over Ukraine is: what did the U.S. surveillance satellite imagery show? It’s hard to believe that – with the attention that U.S. intelligence has concentrated on eastern Ukraine for the past half year that the alleged trucking of several large Buk anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia to Ukraine and then back to Russia didn’t show up somewhere.

Russian-made Buk anti-missile battery.

Yes, there are limitations to what U.S. spy satellites can see. But the Buk missiles are about 16 feet long and they are usually mounted on trucks or tanks. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 also went down during the afternoon, not at night, meaning the missile battery was not concealed by darkness.

So why hasn’t this question of U.S. spy-in-the-sky photos – and what they reveal – been pressed by the major U.S. news media? How can the Washington Post run front-page stories, such as the one on Sunday with the definitive title “U.S. official: Russia gave systems,” without demanding from these U.S. officials details about what the U.S. satellite images disclose?

Instead, the Post’s Michael Birnbaum and Karen DeYoung wrote from Kiev: “The United States has confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in eastern Ukraine and that attempts were made to move them back across the Russian border after the Thursday shoot-down of a Malaysian jetliner, a U.S. official said Saturday.

“‘We do believe they were trying to move back into Russia at least three Buk [missile launch] systems,’ the official said. U.S. intelligence was ‘starting to get indications … a little more than a week ago’ that the Russian launchers had been moved into Ukraine, said the official” whose identity was withheld by the Post so the official would discuss intelligence matters.

But catch the curious vagueness of the official’s wording: “we do believe”; “starting to get indications.” Are we supposed to believe – and perhaps more relevant, do the Washington Post writers actually believe – that the U.S. government with the world’s premier intelligence services can’t track three lumbering trucks each carrying large mid-range missiles?

What I’ve been told by one source, who has provided accurate information on similar matters in the past, is that U.S. intelligence agencies do have detailed satellite images of the likely missile battery that launched the fateful missile, but the battery appears to have been under the control of Ukrainian government troops dressed in what look like Ukrainian uniforms.

The source said CIA analysts were still not ruling out the possibility that the troops were actually eastern Ukrainian rebels in similar uniforms but the initial assessment was that the troops were Ukrainian soldiers. There also was the suggestion that the soldiers involved were undisciplined and possibly drunk, since the imagery showed what looked like beer bottles scattered around the site, the source said.

Instead of pressing for these kinds of details, the U.S. mainstream press has simply passed on the propaganda coming from the Ukrainian government and the U.S. State Department, including hyping the fact that the Buk system is “Russian-made,” a rather meaningless fact that gets endlessly repeated.

However, to use the “Russian-made” point to suggest that the Russians must have been involved in the shoot-down is misleading at best and clearly designed to influence ill-informed Americans. As the Post and other news outlets surely know, the Ukrainian military also operates Russian-made military systems, including Buk anti-aircraft batteries, so the manufacturing origin has no probative value here.

Relying on the Ukraine Regime

Much of the rest of the known case against Russia comes from claims made by the Ukrainian regime, which emerged from the unconstitutional coup d’etat against elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22. His overthrow followed months of mass protests, but the actual coup was spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias that overran government buildings and forced Yanukovych’s officials to flee.

In recognition of the key role played by the neo-Nazis, who are ideological descendants of Ukrainian militias that collaborated with the Nazi SS in World War II, the new regime gave these far-right nationalists control of several ministries, including the office of national security which is under the command of longtime neo-Nazi activist Andriy Parubiy.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass.”]

It was this same Parubiy whom the Post writers turned to seeking more information condemning the eastern Ukrainian rebels and the Russians regarding the Malaysia Airlines catastrophe. Parubiy accused the rebels in the vicinity of the crash site of destroying evidence and conducting a cover-up, another theme that resonated through the MSM.

Without bothering to inform readers of Parubiy’s unsavory neo-Nazi background, the Post quoted him as a reliable witness declaring: “It will be hard to conduct a full investigation with some of the objects being taken away, but we will do our best.”

In contrast to Parubiy’s assurances, the Kiev regime actually has a terrible record of telling the truth or pursuing serious investigations of human rights crimes. Still left open are questions about the identity of snipers who on Feb. 20 fired on both police and protesters at the Maidan, touching off the violent escalation that led to Yanukovych’s ouster. Also, the Kiev regime has failed to ascertain the facts about the death-by-fire of scores of ethnic Russians in the Trade Union Building in Odessa on May 2. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Burning Ukraine’s Protesters Alive.”]

The Kiev regime also duped the New York Times (and apparently the U.S. State Department) when it disseminated photos that supposedly showed Russian military personnel inside Russia and then later inside Ukraine. After the State Department endorsed the “evidence,” the Times led its newspaper with this story on April 21, but it turned out that one of the key photos supposedly shot in Russia was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the story. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Ukraine Photo Scoop.”]

But here we are yet again with the MSM relying on unverified claims being made by the Kiev regime about something as sensitive as whether Russia provided sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles – capable of shooting down high-flying civilian aircraft – to poorly trained eastern Ukrainian rebels.

This charge is so serious that it could propel the world into a second Cold War and conceivably – if there are more such miscalculations – into a nuclear confrontation. These moments call for the utmost in journalistic professionalism, especially skepticism toward propaganda from biased parties.

Yet, what Americans have seen again is the major U.S. news outlets, led by the Washington Post and the New York Times, publishing the most inflammatory of articles based largely on unreliable Ukrainian officials and on the U.S. State Department which was a principal instigator of the Ukraine crisis.

In the recent past, this sort of sloppy American journalism has led to mass slaughters in Iraq – and has contributed to near U.S. wars on Syria and Iran – but now the stakes are much higher. As much fun as it is to heap contempt on a variety of “designated villains,” such as Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Ali Khamenei and now Vladimir Putin, this sort of recklessness is careening the world toward a very dangerous moment, conceivably its last.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon andbarnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

 

What Happened to the Malaysian Airliner?

Paul Craig Roberts. http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/  July 19, 2014

Washington’s propaganda machine is in such high gear that we are in danger of losing
the facts that we do have.

One fact is that the separatists do not have the expensive Buk anti-aircraft missile system or the trained personnel to operate it.

Another fact is that the separatists have no incentive to shoot down an airliner and neither does Russia. Anyone can tell the difference between low-flying attack aircraft and an airliner at 33,000 feet.

The Ukrainians do have Buk anti-aircraft missile systems, and a Buk battery was operational in the region and deployed at a site from which it could have fired a missile at the airliner.

Just as the separatists and the Russian government have no incentive to shoot down an airliner, neither does the Ukrainian government nor, one would think, even the crazed extreme Ukrainian nationalists who have formed militias to take the fight against the separatists that the Ukrainian army is not keen to undertake–unless there was a plan to frame Russia.

One Russian general familiar with the weapon system offered his opinion that it was a mistake made by the Ukrainian military untrained in the weapon’s use. The general said that although Ukraine has a few of the weapons, Ukrainians have had no training in their use in the 23 years since Ukraine separated from Russia. The general thinks it was an accident due to incompetence.

This explanation makes a certain amount of sense and far more sense than Washington’s propaganda. The problem with the general’s explanation is that it does not explain why the Buk anti-aircraft missile system was deployed near or in a separatist territory. The separatists have no aircraft. It seems odd for Ukraine to have an expensive missile system in an area in which it is of no military use and where the position could be overrun and captured by separatists.

As Washington, Kiev, and the presstitute media are committed to the propaganda that Putin did it, we are not going to get any reliable information from the US media. We will have to figure it out for ourselves.

One way to begin is to ask: Why was the missile system where it was? Why risk an expensive missile system by deploying it in a conflict environment in which it is of no use? Incompetence is one answer, and another is that the missile system did have an intended use.

What intended use? News reports and circumstantial evidence provide two answers. One is that the ultra-nationalist extremists intended to bring down Putin’s presidential airliner and confused the Malaysian airliner with the Russian airliner.

The Interfax news agency citing anonymous sources, apparently air traffic controllers, reported that the Malaysian airliner and Putin’s airliner were traveling almost the identical route within a few minutes of one another. Interfax quotes its source: “I can say that Putin’s plane and the Malaysian Boeing intersected at the same point and the same echelon. That was close to Warsaw on 330-m echelon at the height of 10,100 meters. The presidential jet was there at 16:21 Moscow time and the Malaysian aircraft at 15:44 Moscow time. The contours of the aircrafts are similar, linear dimensions are also very similar, as for the coloring, at a quite remote distance they are almost identical.”

I have not seen an official Russian denial, but according to news reports, the Russian government in response to the Interfax news report said that Putin’s presidential plane no longer flies the Ukraine route since the outbreak of hostilities.

Before we take the denial at face value, we need to be aware that the implication that Ukraine attempted to assassinate the president of Russia implies war, which Russia wants to avoid. It also implies Washington’s complicity as it is highly unlikely that Washington’s puppet in Kiev would risk such a dangerous act without Washington’s backing. The Russian government, being intelligent and rational, would obviously deny reports of an attempted assassination of the Russian president by Washington and its Kiev puppet. Otherwise, Russia has to do something about it, and that means war.

The second explanation is that the extremists who operate outside the official Ukrainian military, hatched a plot to down an airliner in order to cast the blame on Russia. If such a plot occurred, it likely originated with the CIA or some operative arm of Washington and was intended to force the EU to cease resisting Washington’s sanctions against Russia and to break off Europe’s valuable economic relationships with Russia. Washington is frustrated that its sanctions are unilateral, unsupported by its NATO puppets or any other countries in the world except possibly the lap-dog British PM.

There is considerable circumstantial evidence in support of this second explanation. There is the youtube video which purports to be a conversation between a Russian general and separatists who are discussing having mistakenly brought down a civilian airliner. According to reports, expert examination of the code in the video reveal that it was made the day before the airliner was hit.

Another problem with the video is that whereas we could say that separatists conceivably could confuse an airliner at 33,000 feet with a military attack plane, the Russian military would not. The only conclusion is that by involving the Russian military, the video doubly discredited itself.

The circumstantial evidence easiest for non-technical people to understand is the on cue news programs organized to put the blame on Russia prior to the knowledge of any facts.

In my previous article http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/07/17/sanctions-airliners-paul-craig-roberts/ I reported on the BBC news report which I heard and which was obviously primed to place all blame on Russia. The program ended with a BBC correspondent breathlessly reporting that he has just seen the youtube video and that the video is the smoking gun that proved Russia did it. There is no longer any doubt, he said. Somehow the information got on a video and on youtube before it reached the Ukrainian government or Washington.

The evidence that Putin did it is a video made prior to the attack on the airliner. The entire BBC report aired over National Public Radio was orchestrated for the sole purpose of establishing prior to any evidence that Russia was responsible.

Indeed the entire Western media spoke as one: Russia did it. And the presstitutes are still speaking the same way.

Possibly, this uniform opinion merely reflects the pavlovian training of the Western media to automatically line up with Washington. No media source wants to be subject to criticism for being unamerican or to find itself isolated by majority opinion, which carries the day, and earn black marks for being wrong. As a former journalist for, and contributor to, America’s most important news publications, I know how this works.

On the other hand, if we discount the pavlovian conditioning, the only conclusion is that the entire news cycle pertaining to the downing of the Malaysian airliner is orchestrated in order to lay the blame on Putin.

Romesh Ratnesar, deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, provides convincing evidence for orchestration in his own remarks of July 17. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-17/the-malaysia-airlines-shootdown-spells-disaster-for-putin?campaign_id=DN071814 Ratnesar’s opinion title is: “The Malaysia Airlines Shootdown Spells Disaster for Putin.” Ratnesar does not mean that Putin is being framed-up. He means that prior to Putin having the Malaysian airliner shot down, “to the vast majority of Americans, Russia’s meddling in Ukraine has largely seemed of peripheral importance to U.S. interests. That calculus has changed. . . . It may take months, even years, but Putin’s recklessness is bound to catch up to him. When it does, the downing of MH 17 may be seen as the beginning of his undoing.”

As a former Wall Street Journal editor, anyone who handed me a piece of shit like Ratnesar published would have been fired. Look at the insinuations when there is no evidence to support them. Look at the lie that Washington’s coup is “Russia’s meddling in Ukraine.” What we are witnessing is the total corruption of Western journalism by Washington’s imperial agenda. Journalists have to get on board with the lies or get run over.

Look around for still honest journalists. Who are they? Glenn Greenwald, who is under constant attack by his fellow journalists, all of whom are whores. Who else can you think of? Julian Assange, locked away in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London on Washington’s orders. The British puppet government won’t permit free transit to Assange to take up his asylum in Ecuador. The last country that did this was the Soviet Union, which required its Hungarian puppet to keep Cardinal Mindszenty interred in the US Embassy in Budapest for 15 years from 1956 until 1971. Mindszenty was granted political asylum by the United States, but Hungary, on Soviet orders, would not honor his asylum, just as Washington’s British puppet, on Washington’s orders, will not honor Assange’s asylum.

If we are honest and have the strength to face reality, we will realize that the Soviet Union did not collapse. It simply moved, along with Mao and Pol Pot, to Washington and London.

The flaw in Putin’s diplomacy is that Putin’s diplomacy relies on good will and on truth prevailing. However, the West has no good will, and Washington is not interested in truth prevailing but in Washington prevailing. What Putin confronts is not reasonable “partners,” but a propaganda ministry aimed at him.

I understand Putin’s strategy, which contrasts Russian reasonableness with Washington’s threats, but it is a risky bet. Europe has long been a part of Washington, and there are no Europeans in power who have the vision needed to separate Europe from Washington. Moreover, European leaders are paid large sums of money to serve Washington. One year out of office and Tony Blair was worth $50 million dollars.

After the disasters that Europeans have experienced, it is unlikely that European leaders think of anything other than a comfortable existence for themselves. That existence is best obtained by serving Washington. As the successful extortion of Greece by banks proves, European people are powerless.

Here is the official statement of the Russian Defense Ministry: http://www.globalresearch.ca/mh-17-crash-in-ukraine-official-statement-from-russian-defense-ministry/5392000

Washington’s propaganda assault against Russia is a double tragedy, because it has diverted attention from Israel’s latest atrocity against the Palestinians locked up in the Gaza Ghetto. Israel claims that its air attack and invasion of Gaza is merely Israel’s attempt to find and close the alleged tunnels through which Palestinian terrorists pour into Israel inflicting carnage. Of course there are no tunnels and no terrorist carnage in Israel.

One might think that at least one journalist somewhere in the American media would ask why bombing hospitals and civilian housing closes underground tunnels into Israel. But that is too much to ask of the whores that comprise the US media.

Expect even less from the US Congress. Both the House and Senate have passed resolutions supporting Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians. Two Republicans–the despicable Lindsey Graham and the disappointing Rand Paul–and two democrats–Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin–sponsored the Senate resolution backing Israel’s premeditated murder of Palestinian women and children. The resolution passed the “exceptional and indispensable” people’s Senate unanimously.

As a reward for its policy of genocide, the Obama regime is immediately transferring $429 million of US taxpayers’ money to Israel to pay for the slaughter.

Contrast the US government’s support for Israel’s war crimes with the propaganda onslaught against Russia based on lies. We are living all over again “Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction,” “Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” “Iranian nukes.”

Washington has lied for so long that it can’t do anything else.

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here. His latest book,  How America Was Lost, has just been released and can be ordered here

Putin Bans Protests In Sochi During 2014 Winter Olympics Amid Outrage At Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws August 23, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Russia, Sports.
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Roger’s note: Who writes the script for the IOC?  Lewis Carroll?  George Orwell?  Franz Kafka”  The IOC assures us that it is going to make clear Putin’s position on discrimination, which is: there will be no discrimination, but the discriminatory law will be enforced.”  Perfectly clear.

 

SPAIN-RUSSIA-DEMO-HOMOPHOBIA

A demonstrator holds a poster depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin with make-up as he protests against homophobia and repression against gays in Russia, in front of the Russian Embassy in Madrid on August 23, 2013. (GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

By NATALIYA VASILYEVA 08/23/13 02:22 PM ET EDT AP

 

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree banning demonstrations and rallies for two and a half months in Sochi around the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official government newspaper, published the presidential decree Friday, listing an array of measures tightening security in the Olympic host city, including the ban on public assemblies. All “gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets” that are not part of the Olympics or the Paralympics will be prohibited in Sochi from Jan. 7 to March 21, the decree said.

The Winter Olympics is taking place Feb. 7-23 in the Black Sea resort, and the Paralympics are being held March 7-16.

Government-imposed protest bans across entire cities where Olympics are held are unusual. Putin’s decree could be aimed at heading off demonstrations against Russia’s ban on alleged gay propaganda, a new law that has been sharply criticized in the West.

Among other measures in the decree are restrictions on vehicles entering Sochi. Only cars with local license plates, emergency vehicles and those accredited by the Olympic organizers will be allowed to enter the host city between Jan. 7 and March 21.

Rights organizations have voiced concerns about what they described as the “harassment and intimidation of civil society” advocates in Sochi. Human Rights Watch said in a statement that environmental, human rights and other activists have been “the targets of attacks, detention for peaceful protests and police searches.”

The International Olympic Committee received a letter Thursday from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak giving assurances that the host country will comply with the Olympic Charter’s provision against discrimination of any kind. The letter, however, defended Russia’s new anti-gay law and said it would be enforced.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said Friday that he is “comforted” by Russia’s assurance the charter’s ban on discrimination will be respected.

“We are going to inform now all the national Olympic committees and all the athletes who want to have clarity,” Rogge told reporters after addressing the U.N. General Assembly.

Gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev told The Associated Press on Friday that he would petition the Supreme Court next week to contest the presidential decree banning rallies in Sochi as “violating our right of freedom of assembly.”

Russian authorities have repeatedly denied gay activists’ applications to set up a Pride House in Sochi during the games, but Alexeyev said he would apply for permission to hold a gay pride rally in Sochi on the opening day of the games anyway.

 

 

International Olympic Committee May Join Russia in Punishing Gay Athletes August 13, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Sports.
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Jamie McGonnigal

 

SPORT-OLY-2014-RUS-IOC-SOCHI

 

Between the Stoli boycott and statements from athletes around the world with regard to next year’s Winter Olympics and Russia’s new, draconian anti-gay laws, most of you know what’s been going on. For those who don’t, the short version is this: Earlier this year, Russia passed some horrifically anti-gay laws that make it illegal to “promote” homosexuality. Apparently you can be gay, but you just can’t ever tell anyone about it for fear that you’ll be reported and go to prison. These laws have given cover to neo-Nazi groups and others who take the law into their own hands by beating and murdering any person they think doesn’t measure up to their standard of heterosexuality.

 

Many have called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to make strong statements against these laws, and some have even called for them to move the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia, to a place that is more accepting of all athletes. The IOC responded by declaring that they’d spoken to Russian authorities and had been assured that Olympic athletes and fans would be exempt from the anti-gay laws while in Sochi. Not so fast, responded Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who made it clear that Olympic athletes and fans would have to respect the host country’s bigoted laws. And today, Russia’s Interior Ministry stated unequivocally that the anti-gay laws will be enforced during the Olympic Games in Sochi.

 

This game of media ping-pong has left Olympic participants without any actual information regarding the situation in Russia. The truth of the matter is that no matter what kinds of assurances the IOC makes, LGBT people are not welcome or safe in Russia. The IOC can say whatever they want to, but it will not stop some Russian thug in a bar from kidnapping, beating and potentially murdering someone he perceives as gay.

 

Gay Star News asked the IOC what they thought about plans for athletes to wear rainbow pins or hold hands during the opening and closing ceremonies. They also asked if the IOC would provide a safe space — or Pride House — for LGBT athletes, spectators, dignitaries and others during the Games, to celebrate gay sport and community, as has been done in previous years. The IOC’s spokesperson replied, “[T]he IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration. This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary.” Indeed, Rule 50 of the IOC’s charter states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

 

So instead of actually standing up for LGBT athletes, the IOC is essentially siding with Russia and issuing a warning to lesbian and gay athletes. The IOC has made it clear that they have a double standard when it comes to accepting all athletes. The Pride House in Vancouver was historic in that it provided a safe space for LGBT athletes from around the world. The IOC clearly didn’t see this as a violation of Rule 50 a few years ago, but it seems as though athletes must now be forced to step back into the closet for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

 

If the Olympics remain in Sochi, LGBT athletes are automatically at a disadvantage. It’s really hard to perform to one’s full capabilities when one is spending part or most of the day in actual fear for his or her life. Gay New Zealand speedskater Blake Skjellerup told USA Today, “I don’t want to have to tone myself down about who I am. That wasn’t very fun and there’s no way I’m going back in the closet. I just want to be myself and I hate to think that being myself would get me in trouble.” I don’t think you’ll find a single athlete out there who’d disagree with the notion that you perform better when you don’t have to hide who you are. In fact, many said as much when basketball player Jason Collins came out last year.

 

At this point, I can’t imagine that there is anything that the IOC can say to actually ensure the safety of Olympic participants or fans, whether it be from the Russian government itself or from vigilantes who are rarely if ever prosecuted for their crimes against LGBT people. While boycotts and news stories have been effective at getting the word out about the atrocities being carried out against LGBT people in Russia, none of this will actually make anyone safer in Russia. And none of it will stop LGBT athletes from constantly having to look over their shoulders as they compete for Olympic gold.

 

 

 

 

Follow Jamie McGonnigal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mcbenefit

 

Olympics Petition Delivered August 7, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, LGBT, Russia, Sports.
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allout_image_3424_full

Today in Switzerland: more than 50 All Out members delivered our petition of over 322,000 names from around the world to the International Olympic Committee.

In fewer than 200 days, Russia will host the Winter Olympics. Their anti-gay laws are fuelling terrible violence and murders across the country and they fly in the face of the Olympic values of friendship and respect.

That’s why we gathered at Olympics HQ today to ask the Olympic Committee to speak out against Russia’s anti-gay crackdown, face-to face.

The Olympic Committee hasn’t hosted such a gathering before! Their Director of Communications accepted the massive petition and held a long meeting with us.

He listened to our concerns and announced that the Olympic Committee has now asked for the Russian government to state in writing that no athletes or visitors will be persecuted because they are gay. That shows they’re feeling our pressure to do more – but it’s not enough.

We’re going to keep asking the Olympic Committee to be a true guardian of Olympic values, by speaking out against the Russian anti-gay crackdown. The International Association of Athletics Federations spoke out today – it’s time for the Olympics to follow.

Today the 1.8 millionth member joined All Out, and together we did something really important for people power. We showed the biggest world leader in sport that we’re not just anonymous names on the internet. We’re real people and we want them to speak out for love and equality.

Right now, we’re figuring out the next things we can do together to persuade the Olympic Committee to speak out. If we can do it, it will build the pressure on President Putin to stop the anti-gay crackdown. So watch out for the next call to action!

 

Thanks for going All Out,

Andre, Guillaume, Hayley, Jeremy, Joe, Marie, Mike, Tile, and the rest of the All Out team.

PS: Recently, more than 3,738 All Out members chipped in for a fighting fund to power the campaign. That meant we could send some of our team to Switzerland to deliver the petition in person. There’s so much more to do – and it’s not too late to help by chipping in to support All Out. Click here to donate: https://www.allout.org/donate

Wolf Killings are Based on the Most Cynical of Premises January 18, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Canada.
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Published on Friday, January 18, 2013 by The Guardian

Governments in Russia, Canada and Scandinavia claim they need to protect lesser species and habitats – while continuing their smash and grab raid on natural resources

by George Monbiot

A wolf hunter in Hasselforsreviret, Sweden. (Photo: Anders Wiklund/AFP/Getty Images)

If, as she has threatened, Brigitte Bardot moves to Russia in protest at the treatment of animals in France, she’s in for a major shock.

A couple of weeks ago, the former actress warned that if two circus elephants thought to be carrying tuberculosis are killed as a result of a ruling by a French court, she will follow Gérard Depardieu by applying for a Russian passport:

“If those in power are cowardly and impudent enough to kill the elephants … then I have decided I will ask for Russian nationality to get out of this country which has become nothing more than an animal cemetery”.

As a general principle, I think anyone who threatens to move to another country if they don’t get their way should be obliged to do so. This, for example, would rid the United Kingdom of some of its greediest and most demanding bankers who, despite their promises, are still here. And Tracey Emin.

But if Bardot does move to Russia, which I reckon is about as likely as Vladimir Putin being elected to the board of Amnesty International, she’ll find that France’s record on the treatment and protection of animals, while often brutal, is almost exemplary by comparison to her adopted country’s. Take for example the decree on Tuesday by the president of the Sakha Republic (also known as Yakutia) in Siberia.

There are 3,500 wolves in Sakha, which sounds like a lot until you discover that the republic is the size of India. President Yegor Borisov wants to reduce the population to 500 through an intensive three-month hunt, supported by a state of emergency, bounties for every wolf shot and a prize of 1m roubles for the hunters who kill the most.

This “emergency” massacre is necessary, he claims, because wolves are killing too many domestic animals. Last year, apparently, they incurred 5m roubles’ (£103,500) worth of losses – considerably less than the likely cost of the wolf hunt. Would it not make more sense to use the money to compensate the farmers? Would it not make more sense to protect the wolves’ natural prey: animals such as hares which are currently being overhunted by people, driving the wolves to look elsewhere for food?

In November, when I wrote about plans to exterminate wolves in Norway, some of those who supported the killings wrote to me to explain that there are plenty of wolves in Russia, so why bother protecting them in Scandinavia? Doubtless the Russian supporters of Borisov’s bloodbath will respond that there are plenty of wolves left in Canada, so why bother protecting them in Russia?

Well they too are likely to be disappointed, as similar massacres are being planned there, on the most cynical of premises.

In Alberta, the province systematically corrupted and brutalised by the oil curse, and whose polluted politics are now corrupting public life throughout Canada, the government plans to carry out a mass killing of wolves by shooting them from helicopters and poisoning them with strychnine.

The reason, ostensibly, is to protect the woodland caribou, a subspecies of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus caribou), whose numbers have been diminishing rapidly. This, according to the Alberta Caribou Committee, is because wolves have been killing them.

So what is this Alberta Caribou Committee? As you might expect, it represents all the usual environmental organisations, such as, er, PetroCanada, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Koch Petroleum, TransCanada Pipelines, Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries and the pulp company Daishowa Marubeni.

Between them they have decided – and apparently convinced both the provincial and federal governments – that the problem afflicting the province’s caribou is not the fragmentation of their habitat by seismic lines, pipelines, roads, oil platforms, timber cutting and the transformation of pristine forest into wasteland by tar sands operations, but the natural predator with which the species has lived for thousands of years.

Never mind that analysis of wolves’ feces show that they eat very few caribou, as they prefer to hunt deer. Never mind that the woodland caribou is highly susceptible to disturbance, and that all the evidence points to the destruction of their habitat as the major factor causing their decline. Something other than the smash and grab exploitation now raging across Saudi Alberta must be to blame. And what better scapegoat could there be than the animal demonised for centuries on both sides of the Atlantic?

Wolf killing is the excuse the federal government needs to remove protection from all but 5% of pristine woodland caribou habitat. As Cliff Wallis of the Alberta Wilderness Association points out “The plan gives the appearance of doing something, but the details read ‘business as usual’ for Alberta oil sands, oil and gas and forestry.” Killing wolves suggests that the caribou are being protected, even while they are being driven to extinction by scarcely regulated industry. Already, hundreds of wolves have been shot and poisoned: now the government intends to intensify this effort.

Something similar is happening in British Columbia. In November a wolf-killing competition, sponsored among others by the Peace River Rod and Gun Club, was announced. It will take place across the winter, and offers cash prizes for the hunters who kill the biggest and smallest wolves. The wolves are driven to exhaustion by snowmobiles, then shot.

Like Alberta’s, the provincial government of British Columbia plans to relax the regulations governing the killing of wolves and to wipe them out in some parts of the province. Again, the excuse is to protect caribou; which again are threatened primarily by human activities.

So I wonder what the advocates of the wolf massacres in Canada will say: don’t worry about our populations, because they’re thriving in Russia, I mean Norway, I mean Edinburgh zoo?

You cannot rely on other countries to do what you refuse to do at home. There’s only one place in which a government can be sure of protecting wildlife, and that’s the place over which it has jurisdiction.

© 2013 George Monbiot
George Monbiot

George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com

Your chance to free the women of Pussy Riot September 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Russia.
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http://www.kintera.org/TR.asp?a=7pLILXPxHdLOIXMIE&s=jsKVL7MKLfJVL4PEInH&m=fiKWK9NLJfKMJbK
Pussy Riot appeal begins Monday. Help bring them home.
Dear roger,
“Daddy, I’m going to get mommy out of jail with a bulldozer.”
That’s four-year-old Gera speaking about her plan to free her mother Nadya, one of the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot.
As an Amnesty activist, you know we don’t need a bulldozer to free a prisoner – just the power of our voices. And we need your voice more than ever as Pussy Riot faces an appeal hearing on October 1st.
Turn up the volume of protest to end the political persecution of Pussy Riot. Send your message calling for the unconditional release of Nadya, Masha and Katja.
Nadya and the other members of Pussy Riot went to the cathedral to give Russia – and the rest of the world – a wake-up call. They felt it was their civic duty to expose the corruption and repression they saw.
Pussy Riot stood up for their ideals. As artistic expression. Nonviolently. Legally.
Except, of course, in Putin’s Russia, where their dissent was stifled and condemned as “hooliganism.”
But there is hope. The world is watching. Last week, Pyotr Verzilov travelled with his daughter Gera to the United States to work with Amnesty to raise awareness for his wife’s case. During the Amnesty International Youth Town Hall, Aung San Suu Kyi met with Pyotr and Gera and called for the release of the women. With Amnesty at her side, Yoko Ono gave the band the LennonOno Grant for Peace to honor their courage.
During their visit, Pyotr expressed how moved he was by your advocacy on behalf of his wife and the other courageous women imprisoned for expressing their opinions peacefully:
“We are grateful to Amnesty International for your work on the case and all of your support. The most important thing you can do is rally people. We need your voices.”
Use your voice to tell the Russian authorities to release Nadya, Masha and Katja. Take a stand for free speech and human rights before Pussy Riot’s Oct. 1 appeal hearing.
In solidarity,
Michelle Ringuette Chief of Campaigns & Programs Amnesty International USA

 
http://www.kintera.org/TR.asp?a=7pLILXPxHdLPIXMHE&s=jsKVL7MKLfJVL4PEInH&m=fiKWK9NLJfKMJbK http://www.kintera.org/TR.asp?a=asJOI6MJJgKVJ7PUH&s=jsKVL7MKLfJVL4PEInH&m=fiKWK9NLJfKMJbK

© 2012 Amnesty International USA | 5 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10001 | 212.807.8400

Pussy Riot and the Two Russias August 4, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Civil Liberties, Russia.
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Published on Saturday, August 4, 2012 by The Nation

 

(Credit: Igor Mukhin)

Pussy Riot is here to stay. International attention has mounted over the months since three members of the punk rock/protest group were imprisoned for a fifty-one-second stunt. All the more so this week, as their trial—on “hooliganism” charges—finally began.

As I’ve described before, members of the group seized the stage of Russia’s iconic Christ the Savior Cathedral just before the country’s March elections, performing (and recording) a musical plea to the Virgin Mary to oust Vladimir Putin. The cadre of Russian artists and activists descended from the performance artists Voina (“War”), who were influenced by the US punk movement Riot grrrl. Its story might have ended there, if not for a truly authoritarian response from the Russian government. Three alleged participants were arrested, threatened with seven years of imprisonment, and placed in a pre-trial detention that’s been extended for months. Now, Pussy Riot is world famous—as is its stunt. The longer they’re in prison, the more attention they get.

It’s been gratifying to see the outpouring of support for these women. It’s come from insiders and outsiders alike, in Russia and abroad. Key Putin backers have broken with him on Pussy Riot. More than 400,000 Russians have signed an online petition protesting their arrest and detention. The Washington Post editorialized in defense of the activists. Punk artists around the world have voiced their solidarity. British writer Stephen Fry has called on his more than 4.6 million Twitter followers “to do everything to help Pussy Riot” and “pressure Putin” in connection with the trial. Amnesty International named Pussy Riot prisoners of conscience; its US activists have planned a guerilla art exhibit and a solidarity concert at the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC.

The crackdown on Pussy Riot is part of a broader attack on dissent in Russia. In recent weeks, we’ve seen the introduction and rapid passage of a quartet of laws that undermine Russia’s democratic ambitions: (Re-)criminalization of “defamation”; a blacklist of “harmful” websites; punitive fines on participants in “unsanctioned” protests; and a mandate that nonprofits declare foreign funding and brand themselves “foreign agents.” Russia, alas, is not the only country cracking down on political freedom. But these broadly worded, swiftly passed laws represent another wave in Russia’s de-democratization, a process started under Boris Yeltsin and continued under Putin.

The righteousness of the Pussy Riot cause is clear-cut: courageous activists up against punitive suppression. As someone who’s worked with the women’s movement in Moscow, and as a longtime student of Russia, it’s horrific to watch the mistreatment of these women, and heartening to see them draw the support they deserve, both outside the country and within it.

But lost in much of the coverage is a sobering reality: there are two Russias. The country’s deep divisions are reflected in the polling on Pussy Riot, with only a 43 percent plurality telling pollsters that a potential two-to-seven-year sentence is disproportionate. Why? There’s more in place here than simple offense at their act.

To many Russians, Russia feels like two different countries: one is urban, hyper-Westernized, aggressively modern, and seems condescending in its attitude to ordinary people; the other is the Russian heartland in the regions and provinces, where people are suffering economically and believe they’re guarding the country’s traditional values and religious convictions. This is the lens through which some Russians view Pussy Riot’s imprisonment: not individual freedom of conscience versus the state but national pride and religious faith versus a well-off, urban elite. Putin has masterfully stoked such resentments, framing the resistance to his authority as an affront to the values of the nation (a segment on state TV last month called protests in defense of Pussy Riot a “vanity fair”). Too many Western journalists ignore or underestimate the effectiveness of that appeal.

Putin’s key partner in this has been the Russian Orthodox Church. In recent years, the church has grown in clout while growing ever closer to the Kremlin. The church’s spokesperson announced that God had personally shared with him, “just like he revealed the gospels to the church,” that He “condemns” what Pussy Riot did. Cynically or in earnest, church leaders are nurturing a patriarchal, paternalistic form of patriotism, and its power and popularity are growing as a result (US readers: this may sound familiar). The prosecution’s indictment against the artists cites “blasphemous acts” and “weighty suffering” of believers—despite Russia’s supposed separation of church the state. That’s a sign of how flimsy the legal case against Pussy Riot is, but also of the church’s role in modern Russia.

In a case replete with ironies, here’s the final one: even as Putin reaps political benefit from the resentments of this other Russia, his economic and social policies are poised to hit its citizens hardest—and his most prominent critics in the opposition are on board as well. Last month ushered in a fairly dramatic increase in utility and transit costs. And austerity, Russia-style, is coming to other sectors as well: neoliberal “reforms” are on the way in education, housing and pensions. These changes will mean socio-economic disaster for already-suffering Russians, many in regions far-flung from Moscow. What is little reported in the West is that Putin’s own critics, those who’ve led many of the street protests in Moscow, also back these measures. These include elite critics like former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, Boris Nemtsov and Ksenia Sobchak, once the Paris Hilton of Russia until she became its Pasionaria. Perhaps that should be no surprise: they’re not the ones about to get hurt.

It is heartening to see the broad attention being paid to the three women of the Pussy Riot group. But perhaps it’s time for some reporting on the millions of working or unemployed Russians who will bear the brunt of economic policies hatched by the Putin government and supported by many of its opposition critics. Putin’s repression has sparked vibrant pro–Pussy Riot activism. The efforts on behalf of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion and Freedom from Fear have been important. But if the opposition really wants to mobilize a mass movement for political, social and economic change, it will have to bring the Two Russias back together. That will mean developing a program that calls for fair elections and combating corruption, while also resisting neoliberal measures that will privatize public education and gut pensions. Simply put, the activism we’ve witnessed in these last months will need to expand to encompass Freedom from Want. The fate of the next Pussy Riot could depend on it.

© 2012 The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.

 

Answering Bolton and Yoo: New START Will Strengthen U.S. National Security November 13, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Nuclear weapons/power, Peace, War.
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by David Krieger

Published on Saturday, November 13, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
Two staunch ideologues who served in the George W. Bush administration, John Bolton and John Yoo, ask rhetorically in a New York Times opinion piece, “Why Rush to Cut Nukes?” Bolton, a recess appointment as United Nations Ambassador under Bush II, never met an arms limitation agreement that he supported. Yoo, the lawyer who wrote memos supporting the legality of water boarding under international law (not a very favorable prospect for captured U.S. soldiers), worked in Bush II’s Justice Department. Bolton and Yoo can find no good reason to support the New START agreement with the Russians, arguing that without amendments it will weaken “our national defense.”

Let me answer the question posed in the title of their article. The Senate should support and ratify this treaty because it will strengthen U.S. national security by:

  • reducing the size of the bloated nuclear arsenals in both countries, creating a new lower level from which to make further reductions;
  • reinstating verification procedures that ended with the expiration of the first START agreement in December 2009;
  • building confidence in the Russians that we stand behind our agreements; and
  • sending a signal to the rest of the world that we are taking steps to fulfill our legal commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to achieve nuclear disarmament.

The downsides of failing to ratify the treaty would be to remove restraints on the size of the Russian arsenal, forego inspection and verification of the Russian arsenal, undermine Russian confidence in U.S. commitments, and encourage further nuclear proliferation by other countries thereby increasing the possibilities of nuclear terrorism. Further, if the treaty is not ratified before the new Congress is seated in January 2011, its future ratification will be far more difficult.

What do Bolton and Yoo say they want? First, to remove language in the treaty’s preamble, which is not legally binding, that says there is an “interrelationship” between nuclear weapons and defensive systems. That language only recognizes a reality. Of course, there is a relationship between missiles and missile defenses. Second, they don’t want the U.S. to be limited in putting conventional weapons on formerly nuclear launch systems. But that is a price, and a fair one, that each side will pay for lowering the other side’s nuclear capabilities. Third, they want a Congressional act for the financing, testing and development of new U.S. warhead designs before the treaty is ratified. In other words, they want guarantees that the U.S. nuclear arsenal will be modernized. They seek long-term reliance on the U.S. nuclear threat, but this means that U.S. citizens will also remain under nuclear threat for the long-term.

Bolton and Yoo are an interesting pair. The first would lop ten floors off the United Nations, the second do away with the laws of war when they aren’t convenient. Do they deserve their own opinions? Of course. Do their opinions make any sense? Only in the context of the American exceptionalism and militarism that were the trademarks of the Bush II administration and have done so much to weaken the spirit, values and resources of the country while continuing to haunt us in our aggressive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One must wonder what possessed the New York Times to publish their rantings. Additionally, using the word “Nukes” in the title suggests somehow that nuclear weapons are cute enough to have nicknames and not a serious threat to the very existence of civilization. That Bolton and Yoo could rise to high positions in our country is a sad commentary on the country, but perhaps understandable in the context of the Bush II administration’s persistent flaunting of international law. That the New York Times would find sufficient merit in their discredited opinions to publish their article is an even sadder commentary on the editorial integrity of one of the country’s most respected newspapers.

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org) and a Councilor on the World Future Council.

Up, Up and Away: The West’s Hysterical Reaction to North Korea April 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Foreign Policy, North/South Korea.
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Posted on Apr 17, 2009, www.truthdig.com








AP photo / Ahn Young-joon

South Koreans watch a TV news program on the launch of a North Korean missile.


By Scott Ritter


Six minutes before 1 o’clock in the afternoon, on Jan. 23, a 173-foot-tall, two-stage rocket lifted off from Northeast Asia. Capable of carrying a giant 33,000-pound payload, the rocket’s liquid-fuel engine, supplemented by two solid-fuel strap-on booster rockets, generated nearly half a million pounds of thrust before giving way to the second stage, likewise powered by a liquid-fuel engine. After reaching a height of nearly 430 miles, the rocket released into orbit a 3,850-pound satellite, along with seven smaller probes. Other than the small community of scientists interested in the data expected to be collected from the “Ibuki” Greenhouse Gases Observatory Satellite (GOSAT), the rocket’s main payload, very few people around the world took notice of the launch. The United Nations Security Council did not meet in an emergency session to denounce the launch, nor did it craft a package of punitive economic sanctions in response. 


The reason? The rocket in question, the H-2A, was launched by Japan, at its Tanegashima Space Launch Facility. Deemed an exclusively civilian program, the H-2A has been launched 15 times since its inaugural mission on Aug. 29, 2001. Four of these launches have been in support of exclusively military missions, delivering spy satellites into orbit over North Korea. Although capable of delivering a modern nuclear warhead to intercontinental ranges, the H-2A is seen as a “non-threatening” system since its liquid-fueled engines require a lengthy fueling process prior to launching, precluding any quick-launch capability deemed essential for a military application.







In contrast, on April 5, at 11:30 in the morning, North Korea launched a three-stage rocket called “Unha,” or “Milky Way,” which it claimed was carrying a single small communications satellite weighing a few hundred pounds. Like the H-2A, the “Unha,” better known in the West as the Taepodong-2, is liquid-fueled, requiring weeks of preliminary preparation before launch. Although North Korea declared the vehicle to be intended for launching a satellite, the launch was condemned even before it occurred as “dangerous” and “provocative,” unlike Japan’s similar efforts.


The Taepodong-2 launch was the second attempt by the North Koreans to get this particular design airborne. In 2006, the first effort ended in failure when the rocket exploded some 40 seconds after liftoff. The second launch, by all accounts (except North Korea’s, which announced that its satellite was successfully orbiting the Earth, broadcasting patriotic music), was likewise a failure. The first stage, based on a Chinese design derived from the CSS-2 missile, seemed to function as intended, given the fact that it splashed down in the Sea of Japan in the area expected. However, the second stage, together with the smaller solid-fuel third stage designed to boost the satellite into orbit, fell several hundred miles short of its anticipated impact area, indicating a failure of the second stage to perform properly and, ultimately, launch the satellite. Western hysteria, which labeled the North Korean rocket a direct threat to the western United States, prompting calls for the missile to be shot down, proved unfounded.


In October 2006, in response to North Korea’s announcement that it had conducted an underground test of a nuclear weapon, the Security Council of the United Nations passed Resolution 1718. This resolution, passed under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, condemned the North Korean nuclear weapon test and called for the imposition of economic sanctions until North Korea’s nuclear weapons program was dismantled and its nuclear program as a whole reintegrated into the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. It also singled out North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, demanding that Pyongyang “not conduct any further … launch of a ballistic missile” and “suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching” and “abandon all other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programme in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.” 


The April 5 launch was widely condemned by the United States and others (including Japan, which assumed a leading role in framing the North Korean test as “destabilizing” and “dangerous”). President Barack Obama characterized the North Korean launch as a violation of Security Council resolutions and pushed for the council to punish Pyongyang. However, not everyone shared the sentiments of the United States and Japan. Both Russia and China questioned whether the launch was in fact a violation of Resolution 1718, noting that North Korea had every right to launch satellites. The best the United States and Japan could get from the U.N. Security Council was a statement issued by the council president condemning the launch as a “contravention” of Security Council Resolution 1718 and demanding that North Korea “comply fully” with its obligations under the resolution. The statement also demanded that North Korea not shoot off any more rockets or missiles.


Thus it appears that the United Nations Security Council, and not North Korea, is acting in a manner inconsistent with international law. On March 5, 2009, North Korea notified Russia that it was joining the 1966 Outer Space Treaty. Russia is one of three depository states for that treaty (the other two being the United States and the United Kingdom), and North Korea’s announcement made the commitment binding. At the same time, North Korea informed the U.N. secretary-general that it was joining the 1974 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched Into Outer Space. The Outer Space Treaty proclaims “the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind,” and that “outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States.” North Korea’s joining the 1974 convention, while not mandatory, put it in compliance with the established practices of other nations having space launch programs, including Iran, which signed the treaty back in 1967, and which on Feb. 2, 2008, successfully launched a satellite on board its two-stage Safir-2 (“Ambassador”) vehicle. While the United States and others strongly criticized the Iranian action, Russia noted that Iran had not violated international law. The same holds true of the North Korean launch.


A major problem confronting President Obama and others who fear that North Korean and Iranian launches are merely a cover for the development of technologies useful for military ballistic missile programs is that, unlike in the nuclear field, where the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) seeks to control nuclear weapon technologies and activities within a framework of binding international law, there is no corresponding treaty vehicle concerning ballistic missiles. In 1991, the U.N. Security Council did impose restrictions on ballistic missile technology for Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf War, but this was a case-specific action which, in defining its mandate, had to turn not to an existing body of binding international law-based definitions, but rather to a voluntary arrangement known as the Missile Technology Control Regime [MTCR], brought into being in 1987. Today the MTCR consists of 34 members, all of which have agreed to abide by a regime that controls the availability of missile-related technology to nonmember states. But the MTCR does not carry with it the force of law, and has become politicized over the years through the inconsistent application of its mandate to the point that it is viewed by many nonsignatory nations as sustaining the military advantage of the member nations.


While both North Korea and Iran have come under strong international criticism and sanctions for their respective nuclear and missile activities, it should be noted that neither nation has acted in a manner which violates international law. North Korea withdrew from the NPT prior to testing its nuclear weapon, and Iran’s nuclear enrichment program operates with full transparency and in keeping with its obligations under the NPT. As signatories to the 1966 Outer Space Treaty, both nations are legally permitted to pursue space launch activity, and the MTCR does not ban ballistic missile development, but rather merely prevents signatory nations from providing such technology to nonsignatory nations. But the lack of international outrage and demands for sanctions against nations such as Israel, Pakistan and India (all of which possess nuclear weapons programs operating outside the NPT, as well as military ballistic missile programs designed to deliver these nuclear weapons) undermines the legitimacy of the current attention on North Korea and Iran. 


On the day North Korea launched its “Unha” vehicle, President Obama delivered a speech in Prague, the Czech Republic, which was hastily redrafted to take the North Korean action into account. “North Korea broke the rules,” Obama said. “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” These bold statements were made at the same time the president was calling for a global abolition of nuclear weapons and a strengthened NPT as “a basis for cooperation,” one which would require “more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections” and deliver “real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.” The president outlined a valid (if vague) course of action concerning nuclear weapons, but having linked nuclear weapons with ballistic missile delivery vehicles, he remained conspicuously mute on how he envisioned containing and controlling that threat. 


Expansion of the MTCR is not a viable option, although in its most recent plenary session the MTCR underscored the importance of the regime working closely with the United Nations to follow through on measures put in place under Security Council Resolution 1540, passed in 2004 under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. Those measures require all states to “establish domestic controls to prevent the proliferation of such weapons and means of delivery, in particular for terrorist purposes, including by establishing appropriate controls over related materials, and adopt legislative measures in that respect.” The resolution specifically said that none of its obligations should be interpreted “so as to conflict with or alter the rights and obligations of State parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention or alter the responsibilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).” This reflects the reality that there is established, binding international agreement on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. There is no such agreement on ballistic missiles.


This is the missing link in Obama’s call for a nuclear-free world. It will be difficult enough to convince entrenched domestic special interests, both economic and political, that we would be safer without nuclear weapons. It will be impossible to sell such a program internationally unless it is coupled with a similar undertaking involving the very missiles and related technology the MTCR seeks to restrict. Such a restriction cannot be limited to those nations which do not currently possess such technology, but rather must be binding on all nations. While the world was focused on the launch of the North Korean missile, almost unmentioned was the testing of an SS-25 intercontinental missile by Russia on April 10. This missile, designed and equipped to deliver a single 500-kiloton nuclear warhead, flew 6,000 miles before hitting its designated target area (the warhead used was a dummy). And what about February’s test launch of a U.S. Navy D-5 ballistic missile from a Trident submarine? This missile flew some 4,000 miles and was equipped with multiple warheads. There was hardly any mention of the test of a U.S. Minuteman III missile in July 2006, made six days after the U.S. orchestrated Security Council condemnation of North Korea’s failed launch of a Taepodong-2 space launch vehicle. India, Pakistan and Israel have all conducted recent tests of their respective nuclear-capable ballistic missile arsenals. If the world is going to be serious about getting rid of nuclear weapons, then it must also address the issue of eliminating those delivery vehicles which provide the most viable vector for nuclear attack—ballistic missiles.


Combining the goals and intent of the MTCR with the 1966 Outer Space Treaty would be a good place to start. Banning ballistic missiles yet maintaining space launch capability are not mutually exclusive objectives. The technologies might be similar, but the employment methodologies are not. Military ballistic missiles are deployed in secrecy and rapidly prepared for launch. Space launch vehicles are operated in full transparency, on declared schedules with announced objectives. If the list of technologies currently controlled by the MTCR was expanded to include all technologies associated with missile launch activity, and access to such technologies made conditional on their use in declared, carefully monitored space launchings controlled by a binding international treaty, it would be possible to rid the world of the scourge of global nuclear attack by not only removing the nuclear weapons but also the most effective means of their delivery. Obama and others who criticize North Korea and Iran would do well to reflect on such a possibility the next time they embark on the ineffective and hypocritical path of assailing those who simply seek to acquire what we already have—whether it be nuclear weapons, nuclear technology, ballistic missiles or space launch capability.







Scott Ritter was a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998 and a U.S. Marine intelligence officer. He is author of “Target Iran” (Nation Books, 2006) and the forthcoming “On Dangerous Ground: Following the Path of America’s Failed Arms Control Policy,” also published by Nation Books. 

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