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Mainstream Media’s Russian Bogeymen

By Gareth Porter |  Consortium News | January 13, 2017

In the middle of a major domestic crisis over the U.S. charge that Russia had interfered with the U.S. election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) triggered a brief national media hysteria by creating and spreading a bogus story of Russian hacking into U.S. power infrastructure.

DHS had initiated the now-discredited tale of a hacked computer at the Burlington, Vermont Electricity Department by sending the utility’s managers misleading and alarming information, then leaked a story they certainly knew to be false and continued to put out a misleading line to the media.

Even more shocking, however, DHS had previously circulated a similar bogus story of Russian hacking of a Springfield, Illinois water pump in November 2011.

The story of how DHS twice circulated false stories of Russian efforts to sabotage U.S. “critical infrastructure” is a cautionary tale of how senior leaders in a bureaucracy-on-the-make take advantage of every major political development to advance its own interests, with scant regard for the truth.

The DHS had carried out a major public campaign to focus on an alleged Russian threat to U.S. power infrastructure in early 2016. The campaign took advantage of a U.S. accusation of a Russian cyber-attack against the Ukrainian power infrastructure in December 2015 to promote one of the agency’s major functions — guarding against cyber-attacks on America’s infrastructure.

Beginning in late March 2016, DHS and FBI conducted a series of 12 unclassified briefings for electric power infrastructure companies in eight cities titled, “Ukraine Cyber Attack: implications for U.S. stakeholders.” The DHS declared publicly, “These events represent one of the first known physical impacts to critical infrastructure which resulted from cyber-attack.”

That statement conveniently avoided mentioning that the first cases of such destruction of national infrastructure from cyber-attacks were not against the United States, but were inflicted on Iran by the Obama administration and Israel in 2009 and 2012.

Beginning in October 2016, the DHS emerged as one of the two most important players – along with the CIA—in the political drama over the alleged Russian effort to tilt the 2016 election toward Donald Trump. Then on Dec. 29, DHS and FBI distributed a “Joint Analysis Report” to U.S. power utilities across the country with what it claimed were “indicators” of a Russian intelligence effort to penetrate and compromise U.S. computer networks, including networks related to the presidential election, that it called “GRIZZLY STEPPE.”

The report clearly conveyed to the utilities that the “tools and infrastructure” it said had been used by Russian intelligence agencies to affect the election were a direct threat to them as well. However, according to Robert M. Lee, the founder and CEO of the cyber-security company Dragos, who had developed one of the earliest U.S. government programs for defense against cyber-attacks on U.S. infrastructure systems, the report was certain to mislead the recipients.

“Anyone who uses it would think they were being impacted by Russian operations,” said Lee. “We ran through the indicators in the report and found that a high percentage were false positives.”

Lee and his staff found only two of a long list of malware files that could be linked to Russian hackers without more specific data about timing. Similarly a large proportion of IP addresses listed could be linked to “GRIZZLY STEPPE” only for certain specific dates, which were not provided.

The Intercept discovered, in fact, that 42 percent of the 876 IP addresses listed in the report as having been used by Russian hackers were exit nodes for the Tor Project, a system that allows bloggers, journalists and others – including some military entities – to keep their Internet communications private.

Lee said the DHS staff that worked on the technical information in the report is highly competent, but the document was rendered useless when officials classified and deleted some key parts of the report and added other material that shouldn’t have been in it. He believes the DHS issued the report “for a political purpose,” which was to “show that the DHS is protecting you.”

Planting the Story, Keeping it Alive

Upon receiving the DHS-FBI report the Burlington Electric Company network security team immediately ran searches of its computer logs using the lists of IP addresses it had been provided. When one of IP addresses cited in the report as an indicator of Russian hacking was found on the logs, the utility immediately called DHS to inform it as it had been instructed to do by DHS.

In fact, the IP address on the Burlington Electric Company’s computer was simply the Yahoo e-mail server, according to Lee, so it could not have been a legitimate indicator of an attempted cyber-intrusion. That should have been the end of the story. But the utility did not track down the IP address before reporting it to DHS. It did, however, expect DHS to treat the matter confidentially until it had thoroughly investigated and resolved the issue.

“DHS wasn’t supposed to release the details,” said Lee. “Everybody was supposed to keep their mouth shut.”

Instead, a DHS official called The Washington Post and passed on word that one of the indicators of Russian hacking of the DNC had been found on the Burlington utility’s computer network. The Post failed to follow the most basic rule of journalism, relying on its DHS source instead of checking with the Burlington Electric Department first. The result was the Post’s sensational Dec. 30 story under the headline “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, U.S. officials say.”

The DHS official evidently had allowed the Post to infer that the Russian’s hack had penetrated the grid without actually saying so. The Post story said the Russians “had not actively used the code to disrupt operations of the utility, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a security matter,” but then added, and that “the penetration of the nation’s electrical grid is significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability.”

The electric company quickly issued a firm denial that the computer in question was connected to the power grid. The Post was forced to retract, in effect, its claim that the electricity grid had been hacked by the Russians. But it stuck by its story that the utility had been the victim of a Russian hack for another three days before admitting that no such evidence of a hack existed.

The day after the story was published, the DHS leadership continued to imply, without saying so explicitly, that the Burlington utility had been hacked by Russians. Assistant Secretary for Pubic Affairs J. Todd Breasseale gave CNN a statement that the “indicators” from the malicious software found on the computer at Burlington Electric were a “match” for those on the DNC computers.

As soon as DHS checked the IP address, however, it knew that it was a Yahoo cloud server and therefore not an indicator that the same team that allegedly hacked the DNC had gotten into the Burlington utility’s laptop. DHS also learned from the utility that the laptop in question had been infected by malware called “neutrino,” which had never been used in “GRIZZLY STEPPE.”

Only days later did the DHS reveal those crucial facts to the Post. And the DHS was still defending its joint report to the Post, according to Lee, who got part of the story from Post sources. The DHS official was arguing that it had “led to a discovery,” he said. “The second is, ‘See, this is encouraging people to run indicators.’”

Original DHS False Hacking Story

The false Burlington Electric hack scare is reminiscent of an earlier story of Russian hacking of a utility for which the DHS was responsible as well. In November 2011, it reported an “intrusion” into a Springfield, Illinois water district computer that similarly turned out to be a fabrication.

Like the Burlington fiasco, the false report was preceded by a DHS claim that U.S. infrastructure systems were already under attack. In October 2011, acting DHS deputy undersecretary Greg Schaffer was quoted by The Washington Post as warning that “our adversaries” are “knocking on the doors of these systems.” And Schaffer added, “In some cases, there have been intrusions.” He did not specify when, where or by whom, and no such prior intrusions have ever been documented.

On Nov. 8, 2011, a water pump belonging to the Curran-Gardner township water district near Springfield, Illinois, burned out after sputtering several times in previous months. The repair team brought in to fix it found a Russian IP address on its log from five months earlier. That IP address was actually from a cell phone call from the contractor who had set up the control system for the pump and who was vacationing in Russia with his family, so his name was in the log by the address.

Without investigating the IP address itself, the utility reported the IP address and the breakdown of the water pump to the Environmental Protection Agency, which in turn passed it on to the Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center, also called a fusion center composed of Illinois State Police and representatives from the FBI, DHS and other government agencies.

On Nov. 10 – just two days after the initial report to EPA – the fusion center produced a report titled “Public Water District Cyber Intrusion” suggesting a Russian hacker had stolen the identity of someone authorized to use the computer and had hacked into the control system causing the water pump to fail.

The contractor whose name was on the log next to the IP address later told Wired magazine that one phone call to him would have laid the matter to rest. But the DHS, which was the lead in putting the report out, had not bothered to make even that one obvious phone call before opining that it must have been a Russian hack.

The fusion center “intelligence report,” circulated by DHS Office of Intelligence and Research, was picked up by a cyber-security blogger, who called The Washington Post and read the item to a reporter. Thus the Post published the first sensational story of a Russian hack into a U.S. infrastructure on Nov. 18, 2011.

After the real story came out, DHS disclaimed responsibility for the report, saying that it was the fusion center’s responsibility. But a Senate subcommittee investigation revealed in a report a year later that even after the initial report had been discredited, DHS had not issued any retraction or correction to the report, nor had it notified the recipients about the truth.

DHS officials responsible for the false report told Senate investigators such reports weren’t intended to be “finished intelligence,” implying that the bar for accuracy of the information didn’t have to be very high. They even claimed that the report was a “success” because it had done “what it’s supposed to do – generate interest.”

Both the Burlington and Curran-Gardner episodes underline a central reality of the political game of national security in the New Cold War era: major bureaucratic players like DHS have a huge political stake in public perceptions of a Russian threat, and whenever the opportunity arises to do so, they will exploit it.


Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Federal Regulator Halts Move to Toughen Radiation Exposure Limits

By John Laforge | CounterPunch | January 13, 2017

Work has been halted on two rulemaking projects that would have reduced the amount of radiation the government permits workers and the public to be exposed to without their consent. The improved limits would have been in line with internationally accepted standards, Bloomberg BNA reports. A Nuclear Regulatory Commission announcement says stopping the process of setting stricter radiation exposure limits was “due to the high costs of implementing such changes.” The purpose of the NRC is to protect public and nuclear worker health and safety, but this time it’s just saving money for the nuclear industry.

The cancellation of two unfinished and long-overdue precautionary improvements, noted in the Dec. 27 Federal Register, came as a shock to nuclear industry watchdogs who have campaigned for increased radiation protection since 1990. That year, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommended that radiation industry worker exposures be reduced by three-fifths, from 50 milliSieverts per year to 20 milliSieverts per year. (A milliSieverts is a measure of the body’s absorption of radiation.) The recommendation has never adopted by the United States. Based in Ottawa, Ontario, ICRP sets standards used worldwide as the basis for radiological protection, working to reduce cancer and other diseases caused by radiation exposure.

Ed Lyman, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg BNA the termination of these projects “makes the US look out of step with the rest of the world. It makes it look like we’re basing our regulations on obsolete information.” Jerry Hiatt, with the industry lobbying group Nuclear Energy Institute, was relieved by the NRC move telling Bloomberg that existing rules were adequate, and that it’s unnecessary to reduce currently permitted exposures.

The rulemaking project was begun by the NRC staff in 2008 and was intended to update the country’s radiation protection standards in accordance with ICRP’s international standards, primarily with respect to radiation dose. The NRC staff had previously recommended that the commission reduce the total radiation worker exposure from 50 milliSieverts-per-year to 20 milliSieverts-per-year — in line with the ICRP’s 1990 global recommendation. However, the NRC rejected the recommendation.

The NRC’s decision not to align permitted radiation exposures with those of the ICRP is the equivalent of “throwing out one of the most significant changes to get the US in step with the rest of the world,” Lyman said. The commission formally approved the stop-work orders in April, but it only notified the public on Dec. 27.

The NRC also decided to stop work on a second rulemaking which would have brought the US in line with international rules regarding daily releases of radioactive waste water from nuclear reactors. By way of explanation, the NRC said, its current standard “continues to provide adequate protection of the health and safety of workers, the public and the environment.”

Over the last 70 years, permitted radiation exposure limits for workers and the public have dramatically decreased as science has come to better understand the toxic and cancer-causing properties of low doses.

In its 2012 pamphlet “Radiation Exposure and Cancer” the NRC acknowledges that, “[A]ny increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk.” Likewise, the National Academy of Sciences, in its latest book-length report on the biological effects of ionizing radiation BEIR-VII, says: “[L]ow-dose radiation acts predominantly as a tumor-initiating agent,” and that “[T]he smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans.” And the US Environmental Protection Agency agrees, “[A]ny exposure to radiation can be harmful or can increase the risk of cancer … In other words, it is assumed that no radiation exposure is completely risk free.”

But today, when the international standard dose limit is less than half what our own government allows, it’s the radiation industry shareholders that are being protected by the NRC, not public health and safety.
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John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , | Leave a comment

US Builds Database of Foreign-Funded NGOs, Other Groups in United States

Sputnik – 13.01.2017

The United States is entering the final phase of a multi-year plan to establish a uniform database to track and report on foreign assistance to groups that are active on its territory, the US Department of State announced in a press release on Friday.

The Foreign Assistance Data Review (FADR) program was established in 2014 and is being implemented in four phases, the first step being a December 2015 study, with recommendations on how to track and report foreign assistance data.

“Phase Two concluded in September 2016, producing an FADR Data Element Index (Index), which identifies 57 data elements that must be standardized and incorporated into the enterprise-wide data management systems,” the release stated.

The final two phases will establish reporting requirements and a budget for resources needed to develop the database. The release gives no explanation of the term “foreign assistance,” but presumably it involves non-governmental organizations (NGOs), cultural organizations and advocacy groups that receive funding from foreign governments.

The effort comes amid increased criticism of the United States from many countries over operations of the US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — and related organizations — which have been accused of promoting a policy of “regime change” by organizing subversive networks and anti-government protests in nations that are at odds with Washington.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

Government workers enter Damascus water-source area to restore supply after deal with rebels

RT | January 13, 2017

The Syrian capital’s crippling water shortage will soon come to an end after rebels allowed engineers to enter a damaged pumping station, according to a regional governor. More than 5 million people have faced dire conditions amid the shortage.

The governor of Damascus Countryside Province, Alaa Ibrahim, told reporters on Friday that the engineers have entered the facilities at Ain al-Fijah in the Wadi Barada area after a deal has been reached for the army to take control of the area.

“We have halted military operations in Ain al-Fijah and started reconciliation with the militias there,” Ibrahim told reporters from an area near the site, as quoted by AFP.

“God willing, the pipe will be fixed within three days… rapid measures will be taken to get water to Damascus tomorrow,” he added.

The governor said that the rebels who refused the deal will be allowed to leave for the rebel-held Idlib province.

“All of Wadi Barada will be secured within hours,” he added. “Water will not be cut off to the city of Damascus again.”

A restoration of the supply would put an end to the devastating shortage which has left more than 5 million people without water for almost two weeks.

The Damascus Water Authority cut the supply in late December, after it said the Barada River – the source of the water – had been contaminated with diesel fuel by militants.

The result has been devastating for residents of Damascus, with shop shelves completely stripped of any trace of water.

Such dire conditions raise concerns about the risks of water-borne diseases, especially among children, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) told RT, noting that it is delivering water in trucks to schools. Other humanitarian agencies are also on the ground.

But as civilians struggle to obtain clean water, rebels have laid blame on the Syrian government, claiming its bombing campaign has damaged vital infrastructure.

The governor said the Friday agreement is part of a wider deal for rebels to stop fighting in Wadi Barada. The deal would also include the departure of some of them for other insurgent-held areas in the country, and a settlement with others who would remain there, Reuters reported.

Wadi Barada has become the most intense battlefront in the Syrian civil war, with fighting continuing despite the start of a truce brokered by Russia, a Syrian ally, and rebel-backer Turkey in late December.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

Transnistria and Donbass: Historical Parallels and Possible Similar Scenarios for the Future

By Halyna Mokrushyna | CounterPunch | January 13, 2017

On January 4, President Igor Dodon of Moldova met with Vadim Krasnoselskiy, the head of the unrecognized Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria). The meeting took place in Bendery, on the right bank of Dniester river, on the territory of the Transnistria. It was initiated by the president of Moldova.

Igor Dodon was elected Moldovan president on November 13 on a platform advocating improved relations with Russia.

During the meeting, both sides established a good contact and expressed openness and willingness to compromise. Concrete decisions have been taken to improve relations between Moldova and Transnistria. “Citizens on both sides of the Dniester River (which runs through the territory of Moldova and the right (eastern) border of Transnistria) should see the concrete results during 2017,” stated President of Moldova Igor Dodon .

The president of Transnistria Vadim Krasnoselskiy stressed the importance of compromise with Moldova for people living on both sides. “We must create the conditions so that people are not held hostage to politics, so that decisions taken by politicians are for the benefit of the people. We must respect the people of Moldova and Transnistria and find a compromise in any case”, stated Vadim Krasnoselskiy.

During the meeting, the first in eight years, the presidents of Moldova and Trasnistria discussed a whole range of practical issues that have accumulated in recent years, including problems in education, registration of vehicles, communication, movement of citizens, rail transport, recognition of diplomas and car plates.

At the same time, political issues were not discussed. Recognition of the independence of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) by Chisinau remains the main bone of contention between the two republics. Chisinau designates PMR as the Transnistria autonomous territorial unit with special legal status. PMR is not recognized by any country, member of the UN, while the UN itself considers PMR to be part of Moldova.

PMR emerged as a reaction of the mostly Slavic population of this territory to the rise of pro-Romanian nationalism among ethnic Moldovans in the late 1980s, the period of Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost in Russia. The most prominent movement formed at that time, the Popular Front of Moldova, formulated three main demands: that Moldovan be declared the only state language, that the Moldovan language switch to use of the Latin alphabet instead of the Cyrillic one, and that Moldovan ethnic identity be recognized as identical to Romanian one. The radical factions of the Popular Front called for minority populations, particularly the Slavs (mainly Russians and Ukrainians) and Gagauz, to leave or be expelled from Moldova.

The Supreme Council of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic followed through on main three demands: on August 31, 1989 it adopted Moldovan as the only official language, while retaining Russian for secondary purposes; it introduced the Latin alphabet; and it declared a shared Moldovan-Romanian linguistic identity. The publicly stated intentions of the Moldovan authorities to bring the country closer to Romania, as well as the ethnocentric rhetoric of the Popular Front, provoked serious concerns of ethnic minorities in the country. Transnistria’s population was predominantly Slav – 60% were Ukrainians and Russians, while less than 40% were ethnic Moldovans. The overall majority of the population, including some ethnic Moldovans, spoke Russian as their mother tongue.

The nationalist Popular Front won the first free parliamentary elections in the Moldavian SSR in the spring of 1990. On 2 September 1990, the Second Congress of the Peoples’ Representatives of Transnistria proclaimed the creation of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. Violence escalated when in October 1990, the Popular Front called for volunteers to form armed militias to stop an autonomy referendum in Gagauzia. In response, volunteer militias were formed in Transnistria.

Limited armed clashes between Transnistrian militia and Moldova started in November of 1990. Volunteers from Russia came to support Transnistrians. In early 1992, the fighting intensified. The former Soviet 14th Guards Army, stationed in Transnistiria, which remained neutral throughout the fighting, entered the conflict in its final stage, swearing allegiance to Transnistrian authorities and opening fire against Moldovan forces. A ceasefire agreement was signed on 21 July 1992 and has held to the present day.

The history of the emergence of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic holds several striking similarities with the current conflict in Ukraine. There, the people of the Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine rebelled against the nationalist rhetoric of the Euromaidan movement and the government brought to power through a coup d’état on February 21-22, 2014. One of the first steps of that government was to abolish the existing law on languages in Ukraine granting Russian a special status in Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine. Ukrainian is the only official language in Ukraine. Changes to the language law in 2013 granted Russian a special status in areas of majority or large minority Russian speakers, but the law was bitterly opposed by Ukrainian nationalists.

Another similarity is the linguistic profiles of Ukraine and Moldova. Like Transnistria, where the majority of population speaks Russian, Donetsk and Lugansk regions are the only regions of Ukraine, where Russian language is spoken by the large majority of the population. Population of these regions of Ukraine has always been close to Russia culturally, as with the population of Transnistria. Russian volunteers poured into Transnistria to help locals to defend their rights against Moldovan nationalism; in the same way 20 years later, Donetsk and Lugansk received the support of volunteers from Russia in their fight against Ukrainian nationalism and against a forceful integration into the European Union by the coup government that came to power in 2014. They wanted closer ties with Russia. However, Russia has not officially recognized the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, as it has not recognized the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. Russia does provide extensive humanitarian assistance to both entities and maintains extensive economic and cultural relations.

Moldova has not officially recognized Transnistria. But at least it stopped waging war against against the breakaway republic, and it has settled into an uneasy coexistence. The relations between Moldova and Transnistria are often characterized as a “frozen conflict”. All attempts to find a formula for political settlement of the unrecognized status of the PMR between the PMR and Moldova have not produced any result.

Since independence in 1991, Moldova, like Ukraine some 20 years later, set out on a course of economic integration into the European Union. Even the so-called ‘pro-Russian’ Moldovan presidents over the years, such as Vladimir Voronin (2001-2009), followed this course very closely. For example, in 2003, Voronin refused to sign a memorandum proposed by the Russian Federation outlining plans for a unification of Moldova and the PMR into a federal state of Moldova. Voronin stated that since Moldova plans to join European Union, such a plan needed the approval of ‘European structures’, beginning with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’, and therefore he could not endorse it.

In the current conflict between Kyiv and Donetsk and Lugansk republics, Russian officials have stated on many occasions that the two republics (comprising the historic industrial region called ‘Donbass’) should be granted a large autonomy within a unitary Ukraine, in spite of the evident desire of the populations of the two breakaway republics to desire to integrate into the Russian Federation.

The ceasefire and political-settlement agreement signed in Minsk, Belarus on Feb 12, 2015 (termed ‘Minsk-2’, text here) with the endorsement of France, Germany, and Russia, outline beginning principles of this autonomy, but Kyiv has been stubbornly sabotaging the agreement.

The new president of Moldova, Igor Dodon, is proving himself a wiser and more mature politician compared to Ukrainian leaders, as shown by his visit to the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic. He declared that Moldova under his presidency will remain a neutral country, not choosing between European Union or Russia. The population of Moldova, like the population of Ukraine, has always been split in its political and cultural sympathies towards Europe and Russia. Most Moldovans and probably a majority of Ukrainians believe the best way to keep their country safe and whole is by preserving a neutral status between the EU and the Russia-dominated Eurasian Economic Union to the east. Dodon has demonstrated a practical approach of compromise and negotiation in the interests of the population of both Moldova and the PMR.

Kyiv should follow Dodon’s example because it is the only path to peace in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the current political regime in Kyiv is unlikely to do that. The news of Dodon’s meeting with the president of the PMR was not even reported by mainstream Ukrainian media.

The recent call of one of the richest Ukrainian oligarchs, Viktor Pinchuk, to make painful compromises with Russia and implement Minsk-2 and return to a neutral status for Ukraine to reach peace in Donbass, has been repudiated by Poroshenko’s administration. Konstantin Eliseev, the deputy head of the Presidential Administration, stated that Ukraine will never turn away from integration into the European Union and NATO . (See my Dec 31, 2016 article ‘ Prominent member of Ukraine’s elite issues call for peace in Donbass’.)

But to the ongoing consternation of officials of the Kyiv government, full membership of Ukraine in the European Union has always been treated cautiously and even reluctantly by European Union officials. They have used the idea to foment conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which is not the same as supporting and facilitation it, as Ukrainians are today learning.

Ukrainians blindly mistook a loose economic association with Europe as being a step toward an inevitable, full integration into the European Union. They naively hoped that the European Union will solve the economic disaster that the country became following independence in 1991, particularly following the failed ‘Orange Revolution’ of 2005 in which competing interests among the country’s economic elite fought for domination amidst a backdrop of deep, social protest by ordinary Ukrainians.

This blind, naïve hope has brought further economic disaster and civil war in Ukraine. The official Ukrainian propaganda blames Russia for all of the troubles beginning in 2013 and it refuses to recognize Kyiv’s fault in its unleashing of a so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation (complete with its own, catchy acronym—the ‘ATO’) against its own people. Kyiv relied heavily on U.S. support in the conflict with Russia. Now, that support may dwindle if President-elect Donald Trump carries through his various, offhand statements that he is interested in seeking improved relations with Russia.

Kyiv should review its categorical refusal to accommodate Donetsk and Lugansk if it wants to keep Donbass within Ukraine. Otherwise the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics will follow the path of the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic in exercising a permanent autonomy. It is a very plausible scenario, given the fact that the conflict in Donbass has been frozen for more than two years and Ukraine continues to punish the two republics with unceasing artillery fire and a punishing economic blockade.

Halyna Mokrushyna is currently enrolled in the PhD program in Sociology at the University of Ottawa and a part-time professor. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and MA degree in communication. Her academic interests include: transitional justice; collective memory; ethnic studies; dissent movement in Ukraine; history of Ukraine; sociological thought.  Her doctoral project deals with the memory of Stalinist purges in Ukraine. In the summer of 2013 she travelled to Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk to conduct her field research. She is currently working on completing her thesis. She can be reached at halouwins@gmail.com.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Danish minister alleges ‘Russia ready to attack hospitals, infrastructure & electrical supply’

RT | January 13, 2017

Denmark’s Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen has launched a series of wide-ranging and grave accusations against Moscow, saying that it presents a “direct, very frightening and serious threat” against his homeland.

“We need to make clear to ourselves in Denmark that we are in danger, and we need to act upon this,” the center-right politician told the Danish Berlingske newspaper.

Frederiksen was asked to expound on his brief in the first extensive interview since the 69-year-old was appointed to his post in November last year. Instead, the politician, who previously served as minister of finance during two stints, spoke almost exclusively about Russia.

“State-supported Russian hacker groups are ready to attack hospitals, infrastructure and the electrical supply by breaking into computer systems and creating a mess of notices and treatments within the health system,” said Frederiksen, referring to a report published by the country’s intelligence agency last month, as well as conversations with other Western politicians and security officials.

And why would Russia target civilian infrastructure in a small country with which it shares no border? “To spread fear and insecurity among the population and paralyze our democracy.”

“It’s a way to destabilize our countries and democracies in a very physical and tangible way, and this places an urgent demand on our resources to defend ourselves against such attacks,” said Frederiksen.

Frederiksen’s accusations echo those of US intelligence officials, who published a report last week, alleging that Russia ordered hackers to meddle in the US election, specifically by releasing emails related to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied charges of interference.

‘We must spend more on NATO to stop Russians from trying anything’

The politician also believes that the Iskander-M missiles that Russia has deployed in its westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad pose an immediate danger to Denmark.

“We can confirm that the Russians are right now installing new missiles in Kaliningrad that can reach Copenhagen. That is of course a major risk,” said Frederiksen.

Moscow says the missiles are a response to the continuing unrolling of the US missile defense shield across Eastern Europe, and has beefed up its other armaments in the region, following an increase in NATO presence on the Russian border. The Western alliance is seeking to limit Moscow’s purported ambitions in the region through Operation Atlantic Resolve, commenced following the breakout of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014, and comprises the transfer of troops and modernized equipment to Eastern Europe.

Frederiksen also said that Russia’s “increased military activity” in the Arctic, in which both Moscow and Copenhagen have territorial claims – the latter through Greenland – were another potential source of conflict, which must require “extensive monitoring.”

As a solution, Frederiksen advocates increased military spending, though he declined to specify if Denmark intended to hit the NATO target of 2 percent of GDP being spent on defense (currently it spends 1.17 percent).

“NATO must be our common defense and our deterrent. We have to show the strength that it takes, and thus spend the money it takes to prevent the Russians from trying anything. That is basically what is the essence of our thinking,” said Frederiksen.

As a symbolic gesture Frederiksen emphasized the importance of the deployment of 200 Danish soldiers as part of the new 5,000-strong rapid response force in Eastern Europe next year.

“It is not of course because we think that the 200 Danish soldiers can stop the Russian army. But they should know that the territorial defense of the immediate area begins there and crossing the line, then the common solidarity in NATO will take effect,” said Frederiksen.

The newspaper said that the Russian embassy refused to comment on the accusations.

READ MORE: 

‘Witch hunt’: Kremlin slams ODNI report claiming Russia hacked US elections

Over 1,000 soldiers to make up NATO’s new international battalion in Latvia

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

War Consciousness and the F-35

By Robert Koehler | CounterPunch | January 13, 2017

“The F-35 Lightning II Program (also known as the Joint Strike Fighter Program) is the Department of Defense’s focal point for defining affordable next generation strike aircraft weapon systems for the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and our allies. The F-35 will bring cutting-edge technologies to the battlespace of the future.”

Lurking behind this perky little PR blurb, from the F-35’s own website, is the void into which the soul of the human race has disappeared.

This is war consciousness: locked into place, awash in money. The deeply flawed F-35, the most expensive military weapons system in history, is ultimately projected to cost over $1 trillion, but no matter: “It will bring cutting-edge technologies to the battlespace of the future.”

What does that mean? It sounds like an ad for the next Star Trek movie, but it’s U.S. foreign policy — or, more accurately, the defining assumption of nationhood: We will always be at war with someone. It’s the quintessential self-fulfilling prophecy. When we spend trillions of dollars “preparing” for war, by God, we’ll find an enemy, as ever.

This is the consciousness we must transcend, and opposing Lockheed Martin’s way-over-budget, absolutely-unnecessary-for-national-security F-35 fighter jet, which is supposed to be ready to go by 2019, is certainly a good place to start.

“The F-35 is a weapon of offensive war, serving no defensive purpose,” reads the petition now in circulation, initiated by a dozen organizations. “It is planned to cost the U.S. $1.4 trillion over 50 years. Because starvation on earth could be ended for $30 billion and the lack of clean drinking water for $11 billion per year, it is first and foremost through the wasting of resources that this airplane will kill.

“Wars are endangering the United States and other participants rather than protecting them. Nonviolent tools of law, diplomacy, aid, crisis prevention, and verifiable nuclear disarmament should be substituted for continuing counterproductive wars. Therefore, we, as signers of this petition, call for the immediate cancellation of the F-35 program as a whole, and the immediate cancellation of plans to base any such dangerous and noisy jets near populated areas.”

At the local end of this travesty, the F-35s, which would be based in Burlington, Vermont, and Fairbanks, Alaska, are so dangerous they could render nearby residential areas uninhabitable. The extreme noise level could cause cognitive impairment in children, according to a World Health Organization report; and the planes’ high risk of crashing, combined with highly toxic materials used in their construction, put local residents at an unacceptable risk.

But the absurdity of subjecting people to such risks is magnified exponentially by the needlessness to do so. […]

Consider: “The Defense Department is designing robotic fighter jets that would fly into combat alongside manned aircraft,” the New York Times reported in October. “It has tested missiles that can decide what to attack, and it has built ships that can hunt for enemy submarines, stalking those it finds over thousands of miles, without any help from humans.

“Defense officials say the weapons are needed for the United States to maintain its military edge over China, Russia and other rivals, who are also pouring money into similar research (as are allies, such as Britain and Israel). The Pentagon’s latest budget outlined $18 billion to be spent over three years on technologies that included those needed for autonomous weapons.”

What a world we’re planning! I believe there’s still time to change directions, but the demand to do so must begin today.

Robert Koehler is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

The politics of de-legitimization – the race to bottom

By Peter Lavelle | The Duran | January 13, 2017

The corporate mainstream media’s massive campaign to de-legitimize Donald Trump’s election as president is failing and will eventually epically fail. In the process media are destroying themselves, which is a blessing for free speech and a healthy public sphere. In the end, attempts to de-legitimize Trump will de-legitimize the de-legitimizers.

There can be no doubt what kind of relationship President Trump will have with the corporate media. His calling out CNN as fake news tells us everything we need to know. The Clinton Network News backed the Democratic Party’s nominee, sought to explain Hillary Clinton’s defeat as the result of nefarious actors (the Russians did it! ), and now it is desperately attempting to portray Trump as being in cahoots with Vladimir Putin. CNN is fake news – it has no real use of facts; it relies almost exclusively on its core narrative: justifying and reinforcing its liberal worldview at the behest of the unelected Deep State.

There is no way around it – Hillary Clinton lost the election on her own merits (or lack thereof). She believed she deserved to be coronated because it was her turn. She believed she was entitled to the presidency. The media believed and acted in the same way. Instead of reporting on the campaign, media constructed a “story” that reinforced Clinton’s sense of entitlement. In a very important way mainstream media intentionally de-legitimized the election before the first ballot was cast.

The corporate media’s treatment of Donald Trump was also part of the de-legitimizing process. During the Republican primary he was media’s favorite – he was good for ratings and advertising dollars. He was portrayed as a buffoon and as such the perfect reason to vote for Clinton. Media didn’t cover Trump in a conventional way – he was always a marketing tool to legitimize the candidacy of Clinton. In the process media completely overlooked what was really happening: Trump built a coalition and possibly a political movement.

Trump’s victory and the GOP’s return as the ruling party was the doings of the media, though unwittingly. They got Clinton wrong; they got Trump wrong, failed to honestly cover the election, believed in their own propaganda, and only talked among themselves – all while disparaging the very real pain of many voters. Incredibly, though not surprisingly, the mainstream media cannot acknowledge these hard truths – or said differently accept real news.

This lack of introspection fuels fake news and accelerates the de-legitimization campaign against Trump. At the same time the mainstream media is signing its own death warrant. They will not be missed.

Peter Lavelle is host of RT’s political debate program CrossTalk. His views may or may not reflect those of his employer.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

The Lobby P2: The Training Session

January 11, 2017

In part two of The Lobby, our undercover reporter joins a delegation from the Israeli Embassy at last year’s Labour Party Conference. The programme reveals how accusations of anti-Semitism were made against key Labour Party members – and how a former official at the Israeli Embassy was upset when her background was revealed.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

The Matter Is Closed — But Would It Be Closed If The Country Involved Wasn’t Israel?

By Brian CLOUGHLEY | Strategic Culture Foundation | 13.01.2017

The Al Jazeera television channel has revealed an Israeli plan to destroy the careers of senior British government figures because they have been critical of Israel. Shai Masot, a senior official in the Israeli embassy in London, was recorded by an Al Jazeera undercover reporter in conversation in a London restaurant with Ms Maria Strizzolo, formerly chief of staff to the British government’s ‘minister of state for skills’, Robert Halfon, the past political director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, who has a colourful history.

Shai Masot (right, with the Israeli Ambassador at the British Labour Party Conference in 2016)

In one of the exchanges between Ms Strizzolo and Mr Masot, he is recorded as asking her ‘Can I give you some [names of] MPs [Members of Parliament] that I would suggest you take down?’ to which Ms Strizzolo replied that all MPs have ‘something they’re trying to hide.’ (The expression ‘take-down’ is defined as ‘a wrestling manoeuvre in which an opponent is swiftly brought to the mat from a standing position,’ but in this context has more disturbing connotations.)

Mr Masot speaking with Ms Strizzolo

Mr Masot then told her ‘I have some MPs’ and specified ‘the deputy foreign minister,’ Sir Alan Duncan, who has been critical of the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. According to transcripts of the meeting, Strizzolo implied that ‘a little scandal’ might result in Duncan being dismissed, and added ‘don’t tell anyone about this meeting,’ which was clear indication that she knew it was clandestine and involved sensitive matters.

It was not surprising that Ms Strizzolo resigned her position following disclosure of her agenda — but first she tried to lie her way out of the affair, as is usual for such people.

In answer to a reporter’s questions she claimed her conversation with Masot was ‘tongue-in-cheek and gossipy… Any suggestion that I could exert the type of influence you are suggesting is risible.’ She declared that Mr Masot ‘is not someone with whom I have ever worked or had any political dealings beyond chatting about politics, as millions of people do, in a social context.’ This was strange, coming from a person who was recorded as saying she could help Israel because ‘If at least you can get a small group of MPs that you know you can always rely on… you say: ‘you don’t have to do anything, we are going to give you the speech, we are going to give you all the information, we are going to do everything for you’.’

Pronouncements of innocence did not end with Ms Strizzolo’s assertion of virtue, and the Israeli Embassy declared that ‘the comments were made by a junior embassy employee who is not an Israeli diplomat, and who will be ending his term of employment with the embassy shortly.’

This so-called ‘junior embassy employee’ describes himself as ‘a Senior Political Officer’ on his business card, and his social media page states he is ‘the chief point of contact between the embassy and MPs and liaising with ministers and officials at the Foreign Office’ which indicates that he is responsible for dealing with influential representatives of his host country.

It is bizarre to state that Mr Masot would explore methods of ‘taking down’ British government ministers without authorisation from a very high level.

Masot told Joan Ryan, a Member of Parliament and Chair of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), that he had plans for ‘another delegation of LFI activists’ to visit Israel and Ms Ryan said ‘That’d be good. What happened with the names we put in to the embassy, Shai?’ To which Masot replied ‘We’ve got the money, more than a million pounds, it’s a lot of money… I have got it from Israel. It is an approval.’

Israelis don’t spend a million pounds for nothing.

Predictably, Ms Ryan said the filmed revelations are ‘rubbish,’ but the Al Jazeera recording provides undeniable evidence of her involvement in chicanery as well as an Israeli scheme to interfere even more directly in the domestic politics of the United Kingdom.

It cannot be denied that an official of the Israeli Embassy in London collaborated with a British government employee who worked for a pro-Israeli Member of Parliament in order to attempt to destroy the reputation of a British government Minister. Yet the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office — the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose Minister of State (in effect the deputy foreign minister) was the person specifically targeted for a campaign of Israeli-British denigration — quickly stated that ‘The Israeli Ambassador has apologised and is clear these comments do not reflect the views of the embassy or government of Israel. The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.’

And that is that. There will be no action by the British government, in spite of Mr Masot reflecting amusingly, and no doubt to the approval of Ms Strizzolo and much of the British public, that the Foreign Minister himself, Mr Boris Johnson, ‘is an idiot with no responsibilities.’

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, is entirely pro-Israel, as demonstrated by her criticism of departing US Secretary of State John Kerry who described the Israeli government as the ‘most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements.’ He was perfectly correct, but Mrs May scolded him and pleased the Israeli government by stating that she does ‘not believe that it is appropriate to attack the composition of the democratically elected government of an ally.’

The Conservative and Labour and all the other Friends of Israel have worked their magic in Britain, as does the enormously powerful Israeli lobby in the United States, and the Al Jazeera revelations were only a one-day-wonder in the West.

The Matter is Closed.

But imagine the outcry if there had been reports concerning such actions in London (or Washington) by a representative of any nation other than Israel.

If a Russian diplomat in the capital of any Western country had tried to engage in underhand antics like Israel’s ‘Senior Political Officer’ in London there would be massive journalistic fandangos in American and British media. The West’s television channels would be near meltdown with hysterical condemnation of the threat to democracy and there would be prolonged and frenzied anti-Russian outbursts in their halls of government.

But when Israel schemes to ‘take down’ a respected British Government minister with the assistance of a British government official, and the Israeli ambassador apologises for being found out, the British ignore insult, injury, contempt and condescension, and declare that ‘The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.’

It is amazing what money can buy.

January 13, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 2 Comments