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Making Excuses for Russiagate

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News | May 18, 2018

The best evidence that Russia-gate is sinking beneath the waves is the way those pushing the pseudo-scandal are now busily covering their tracks. The Guardian complains that “as the inquiry has expanded and dominated the news agenda over the last year, the real issues of people’s lives are in danger of being drowned out by obsessive cable television coverage of the Russia investigation” – as if the Guardian’s own coverage hasn’t been every bit as obsessive as anything CNN has come up with.

The Washington Post, second to none when it comes to painting Putin as a real-life Lord Voldemort, now says that Special counsel Robert Mueller “faces a particular challenge maintaining the confidence of the citizenry” as his investigation enters its second year – although it’s sticking to its guns that the problem is not the inquiry itself, but “the regular attacks he faces from President Trump, who has decried the probe as a ‘witch hunt.’”

And then there’s the New York Times, which this week devoted a 3,600-word front-page article to explain why the FBI had no choice but to launch an investigation into Trump’s alleged Russian links and how, if anything, the inquiry wasn’t aggressive enough. As the article puts it, “Interviews with a dozen current and former government officials and a review of documents show that the FBI was even more circumspect in that case than has been previously known.”

It’s Nobody’s Fault

The result is a late-breaking media chorus to the effect that it’s not the fault of the FBI that the investigation has dragged on with so little to show for it; it’s not the fault of Mueller either, and, most of all, it’s not the fault of the corporate press, even though it’s done little over the last two years than scream about Russia. It’s not anyone’s fault, evidently, but simply how the system works.

This is nonsense, and the gaping holes in the Times article show why.

The piece, written by Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, and Nicholas Fandos and entitled “Code Name Crossfire Hurricane: The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation,” is pretty much like everything else the Times has written on the subject, i.e. biased, misleading, and incomplete. Its main argument is that the FBI had no option but to step in because four Trump campaign aides had “obvious or suspected Russian ties.”

‘At Putin’s Arm’

One was Michael Flynn, who would briefly serve as Donald Trump’s national security adviser and who, according to the Times, “was paid $45,000 by the Russian government’s media arm for a 2015 speech and dined at the arm of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.” Another was Paul Manafort, who briefly served as Trump’s campaign chairman and was a source of concern because he had “lobbied for pro-Russia interests in Ukraine and worked with an associate who has been identified as having connections to Russian intelligence.” A third was Carter Page, a Trump foreign-policy adviser who “was well known to the FBI” because “[h]e had previously been recruited by Russian spies and was suspected of meeting one in Moscow during the campaign.” The fourth was George Papadopoulos, a “young and inexperienced campaign aide whose wine-fueled conversation with the Australian ambassador set off the investigation. Before hacked Democratic emails appeared online, he had seemed to know that Russia had political dirt on Mrs. Clinton.”

Seems incriminating, eh? But in each case the connection was more tenuous than the Times lets on. Flynn, for example, didn’t dine “at the arm of the Russian president” at a now-famous December 2015 Moscow banquet honoring the Russian media outlet RT. He was merely at a table at which Putin happened to sit down for “maybe five minutes, maybe twenty, tops,” according to Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein who was just a few chairs away. No words were exchanged, Stein says, and “[n]obody introduced anybody to anybody. There was no translator. The Russians spoke Russian. The four people who spoke English spoke English.”

The Manafort associate with the supposed Russian intelligence links turns out to be a Russian-Ukrainian translator named Konstantin Kilimnik who studied English at a Soviet military school and who vehemently denies any such connection. It seems that the Ukrainian authorities did investigate the allegations at one point but declined to press charges. So the connection is unproven.

Page Was No Spy

The same goes for Carter Page, who was not “recruited” by Russian intelligence, but, rather, approached by what he thought were Russian trade representatives at a January 2013 energy symposium in New York. When the FBI informed him five or six months later that it believed the men were intelligence agents, Page appears to have cooperated fully based on a federal indictment filed with the Southern District of New York. Thus, Page was not a spy but a government informant as ex-federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy has pointed out – in other words, a good guy, as the Times would undoubtedly see it, helping the catch a couple of baddies.

As for Papadopoulos, who the Times suggests somehow got advance word that WikiLeaks was about to dump a treasure trove of Hillary Clinton emails, the article fails to mention that at the time the conversation with the Australian ambassador took place, the Clinton communications in the news were the 30,000 State Department emails that she had improperly stored on her private computer. These were the emails that “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about,” as Bernie Sanders put it. Instead of spilling the beans about a data breach yet to come, it’s more likely that Papadopoulos was referring to emails that were already in the news – a possibility the Times fails to discuss.

FBI ‘Perplexed’

One could go on. But not only does the Times article get the details wrong, it paints the big picture in misleading tones as well. It says that the FBI was “perplexed” by such Trump antics as calling on Russia to release still more Clinton emails after WikiLeaks went public with its disclosure. The word suggests a disinterested observer who can’t figure out what’s going on. But it ignores how poisonous the atmosphere had become by that point and how everyone’s mind was seemingly made up.

By July 2016, Clinton was striking out at Trump at every opportunity about his Russian ties – not because they were true, but because a candidate who had struggled to come up with a winning slogan had at last come across an issue that seemed to resonate with her fan base. Consequently, an intelligence report that Russia was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee “was a godsend,” wrote Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes in Shatteredtheir best-selling account of the Clinton campaign, because it was “hard evidence upon which Hillary could start to really build the case that Trump was actually in league with Moscow.”

Not only did Clinton believe this, but her followers did as well, as did the corporate media and, evidently, the FBI. This is the takeaway from text messages that FBI counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok exchanged with FBI staff attorney Lisa Page.

Andrew McCarthy, who has done a masterful job of reconstructing the sequence, notes that in late July 2016, Page mentioned an article she had come across on a liberal web site discussing Trump’s alleged Russia ties. Strzok texted back that he’s “partial to any women sending articles about nasty the Russians are.” Page replied that the Russians “are probably the worst. Very little I finding redeeming about this. Even in history. Couple of good writers and artists I guess.” Strzok heartily agreed: “f***ing conniving cheating savages. At statecraft, athletics, you name it. I’m glad I’m on Team USA.”

The F’ing Russian ‘Savages’

This is the institutional bias that the Times doesn’t dare mention. An agency whose top officials believe that “f***ing conniving cheating savages” are breaking down the door is one that is fairly guaranteed to construe evidence in the most negative, anti-Russian way possible while ignoring anything to the contrary. So what if Carter Page had cooperated with the FBI? What’s important is that he had had contact with Russian intelligence at all, which was enough to render him suspicious in the bureau’s eyes. Ditto Konstantin Kilimnik. So what if the Ukrainian authorities had declined to press charges? The fact that they had even looked was damning enough.

The FBI thus made the classic methodological error of allowing its investigation to be contaminated by its preconceived beliefs. Objectivity fell by the wayside. The Times says that Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 agent whose infamous, DNC and Clinton camp paid-for opposition research dossier turned “golden showers” into a household term, struck the FBI as “highly credible” because he had “helped agents unravel complicated cases” in the past. Perhaps. But the real reason is that he told agents what they wanted to hear, which is that the “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years” with the “[a]im, endorsed by PUTIN, … [of] encourage[ing] splits and divisions in [the] western alliance.” (which can be construed as a shrewd defensive move against a Western alliance massing troops on Russian borders.)

What else would one expect of people as “nasty” as these? In fact, the Steele dossier should have caused alarm bells to go off. How could Putin have possibly known five years before that Trump would be a viable presidential candidate? Why would high-level Kremlin officials share inside information with an ex-intelligence official thousands of miles away? Why would the dossier declare on one page that the Kremlin has offered Trump “various lucrative real estate development business deals” but then say on another that Trump’s efforts to drum up business had gone nowhere and that he therefore “had had to settle for the use of extensive sexual services there from local prostitutes rather than business success”? Given that the dossier was little more than “oppo research” commissioned and funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, why was it worthy of consideration at all?

The Rush to Believe

But all such questions disappeared amid the general rush to believe. The Times is right that the FBI slow-walked the investigation until Election Day. This is because agents assumed that Trump would lose and that therefore there was no need to rush. But when he didn’t, the mood turned to one of panic and fury.

Without offering a shred of evidence, the FBI, CIA, NSA, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a formal assessment on Jan. 6, 2017, that “Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election … [in order] to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

The New Yorker reports that an ex-aide to John McCain hoped to persuade the senator to use the Steele dossier to force Trump to resign even before taking office. (The ex-aide denies that this was the case.)

When FBI Director James Comey personally confronted Trump with news of the dossier two weeks prior to inauguration, the Times says he “feared making this conversation a ‘J. Edgar Hoover-type situation,’ with the FBI presenting embarrassing information “to lord over a president-elect.”

But that is precisely what happened. When someone – most likely CIA Director John Brennan, now a commentator with NBC News – leaked word of the meeting and Buzzfeed published the dossier four days later, the corporate media went wild. Trump was gravely wounded, while Adam Schiff, Democratic point man on the House Intelligence Committee, would subsequently trumpet the Steele dossier as the unvarnished truth. According to the Times account, Trump was unpersuaded by Comey’s assurances that he was there to help. “Hours earlier,” the paper says, “… he debuted what would quickly become a favorite phrase: ‘This is a political witch hunt.’”

The Times clearly regards the idea as preposterous on its face. But while Trump is wrong about many things, on this one subject he happens to be right. The press, the intelligence community, and the Democrats have all gone off the deep end in search of a Russia connection that doesn’t exist. They misled their readers, they made fools of themselves, and they committed a crime against journalism. And now they’re trying to dodge the blame.

Daniel Lazare is the author of The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

University Professor Sacked for Telling-the-Truth

Peter Ridd as a first year undergraduate science student at James Cook University back in 1978 – forty years ago.
By Jennifer Marohasy | May 19, 2018

BACK in 2016, when I asked Peter Ridd if he would write a chapter for the book I was editing I could not possibly have envisaged it could contribute to the end of his thirty-year career as a university professor.

Considering that Peter enrolled at James Cook University as an undergraduate back in 1978, he has been associated with that one university for forty years.

Since Peter was fired on 2 May 2018, the university has attempted to remove all trace of this association: scrubbing him completely from their website.

But facts don’t cease to exist because they are removed from a website. The university has never challenged the veracity of Peter’s legitimate claims about the quality of much of the reef science: science on which billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded research is being squandered. These issues are not going away.

Just yesterday (Friday 18 May), Peter lodged papers in the Federal Court. He is going to fight for his job back! […]

Peter deliberately choose to frame the book chapter about the replication crisis that is sweeping through science.

In this chapter – The Extraordinary Resilience of Great Barrier Reef Coral and Problems with Policy Science – Peter details the major problems with quality assurance when it comes to claims of the imminent demise of the reef.

Policy science concerning the Great Barrier Reef is almost never checked. Over the next few years, Australian governments will spend more than a billion dollars on the Great Barrier Reef; the costs to industry could far exceed this. Yet the keystone research papers have not been subject to proper scrutiny. Instead, there is a total reliance on the demonstrably inadequate peer-review process.

Ex-professor Peter Ridd has also published extensively in the scientific literature on the Great Barrier Reef, including issues with the methodology used to measure calcification rates. In the book he explains:

Like trees, which produce rings as they grow, corals set down a clearly identifiable layer of calcium carbonate skeleton each year, as they grow. The thicknesses and density of the layers can be used to infer calcification rates and are, effectively, a measure of the growth rate. Dr Glenn De’ath and colleagues from the Australian Institute of Marine Science used cores from more than 300 corals, some of which were hundreds of years old, to measure the changes in calcification during the last few hundred years. They claimed there was a precipitous decline in calcification since 1990, as shown in Figure 1.2.

The LHS chart suggests a problem with coral growth rates – but the real problem is with the methodology. When corals of equivalent age are sampled, there has been no decline in growth rates at the Great Barrier Reef – as shown in the RHS chart.

However, I have two issues with their analysis. I published my concerns, and an alternative analysis, in the journal Marine Geology (Ridd et al. 2013). First, there were instrumental errors with the measurements of the coral layers. This was especially the case for the last layer at the surface of the coral, which was often measured as being much smaller than the reality. This forced an apparent drop in the average calcification for the corals that were collected in the early 2000s – falsely implying a recent calcification drop. Second, an ‘age effect’ was not acknowledged. When these two errors are accounted for, the drop in calcification rates disappear, as shown in Figure 1.2.

The problem with the ‘age effect’, mentioned above, arose because in the study De’ath and colleagues included data from corals sampled during two distinct periods and with a different focus; I will refer to these as two campaigns. The first campaign occurred mostly in the 1980s and focused on very large coral specimens, sometimes many metres across. The second campaign occurred in the early 2000s due to the increased interest in the effects of CO2. However, presumably due to cost cutting measures, instead of focusing on the original huge coral colonies, the second campaign measured smaller colonies, many just a few tens of centimetres in diameter.

In summary, the first campaign focused on large old corals, while, in contrast, the second campaign focused on small young corals. The two datasets were then spliced together, and wholly unjustifiable assumptions were implicitly made, but not stated – in particular that there is no age effect on coral growth…

Dr Juan D’Olivo Cordero from the University of Western Australia collected an entirely different dataset of coral cores from the Great Barrier Reef to determine calcification rates. This study determined that there has been a 10% increase in calcification rates since the 1940s for offshore and mid-shelf reefs, which is the location of about 99% of all the coral on the Great Barrier Reef. However, these researchers also measured a 5% decline in calcification rates of inshore corals – the approximately 1% of corals that live very close to the coast. Overall, there was an increase for most of the Great Barrier Reef, and a decrease for a small fraction of the Great Barrier Reef.

While it would seem reasonable to conclude that the results of the study by D’Olivo et al. would be reported as good news for the Great Barrier Reef, their article in the journal Coral Reefs concluded:

Our new findings nevertheless continue to raise concerns, with the inner-shelf reefs continuing to show long-term declines in calcification consistent with increased disturbance from land-based effects. In contrast, the more ‘pristine’ mid- and outer-shelf reefs appear to be undergoing a transition from increasing to decreasing rates of calcification, possibly reflecting the effects of CO2-driven climate change.

Imaginatively, this shift from ‘increasing’ to ‘decreasing’ seems to be based on an insignificant fall in the calcification rate in some of the mid-shelf reefs in the last two years of the 65-year dataset.

Why did the authors concentrate on this when their data shows that the reef is growing about 10% faster than it did in the 1940s?

James Cook university could have used the chapter as an opportunity to start a much-needed discussion about policy, funding and the critical importance of the scientific method. Instead, Peter was first censored by the University – and now he has been fired.

When I first blogged on this back in February, Peter needed to raise A$95,000 to fight the censure.

This was achieved through an extraordinary effort, backed by Anthony Watts, Joanne Nova, John Roskam and so many others.

To be clear, the university is not questioning the veracity of what ex-professor Ridd has written, but rather his right to say this publicly. In particular, the university is claiming that he has not been collegial and continues to speak-out even after he was told to desist.

New allegations have been built on the original misconduct charges that I detailed back in February. The core issue continues to be Peter’s right to keep talking – including so that he can defend himself.

In particular, the university objects to the original GoFundMe campaign (that Peter has just reopened) because it breaches claimed confidentiality provisions in Peter’s employment agreement. The university claims that Peter Ridd was not allowed to talk about their action against him. Peter disputes this.

Of course, if Peter had gone along with all of this, he would have been unable to raise funds to get legal advice – to defend himself! All of the documentation is now being made public – all of this information, and more can be found at Peter’s new website.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | 10 Comments

To ‘protect democracy,’ scandal-fearing Facebook teams up with ‘unbiased’ Atlantic Council

RT | May 17, 2018

Would you like a think tank advocating acts of terrorism, war and suppression of the media working with Facebook to protect democracy and elections worldwide? If so, great news!

Facebook is “excited to launch a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, which has a stellar reputation looking at innovative solutions to hard problems,” Katie Harbath, Facebook’s director for global politics and government outreach, announced on Thursday.

“Experts” from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL) will work closely with Facebook’s “security, policy and product teams” to offer “real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world,” Harbath added.

But wait, there’s more! The Atlantic Council’s Digital Research Unit Monitoring Missions will help Facebook watch out for “misinformation and foreign interference” during “elections and other highly sensitive moments” and also work to “help educate citizens as well as civil society.”

While this will likely be cheered by those who still believe that Russian agents acting on personal orders of President Vladimir Putin’s pet bear used Facebook to hack American democracy, everyone else just got a whole list of reasons to be worried about Mark Zuckerberg’s ability to suppress what he believes to be Wrongthink.

The Atlantic Council is basically the academic arm of NATO, an aggressive military alliance that equates freedom and democracy with depleted uranium and regime change in places like Yugoslavia and Libya. The think tank itself hosts lively debates between people who hate Russia and people who really hate Russia. Such is its commitment to Western liberal values, the think tank actually advocated terrorist attacks in Russia and demanded that Russian news outlets be forced to register as foreign agents – a demand that was actually put into effect shortly thereafter.

As for the haughtily named Digital Forensic Research Lab, it employs such luminaries as “couch analyst” Eliot Higgins, aka Bellingcat, and is led by Ben “grammar errors make you a Russian bot” Nimmo.

A recent “expert analysis” by DFRL commissioned by the British government resulted in accusations that real, live people are “Russian bots” only because they dared express opinions differing from those officially sanctioned by the mainstream media. Yet the top two examples used in the report, Ian56 and Partisangirl, both turned out to be real human beings – one a British man and the other a Syrian living in Australia.

Nimmo then tried to wiggle out of the hole he dug for himself by calling the two “trolls” rather than bots, but nonetheless guilty of pushing “Russian” narratives.

This, then, is the outfit Facebook has chosen to team up with “to protect free and fair elections across the world.”

Another reason for teaming up with the Atlantic Council is buried towards the end of Harbath’s blog post, where she says that preventing electoral abuse “requires the right policies and regulatory structures,” and the think tank’s “network of leaders is uniquely situated to help all of us think through the challenges we will face.”

Having connections and access to power and influence certainly doesn’t hurt, especially when Facebook is being raked over hot coals by politicians eager to blame Zuckerberg’s multibillion-dollar enterprise for failing to win elections they believed they were entitled to.

Last month, Facebook also announced it would rank news sites based on “trust.” No details were given as to how that scheme might work, but Facebook has already partnered up with several mainstream media outlets to “fact-check” news.

You know, the same mainstream media who on Wednesday breathlessly reported the fake news that President Donald Trump had called illegal immigrants “animals.” Even a cursory viewing of the event, live-streamed on YouTube, could reveal he was talking about the notorious gang MS-13, but very few outlets bothered to check.

So far, only the Associated Press has retracted the report, acknowledging that it was erroneous. That leaves the question of who will fact-check the fact-checkers. Facebook seems to believe the Atlantic Council will.

Read more:

Your guide to top anti-Russia think tanks in US & who funds them

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Dr Amer Ghantous on Al Jazeera March 2011 lies on Syria

Eva K Bartlett | May 17, 2018

When in Syria, and before going to Dara’a itself, I interviewed Dr. Amer Ghantous about his experiences and observations on having worked in a military hospital in Dara’a governorate in March 2011. He spoke of being instructed to give priority to treating any civilians who came to the hospital before soldiers. He also spoke of the hospital receiving soldiers who had clearly been shot by snipers.

In this short clip, Dr. Ghantous speaks of the lies of Al Jazeera, and touches on the pre-planned nature of events in March 2011. Full interview to follow.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste

Photo by Iwan Gabovitch | CC BY 2.0
By John Laforge | CounterPunch | May 18, 2018

Last month’s explosive news from the safe, reliable nuclear deterrence folks is that at least four barrels of military radioactive waste either burst or exploded somewhere inside the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), near Idaho Falls, April 11. INL officials said the “ruptured” barrels reportedly contained a sludge of fluids and solvents sent from the long-shuttered Rocky Flats plutonium weapons machining site near Denver. The officials did not describe which radioactive materials were in the sludge.

The accident was reported by ABC News, the Associated Press, the Seattle Times, the Japan Times, Industrial Equipment News, and Fox Radio among others. Laboratory spokespersons said a 55-gallon drum, or two, holding radioactive sludge “ruptured.” Energy Department (DOE) spokesperson Danielle Miller wrote April 12 that, “Later, there were indications that a third drum may have been involved.” On April 25 Erik Simpson, a spokesman for DOE contractor Fluor Idaho, told the AP that four barrels had burst. Simpson said the “ruptures” (i.e. explosions) were heard outside the building where they took place.

The DOE’s Miller called the prompt deconstruction of the rad waste barrel(s) an “exothermal event” — a pseudonym for “bomb” that means “a chemical reaction accompanied by a burst of heat.” The phrase harks back to the officially described “gaseous ignition event” involving hydrogen gas in a loaded high-level rad waste cask at Wisconsin’s Point Beach reactor site in May 1996. The cask contained 14 tons of highly radioactive used reactor fuel, and the explosion (a word avoided only by agency public relations linguistic gymnastics) blew the high-level waste cask’s 4,000-pound lid right off.

One theory about the cause of the accident is that “radioactive decay made the barrel[s] heat up and ignite particles of uranium,” the AP reported. Unfortunately for the first responders, “When the firefighters left the building emergency workers detected a small amount of radioactive material on their skin,” the AP reported April 12. The very next sentence in this story was that the DOE’s Miller said, “None of the radioactive material was detected outside of the building where the rupture occurred.” The isotopes that contaminated the firefighters somehow don’t figure in to Miller’s “outside.”

Because of what officials said was “decades of secretive record-keeping,” lab authorities claimed not to know exactly what is in the burst barrels. Neither DOE nor INL described what got on the firefighters’ skin. INL officials do not “know the exact contents,” of the barrels, Joint Information Center spokesman Don Miley reportedly said.

Nuclear waste explosions “actually happening”

Miley told the press, “They haven’t run into anything like this actually happening” — but he has a short memory. Exploding rad waste has been around a long time.

It happened four years ago, on Valentine’s Day 2014, at the U.S. Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico. A barrel of military plutonium waste exploded underground, contaminating the entire facility, including the elevator and ventilator shafts, and even poisoned 22 workers internally — they inhaled the plutonium-laced dust.

More recently, on October 18, 2015, a fire and explosions spurred by rainfall hurled 11 buried barrels of radioactive chemical waste from a trench into the air and spewed debris like a geyser 60 feet high, at a “US Ecology” site near Beatty, Nevada. This shocking fire in one of 22 shallow trenches of radioactive waste couldn’t be put out with water hoses because water started it in the first place. Authorities had to close US Highway 95, cancel school, and await more explosions while they let the fire burned itself out. US Ecology had its records seized by Nevada’s Radiation Control Program, which has never disclosed what sorts of radioactive materials were burned in exploded Trench 14 — although dump site is known to hold a total of 47 lbs. of plutonium and uranium isotopes.

In September 1957 at Kyshtym in Russia, a tank holding 70 million metric tons of highly radioactive waste exploded and produced a massive plume that contaminated 250,000 people across 410 square miles. This risk always comes with high-level rad waste. It helped cancel the plan to use Yucca Mountain, Nevada for abandonment of commercial nuclear power waste, because physicists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory reported in 1995 that the material could erupt in a catastrophic explosion. Now, naturally, the Trump regime and his Congress want to restart that rejected plan.

After the Idaho Lab accident, the DOE’s Danielle Miller told reporters that first responders “got some radioactive contamination on their skin, but emergency workers washed it away.” And, she added, “The firefighters did not inhale any of the radioactive material.” Miller couldn’t possibly know this without extensive medical evaluation, but it could be true: if the nose and mouth weren’t attached to the skin.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Environmentalism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Russian Meddling in Mexican Election Statements Groundless – President of Senate

Sputnik – 18.05.2018

The statements made by US and Mexican politicians about alleged the interference of Moscow in the elections in Mexico are unfounded, Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, the president of the Mexican Senate, told Sputnik.

“They had not presented any evidence and we should understand that during the election campaign people become very creative and inventive,” the Mexican politician said.

According to the senior lawmaker, the Mexican side has not registered any foreign meddling in the election process.

Mexicans will elect the next president of the nation on July 1. Ahead of the vote, former US National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster said that the United States noticed signs of “Russian intervention” in the Mexican presidential election.

Enrique Ochoa, the leader of Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (IRR), said the international media outlets had “documented” the interests of Russia and Venezuela in backing leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Russia has faced numerous accusations of interference in foreign elections, including the 2016 US presidential vote. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called the claims groundless, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stressed that there was no evidence to substantiate such accusations.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

With Iran sanctions Trump made Europeans look like the fools they are

By John Laughland | RT | May 18, 2018

The attacks by European leaders against US President Donald Trump are getting sharper by the day.

On the day Trump announced that he was ripping up the Iran deal, and that the US would impose sanctions on European companies trading with that country, the French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said that European states refused to be treated like “vassals” of the US.

At Aachen on 11 May, Emmanuel Macron effectively accused the US of blackmail.  On 17 May, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, asked, “With friends like that (i.e. Trump), who needs enemies?”

The temperature only rose further when the French energy giant Total announced that it would pull out of a multi-billion dollar gas deal with Iran unless European diplomacy succeeds in obtaining a specific waiver from US sanctions. Other European behemoths including Allianz and Siemens have also announced either that they will wind down operations in Iran or that they will not start any new ones.

These statements show that Trump’s decision is a slap in the face for the EU politically, economically and – perhaps above all – ideologically. Politically, because both Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel made special trips to Washington to plead with Trump, to no avail whatever.  Moreover, the EU is itself a signatory to the Iran deal, which it regards as a major diplomatic triumph from which it draws credibility: its disavowal by Trump is a deep insult to the diplomatic status of the EU as such.

Economically, because of the gigantic contracts which European companies could lose. For years, following the nearly $9 billion fine imposed by the US on Paribas in 2015, European companies and banks have been terrified of engaging in any business activity likely to attract the ire of the Americans. Deals with Russia, for instance, are shunned. The effect of this latest decision could be like many Paribas situations at once.

Ideologically, because the EU draws its entire legitimacy from the belief that by pooling sovereignty and by merging its states into one entity, it has advanced beyond the age when international relations were decided by force. It believes that it embodies instead a new international system based on rules and agreements, and that any other system leads to war. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this belief for European leaders; yet Donald Trump has just driven a coach and horses through it.

The angry statements by European leaders might lead one to think that we are on the cusp of a major reappraisal of trans-Atlantic relations. However, the reality is that the EU and its leaders have painted themselves into a corner from which it will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to extricate themselves.

First, the links between the EU and the US are not only very long-standing, they are also set in stone. NATO and the EU are in reality Siamese twins, two bodies born at the same time which are joined at the hip. The first European community was created with overt and covert US support in 1950 in order to militarize Western Europe and to prepare it to fight a land war against the Soviet Union; NATO acquired its integrated command structure a few months later and its Supreme Commander is always an American.

Today the two organizations are legally inseparable because the consolidated Treaty on European Union, in the form adopted at Lisbon in 2009, states that EU foreign policy “shall respect” the obligations of NATO member states and that it shall “be compatible” with NATO policy. In other words, the constitutional charter of the EU subordinates it to NATO, which the USA dominates legally and structurally. In such circumstances, European states can only liberate themselves from US hegemony, as Donald Tusk said they should, by leaving the EU.  It is obvious that they are not prepared to do that.

Second, EU leaders have burned their own bridges with other potential partners, especially Russia. Angela Merkel traveled to Russia on Friday but only a few weeks ago more than half of the EU member states expelled scores of Russian diplomats and encouraged non-EU European states like Ukraine and Montenegro to do the same, in retaliation for the poisoning in Salisbury of Sergei and Julia Skripal.

How is Mrs Merkel going to convince Mr Putin to join her in keeping Iran’s nuclear program under control if she officially thinks that Mr Putin is guilty of secretly stockpiling and using chemical weapons for assassinations in the West?  Only a few weeks later, in mid-April, Britain and France, together with the US, attacked Syria on the basis that its army had used chemical weapons at Douma with Russian backing. If they try to turn on the charm now in Sochi or in Moscow, do they really expect the Russians can take them seriously?

Third, how can EU leaders complain about US sanctions against their companies when they themselves have applied sanctions against Russian companies causing major economic disruptions in that country? EU states have also introduced punitive sanctions against Syria since 2011, one of the biggest programs of sanctions ever, whose effect and purpose is to disrupt the activities of the Syrian state including its ability to provide public goods like health.

Britain and France, who are, with Germany, the European signatories of the Iran deal, have been pursuing regime change in Syria for half a decade. By what right do they protest now that the US administration is taking decisions whose goal is to provoke regime change in Iran?

As if these external issues were not bad enough, the EU is currently riven by internal divisions too. Donald Tusk may say “Europe must be united economically, politically and also militarily like never before … either we are together or we are not at all” but Europe is indeed not “together” at all. The Brussels commission is hounding Poland and Hungary on what are clearly internal political matters beyond the Commission’s remit; the EU is about to lose one of its most important member states; and a new government is going to take power in Rome whose economic policies (a flat tax at 15%) will blow the eurozone’s borrowing rules out of the water and perhaps cause Italy to leave the euro.

The Italian 5-Star / League government also wants an end to the EU sanctions against Russia; these are voted by a unanimity which, although fragile, has held until now but which, if the new power in Rome keeps its word, will shortly collapse. In other words, what Trump has done is to make the Europeans look like the fools they are. In circumstances in which the EU has placed all its eggs in one basket, a basket which Trump has now overturned, it will be impossible for it to come together. On the contrary, it is falling apart.

John Laughland, who has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford and who has taught at universities in Paris and Rome, is a historian and specialist in international affairs.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Gaza Massacre Exposes Western Hypocrisy on Russia’s ‘Annexation’ of Crimea

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.05.2018

This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a new 19-kilometer bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula with mainland southern Russia. Thousands of kilometers away, in occupied Palestine, a massacre was being carried out by Israeli soldiers with full support of the United States as it opened a new embassy.

The two events are not as disparate as one might think at first glance. They both involve “annexation” – one fictitious, the other very real. But Western hypocrisy inverts the reality.

While US dignitaries were opening the new American embassy in Jerusalem amid pomp and ceremony, some 60 unarmed Palestinian protesters were shot dead in cold blood by Israeli snipers. Among the dead were eight children. Thousands of others were maimed by live fire. The bloodshed could increase in coming days.

The relocation of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli-occupied city of Jerusalem, ordered by President Trump, has been rebuked by the majority of nations. The American move pre-empts any negotiated peace settlement which was supposed to bequeath East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Trump’s decision to relocate the American embassy effectively endorses Israeli claims to the whole of Jerusalem as the “undivided capital of the Jewish state”. Israel has occupied all of Jerusalem in contravention of international law since the 1967 Six Day War.

In other words, Washington has shifted from tacit acceptance to an openly complicit policy in Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory, an annexation which has been going on for seven decades since the inception of the Israeli state in 1948. The now de facto American approval of the annexation of all Jerusalem marked by the opening of the US embassy is the culmination of 70 years of Israeli expansion and occupation.

Meanwhile, Putin’s unveiling this week of the bridge linking southern Russian mainland to the Crimea Peninsula is a timely reminder of the brazen hypocrisy of American and European states.

Since Crimea voted in a referendum in March 2014 to rejoin its historic homeland of Russia, Washington and its allies have continually complained about Moscow’s alleged “annexation” of the Black Sea peninsula.

Never mind that the Crimean people were prompted to hold their accession referendum following a bloody coup in Ukraine against an elected government by CIA-backed Neo-Nazis in February 2014. The people of Crimea voted in a peacefully constituted referendum to secede from Ukraine to join Russia, which it was historically a part of until 1954 when the Soviet Union arbitrarily assigned Crimea to the jurisdiction of the Soviet Republic of Ukraine.

For the past four years, Western governments, their corporate news media and think-tanks, as well as the US-led NATO military alliance, have mounted an intense anti-Russian campaign of economic sanctions, denigration and offensive posturing all on the back of dubious claims that Russia “annexed” Crimea.

Relations between the US and the European Union towards Russia have descended into the freezer of a new and potentially catastrophic Cold War, supposedly motivated by the principle that Moscow had violated international law and changed borders by force. Russia’s alleged “annexation” of Crimea is cited as a sign of Moscow threatening Europe with expansionist aggression. Putin has been vilified as a “new Hitler” or “new Stalin” depending on your historical illiteracy.

This Western distortion about the events that occurred in Ukraine during 2014, and subsequently, can be easily disputed with hard facts as a blatant falsification to conceal what was actually illegal interference by Washington and its European allies in the sovereign affairs of the Ukraine. In short, Western interference was about regime change; with the objective of destabilizing Moscow and projecting NATO force on Russia’s borders.

That is one way of challenging the Western narrative about Ukraine and Crimea. Through weighing up factual events, such as the CIA-backed false-flag sniper shootings of dozens of protesters in Kiev in February 2014. Or the ongoing Western-backed military offensive by Kiev’s Neo-Nazi forces against the breakaway republics of Donbas in Eastern Ukraine.

Another way is to ascertain the integrity of supposed Western legal principle about the general practice of annexation of territory.

From listening to the incessant public consternation expressed by Western governments and media about Russia’s alleged annexation of Crimea, one might think that the putative expropriation of territory is a most grievous violation of international law. Oh how chivalrous, one might think, are Washington and the Europeans in their defense of territorial sovereignty, judging by their seeming righteous repudiation of “annexation”.

However, this week’s grotesque opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem accompanied by the massacre of protesting unarmed Palestinians shows that Western professed concerns about “annexation” are nothing but a diabolical sham. In seven decades of expanding illegal occupation of Palestinian territory by the Israelis, Washington and the Europeans have enacted no opposition.

But when it comes to Crimea, even though their case is not valid, the Western powers never stop hand-wringing about Russia’s “annexation” as if it was the biggest crime in modern history.

Worse than hypocrisy, the US and European Union have been silently complicit in allowing Israel to continue annexing more and more Palestinian territory despite the stark violation of international law. Periodic massacres and whole populations held under brutal military siege in the Gaza Strip and West Bank have never registered any effective opposition from Western powers.

This week, Washington has gone one step further to, in effect, exult in the Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory in the most provocative way by opening its embassy in occupied Jerusalem. Then on top of that violation of international law, we have the obscenity of the Trump White House defending the massacre of unarmed civilians as “an act of self-defense” by the illegally occupying and US-armed Israeli military. A White House license to kill.

The pathetic, muted response from the European Union and the United Nations towards this state terrorism and criminality exposes their cowardly complicity.

US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has for months been hysterically accusing Russia of violations in Ukraine and Syria. Yet, on the mass murder of Palestinians this week, Haley was silent. Her only remarks were to congratulate Israel over the new US embassy in occupied Jerusalem.

So, the next time we hear Washington and its European allies pontificate to Russia about “annexation”, the only fitting response should be one of contempt for their vile hypocrisy towards Palestinian rights and the ongoing genocide of its people under Western-backed occupation.

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

An Iranian Perspective on the Battle for Syria

By Rick Sterling | Consortium News | May 17, 2018

West against East on the Syrian battle-field, in the newspapers and now on film: A new, full-length action movie, titled Damascus Time, gives an Iranian perspective on the battle against ISIS in Syria.

The movie comes from Iranian screenwriter and film director Ebrahim Hatamikia. Two award-winning Iranian actors, Hadi Hejazifar and Babak Hamidian, play father and son pilots trying to rescue civilians besieged and attacked by ISIS forces in eastern Syria. The pilots have come to help the townspeople escape in an aging Ilyushin cargo plane.

Syrian and Iraqi actors play Syrian civilians and ISIS terrorists hell bent on blowing up the plane or using it on a suicide mission against Damascus.

The movie portrays sensational scenes from real ISIS atrocities with a backdrop showing the Syrian desert and famous ruins of Palmyra. The city where civilians are surrounded and besieged is similar to the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, which was surrounded and attacked by ISIS for years. During that time, the townspeople and soldiers depended on air-dropped food and ammunition to hold off the attackers, as shown in the movie.

Damascus Time’s jihadists display a human side, but they are wrapped in sectarianism, hate and violence.

Life’s complexities are demonstrated in the younger of the two Iranian pilots who has left his pregnant wife to be with his father. The mother-in-law of the young pilot bitterly criticizes him for leaving his wife. He tells her it will be his last trip.

While the story is fiction, what it portrays is all too real: Hundreds of thousands of real Syrians and Iraqis have been killed by the unleashing of the ISIS Frankenstein. Ironically, American leaders criticize Iran for being the “leading state sponsor of terrorism.” But in the Syrian war, Iran has been combatting it. Iran is more tolerant than most Westerners think too, as indeed Islam is. How many know for instance that Jews are represented in the Iranian parliament?

Western-backed Extremism

In reality, the U.S. and UK have allied for decades with extremists for short-term political gain. As documented in “Devil’s Game: How the U.S. Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam,” by Robert Dreyfuss, Britain and the U.S. promoted a violent and sectarian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood to undermine the nationalist and socialist policies of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Starting in 1979, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia promoted the founders of what became Al Qaeda to attack the socialist-leaning government of Afghanistan.

This policy has continued to the present. In the summer of 2012, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency outlined their strategy in a secret document : “THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR).”The U.S. looked favorably on what the document predicts will be the creation of the “Islamic State”: “THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME…”.

Then, in a leaked audio conversation with Syrian opposition figures in September, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S., rather than seriously fight Islamic State in Syria, was ready to use the growing strength of the jihadists to pressure Assad to resign, just as outlined in the DIA document.

“We know that this was growing, we were watching, we saw that Daesh [a derisive name for Islamic State] was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened,” Kerry said. “We thought however we could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate, but instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him.”

Russia began its military intervention in late September 2015 without the United States, with the Kremlin’s motives made abundantly clear by Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials. But such clear explanations are rarely reported clearly by Western corporate media, which instead peddles the line from officials and think tanks that Russia is trying to recover lost imperial glory in the Middle East.

Who sponsors terrorism?

But Kerry knew why Russia intervened. “The reason Russia came in is because ISIL [another acronym for Islamic State] was getting stronger, Daesh was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus, and that’s why Russia came in because they didn’t want a Daesh government and they supported Assad,” he said in the leaked discussion. Kerry’s comment suggests that the U.S. was willing to risk Islamic State and its jihadist allies gaining power in order to oust Assad.

The Biggest Sponsors

The true “state sponsor of terrorism” is not Iran; it is the West and their allies. Since Iran has been fighting ISIS and other extremists in Syria, it is appropriate that the first feature length movie depicting that battle against terrorism and ISIS comes from Iran.

Hundreds of Iranians have given their lives alongside their Syrian and Iraqi comrades. “Damascus Time” is not the product of Hollywood fantasy; it’s the product of actual human drama and conflict occurring in the Middle East today. “Damascus Time” is fictional but based on a real conflict with actual blood, atrocities, tragedies and martyrs.

The movie is currently being shown at cinemas throughout Iran. In recent weeks it was the second highest ranking movie. A trailer of the film can be viewed here. It should be available for viewing in the West in the near future, unless western sanctions and censorship are extended to culture.

Rick Sterling can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Film Review | , , , | Leave a comment

Clashing Visions of Denuclearization Pose Risk to U.S.-North Korea Summit

By Gregory Elich | Zoom In Korea | May 17, 2018

The soaring hopes generated by the recent Inter-Korean Summit are now supplanted by uncertainty, due to North Korea’s suspension of a planned meeting with the South.

In the weeks following the summit’s Panmunjom Declaration, North Korea took actions to demonstrate its goodwill and desire for peaceful resolution of differences.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – the formal name for North Korea) announced that it would dismantle its underground nuclear test site, culminating in explosions to collapse tunnels, the blocking of entries, and removal of above-ground facilities.

Substantial progress has already been made on disabling the site. The DPRK could have waited and made this a negotiable issue in talks with the United States. Instead, it offered the step to the United States ahead of the summit as a confidence-building measure. Before that, North Korea also committed to a suspension of nuclear and missile testing. As an additional gesture of good intentions, North Korea released all three American prisoners.

Initial signs from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meetings with Chairman Kim Jong Un were quite encouraging, hinting at an uncharacteristic degree of flexibility on the part of the Trump administration. North Korean media reported that the talks indicated that Trump “has a new alternative” and a “proactive attitude,” and that Kim and Pompeo had reached a “satisfactory agreement on the issues.”

Meanwhile, as Pompeo and Kim were making apparent headway, the process began to unravel from a different direction. There were many in the Trump administration who were not keen on the idea of reciprocity. The dominant view was that rewards, such as they were, could only come after denuclearization.

National Security Advisor John Bolton was trotted out for a series of interviews to elucidate the U.S. position. Permanent, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization would have to take place before “the benefits start to flow.” The expectation is that the DPRK should abandon its nuclear deterrent without receiving anything more in return than the promise of future rewards. Nor does Bolton consider nuclear disarmament to be sufficient. Negotiations have not begun, and already the U.S. is piling on more demands. Talks, Bolton insisted, would also need to tackle the DPRK’s ballistic missile program and human rights concerns. Chemical and biological weapons will also be on the agenda, he said, despite the fact that their existence is purely speculative. Negotiations on denuclearization will be challenging enough. Overloading the talks with additional issues is likely to be a recipe for failure.

Even as North Korea strives to meet American demands, it can expect no relief from sanctions and threats. Bolton asserts that the U.S. needs to see North Korea implementing denuclearization, and the policy of maximum pressure will not relent until that happens.

What kind of benefits can North Korea expect in return for compliance with U.S. demands? “I wouldn’t look for economic aid from us,” Bolton bluntly stated. Presumably, once North Korea has satisfied all of the Trump administration’s demands, sanctions will start to be reduced or eliminated. That is not a reward. If someone is punishing another, and then promises to reduce the amount of punishment, it is safe to say that the victim will not regard that as a “reward.”

On the economic front, Mike Pompeo agrees with Bolton. No taxpayer funds will go towards assisting North Korea, he said. What the United States is willing to do is send rapacious corporate investors to North Korea to seek profit-making opportunities. Once denuclearization has been completed and sanctions lifted, Pompeo says that what Chairman Kim “will get from America is our finest – our entrepreneurs, our risk takers, our capital providers…They will get private capital that comes in.” A strong argument could be made that those are actually among America’s worst people, and not to be wished upon North Korea or any other nation.

Pompeo went on to talk about North Korea’s need for energy, agricultural equipment, and technology. The need is there. But why is that? For decades, the United States has subjected the DPRK to enormous economic damage through sanctions. The North Korean people are not incapable of improving their lot. They only need to be allowed to do so, unhindered and unpunished. What the DPRK needs and what it consistently calls for is normalization of relations.

Certainly, North Korea is not looking to privatize state-owned firms or to contract out work to U.S. firms that it is capable of doing itself, once it is released from the burden of sanctions.

It is clear that the Trump administration is not willing to give anything to North Korea. It costs nothing to lift sanctions or to cherish the hope that lucrative opportunities will blossom in North Korea for U.S. investors. Signing a piece of paper promising a security guarantee imposes no burden on the United States. The Trump administration, or any future administration for that matter, is free to ignore that guarantee and send the cruise missiles flying whenever it sees fit.

Nor does the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran inspire confidence in the reliability of the United States as a negotiating partner.

Bolton’s pronouncements, perhaps aided by behind-the-scenes maneuvering, appear to have led Pompeo to walk back on his earlier statements about progress being made and having reached a mutual understanding with Chairman Kim. He is now reporting that a great deal of work remains and the U.S. and North Korea are not “remotely close.”

“We have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004,” Bolton recently told Fox News. That model would have North Korea ship its nuclear weapons to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for destruction. The DPRK would be required to complete disarmament before receiving relief from sanctions.

So how did that model work for Libya? That nation began to denuclearize at the beginning of 2004, and throughout the process, it fully complied with U.S. demands for unilateral denuclearization. But the United States was slow when it came to compensation, and the Libyans often complained to American diplomats that they had not been rewarded for their compliance. It was not until 2006 that the U.S. restored diplomatic relations and removed Libya from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Although the U.S. was sluggish in providing relief to Libya, it was eager to issue more demands. John Bolton, who was Under-secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration at the time, told Libyan officials that they had to sever military cooperation with Iran in order to complete the denuclearization agreement. On at least one occasion, a U.S. official pressured Libya to cut off military trade with North Korea, Iran, and Syria.

American officials also demanded that Libya recognize the independence of Kosovo, a position that Libya had consistently opposed. That was followed by a U.S. diplomatic note to Libya, ordering it to vote against the Serbian government’s resolution at the United Nations, which requested a ruling by the International Court of Justice on the legality of Kosovo independence. Under the circumstances, Libya preferred to absent itself from the vote rather than join the United States and three other nations in opposing the measure.

The U.S. was more successful in winning Libya’s vote in favor of UN sanctions against Iran. Under U.S. pressure, Libya also launched a privatization program and opened opportunities for U.S. businesses.

North Korea can expect the same treatment if it follows this model. The United States will start to treat it as a vassal state, expecting it to take orders on myriad issues having nothing to do with denuclearization.

We know how the model ended, with the United States and its NATO partners bombing Libya, and the brutal murder of Muammar al-Qaddafi. The North Koreans know it, too.

In 2006, Great Britain and Libya signed a Joint Letter on Peace and Security. The document stated that the two nations “pledge in their international relations to refrain from the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of one another.” It further obligated the parties to refrain from intervening in the internal affairs of one another. Five years later, Great Britain was aiding jihadists fighting to overthrow the government, and joining NATO in bombing Libya. That is the Libya model, too, in which a Western security “guarantee” is proven worthless.

The DPRK has a more credible action-for-action approach in mind for negotiations, in which there is a phased approach, and each side gains something as progress continues towards the final goal of denuclearization and normalization of relations.

In continuing to set a framework of mutual respect for talks, North Korea sharply reduced the scale of its annual armored vehicle exercises this month.

Washington is sending signals of a different nature, however. On May 11, the joint U.S.-South Korea Max Thunder air drills kicked off, deploying over 100 aircraft, including advanced Stealth F-22 Raptor fighter planes. This year’s exercise is the largest ever held, in an apparent bid to apply additional pressure on North Korea.

In response, North Korea announced that it was suspending its May 16 meeting with South Korean officials. KCNA, North Korea’s news agency, pointed out that the expanded drills constituted “an undisguised challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration,” in which both Koreas had pledged to cease all hostile acts. It added that the Panmunjom Declaration cannot be implemented by one party alone.

DPRK’s First Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Gwan followed that up by announcing that the improvement in relations with the United States risks being undone by American officials calling for unilateral disarmament and adherence to the Libya model. North Korea has already stated its intention to denuclearize in exchange for an end to the U.S. hostile policy, he continued. “But now, the U.S. is miscalculating the magnanimity and broad-minded initiatives of the DPRK as signs of weakness.”

North Korea has left the door open to the U.S. and South Korea. The May 16 meeting with South Korean officials was suspended, not cancelled. And the North Koreans are saying that they will closely watch the behavior of U.S. and South Korean officials. Portrayed in Western media as an act of inexplicable petulance, the suspension of the inter-Korean meeting is a wake-up call to the United States and South Korea. The capitulation model is not a viable approach. Reciprocity is essential.

The North Koreans are not going to relinquish their nuclear deterrent for nothing more than an empty security promise and the suggestion that sanctions may be lifted if they meet a host of additional demands.

During the Obama administration, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program was at a sufficiently immature stage of development that the United States felt it could demand that North Korea fully denuclearize as a precondition for talks.

After the DPRK completed its fast-track nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs, it now has something substantial to trade. It expects the United States to engage in the normal give-and-take of diplomatic negotiations. Former U.S. Department of State Special Representative for North Korea Joseph Yun notes, “The price has gone up. You have to address what they want. If you believe they should only address what we want I think that’s a very, very mistaken path.”


Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and a Korea Policy Institute associate. He is a member of the Solidarity Committee for Democracy and Peace in Korea, a columnist for Voice of the People, and one of the co-authors of Killing Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language. He is also a member of the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and Militarism in Asia and the Pacific.

His website is https://gregoryelich.org

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Israel blocks Turkey from transporting wounded Palestinians from Gaza

RT | May 18, 2018

Turkey’s attempts to evacuate Palestinians wounded in Gaza for medical treatment have been blocked by Israel, the government in Ankara said.

Israel is blocking Turkey from “standing beside our oppressed brothers,” Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Recep Akdag, said, as cited by Anadolu Agency. Turkey asked to send a plane to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, but the request was rejected due to political and security concerns, according to Israel’s Channel 10.

“We received a request from international health authorities to approve a Turkish flight to evacuate those being treated in Gaza to Turkey,” Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman told Channel 10.

“After discussion with security agencies and Israeli experts, we decided to allow treatment in Israel and/or to send medical supplies to Gaza. But we did not permit the Turkish flight.”

Tensions have increased between the two nations since Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador from Ankara and withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv, in response to Israel’s killing of at least 60 Palestinians at the Great Return March protests in Gaza on Monday. More than 100 people have been killed during the six-week protests.

The Rafah border crossing has been opened for six days this week to allow injured Palestinians in Gaza to receive treatment in Egypt. Minister of Health Ahmed Emad Eddine said he had been “instructed by the political leadership” to allow Palestinians to be treated in Egyptian hospitals, Egypt Today reports.

Last month, Israel rejected a request to transfer two wounded Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank because they had taken part in the demonstrations. The High Court ruled Israel had to allow the patients to receive treatment, but at that stage both needed amputations.

“The situation in Gaza is devastating and the crisis is far from over,” UN humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said. “Medical teams in Gaza have exerted heroic efforts, working tirelessly and often at personal risk, to save lives. But stocks of medicines and supplies are being depleted, with few resources to replenish them. Our ability to reach affected families, including children, and provide assistance is extremely limited due to funding shortfalls.”

Before Monday’s protest, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Gaza said its medical facilities were “completely overwhelmed and will soon be unable to manage additional wounded,” and warned the health system was “on the verge of collapse.”

May 18, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | 9 Comments