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Robert Mueller Is A Coward And A Liar

By Raúl Ilargi Meijer | The Automatic Earth | February 4, 2019

That statement is going to make me real popular, right? Any criticism of Robert Mueller for many people equals support for President Trump. But it doesn’t, and Mueller really is a coward and a liar, and it’s not hard to make that case, it’s even easier than how he makes his cases, because we can actually prove ours. We also don’t have to pervert the law, but he does.

Robert Mueller is a coward because he again, in his indictment of Roger Stone last week, makes claims against people who can’t defend themselves, and who moreover have in at least one case, that of Julian Assange, previously and repeatedly denied those claims. And Robert Mueller’s a liar because many of his claims are evidently not true; but though he will never be able to prove them, and he knows it, he still makes his ‘case’ based on them.

It’s also public knowledge that Mueller has lied since at least the WMD facade. On February 11 2003, then FBI director Mueller testified before Congress: “… as Director Tenet has pointed out, Secretary Powell presented evidence last week that Baghdad has failed to disarm its weapons of mass destruction, willfully attempting to evade and deceive the international community. Our particular concern is that Saddam Hussein may supply terrorists with biological, chemical, or radiological material.”

We know today he was lying, as was Colin Powell (and the entire Bush administration). Which is also interesting because a number of Mueller’s accusations against various ‘suspects’ are basically just that: someone has lied to Congress and must be punished for it. This is again the case in Roger Stone’s indictment, which would ring awfully hollow without it. And we don’t have to know how true that accusation is to realize that it’s being brought by someone who himself lied to Congress, but was never indicted for it. That is curious no matter how you look at it.

So what would happen if Mueller takes any of his present indictments into a courtroom? Note: as long as he treats those he indicts the same way he treated Paul Manafort and others, he’ll probably never have to present anything in a court; every ‘suspect’ will sign a plea deal because he threatens to destroy them, their freedom, their finances, their families. But what IF he did, purely hypothetically? What proof -not allegations- could he present to a judge about Russians hacking US-based servers or computers?

And what evidence of Julian Assange working with Russians, or with the Trump campaign? He has none. All there is is US intelligence agencies making claims without providing evidence. And they are a party to the whole story, they are not mere observers, so no judge worth his/her salt can accept their word on anything just because it’s them saying it. Even the FBI has to present evidence. In court, that is.

In the meantime, in the absence of a courtroom, Robert Mueller has been free to accuse people for 20 months now, without proof. And what those 20 months have shown us culminates in the Roger Stone indictment, which makes clear -once more- that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Given his legal status, Mueller should be invested with the power to demand he gets the opportunity to talk to Assange. And in the unlikely event that he’s not provided with that opportunity by his superiors, at the very least he must stop talking about Assange. Can’t talk TO him, then stop talking ABOUT him. Sure, he never mentions his name, but that’s just more cowardice. We all know who Organization 1 is in Mueller’s indictments. And we all know who spoke for Organization 1 before he was muzzled.

Mueller could for instance travel to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after negotiating, both with the man himself and with ‘authorities’ from Ecuador, UK and US, to have a meeting with Assange. Considering his importance as head of an investigation into collusion that might topple a president and start a new cold war with Russia, that should be easy to do. But Mueller hasn’t talked to Assange. Nor has he indicated that he tried.

Mueller accusing Assange without talking to him should raise suspicions that he is not interested in finding the truth, but has other goals. And that shines a dark light on his entire investigation. Because of the fact itself, but also because Assange is a pivotal person in the entire Russia collusion narrative. Mueller can’t make his case without accusing, defaming Assange.

Assange is crucial in the Mueller indictment of 12 Russians issued conveniently three days before the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, he’s crucial in the case made against Paul Manafort, and he’s again crucial in the indictment of Roger Stone. Without Assange, Mueller’s hands are empty. Julian is presented as the conduit between Trump and Russia. No conduit, no connection. And Assange has always denied the entire thing, all of it.

People who have been accused of, let alone indicted in, a crime, must be given their day in court, says American law, to be able to defend themselves against their accusers. But Assange is not, which means Robert Mueller is no less than a grave threat to the entire American justice system. Not Mueller alone, for sure, but he, along with the Attorney General and Deputy AG (and believe it or not, the President), are immediately responsible for the way the justice system is being perverted. That is very serious business.

As I said above, Mueller first, supposedly accidentally, dragged Assange into his investigation three days before the July 16 2018 Trump/Putin meeting in Helsinki, when he indicted 12 Russians and ‘Organization 1’. That indictment is here. It was arguably the first tangible thing that came out of the investigation, and while it was heralded as gospel by everyone who wants Trump to hang, it was shot so full of holes by others in no time that the term ‘tangible’ perhaps needs to be replaced.

That first indictment was not based on facts, it was based on faith (in US intelligence). 12 Russians who can’t defend themselves were grouped together as Guccifer 2, whose Russian lineage was also shot to smithereens within hours, and then there was Assange. Last week’s indictment, that of Roger Stone, perhaps -we can’t even be sure- alludes to Stone colluding with either Russians or Assange, but it carries no evidence of any collusion.

As WikiLeaks tweeted: “The indictment doesn’t have any reference to Stone talking to Assange, or Assange talking to Stone, or anyone at WikiLeaks telling him anything, whatsoever. It’s literally old men reading the news and wishing for things.

The job of a Special Counsel, his/her mandate, is to gather evidence of those crimes (s)he has been tasked with investigating. That mandate can be wide, but certainly not unlimited. The job at hand is not to suggest that things MIGHT have happened. It is not to blindly follow everything US intelligence may or may not claim is true, because all accusations will eventually have to be proven in a courtroom.

And it is not to point fingers at people for things the Special Counsel can’t prove they’ve done, or to accuse people who cannot defend themselves against whatever it is he or she might say (because then (s)he might say anything).

Mueller has never charged Assange with anything, despite the fact that Julian is all over all of his indictments. Mueller also refuses to talk to Assange, ostensibly because that way he can continue to accuse him of all manner of unproven ‘crimes’, and if he doesn’t have to prove what he accuses Assange of, he can accuse anyone of being in touch with Assange and conspiring to enact all sorts of collusion.

It’s a pity that America is so divided into a pro-Trump and anti-Trump side, and never the twain shall meet, because the perversion of the justice system exemplified by the Mueller investigation is very real; it’s rotting from the inside. This has not been about Trump, if anything it’s about the justice system granting someone the right to defend themselves, which is being violated by Robert Mueller on a daily basis.

In early 2017, the DOJ attempted to set up meetings with Assange, who in the process offered evidence that there was no Russian involvement in the files WikiLeaks published in 2016. Those attempts, when near completion, were halted by Mueller’s very good friend James Comey and Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.).

Warner last week in his capacity as Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman said about the Stone indictment: “It is clear from this indictment that those contacts [between Stone and WikiLeaks] happened at least with the full knowledge of, and appear to have been encouraged by, the highest levels of the Trump campaign..” No, Mr. Warner, that is sort of the exact point here. It is not clear. Nor is it true. And you know that, sir.

A year and a half later, in July 2018, Senator Rand Paul said that if Assange would agree to testify in the US, “I think that he should be given immunity from prosecution in exchange for coming to the United States and testifying” Nothing came from that either. Where was Mueller?

Every single American should be alarmed by this perversion of justice. Nothing to do with what you think of Trump, or of Assange. The very principles of the system are being perverted, including, but certainly not limited to, its deepest core, that of every individual’s right to defend themselves.

Just so Robert Mueller can continue his already failed investigation into collusion that has shown no such thing, and which wouldn’t have been started 20 months ago if we knew then what we know now.

Get off your Trump collusion hobby-horse, that quest has already died regardless, and start defending the legal system and the Constitution. Because if you don’t, what’s to keep the next Robert Mueller from going after you, or someone you like or love? It’s in everyone’s interest to demand that these proceedings – like all legal proceedings- are conducted according to the law, but in Mueller’s hands, they are not.

And that should be a much bigger worry than whether or not you like or dislike a former game-show host.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Venezuelan Oil Exports Plunge On ‘Harsher’ Sanctions

By Nick Cunningham | Oilprice.com | February 4, 2019

Venezuela’s oil production could be disrupted to a greater degree than most analysts first thought, as the U.S. government seeks essentially shut in the country’s oil sector.

When the Trump administration first announced sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector a little over a week ago, it sounded as if they would simply bar U.S. companies from buying oil. That would still mean that Venezuela could ship the oil elsewhere, albeit at a painful discount.

However, the U.S. Treasury issued some more details on February 1, sketching out a harsher sanctions regime. The sanctions on Venezuela will actually resemble the measures targeting Iran in that it will bar companies from using the U.S. financial system to do business with PDVSA. As such, the reach of the sanctions will extend well beyond the shores of the United States.

Reuters reported that even prior to last Friday’s clarification from the U.S. Treasury, European buyers were already slashing purchases because of concerns over payments. Reuters reported that two of the world’s largest oil traders, Vitol and Trafigura, said that they would comply with all U.S. sanctions.

As a result, PDVSA and Maduro’s government could have a much harder time finding destinations for Venezuelan oil than first thought. The Wall Street Journal reported oil storage is “filling up” in Venezuela because of a lack of buyers.

Moreover, not only are the effects of the sanctions more far-reaching, but also more immediate than first thought. At first, the U.S. seemed to exempt shipments that were underway, outlining a sort of phased approach that would allow a handful of American refiners to gradually unwind their oil purchase from Venezuela. The phased approach, which was supposed to be extended into April, would help “to minimize any immediate disruptions,” U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in late January.

But that now does not appear to be what is unfolding. PDVSA has demanded upfront payment, likely because it fears not being paid at all or having the revenues steered to the opposition. Indeed, the U.S. effort to steer PDVSA and its revenues into the hands of the U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Gauidó appears to be a decisive turning point.

Oil tankers linked to Chevron, Lukoil and Respsol are delayed, redirected or sitting offshore because of lack of payment. The WSJ says that several of those tankers had recently sent oil to Corpus Christi, Texas, but are now anchored off the coast of Maracaibo sitting idle. “This is an absolute disaster,” Luis Hernández, a Venezuelan oil union leader, told the WSJ. “There’s almost no way to move the oil.”

Unable to sell any oil, Maduro’s regime could quickly run out of cash. The result could be a humanitarian catastrophe, a merciless and destructive objective that the Trump administration seems to have in mind. The U.S. government is essentially betting that by driving the country into the ground, the military and the people will turn on Maduro. It could yet turn out that way, but it could also deepen the misery and exact an unspeakable toll on the Venezuelan population, the very people the Trump administration says it is trying to help.

In the meantime, oil exports are likely heading into a freefall. The WSJ says that labor problems, including “mass defections of workers” are accelerating declines. PDVSA could soon run out of refined fuel.

Officials with knowledge of the situation told the WSJ that Venezuela’s oil production has likely already fallen well below 1 million barrels per day (mb/d), down more than 10 percent – at least – from December levels.

Wood Mackenzie estimates that production probably stands a little bit higher at about 1.1 mb/d, but that it could soon fall to 900,000 bpd.

It’s hard to imagine how Maduro can hang on if oil exports fall precipitously from here. But even if he does manage to stay in power, the U.S. may escalate the situation. Last month, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton had “5,000 troops to Colombia” written on his legal pad. President Trump himself said that a military intervention is an option.

For the oil market, the crisis presents a series of problems. If Maduro hangs on and the U.S. continues to heap more pressure on his government, Venezuelan oil production and exports will continue to fall. Alternatively, the U.S. is hoping for a quick regime change, after which it would lift sanctions, which it believes will lead to a reversal in output losses.

The next round of Iran sanctions is nearing, with U.S. sanctions waivers expiring in May. As such, the window of opportunity for the Trump administration “is open only a crack, necessitating a quick political change,” Barclays wrote in a note. By the third quarter, the loss of Venezuelan output, Iran sanctions, and the looming regulations from the International Maritime Organization will put an increasing premium on medium and heavy oils.

That would push up oil prices significantly. But the U.S. government has blown past the point of no return, leaving it with no other options except to escalate. That means that Venezuela is set to lose a lot more oil than analysts thought only two weeks ago.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Subjugation - Torture | , | Leave a comment

Canada’s goal of overthrowing Venezuela’s government is decades old

By Yves Engler · ricochet · January 31, 2019

According to the official story that the Liberal government and most of the mainstream media have been trying to sell, Ottawa recently recognized the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly as that country’s president because Nicolas Maduro suspended the constitution 18 months ago and thus lost legitimacy. Thus, Ottawa intervened aggressively to re-establish democratic order there. But this narrative of Canada’s involvement omits its long-standing hostility to the Venezuelan government.

In recent days Canada’s former ambassador to Venezuela, Ben Rowswell, has repeatedly claimed that Canada’s effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government began with Maduro’s call for a Constituent Assembly in July 2017, which Rowswell considers illegitimate. Canada’s “approach to democracy promotion … can be traced to the summer of 2017, when Nicolas Maduro suspended the constitutional order,” he wrote in a Globe and Mail op-ed.

But Rowswell knows this is not true. In fact, when he departed as ambassador in July 2017, he sang a different tune, boasting that “we established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

At the time, Rowswell told the Ottawa Citizen, that anti-Maduro forces need not worry about his departure, “I don’t think they have anything to worry about because Minister (of Foreign Affairs Chrystia) Freeland has Venezuela way at the top of her priority list.”

Direct Canadian assistance to the opposition dates to at least the mid-2000s. In January 2005, Foreign Affairs invited Maria Corina Machado to Ottawa. Machado was in charge of Súmate, an organization at the forefront of efforts to remove Hugo Chavez as president. Just prior to this invitation, Súmate had led an unsuccessful campaign to recall Chavez through a referendum in August 2004. Before that, Machado’s name appeared on a list of people who endorsed the 2002 coup, for which she faced charges of treason. She denied signing the now-infamous Carmona Decree that dissolved the National Assembly and Supreme Court and suspended the elected government, the attorney general, comptroller general, and governors as well as mayors elected during Chavez’s administration. It also annulled land reforms and reversed increases in royalties paid by oil companies.

Canada also helped finance Súmate. According to disclosures made in response to a question by NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough, Canada gave Súmate $22,000 in 2005–06. Minister of International Cooperation José Verner explained that “Canada considered Súmate to be an experienced NGO with the capability to promote respect for democracy, particularly a free and fair electoral process in Venezuela.”

Alongside large sums from Washington, Canada has provided millions of dollars to groups opposed to the Venezuelan government over the past 15 years. The foremost researcher on U.S. funding to opposition groups in Venezuela, Eva Golinger, cited Canada’s role, and according to a May 2010 report from Spanish NGO Fride, “Canada is the third most important provider of democracy assistance” to Venezuela after the U.S. and Spain.

In a 2011 International Journal article Neil A. Burron describes an interview with a Canadian “official [who] repeatedly expressed concerns about the quality of democracy in Venezuela, noting that the [federal government’s] Glyn Berry program provided funds to a ‘get out the vote’ campaign in the last round of elections in that country.” You can bet it wasn’t designed to get Chavez supporters to the polls.

Ottawa wasn’t overly concerned about democracy in April 2002 when a military coup took Chavez prisoner and imposed an unelected government. It lasted only two days before popular demonstrations, a split within the army, and international condemnation returned the elected government. While most Latin American leaders condemned the coup, Canadian diplomats were silent.

“In the Venezuelan coup in 2002, Canada maintained a low profile, probably because it was sensitive to the United States ambivalence towards Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez,” writes Flavie Major in the book Promoting Democracy in the Americas.

The Stephen Harper government didn’t hide its hostility to Chavez. When Chavez was re-elected president with 63 per cent of the vote in December 2006, 32 members of the Organization of American States — which monitored the election — supported a resolution to congratulate him. Canada was the only member to join the U.S. in opposing the message.

Just after Chavez’s re-election, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs, Thomas Shannon, called Canada “a country that can deliver messages that can resonate in ways that sometimes our messages don’t for historical or psychological reasons.” Six months later Harper toured South America to help stunt the region’s rejection of neoliberalism and U.S. dependence. (“To show [the region] that Canada functions and that it can be a better model than Venezuela,” in the words of a high-level Foreign Affairs official quoted by Le Devoir.)

During the trip, Harper and his entourage made a number of comments critical of the Chavez government. Afterwards the prime minister continued to demonize a government that had massively expanded the population’s access to health and education services. In April 2009 Harper responded to a question regarding Venezuela by saying, “I don’t take any of these rogue states lightly.” A month earlier, the prime minister referred to the far-right Colombian government as a valuable “ally” in a hemisphere full of “serious enemies and opponents.”

After meeting opposition figures in January 2010, Minister for the Americas Peter Kent told the media, “Democratic space within Venezuela has been shrinking and in this election year, Canada is very concerned about the rights of all Venezuelans to participate in the democratic process.”

“During my recent visit to Venezuela, I heard many individuals and organizations express concerns related to violations of the right to freedom of expression and other basic liberties,” said Kent.

Virginie Levesque, a spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy in Venezuela, also accused the Chavez government of complicity with racism against Jews.

“The Canadian Embassy has encouraged and continues to encourage the Venezuelan government to follow through on its commitment to reject and combat anti-Semitism and to do its utmost to ensure the security of the Jewish community and its religious and cultural centers” said Levesque.

Even the head of Canada’s military joined the onslaught of condemnation against Venezuela. After a tour of South America in early 2010, Walter Natynczyk wrote:,“Regrettably, some countries, such as Venezuela, are experiencing the politicization of their armed forces.” (A Canadian general criticizing another country’s military is, of course, not political.)

After Chavez died in 2013 Harper declared that Venezuelans “can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.” And when Maduro won the presidential election later that year Ottawa called for a recount, refusing to at first to recognize the results.

Canada’s bid to oust Venezuela’s elected president is not new. These efforts have grown over the past year and a half mostly because of Venezuela’s economic troubles, the rightward shift in the region, and Donald Trump’s hawkishness on the issue.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , | Leave a comment

Claim that Russian media buy SM accounts to rock France is fake news – Moscow on Macron’s interview

RT | February 5, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron is spreading fake news to undermine the work of the Russian media, if his recent interview with Le Point is anything to go by, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.

Before Yellow Vests went out to the streets in the twelfth weekend of consecutive mass demonstrations against the government’s economic policies, weekly political magazine Le Point published an interview with President Macron. There he blamed the scale of public discontent on Russians, social media, the far right and the far left.

“If it’s confirmed that Macron said that RT and Sputnik are buying social media accounts to destabilize the situation in Frаnce – this is real fake news,” Maria Zakharova told RT.

The foreign ministry sent a request to Paris to clarify whether the claims are a true representation of Macron’s thoughts and if that is the official position of the French government.

Macron lambasted the French media for picking up on what people are saying on social media and urged them to put more trust into the words of officials rather than “ordinary” people like the Yellow Vests. The president’s dismissive attitude to the public was noted.

Zakharova said that Macron should not be surprised that it’s the Yellow Vests and not the authorities that are being interviewed frequently, as officials had long been prohibited from talking to Russian media.

She also said that it’s “outrageous” that the French president equaled fascists and Russians when he was listing those he blamed for fueling protests. Macron used the term “la fachosphère” that describes ultra-nationalists and fascists.

“Russians are presented as the new enemies of the 21st century by French officials,” Zakharova said. She called attacks on Russian media a “co-ordinated” and “well-directed” campaign that is orchestrated by Brussels and Washington, who want to present Russian news outlets as “toxic” without bothering to provide facts.

“If there was any proof, they would have produced it already,” she said, noting that the ministry’s numerous requests to provide evidence when Russia is accused of “meddling” through its media went without a reply.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Britain lurches Deeper into Brexit Crisis as its Population Remains Deeply Alienated from the Political Establishment

By Leon Tressell | Dissident Voice | February 4, 2019

The British political establishment is experiencing an unprecedented crisis over the issue of exiting the European Union. The Conservative government staggers from crisis to crisis over its Brexit deal while politicians of all colours bicker and argue as the UK lurches towards a potentially devastating No Deal scenario. This had lead to a huge distrust in the political class amongst the long suffering public.

As the clock ticks down towards the 29 March exit date it is worth while recalling how this crisis came about in the first place. Regardless of which Brexit option the UK takes over the next period it will not detract from the fact that there is a huge chasm between large sections of a bitterly discontented population and the political establishment that does not bode well for the future stability of a key American ally.

A recent poll of 33,000 people revealed that an overwhelming majority felt that whatever Brexit option is adopted it will not address the rampant inequalities, political alienation and disenchantment that lay behind the vote to leave the EU in 2016.

In June 2016 the UK vote to exit the EU shocked the financial and political elites and led to turmoil on global stock markets. The corporate media was full of shocked pundits lamenting the democratic decision of British people for Brexit. Brexit voters were being blamed for everything from the rise in racism against immigrant families to the increased dangers of terrorist attacks.

The corporate media both in Britain and internationally was and still are furious with the British electorate for voting for Brexit. They never saw it coming and still don’t fully understand why ordinary people voted for Brexit. More than this, they still don’t understand how the Brexit vote reveals how completely out of touch the corporate media and the political/financial elites are with the millions of working class people who voted for Brexit.

Let’s be very clear about this: the vote for Brexit was a working class rebellion against the financial and political elites of Britain who have presided over a massive redistribution of wealth in favour of the super rich leaving a fifth of the population in poverty. Analysis of the referendum vote shows how the poorer an area was the higher the vote was for Brexit.

The working class stood up to massive pressure from the Bremain camp that included: all of the mainstream political parties, the Bank of England, CBI, IMF, ECB, Obama, the World Bank and the trade union bureaucrats.

The vote for Brexit revealed how out of touch the establishment advocates of the EU are with working class people. Millions of working class people are struggling to get by with low wages, incessant benefit cuts, zero hour contracts, food banks and poor housing that are putting their families and communities under intense strain. On top of this, working class people suffer the most from the cuts to the welfare state and the incessant cuts to local council services.

Working class people are not stupid they can see how the EU is a fundamentally undemocratic organisation that is completely unaccountable to them. The secret negotiations that took place between the EU and the Obama administration over TTIP, which members of the European Parliament had no say over, proved conclusively how this is an organisation run for the benefit of the too big to fail banks and the multi-national corporations.

They can see how the undemocratic EU has bludgeoned the people of Greece into living in permanent austerity and mass poverty despite a referendum last year that decisively rejected austerity measures. Obama’s favourite economist Paul Krugman called the EU’s intervention into Greece in 2015 a ‘coup d’etat’.

The advocates of Bremain in 2016 such as Mark Carney (ex-Goldman Sachs), then Prime Minister Cameron (from a tax avoiding banker family) then Chancellor George Osborne (son of a Baronet) warned working class people that Brexit would lower their living standards more than any other group in UK society.

However, millions of working class people were not taken in by the crocodile tears coming from those responsible for creating a massively unequal society. Quantitative easing and ZIRP have made the super rich fabulously richer as they have benefited from the massive bubbles on the stock market and in property. The top 10% of society own 45% of all wealth totalling over £5 trillion while the bottom 50% of society own a pathetic 9% of the wealth.

Prime Minister Cameron’s government presided over a savage attack upon welfare benefits which have led to one and half million benefit sanctions leaving people totally destitute and leading to hundreds of people committing suicide. The attack on welfare benefits for disabled people has been so severe it prompted the UN to launch an investigation into the human rights violations of disabled people. In 2018 the UN accused the UK government of ‘’systematic violations’’ of disabled people’s rights.

The political and financial elites who advocated that Britain should stay in the EU were puzzled as to why so many working class people stubbornly supported Brexit in 2016. They were and still are incapable of comprehending the anger, pain and suffering of millions of working class people who feel increasing contempt towards a political and financial elite that has no understanding of their daily lives. Over 13 million live in poverty (1 in 5 of the population) while 15 million live in inadequate housing conditions.

This inchoate anger at the daily reality that confronts them has few outlets in life. The EU referendum provided working class people with a means of sticking two fingers up at the political and financial establishment which now presides over a very divided country along lines of class and geography. This sense of alienation and disenchantment with the political establishment has only increased in the two and half years since the Brexit referendum.

The Brexit vote has led to unprecedented turmoil in both of the main political parties in Britain, particularly the Conservative Party.

The financial and political elites suffered a major defeat in 2016 Brexit vote. The Conservative Party is one of the oldest and most successful political parties in history and has served the British ruling class well for over two hundred years. Now it faces an unprecedented crisis and is unable to effectively govern.

Regardless of which Brexit option the Conservative government takes over the next period the UK will face huge challenges as the world economy continues to slow down and heads towards another devastating recession.

This will pose major challenges for the stability of the UK, whose manufacturing base continues to weaken while its financial services sector loses its dominant position in European capital markets due to Brexit. A discontented population may take inspiration from its yellow vested neighbours across the English Channel.

Leon Tressell is a UK based historian with a research focus upon geo-politics and economics.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Reality Check: Is Russia planning to invade Sweden or is UK media spreading more baseless hysteria?

By Bryan MacDonald | RT | February 5, 2019

Two of Britain’s leading newspapers have run delirious headlines this week, warning of a potential Russian assault on neutral Sweden.

“Sweden’s first new conscripts prepare to repel Russian invaders” – the Telegraph.

“First Swedish conscripts in a decade begin training to defeat a Russian invasion” – Daily Mail.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Poor Sweden (population 9 million) getting ready to repel an attack from big, bad Russia (population 145 million).

Furthermore, to make things even worse, the “aggressor” is a military superpower and the “victim” stands alone, without even NATO to protect it. And that bit is really relevant here, as you will soon see.

Anyway, rest easy: Never mind the bollocks, here’s the British media. Armed with its particular brand of hysteria, mendacity, and click-bait calumny.

The Telegraph, which isn’t even pretending to be a newspaper anymore, bases its “Russian invasion” warning on the testimony of a Colonel Stennabb. He highlights how “Russia is prepared to use military means to accomplish political objectives, not just in Crimea but in Syria.”

Hardly a radical concept, even in Europe where many countries, most notably, France (Libya, Ivory Coast, CAR, Chad, etc.) and the UK (Iraq, Syria, Sierra Leone, Kosovo, etc.) aren’t exactly shy about backing up words with firepower.

At no point does Stennabb explain why Russia would want to invade Sweden. Nor does the Telegraph. Which fails to note Sweden doesn’t even border mainland Russia, although it does sit across the Baltic Sea from the tiny Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

After all, Sweden has few resources useful to Moscow and IKEA already has plenty of stores around Russia.

That said, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, did mention last year that the president is partial to ABBA. But, surely there are easier ways of encouraging them to reform?

The Mail piece largely amounts to a rewrite of the Telegraph’s scaremongering. But they do pad it out a bit, mentioning how “Russia has also been launching incursions into European airspace.”

For illustration, it explains “just last week, a Russian Su-27 fighter was filmed ‘pushing’ an American F-15 out of the way as they patrolled over the Baltic Sea.” Adding how, in a separate incident, “the (US) Pentagon said that a Russian jet came dangerously close to one of its fighters over the Black Sea on Monday.”

So, here we have two American aircraft operating in Europe and this British newspaper is accusing Russia of “launching incursions into European airspace.”

Meaning either the Mail is unaware that Russia is in Europe but the United States is not, or it thinks its readers are stupid.

Anyway, the last major conflict between Sweden and Russia ended in 1790, following a failed Swedish attack two years earlier. Famously, the conflict was started by King Gustav III of Sweden for domestic political reasons.

This present UK media hysteria serves similar ends. Because, in this time of austerity, British Armed Forces spending is squeezed. And what better way to keep the moolah coming than to create a plausible enemy?

Plus, there’s a small, but vocal, bunch both within and without Sweden who hope to drag the traditionally neutral country into NATO. Go figure.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | 1 Comment

Weapons ending up with terrorists is OK, as long as Obama did it: The world according to CNN

RT | February 5, 2019

A “bombshell” CNN report has revealed that US-made weapons found their way to Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Yemen. But is anyone surprised? And where was CNN when the Obama administration armed hardcore jihadists in Syria?

The CNN investigation revealed how American-made weapons ended up in the hands of “al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen,” vis-a-vis the US’ coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Some of these weapons have also been seized by Iranian-backed militias, CNN claims.

The hardware, referred to as “Beautiful military equipment” by President Trump, was supplied to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who have backed the embattled Yemeni government in its three-year civil war against Houthi rebels. However, CNN claims that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have funnelled the arms to pro-government factions, including the islamist Giants Brigade and the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Abbas brigade.

The shifting frontlines in Yemen ensured that many of these weapons – including wire-guided TOW missiles and mine-resistant armored vehicles (MRAPs) – ended up seized by Houthi militants and Iranian proxy forces. More American weapons still ended up for sale in Yemen’s teeming arms bazaars, where they fetch a higher price than the rusted AK-47s more common to the region.

CNN lays responsibility squarely at the feet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the Trump administration, which refused to cancel its multibillion dollar arms deals with the Saudis last year, for fear of losing “all of that investment being made into our country.”

The report paints a depressing, but familiar picture. Picking sides in foreign wars has historically proven disastrous for the United States, yet successive administrations have made the same mistakes again and again. The Reagan administration armed Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran, going as far as arranging the sale of anthrax to the Iraqi leader. Both Jimmy Сarter and Ronald Reagan propped up the Afghan mujahideen in their fight against the Soviets in the 1980s. In both cases, US forces would be shot at with the same weapons just two decades later.

Covering for Obama

More recently, in 2014 Barack Obama announced that the US would hand-select and arm ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria, stepping into the country’s bloody civil war. That too would prove disastrous, with troves of US arms ending up in the hands of Al-Nusra and ISIS.

But where was CNN when Obama asked Congress for $500 million to train, arm, and “empower the moderate Syrian opposition?”

CNN was reporting the news verbatim from Obama’s mouth, repeating the phrase “moderate rebels” without the ironic quotation marks that have become necessary since. Obama’s assertion that the rebels offered the “best alternative to terrorists and a brutal dictator” was not questioned, unlike Trump’s continuation of the longstanding US policy of arming the Saudis.

Obama called for funding in June 2014, but Syrian militias had already received support from the CIA for two years at that stage. CNN’s reporting on the covert arms pipeline was scant, didn’t question the credentials of the recipients, and mostly repeated the line of US intelligence officials: “That is something we are not going to dispute, but we are not going to publicly speak to it.”

Few questions were asked as Congress authorized the military support that September, and none were asked a year later as Obama resupplied his chosen rebels in Syria. Instead, Obama’s declaration of support for “the moderate Syrian opposition” was taken at face value and left unquestioned.

The reality in Syria

As CNN repeated the White House line on Syria, the network published just one report hinting that things might be amiss: an investigation by Amnesty International that found Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants were armed to the teeth with US-made weapons. The weapons were acquired by IS from local forces armed by the Obama administration, and then used to “relentlessly” target civilians with “small arms, artillery fire and huge quantities of improvised explosive devices.”

While CNN was assuaging the public, the situation on the ground in Syria was anything but moderate. US arms were quickly sold on the black market by ‘moderate rebels’ who either retired from the fight or wanted to turn a quick buck. With morale low, some of these fighters literally handed their weapons to Al-Nusra jihadists in exchange for safe passage away from the frontlines, while more were stolen by the Islamists.

Moreover, one Al-Nusra commander codenamed Abu Al Ezz told the German Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper that his group, and not so-called ‘moderate rebels’, received TOW missiles directly from the US. “The missiles were given to us directly,” he said, adding: “The Americans are on our side.” The commander went on to detail how his fighters had received training from US instructors, and financial support from Saudi Arabia and Israel for capturing specific objectives in Syria.

The Trump administration ended the arms supply program to the Syrian rebels in 2017, a decision that CNN called“a big win for Russia.” The idea that ending material support for terrorists might just be a good thing was not raised, and CNN described the program as “a lifeline” to anti-government forces.

CNN even stuck by its straight-faced use of the term ‘moderate rebels’, despite multiple other news outlets publishing reports of US weapons falling into terrorist hands.

Two months before the 2016 election, CNN absolved Obama of all his sins in Syria by publishing an interview in which the then-president said the situation there “haunts” him constantly. The network blamed external factors for the deteriorating situation in Syria, and ended with a quote from Obama’s press secretary, who said that every one of the former president’s decisions “was squarely within the national security interest of the United States and even advanced our national security interests.”

CNN’s latest exclusive report is a well-researched piece of journalism, fleshed out with on-the-ground reporting from war-torn Yemen. However, given the network’s history in reporting US arms programs, it was much more likely motivated by a desire to score points against Trump than the pursuit of cold truth, no matter who is in charge.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As Abbas ages, Fatah moves to consolidate power

By Ramzy Baroud | MEMO | February 5, 2019

Five years after spearheading what is inaptly referred to as a ‘government of national reconciliation’, Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, has finally resigned.

“We put our government at the disposal of President Mahmoud Abbas, and we welcome the recommendations of the Fatah Central Committee to form a new government,” Hamdallah tweeted, shortly after Abbas had ordered him to dismantle the government.

Since the Palestinian Authority was founded in 1994, 17 governments have been formed, and every single one of them was dominated by the Fatah party, the largest faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Fatah’s monopoly over Palestinian politics has wrought disasters. Neither did the PA deliver the coveted Palestinian state, nor did Fatah use its influence to bring Palestinian factions together. The opposite is true.

Most of these 17 governments were short-lived, except that of Hamdallah, which has governed for five years, even though it failed in its primary mission: healing the terrible rift between Fatah in the Israeli Occupied West Bank, and Hamas in Israel-besieged Gaza.

Moreover, it also fell short of bringing PLO factions closer together. Thus far, the second-largest PLO faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) refuses to participate in a future government that will also be dominated by Fatah.

Palestinian divisions have never been as pronounced as they are today. While all Palestinian factions, Hamas and Islamic Jihad included, bear part of the blame for failing to unify their ranks and form a single national strategy to combat Israeli colonialism and occupation, Abbas bears the largest share.

Even before becoming a president of the PA in January 2005, Abbas has always been a divisive political figure. When he was the PA’s Prime Minister, between March and September 2003 under the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, Abbas clashed with anyone who would challenge his often self-serving political agenda, including Arafat himself. His constant clashing with Arafat at the time made him a favourite in Washington.

Abbas was elected on a weak popular mandate, as Hamas and others boycotted the presidential elections. His first and only term in office expired in 2009. For a whole decade, neither Abbas nor any government of his has operated with the minimum requirement of democracy. Indeed, for many years the will of the Palestinian people has been hijacked by wealthy men, fighting to preserve their interests while undeservingly claiming the role of leadership.

The 2006 Hamas victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections was a reminder to Abbas (but also to Israel and the United States) of how dangerous free elections can be. Since then, there has been much talk about the need for new elections, but no sincere efforts have been made to facilitate such a task. Logistical difficulties notwithstanding (for Palestine is, after all an occupied country), neither party wants to take the risk of letting the people have the last word.

Palestine and her people are not only trapped by Israeli walls, fences and armed soldiers, but by their inept leadership as well.

The 2007 Fatah-Hamas clashes which led to the current extreme polarisation have split Palestinians politically, between the West Bank, under Abbas’ authoritative control, and Hamas, in besieged and struggling Gaza. While Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, often complains of the lack of a ‘Palestinian partner’, his government, with the aid of Washington, has done its utmost to ensure Palestinian division.

Several agreements between Fatah and Hamas have been signed, the latest, which appeared most promising, was achieved in October 2017. Palestinians were cautious, then, but also hopeful as several practical steps were taken this time to transfer legal responsibilities from Hamas to the Hamdallah government, whether in the various Gaza ministries or at the Rafah-Egypt border.

Then, just when the wheels began turning, raising hopes among ordinary Palestinians that this time things were truly changing, Rami Hamdallah’s convoy was attacked as it crossed the main entrance to Gaza, via Israel.

Some sinister force wanted Hamdallah dead, or, at least, it wanted to send a violent message providing the political fodder to those who wanted to stall the political progress between the two main Palestinian parties. Hamas quickly claimed to have apprehended the culprits, while Fatah, without much investigation, declared that Hamas was responsible for the bomb, thus stalling and, eventually, severing all reconciliation talks.

This was followed by clearly orchestrated steps to punish Gaza and push the people in the besieged and war-devastated Strip to the point of complete despair. First, Abbas refused to pay money to the Israeli company that provides some of Gaza’s electricity needs – thus leaving Gaza in the dark; then he significantly slashed salaries to Gaza workers, among other measures.

In response, tens of thousands of Gazans went to the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel protesting the Israeli siege, which, with Abbas’ latest collective punishment, has become beyond unbearable.

Indeed, Gaza’s ongoing ‘Great March of Return’, which began on March 30, 2018, was a popular response to a people fed up with war, siege, international neglect, but also horrific political tribalism. Since the march began, over 200 Palestinians have been killed and thousands maimed and wounded.

Abbas is now 83-years old with increasingly debilitating health. His supporters within Fatah want to ensure a political transition that guarantees their dominance because political monopoly offers many perks: wealth, privilege, power and prestige. For Fatah, Hamdallah and his ‘reconciliation’ government have ceased to serve any purpose. Additionally, a unity government with other Palestinian groups at this crucial, transitional period seems too risky a gamble for those who want to ensure future dominance.

The tragic truth is that all such politicking is happening within the confines of Israeli military Occupation, and that Israeli fences, walls, trenches, illegal Jewish settlements and Jewish-only bypass roads encircle all Palestinians, from Gaza to Jericho, and from Jerusalem to Rafah; that no Palestinian, Abbas included, is truly free, and that all political titles hold no weight before the power of a single Israeli sniper firing at Palestinian children at the Gaza fence.

Palestinians do need their unity and urgently so, not expressed in mere political compromises between factions, but the unity of a people facing the same brutal and oppressive enemy.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

A Passionate Attachment

Deferring to Israel is “what we are”

“I believe that the establishment of the state of Israel was the greatest accomplishment of the twentieth century”
By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • February 5, 2019

I predicted three weeks ago that the Senate bill on the Middle East, which was rejected three times while the government was shutdown, would quickly receive cloture by a comfortable margin to end debate and proceed to a full vote in the Senate after the federal bureaucracy reopened. That has proven to be the case. Senate Bill S.1 was approved on January 29th 76 for votes to 22 against. Every Republican voted for it, minus only Rand Paul and Jerry Moran, who did not vote. The Republicans were joined by 25 Democrats, all of whom had previous voted “no” to embarrass the White House over the shutdown. Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer, who has described himself as Israel’s protector in the Senate, switched his vote as did notoriously pro-Israel Senators Ben Cardin and Bob Menendez. The bill must now be passed by the Senate, which is certain to take place, before being sent on to the House of Representatives for its approval, where there will certainly be some limited debate. It then will go to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Readers will recall that S.1 the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, sponsored by the singularly ambitious though demonstrably brain dead Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, included $33 billion in guaranteed aid to Israel for the next ten years, an unprecedented gesture to America’s closest ally and best friend in the whole world, as Congress might describe it.

But the legislation also incorporated measures to criminalize criticism of Israel, referred to as the Combating BDS Act of 2019. It has been correctly observed that that portion of the bill is clearly unconstitutional as it limits free speech, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and is considered to be the bedrock of American civil liberties, but there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will agree if and when the law is contested. Once free expression is abridged for Israel there will be no end to other grievance groups exploiting the precedent to silence criticism and effectively negate the First Amendment.

The potential destruction of the Bill of Rights is only one aspect of the power that Israel has over American policymakers. The widely ballyhooed election of several Congresswomen who appear willing to challenge the Israeli orthodoxy on Capitol Hill is already being countered by the establishment within the Democratic Party, demonstrating once again how deep the corruption of America’s political class by Israel has gone.

In an early December speech before a largely Jewish audience at the Israeli-American Council gathering in South Florida, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demonstrated in no uncertain terms just how she and other Congressmen are more responsive to Israel and its supporters than they are to their own constituents. She said in response to a staged question during a “conversation” with Democratic Party top donor Israeli Haim Saban, “I have said to people when they ask me, if this Capitol crumbled to the ground, the one thing that would remain would be our commitment to our aid, I don’t even call it our aid, our cooperation with Israel. That’s fundamental to who we are.”

Now “who we are” is a favorite expression used by a certain type of progressive that was made popular by the smooth talking but devious Barack Obama, meaning “I am taking the moral high ground so don’t ask me any questions or challenge what I have just said.” In Pelosi’s case she is saying precisely that, that American patronage of Israel is a moral imperative, a commitment forever that must be sustained no matter what Israel does and even if the United States itself should fall into ruin.

It is an absurd comment for someone who represents the people of her state and has taken an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the ultimate pander to a right-wing Jewish audience that is socially progressive and consistently votes Democratic, which Pelosi celebrated, while at the same time cheering the bloody repression of the Palestinian people. And while Israel’s cheering section is doing all that, it is also dragging the American people into wars that need not be fought and stealing the taxpayers’ dollars to give to the racist Kleptocrats in charge in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Pelosi, like her partner in crime Senator Chuck Schumer, who also spoke at the conference, has a problem in paying for security along America’s southern border but she does not hesitate to send billions of dollars to Israel every year. One has to wonder at her priorities, but she knows that American Jews are more powerful and relevant to her party’s finances than doing the right thing would be, so there is no evidence of any hesitation on her part to throwing some Arabs and the outliers within her own party under the bus.

And Nancy also spoke of the dissidents in the Democratic Party, all five or so of them, saying “Remove all doubt in your mind. It’s just a question of not paying attention to a few people who may want to go their own way…” Apparently there is plenty of room under that bus for non-believers. And she also threw out a standard line of how “I believe that the establishment of the state of Israel was the greatest accomplishment of the twentieth century” while also unloading on the Arabs saying “We have to I think in Congress make it really clear to Palestinians that we expect them to be responsible negotiators and we haven’t seen a lot of that thus far.”

Apparently, Nancy is unaware that the “establishment” of Israel forced 700,000 people who had lived in Palestine for centuries out of their homes. And she apparently also has missed all those stories of Palestinian “terrorist” children and emergency workers being shot dead by Israeli snipers while they were “negotiating” such things as access to food, water, and medicines from the inside of the Gaza containment fence. Or maybe she’s forgotten about the towns in Israel that can legally ban Christian or Muslim residents as Israel is now officially a Jewish only state. Nancy Pelosi’s extreme efforts to demonstrate loyalty and devotion to a nation that the rest of the world views as a pariah is commendable, but only if one is a sociopath.

There is something completely dead at the heart of American politics which makes basic humanity unacceptable when confronted by a force for evil that has penetrated and manipulated both the national media and the governing political consensus. That is what Israel and its rabid band of supporters have done to the United States. First Amendment? Goodbye. If the U.S. government should crumble under the strain, don’t worry because our support for you is eternal. Kill a couple of hundred Arabs, shoot a few thousand more? No problem. It’s God’s will. And if Israel leads America into a nuclear war? Then we will do what we have to do to protect our ally.

Ask Pelosi and Schumer, “Have you been corrupted?” They will answer “No. Of course not. It is what we are.”

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Europe shuns Iranian oil despite US sanctions waivers

RT | February 5, 2019

Despite being granted exemptions from US sanctions against Iran to enable them to buy Tehran’s oil, some European countries fully cut off crude imports from the Islamic Republic, according to Iran’s oil minister.

Washington agreed to give temporary waivers to several Iranian oil buyers when it imposed an embargo on oil shipments from the country in November after it pulled out from the landmark nuclear agreement. Those granted waivers included China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, allowing them to continue purchases without penalties.

However, not all countries opted to use the waivers, as the US attempts to push Tehran’s oil export revenues “to zero” and tries to “block any money transfer,” the Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zangeneh stated.

“Among the Europeans, except for Turkey, no other nation has purchased oil from Iran. Greece and Italy refuse to buy Iran’s oil despite winning waivers. Nor do they respond to our correspondence,” the minister said on Tuesday.

Iran’s crude exports, which contribute to a significant part of the country’s revenues, have been dropping since the US embargo took effect. In April, the crude and oil condensates exports were estimated to be about 2.8 million barrels per day. Zangeneh declined to announce the current export figures, but earlier reports suggest that the shipments fell by more than half.

Iranian officials have previously said that countries have to be extremely cautious in dealing with Tehran, as they face “financial pressure” from Washington. In January, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Petroleum Amir Hossein Zamaninia said that even those who dare to buy its crude, “would not even buy an additional one barrel.”

The 180-day US waivers expire in May and it is believed that their number will be reduced. However, Iran stressed that it had already found new potential buyers for its oil without revealing who exactly they were.

The last country who decided finally to resume purchases of Iranian oil was Japan. On January 21, a large tanker with two million barrels of crude, destined for Japanese companies, left Iran and is expected to reach buyers on February 9.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , | 1 Comment

Iran Slams EU Accusations of “Assassination Attempts, Terrorist Plots in Europe”

Sputnik – 05.02.2019

Iran regrets the European Union “groundlessly” accusing it of hostile activities, such as alleged assassination plots in several EU states, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

“The unsubstantiated accusations, such as with regard to assassination attempts and attempted terrorist attacks in Europe, have been groundless and surprising from the very beginning. We are disappointed with such accusations and concerns of the Europeans, while in Europe itself terrorist and criminal groups are being active,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry wrote.

Tehran went on to express hope that Brussels would realistically approach the issue of terrorism, unlike those who use “double standards.”

Responding to the bloc’ concerns on Iran’s desire to increase the accuracy and range of its missiles, the Foreign Ministry said that Tehran’s activities were exclusively defensive.

On Monday, the European Union sanctioned two individuals and one entity in relation to Iran’s “hostile activities” in some European countries. The Council of the European Union also called on Iran to halt activities aimed at the development and testing of ballistic missiles.

Earlier, the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) accused its Iranian colleagues of plotting an assassination of an Iranian separatist group member in Denmark. Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren said in January that they had “strong indications” of Tehran being behind assassinations of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in 2015 and 2017.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment