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US senators re-introduce Russian sanctions ‘bill from hell’

 

Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ). ©REUTERS / Yuri Gripas
RT February 13, 2019

A group of senators have introduced a bill suggesting a wide range of sanctions against Russia.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Democrat Bob Menendez (New Jersey) will target Russia’s banking and energy sectors, as well as its foreign debt. The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019 may affect individuals who the US would deem to “facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of Putin.”

Graham introduced a similar bill last year, dubbed the “sanctions bill from hell.” The bill that failed to pass would have also called on Congress to declare Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism,” would have make it harder for the US to leave NATO, and would have accused Russia of committing war crimes in Syria, among a laundry list of other provisions. Similar ideas were relocated to the new proposal.

“President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress,” Menendez said in a statement on Wednesday.  Graham, an ally of Trump, echoed the sentiment of the fellow lawmaker, minus his criticism of the president.

“The sanctions and other measures contained in this bill are the most hard-hitting ever imposed – and a direct result of Putin’s continued desire to undermine American democracy,” he wrote.

Russian interference in American elections has never been proven. A handful of Russian nationals have been charged with interference, but those indictments are largely symbolic.

Graham and Menendez’ bill comes one day after the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it had found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. Another House investigation came to the same conclusion last year.

Regardless of the committee’s conclusion, Graham and Menendez’ bill promises a raft of hard-hitting sanctions on Russia. These sanctions target banks that “support Russian efforts to undermine democratic institutions in other countries,” sanctions on Russia’s cyber sector, and sovereign debt.

They also include sanctions on Russia’s energy sector, mainly its crude oil projects inside the country and liquefied natural gas projects abroad. Russia currently provides almost 40 percent of Europe’s natural gas imports, a share that the US is keen to muscle in on. Despite both Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promising to step up the US-EU gas trade, business has floundered, mostly due to the logistical headache of transporting the gas across the Atlantic Ocean.

The proposed sanctions also include penalties on Russia’s shipbuilding sector, a response to the confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait last November. Russian authorities accused the Ukrainian navy of performing dangerous maneuvers and denounced their actions as “provocation.”

Many of the bill’s other measures are carried over from Graham and Menendez’ failed legislation last year. It includes a statement of support for NATO and a two-thirds Senate vote to leave the alliance, as well as weapons shipments to any NATO countries that rely on Russian military equipment.

Provisions that would punish the Russian government for alleged chemical weapons production remain in the bill, as does the call for Russia to be declared a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

The reintroduced bill is “the continuation of the insane campaign conducted by the US,” said deputy chairman of the Russian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Aleksey Chepa, adding that he was certain that the bill won’t float. Russian MP Leonid Slutsky earlier dismissed the planned sanctions, saying whatever damage they would do if imposed would not be critical. “Russia will certainly not perish,” he said.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Guaido’s True Colors: “President” to Fix Venezuelan Relations with Israel

By Jim Carey | Geopolitics Alert | February 13, 2019

Caracas – In an interview over the weekend, “interim President” of Venezuela Juan Guaido promised he would work on restoring relations with Israel.

Despite not actually having a government or being in any type of official position of power within Venezuela Juan Guaido is still somehow making big promises. Last week it was the promise to sell oil he doesn’t control to the US and this week he is setting foreign policy for a state, a military, and a diplomatic core that he doesn’t have.

Regardless of Juan Guaido’s material position, Israel has been more than willing to indulge in the US fantasy in Venezuela and was one of the early states to recognize the fraud as “interim President.” Now it seems Guaido is more than willing to repay the favor should he ever actually hold office.

Guaido made this promise in a recent interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper where he told the interviewer that he was “very happy to announce that the process of stabilizing relations with Israel is in full swing.” While what exactly that means when you’re a President with no power is rather ambiguous, for some reason Guaido has said restoring relations “is very important for us.”

Regardless of all these factors, there are still several reasons the new President has made this a high priority. Even without any actual diplomatic staff recognized by the state, Guaidó has still been in contact with Israel and has even discussed opening a new Venezuelan embassy in Israel, saying it “is one of the subjects we are talking about.”

Another reason Guaidó claims he wants to restore relations with the Zionists is due to the fact that there “are many Venezuelans in Israel and many Jews in Venezuela.”

According to Guaidó, this Venezuelan Jewish community “is very active and prosperous” and have expressed to the president their hopes for renewed relations with Israel.

Guaidó says this Jewish community has a friend in him and he wishes to ‘restore their rights’ and has “no doubt that the Jews are afraid.” Now Guaidó has promised to protect this Jewish community should he ever take power.

Relations between Israel and Venezuela were cut off in 2009 under Hugo Chavez, the previous Venezuelan President and mentor of Nicolás Maduro. Chavez knew well that Israel is very active in Latin America in helping the US subvert democracy and didn’t wish to allow the Zionists a base of operations in his country.

Obviously, the reasons cited by Hugo Chavez to justify throwing the Zionists out of Venezuela is perfectly legitimate but this has been a sore point with Washington and imperial media for some time. US media considers the fact that Chavez expelled the Zionists and supported Palestine as proof of the anti-semitism inside the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

This is all totally ridiculous of course and the Chavistas chose to expel the Israelis in solidarity with Palestine against imperialism. This shift in foreign policy was framed as dangerous and the distrust of Zionism is said to be responsible for the “flight” of Venezuelan Jews to Israel.

But just how big is this important Jewish community?

Before Chavez, the total Jewish population in Venezuela was only estimated at about 22,000 out of over 30 million. Since Chavez took power that population has dwindled down to around 7,000 meaning there are about 15,000 Venezuelan Jews in Israel.

Supposedly restoring the Venezuelan embassy in Israel is very important, just not to more than about 20-30,000 people. Many Venezuelans still oppose any type of outside intervention in their country and it likely wouldn’t matter if it was US or Israeli soldiers but Guaidó is clearly more beholden to his foreign backers than he is to his own people.

With all that said, Guaidó still hopes Israel will invest more in regime change in his country. “Many Western countries have already committed to sending humanitarian aid to Venezuela,” he said adding that he is “confident that Israel will also help us.”

Since Israel is basically a US proxy this likely means Guaidó would like aid from them in the form of firearms like the ones Washington recently tried to smuggle in. Chavez made the correct choice in throwing out the Zionists and their agents of subversion, meaning the best hope for Venezuela to remain independent is for the Chavistas to uphold this legacy of anti-imperialism.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel and Arab nations discuss ‘common interests of war with Iran’ – Netanyahu

RT | February 13, 2019

Israel and Arab countries are in talks “in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, although the translation from Hebrew was later downgraded to mere “struggle.”

The promise of a major conflict in the Middle East was floated by the Israeli leader during his trip to Warsaw.

“From here I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran,” Netanyahu said as quoted by Jerusalem Post.

“What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.”

The Israeli PM is in the Polish capital to take part in a two-day international forum on the Middle East, which starts on Wednesday. Representatives from the United States and the European Union are in attendance in addition to Netanyahu and ministers from Gulf kingdoms. The EU representation at the event however is less than impressive, with heavyweights Germany and France choosing not to send their foreign ministers.

The US delegation is headed by Vice President Mike Pence, who is accompanied by vocal Iran hawk Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor. The Anti-Iranian goals of Israel and the US are apparently dominating the agenda of the forum.

“We’re trying to expand the number of nations who are engaged and have a stake in the future of a peaceful and prosperous Middle East,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, told Reuters.

The EU is on a shaky ground vis-a-vis Iran as it’s member Poland hosts the meeting. The Europeans are attempting to resist the push for confrontation with Iran coming from Washington, hoping to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. The Iranians still stick to the terms of the agreement even after US scrapped it under the Trump administration, but the promise of lucrative business opportunities with the EU, which was a major part of the incentive for Tehran to accept the deal, are nowhere near to materializing under the threat of American sanctions.

“Today, the Iranian people see some European countries as cunning and untrustworthy along with the criminal America. The government of the Islamic Republic must carefully preserve its boundaries with them,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned ahead of the gathering in Warsaw.

Israel and Iran are already engaged in a proxy war in Syria, where Israeli military regularly attack what they call Iranian military targets encroaching on Israel. Building on the foundation of common hostility with Iran, the Jewish state also entered cozy relations with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf supporters over the past decade.

Whether the regular exchange of threats grows into an open shooting war in the Middle East, as Netanyahu seems to be promising, is anyone’s guess.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Collateral damage’: The Amiriyah shelter bombing in Iraq should not be forgotten

By Neil Clark | RT | February 13, 2019

On this day in 1991, over 400 people lost their lives when the US dropped two 2,000-pound smart bombs on a Baghdad air-raid shelter. But because it was the ‘good guys’ who did it, the massacre is not remembered as it should be.

‘Collateral damage’. The first time I remember those words being used was in the first Gulf War. There was plenty of ‘collateral damage’ in that conflict. In other words, lots of innocent people were killed.

At around 4:30am on Wednesday February 13, 1991, US F-117 aircraft bombed an air raid shelter in Amiriyah, a suburb of Baghdad, incinerating 408 people, many of them women and children.

“Most of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition,” the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen reported. One poor man said 11 of his family had been in the shelter. Another wept as he said he had lost his wife and children.

The US ‘defense’ was that they had thought the shelter was a command and control bunker. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was using his people as human shields. Yet, as a Human Rights Watch report later noted, the Pentagon conceded that the bunker had been used for civil defense in the Iran-Iraq war, and US officials“gave no warning that they considered its protected status as a civilian shelter to have ended.”

Award-winning anti-war journalist John Pilger noted the interrogation that Jeremy Bowen received when he reported on the crime. “‘Are you absolutely certain it wasn’t a military bunker?” he was asked, or words to that effect. Without any trace of irony the White House spokesperson Martin Fitzwater declared “Saddam Hussein does not share our sanctity for human life.’”

Of course, it’s always a ‘mistake’ or ‘tragic accident’ when the US and its allies commit such terrible crimes, even when it most clearly isn’t. And we are always told we have to ‘move on’ very quickly from these ‘mistakes’ and ‘accidents’.

“Consider the dreadful toll of Iraqi civilian deaths in the intense bombing campaign in the first Gulf War. According to American and French Intelligence reports, over 200,000 died. All this was barely mentioned at the time, even on the BBC and the ‘quality’ press, and is now all but forgotten,” writes David Cromwell of Media Lens, in his book ‘Why Are We The Good Guys?’

The Iraqi press called for the US to be tried for war crimes over the Amiriyah strike. But of course it never happened. In 2001, on the 10th anniversary of the bombing, the US-funded Radio Free Iraq broadcast an interview with an unnamed Iraqi who claimed that there was something not quite right about the air-raid shelter. But even he said he did not know whether or not the bunker was a command and control center and admitted he was not in a “position to give an expert opinion.”

Two years later, the US and its allies assaulted Iraq again – this time falsely claiming that the country possessed WMDs. The second Gulf War has led to the estimated deaths of a further 1mn people.

What is revealing is how the Amiriyah Incineration has – outside of Iraq – disappeared down the memory hole. Let’s suppose that instead of America or one of its allies carrying out the attack it had been Russia, Iran, or another ‘official enemy’. Then we’d never have heard the last of it.

We can be sure that it would have been the subject of at least one major Hollywood film and we’d have annual reminders of the heinous crime. To their credit, the British band Radiohead did write a song about the massacre entitled ‘I Will’ which included the lyric “little baby’s eyes,” but you need to search very hard for other references in popular culture.

Isn’t that shameful?

Because by not remembering the dead of Amiriyah we are saying that those killed by the US and its allies are lesser beings than those killed by its geo-strategic rivals.

It’s not just in Iraq where this has happened.

In April 1999, during the war against Yugoslavia, NATO bombed a convoy of Kosovo Albanians, killing over 60 refugees. At first they tried to blame the atrocity on Yugoslav forces. But when evidence emerged that it was a NATO strike – the alliance claimed that the pilot had believed it to be a military convoy. And of course, the blame for this “tragic accident” was passed on to the ‘official enemy’.

“NATO regrets any harm to innocent civilians, and reminds that the circumstances in which this accident occurred are wholly the responsibility of (Yugoslav) President Milosevic and his policies,” said NATO spokesperson Jamie Shea, sounding just like Martin Fitzwater eight years earlier.

The US-led war in Afghanistan has also been marked by a high level of ‘collateral damage’. On October 9, 2001, just two days after the US and UK began Operation Enduring Freedom, four Afghans working for a UN mine clearing agency were incinerated by a US cruise missile as they slept in the agency’s building in a suburb of Kabul.

“My brother is buried under here. What can we do? Our lives are ruined,” said a distraught Mohammed Afzl as he surveyed the rubble following the US strike.

The bombing of wedding parties became a noted feature of the campaign – 44 people were killed in one such attack in July 2002.

Again, the US tried to blame others – questioning whether it had really been a wedding. It’s a tradition to fire celebratory shots in the air at Pashtun weddings, but the US claimed this was “hostile fire,” so it was ok to bomb. Later, President Bush expressed his ‘sympathy’ to the mourning families and his ‘hope that such kind of accidents won’t happen again’. But of course they did, with great regularity.

Dating back to Amiriyah, we can discern a clear pattern when ‘collateral damage’ occurs:

a) The hit is described as a ‘tragic mistake/accident’, made because we were fighting ‘the bad guys’ (indirectly blaming the ‘bad guys’ for forcing us to be there).

Or…

b) The hit is blamed on the ‘bad guys’ directly. We see this happen in Gaza with the ‘human shield’ claims made by Israel when their bombs kill civilians. Everyone Israel kills is Hamas’ fault, not Israel’s, in the same way that every death during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was the fault of Milosevic.

c) If there is a real outcry, then it’s a case of: don’t worry, we will hold our own internal inquiry! An internal inquiry which of course ends up exonerating the perpetrators.

What we don’t get and what the families of those killed in Amiriyah are still waiting for is justice.

So spare a thought for the 408 today and all the other innocent victims of ‘collateral damage’, because we’re really meant to have forgotten them.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror

By Jonathan Cook | The National | February 13, 2019

You might imagine that a report by a multinational observer force documenting a 20-year reign of terror by Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers against Palestinians, in a city under occupation, would provoke condemnation from European and US politicians.

But you would be wrong. The leaking in December of the report on conditions in the city of Hebron, home to 200,000 Palestinians, barely caused a ripple.

About 40,000 separate cases of abuse had been quietly recorded since 1997 by dozens of monitors from Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey. Some incidents constituted war crimes.

Exposure of the confidential report has now provided the pretext for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to expel the international observers. He shuttered their mission in Hebron this month, in apparent violation of Israel’s obligations under the 25-year-old Oslo peace accords.

Israel hopes once again to draw a veil over its violent colonisation of the heart of the West Bank’s largest Palestinian city. The process of clearing tens of thousands of inhabitants from central Hebron is already well advanced.

Any chance of rousing the international community into even minimal protest was stamped out by the US last week. It blocked a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council expressing “regret” at Israel’s decision, and on Friday added that ending the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was an “internal matter” for Israel.

The TIPH was established in 1997 after a diplomatic protocol split the city into two zones, controlled separately by Israel and a Palestinian Authority created by the Oslo accords.

The “temporary” in its name was a reference to the expected five-year duration of the Oslo process. The need for TIPH, most assumed, would vanish when Israel ended the occupation and a Palestinian state was built in its place.

While Oslo put the PA formally in charge of densely populated regions of the occupied territories, Israel was effectively given a free hand in Hebron to entrench its belligerent hold on Palestinian life.

Several hundred extremist Jewish settlers have gradually expanded their illegal enclave in the city centre, backed by more than 1,000 Israeli soldiers. Many Palestinian residents have been forced out while the rest are all but imprisoned in their homes.

TIPH faced an impossible task from the outset: to “maintain normal life” for Hebron’s Palestinians in the face of Israel’s structural violence.

Until the report was leaked, its documentation of Israel’s takeover of Hebron and the settlers’ violent attacks had remained private, shared only among the states participating in the task force.

However, the presence of observers did curb the settlers’ worst excesses, helping Palestinian children get to school unharmed and allowing their parents to venture out to work and shop. That assistance is now at an end.

Hebron has been a magnet for extremist settlers because it includes a site revered in Judaism: the reputed burial plot of Abraham, father to the three main monotheistic religions.

But to the settlers’ disgruntlement, Hebron became central to Muslim worship centuries ago, with the Ibrahimi mosque established at the site.

Israel’s policy has been gradually to prise away the Palestinians’ hold on the mosque, as well the urban space around it. Half of the building has been restricted to Jewish prayer, but in practice the entire site is under Israeli military control.

As the TIPH report notes, Palestinian Muslims must now pass through several checkpoints to reach the mosque and are subjected to invasive body searches. The muezzin’s call to prayer is regularly silenced to avoid disturbing Jews.

Faced with these pressures, according to TIPH, the number of Palestinians praying there has dropped by half over the past 15 years.

In Hebron, as at Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a Muslim holy site is treated solely as an obstacle – one that must be removed so that Israel can assert exclusive sovereignty over all of the Palestinians’ former homeland.

A forerunner of TIPH was set up in 1994, shortly after Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli army doctor, entered the Ibrahimi mosque and shot more than 150 Muslims at prayer, killing 29. Israeli soldiers aided Goldstein, inadvertently or otherwise, by barring the worshippers’ escape while they were being sprayed with bullets.

The massacre should have provided the opportunity for Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister of the time, to banish Hebron’s settlers and ensure the Oslo process remained on track. Instead he put the Palestinian population under prolonged curfew.

That curfew never really ended. It became the basis of an apartheid policy that has endlessly indulged Jewish settlers as they harass and abuse their Palestinian neighbours.

Israel’s hope is that most will get the message and leave.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in power for a decade, more settlers are moving in, driving out Palestinians. Today Hebron’s old market, once the commercial hub of the southern West Bank, is a ghost town, and Palestinians are too terrified to enter large sections of their own city.

TIPH’s report concluded that, far from guaranteeing “normal life”, Israel had made Hebron more divided and dangerous for Palestinians than ever before.

In 2016 another army medic, Elor Azaria, used his rifle to shoot in the head a prone and badly wounded Palestinian youth. Unlike Goldstein’s massacre, the incident was caught on video.

Israelis barely cared until Azaria was arrested. Then large sections of the public, joined by politicians, rallied to his cause, hailing him a hero.

Despite doing very little publicly, TIPH’s presence in Hebron had served as some kind of restraint on the settlers and soldiers. Now the fear is that there will be more Azarias.

Palestinians rightly suspect that the expulsion of the observer force is the latest move in efforts by Israel and the US to weaken mechanisms for protecting Palestinian human rights.

Mr Netanyahu has incited against local and international human rights organisations constantly, accusing them of being foreign agents and making it ever harder for them to operate effectively.

And last year US President Donald Trump cut all aid to UNRWA, the United Nations’ refugee agency, which plays a vital role in caring for Palestinians and upholding their right to return to their former lands.

Not only are the institutions Palestinians rely on for support being dismembered but so now are the organisations that record the crimes Israel has been committing.

That, Israel hopes, will ensure that an international observer post which has long had no teeth will soon will soon lose its sight too as Israel begins a process of annexing the most prized areas of the West Bank – with Hebron top of the list.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

15 Years in Prison for Clicking on Terrorist Propaganda Even Once – New UK Law

Sputnik – February 13, 2019

Upon the adoption of a new legislation, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act “gives the police the powers they need to disrupt plots and punish those who seek to do us harm.”

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 has received Royal Assent on 12 February, making the bill an Act of Parliament.

The act makes provision in relation to terrorism, enabling persons at ports and borders to be questioned for national security and updating the offence of obtaining information likely to be useful to a terrorist to cover material that is only viewed or streamed, rather than downloaded to form a permanent record.

The act sees to an increase to the maximum penalty for certain preparatory terrorism offences to 15 years’ imprisonment.

The UK government has been criticized by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joe Cannataci, back in 2018. The inspector argued following his visit in the UK, that it was concerning that accessing propaganda “on three or more different ccasions” was viewed as an offence. Cannataci called the approach straying towards “thought crime.”

The three-click benchmark has been removed in the new bill and now even a single tap on ‘terrorist material’ could lead to years in prison. Exemption is provided for journalists, academic researchers or people who had “no reason to believe” they were accessing terrorist propaganda.

The Bill has also provided for a launch of an independent review of Prevent, the much criticized government’s strategy that aims to support persons vulnerable to radicalisation.

British intelligence services were condemned in 2018 for failing to properly monitor individuals of interest — later to be involved in terrorist activity — not under active investigation at the moment but in the peripheries of more than one investigation.

In 2017, the United Kingdom suffered five terrorist attacks in Westminster, the Manchester Arena, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and Parsons Green, with 36 people losing their lives and dozens injured.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, False Flag Terrorism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , | 1 Comment

YouTube Will Determine What ‘Conspiracy’ Is and Stop Recommending Such Videos

By Michael Krieger | Liberty BlitzKrieg | February 11, 2019

While the evolution of Google’s YouTube from a free expression platform into something entirely different has been underway for a while, it just took another step in a very short-sighted and restrictive direction. NBC News reports:

YouTube has announced that it will no longer recommend videos that “come close to” violating its community guidelines, such as conspiracy or medically inaccurate videos… Chaslot said that YouTube’s fix to its recommendations AI will have to include getting people to videos with truthful information and overhauling the current system it uses to recommend videos.

There’s a lot to unpack here so let’s get started. First, it appears YouTube has announced the creation of a new bucket when it comes to content uploaded to the site. It’s no longer just videos consistent with company guidelines and those that aren’t, but there’s now a category for “conspiracy or medically inaccurate videos.” This is a massive responsibility, which neither YouTube or anyone else seems fit to be judge and jury. In other words, YouTube is saying it’s comfortable deciding what is “conspiracy” and what isn’t. Which brings up a really important question.

“Conspiracy” and covering up conspiracies is a fundamental part of the human experience, and always has been. It demonstrates extreme hubris for a tech giant to claim it can differentiate between a legitimate conspiracy to explore, versus an illegitimate one. One person’s righteous investigation is another’s conspiracy theory, with Russiagate serving as an obvious contemporary example.

Going back to the early 21st century, we witnessed a major conspiracy to start a war in Iraq based on lies; lies which were endlessly repeated uncritically throughout the mass media. Even worse, General Wesley Clark described an even larger conspiracy which consisted of starting multiple additional wars in the aftermath of 9/11. This conspiracy is ongoing and has continued to move forward in the years since, through both Republican and Democratic administrations.

It’s pretty clear what will end up happening as a result of this tweaking to YouTube’s recommended videos AI. The “conspiracies” of your average person will be pushed aside and demoted, while government and mass media lies will remain unaffected. Google will assume mass media and government are honest, so government and billionaire approved propaganda will be increasingly promoted, while the perspectives of regular citizens will be pushed further to the margins. YouTube is simply not a platform anymore, but rather a self-proclaimed arbiter of what is ridiculous conspiracy and what is truth.

While YouTube says videos it deems conspiracy will still be available via search, it’s not a stretch to imagine this is just the first step and before you know it certain categories will be banned from the site entirely. Either way, I think there’s a silver lining to all of this.

As I outlined in a recent post, U.S. tech giants, particularly Facebook, Google and Amazon, aren’t simply private companies. They appear more akin to quasi-government entities that increasingly view themselves as instrumental gatekeepers for a discredited status quo. Moreover, their primary business models consist of mass surveillance and violating our privacy.

Ultimately, I think the increasingly nefarious and desperate behavior of these tech giants will lead to their demise. More and more of us have looked under the hood and seen the seedy and privacy-destroying nature of these entities. We’ve also seen what it’s like to have genuine free expression on the internet and we don’t want to turn the web into another cable news where Facebook, Google and Amazon become the new CBS, NBC and ABC. If we do, then the entire promise of the internet will have turned out to be a giant waste.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think most of us have had a taste of what’s possible, and agree that free speech and expression on the internet, the good, the bad and the ugly, is better than an internet censored by tech companies and their billionaire executives, who will always be biased toward the status quo point of view. It’s still not clear which platforms will emerge to replace the tech giants, but it seems fairly clear to me the best days are over for these companies, and it cannot come a moment too soon.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 4 Comments

Hands off ‘our hemisphere’ or Venezuela pays the price: US Senator warns Russia

RT | February 13, 2019

The US staked a claim on half the world, as Senate Armed Services Committee chair Jim Inhofe said Washington might have to intervene in Venezuela if Russia dares set up a military base not just there, but “in our hemisphere.”

“I think that it could happen,” Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) told a group of reporters on Tuesday. “You’ve got a guy down there that is killing everybody. You could have him put together a base that Russia would have on our hemisphere. And if those things happen, it may be to the point where we’ll have to intervene with troops and respond.”

Should Russia dare encroach on the US’ neck of the woods, Inhofe said: “we have to take whatever action necessary to stop them from doing that.”

As opposition leader Juan Guaido vies for power, the Russian government has stuck by President Nicolas Maduro. Russia has not, however, promised military aid to Maduro, and Russian diplomat Alexander Shchetinin said on Monday that Venezuela has not requested military aid from Moscow.

After Guaido declared himself interim president of Venezuela last month, US President Donald Trump immediately recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader. Since then, the US has pledged humanitarian aid to Guaido, called on Venezuela’s military to support him, and slapped Maduro’s government with fresh economic sanctions. Maduro has denounced Washington’s sponsorship of Guaido as a “vile” coup attempt but nevertheless called for talks with the opposition leader. The US has outright rejected taking part in any discussions with Maduro.

The US has stopped short of deploying troops to Venezuela, despite Trump and national security adviser John Bolton both saying the option is “on the table.” Speaking on Tuesday, Inhofe agreed and suggested that Trump could launch a military operation in Venezuela without Congressional authorization.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said. “If there is a threat that reaches the threshold of the president having the ability, the constitutional ability of deploying troops, then that’s an unknown. We don’t know right now.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the United States against military intervention on Tuesday.

“Lavrov has warned against all interference in Venezuela’s domestic affairs including the use of force threatened by Washington and which is in violation of international law,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

‘Our hemisphere’

Inhofe said that a flow of Russian troops or weapons into the Western hemisphere “would be a threat to the United States of America.” The United States, meanwhile, reads from a different rulebook.

The US maintains nearly 800 military bases in over 70 countries worldwide, with a foothold on every continent. And, while Inhofe wants to keep an entire hemisphere free from Russian influence, the US is currently in talks to establish a permanent military base in Poland, right on Russia’s doorstep. Given the long history of animosity between Poland and Russia, the Polish government has offered to cough up $2 billion towards setting up the base.

Further afield, no hemisphere is beyond the reach of the United States. The US military divides the globe up into six Combatant Command ‘Areas of Responsibility,’ which it maintains in times of peace and war. Russia, meanwhile, divides its territory into four military districts, all within its own borders.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

Mainstream media boosts Trudeau’s popularity over Venezuela

By Yves Engler · February 13, 2019

US presidents have bombed or invaded places like Grenada, Panama, Iraq and Sudan to distract from domestic scandals or to gain a quick boost in popularity. But, do Canadian politicians also pursue regime change abroad to be cheered on by the dominant media as decisive leaders?

In a discussion on regime change in Venezuela after last Monday’s “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa, Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole praised Canadian policy but added that the Liberals used the meeting of countries opposed to Nicolas Maduro’s government to drown out criticism of their foreign policy. O’Toole claimed the “Lima Group” meeting was “put together quite quickly and I think there are some politics behind that with some of the foreign affairs challenges the Trudeau government has been having in recent months.” In other words, O’Toole believes the Liberals organized a gathering that concluded with a call for the military to oust Venezuela’s elected president to appear like effective international players.

Understood within the broader corporate and geopolitical context, O’Toole’s assessment appears reasonable. After being criticized for its China policy, the Liberals have been widely praised for their regime change efforts in Venezuela. In a sign of media cheerleading, CTV News host Don Martin began his post “Lima Group” interview with foreign minister Chrystia Freeland by stating “the Lima summit has wrapped and the object of regime change is staying put for the time being” and then he asked her “is [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro any step closer to being kicked out of office as a result of this meeting today?” Later in the interview Martin applauded the “Lima Group’s” bid “to put the economic pincers around it [Venezuela’s economy] and choking it off from international transactions.”

In recent days Ben Rowswell, a former Canadian ambassador in Caracas, has been widely quoted praising the Liberals’ leadership on Venezuela. “It’s clear that the international community is paying attention to what Canada has to say about human rights and democracy,” Rowswell was quoted as saying in an article titled “Trudeau’s Venezuela diplomacy is a bright spot amid China furor”.

Rowswell heads the Canadian International Council, which seeks to “integrate business leaders with the best researchers and public policy leaders”, according to its billionaire financier Jim Balsillie. Long an influential voice on foreign policy, CIC hosted the above-mentioned forum with O’Toole that also included the Liberal’s junior foreign minister Andrew Leslie and NDP foreign affairs critic Hélène Laverdière. CIC’s post “Lima Group” meeting forum was co-sponsored with the Canadian Council of the Americas, which is led by Kinross, Kinross, ScotiaBank, KPMG and SNC Lavalin. On the day of the “Lima Group” meeting CCA head Ken Frankel published an op-ed in the Globe and Mail headlined “Venezuela crisis will be a true test of Canada’s leadership in the hemisphere.” Frankel told CPAC he was “always supportive of Canadian leadership in the Hemisphere” and “the Venezuela situation has presented … a perfect opportunity for the Trudeau government to showcase the principles of its foreign policy.”

At the CCA/CIC forum Laverdière made it clear there’s little official political opposition to Ottawa’s regime change efforts. The NDP’s foreign critic agreed with Canada’s recognition of Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela, as she did on Twitter, at a press scrum and on CPAC during the day of the “Lima Group” meeting in Ottawa. (Amidst criticism from NDP activists, party leader Jagmeet Singh later equivocated on explicitly recognizing Guaidó.)

With the NDP, Conservatives, CIC, CCA, most media, etc. supporting regime change in Venezuela, there is little downside for the Liberals to push an issue they believe boosts their international brand. To get a sense of their brashness, the day of the “Lima Group” meeting the iconic CN Tower in Toronto was lit up with the colours of the Venezuelan flag. A tweet from Global Affairs Canada explained, “As the sun sets on today’s historic Lima Group meeting, Venezuela’s colours shine bright on Canada’s CN Tower to show our support for the people of Venezuela and their fight for democracy.”

The Liberals drive for regime change in Venezuela to mask other foreign-policy problem is reminiscent of Stephen Harper’s push to bomb Libya. Facing criticism for weakening Canada’s moral reputation and failing to win a seat on the UN Security Council, a Canadian general oversaw NATO’s war, seven  CF-18s participated in bombing runs and two Royal Canadian Navy vessels patrolled Libya’s coast.

The mission, which began six weeks before the 2011 federal election, may have helped the Conservatives win a majority government. At the time Postmedia published a story titled “Libya ‘photo op’ gives Harper advantage: experts” and Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom published a commentary titled “Libyan war could be a winner for Harper”.  He wrote: “War fits with the Conservative storyline of Harper as a strong, decisive leader. War against a notorious villain contradicts opposition charges of Conservative moral bankruptcy. The inevitable media stories of brave Canadian pilots and grateful Libyan rebels can only distract attention from the Conservative government’s real failings.”

Similar to Venezuela today, the regime change effort in Libya was unanimously endorsed in Parliament (three months into the bombing campaign Green Party MP Elizabeth May voted against a second resolution endorsing a continuation of the war). “It’s appropriate for Canada to be a part of this effort to try to stop Gadhafi from attacking his citizens as he has been threatening to do,’’ said NDP leader Jack Layton. After Moammar Gaddafi was savagely killed six months later, NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel released a statement noting, “the future of Libya now belongs to all Libyans. Our troops have done a wonderful job in Libya over the past few months.”

Emboldened by the opposition parties, the Conservatives organized a nationally televised post-war celebration for Canada’s “military heroes”, which included flyovers from a dozen military aircraft. Calling it “a day of honour”, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the 300 military personnel brought in from four bases: “We are celebrating a great military success.”

Today Libya is, of course, a disaster. It is still divided into various warring factions and hundreds of militias operate in the country of six million.

But who in Canada ever paid a political price for the destruction of that country and resulting destabilization of much of the Sahel region of Africa?

A similar scenario could develop in Venezuela. Canadian politicians’ push for the military to remove the president could easily slide into civil war and pave the way to a foreign invasion that leads to a humanitarian calamity. If that happened, Canadian politicians, as in Libya, would simply wash their hands of the intervention.

Canadians need to reflect on a political culture in which governing parties encourage regime change abroad with an eye to their domestic standing.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Nothing stopping Russian-German trade turnover’s rapid growth

RT | February 13, 2019

Trade turnover between Russia and its second largest trade partner, Germany, increased 8.4 percent and reached nearly €62 billion ($70 billion) in 2018 compared to previous year, according to the German trade lobby.

Year-on-year imports from Russia to Germany expanded 14.7 percent, amounting to €36 billion ($40 billion). Export to Russia rose by 0.6 percent to €25.9 billion ($29 billion), the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce, which represents over 800 German firms, reported on Monday citing the Federal Statistical Office.

This is despite sanctions against Moscow and threats from the US to penalize German companies involved in the Russia-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

“German business has successfully increased exports to Russia despite the market difficulties, sanctions and counter-sanctions. This has also improved our expectations for 2019,” the chairman of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce, Matthias Schepp, said in a statement.

At the end of last year, Schepp said German firms boosted their investment in the Russian economy in spite of economic sanctions, adding such an investment volume has rarely been seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Speaking to RT at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in May, the head of the German trade lobby said that it’s not only car manufacturers investing heavily in Russia but medium-sized businesses as well.

Germany is Russia’s second largest trade partner, behind China. The trade turnover between Beijing and Moscow also surged last year by 24.5 percent to $108.3 billion, with $56.1 billion of it amounting to Russian exports to China. This is the first time since 2006 that Russia has had a trade surplus with its Eastern partner.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment

Anti-Russia Sanctions Imposed Due to Strong US Pressure – Lavrov

Sputnik – 13.02.2019

On Tuesday, the Financial Times reported that the United States and the European Union had been negotiating and were close to reaching an agreement on imposing new economic sanctions against Russia after the incident in the Sea of Azov in late November.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on Tuesday that the possible sanctions over the Kerch Strait incident are imposed under strong pressure from the United States.

“But we also know that these sanctions are taken under the strongest US pressure, which once again shows the EU’s lack of independence. Sad,” Lavrov said.

He also said that Russia doesn’t discuss sanctions with anyone and it is focused on developing its economy so it does not depend on other states’ whims.

“We have already said a long time ago that we are not discussing sanctions with anyone. We want to build our economy, trade with normal foreign partners so as not to depend on someone’s whims. In this case, the whims of those who did not keep their word, allowed a coup in Kiev, did not make the opposition fulfill agreements with [then] president [Viktor] Yanukovych, ” Lavrov said at a press conference following talks with his Lesotho counterpart Lesego Makgothi.

He added he considered the planned sanctions as a sign that the Europeans were again admitting their inability to make Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko implement the Minsk agreements.

The foreign minister’s comments follow the Financial Times’ earlier reports that the US and the EU were close to reaching an agreement on imposing new economic anti-Russia sanctions for its alleged aggression toward Ukraine in the Sea of Azov in late November.

On November 25, Ukraine’s Berdyansk and Nikopol gunboats, and the Yany Kapu tugboat illegally crossed the Russian maritime border as they sailed toward the Kerch Strait, the entrance to the Sea of Azov. Russia seized the Ukrainian vessels and detained 24 people on board after they failed to respond to a demand to stop. After the incident, a criminal case on illegal border crossing was opened in Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly slammed Kiev’s attempts to portray the detained sailors as prisoners of war, stressing that they faced criminal charges. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the incident was a provocation prepared in advance as a pretext to declare martial law, which was announced after the incident and lasted for a month. Putin said the provocation could be linked to Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko’s low approval ratings ahead of the presidential election, set to be held in March.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Germany Pulls Rank on Macron and American Energy Blackmail

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 13.02.2019

It was billed politely as a Franco-German “compromise” when the EU balked at adopting a Gas Directive which would have undermined the Nord Stream 2 project with Russia.

Nevertheless, diplomatic rhetoric aside, Berlin’s blocking last week of a bid by French President Emmanuel Macron to impose tougher regulations on the Nord Stream 2 gas project was without doubt a firm rebuff to Paris.

Macron wanted to give the EU administration in Brussels greater control over the new pipeline running from Russia to Germany. But in the end the so-called “compromise” was a rejection of Macron’s proposal, reaffirming Germany in the lead role of implementing the Nord Stream 2 route, along with Russia.

The $11-billion, 1,200 kilometer pipeline is due to become operational at the end of this year. Stretching from Russian mainland under the Baltic Sea, it will double the natural gas supply from Russia to Germany. The Berlin government and German industry view the project as a vital boost to the country’s ever-robust economy. Gas supplies will also be distributed from Germany to other European states. Consumers stand to gain from lower prices for heating homes and businesses.

Thus Macron’s belated bizarre meddling was rebuffed by Berlin. A rebuff was given too to the stepped-up pressure from Washington for the Nord Stream 2 project to be cancelled. Last week, US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and two other American envoys wrote an op-ed for Deutsche Welle in which they accused Russia of trying to use “energy blackmail” over Europe’s geopolitics.

Why France’s Macron, at the last minute, attempted to undermine the project by placing stiffer regulations is a curious question. Those extra regulations if they had been imposed would have potentially made the Russian gas supply more expensive. As it turns out, the project will now go-ahead without onerous restrictions.

In short, Macron and the spoiling tactics of Washington, along with EU states hostile to Russia, Poland and the Baltic countries, have been put in their place by Germany and its assertion of national interests of securing economical and abundant gas supply from Russia. Other EU member states that backed Berlin over Nord Stream 2 were Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and the Netherlands.

Washington’s claims that Nord Stream 2 would give Russia leverage of Europe’s security have been echoed by Poland and the Baltic states. Poland, and non-EU Ukraine, stand to lose out billions of dollars-worth of transit fees. Such a move, however, is the prerogative of Germany and Russia to find a more economical mode of supply. Besides, what right has Ukraine to make demands on a bilateral matter that is none of its business? Kiev’s previous bad faith over not paying gas bills to Russia disbars it from reasonable opinion.

Another factor is the inherent Russophobia of Polish and Baltic politicians who view everything concerning Russia through a prism of paranoia.

For the Americans, it is obviously a blatant case of seeking to sell their own much more expensive natural gas to Europe’s giant energy market – in place of Russia’s product. Based on objective market figures, Russia is the most competitive supplier to Europe. The Americans are therefore trying to snatch a strategic business through foul means of propaganda and political pressure. Ironically, the US German ambassador Richard Grenell and the other American envoys wrote in their recent oped: “Europe must retain control of its energy security.”

Last month, Grenell threatened German and European firms involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2 that they could face punitive American sanctions in the future. Evidently, it is the US side that is using “blackmail” to coerce others into submission, not Russia.

Back to Macron. What was he up to in his belated spoiling tactics over Nord Stream 2 and in particular the attempted problems being leveled for Germany if the extra regulations had been imposed?

It seems implausible that Macron was suddenly finding a concern for Poland and the Baltic states in their paranoia over alleged Russian invasion.

Was Macron trying to garner favors from the Trump administration? His initial obsequious rapport with Trump has since faded from the early days of Macron’s presidency in 2017. By doing Washington’s bidding to undermine the Nord Stream 2 project was Macron trying to ingratiate himself again?

The contradictions regarding Macron are replete. He is supposed to be a champion of “ecological causes”. A major factor in Germany’s desire for the Nord Stream 2 project is that the increased gas supply will reduce the European powerhouse’s dependence on dirty fuels of coal, oil and nuclear power. By throwing up regulatory barriers, Macron is making it harder for Germany and Europe to move to cleaner sources of energy that the Russian natural gas represents.

Also, if Macron had succeeded in imposing tougher regulations on the Nord Stream 2 project it would have inevitably increased the costs to consumers for gas bills. This is at a time when his government is being assailed by nationwide Yellow Vest protests over soaring living costs, in particular fuel-price hikes.

A possible factor in Macron’s sabotage bid in Germany’s Nord Stream 2 plans was his chagrin over Berlin’s rejection of his much-vaunted reform agenda for the Eurozone bloc within the EU. Despite Macron’s very public amity with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Berlin has continually knocked back the French leader’s ambitions for reform.

It’s hard to discern what are the real objectives of Macron’s reforms. But they seem to constitute a “banker’s charter”. Many eminent German economists have lambasted his plans, which they say will give more taxpayer-funded bailouts to insolvent banks. They say Macron is trying to move the EU further away from the social-market economy than the bloc already has moved.

What Macron, an ex-Rothschild banker, appears to be striving for is a replication of his pro-rich, anti-worker policies that he is imposing on France, and for these policies to be extended across the Eurozone. Berlin is not buying it, realizing such policies will further erode the social fabric. This could be the main reason why Macron tried to use the Nord Stream 2 project as leverage over Berlin.

In the end, Macron and Washington – albeit working for different objectives – were defeated in their attempts to sabotage the emerging energy trade between Germany, Europe and Russia. Nord Stream 2, as with Russia’s Turk Stream to the south of Europe, seems inevitable by sheer force of natural partnership.

On this note, the Hungarian government’s comments this week were apt. Budapest accused some European leaders and the US of “huge hypocrisy” in decrying association with Russia over energy trade. Macron has previously attended an economics forum in St Petersburg, and yet lately has sought to “blackmail” and disrupt Germany over its trade plans with Russia.

As for the Americans, their arrant hypocrisy is beyond words. As well as trying to dictate to Europe about “market principles” and “energy security”, it was reported this week that Washington is similarly demanding Iraq to end its import of natural gas from neighboring Iran.

Iraq is crippled by electricity and power shortages because of the criminal war that the US waged on that country from 2003-2011 which destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. Iraq critically needs Iranian gas supplies to keep the lights and fans running. Yet, here we have the US now dictating to Iraq to end its lifeline import of Iranian fuel in order to comply with the Trump administration’s sanctions against Tehran. Iraq is furious at the latest bullying interference by Washington in its sovereign affairs.

The hypocrisy of Washington and elitist politicians like Emmanuel Macron has become too much to stomach. Maybe Germany and others are finally realizing who the charlatans are.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Russophobia | , , , , | 2 Comments