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By Paul Homewood | Not A Lot Of People Know That | October 28, 2019

1) Global Temperatures

It is generally reckoned that global temperatures have risen by about 1C since the late 19thC. This however is only a guesstimate at best, as most of the world had very little climate data in those days

According to satellite data, temperatures have not increased since 1998.

2) Little Ice Age

Any discussion of temperature rise since the 19thC needs to be put in the context of the Little Ice Age, which lasted around 500 years and ended in the late 19thC.

Scientists believe that this was the coldest period since the end of the Ice Age, and evidence shows that it was a worldwide event, although timings were not always the same.

The Little Ice Age succeeded the Medieval Warm Period, which again appears to have been a global event, during which temperatures were at similar levels as today.

3) Glaciers

Melting of glaciers is often held up as “proof” of global warming. But in fact they began retreating in the 19thC, long before current “man-made” global warming. There is particularly strong evidence of this fact, as Alaskan and Alpine glaciers were already being closely surveyed as early as the late 18thC.

As the glaciers in Alaska retreat, they are uncovering the remains of ancient forests, which have been carbon dated back to the Middle Ages, indicating the glaciers were much smaller then. Exactly the same has occurred in Patagonia.

Evidence from around the world, including South America and New Zealand, confirms that there was a massive growth in  the size of glaciers between the Middle Ages and the end of the Little Ice Age.

Glaciologists have established that many glaciers in both Greenland and Iceland reached their post ice age maxima during the 18th and 19thC.

4) Arctic

We hear a lot about temperatures rising in the Arctic, and icecaps melting.

In fact, temperatures around the Arctic are little different now to what they were in the 1930s and 40s. Subsequently they fell sharply in the 1970s and 80s, before rising again. This cycle appears to be connected to multi-decadal ocean cycles

Arctic sea ice retreated as a result until 2007, since when it has remained stable. Satellite data for sea ice extent is only available since 1979, in the middle of the colder interlude, and therefore cannot provide reliable long term trends.

The ice cap in Greenland has also been slowly melting, but the amounts involved are extremely tiny in relation to the total ice mass. Again, long term temperature records in Greenland show that temperatures were as high in the 1930s and 40s.

On a longer timescale, scientists also know that temperatures throughout the Arctic have been much higher than now for the last 10,000 years.

5) Antarctica

Sea ice around Antarctica has been stable since 1979, if anything increasing slightly.

NASA have established that the Antarctic ice cap has actually been growing since 1992, because snowfall has more than offset thinning glaciers.

6) Sea levels

Since the ending of the Little Ice Age in the late 19thC, global sea levels have risen by about 8 inches. Sea levels around the UK give a similar result, after allowing for vertical land movement. (Most of England has been sinking since the ice age).

The recent rate of rise has been slightly higher, about 10 inches per century, but sea levels were also rising at a similar rate in the mid 20thC.

7) Extreme weather

There is no persuasive evidence that extreme weather is getting either more common or severe:

a) According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is no evidence of any long term increase in hurricane activity.

b) US data confirms that tornado activity has declined since the 1970s, when proper records began. Notably data also shows that there are now fewer of the most violent tornadoes.

c) The IPCC also report little evidence that flooding is getting worse.

d) Equally they find little proof that droughts are becoming worse globally, though there are inevitably regional differences.

e) Wildfires, contrary to popular myth, are claiming many less acres than they did in the past.

One of the biggest sources for the myth of extreme weather is 24/7 media coverage, which now brings events into our homes which would have gone unreported not long ago.

In the UK, long term data also provides no evidence of an increase in extreme weather, such as storms, floods and droughts.

8) UK climate trends

According to official Met Office data, UK temperatures stopped rising about fifteen years ago. The summer of 1976 remains the hottest on record, as well as having the most intense heatwaves.

Furthermore there is no evidence of any significant changes in rainfall trends, other than in Scotland which has experienced higher rainfall in recent decades.

9) Climate projections

All of the scary forecasts concerning temperatures, sea level rise etc are based on computer modelling of the climate. However these models have consistently grossly overestimated the small rise in temperatures actually experienced.

10) UK Climate Change Act

The 2008 Climate Change Act committed the UK to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Since the Act was passed, the UK’s CO2 emissions have reduced by 183 Mt, representing 31% of 1990 levels. However this has come at a great cost.

This year, subsidies for renewable energy are forecast to hit £12.2bn, equivalent to about £450 per household.

This year however, Parliament approved changes to the Act which alter the target  from an 80% cut to 100%. Official estimates put the cost of  this at £50bn a year by 2050, some £1800 per household.

11) Global emissions

While UK emissions have dropped by 183 Mt since 2008, global emissions have increased by 3,389 Mt. UK emissions are now only a tiny 1% of global ones.

Despite the hype, the Paris Climate Agreement, signed in 2015, won’t do anything to reduce emissions, as most countries plan to carry on increasing them until at least 2030. Notably these include China and India, who account for 35% of the world’s carbon dioxide.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | 2 Comments

Will phony assault charge intimidate Grayzone editor? Unlikely.

By Damian Wilson | RT | October 29, 2019

The heavy handed arrest and detention of Grayzone founder and editor Max Blumenthal comes five months after an attempted coup and assassination plot against the Venezuelan President failed. Maybe the US is running out of ideas…

The US intelligence service finally ran out of patience with Max Blumenthal last Friday morning and stormed his home, seizing him and spiriting him away to prison for a weekend of illegal detention, mistreatment and threats.

If that had happened to a well-respected investigative journalist in Caracas, Venezuela then the international media would have risen as one in outrage, condemning the heavy-handed tactics of President Nicolás Maduro and his security forces.

There would have been calls for the Venezuelans to explain their actions, demands to release the journalist immediately and to guarantee their future security. Sanctions already in place by the US would have been tightened and denunciations would have been forthcoming from all corners.

But with this happening in the US capital, it is a different story because the intelligence services do not like people like Max Blumenthal. He is the sort of troublemaker who asks awkward questions of the powers that be, who raises issues that are considered best left unexplored and generally makes them squirm when rocks are kicked over and their less honourable activities are revealed in daylight.

Ask Edward Snowden how that goes down. (Better still, read his autobiography Permanent Record which came out a few weeks ago.) Ask Chelsea Manning, ask Julian Assange.

If you cause a fuss that US intelligence does not like then your card is marked and it is only a matter of time before you will be whisked away for a weekend of fun and games while shackled in a cage. It might not be today, or tomorrow, but that knock on the door will come.

So Blumenthal’s reporting from outside the Venezuelan embassy, as he and other activists attempted to deliver food and sanitary supplies to those besieged inside was exactly the sort of thing to make the men in dark suits see red.

He told how, “the pro-coup mob outside turned violent, physically assaulting embassy protectors, and hurling racist, sexist and homophobic abuse at others” and he, along with his colleagues, tweeted details of pro-coup individuals vandalising the Venezuelan embassy and abusing the Embassy Protection Collective activists.

This sort of exposure did not fit in with the plans of the US Government to demonize Venezuela or its president, with Obama having kicked things off by declaring the nation a national security threat way back in 2015.

Current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that belief earlier this year in case anyone thought there had been a thaw in the frozen relationship since the change in the White House residents.

And as the powers have spoken, don’t you dare disagree with them or make them look bad. Which is what Blumenthal has done.

Having made its mind up about Maduro, the US managed to sign up 50 nations to somehow back the notion that the Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido should actually be recognised as president of the oil-rich nation. There are some powerful dissenting voices, however, namely Russia and China who sit alongside the US as permanent members the United Nations Security Council.

America decided to try and orchestrate a coup back in June this year and along with Colombia and Chile, devised a plot to overthrow the Venezuelan government and assassinate Maduro.

Around the same time, the embassy in DC became a focus for the plotters, who included supporters of Guaido but the local activists were too quick and managed to get people embedded inside the building to report on and record the siege as it unfolded.

That was not what the intelligence services wanted.

Blumenthal and Co needed to be shut down. Stooges willing to press fake charges were found and Blumenthal was wrongly accused of assault albeit five months after the incident apparently took place. Why the delay?

A puzzled Blumenthal wrote online: “If the government had at least told me I had a warrant I could have voluntarily surrendered and appeared at my own arraignment.”

But it is not justice that is being sought here. This is an exercise in intimidation and fear, hence the unheralded 9am arrival of the forces of law and order, the shackles, the cages and the denial of contact with legal representation.

Whatever happened to the press freedom guaranteed under the First Amendment which permits information, ideas and opinions without interference, constraint or prosecution by the government? Or doesn’t that count anymore?

Are threats, insults and attacks now simply occupational hazards for journalists in the USA?

Will Max Blumenthal and his colleagues at The Grayzone, and investigative journalists elsewhere, let an increasingly authoritarian regime intimidate them into early retirement? Unlikely.

Blumenthal has had an unpleasant experience, no doubt, and while the assault charge may not succeed in unnerving him he would certainly know now that the fight to maintain press freedom does not come easily. First amendment or not.

Damian Wilson is a UK journalist & political communications specialist.

Read more:

‘Political persecution’: Max Blumenthal arrested in DC police raid, held for 2 days on phony charges over Venezuela embassy siege

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , | 1 Comment

Discredited bot-whisperers New Knowledge rebrand to Yonder, just in time to save 2020 election… from itself?

By Helen Buyniski | RT | October 29, 2019

Infamous commander of faux Russian bot armies New Knowledge has changed its name to Yonder, memory-holing its troubled reputation with a promise of a ‘more authentic internet’ just in time for the 2020 US presidential election.

New Knowledge, the bot-hunting and consulting firm founded by a State Department alumnus, has undergone a makeover. Billing itself as “the leading authentic internet company,” whatever that means, the newly-rechristened Yonder has neatly divested itself of New Knowledge’s baggage, just in time to bury Americans in horror stories of Russian bot activity for the 2020 election cycle.

The company is under investigation by the Federal Elections Commission for meddling in the 2017 Alabama Senate race with an elaborate false-flag operation involving the creation of an army of fake “Russian” bots. “Project Birmingham” helped hand the Senate seat to Doug Jones, the first Democrat to be elected from Alabama in over two decades. Even Jones backed the inquiry after the New York Times published an exposé on the campaign last year.

That didn’t stop New Knowledge from continuing to mercilessly milk the “Russian bot” fad, smearing Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard as the “Russian favorite” with a report that Gabbard’s enemies have embraced despite its authors being thoroughly discredited. The company’s founder Jonathon Morgan was also involved in the development of the Hamilton68 “Russian bot” dashboard, whose methodology remains proprietary even as its dubious utterances are treated as gospel truth by the media. But after being exposed as disinfo merchants by the Times, of all people, New Knowledge has struggled to be taken seriously in some circles.

None of this appears in the press release New Knowledge published on PRWeb last week to celebrate the company’s new identity, of course. “Yonder is on a mission to humanize the world’s information and deliver on the promise of a more authentic internet,” declared the company whose founder was booted from Facebook for running bot armies. That mission, according to Yonder’s promotional materials, is “helping usher in an era where fake news, bots and other web wreckage isn’t so easily blended with real human insights and interactions.” The jokes write themselves.

The company’s core business of dressing up Cold War fears in slick information-age jargon hasn’t changed – Yonder’s website warns visitors that false information is “70 percent more likely to be shared on social media,” without explaining the context of the statistic (more likely than what or where?). It’s yet another irony for a company that has promised customers it will “add the necessary cultural context to online information.”

“We’re in a moment now where it’s a real reckoning for the tech industry… I think there’s a real lack of trust or loss of trust,” Morgan told Austin Inno. It’s hard to imagine how fearmongering about Russian bots dismantling American democracy is supposed to build trust. But as long as there are politicians who would rather blame a foreign country for their failures than engage in meaningful introspection, there will always be a market for companies like New Knowledge.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Something Big Has Happened!

Corbett • 10/29/2019

The Dissembler-in-Chief took to Twitter this past weekend to let the world know that “Something very big has just happened!” We now know that that something was a daring special forces raid that ended in the death of Osama bin Laden! . . . Or is that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi? Or maybe Abu Omar al-Baghdadi? No, no, it was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi! Honest! We took DNA evidence before we threw him in the sea! Find out about the unlikely story of Baghdadi’s umpteenth death in this timely edition of The Corbett Report podcast.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video | | 1 Comment

Washington FDA Says, ‘Let Them Eat Cotton’

Gossypol, “in most animals, provokes infertility”

By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – 29.10.2019

US Government regulators have approved a genetically modified cotton variety as a “potential solution to human hunger.” The radical decision is to permit consumption by humans, in addition to animals, of seeds of a GMO cotton developed at Texas A&M University, with no independent long-term testing. It opens grave new concerns about the safety of our food chain. Soon, as a result, the world food chain may well be contaminated with the GMO cottonseeds whose dangers have been simply ignored by authorities.

The USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved a new type of GMO cotton for unregulated release. The type, called TAM66274, has been genetically modified supposedly to make the seeds fit for human or animal feed by suppressing the presence of a dangerous toxin in the seed, while allegedly leaving the toxin only in the rest of the cotton plant.

With FDA approval the GMO cottons seeds will now be allowed as food for people or animals. The project has been led by Keerti Rathore, a plant biotechnology protégé of the late Norman Borlaug, at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center.

Rathore says the group will now seek approval in other countries starting with Mexico. He calculates that, “There are approximately 10.8 trillion grams of protein locked up in the annual global output of cottonseed. This is enough to meet the basic protein requirements of over 500 million people at a rate of 50 grams of protein per person per day.” He says the GMO cottonseeds can also be used to feed pigs, poultry or farmed fish or shrimp. His group sees it as a major new source of protein for consumption, as well as profit for cotton growers. It is not surprising that Cotton Inc., the US cotton lobby group is sponsoring the GMO project.

Cotton Inc. and Monsanto have a history of cooperation as well. Rathore says for every pound of cotton fiber, the plant produces about 1.6 pounds of seed. The annual global cottonseed production equals about 48.5 million tons. If that can now be turned into cottonseed oil or meal for human and animal consumption and sold, it adds a huge profit boost to cotton producers. The world’s largest purveyor of cotton seeds for planting cotton is Monsanto, now part of Bayer AG.

The kernels from the safe seed could be ground into a flour-like powder after oil extraction and used as a protein additive in food preparations or perhaps roasted and seasoned as a nutritious snack,” Rathore said.

On October 1 the FDA released its summary of findings for the Texas application which had been made in 2017. That gives the impression the Government researchers were making an intensive testing of the highly controversial issue of whether to permit human consumption of the GMO cotton seeds or not. Far from the case. As the FDA states in their findings of October, 2019, the FDA declaration was simply copied from the tests given them by the producer, Texas A&M and its biotech research group, funded by the US cotton industry group, Cotton Inc.

Highly toxic gossypol

The FDA approval, made with no apparent independent testing of the results given them by the group at the A&M AgriLife Research center, is notable given the fact that cottonseeds contain a highly toxic substance in the seeds known as gossypol. Because of gossypol, previously much of the weight of cotton plants was wasted or usable only for limited animal feed only after special treatment. The seeds were deemed unsuitable for human consumption.

The A&M GMO cotton was modified using what is called RNA interference technology, RNAi, to “silence” a gene that supposedly, again according to its developers, “greatly” reduces gossypol from the cottonseed. Rathore claims to have suppressed the gene of a cotton plant to produce cotton with gossypol in everything but its seeds: “We have eliminated this gossypol from the seed without affecting its levels in other parts of the plant,” said Rathore. “With the toxin removed from the cottonseed, it can potentially feed 500 to 600 million people per year.” Well, almost eliminated it, to be more accurate. They admit that about 3% gossypol remains in the seeds.

Now we are entitled to eat the “low” gossypol seeds which are said to be protein rich and supposedly safe. There are several alarming aspects to this FDA decision to release the GMO cotton variety for human and animal consumption.

Not Adequately Tested For Safety

First of all, as researcher Claire Robinson points out in an excellent analysis, the RNAi procedure for cotton is hardly proven to be safe. She notes scientific research that shows risks of GMO RNAi crops. One study found that RNAi molecules in food plants can survive digestion and enter the body of the human or animal eating it, and even affect the gene expression of the human or animal with unpredictable side effects. Robinson stresses that the FDA made no adequate thorough tests for safety of the GMO cotton, nor did Texas researchers. She notes, “No toxicity testing in animals has been done on the seeds that are intended for consumption. The application only refers to testing in mice of the NPTII antibiotic resistance gene product, though it does not mention how long the tests lasted.”

Not only are the range of tests submitted by the Rathore group deficient or inadequate, they admit that their GMO variety has not entirely eliminated the presence of toxic gossypol in the cottonseeds, hence they term it “low” gossypol cotton seed, with an estimated 3% gossypolAbsent are any tests long-term on mice or other animals of effects of 3% or low gossypol GMO cottonseeds.

Population Reduction?

Gossypol among other traits is a human contraceptive. A study published in the journal Contraception notes that gossypol, “in most animals, provokes infertility, and in man it causes spermatogenesis arrest at relatively low doses… Gossypol should be prescribed preferably to men… who would accept permanent infertility after a few years of use.” It seems to be irreversible for many.

Another study published in The Scientific World Journal notes that among other toxic effects, “… free gossypol may be responsible for… respiratory distress, impaired body weight gain, anorexia, weakness, apathy, and death after several days. However, the most common toxic effect is the impairment of male and female reproduction. Another important toxic effect of gossypol is its interference with immune function, reducing an animal’s resistance to infections…”

Now according to the FDA, we humans are animals too for purposes of consuming GMO cottonseeds. Is a presence of 3% gossypol in now “edible” GMO cottonseeds enough to cause stealth contraception in humans, or any of the other grave symptoms? We simply don’t know as none of the responsible US regulators, neither at USDA nor FDA, have apparently bothered to seriously test.

What has the FDA done to safeguard the health and safety of potential human or animal consumers of the GMO cotton? A careful reading of the FDA testing summary of October 1 shows the entirety of their evaluation, as noted, is lifted directly from the test results given them by Rathore’s group at Texas A&M. And Rathore omits details of the length of their testing, which can conceal negative effects that only show up after longer time tests. Other tests are superficial and inconclusive.

Speaking of his hopes for the application of his new GMO cotton type, Rathore declares, “My personal preference as we move forward would be to follow the ‘Golden Rice’ example in terms of its use for humanitarian purposes.” The only problem with that example is that the Philippines project financed by the Rockefeller Foundation in the 1990s to develop Golden Rice, supposedly high in Vitamin A, was a colossal failure that was later abandoned by its creators. It was simply used as a GMO PR stunt. It could well be that the inadequately tested GMO cottonseeds end up blended into our food like so many such ingredients with us being none the wiser. The precautionary principle seems to have been shredded by scientists at FDA.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | | 3 Comments

Lebanese PM Hariri submits his resignation amid ongoing anti-government protests

Press TV – October 29, 2019

Embattled Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has submitted his resignation as people remain on the streets across Lebanon for the thirteenth day of anti-government demonstrations against the country’s economic crisis.

“I have reached a dead end today. I will head to the Baabda Palace to submit the government’s resignation to President Michel Aoun,” Hariri said as he addressed the Lebanese nation in a televised speech on Tuesday evening.

“Posts are not important; what’s important is the country’s dignity and safety,” he added, calling upon people from all strata of the Lebanese society to preserve the stability and security of the country.

Hariri highlighted that he wants to make a “positive shock,” saying, “No one is bigger than his country.”

He also told Lebanese political parties that “It is our responsibility to protect Lebanon.

Under the constitution, Hariri’s cabinet would stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.

The protests first began on October 17, hitting Lebanon at a time of worsening financial crisis — banks were closed for a 10th day on Tuesday along with schools and businesses.

‘Lebanon government resignation won’t end economic crisis’

Earlier in the day, Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said the resignation of the incumbent government led by Hariri would not solve the deep social and economic crisis in the country, and would further complicate the situation.

Berri said the government must immediately embark on measures aimed at economic reforms, Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Joumhouria daily newspaper reported.

“Changing the government’s components does not solve the crisis, but complicates it further, and will diminish the possibility of forming a new one in the foreseeable future, which opens the country to an unknown fate,” the senior Lebanese lawmaker pointed out.

Fresh scuffles in Beirut

Meanwhile, clashes have erupted between local residents of Beirut’s Ring Area and a group of vigilantes over the closure of streets in the neighborhood.

“Protesters must stage their sit-ins outside the houses of politicians and officials instead of paralyzing the movement of citizens,” the locals argued.

Lebanese security forces eventually intervened, and dispersed the crowd.

Observers and political pundits view Hariri’s resignation as a stinging blow to his pro-West and pro-Saudi Future Movement. They also state that the move would throw a monkey wrench into Saudi attempts to advance its agenda in Lebanon.

In November 2017, Hariri stunned Lebanon and the world by announcing his resignation in a live television broadcast from Saudi Arabia. He accused Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement of sowing strife in the Arab world – an allegation strongly rejected by both.

Senior sources close to Hariri and top Lebanese officials said Riyadh had coerced the Lebanese premier into stepping down and put him under house arrest.

Aoun stressed at the time that the prime minister was being detained in Saudi Arabia against his will. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general, also noted that Saudi authorities had clearly and openly declared a war on Lebanon by holding Hariri hostage and forcing him to quit.

Hariri finally managed to get out of the kingdom amid international pressure on the Riyadh regime. He rescinded his resignation after returning home.

Moreover, President of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, appealed for calm and called on all Lebanese political parties and factions to engage in national talks in the wake of Hariri’s resignation.

“I do not know what circumstances Hariri is currently in, but if he rescinds his resignation, we are with him. Those coming to governance should well know the crisis in Lebanon and avoid an economic disaster,” he told Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television news network.

Also, France on Tuesday called on Lebanese authorities to guarantee stability and national unity in the country after Hariri stepped down as the country’s prime minister.

“Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri has just resigned a few moments ago, which makes the crisis even worse in a way,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the National Assembly.

“Will politicians and political authorities decide to build Lebanon together? Will they put the collective interest of the country ahead of their own? That is the question posed by Prime Minister Hariri’s resignation,” he added.

Banque du Liban chief denies economic ‘collapse’

Separately, governor of the central bank of Lebanon, officially known as Banque du Liban, has dismissed reports that Lebanon’s economy will collapse in a matter of days in the wake of anti-government protests.

“I am not saying that we are going to have a collapse in a matter of days. I am saying we need to have a solution in a matter of days to regain confidence and avoid collapse in the future,” Riad Salame said in an interview with CNN television news network on Monday.

The senior Lebanese monetary figure underlined that a “solution” to the crisis is needed within days in order to restore confidence and avoid a collapse.

Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of endless political deadlocks and an economic crisis in recent years.

The country hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and their presence is often blamed for putting pressure on the already struggling economy.

Unemployment stands at more than 20 percent, according to official figures.

The Lebanese Finance Ministry says the national debt is hovering around $85 billion, which accounts for more than 150 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Successive governments have failed to address a waste management crisis or improve the electricity grid, which is plagued by daily power cuts.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Don’t Make Mark Zuckerberg America’s Political Truth Czar

By Thomas L. Knapp – The Garrison Center – October 29, 2019

Politicians lie.

Not all of them. Not every time. But most of them, from both “major” political parties, lie. A lot.

It’s not always easy to tell when they’re lying. It’s not always easy to prove they’re lying. Often, it’s not even easy to tell if they’re just lying to us or to themselves as well.

Some politicians want Facebook to stop politicians from lying. They phrase that desire as a request for Facebook to “fact check” content posted by politicians, especially political advertising.

Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I’m not sure it’s  coincidence that the examples politicians offer tend to be drawn from content posted by their political opponents.

US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is a notable exception. She asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg if Facebook would let her target Republican politicians by running ads falsely accusing them of voting for her “Green New Deal” proposal (Zuckerberg said he couldn’t answer “off the top of his head”).

On the other hand, AOC’s own take seems  a bit naive.  “So you will take down lies or you won’t take down lies?” she asked Zuckerberg.  “I think this is a pretty simple yes or no.”

It isn’t.

Let’s use the Green New Deal as an example.

If a Facebook employee has to “fact check” an ad asserting that the proposal would “tank the American economy,” how should that employee evaluate the truth or falsehood of the claim?

What criteria should that employee use for deciding what “tank” means? Is slow economic growth “tanking?” Or would it take a recession or depression to meet the threshold?

Should that employee rely on analyses from the Heritage Foundation? Or perhaps from People for the American Way? Or the Congressional Budget Office? Or the Office of Management and Budget? Four sources, likely four wildly conflicting sets of claims and projections.

For a conflicting ad claiming the Green New Deal would “boost the American economy,” should that employee “fact check” the ad using the same sources as for the original ad, or different sources? Would 1% growth of GDP constitute a boost? If not, what number, applied to what metric, would?

What if both ads fail the “fact check?” Should the public just flip a coin and vote accordingly, since the two sides are forbidden to offer us their takes to  evaluate and decide between for ourselves?

Politics consists of conflicting narratives. No two opposing narratives can both be true. In fact, both could be false (Spoiler: Both are probably at least partially false, intentionally or not; personal biases affect politicians’ beliefs, and ours, at least as much as facts do).

The question is not whether politicians’ claims should be fact checked. The question is who should do the checking.

In an even remotely free society, the only answer is “all of us.”

Yes, some of us will  fail to accurately distinguish truth from falsehood. Some of us will get things wrong.

That’s better than one centralized “fact checking” operation getting them wrong for all of us.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments

Airbnb complicit in ‘plunder of Palestinian refugee properties’ says new report

MEMO | October 29, 2019

Online accommodation and tourism giant Airbnb has been accused of “complicity in the plunder of Palestinian refugee properties”, in a new report published last week.

According to Who Profits, an independent research centre focused on exposing corporate involvement in the “ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands”, their new update sheds light on a “largely overlooked” dimension of Airbnb’s “complicity”.

Taking the Old City of Yafa (Jaffa) as a case study, the new report “aims to highlight the ways in which Israel confiscated and controlled Palestinian properties, leading to their privatisation”.

“Israel has transformed properties into economic assets that benefit both the state and private actors, thus undermining Palestinians’ legally enshrined Right of Return,” stated the research centre.

“Serving as a platform for showcasing the homes that once belonged to Palestinians, Airbnb plays a role in strengthening the Israeli hold over Palestinian refugee properties,” Who Profits added.

During the Nakba of 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and lands – property that was subsequently appropriated by the Israeli state “through legal mechanisms that formalise their confiscation and turn them into economic assets”, Who Profits explained.

According to the centre, this “privatisation” of refugee properties has benefitted market actors and Jewish Israelis, “whilst further threatening the possibility of Palestinians reclaiming ownership of their properties in the future”.

In the case of Jaffa, what was once the largest Palestinian city was almost entirely ethnically cleansed during the Nakba (five per cent of its Palestinian residents remained post-1948). Today, the Old City is one of the most popular sites in Israel for tourists, where Airbnb lists more than 40 properties.

In its new report, Who Profit notes that “while the issue of listing settlement properties [in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem] has gained worldwide attention, the issue of listing refugee properties ‘abandoned’ in 1948 remains largely overlooked.”

“The act of plundering and privatizing refugee properties by the Israeli state, which started during the Nakba and continues to this day, has transformed the refugee properties in Yafa into commodities that can now be listed by hosts on platforms such as Airbnb,” the report concluded.

“In serving as a platform for these properties, as well as those in settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, Airbnb is profiting from the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians.”


Palestinians call for NGOs to reject donations from Airbnb

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Microsoft funds Israel firm that spies on West Bank Palestinians – Report

MEMO | October 29, 2019

Microsoft has invested in an Israeli startup that uses facial recognition to spy on Palestinians throughout the occupied West Bank, “in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms”, NBC News has reported.

AnyVision, headquartered in Israel but with offices in the United States, the United Kingdom and Singapore, sells an “advanced tactical surveillance” software system, Better Tomorrow.

“It lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or a smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds,” said the report.

NBC News’ investigative report concluded that “AnyVision’s technology powers a secret military surveillance project throughout the West Bank” – a project “so successful that AnyVision won the country’s [Israel’s] top defence prize in 2018”.

As noted by NBC News, “Palestinians living in the West Bank do not have Israeli citizenship or voting rights but are subject to movement restrictions and surveillance by the Israeli government.”

Israeli forces have “installed thousands of cameras and other monitoring devices across the West Bank”, while authorities “also scan social media posts and use algorithms in an effort to predict the likelihood that someone will carry out a lone-wolf attack and arrest them before they do.”

“The addition of facial recognition technology transforms passive camera surveillance combined with the list of suspects into a much more powerful tool,” the report stated.

When NBC News first approached AnyVision for an interview, CEO Eylon Etshtein denied any knowledge of the West Bank project, threatened to sue, disputed that the West Bank was occupied, and suggested the reporter “must have been funded by a Palestinian activist group”.

AnyVision then later “apologised for the outburst and revised its position”, claiming that “as a private company we are not in a position to speak on behalf of any country, company or institution”.

NBC News also confirmed how AnyVision’s technology has also been used by Israeli police to track suspects through the Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

AnyVision launched in 2015 and enjoys “close ties to Israel’s military and intelligence services”, NBC News stated, with former head of Mossad Tamir Pardo among its board of advisers.

Microsoft told NBC News that the company “takes these mass surveillance allegations seriously because they would violate our facial recognition principles.”

“If we discover any violation of our principles, we will end our relationship,” a spokesperson said.

Earlier this month Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah discovered a surveillance device planted in concrete at a village cemetery. According to Ma’an News Agency, the monitoring tool was manufactured by AnyVision.


Israel has been caught spying on the US, again

Israel tech ‘facilitating press freedom abuses around the world’

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinian Christians that nobody is talking about

Side view of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is opened to worship after the restoration in Jerusalem on 24 March 2017

Side view of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is opened to worship after the restoration in Jerusalem on 24 March 2017
MEMO | October 29, 2019

Palestine’s Christian population is dwindling at an alarming rate. The world’s most ancient Christian community is moving elsewhere. And the reason for this is Israel.

Christian leaders from Palestine and South Africa sounded the alarm at a conference in Johannesburg on October 15. Their gathering was titled: “The Holy Land: A Palestinian Christian Perspective”.

One major issue that highlighted itself at the meetings is the rapidly declining number of Palestinian Christians in Palestine.

There are various estimates on how many Palestinian Christians are still living in Palestine today, compared with the period before 1948 when the state of Israel was established atop Palestinian towns and villages. Regardless of the source of the various studies, there is a near consensus that the number of Christian inhabitants of Palestine has dropped by nearly ten-fold in the last 70 years.

A population census carried out by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 concluded that 47,000 Palestinian Christians are living in Palestine – with reference to the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Ninety-eight per cent of Palestine’s Christians live in the West Bank – concentrated mostly in the cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem – while the remainder, a tiny Christian community of merely 1,100 people, lives in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The demographic crisis that had afflicted the Christian community decades ago is now brewing.

For example, 70 years ago, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, was 86 per cent Christian. The demographics of the city, however, have fundamentally shifted, especially after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in June 1967, and the construction of the illegal Israeli apartheid wall, starting in 2002. Parts of the wall were meant to cut off Bethlehem from Jerusalem and to isolate the former from the rest of the West Bank.

“The Wall encircles Bethlehem by continuing south of East Jerusalem in both the east and west,” the ‘Open Bethlehem’ organisation said, describing the devastating impact of the wall on the Palestinian city. “With the land isolated by the Wall, annexed for settlements, and closed under various pretexts, only 13% of the Bethlehem district is available for Palestinian use.”

Increasingly beleaguered, Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem have been driven out from their historic city in large numbers. According to the city’s mayor, Vera Baboun, as of 2016, the Christian population of Bethlehem has dropped to 12 per cent, merely 11,000 people.

The most optimistic estimates place the overall number of Palestinian Christians in the whole of Occupied Palestine at less than two per cent.

The correlation between the shrinking Christian population in Palestine, and the Israeli occupation and apartheid should be unmistakable, as it is evident to Palestine’s Christian and Muslim community alike.

A study conducted by Dar al-Kalima University in the West Bank town of Beit Jala and published in December 2017, interviewed nearly 1,000 Palestinians, half of them Christian and the other half Muslim. One of the main goals of the research was to understand the reason behind the depleting Christian population in Palestine.

The study concluded that “the pressure of Israeli occupation, ongoing constraints, discriminatory policies, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of lands added to the general sense of hopelessness among Palestinian Christians,” who are finding themselves in “a despairing situation where they can no longer perceive a future for their offspring or for themselves”.

Unfounded claims that Palestinian Christians are leaving because of religious tensions between them and their Muslim brethren are, therefore, irrelevant.

Gaza is another case in point. Only 2 per cent of Palestine’s Christians live in the impoverished and besieged Gaza Strip. When Israel occupied Gaza along with the rest of historic Palestine in 1967, an estimated 2,300 Christians lived in the Strip. However, merely 1,100 Christians still live in Gaza today. Years of occupation, horrific wars and an unforgiving siege can do that to a community, whose historical roots date back to two millennia.

Like Gaza’s Muslims, these Christians are cut off from the rest of the world, including the holy sites in the West Bank. Every year, Gaza’s Christians apply for permits from the Israeli military to join Easter services in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Last April, only 200 Christians were granted permits, but on the condition that they must be 55 years of age or older and that they are not allowed to visit Jerusalem.

The Israeli rights group, Gisha, described the Israeli army decision as “a further violation of Palestinians’ fundamental rights to freedom of movement, religious freedom and family life”, and, rightly, accused Israel of attempting to “deepen the separation” between Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel aims at doing more than that. Separating Palestinian Christians from one another, and from their holy sites (as is the case for Muslims, as well), the Israeli government hopes to weaken the socio-cultural and spiritual connections that give Palestinians their collective identity.

Israel’s strategy is predicated on the idea that a combination of factors – immense economic hardships, permanent siege and apartheid, the severing of communal and spiritual bonds – will eventually drive all Christians out of their Palestinian homeland.

Read: Morocco insists that Palestine is one of its core principles

Israel is keen to present the ‘conflict’ in Palestine as a religious one so that it could, in turn, brand itself as a beleaguered Jewish state amid a massive Muslim population in the Middle East. The continued existence of Palestinian Christians does not factor nicely into this Israeli agenda.

Sadly, however, Israel has succeeded in misrepresenting the struggle in Palestine – from that of political and human rights struggle against settler colonialism – into a religious one. Equally disturbing, Israel’s most ardent supporters in the United States and elsewhere are devout Christians.

It must be understood that Palestinian Christians are neither aliens nor bystanders in Palestine. They have been victimised equally as their Muslim brethren. They have also played a significant role in defining the modern Palestinian identity, through their resistance, spirituality, deep connection to the land, artistic contributions and burgeoning scholarship.

Israel must not be allowed to ostracise the world’s most ancient Christian community from their ancestral land so that it may score a few points in its fierce drive for racial supremacy.

Equally important, our understanding of the legendary Palestinian ‘soumoud’ – steadfastness – and solidarity cannot be complete without fully appreciating the centrality of Palestinian Christians to the modern Palestinian narrative and identity.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Russia’s UN envoy says Israel should stop building settlements in West Bank

RT | October 29, 2019

Israel should immediately stop building its settlements and dismantling Palestinian properties on the western bank of the Jordan River, Russia’s UN envoy Vassily Nebenzia told the UN Security Council’s session devoted to the Middle East.

The diplomat said Monday that Russia was extremely concerned at the analysis of the situation offered by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov. Speaking about the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, he had said the situation now can only be prevented from further degradation, without even mentioning the possibility of any improvement, TASS reports.

Nebenzia said that solutions are evident. “First of all, Israel’s settlement activities and the policy of dismantling the Palestinian property in the West Bank must be stopped.” Both Palestinians and Israelis “must refrain from violence or aggressive and provocative rhetoric,” he added.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 3 Comments

Western courts target Gazprom for expropriations

By Padraig McGrath | October 29, 2019

On October 23rd the Amsterdam District Court issued an order for the seizure of 100% of the shares of the South Stream Transport B.V. company, which is contracted to build the offshore section of the Turk Stream Pipeline. This legal ruling follows a 2018 award by the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal of $4.6 billion to Naftogaz, the (theoretically) state-owned oil and gas company of Ukraine, in a lawsuit which it had filed against Gazprom in 2014 in relation to alleged contractual violations regarding gas-transit through Ukraine. That $4.6 billion award was later negotiated down to $2.56 billion, but on October 23rd the Amsterdam District Court ordered the seizure of all South Stream Transport B.V. shares as a punitive measure for non-compliance with the Stockholm Arbitration Tribunal order.

Despite this development, Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak said on October 27th that the construction of the Turk Stream Pipeline would be completed on schedule. The 1100-kilometre pipeline, 900 kilometres of which runs under the Black Sea to Turkey, is envisaged to begin delivering a combined total of 30 billion cubic metres of gas to Turkey and South-Eastern Europe per year, beginning in late 2019.

Of course, this is not the first time that Russia’s state-owned concerns have been targeted for plunder by a court or quasi-judicial body convened in the legal jurisdiction of a western country. In July 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague issued an award of $50 billion to former shareholders of Yukos, the oil company previously controlled by the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Interestingly, the Amsterdam District Court, the same judicial body which has issued this latest ruling, later quashed the 2014 ruling made by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the grounds that the latter had no legal jurisdiction to issue such a ruling.

One thing which is perfectly clear in context is that these legal rulings are, quite blatantly, both politically and geo-politically motivated. Targetting Gazprom serves multiple geo-political functions. Firstly, the Turk Stream pipeline was devised in order to enable Russia to bypass the territory of a deeply problematic, crisis-ridden, hostile and contractually unreliable neighbour in the task of effecting gas-transit to its markets in Europe. Even before relations between Russia and Ukraine deteriorated following the February 2014 Ukrainian coup d’etat, the siphoning-off of Russian gas while in transit across Ukrainian territory had been a perpetual concern for many years.

However, this goal of rendering Ukraine a geo-political irrelevancy, and therefore nobody else’s problem, is precisely what western geo-strategists are invested in preventing. Ukraine has been transformed by western interests into the failed state that it is now precisely for the purpose of presenting developmental and economic challenges to Russia. Therefore, these same interests must use any counter-measures, including quasi-legal counter-measures, in order to keep Ukraine relevant. This explains the punitive court-order to freeze the shares of South Stream Transport B.V.

Another driver of this western judicial hostility, also a manifestation of current geo-political conditions, pertains to Gazprom specifically. To analyze this, we should look at the role which highly profitable state-owned concerns, Gazprom the most notable among them, play within the Russian economy and in Russian society more broadly.

In spite of maintaining quite a business-friendly tax-environment (Russia has a 13% flat income-tax rate), the Russian government nonetheless manages to maintain (and indeed, to significantly upgrade) the social system. Significant federal investments have already been made in infrastructure and in the modernization of the public healthcare sector, for example. In February, the government announced 12 major development-projects as part of the “Great Society” initiative ranging from agriculture, ecology, infrastructure, the digital economy, and the further technological modernization of public healthcare.

In a country with a 13% flat income-tax rate, revenues from state-owned companies like Gazprom make this kind of state-building and society-strengthening possible. The western alliance (and its judiciaries) understand perfectly well that financial attacks against Gazprom amount in practical terms to attacks on the Russian state, and to counter-measures to the Russian state’s efforts to build the kinds of social systems which are necessary to its long-term self-defence.

Taken to its logical conclusion, from the liberal democratic perspective, the rationalization for this further degree of geo-political weaponization of “international law” would be that, as liberal democracy is believed by the western alliance to be the only political system which has any moral or political legitimacy, it therefore follows that only liberal democratic legal systems have any legal jurisdiction, and that their jurisdiction should be seen as universally extensive.

“Liberal universalism” refers to a sense of moral universality, but also (consequently) to a sense of universality of legal jurisdiction.

This mindset attempts to justify the weaponization of judiciaries, and of judicial bodies established by international law, against all and any states which don’t sign on with the liberal universalist consensus.

Of course, Russia is not the only state which is targeted by this geo-political weaponization of judiciaries. We might recall the 2012 order made by a New York court to freeze $6.5 billion in Iranian government assets in relation to a lawsuit filed by family-members of people killed in the 9/11 attacks. The lawsuit had claimed (quite spuriously and bizarrely) that Iran had aided and abetted the 9/11 attackers, despite the obvious point that Al-Qaeda’s ideology is fanatically anti-Shi’ite. One point which is interesting, considering that state-sponsored piracy has quite recently re-appeared on the high seas (Gibraltar), is that judicial structures established by “international law” are now also being quite explicitly used for the purpose of enabling what we might term “judicial piracy.”

What next? Will the British government start re-issuing “letters of marque” to sea-faring privateers?

However, as with so many geo-political stratagems deployed by the governments of contemporary liberal democracies, the resulting erosion of the judiciary’s independence from the political sphere completely undermines the normative and legal basis of liberal democracy itself.

October 29, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment