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Covid-19 may make men STERILE, Russia’s Health Ministry warns

RT | June 30, 2020

Covid-19 infection leads to drastic reduction in the quality of sperm and can make men infertile, the Russian Health Ministry said citing recent data.

“Today, the problems of infertility, especially male infertility, associated with Covid-19 are revealing themselves on a grander scale,” Elena Uvarova, the Russian Health Ministry’s chief gynecologist for children and youths, told journalists at a press conference in Moscow. The data gathered by Russian medics has shown a “38 percent reduction in quality of sperm” in men who recovered from the coronavirus, she said. It was a worrying discovery, as the overall quality of the sperm in Russian men already wasn’t perfect, the doctor added.

Researchers have been debating the potential impact of Covid-19 on male fertility since the pandemic began in China’s Wuhan in December. Some studies said that the virus affected the male reproductive system, while others discovered no abnormalities. A Chinese-US study in early June warned that the coronavirus could damage testicles without infecting them. It attacked and enlarged sperm-producing cells to the extent that production of semen was affected.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | 2 Comments

Lebanon warns Israel over ‘dangerous’ gas exploration bid

Press TV – June 30, 2020

This file photo shows Israel’s Tamar natural gas production platform some 25 kilometers west of the Ashkelon shore in February 2013 in the Mediterranean Sea.

President Michel Aoun has warned Israel against its “extremely dangerous” bid to explore oil and gas on Lebanon’s maritime border, parts of which are claimed by the regime, saying the Arab country will not allow any violation of its territorial waters.

Aoun’s warning came a day after Israel approved a license for oil and gas exploration in “Block 72,” located close to the Block 9 gas fields, where Beirut is set to begin explorations for natural gas and oil soon.

“Block 72” sits along the disputed 860-kilometer line of waters that separate the Lebanese from Israeli-held territories.

“This will complicate the situation further as Lebanon will not allow any violations of its internationally-recognized territorial waters, especially in the Exclusive Economic Zone where Block 9 — which will be explored by Lebanon within a month — is located,” Aoun said Monday.

The Lebanese president further called for the country’s Supreme Defense Council to meet on Tuesday to discuss the development at the southern border.

Lebanese lawmaker Kassem Hachem described the Israeli decision as “piracy” and a “declaration of war” on Lebanon, calling for action at “all levels” to “put an end to these aggressive intentions on our homeland.”

Israel relies heavily on gas and has long been developing a number of offshore gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea.

Reportedly, Israel had been avoiding granting licenses for the exploration of Block 72, fearing it could lead to a new conflict with Lebanon.

In February 2018, Lebanon said it had signed gas exploration and production contracts for two energy blocks, including Block 9, with a consortium of France’s Total, Italian Eni and Russia’s Novatek oil and gas companies.

The two sides nearly came to blows over Beirut’s offshore oil and gas exploration projects.

Back in December 2017, Beirut had granted licenses to a consortium of three international companies to carry out exploratory drilling in Lebanon’s Block 4 and Block 9 and determine whether they contain oil and gas reserves.

Israeli authorities, who claim sovereignty over Block 9, reacted angrily to the announcement.

In January, Israel signed a deal with Greece and Cyprus to build a pipeline channeling natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, despite objections from Turkey.

Israel and Lebanon have further been engaged in a rift over Israel’s occupation of Shebaa Farms, a small strip of land at the intersection of the Lebanese-Syrian border and the Golan Heights.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 2 Comments

Somalia rejects ‘ridiculous’ UAE incentive to join Yemen war

MEMO | June 30, 2020

Somalia has rejected as “ridiculous” an offer made by the UAE for the African state to join the war in Yemen in return for financial incentives, the country’s foreign minister has revealed.

According to Somalia News, the UAE offered to reopen the Sheikh Zayed Hospital in the Somali capital Mogadishu on the condition Somalia take part in the war in Yemen, while officially claiming the Socotra archipelago as Somali territory.

The Emirati-run Sheikh Zayed Hospital offered free healthcare to Somali citizens until it was closed by the UAE in 2018, as part of a diplomatic row between Abu Dhabi and Mogadishu.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 1 Comment

The real goal of the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign against Facebook has nothing to do with ‘hate speech’

By Helen Buyniski | RT | June 29, 2020

A deep-pocketed astroturf campaign has created the impression that Facebook users are up in arms about racism on the platform, but the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign is a naked political power-grab by the usual suspects.

The campaign emerged earlier this month and has gathered a huge amount of support from corporations eager to check the Black Lives Matter box and burnish their image. But it’s not clear if these companies have looked into who’s behind the initiative, or what their intentions are. Stop Hate for Profit’s organizers appear less concerned with stopping “hate” than they are with muscling their way into Facebook’s boardroom and seizing the power to permanently silence political opponents.

Stop Hate for Profit’s website is operated by the Anti-Defamation League, an advocacy group notorious for its heavy-handed censorship tactics that has bragged about its involvement in YouTube content purges and regularly smears critics of Israeli policy as froth-mouthed anti-Semites. Listed co-sponsors of the campaign include activist organizations Color of Change, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and a “media freedom” group called Free Press, which according to its mission statement seeks to “change the media to transform democracy to realize a just society.” In practice, that apparently translates to lending “free press” cover to ideologically-motivated censorship campaigns.

Because make no mistake, Stop Hate for Profit is ideologically-motivated, and its intention is censorship. All three of the aforementioned groups have at least one common financial backer: billionaire currency speculator George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. Soros has made no secret of the fact that he wants Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg out of the top position, penning a series of increasingly unhinged op-eds earlier this year accusing the social media tycoon of colluding with US President Donald Trump to get the latter re-elected. Soros repeatedly demanded not only that Zuckerberg be removed from power, but that Facebook be stripped of its Section 230 legal protections, treated as a publisher and not a platform – and thus rendered liable for any and all user-generated content.

It’s not too surprising, then, that this group of Soros-backed organizations just happens to have set its sights squarely on Facebook’s profitability. By taking aim at the 99 percent of Facebook’s profits obtained through advertising, the campaign has already exacted a beating on the company’s stock price, which tumbled 8.3 percent on Friday. Facebook’s value has plummeted $56 billion since the campaign started, kicking Zuckerberg off the world’s three-richest-people list and making the platform’s investors very unhappy.

The more Facebook’s poor performance can be tied to the actions of the CEO, the more likely investors are to send him packing – and Soros likely laughing all the way to the bank.

Zuckerberg has stubbornly refused to fact-check political advertising on his platform, even as Facebook subjects all non-politicians’ speech to microscopic examination by ideological crusaders loaded down with their own baggage and conflicts of interest, allowing Trump and other conservative politicians to buy their way into voters’ hearts without fear that some Soros-funded fact-checker will ruin the moment. This – not some epidemic of “hate speech” – is the problem Stop Hate for Profit is most determined to fix.

The campaign’s answer to the question of “hate speech” on Facebook is multifaceted, but all the solutions it comes up with end with groups like the ADL gaining absurd levels of power within the immensely profitable platform. They demand Facebook submit to “regular, third party independent audits of identity-based hate and misinformation” – presumably to be conducted by the ADL or its affiliates – and refund money to advertisers whose content appeared next to material that was later yanked for violating terms of service.

And they want those terms of service to cover a lot more content – everything from “climate denialism” to “militia” are to be excised from the platform if Facebook wants its advertiser dollars back.

This isn’t the first time these same forces have united to demand Facebook preemptively shut down speech they don’t like under the guise of fighting “hate.” In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center – the ADL’s chief rival for the donations of wealthy liberals with enormous persecution complexes – urged tech platforms to allow “individuals and organizations” (like the SPLC, presumably) to “flag hateful activities” as well as “groups and individuals engaged in hateful activities” so that they might be speedily ushered off the platform. The SPLC’s partners in this endeavor? Color of Change, Free Press, and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

Not everyone who’s signed on to Stop Hate for Profit is necessarily in it for the censorship, of course. Some corporations no doubt think they’re actually doing something good. But ironically, some of the participants don’t appear to actually be pulling their ads from Facebook at all, as Gizmodo discovered last week. Companies eager to be seen as taking a stand against Facebook have pulled their most obvious ads, but apparently left in place advertising deals through the Facebook Audience Network, which displays ads targeted based on Facebook activity across third-party apps, or continue to advertise with Facebook subsidiary Instagram.

It’s only fitting that a campaign that is at its heart a pantomime of caring about marginalized groups should be met by a pantomime of corporate activism from its real targets – Facebook’s investors. Soros has spoken, will Zuckerberg be pried loose from the CEO’s chair?

Helen Buyniski is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

Read more:

Don’t make me repeat myself again! Soros threatens Zuckerberg must be removed from Facebook ‘one way or another’

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

‘Russian bounty’ story shifts: NYT now claims Afghan CRIMINALS & not Taliban were paid, cites anonymous sources again

RT | June 30, 2020

The New York Times is doubling down on claims that Russia offered bounties for the killing of US troops in Afghanistan, but now says local criminals and not the Taliban were the recipients, again offering no actual evidence.

The new article, published Tuesday, says that “electronic data showing large financial transfers from a bank account controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency to a Taliban-linked account” was intercepted by US spies and “bolsters suspicions” that Russia offered bounties to militants – as claimed by the Times last week.

Once again, the Times quotes anonymous sources – “three officials familiar with the intelligence” – so the claim is impossible to verify. No evidence of the alleged electronic transfer is provided, only a third-hand hearsay that “analysts concluded from other intelligence that the transfers were most likely part of a bounty program.”

The article eventually gets around to quoting several local officials from Afghanistan, who say that several people who transfer money through an Islamic banking system are suspected of being part of a ring of middlemen” between Russia and “Taliban-linked militants.”

The ‘hawala’ banking system does not actually use electronic transfers. Moreover, the article says the Afghan security forces found “a half-million dollars” – presumably in cash – in one Kabul home about six months ago. Safiullah Amiry, described as “the deputy provincial council chief” in Kunduz, “said the Afghan intelligence agency had told him the raids were related to Russian money being dispersed [sic] to militants.”

In the original article, the Times claimed President Donald Trump had been briefed on this alleged plot sometime in March. The White House, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have since denied this.

So the narrative has now shifted, with the Times citing “two officials” who say the information was included in Trump’s written presidential daily brief (PDB) “in late February,” accompanied by the – likewise unverified – claim that Trump typically doesn’t read those. The article also claims the CIA mentioned the intelligence in its World Intelligence Review newsletter, also known as The Wire, dated May 4.

The identity of the suspected recipients of the “Russian bounties” has shifted as well, from the Taliban to “criminals closely associated with the Taliban” – according to yet another anonymous US official.

Most mainstream US media outlets and the Democrats have taken the original New York Times reporting at face value, denouncing Trump as “Putin’s puppet” and a traitor for allegedly not doing anything to “punish Russia” based on the purported intelligence assessments, rather than demanding to see evidence there was anything to it.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 3 Comments

Fake story on Russians paying Afghans ‘bounty’ to kill Americans latest example of appalling media coverage of Russia

By Bryan MacDonald | RT | June 29, 2020

The Anglo-American press is difficult to understand. Anonymous sources are treated as gospel – when they suit the ideological and political biases of news outlets – and spy agencies seem to be beyond reproach.

This, of course, is how America and Britain were drawn into the Iraq War. Mainstream media was complicit in manufacturing consent by publishing stories handed down by intelligence agencies – a great many of them later proven untrue. Perhaps most notably, the New York Times went big on the bogus “weapons of mass destruction” yarn.

After the damage was done, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had died, the paper apologized. It admitted it was encouraged to report the claims by “United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq.”

Almost two decades on, it has plainly learned nothing. This weekend the Times had three of its most senior journalists basically rewrite a CIA press release as part of its latest attempt to undermine President Donald Trump by playing the “Russia card.” Quite why it took so many of them is hard to understand – unless none wanted to be the sole name on the piece, preferring safety in numbers.

The story claimed that Russia is paying Afghan militants to kill American soldiers and that Trump’s team has known for months but done nothing. The US director of national intelligence quickly denied the allegations, as did the president himself. It surely wasn’t coincidental that the drop took place in the same weekend that reports emerged of Trump planning to withdraw 4,000 troops from Afghanistan.

If you know anything about Russia, the story is  obviously false. The Americans are totally bogged down in Kabul, which suits Moscow in myriad ways. In fact, the Kremlin would be only delighted if the US stayed there forever. What’s more, the Taliban hardly needs a financial incentive to attack a hated occupying force. So why would Moscow need to be handing out bounties to encourage people who already have it in for Americans?

Another interesting detail was the New York Times’ assertion that its allegations are “based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals.” Given we know the US uses torture in Afghanistan that should be an immediate red-flag to any self-respecting journalist. Not to mention the fact that even if Afghan prisoners did say this, it’s likely no more than prison gossip: “Daud told Nadir that Hashem heard the Russians will pay you for killing an American.”

The Times trio even threw in a bit of casual xenophobia. “I think we had forgotten how organically ruthless the Russians could be,” they quoted Peter Zwack, a retired military intelligence officer, as saying. Imagine a report saying Asians, Africans, Mexicans or Jews are “organically ruthless.” That’s right, you can’t, because it wouldn’t happen. But Russians, being predominantly white and Christian, are considered to be fair game.

Soon after, the Washington Post said it had ‘confirmed’ the Times’ story. All this means is they were fed the same bulls**t by the same anonymous spooks. Even more hilariously, the paper managed to get a named Taliban spokesman to go on the record with his denial, while it allowed the Americans who pushed the yarn to remain in the shadows. Nevertheless, which narrative do you think was given more credence?

This carry-on is deeply unethical. Especially given it comes just a couple of months after US/UK media went big on another fake story alleging Russia was trying to poison Czech politicians with ricin. Prague eventually admitted the tale was entirely made up. This confession, of course, received about one percent of the coverage granted to the original fabrication.

Predictably, broadcast media followed up on the Times and Post’s reports. Rachel Maddow was front and center, naturally. You’ll remember she spent a few years airing false and hysterical smears about Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow and suffered no professional consequences when the Mueller Report proved her allegations to be untrue.

But it wasn’t just Maddow. On Saturday, CNN ran “breaking news” saying it had found “a European intelligence official” to corroborate the tale. It then cut to its own correspondent, one Nick Paton Walsh. He provided no named source and his comments basically amounted to “some fella told me down the pub” stuff. Honestly, in any sane media culture, Paton Walsh would be laughed at, not encouraged.

For example, at one point he said “it’s not clear when this happened” and then added, “it’s clear it has caused casualties.” But instead of asking “how is it possible to know that if you can’t say when it happened?” the anchor just sat there nodding along with that vacuous look in her eyes which seems to be mandatory for CNN presenters.

Later, Britain’s Sky News ran the same yarn, but said “British security officials have confirmed… that the reports about the plot are true.” Presumably, Sky was spoon-fed by the same spooks who exploited Paton Walsh as a ‘useful idiot’. Later, the Guardian’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner tweeted “this confirmation by closest intel allies is critical and damning: Russia paid Taliban fighters to attack British troops in Afghanistan.”

Again, the reporter expressed no doubts, because apparently the word of spooks is golden, and they would never lie.

It’s established that mainstream US/UK media operates in a self-contained pit of rumor, fear, braggadocio, bullshit, and propaganda when it comes to Russia. But what’s most bizarre is the sheer obviousness with which outlets circulate the same false stories and then use each other as corroborating sources even though they are all getting the information from the same people.

Folk who obviously have their own agendas, and are playing gormless hacks like a fiddle. The other incredible thing is a clear lack of understanding about what ‘confirmation’ even means. It obviously requires tangible evidence, on the record.

The New York Times’ coverage of Russia basically only has two tricks. They either rip-off articles from smaller Russian liberal outlets (who often can’t complain too loudly as they rely on Western funding) or they regurgitate anonymous sources in the US military-intelligence establishment looking to run scare stories about the country. None of this involves any reporting, and it cannot be considered journalism under any accepted definition of what the trade involves.

Given the New York Times is arguably the biggest, and most visible, fish in the US/UK media world, you can only imagine the even lower standards that permeate further down the food chain.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 5 Comments

Russiagate’s Last Gasp

One can read this most recent flurry of Russia, Russia, Russia paid the Taliban to kill GIs as an attempt to pre-empt the findings into Russiagate’s origins.

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | June 29, 2020

On Friday The New York Times featured a report based on anonymous intelligence officials that the Russians were paying bounties to have U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan with President Donald Trump refusing to do anything about it. The flurry of Establishment media reporting that ensued provides further proof, if such were needed, that the erstwhile “paper of record” has earned a new moniker — Gray Lady of easy virtue.

Over the weekend, the Times’ dubious allegations grabbed headlines across all media that are likely to remain indelible in the minds of credulous Americans — which seems to have been the main objective. To keep the pot boiling this morning, The New York Times’ David Leonhardt’s daily web piece, “The Morning” calls prominent attention to a banal article by a Heather Cox Richardson, described as a historian at Boston College, adding specific charges to the general indictment of Trump by showing “how the Trump administration has continued to treat Russia favorably.” The following is from Richardson’s newsletter on Friday:

— “On April 1 a Russian plane brought ventilators and other medical supplies to the United States … a propaganda coup for Russia;

— “On April 25 Trump raised eyebrows by issuing a joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin commemorating the 75th anniversary of the historic meeting between American and Soviet troops on the bridge of the Elbe River in Germany that signaled the final defeat of the Nazis;

— “On May 3, Trump called Putin and talked for an hour and a half, a discussion Trump called ‘very positive’;

— “On May 21, the U.S. sent a humanitarian aid package worth $5.6 million to Moscow to help fight coronavirus there.  The shipment included 50 ventilators, with another 150 promised for the next week; …

— “On June 15, news broke that Trump has ordered the removal of 9,500 troops from Germany, where they support NATO against Russian aggression. …”

Historian Richardson added:

“All of these friendly overtures to Russia were alarming enough when all we knew was that Russia attacked the 2016 U.S. election and is doing so again in 2020.  But it is far worse that those overtures took place when the administration knew that Russia had actively targeted American soldiers. … this bad news apparently prompted worried intelligence officials to give up their hope that the administration would respond to the crisis, and instead to leak the story to two major newspapers.”

Hear the siren? Children, get under your desks!

The Tall Tale About Russia Paying for Dead U.S. Troops

Times print edition readers had to wait until this morning to learn of Trump’s statement last night that he was not briefed on the cockamamie tale about bounties for killing, since it was, well, cockamamie.

Late last night the president tweeted: “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me or the VP. …”

For those of us distrustful of the Times — with good reason — on such neuralgic issues, the bounty story had already fallen of its own weight. As Scott Ritter pointed out yesterday:

“Perhaps the biggest clue concerning the fragility of the New York Times’ report is contained in the one sentence it provides about sourcing — “The intelligence assessment is said to be based at least in part on interrogations of captured Afghan militants and criminals.” That sentence contains almost everything one needs to know about the intelligence in question, including the fact that the source of the information is most likely the Afghan government as reported through CIA channels. …”

And who can forget how “successful” interrogators can be in getting desired answers.

Russia & Taliban React

The Kremlin called the Times reporting “nonsense … an unsophisticated plant,” and from Russia’s perspective the allegations make little sense; Moscow will see them for what they are — attempts to show that Trump is too “accommodating” to Russia.

A Taliban spokesman called the story “baseless,” adding with apparent pride that “we” have done “target killings” for years “on our own resources.”

Russia is no friend of the Taliban.  At the same time, it has been clear for several years that the U.S. would have to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. Think back five decades and recall how circumspect the Soviets were in Vietnam.  Giving rhetorical support to a fraternal Communist nation was de rigueur and some surface-to-air missiles gave some substance to that support.

But Moscow recognized from the start that Washington was embarked on a fool’s errand in Vietnam. There would be no percentage in getting directly involved. And so, the Soviets sat back and watched smugly as the Vietnamese Communists drove U.S. forces out on their “own resources.” As was the case with the Viet Cong, the Taliban needs no bounty inducements from abroad.

President Lyndon Johnson announces “retaliatory” strike against North Vietnam in response to the supposed attacks on U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin on Aug. 4, 1964. (LBJ Library)

Besides, the Russians knew painfully well — from their own bitter experience in Afghanistan, what the outcome of the most recent fool’s errand would be for the U.S. What point would they see in doing what The New York Times and other Establishment media are breathlessly accusing them of?

CIA Disinformation; Casey at Bat

Former CIA Director William Casey said: “We’ll know when our disinformation program is complete, when everything the American public believes is false.”

Casey made that remark at the first cabinet meeting in the White House under President Ronald Reagan in early 1981, according to Barbara Honegger, who was assistant to the chief domestic policy adviser.  Honegger was there, took notes, and told then Senior White House correspondent Sarah McClendon, who in turn made it public.

If Casey’s spirit is somehow observing the success of the disinformation program called Russiagate, one can imagine how proud he must be. But sustained propaganda success can be a serious challenge. The Russiagate canard has lasted three and a half years. This last gasp effort, spearheaded by the Times, to breathe more life into it is likely to last little more than a weekend — the redoubled efforts of Casey-dictum followers notwithstanding.

Russiagate itself has been unraveling, although one would hardly know it from the Establishment media. No collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Even the sacrosanct tenet that the Russians hacked the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks has been disproven, with the head of the DNC-hired cyber security firm CrowdStrike admitting that there is no evidence that the DNC emails were hacked — by Russia or anyone else.

How long will it take the Times to catch up with the CrowdStrike story, available since May 7?

The media is left with one sacred cow: the misnomered “Intelligence Community” Assessment of Jan. 6, 2017, claiming that President Putin himself ordered the hacking of the DNC. That “assessment” done by “hand-picked analysts” from only CIA, FBI and NSA (not all 17 intelligence agencies of the “intelligence community”) reportedly is being given close scrutiny by U. S. Attorney John Durham, appointed by the attorney general to investigate Russiagate’s origins.

If Durham finds it fraudulent (not a difficult task), the heads of senior intelligence and law enforcement officials may roll. That would also mean a still deeper dent in the credibility of Establishment media that are only too eager to drink the Kool Aid and to leave plenty to drink for the rest of us.

Do not expect the media to cease and desist, simply because Trump had a good squelch for them last night — namely, the “intelligence” on the “bounties” was not deemed good enough to present to the president.

(As a preparer and briefer of The President’s Daily Brief  to Presidents Reagan and HW Bush, I can attest to the fact that — based on what has been revealed so far — the Russian bounty story falls far short of the PDB threshold.)

Rejecting Intelligence Assessments

Nevertheless, the corporate media is likely to play up the Trump administration’s rejection of what the media is calling the “intelligence assessment” about Russia offering — as Rachel Maddow indecorously put it on Friday — “bounty for the scalps of American soldiers in Afghanistan.”

I am not a regular Maddow-watcher, but to me she seemed unhinged — actually, well over the top.

The media asks, “Why does Trump continue to disrespect the assessments of the intelligence community?”  There he goes again — not believing our “intelligence community; siding, rather, with Putin.”

In other words, we can expect no let up from the media and the national security miscreant leakers who have served as their life’s blood. As for the anchors and pundits, their level of sophistication was reflected yesterday in the sage surmise of Face the Nation’s Chuck Todd, who Aaron Mate reminds us, is a “grown adult and professional media person.” Todd asked guest John Bolton: “Do you think that the president is afraid to make Putin mad because maybe Putin did help him win the election, and he doesn’t want to make him mad for 2020?”

“This is as bad as it gets,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday, adding the aphorism she memorized several months ago: “All roads lead to Putin.” The unconscionably deceitful performance of Establishment media is as bad as it gets, though that, of course, was not what Pelosi meant.  She apparently lifted a line right out of the Times about how Trump is too “accommodating” toward Russia.

One can read this most recent flurry of Russia, Russia, Russia as a reflection of the need to pre-empt the findings likely to issue from Durham and Attorney General William Barr in the coming months — on the theory that the best defense is a pre-emptive offense. Meanwhile, we can expect the corporate media to continue to disgrace itself.

Vile

Caitlin Johnstone, typically, pulls no punches regarding the Russian bounty travesty:

“All parties involved in spreading this malignant psyop are absolutely vile, but a special disdain should be reserved for the media class who have been entrusted by the public with the essential task of creating an informed populace and holding power to account. How much of an unprincipled whore do you have to be to call yourself a journalist and uncritically parrot the completely unsubstantiated assertions of spooks while protecting their anonymity? How much work did these empire fluffers put into killing off every last shred of their dignity? It boggles the mind.

It really is funny how the most influential news outlets in the Western world will uncritically parrot whatever they’re told to say by the most powerful and depraved intelligence agencies on the planet, and then turn around and tell you without a hint of self-awareness that Russia and China are bad because they have state media.

Sometimes all you can do is laugh.”


Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  During his 27-years as a CIA analyst he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and prepared The President’s Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan.  In retirement, he co-created Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 4 Comments

Afghanistan Bounties: Pot, Meet Kettle (and Turn Off the Stove!)

By Thomas L. Knapp | The Garrison Center | June 29, 2020

“American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan,” claims the New York Times.

More controversially, the authors write that US president Donald Trump was briefed on the assessment (he denies it) and the piece’s tag line says that his administration “has been deliberating for months” on how to respond (he says the US intelligence community didn’t find the claims credible).

Naturally, the response preferred by those who buy the Times‘s version of events is:

First, make domestic political hay with it. Sure, trying to frame Trump as a Russian asset has backfired spectacularly every time it’s been tried, but sooner or later it’s bound to work, right?

Second, make foreign policy hay with it. Punish the Russians until they’ve been baited back to full-blown Cold War levels of enmity, all the while whining that “they hate us for our freedom.”

I’ve got a better plan.

First, reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan to zero. If there aren’t any US forces in Afghanistan, no US forces in Afghanistan will be in danger due to supposed “Russian bounties.”

Second, ignore — forget! — the slim possibility that Russian bounties were behind any American deaths.

Problems solved.

Why should the US let the Russians off the hook and quit worrying about it? Here’s why:

To date, fewer than 2,500 Americans have died in Afghanistan in nearly 19 years of war.

The Russians’ 1979-1989 Afghan war lasted about half as long. Their toll was 15,000 dead.

Why didn’t the Russians get off as lightly as the Americans?

Because the US government spent at least $3 billion directly  funding and arming groups like al Qaeda to fight the Russians in Afghanistan (through the CIA’s “Operation Cyclone”), and billions more indirectly via the Pakistani government.

Even counting only the known direct aid, that amounts to a $200 in-kind bounty for every dead Russian soldier. $200 was a pretty sweet paycheck, more than Afghanistan’s per capita GDP during most of that period.

If there is a Russian bounty program on US troops in Afghanistan now, it’s clearly been less successful than the equivalent US program was 30-40 years ago. And with that program, the US government gave up any conceivable standing to complain about a Russian remix.

That supposed remix is just one more reason, from among a long list of good reasons, to bring the troops home from Afghanistan.

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

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Will South Korea’s Moon Defy Trump and Improve Relations with North Korea?

By Gregory Elich | June 29, 2020

North Korea is in the news again.  As always, that means that it is time for mainstream journalists and establishment figures to reach for the handy cliché and to recycle received opinion as a substitute for thought. Terms like “provocation,” “threat,” and “aggression” abound. Not surprisingly, powerful political and military actors in the United States are seizing the opportunity offered by strained inter-Korean relations to try and kill any prospect of reengagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – the official name for North Korea).

In the eyes of nearly all U.S. politicians, military contractors, think tank analysts, and mainstream journalists, the release of former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s memoir could not have arrived at a better time. Bolton played a key role in torpedoing the Hanoi Summit by demanding that North Korea relinquish its biological and chemical weapons, despite the lack of evidence that the DPRK even has such programs. That was coupled with his insistence that North Korea adopt the Libya model of denuclearization, in which the DPRK would give up everything and receive nothing in return other than vague assurances. For Bolton, sinking the Hanoi Summit was a job half-done. With his memoir, he hopes to complete the task and smother the very concept of reengagement, a message that is predictably finding a receptive ear among so many in Washington.

President Trump’s willingness to meet with Chairman Kim Jong Un had suggested the potential for progress on the Korean Peninsula. For a time, Trump was open to dialogue but he remained wedded to the standard establishment line that the sole purpose of talks should be to negotiate the terms of North Korea’s surrender. In essence, it now appears that there was more continuity than change in Trump’s policy. Both former President Obama and Trump waged economic warfare on the North Korean people through sanctions, and both sought unilateral concessions. Where they differed was in whether issuing demands in face-to-face meetings needed to be added to the mix.

At one point, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun responded to criticisms of American intransigence by suggesting that the United States might consider offering compensation to North Korea in exchange for denuclearization. The possibilities he mentioned included agreeing to the two nations opening liaison offices in each other’s capital, permitting a few people-to-people talks, and humanitarian aid. There was also the thought that the United States might be willing to sign a declaration acknowledging that the Korean War came to an end in 1953. What is notable about all of these proposals is that they would provide nothing that North Korea truly needs. Sanctions would remain in place. Nor would there be a security guarantee to the DPRK that would allow it to feel safe enough to dismantle its nuclear deterrent. Also missing was normalization of relations.

Undoubtedly, there is ample reason to question Bolton’s veracity in his self-justifying memoir. But there is at least one passage that has the ring of plausibility. Bolton claims that he began to suspect that the end-of-war declaration was Moon’s idea. That impression was confirmed in talks with the North Koreans, who “had told us they didn’t care about it, seeing it as something Moon wanted,” and they also “worried about Moon’s pitching Trump on these bad ideas.” [1]

Kim Myong Gil, North Korea’s chief negotiator in denuclearization talks, firmly rejected Biegun’s offer of purely symbolic measures. “If the U.S. believes that it can lure us to the table with secondary issues, such as an end-of-war declaration – which can instantly end up as garbage depending on the political situation – and the establishment of a liaison office, instead of presenting fundamental solutions to withdraw its hostile policy against North Korea, which interferes with our right to survival and development, there will never be any hope for a solution.” [2]

However, reciprocity is not a word in the Washington lexicon, so talks remained stymied. Trump is currently distracted as the electoral campaign ramps up and in his criminal mismanagement of the COVID-19 virus. The mood on Capitol Hill and in the media is unremittingly hostile to the resumption of talks, and it is difficult to envision a reelected Trump being open to reengagement in a more even-handed manner. Nor can hope for an improved U.S.-DPRK relationship be placed in a Joe Biden presidency. In a campaign video, Biden declared, “The first thing we have to do is start to demonstrate to the American public that we’re no longer embracing the Kim Jong Uns and the thugs of the world…We are the United States of America. We lead by our example. We’re back. That’s the most critical thing that is going to have to be done.” [3]

The writing, then, is clearly on the wall. North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Son Gwon issued a statement on June 12, in which he pointed out that “the hope for improved DPRK-U.S. relations…has now been shifted into despair,” and “even a slim ray of optimism for peace and prosperity… has faded away.” [4]

Trump’s inability or unwillingness to think beyond the ossified constraints of the Washington Establishment’s mindset ensured that talks could only end in failure. The North Koreans have taken due note of the Trump administration’s rigidity and have essentially given up hope for better relations.

Instead, the North Koreans focused their attention where there seemed more potential for improvement, and that was with inter-Korean relations. They hoped for measures such as establishing economic projects of mutual benefit and the cessation of military exercises aimed at each other. But here, too, the DPRK met with disappointment, as progress with South Korea remained stalled.

Mainstream media tell us that by severing communication links with the south and setting off an explosion at the Joint Liaison Office in Kaesong, North Korea is ‘lashing out’ and ‘raising tensions,’ due to economic problems or as a message to encourage Trump to resume negotiations.

In reality, these gestures are intended as a wake-up call to the Moon administration to prod him into returning to the commitments he signed in the Panmunjom Declaration. North-south relations have been in the doldrums for quite some time now, and the DPRK’s repeated requests for cooperation in advancing inter-Korean relations have invariably failed to move Moon into action.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in recognizes the need for warmer relations between the two Koreas, and some of Moon’s ideas for bringing the two Koreas closer together, such as his proposal for a Northeast Asian Railway Initiative, [5] have considerable merit. Yet, all of his plans remain undisturbed on the shelf, collecting dust.

The problem is that, as much as Moon may care about inter-Korean relations, the U.S.-South Korean alliance is more important to him. Moon insists that the UN economic sanctions on North Korea, which the U.S. devised, prevent him from implementing many of his plans. On every matter concerning cooperation with North Korea, whether large or small, Moon feels compelled to first ask for permission from the United States, and the answer is always no. It is due to Moon’s timidity that inter-Korean relations have failed to progress beyond initial steps.

Moon’s pronouncements are indicative of his frame of mind. In a meeting with senior secretaries on April 27, he said, “The fact that the Panmunjom Declaration’s implementation could not be sped up was never for lack of determination. It was because we could not step beyond the international restrictions that are part of reality.” There it is again, that inability to be an independent actor, and the compulsion to seek permission. Moon went on to say that “we should continue to find what is doable,” [6] by which he meant any small thing that the United States would permit him to do.

In the same meeting, Moon stated that “in regard to connecting inter-Korean railroads, we will start with what is possible first.” He added that he looks forward to working with the DPRK to “attain a vision for reconnecting the Donghae and Gyeongui lines, as agreed upon by the two leaders” [of North and South Korea]. Since U.S. opposition had already dissuaded Moon from moving ahead on reconnecting the rail lines, all that’s left is for the two Koreas to work on agreeing on what that “vision” would look like without ever actually attempting to translate that vision into reality.

The United States and South Korea established a working group to coordinate the latter’s policy towards the DPRK. For the Trump administration, the group’s mission is to put the brakes on all attempts at cooperation with the north. It is widely thought in South Korea that it was the working group that prevented business representatives from checking on their factories at the closed Kaesong Industrial Complex. It was also the working group that refused to allow South Korea to ship 200,000 doses of Tamiflu last year to the DPRK. [7] No cracks can be permitted in the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign against North Korea, not even when it comes to the provision of humanitarian aid.

With their only remaining hopes focused on closer cooperation with South Korea, the North Koreans have reached the point of total exasperation with Moon for his prioritizing the demands of U.S. imperialism over the needs of the Korean people.

From the North Korean perspective, Moon’s follow through on implementing the terms of the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula has been lacking. The clause that “affirmed the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord” should have been the overarching philosophy.

The Panmunjom Declaration’s call to “actively implement” economic projects agreed to in 2007 at the summit between Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong Il had no chance, given punishing UN sanctions. Yet, there could have been some progress on implementing “practical steps towards the connection and modernization of the railways and roads on the eastern transportation corridor as well as between Seoul and Sinuiju for their utilization.” [8]

The immediate trigger for North Korea’s recent actions is the ongoing psychological warfare campaign waged by South Korean right-wing evangelical groups against the DPRK through the launch of propaganda balloons. The Panmunjom Declaration obligated both sides to cease all hostile acts against each other, including “distribution of leaflets” across the border. Given the frequency of right-wing balloon launches, the DPRK felt that South Korea was lackadaisical at best in restraining such efforts. An unnamed former South Korean official comments: “What the North Koreans are saying is that if the South can’t even keep its promise to ban the propaganda balloons, a matter that’s unrelated to sanctions and that the leaders of South and North Korea already reached an agreement about, there isn’t anything the two sides can work on together.” [9]

In a study published in 2014, based partly on interviews with defector groups, Jin-Heon Jung estimated the cost of a single balloon at around $100. Given the volume of balloons sent aloft, it is clear that, as Jung puts it, “fundraising matters the most.” In addition to individual donations, Jung reports: “Some of my interlocutors told me that financial support from international organizations such as the Defense Forum Foundation and overseas churches account for a significant portion of the sponsorship.” [10]

Responding to North Korea’s complaints about South Korean inaction on inter-Korean relations, on June 15, Moon delivered a speech in which he expressed “frustration and regret” for not being able to talk about progress made since the South-North Joint Declaration of twenty years before. Demonstrating a gift for understatement, Moon went on to say: “We’ve always been using cautious approaches to take just one step forward – as if walking on ice – but now it seems that was insufficient.” [11]

A bit later in the speech, Moon explained: “The Korean Peninsula is not yet in a situation where both Koreas can charge ahead as much as we desire at our own discretion. We must move forward, though slowly, with the international community’s consent.” [12] Here, Moon used the term ‘international community’ in its standard usage, as referring solely to the few thousand people in the Washington Establishment, and excluding the rest of the world’s nearly eight billion people.

Moon followed with the suggestion “that there are projects where both Koreas can pursue independently,” and “we have to start with small, achievable tasks.” The problem is that the United States is never going to give its consent for any task, no matter how minor and unrelated to sanctions, and it is not in Moon’s character to even inch along without Washington’s approval.

The North Koreans find Moon’s inaction and penchant for expressing beautiful but empty words annoying. In a scathing reaction to Moon’s speech, Kim Yo Jong, First Vice Department Director of the Workers Party of Korea Central Committee, issued a statement that was filled with language that was undiplomatic, even quite harsh – but which was not inaccurate in its assessment of Moon. “As acknowledged by everyone, the reason that the north-south agreements which were so wonderful did not see any light of even a single step of implementation was due to the noose of the pro-U.S. flunkeyism into which he put his neck.” Kim added that Moon accepted the U.S.-South Korea working group “under the coercion of his master and presented all issues related to the north-south ties to [the] White House. This has all boomeranged.” [13]

It is not only what Kim terms Moon’s “servile” attitude that perturbs the North Koreans. Even though joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which practice the bombing and invasion of the DPRK, have been downscaled, the North Koreans still regard these smaller exercises as a violation of the spirit of the Comprehensive Military Agreement signed between the two Koreas. [14]

The same can be said of South Korea’s military buildup. Spending on the military rose 7.4% this year, and Moon’s plans call for an average increase of 7.5% each year through 2023. Already, South Korea ranks tenth worldwide in defense spending [15], and the nation is the fourth-largest buyer of U.S. weaponry. [16] In what strikes the DPRK as a provocative move, South Korea is allocating $3.3 billion to purchase twenty additional F-35 stealth fighter jets over the next five years. [17]

The direction that inter-Korean relations take in the future depends primarily on whether Moon, master of the empty phrase, decides to add action to his repertoire and behave as if he regards South Korea as a sovereign nation. As a recent report in the North Korean press put it, the only option for improvement is “by joining hands with the fellow countrymen, not with foreign forces.” [18] The time has come for Moon to choose between serving the Korean people and serving Washington.

Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, observes, “It has been just words. For the North, the South Korean government’s words and actions are different… There is a need for actions to match words, and it is also necessary for actions to move ahead of words. At the least, the two need to move at the same pace.” [19]

[1] Sarah Kim, “Trump Didn’t Want Moon in DMZ, Writes Bolton,” JoongAng Ilbo, June 22, 2020.

[2] Jeong Je-hyug, “NK Kim Myong-gil, ‘Biegun Conveyed Wish to Meet for Talks in December. Willing to Sit with the U.S.,” November 15, 2019.

[3] https://youtu.be/3TFqeMSsTx0?t=2585

[4] “Our Message to U.S. is Clear: Ri Son Gwon, Minister of Foreign Affairs of DPRK,” KCNA, June 12, 2020.

[5] Kim Ji-eun and Seong Yeon-cheol, “President Moon Proposes Northeast Asian Railway Community Initiative,” Hankyoreh, August 16, 2018.

[6] https://english1.president.go.kr/BriefingSpeeches/Speeches/813

[7] Kang Seung-woo, “South Korea-US Working Group’s Role in Question Amid Growing Inter-Korean Tensions, Korea Times, June 18, 2020.

[8] “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” Reuters, April 27, 2018.

[9] Lee Je-hun, “Kim Yo Jong Becomes the Face of N. Korea Regarding Propaganda Balloons,” Hankyoreh, June 8, 2020.

[10] Jin-Heon Jung, “Ballooning Evangelism: Psychological Warfare and Christianity in the Divided Korea,” Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity,” 2014.

[11] https://english1.president.go.kr/BriefingSpeeches/Speeches/839

[12] https://english1.president.go.kr/BriefingSpeeches/Speeches/839

[13] “Honeyed Words of Impudent Man are Disgusting: First Vice Department Director Kim Yo Jong of WPK Central Committee,” KCNA, June 17, 2020.

[14] “U.S. and S. Korean Authorities Condemned for Exacerbating Situation on Korean Peninsula,” KCNA, June 18, 2020.

Noh Ji-won, “N. Korea’s Grievances with S. Korea as Expressed by Kim Yo-jong,” Hankyoreh, June 18, 2020.

[15] Koharo Ito, “What to Make of South Korea’s Growing Defense Spending,” The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, March 12, 2020.

[16] Elizabeth Shim, “South Korea a Top Buyer of U.S. Weapons, Annual Report Says,” UPI, December 16, 2019.

[17] Jeff Jeong, “South Korea to Buy 20 More F-35 Jets,” Defense News, October 10, 2019.

Franz-Stefan Gady, “F-35A Stealth Fighter Formally Enters Service in South Korea,” The Diplomat, December 19, 2019.

[18] “S. Korean Authorities’ Inveterate Sycophancy Brings North-South Relations to Catastrophe: Rodong Sinmun,” KCNA, June 22, 2020.

[19] Choi He-suk, “Moon’s Progress on NK at Risk of Being Undone,” Korea Herald, June 10, 2020.

June 30, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

The Memorials to Judah Benjamin

Jewish slave-owners exempt from attacks by BLM?

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • June 30, 2020

The current wrath directed against anything or anyone having had anything to do with slavery or even racial discrimination includes destroying historical memorials and monuments as well as changing names that have stood for more than a century. Much of it has been focused on white nominally Christian males, mostly of Anglo-Saxon stock, understandable as the United States was a child of Great Britain and a majority of the country’s leaders for nearly two centuries came from families descended from the British Isles.

Slavery in the United States version is, of course, seen in black and white terms but slavery in a broader historical context is much more complicated. There have been slaves since ancient times through the eighteenth century in many countries and most of them have been white. Sometimes they were called something different. Indentured servants were de facto slaves, as were the serfs in Russia, who were tied to the land and were not liberated until 1861.

The very word slave comes from Slav, as many of the slaves in the Middle Ages were from the Slavic parts of the Balkans bordering on the Adriatic, where mostly Muslim seagoing raiders would attack coastal villages and carry off the inhabitants. Italy was likewise afflicted and the numerous small castles and improvised forts along the Italian and Croatian coastlines were intended to providing a refuge for villagers against the corsair slavers.

In the United States currently progressives of all types and colors are flocking to the revolutionary banner hoisted by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and other associated groups. Not surprisingly, given the liberal leanings of American Jews as well as their historical connections, Jewish groups have been actively engaged in the ongoing movement for racial justice. American Jews have played major roles historically in the founding and financial support of some of the most important civil rights organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1909, Henry Moscowitz was a co-founder the NAACP. Photos of the boards of directors of the various organizations well into the 1970s frequently reveal a majority of white Jews seated together with minority blacks. Kivie Kaplan was, for example, the national president of the NAACP between 1966 and 1975.

But this characterization of Jews as benefactors for the civil rights movement has also produced some curious omissions in the accepted historical narrative of who did what to whom in the slavery trade. It is well established, though never taught in schools, that Jews from Britain and Holland were involved in the African slave trade that prevailed after the European discovery of the Americas. In the United States, concentrations of Jews in the American south were in slave trading centers, notably in Charleston South Carolina, Savannah Georgia, Richmond Virginia and in New Orleans Louisiana. Many of the Jews themselves owned slaves.

The debate over Jewish involvement in both the business side of the slave trade as well as in actually possessing slaves comes down to “proportionality.” As the historical record makes clear that Jews in the south were engaged in both the importing and selling slaves as well as exploiting slave labor, the question becomes whether they were central to the process or just one of many identifiable groups that were peripherally involved in what was a major segment of the southern economy. The issue became extremely heated in the 1990s when mostly black academics argued that the Jewish role was pivotal while mostly Jewish professors responded that it was insignificant. In March 1995 the American Historical Association (AHA) got involved by issuing its first ever “policy resolution”, coming strongly down on the Jewish side of the argument, which should surprise no one. AHA argued that it was wrong to use historical analysis to vilify one group before citing a memo by two Jewish professors which asserted that the role of their co-religionists had been marginal.

For those who are interested in more on the discussion, the following article might be helpful, though it is on a Jewish website, cites only Jewish sources for it debunking of the idea that Jews might have been heavily engaged in the slave trade, and also brings in the most disreputable sources that say the contrary. It nevertheless concedes that Jews were involved in the slave trade and also possessed slaves, though it seeks to minimize the extent to which that was true. Much more interesting is a short book by a distinguished Wellesley History Professor Tony Martin “The Jewish Onslaught: Despatches from the Wellesley Battlefront.” Martin describes in some detail how he was subjected to a “hysterical campaign” by Jewish organizations and fellow academics to have him discredited and fired after he assigned to his class on African-American history a short reading on the Jewish role in antebellum slavery.

Be that as it may, everyone should be aware that delving around in the past can be a messy business with no easy answers and little in the way of lines drawn between right and wrong. But in this case, the current unrest brings one around to a chap named Judah Benjamin. Judah was born in the West Indies to a British-Jewish family before winding up in Charleston and eventually New Orleans, where he became a lawyer and made a fortune. He was elected to the U.S. Senate from Louisiana. Among other investments, he owned a sugar cane plantation that included 140 slaves.

In March of 1861, Benjamin was named Attorney General of the Confederacy by President Jefferson Davis, whom Benjamin knew from the Senate. Davis would sometimes say that Benjamin was “the brains of the Confederacy.” That same year, Benjamin was also named Confederate Secretary of War, a post that he later resigned to become Secretary of State, a position that he held for the remainder of the conflict. It was the second most powerful position in Richmond’s Confederate bureaucracy.

When the Confederacy fell, Benjamin fled to London and eventually to Paris, where he rebuilt his fortune by again practicing law. Benjamin died in Paris in 1884 at the age of 72. He was buried in the Paris Père Lachaise cemetery with a simple headstone inscribed “Phillipe Benjamin.” In 1936, the United Daughters of the Confederacy paid for a monument to be placed over his grave.

So, the question becomes, with BLM and other wreckers trying to destroy America’s historical monuments, to include those commemorating the Founding Fathers, Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus, Catholic saint Junipero Serra and even abolitionist Hans Christian Heg, why is it that Judah Benjamin has somehow been missed? He was a slave owner and worked as a lawyer in New Orleans where there was a thriving slave market as well as an economy built around cotton exports, which were driven by slave labor. He eventually became the number two man in the southern Confederacy, which is being regularly denounced as fighting a war to maintain slavery.

Well, of course the answer is quite simple. No politician or journalist who wants to stay employed would dare to publicly link Jews and slavery. BLM is also extravagantly funded by various guilt ridden foundations and other folks who are no doubt sensitive to the fact that there are certain issues that cannot be raised, and the people with their hands out know perfectly well what they can and cannot do or say to keep the money flowing.

For what it’s worth, there are a few monuments to Judah Benjamin sitting around just waiting to be trashed. In 1948, Charlotte, North Carolina’s two Jewish congregations, Temple Israel and Temple Bethel, erected a marker on South Tyron Street at the site of the demolished house of merchant Abraham Weil where Judah Benjamin and Jefferson Davis found shelter in April 1865 as they fled the northern army. To their credit, the congregations are now seeking to have the memorial removed.

Also of note is the 5-foot-high pink marble column topped by a sundial located in Sarasota, Florida at the point where Benjamin escaped from the United States. The monument is inscribed “Near this spot on June 23, 1865, Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of State of the United Confederacy, set sail for a foreign shore.”

Yet another stone marker is located at 9 West Main Street in Richmond, Virginia, identifying the location of Benjamin’s residence during the Civil War. Another stone marker can be found in Fayetteville, North Carolina. It recalls how Benjamin “attended Fayetteville Academy on this site.” There is still another stone monument in Bradenton Florida erected by the Judah P. Benjamin chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy and in North Carolina there is a Highway Historical Marker Program plaque that marks the site of Benjamin’s no longer existing boyhood home.

But the most impressive historic site commemorating Benjamin’s legacy is the Judah P. Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation in the town of Ellenton, Florida, south of St. Petersburg. The historic site is maintained as a state park by the Florida Department of Natural Resources and also by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter No. 1545 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It is the only surviving antebellum plantation in central and south Florida and includes the mansion and gardens as well as a visitors’ center. A large bronze memorial plaque commemorates Benjamin. Nevertheless, the connection with Benjamin is admittedly tenuous as he only sought refuge there briefly in 1865 during his flight to England.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation (Federal ID Number #52-1739023) that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is https://councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

June 29, 2020 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

‘Shameless’: Seoul denounces Japan’s objection to Trump’s plan to include South Korea in G7

RT | June 29, 2020

Seoul has accused Japan of brazen behavior after Tokyo objected to Trump’s idea of inviting South Korea into the G7 as a standing member. The proposal may weaken Japan’s political clout within the group, Japanese media claims.

A South Korean parliament official has accused Japan of constantly “harming” its neighboring country, in reaction to a news report published by Japanese news agency Kyodo last week. The report claimed that Tokyo’s administration had opposed US President Donald Trump’s idea of inviting Seoul to participate in the envisioned Group Seven gathering.

“There’s nothing to be surprised anymore by Japan’s consistent attitude not to admit or atone for its wrongdoings,” the official said. “The level of Japan’s shameless (position) is something of the world’s top.”

Kyodo reported that Japan has conveyed its objection to the US with claims that Seoul is not in “lockstep” with G7 – in particular, it does not share the group’s views on Chinese and North Korean issues.

The outlet suggested that Japan’s objection was expected to aggravate its already tense relationship with South Korea, amid ongoing historical and diplomatic disagreements. The two countries have long been locked in a dispute over World War 2 reparations aimed at resolving wartime labor issues. But the bill had heavily influenced controversies within the economic and defense areas in both countries.

The news agency pointed out that South Korea’s participation would mean ending Japan’s status as the lone Asian member within the group, which also includes the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy. Earlier this month, Japan expressed its hope to take the lead among G7 nations on issuing a statement about the situation in Hong Kong.

At the end of May, Trump suggested inviting Russia, South Korea, Australia, and India to participate at the G7 summit hosted by the US. The president has criticized the group as “very outdated” and pointed out that it no longer represents “what’s going on in the world.” The meeting was initially scheduled for June but had to be postponed until at least September, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At a media briefing on Monday, Japan’s government spokesman Yoshihide Suga refrained from publicly expressing its opposition to South Korea’s participation. Still, he stressed that it is crucial to maintain the current G7 framework for coordination in tackling global challenges.

June 29, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Impeachment Reminder of Our Toxic Foreign Aid

By James Bovard | Ron Paul Institute | Monday June 29, 2020

Foreign aid to Ukraine helped spur the Democrats’ effort to impeach and remove President Trump earlier this year. Ukraine was supposed to be on the verge of great progress until Trump pulled the rug out from under the heroic salvation effort by US government bureaucrats. Unfortunately, Congress has devoted a hundred times more attention to the timing of aid to Ukraine than to its effectiveness. And most of the media coverage pretended that US handouts abroad are as generous and uplifting as congressmen claim.

US foreign aid has long fueled the poxes it promised to eradicate — especially kleptocracy, or government by thieves. A 2002 American Economic Review analysis concluded that “increases in [foreign] aid are associated with contemporaneous increases in corruption” and that “corruption is positively correlated with aid received from the United States.” Windfalls of foreign aid can make politicians more rapacious, which economists have dubbed the “voracity effect.”

Early in his presidency, George W. Bush promised to reform foreign aid, declaring, “I think it makes no sense to give aid money to countries that are corrupt.” Regardless, the Bush administration continued delivering billions of dollars in handouts to many of the world’s most corrupt regimes.

Barack Obama proclaimed at the United Nations in 2010 that the US government was “leading a global effort to combat corruption.” The Los Angeles Times noted that Obama’s “aides said the United States in the past has often seemed to just throw money at problems,” while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that “a lot of these aid programs don’t work” and lamented their “heartbreaking” failures. But Obama promised during his 2008 campaign to double foreign-aid spending, which obliterated efforts to reform failed programs. In 2011, congressional Republicans sought to restrict foreign aid going to fraud-ridden foreign regimes. Secretary of State Clinton wailed that restricting handouts to nations that fail anti-corruption tests “has the potential to affect a staggering number of needy aid recipients.”

Regardless, the Obama administration continued pouring tens of billions of US tax dollars into sinkholes such as Afghanistan, which even its president, Ashraf Ghani, admitted in 2016 was “one of the most corrupt countries on earth.” The governor of Kandahar denounced his own government officials and police officers as “looters and kidnappers.” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), declared that “US policies and practices unintentionally aided and abetted corruption” in Afghanistan.

Since the end of the Soviet Union, the United States has provided more than $6 billion in aid to Ukraine. At the House impeachment hearings late last year, a key anti-Trump witness was acting US ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. The Washington Post hailed Taylor as someone who “spent much of the 1990s telling Ukrainian politicians that nothing was more critical to their long-term prosperity than rooting out corruption and bolstering the rule of law, in his role as the head of US development assistance for post-Soviet countries.” A New York Times editorial lauded Taylor and State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent as witnesses who “came across not as angry Democrats or Deep State conspirators, but as men who have devoted their lives to serving their country.”

Their testimony spurred Eric Rubin, president of the American Foreign Service Association, to bewail that “this is the most fraught time and the most difficult time for our members” since Sen. Joe McCarthy’s accusations of communism in the 1950s. A Washington Post headline echoed him: “The diplomatic corps has been wounded. The State Department needs to heal.” But not nearly as much as the foreigners supposedly rescued by US bureaucrats.

The Wall Street Journal reported on October 31 that the International Monetary Fund, which has provided more than $20 billion in loans to Ukraine, “remains skeptical after a history of broken promises [from the Ukrainian government]. Kiev hasn’t successfully completed any of a series of IMF bailout packages over the past two decades, with systemic corruption at the heart of much of that failure.” The IMF concluded that Ukraine continued to be vexed by “shortcomings in the legal framework, pervasive corruption, and large parts of the economy dominated by inefficient state-owned enterprises or by oligarchs.” That last item is damning for US benevolent pretensions. If a former Soviet republic cannot even terminate its government-owned boondoggles, then why was the US government bankrolling them? While many members of Congress could not find Ukraine on a map, far fewer could have offered any coherent explanation of what US aid bought in Ukraine.

Transparency International, which publishes an annual Corruption Perceptions Index, shows that corruption surged in Ukraine in the late 1990s (after the United States decided to rescue that country) and remains at abysmal levels. Ukraine now ranks in the bottom tier on the list of most corrupt nations, with a worse rating than Egypt and Pakistan, two other major US aid recipients notorious for corruption.

Actually, the best gauge of Ukrainian corruption is the near-total collapse of its citizens’ trust in government or in their own future. Since 1991, the nation has lost almost 20 percent of its population as citizens flee abroad like passengers leaping off a sinking ship. But as long as Kiev was not completely depopulated, US bureaucrats could continue claiming to be on the verge of achieving great things.

The House impeachment hearings and much of the media gushed over those career US government officials despite their strikeouts. It was akin to a congressional committee’s resurrecting Col. George Custer in 1877 and fawning as he offered personal insights in dealing with uprisings by Sioux Indians (while carefully avoiding awkward questions about the previous year at the Little Bighorn).

Foreign aid is virtue-signaling with other people’s money. As long the aid spawns press releases and photo opportunities for presidents and members of Congress and campaign donations from corporate and other beneficiaries, little else matters. Congress almost never conducts thorough investigations into the failure of aid programs despite their legendary pratfalls. As the Christian Science Monitor noted in 2010, AID “created an atmosphere of frantic urgency about the ‘burn rate’ — a measure of how quickly money is spent. Emphasis gets put on spending fast to make room for the next batch from Congress.” Martine van Bijlert of the nonprofit Afghanistan Analysts Network commented, “As long as you spend money and you can provide a paper trail, that’s a job well done. It’s a perverse system, and there seems to be no intention to change it.” The “burn rate” fixation produced endless absurdities, including collapsing school buildings, impassable roads, failed electrification projects, and phantom health clinics. SIGAR’s John Sopko “found a USAID lessons-learned report from 1980s on Afghan reconstruction but nobody at AID had read it.”

Perverse incentives

“Fail and repeat” was also AID’s motto in Iraq. After the 2003 invasion, AID and the Pentagon paired up to spend $60 billion to rebuild Iraq. As long as projects looked vaguely impressive at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, AID declared victory. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), listed some of the agency’s farcical Iraq success claims at a 2011 hearing: “262,482 individuals reportedly benefited from medical supplies that were purchased to treat only 100 victims of a specific attack; 22 individuals attended a five-day mental-health course, yet 1.5 million were reported as beneficiaries; … and 280,000 were reported as benefitting from $14,246 spent to rehabilitate a morgue.” Ali Ghalib Baban, Iraq’s minister of planning, denied in 2009 that US aid for relief and reconstruction had benefitted his country: “Maybe they spent it, but Iraq doesn’t feel it.” An analysis by the Center for Public Integrity noted that, according to top Iraqi officials, the biggest impact of US aid was “more corruption and widespread money-laundering.”

After driving around the world, investment guru Jim Rogers declared, “Most foreign aid winds up with outside consultants, the local military, corrupt bureaucrats, the new NGO [nongovernmental organizations] administrators, and Mercedes dealers.” Mercedes-Benz automobiles became so popular among African government officials that a new Swahili word was coined: wabenzi — “men of the Mercedes-Benz.” After the Obama administration promised massive aid to Ukraine in 2014, Hunter Biden, the vice president’s son, jumped on the gravy train — as did legions of well-connected Washingtonians and other hustlers around the nation. Similar largesse ensures that there will never be a shortage of overpaid people and hired think tanks ready to write op-eds or letters to the editor of the Washington Post whooping up the moral greatness of foreign aid or some such hokum.

Bribing foreign politicians to encourage honest government makes as much sense as distributing free condoms to encourage abstinence. Rather than encouraging good governance practices, foreign aid is more likely to produce kleptocracies. As a Brookings Institution analysis observed, “The history of US assistance is littered with tales of corrupt foreign officials using aid to line their own pockets, support military buildups, and pursue vanity projects.” Both US politicians and US bureaucrats are prone to want to continue the aid gravy train regardless of how foreign regimes waste the money or use it to repress their own citizens.

US government leaders are far more concerned with buying influence than with safeguarding purity. Foreign aid is often little more than a bribe for a foreign regime to behave in ways that please the US government. One large bribe naturally spawns hundreds or thousands of smaller bribes, and thereby corrupts an entire country. The impeachment of Trump was driven by the specific favor that Democrats claimed he had requested from the Ukrainian president, not from seeking favors per se.

When it comes to the failure of US aid to Ukraine, almost all of Trump’s congressional critics are like the “dog that didn’t bark” in the Sherlock Holmes story. The real outrage is that Trump and prior presidents, with Congress cheering all the way, delivered so many US tax dollars to Kiev that any reasonable person knew would be wasted.

Foreign aid will continue to be toxic as long as politicians continue to be politicians. There is no bureaucratic cure for the perverse incentives created by flooding foreign nations with US tax dollars. If Washington truly wants to curtail foreign corruption, ending US government handouts aid is the best first step. Counting on foreign aid to reduce corruption is like expecting whiskey to cure alcoholism.

June 29, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment