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Bounty-Hunter Hoax to Kill U.S.-Russia Relations

Strategic Culture Foundation | July 3, 2020

Relations between the United States and Russia have already been badly wounded during recent years, largely as a result of baseless allegations such as Moscow interfering in American elections, colluding with President Donald Trump, or regarding other international developments, from the downing of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, to purported war crimes in Syria, to the alleged poisoning of British double-agent Sergei Skripal in England.

But the latest U.S. media effort claiming Russian military intelligence involvement in sponsoring Taliban assassins or “bounty hunters” to target American troops in Afghanistan appears to be aimed at killing off any remaining possibility for restoring relations between Washington and Moscow.

Even the concept of “bounty hunters” sounds like an outlandish reliance on Wild West folklore which in itself betrays the origins of the story as a figment of imagination rooted in the authors’ American parochialism.

Quite appropriately, however, we can extend the analogy further by referring to the U.S. media reporting on the Russian “bounty hunter” claims as “cowboy journalism”.

America’s supposed finest media outlets jumped on this yarn like a posse in bandwagon fashion. The New York Times “broke” the story on June 26 and was followed by others of presumed journalistic stature: The Washington Post, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, and others.

No evidence has been presented to back up the explosive claims made against Russia and against President Trump that he was briefed about the intelligence allegedly implicating Russia in Afghanistan but did nothing about it.

The whole media frenzy has relied on unnamed sources and vague claims about money being found or transferred from bank accounts.

In less than a week since the story “broke” there is a palpable sense that the initial media frenzy has fizzled out, leaving a bitter aftertaste of nothingness and embarrassment for the journalists who pushed the fable with gung-ho grit.

The story has been roundly dismissed as a hoax by the Trump White House, the Kremlin and the Taliban. More politely, the heads of U.S. intelligence and the Pentagon stated there was “no corroborating evidence” for the media claims.

So, what was it all about?

Evidently, it was another shot in the Last Chance Saloon by the anti-Russia Washington political establishment, or deep state, to further undermine bilateral relations. The obsequious way in which supposed bastions of U.S. journalism parroted the disinformation is illustrative of the low standard of American media. As several critical commentators have noted, what we saw from the New York Times et al was not journalism, but rather stenographic dissemination of deep state disinformation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has remarked that the timing of the “provocative hoax” comes at a critical juncture in efforts to bring a peace settlement in Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of U.S.-led war in that country. Trump is committed to withdrawing U.S. troops and, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Kremlin has been quietly cooperating with the American State Department to mediate a peace deal. The implication is that there are elements within the U.S. intelligence-military apparatus which have a vested interest in continuing the quagmire war in Afghanistan. The “bombshell” claims of a Russian clandestine assassination program against U.S. troops would thus jeopardize a political settlement in Afghanistan.

Secondly, while the U.S. reporting on the bounty-hunter scheme has been a self-inflicted disgrace to journalism, it has nevertheless succeeded, to a degree, in riling up anti-Russia sentiment in Washington. Lawmakers from Trump’s own Republican party have joined with the usual Democrat chorus to call for increased sanctions against Moscow.

Trump has been accused (again) of “treachery” and “treason” by being “infatuated” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. One Republican political action committee released a spoof advert this week in which Moscow thanks “Comrade Trump” for his “loyalty”.

This pathetic poisoning of relations is ludicrous and dangerous.

Another glaring factor is the forthcoming U.S. presidential elections which are only four months away. The media ruse, we can hardly say “reporting”, is evidently designed to aid Joe Biden, the Democrat rival to Trump. Biden reacted to the media claims against Russia with “shock, horror” and he denounced Trump for (allegedly) not being concerned about security of U.S. troops. Biden said if he is elected to the White House he will “stand up to Putin”.

The transparent manipulation attempt of public emotions and votes is almost laughable. It is gas-lighting as in the Cold War days of McCarthyism.

Like him or loath him, Donald Trump has been a thorn in the side of powerful domestic enemies since he won the 2016 election. We can describe those enemies as the deep state and their apparatus in the Democrat party working in conjunction with servile media surrogates. (No doubt the Republican party would be just as obliging if the shoe was on other other foot.) Trump has certainly been no friend to Russia. Bilateral relations remain as blighted as they were under the previous Obama Democrat administrations.

For various reasons, Trump’s domestic enemies are mobilizing in a desperate effort to block his re-election. That is what the whole Russia “bounty-hunter blockbuster” is all about. But in doing so, the relations between the U.S. and Russia are being kicked to the ground and lynched. That is an appallingly reckless consequence.

The grotesque irony is that Russia is accused of “interference”. American deep political forces are interfering in the nation’s democracy to control the elections, as they have previously done. A price will be paid in worse U.S.-Russia relations and greater international tensions.

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

The Empire Bombed Serbia to Seize Kosovo in 1999

Tales of the American Empire | July 2, 2020

The American Empire faced downsizing in the 1990s after the Warsaw Pact disbanded and Soviets troops withdrew home. American politicians demanded a reduction in military spending and the closure of most military bases in Europe. The solution was to start a war in Europe. Serbia (which was called Yugoslavia before 2006) openly resisted demands to open its economy to western banks and corporations and refused to join the European Union. As a result, Serbia was demonized and targeted for destruction. An ongoing rebellion by some Albanian immigrants in Serbia’s province of Kosovo was chosen as a NATO cause. The American CIA began shipping arms to the Islamic Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and transported hundreds of al Qaeda mercenaries to Kosovo to attack Serbs. This was politically awkward since the KLA was on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist groups. Serbian soldiers were dispatched to their southernmost province to repel these Islamic invaders. This increased the level of violence and Serbia was blamed.


“Let Slobbo speak for himself”; (no evidence of serious Serb atrocities); John Laughland; The Spectator ; 2003;…

“We Bombed the Wrong Side” in Kosovo; Major General Lewis MacKenzie; The National Post (Canada), Apr. 6, 2004;…

“Destruction of Yugoslavia was an operation planned by the CIA”; Klagemauer TV: Feb. 28, 2016;

“NATO’s Bombing of Yugoslavia Was Textbook State Terrorism”; Marko Marjanovic; Ant-Empire; March 24, 2019;…

“Why Does Camp Bondsteel Still Exist”; Carlton Meyer; G2mil; 2011;

“Kosovo’s president, Hashim Thaci, indicted on war crimes charges ahead of planned White House meeting”‘; Michael Birnbaum; Washington Post ; June 24, 2020;…

“Kosovo Indictment Proves Bill Clinton’s Serbian War Atrocities”; Jim Bovard; Libertarian Institute; June 25, 2020;…

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

South Korea’s Moon appoints top aides, all advocates of inter-Korean rapprochement

Press TV – July 3, 2020

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has appointed officials, all known as supporters of inter-Korean détente, as his new top national security advisors in an effort to revive stalled negotiations with North Korea.

The officials were appointed on Friday to replace the chiefs of national security, intelligence and unification policy.

Lee In-young, a four-term lawmaker, who was nominated to oversee inter-Korean ties as unification minister said, “Reviving inter-Korean dialogue is a top priority.”

He said that he would “look at the issue of restarting humanitarian exchanges and cooperation which can be done immediately.”

The current minister resigned over worsening relations with the North.

Moon appointed Suh Hoon, as his national security adviser and Park Jie-won, to succeed Suh as NIS head.

The president has so far held three summits with North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-un, with whom he signed an agreement in 2018 to take a step closer to peace by turning the Korean Peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats.”The two Koreas were on a path of rapprochement beginning in January 2018 before US intransigence to relieve any of the sanctions on the North effectively killed diplomacy.

Earlier this year, Moon said he was making efforts to arrange a visit by Kim to Seoul, saying that both sides are in “desperate need” to improve relations.

The South’s president, who has also been trying to mediate between the North and the United States, urged President Donald Trump and Kim to meet once again before the US presidential election in November.

Trump and Kim have already met three times, mainly on Moon’s auspices.

Citing the coronavirus pandemic, the US’s deputy secretary of state and lead negotiator with North Korea, Steve Biegun, said on Monday that another summit was “probably unlikely between now and the US election.”

Biegun, however, said Washington would “continue to leave the door open to diplomacy.”

He is due to visit South Korea next week for meetings with his South Korean counterparts.

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Twitter Targets Accounts of MintPress and Other Outlets Covering Unrest in Bolivia

By Alan Macleod | MintPress News | June 29, 2020

Social media giant Twitter took the step of suspending the official account of MintPress News on Saturday. Without warning, the nine-year-old account with 64,000 followers was abruptly labeled as “fake” or “spam” and restricted. This move is becoming a frequent occurrence for alternative media, especially those that openly challenge U.S. power globally.

Immediately preceding the ban, MintPress had been sharing stories about Israeli government crimes against Palestinians, the Saudi-led onslaught in Yemen (both funded and supported by Washington), and about activists challenging chemical giant Monsanto’s latest plans. However, MintPess correspondent Ollie Vargas, stationed in Bolivia and covering the coup and other events there, had another theory on the suspension. Vargas noted that his account, along with union leader Leonardo Loza and independent Bolivian outlets Kawsachun Coca and Kawsachun News were all suspended at the same time. “There was a coordinated takedown of numerous users & outlets based in Chapare, Bolivia. Thousands of fake accounts appeared after the coup. We believe they’re being mobilized to mass report those who criticize the regime,” he said. Since the November coup, Bolivia has been the sight of intense political struggle, with MintPress one of the only Western outlets, large or small, extensively covering the situation (and from a perspective that directly challenges the official US government line). Vargas added that all those accounts suspended appeared in his Twitter bio.

In December, MintPress reported how the strongly conservative Bolivian elite is treating social media as a key battleground in pushing the coup forward, with over 5,000 accounts created on the day of the insurrection tweeting using pro-coup hashtags. With the new administration still lacking both legitimacy and public support, it appears the next step is to simply silence dissenting voices online like they have been silenced inside the country. Kawsachun Coca and Kawsachun News, located in the Chapare region, still not under government control, are among the only remaining outlets critical of the Añez administration.

As Twitter has developed into a worldwide medium of communication, it has also grown an increasingly close relationship with Western state power. In September, a senior Twitter executive was unmasked as an active duty officer in a British Army brigade whose specialty was online and psychological warfare. It was almost entirely ignored by corporate media; the one and only journalist at a major publication covering the story was pushed out of his job weeks later. Earlier this month, Twitter announced it worked with a hawkish U.S.- and Australian-government sponsored think tank to purge nearly 200,000 Chinese, Russian and Iranian accounts from its platform. It has also worked hard to remove Venezuelan users critical of U.S. regime change, including large numbers of government members. Meanwhile, despite detailed academic work exposing them, Venezuelan opposition bot networks remain free to promote intervention.

Facebook has also been working hand-in-hand with the Atlantic Council, a NATO think tank, to determine what users and posts are legitimate and what is fake news, effectively giving control over what its 2.4 billion users see in their news feeds to the military organization. Reddit, another huge social media platform, recently appointed a former deputy director at the council to be its head of policy.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it was banning all positive appraisals of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general and statesman assassinated by the Trump administration. This, it explained, was because Trump had labeled the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization. “We operate under U.S. sanctions laws, including those related to the U.S. government’s designation of the IRGC and its leadership,” it said in a statement. This is particularly worrying, as Soleimani was the country’s most popular public figure, with over 80 percent of Iranians holding a positive view of him, according to a University of Maryland poll. Therefore, because of the whims of the Trump administration, Facebook began suppressing a majority view shared by Iranians with other Iranians in Farsi across all its platforms, including Instagram. Thus, the line between the state, the military industrial complex, and big media platforms whose job should be to hold them to account has blurred beyond distinction. The incident also once again highlights that big tech monopolies are not public resources, but increasingly tightly controlled American enterprises working in conjunction with Washington.

More worryingly, it is the tech companies themselves who are pushing for this integration. “What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century,” wrote Google executives Eric Schmidt and Larry Cohen in their book, The New Digital Age, “technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first.” The book was heartily endorsed by Atlantic Council director Henry Kissinger.

After an online outcry including journalists like Ben Norton directly appealing to administrators, the accounts were reinstated today. However, the weekend’s events are another point of reference in the trend of harassing and suppressing independent, alternative or foreign media that challenges the U.S. state power, an increasingly large part of which is linked to the big online media platforms we rely on for free exchange of ideas, opinions and discourse.

On the incident, MintPress founder Mnar Muhawesh said:

Twitter’s ban hammer and censorship army of flaggers is an attempt to re-tighten state and corporate control over the free flow of information. That’s why it’s no wonder independent media like MintPress News, Kawsachun, and watchdog journalists covering state crimes like Ollie Vargas have been targeted in what appears to be an organized effort to silence and censor dissent. Twitter’s message is very clear: our first amendment is not welcome, as long as it challenges establishment narratives.”

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent.

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

US government payouts to Hong Kong ‘civil society groups’ revealed after funding freeze

Protesters at a rally in Hong Kong, China September 20, 2019. © REUTERS/Jorge Silva
RT | July 3, 2020

Beijing’s repeated accusations of foreign interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs appear to have been vindicated, after a government funding freeze exposed US financial support for activists in the semi-autonomous city.

Around $2 million had been earmarked to help Hong Kong activists “evade surveillance by the Chinese government,” according to a recent TIME report. The cash was never delivered though, due to restructuring and cuts at the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which allocates federal funds for overseas news and information initiatives, including Voice of America. Some funds had already been paid out, however.

The money was supposed to go towards the Washington-based Open Technology Fund (OTF), which pours cash into internet “freedom” projects around the world. Although officially an independent non-profit, the organization is funded by Congress.

The funding freeze also affected around $500,000 in OTF resources purportedly used to help activists around the world avoid digital attack and detection. Several payouts from this fund were made to groups in Hong Kong since protests began last year.

The OTF also provided $3 million to help develop Signal, the encrypted messaging app used by many Hong Kong protesters. Although the OTF remains largely under the radar, the more prominent National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has also played an active role in Hong Kong. In 2019, the US-funded non-profit spent an estimated $643,000 to aid “civil society” groups in the city. The organization denies that the cash was used to fund demonstrations.

The US government’s financial ties to Hong Kong activists has been something of an open secret. In June, the Electronic Frontier Foundation urged the US government to continue funding the OTF’s overseas projects, stating that the funds were necessary to help “Hong Kong’s democracy movement.”

The US cash pipeline to Hong Kong has prompted some to accuse Washington of clear double-standards when it comes to foreign influence operations.

“Imagine how the American government would react if multiple Chinese state agencies such as Xinhua were exposed secretly helping protest groups across the United States to evade surveillance and crackdowns by law enforcement agencies,” observed South China Morning Post columnist Alex Lo. He speculated that if the roles were reversed, the United States would most likely “threaten China with war.”

Hong Kong protesters have never been shy about their relationship with and admiration for Washington. Last August, a group of leading activists were photographed meeting with a senior official from the US consulate.

A month later, US-flag-waving demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong to demand that Donald Trump “liberate” them from Chinese rule.

For months, Beijing has called on the United States to stop interfering in Hong Kong. Well-aware of activists’ foreign patronage, China announced sanctions against NED in December, accusing the non-profit of promoting “extremely violent criminal activities.” For now, the OTF has managed to avoid being slapped with similar restrictions.

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Deception | , | 4 Comments

Caracas Bashes UK Court for Seeking ‘to Strip Venezuela of Its International Gold Reserves’

By Oleg Burunov – Sputnik – 03.07.2020

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza has lambasted the British High Court’s move to recognise Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the president of the Latin American country.

Arreaza tweeted on Thursday that Caracas “rejects the opinion” of the UK court, which “seeks to strip our country of its international gold reserves at the Bank of England, and will initiate the corresponding legal procedures to appeal such an absurd decision.”

According to Arreaza’s attached press release from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, “President Nicolas Maduro […] has requested that Venezuelan judicial bodies initiate the necessary procedures to punish those involved in the theft of Venezuelan gold and to ensure that justice is done.”

The statement comes after the British High Court said in a ruling that the UK government “has unequivocally” recognised Guaido as Venezuelan president, adding that “there is no room for recognition of Mr Guaido as de jure president and of Mr Maduro as de facto president.”

The Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), in turn, argued that London, which maintains diplomatic relations with Caracas, “recognised” the government of the elected president despite calling him “illegitimate.”

The BCV also cautioned that the UK recognising Guaido would be a violation of international laws and an “impermissible intervention in the affairs of Venezuela”.

Right now, the Bank of England holds about $1.13 billion worth of Venezuelan gold, refusing to give Maduro’s government access to it or transfer the gold to another bank.

In May, the BCV filed a legal claim in a commercial court in London to try to force the Bank of England to transfer Venezuela’s gold reserves to fund the nation’s coronavirus response.

Venezuela’s push to release its frozen gold assets in the UK began after the US and other western countries refused to recognise the results of the 2018 presidential election in Venezuela, in which Maduro secured an overwhelming victory for another term amid an economic meltdown in the country.

After the US slapped a raft of economic sanctions against Venezuela, the South American nation’s financial assets were frozen in a number of foreign countries. The situation worsened after Guaido proclaimed himself interim president contesting Maduro’s claim to the country’s gold assets, including those in the UK.

July 3, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , | 1 Comment