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CIA Information Warfare Succeeds: Occupation of Afghanistan forced to continue, Trump’s real crimes in Afghanistan ignored

By Ben Barbour | Global Research | July 5, 2020

On July 1st the House Armed Services Committee voted to hinder Donald Trump’s ability to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. House Democrats on the committee teamed up with Republicans, including Liz Cheney (daughter of war-architect Dick Cheney), to pass an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act “that prohibits Congress from spending money to pull US troops out of Afghanistan without first meeting a series of vague conditions that critics said appeared to prevent withdrawal.” Without any public debate the US will now continue its occupation after the CIA claimed that Russia paid Taliban-linked groups to kill American soldiers.

What’s the evidence? General John Nicholson speculated that Russia was arming the Taliban in 2017. In April 2019, three marines were killed in an attack that the Taliban claimed responsibility for. Unnamed intelligence officials believed that the Russians may have payed militants to attack US troops. In March 2020, The CIA concluded that the Russians were paying the bounties. They cited testimony from captured militants and pointed to a Seal Team Six raid of a Taliban outpost that resulted in the recovery of a half a million in cash.

That’s it. That’s all the information that the American public is allowed to know. It’s hardly even mentioned that the NSA disagreed with the CIA’s assessment, stating “the information wasn’t verified and that intelligence officials didn’t agree on it.” Furthermore, the Department of Defense (DOD) claimed that “to date, DOD has no corroborating evidence to validate the recent allegations found in open-source reports.” Americans are taking the CIA’s word as gospel.

How exactly did the CIA conclude that the half a million in cash came from Russia and not from Taliban opium trafficking operations? The US military claimed that 60% of the Taliban’s funding comes from the opium trade. Is $500,000 in cash unheard of in opium sales? Who are these captured militants that claimed that Russia payed bounties for dead American soldiers? Were these militants tortured by the CIA? The CIA has the largest torture program in the world. Is the information reliable or was the information obtained under dubious circumstances? How do we even know these militants actually made these claims?

The foundation of the assertions is also questionable. Americans are supposed to believe that the Taliban had to be prompted to attack American soldiers. The US has been occupying Afghanistan for nearly 20 years. The war in Afghanistan has resulted in over 2,400 dead American soldiers and over 38,500 dead civilians. US soldiers have been targeted by the Taliban and an assortment of other militant groups over the past 19 years. That’s the cost of occupation. If over 38,500 civilians have been killed, then there are a lot of angry Afghans that lost family members. Russia does not need to pay the Taliban or any militant group to attack US soldiers. This should not need explanation. The rush to accuse Trump of treason has made Americans lose their critical thinking skills.

More partisan liberals are upset about Trump’s inaction over unproven allegations of Russian bounties than they are by Trump’s record setting bombing campaign in Afghanistan:

“in 2019, according to figures released by Air Force Central Command, the United States ‘dropped more munitions on Afghanistan than in any other year over the past decade.’ More bombs were dropped in most months of 2019 than in any previous months since records were first made publicly available in 2009.”

These bombings led to a massive surge in civilian casualties. In one case, at least 30 pine nut farmers were killed in a drone strike that resulted in zero militants being killed. Where is the outrage over this? How many more Afghans are going to die if Trump is pressed to be even more unhinged to prove he is not a traitor? The end game is more death and more occupation.

This new scandal being pushed by the CIA also conveniently deflects from Trump’s real scandals in Afghanistan. In June, Trump signed an executive order “imposing sanctions on several individuals associated with the International Criminal Court (ICC).”

The ICC is investigating war crimes in Afghanistan. Their investigations include potential American war crimes. They may even involve Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: “Pompeo may be personally at risk for wrongdoing that the Court could uncover of CIA activities when he was the director of the agency.” The Trump administration is claiming that because the US has not ratified the Rome Statute, that the ICC has no legal basis to prosecute American war crimes. This is incorrect. The Rome Statute allows the ICC to prosecute non-party countries if war crimes are committed by that party in a country that has ratified the Rome Statute. Afghanistan has ratified the Rome Statue. That puts the US on the hook for potential war crimes committed in that region.

Needless to say, never-Trump neocons have been silent about Trump’s targeting of the ICC. Likewise, partisan liberals have not gone after Trump on this front either. The reasons are obvious. The Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations are culpable in war crimes in Afghanistan as well. The nearly two-decades long war is a bipartisan project. Furthermore, self-professed left-wingers and liberals are taking their cues from Bush-era neocons like David Frum, Bill Kristol, and an assortment of pro-war goons from the Lincoln Project Political Action Committee.

Russiagate broke partisan liberals’ brains. They are now calling for Trump to ramp up escalation in Afghanistan. They actually believe the absurd over-the-top ads put out by the Lincoln Project. Donald Trump ramped up the war in Afghanistan in 2017 when he did a 3,500-troop surge from 10,500 to 14,000 troops. Trump then increased bombing campaigns throughout his term and set records for bombings in 2019. Civilians casualties spiked. In June 2020, he targeted the ICC for having the audacity to look into US war crimes.

None of this barbarism earned Trump the ire of prominent neoconservatives and liberals. Trump is being vilified for having talks with the Taliban and taking steps towards scaling-down US troop presence. After four years of Russiagate hysteria the only explanation for Trump’s actions is capitulation to Russia. Afghan civilians be damned, Trump needs to ramp up again in Afghanistan to stop Putin or he’s a traitor! The neocon dogma pushed onto liberals by never-Trump Republicans did its job. Partisan liberals are parroting the line of the CIA. The attempt to sabotage talks with the Taliban and prevent troop withdrawals from Afghanistan worked.

The Resistance” just helped push the continued occupation of Afghanistan to score cheap political points. The CIA thanks them for their “patriotism.”

Ben Barbour is an American geopolitical analyst.

July 5, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Are the Democrats a Political Party or a CIA-Backed Fifth Column?

By Mike Whitney • Unz Review • July 5, 2020

How do the Democrats benefit from the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests?

While the protests are being used to paint Trump as a race-bating white supremacist, that is not their primary objective. The main goal is to suppress and demonize Trump’s political base which is comprised of mainly white working class people who have been adversely impacted by the Democrats disastrous free trade and immigration policies. These are the people– liberal and conservative– who voted for Trump in 2016 after abandoning all hope that the Democrats would amend their platform and throw a lifeline to workers who are now struggling to make ends meet in America’s de-industrialized heartland.

The protests are largely a diversion aimed at shifting the public’s attention to a racialized narrative that obfuscates the widening inequality chasm (created by the Democrats biggest donors, the Giant Corporations and Wall Street) to historic antagonisms that have clearly diminished over time. (Racism ain’t what it used to be.) The Democrats are resolved to set the agenda by deciding what issues “will and will not” be covered over the course of the campaign. And– since race is an issue on which they feel they can energize their base by propping-up outdated stereotypes of conservatives as ignorant bigots incapable of rational thought– the Dems are using their media clout to make race the main topic of debate. In short, the Democrats have settled on a strategy for quashing the emerging populist revolt that swept Trump into the White House in 2016 and derailed Hillary’s ambitious grab for presidential power.

The plan, however, does have its shortcomings, for example, Democrats have offered nearly blanket support for protests that have inflicted massive damage on cities and towns across the country. In the eyes of many Americans, the Dems support looks like a tacit endorsement of the arson, looting and violence that has taken place under the banner of “racial justice”. The Dems have not seriously addressed this matter, choosing instead to let the media minimize the issue by simply scrubbing the destruction from their coverage. This “sweep it under the rug” strategy appears to be working as the majority of people surveyed believe that the protests were “mostly peaceful”, which is a term that’s designed to downplay the effects of the most ferocious rioting since the 1970s.

Let’s be clear, the Democrats do not support Black Lives Matter nor have they made any attempt to insert their demands into their list of police reforms. BLM merely fits into the Dems overall campaign strategy which is to use race to deflect attention from the gross imbalance of wealth that is the unavoidable consequence of the Dems neoliberal policies including outsourcing, off-shoring, de-industrialization, free trade and trickle down economics. These policies were aggressively promoted by both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as they will be by Joe Biden if he is elected. They are the policies that have gutted the country, shrunk the middle class, and transformed the American dream into a dystopian nightmare.

They are also the policies that have given rise to, what the pundits call, “right wing populism” which refers to the growing number of marginalized working people who despise Washington and career politicians, feel anxious about falling wages and dramatic demographic changes, and resent the prevailing liberal culture that scorns their religion and patriotism. This is Trump’s mainly-white base, the working people the Democrats threw under the bus 30 years ago and now want to annihilate completely by deepening political polarization, fueling social unrest, pitting one group against another, and viciously vilifying them in the media as ignorant racists whose traditions, culture, customs and even history must be obliterated to make room for the new diversity world order. Trump touched on this theme in a speech he delivered in Tulsa. He said:

“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”

Author Charles Burris expanded on this topic in an article at Lew Rockwell titled America’s Monumental Existential Problem:

“The wave of statue-toppling spreading across the Western world from the United States is not an aesthetic act, but a political one, the disfigured monuments in bronze and stone standing for the repudiation of an entire civilization. No longer limiting their rage to slave-owners, American mobs are pulling down and disfiguring statues of abolitionists, writers and saints in an act of revolt against the country’s European founding, now re-imagined as the nation’s original sin, a moral and symbolic shift with which we Europeans will soon be forced to reckon.”

The statue-toppling epidemic is vastly more disturbing than the the looting or arson, mainly because it reveals an ideological intensity aimed at symbols of state power. By tearing down the images of the men who created or contributed to our collective history, the vandals are challenging the legitimacy of the nation itself as well as its founding “enlightenment” principles. This is the nihilism of extremists whose only objective is destruction. It suggests that the Democrats might have aspirations that far exceed a mere presidential victory. Perhaps the protests and riots will be used to justify more sweeping changes, a major reset during which traditional laws and rules are indefinitely suspended until the crisis passes and order can be restored. Is that at all conceivable or should we dismiss these extraordinary events as merely young people “letting off a little steam”?

Here’s how General Michael Flynn summed up what’s going on on in a recent article:

“There is now a small group of passionate people working hard to destroy our American way of life. Treason and treachery are rampant and our rule of law and those law enforcement professionals are under the gun more than at any time in our nation’s history… I believe the attacks being presented to us today are part of a well-orchestrated and well-funded effort that uses racism as its sword to aggravate our battlefield dispositions. This weapon is used to leverage and legitimize violence and crime, not to seek or serve the truth…. The dark forces’ weapons formed against us serve one purpose: to promote radical social change through power and control.”

I agree. The toppling of statues, the rioting, the looting, the arson and, yes, the relentless attacks on Trump from the day he took office, to Russiagate, to the impeachment, to the insane claims about Russian “bounties”, to the manipulation of science and data to trigger a planned demolition of the US economy hastening a vast restructuring to the labor force and the imposition of authoritarian rule; all of these are cut from the same fabric, a tapestry of lies and deception concocted by the DNC, the Intel agencies, the elite media, and their behind-the-scenes paymasters. Now they have released their corporate-funded militia on the country to wreak havoc and spread terror among the population. Meanwhile, the New York Times and others continue to generate claims they know to be false in order to confuse the public even while the people are still shaking off months of disorienting quarantine and feelings of trepidation brought on by 3 weeks of nonstop social unrest and fractious racial conflict. Bottom line: Neither the Democrats nor their allies at the Intel agencies and media have ever accepted the “peaceful transition of power”. They reject the 2016 election results, they reject Donald Trump as the duly elected president of the United States, and they reject the representative American system of government “by the people.”

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: Which political party is pursuing a radical-activist strategy that has set our cities ablaze and reduced Capitol Hill to a sprawling war zone? Which party pursued a 3 year-long investigation that was aimed at removing the president using a dossier that they knew was false (Opposition research), claiming emails were hacked from DNC computers when the cyber-security company that did the investigation said there was no proof of “exfiltration”? (In other words, there was no hack and the Dems knew it since 2017) Which party allied itself with senior-level officials at the FBI, CIA, NSA and elite media and worked together collaboratively to discredit, surveil, infiltrate, entrap and demonize the administration in order to torpedo Trumps “America First” political agenda, and remove him from office?

Which party?

No one disputes the Democrats right to challenge, criticize or vigorously oppose a bill or policy promoted by the president. What we take issue with is the devious and (possibly) illegal way the Democrats have joined powerful elements in the Intelligence Community and the major media to conduct a ruthless “dirty tricks” campaign that involved spying on members of the administration in order to establish the basis for impeachment proceedings. This is not the behavior of a respected political organization but the illicit conduct of a fifth column acting on behalf of a foreign (or corporate?) enemy. It’s worth noting that an insurrection against the nation’s lawful authority is sedition, a felony that is punishable by imprisonment or death. Perhaps, the junta leaders should consider the possible consequences of their actions before they make their next move.

What we need to know is whether the Democrat party operates independent of the Intel agencies with which it cooperated during its campaign against Trump? We’re hopeful that the Durham investigation will shed more light on this matter. Our fear is that what we’re seeing is an emerging Axis–the CIA, the DNC, and the elite media– all using their respective powers to terminate the Constitutional Republic and establish permanent, authoritarian one-party rule. As far-fetched as it might sound, the country appears to be slipping inexorably towards tyranny.

July 5, 2020 Posted by | Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | 1 Comment

Venezuela Sets Parliamentary Election Date, Increases Number of Lawmakers

By Ricardo Vaz | Venezuelanalysis | July 2, 2020

Mérida – Venezuela will hold elections for its National Assembly (AN) on December 6.

National Electoral Council (CNE) President Indira Alfonzo held a press conference on Wednesday to announce the timetable for legislative elections, which are constitutionally mandated to be held before the end of the year.

The timetable includes electoral registry sessions from July 13 to 26, with electoral candidates and lists to be presented from August 10 to 19 and the campaign held from November 21 to December 6. An extensive series of audits will begin on August 14 and extend to January 21, 2021.

Alfonzo added that dates are subject to adjustment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s legislative elections will also see important changes in the CNE’s electoral norms as well as in the number of deputies elected to the AN.

Voters will elect 277 deputies for the 2021-2026 period, 110 more than in the current term. The CNE will not change the 87 electoral districts that currently exist. Out of the 277 AN deputies, 48 will for the first time be elected via a national list, and the rest in the 87 constituencies with a 52-48 split between electoral lists and individual nominations.

The reforms follow a ruling by the Supreme Court last month striking down two articles of the country’s electoral law and ordering the CNE to establish new norms for greater proportional legislative representation to ensure more “political pluralism.”

According to the CNE, 28 national political organizations, 52 regional parties and six representing indigenous peoples are currently approved to participate in the December election. The changes to electoral norms had been one of the topics discussed in the National Dialogue Roundtable between the government and a host of small opposition parties.

Following the CNE announcements, President Nicolas Maduro called on Venezuelans to participate in the parliamentary elections, stressing that the government will put safety and healthcare protocols in place.

“We have seen elections held around the world during this pandemic, and Venezuela is no exception,” he said in a televised address. Maduro went on to add that the participation of 86 political organizations “strengthens democracy and peace in the country.”

Leander Perez, an activist with the Homeland for All (PPT) party, told Venezuelanalysis that the new rules can benefit smaller parties and that leftist organizations such as the PPT and the Venezuelan Communist Party had been demanding more proportional representation for years.

“The new rules encourage smaller parties to submit their own national lists and achieve representation in the AN. The previous setup forced them to run in large coalitions, the [government-led] Great Patriotic Pole and the [opposition alliance] MUD,” he explained.

Asked what strategies leftist parties should pursue, Perez urged organizations to take advantage of the more favorable conditions and set up an “independent” bloc in parliament.

“We need to set up a bloc that will act independently from the [ruling] PSUV, in alliance with popular movements, to defend a leftist agenda: demanding higher salaries and the release of imprisoned trade unionists, opposing campesino evictions, denouncing privatizations, among other things,” he said.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Juan Guaido reiterated that he will not take part in the elections, which he called a “farce.”

“There can be no elections in Maduro’s Venezuela,” a statement from Guaido’s press office read.The opposition leader has rejected taking part in elections as long as Maduro remains in office, repeatedly urging Venezuela’s armed forces to oust the president and install him in power.

Major opposition parties Democratic Action and Justice First were subjected to an intervention from the country’s Supreme Court last month, with their new leaders vowing to participate in the December contests. Guaido-aligned leaders have called for a boycott.

For its part, Washington declared it would not recognize the upcoming legislative elections.

Edited and with additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Santiago de Chile.

July 5, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

The Gulf of Tonkin Lies

Tales of the American Empire | October 11, 2019

The 1964 Gulf of Tonkin congressional resolution authorized President Lyndon Johnson to conduct military attacks in Vietnam. This was considered a blank check for American military intervention that was based on lies. The American destroyers USS Maddox and USS Turner Joy were not attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on August 4th 1964, which was used to justify this resolution. This is now widely known, but since the Maddox had been fired upon two days earlier, some feel it was justified. However, few know that the US Navy had been supporting armed attacks along the coast and the Vietnamese were defending themselves.

“The Fog of War”; Lesson #7 about the Gulf of Tonkin incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yirro…

Related Tale: “The Illusion of South Vietnam” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0B9BM… “Nasty! The inside story of Operation 34A”; http://milmag.com/2009/02/operation-3…

“The Truth About Tonkin”; Pat Paterson; Navy History Magazine; February 2008 provides an excellent summary: https://www.usni.org/magazines/naval-…

“Skunks, Bogies, Silent Hounds, and the Flying Fish: The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery, 2-4 August 1964,” originally published in the National Security Agency’s classified journal “Cryptologic Quarterly” in early 2001, provides a comprehensive SIGINT-based account of what happened in the Gulf of Tonkin: https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu//NSAEBB/NS…

Related Tale: “Ten Lost Battles of the Vietnam War” destroys the myth no battles were lost: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g75i4…

July 5, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | 1 Comment

Turkish troops, allied militants cut off drinking water to people in Syria’s Hasakah, environs

Press TV – July 5, 2020

Turkish military troops and allied militants have once again cut off drinking water supplies to about a million people living in and around the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah by stopping a border water pumping station, a report says.

In an interview with Syria’s official news agency, SANA on Sunday, Director General of Hasakah Water Company Mahmoud al-Ukla said that Turkish soldiers and Ankara-backed militants stopped Alouk Water Station on Saturday evening and barred workers of the station from entering the facility.

The major water station is located in the vicinity of the border town of Ra’s al-Ayn, which Turkish troops and their allied militants seized in October 2019 during the so-called Peace Spring Operation.

Ukla warned that the inhumane move was threatening the lives of inhabitants of the city and its surrounding residential neighborhoods in northeastern Hasakah province.

He added that the criminal act came as the people of the affected areas are in the utmost need for the water from the Alouk station, the only source for guaranteeing the drinking water for them.

The water station has so far been forced to stop several times by the invading Turkish troops and their allied militants.

Back in March, the Syrian foreign ministry sent two identical letters to the chief of the United Nations and the UN Security Council in protest against the repeated inhumane move. It noted at the time that the Turkish military forces shelled the water station during their cross-border military operation last October, putting it out of service.

Furthermore, Syrian officials, accordingly, presented a briefing to the UNSC in February, informing the international body of a water outage in Hasakah.

July 5, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

The Case Is Building That COVID-19 Had a Lab Origin

By Jonathan Latham, PhD and Allison Wilson, PhD | Independent Science News | June 2, 2020

If the public has learned a lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic it is that science does not generate certainty. Do homemade face masks work? What is the death rate of COVID-19? How accurate are the tests? How many people have no symptoms? And so on. Practically the lone undisputed assertion made so far is that all the nearest known genetic relatives of its cause, the Sars-CoV-2 virus, are found in horseshoe bats (Zhou et al., 2020). Therefore, the likely viral reservoir was a bat.

However, most of these ancestor-like bat coronaviruses cannot infect humans (Ge et al., 2013). In consequence, from its beginning, a key question hanging over the pandemic has been: How did a bat RNA virus evolve into a human pathogen that is both virulent and deadly?

The answer almost universally seized upon is that there was an intermediate species. Some animal, perhaps a snake, perhaps a palm civet, perhaps a pangolin, served as a temporary host. This bridging animal would probably have had an ACE2 cellular receptor (the molecule which allows cellular entry of the virus) intermediate in protein sequence (or at least structure) between the bat and the human one (Wan et al., 2020).

In the press and in the scientific literature, scenarios by which this natural zoonotic transfer might have occurred have been endlessly mulled. Most were fuelled by early findings that many of the earliest COVID-19 cases seem to have occurred in and around Wuhan’s Huanan live animal market. [The latest data are that 14 of the 41 earliest cases, including the first, had no connection to the animal market (Huang et al. 2020)].

Since the two previous coronavirus near-pandemics of SARS (2002-3) and MERS (2012) both probably came from bats and both are thought (but not proven) to have transitioned to humans via intermediate animals (civets and dromedaries respectively), a natural zoonotic pathway is a reasonable first assumption (Andersen et al., 2020).

The idea, as it applied to the original (2002) SARS outbreak, is that the original bat virus infected a civet. The virus then evolved briefly in this animal species, but not enough to cause a civet pandemic, and then was picked up by a human before it died out in civets. In this first human (patient zero) the virus survived, perhaps only barely, but was passed on, marking the first case of human to human transmission. As it was successively passed on in its first few human hosts the virus rapidly evolved, adapting to better infect its new hosts. After a few such tentative transmissions the pandemic proper began.

Perhaps this scenario is approximately how the current COVID-19 pandemic began.

But one other troubling possibility must be dispensed with. It follows from the fact that the epicentre city, Wuhan (pop. 11 million), happens to be the global epicentre of bat coronavirus research (e.g. Hu et al., 2017).

Prompted by this proximity, various researchers and news media, prominently the Washington Post, and with much more data Newsweek, have drawn up a prima facie case that a laboratory origin is a strong possibility (Zhan et al., 2020; Piplani et al., 2020). That is, one of the two labs in Wuhan that has worked on coronaviruses accidentally let a natural virus escape; or, the lab was genetically engineering (or otherwise manipulating) a Sars-CoV-2-like virus which then escaped.

Unfortunately, in the US at least, the question of the pandemic’s origin has become a political football; either an opportunity for Sinophobia or a partisan “blame game“.

But the potential of a catastrophic lab release is not a game and systemic problems of competence and opacity are certainly not limited to China (Lipsitch, 2018). The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is currently constructing a new and expanded national Bio and Agro-defense facility in Manhattan, Kansas. DHS has estimated that the 50-year risk (defined as having an economic impact of $9-50 billion) of a release from its lab at 70%.

When a National Research Council committee inspected these DHS estimates they concluded “The committee finds that the risks and costs could well be significantly higher than that“.

A subsequent committee report (NAP, 2012) continued:

“the committee was instructed to judge the adequacy and validity of the uSSRA [updated Site-Specific Risk Assessment]. The committee has identified serious concerns about (1) the misapplication of methods used to assess risk, (2) the failure to make clear whether and how the evidence used to support risk assessment assumptions had been thoroughly reviewed and adequately evaluated, (3) the limited breadth of literature cited and the misinterpretation of some of the significant supporting literature, (4) the failure to explain the criteria used to select assumptions when supporting literature is conflicting, (5) the failure to consider important risk pathways, and (6) the inadequate treatment of uncertainty. Those deficiencies are not equally problematic, but they occur with sufficient frequency to raise doubts about the adequacy and validity of the risk results presented. In most instances (e.g., operational activities at the NBAF), the identified problems lead to an underestimation of risk; in other instances (e.g., catastrophic natural hazards), the risks may be overestimated. As a result, the committee concludes that the uSSRA is technically inadequate in critical respects and is an insufficient basis on which to judge the risks associated with the proposed NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas.”

China, meanwhile, having opened its first in Wuhan in 2018, is planning to roll out a national network of BSL-4 labs (Yuan, 2019). Like many other countries, it is investing significantly in disease surveillance and collection of viruses from wild animal populations and in high-risk recombinant virus research with Potential Pandemic Pathogens (PPPs).

On May 4th, nations and global philanthropies, meeting in Brussels, committed $7.4 billion to future pandemic preparedness. But the question hanging over all such investments is this: the remit of the Wuhan lab at the centre of the accidental release claims is pandemic preparedness. If the COVID-19 pandemic began there then we need to radically rethink current ideas for pandemic preparation globally. Many researchers already believe we should, for the sake of both safety and effectiveness (Lipsitch and Galvani, 2014; Weiss et al., 2015; Lipsitch, 2018). The worst possible outcome would be for those donated billions to accelerate the arrival of the next pandemic.

Historical lab releases, a brief history

An accidental lab release is not merely a theoretical possibility. In 1977 a laboratory in Russia (or possibly China), most likely while developing a flu vaccine, accidentally released the extinct H1N1 influenza virus (Nakajima et al., 1978). H1N1 went on to become a global pandemic virus. A large proportion of the global population became infected. In this case, deaths were few because the population aged over 20 yrs old had historic immunity to the virus. This episode is not widely known because only recently has this conclusion been formally acknowledged in the scientific literature and the virology community has been reluctant to discuss such incidents (Zimmer and Burke, 2009; Wertheim, 2010). Still, laboratory pathogen escapes leading to human and animal deaths (e.g. smallpox in Britain; equine encephalitis in South America) are common enough that they ought to be much better known (summarised in Furmanski, 2014). Only rarely have these broken out into actual pandemics on the scale of H1N1, which, incidentally, broke out again in 2009/2010 as “Swine flu” causing deaths estimated variously at 3,000 to 200,000 on that occasion (Duggal et al., 2016; Simonsen et al. 2013).

Many scientists have warned that experiments with PPPs, like the smallpox and Ebola and influenza viruses, are inherently dangerous and should be subject to strict limits and oversight (Lipsitch and Galvani, 2014; Klotz and Sylvester, 2014). Even in the limited case of SARS-like coronaviruses, since the quelling of the original SARS outbreak in 2003, there have been six documented SARS disease outbreaks originating from research laboratories, including four in China. These outbreaks caused 13 individual infections and one death (Furmanski, 2014). In response to such concerns the US banned certain classes of experiments, called gain of function (GOF) experiments, with PPPs in 2014, but the ban (actually a funding moratorium) was lifted in 2017.

For these reasons, and also to ensure the effectiveness of future pandemic preparedness efforts­, it is a matter of vital international importance to establish whether the laboratory escape hypothesis has credible evidence to support it. This must be done regardless of the problem–in the US–of toxic partisan politics and nationalism.

The COVID-19 Wuhan lab escape thesis

The essence of the lab escape theory is that Wuhan is the site of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), China’s first and only Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) facility. (BSL-4 is the highest pathogen security level). The WIV, which added a BSL-4 lab only in 2018, has been collecting large numbers of coronaviruses from bat samples ever since the original SARS outbreak of 2002-2003; including collecting more in 2016 (Hu, et al., 2017; Zhou et al., 2018).

Led by researcher Zheng-Li Shi, WIV scientists have also published experiments in which live bat coronaviruses were introduced into human cells (Hu et al., 2017). Moreover, according to an April 14 article in the Washington Post, US Embassy staff visited the WIV in 2018 and “had grave safety concerns” about biosecurity there. The WIV is just eight miles from the Huanan live animal market that was initially thought to be the site of origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wuhan is also home to a lab called the Wuhan Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (WCDPC). It is a BSL-2 lab that is just 250 metres away from the Huanan market. Bat coronaviruses have in the past been kept at the Wuhan WCDPC lab.

Thus the lab escape theory is that researchers from one or both of these labs may have picked up a Sars-CoV-2-like bat coronavirus on one of their many collecting (aka ‘”virus surveillance”) trips. Or, alternatively, a virus they were studying, passaging, engineering, or otherwise manipulating, escaped.

Scientific assessments of the lab escape theory

On April 17 the Australian Science Media Centre asked four Australian virologists: “Did COVID-19 come from a lab in Wuhan?

Three (Edward Holmes, Nigel McMillan and Hassan Vally) dismissed the lab escape suggestion and Vally simply labeled it, without elaboration, a “conspiracy”.

The fourth virologist interviewed was Nikolai Petrovsky of Flinders University. Petrovsky first addressed the question of whether the natural zoonosis pathway was viable. He told the Media Centre:

“no natural virus matching to COVID-19 has been found in nature despite an intensive search to find its origins.”

That is to say, the idea of an animal intermediate is speculation. Indeed, no credible viral or animal host intermediaries, either in the form of a confirmed animal host or a plausible virus intermediate, has to-date emerged to explain the natural zoonotic transfer of Sars-CoV-2 to humans (e.g. Zhan et al., 2020).

In addition to Petrovsky’s point, there are two further difficulties with the natural zoonotic transfer thesis (apart from the weak epidemiological association between early cases and the Huanan “wet” market).

The first is that researchers from the Wuhan lab travelled to caves in Yunnan (1,500 Km away) to find horseshoe bats containing SARS-like coronaviruses. To-date, the closest living relative of Sars-CoV-2 yet found comes from Yunnan (Ge et al., 2016). Why would an outbreak of a bat virus therefore occur in Wuhan?

Moreover, China has a population of 1.3 billion. If spillover from the wildlife trade was the explanation, then, other things being equal, the probability of a pandemic starting in Wuhan (pop. 11 million) is less than 1%.

Zheng-Li Shi, the head of bat coronavirus research at WIV, told Scientific American as much:

“I had never expected this kind of thing to happen in Wuhan, in central China.” Her studies had shown that the southern, subtropical provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Yunnan have the greatest risk of coronaviruses jumping to humans from animals—particularly bats, a known reservoir. If coronaviruses were the culprit, she remembers thinking, “Could they have come from our lab?”

Wuhan, in short, is a rather unlikely epicentre for a natural zoonotic transfer. In contrast, to suspect that Sars-CoV-2 might have come from the WIV is both reasonable and obvious.

Was Sars-CoV-2 created in a lab?

In his statement, Petrovsky goes on to describe the kind of experiment that, in principle, if done in a lab, would obtain the same result as the hypothesised natural zoonotic transfer–rapid adaptation of a bat coronavirus to a human host.

“Take a bat coronavirus that is not infectious to humans, and force its selection by culturing it with cells that express human ACE2 receptor, such cells having been created many years ago to culture SARS coronaviruses and you can force the bat virus to adapt to infect human cells via mutations in its spike protein, which would have the effect of increasing the strength of its binding to human ACE2, and inevitably reducing the strength of its binding to bat ACE2.

Viruses in prolonged culture will also develop other random mutations that do not affect its function. The result of these experiments is a virus that is highly virulent in humans but is sufficiently different that it no longer resembles the original bat virus. Because the mutations are acquired randomly by selection there is no signature of a human gene jockey, but this is clearly a virus still created by human intervention.”

In other words, Petrovsky believes that current experimental methods could have led to an altered virus that escaped.

Passaging, GOF research, and lab escapes

The experiment mentioned by Petrovsky represents a class of experiments called passaging. Passaging is the placing of a live virus into an animal or cell culture to which it is not adapted and then, before the virus dies out, transferring it to another animal or cell of the same type. Passaging is often done iteratively. The theory is that the virus will rapidly evolve (since viruses have high mutation rates) and become adapted to the new animal or cell type. Passaging a virus, by allowing it to become adapted to its new situation, creates a new pathogen.

The most famous such experiment was conducted in the lab of Dutch researcher Ron Fouchier. Fouchier took an avian influenza virus (H5N1) that did not infect ferrets (or other mammals) and serially passaged it in ferrets. The intention of the experiment was specifically to evolve a PPP. After ten passages the researchers found that the virus had indeed evolved, to not only infect ferrets but to transmit to others in neighbouring cages (Herfst et al., 2012). They had created an airborne ferret virus, a Potential Pandemic Pathogen, and a storm in the international scientific community.

The second class of experiments that have frequently been the recipients of criticism are GOF experiments. In GOF research, a novel virus is deliberately created, either by in vitro mutation or by cutting and pasting together two (or more) viruses. The intention of such reconfigurations is to make viruses more infectious by adding new functions such as increased infectivity or pathogenicity. These novel viruses are then experimented on, either in cell cultures or in whole animals. These are the class of experiments banned in the US from 2014 to 2017.

Some researchers have even combined GOF and passaging experiments by using recombinant viruses in passaging experiments (e.g. Sheahan et al., 2008).

Such experiments all require recombinant DNA techniques and animal or cell culture experiments. But the very simplest hypothesis of how Sars-CoV-2 might have been caused by research is simply to suppose that a researcher from the WIV or the WCDCP became infected during a collecting expedition and passed their bat virus on to their colleagues or family. The natural virus then evolved, in these early cases, into Sars-CoV-2. For this reason, even collecting trips have their critics. Epidemiologist Richard Ebright called them “the definition of insanity“. Handling animals and samples exposes collectors to multiple pathogens and returning to their labs then brings those pathogens back to densely crowded locations.

Was the WIV doing experiments that might release PPPs?

Since 2004, shortly after the original SARS outbreak, researchers from the WIV have been collecting bat coronaviruses in an intensive search for SARS-like pathogens (Li et al., 2005). Since the original collecting trip, many more have been conducted (Ge et al., 2013; Ge et al., 2016; Hu et al., 2017; Zhou et al., 2018).

Petrovsky does not mention it but Zheng-Li Shi’s group at the WIV has already performed experiments very similar to those he describes, using those collected viruses. In 2013 the Shi lab reported isolating an infectious clone of a bat coronavirus that they called WIV-1 (Ge et al., 2013). WIV-1 was obtained by introducing a bat coronavirus into monkey cells, passaging it, and then testing its infectivity in human (HeLa) cell lines engineered to express the human ACE2 receptor (Ge et al., 2013).

In 2014, just before the US GOF research ban went into effect, Zheng-Li Shi of WIV co-authored a paper with the lab of Ralph Baric in North Carolina that performed GOF research on bat coronaviruses (Menachery et al., 2015).

In this particular set of experiments the researchers combined “the spike of bat coronavirus SHC014 in a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV backbone” into a single engineered live virus. The spike was supplied by the Shi lab. They put this bat/human/mouse virus into cultured human airway cells and also into live mice. The researchers observed “notable pathogenesis” in the infected mice (Menachery et al. 2015). The mouse-adapted part of this virus comes from a 2007 experiment in which the Baric lab created a virus called rMA15 through passaging (Roberts et al., 2007). This rMA15 was “highly virulent and lethal” to the mice. According to this paper, mice succumbed to “overwhelming viral infection.”

In 2017, again with the intent of identifying bat viruses with ACE2 binding capabilities, the Shi lab at WIV reported successfully infecting human (HeLa) cell lines engineered to express the human ACE2 receptor with four different bat coronaviruses. Two of these were lab-made recombinant (chimaeric) bat viruses. Both the wild and the recombinant viruses were briefly passaged in monkey cells (Hu et al., 2017).

Together, what these papers show is that: 1) The Shi lab collected numerous bat samples with an emphasis on collecting SARS-like coronavirus strains, 2) they cultured live viruses and conducted passaging experiments on them, 3) members of Zheng-Li Shi’s laboratory participated in GOF experiments carried out in North Carolina on bat coronaviruses, 4) the Shi laboratory produced recombinant bat coronaviruses and placed these in human cells and monkey cells. All these experiments were conducted in cells containing human or monkey ACE2 receptors.

The overarching purpose of such work was to see whether an enhanced pathogen could emerge from the wild by creating one in the lab. (For a very informative technical summary of WIV research into bat coronaviruses and that of their collaborators we recommend this post, written by biotech entrepreneur Yuri Deigin).

It also seems that the Shi lab at WIV intended to do more of such research. In 2013 and again in 2017 Zheng-Li Shi (with the assistance of a non-profit called the EcoHealth Alliance) obtained a grant from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). The most recent such grant proposed that:

“host range (i.e. emergence potential) will be tested experimentally using reverse genetics, pseudovirus and receptor binding assays, and virus infection experiments across a range of cell cultures from different species and humanized mice” (NIH project #5R01Al110964-04).

It is hard to overemphasize that the central logic of this grant was to test the pandemic potential of SARS-related bat coronaviruses by making ones with pandemic potential, either through genetic engineering or passaging, or both.

Apart from descriptions in their publications we do not yet know exactly which viruses the WIV was experimenting with but it is certainly intriguing that numerous publications since Sars-CoV-2 first appeared have puzzled over the fact that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein binds with exceptionally high affinity to the human ACE2 receptor “at least ten times more tightly” than the original SARS (Zhou et al., 2020; Wrapp et al., 2020; Wan et al., 2020; Walls et al., 2020; Letko et al., 2020).

This affinity is all the more remarkable because of the relative lack of fit in modelling studies of the SARS-CoV-2 spike to other species, including the postulated intermediates like snakes, civets and pangolins (Piplani et al., 2020). In this preprint these modellers concluded “This indicates that SARS-CoV-2 is a highly adapted human pathogen”.

Given the research and collection history of the Shi lab at WIV it is therefore entirely plausible that a bat SARS-like cornavirus ancestor of Sars-CoV-2 was trained up on the human ACE2 receptor by passaging it in cells expressing that receptor.

[On June 4 an excellent article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists went further. Pointing out what we had overlooked, that the Shi lab also amplified spike proteins of collected coronaviruses, which would make them available for GOF experimentation (Ge et al., 2016).]

How do viruses escape from high security laboratories?

Pathogen lab escapes take various forms. According to the US Government Accountability Office, a US defense Department laboratory once “inadvertently sent live Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, to almost 200 laboratories worldwide over the course of 12 years. The laboratory believed that the samples had been inactivated.” In 2007, Britain experienced a foot and mouth disease outbreak. Its’ origin was a malfunctioning waste disposal system of a BSL-4 laboratory leaking into a stream from which neighbouring cows drank. The disposal system had not been properly maintained (Furmanski, 2014). In 2004 an outbreak of SARS originating from the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Beijing, China, began, again, with the inadequate inactivation of a viral sample that was then distributed to non-secure parts of the building (Weiss et al., 2015).

Writing for the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists in February 2019, Lynn Klotz concluded that human error was behind most laboratory incidents causing exposures to pathogens in US high security laboratories. While equipment failure was also a factor, of the 749 incidents reported to the US Federal Select Agent Programme between 2009-2015, Klotz concluded that 79% resulted from human error.

But arguably the biggest worry is incidents that go entirely unreported because escape of the pathogen goes undetected. It is truly alarming that a significant number of pathogen escape events were uncovered only because investigators were in the process of examining a completely different incident (Furmanski, 2014). Such discoveries represent strong evidence that pathogen escapes are under-reported and that important lessons still need to be learned (Weiss et al., 2015).

The safety record of the WIV

The final important data point is the biosafety history of the WIV. The WIV was built in 2015 and became a commissioned BSL-4 lab in 2018. According to Josh Rogin of the Washington Post, US embassy officials visited the WIV in 2018. They subsequently warned their superiors in Washington of a “serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory”.

And according to VOA News, a year before the outbreak, “a security review conducted by a Chinese national team found the lab did not meet national standards in five categories.”

Credible reports from within China also question lab biosafety and its management. In 2019, Yuan Zhiming, biosecurity specialist at the WIV, cited the “challenges” of biosafety in China. According to Yuan: “several high-level BSLs have insufficient operational funds for routine yet vital processes” and “Currently, most laboratories lack specialized biosafety managers and engineers.” He recommends that “We should promptly revise the existing regulations, guidelines, norms, and standards of biosafety and biosecurity”. Nevertheless, he also notes that China intends to build “5-7” more BSL-4 laboratories (Yuan, 2019).

And in February 2020, Scientific American interviewed Zheng-Li Shi. Accompanying the interview was a photograph of her releasing a captured bat. In the photo she is wearing a casual pink unzipped top layer, thin gloves, and no face mask or other protection. Yet this is the same researcher whose talks give “chilling” warnings about the dire risks of human contact with bats.

All of which tends to confirm the original State Department assessment. As one anonymous “senior administration official” told Rogin:

“The idea that it was just a totally natural occurrence is circumstantial. The evidence it leaked from a lab is circumstantial. Right now, the ledger on the side of it leaking from the lab is packed with bullet points and there’s almost nothing on the other side.”

The leading hypothesis is a lab outbreak

For all these reasons, a lab escape is by far the leading hypothesis to explain the origins of Sars-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 pandemic. The sheer proximity of the WIV and WCDCP labs to the outbreak and the nature of their work represents evidence that can hardly be ignored. The long international history of lab escapes and the biosafety concerns from all directions about the labs in Wuhan greatly strengthen the case. Especially since evidence for the alternative hypothesis, in the form of a link to wild animal exposure or the wildlife trade, remains extremely weak, being based primarily on analogy with SARS one (Bell et al,. 2004; Andersen et al., 2020).

Nevertheless, on April 16th Peter Daszak, who is the President of the EcoHealth Alliance, told Democracy Now! in a lengthy interview that the lab escape thesis was “Pure baloney”. He told listeners:

“There was no viral isolate in the lab. There was no cultured virus that’s anything related to SARS coronavirus 2. So it’s just not possible.”

Daszak made very similar claims on CNN’s Sixty Minutes: “There is zero evidence that this virus came out of a lab in China.” Instead, Daszak encouraged viewers to blame “hunting and eating wildlife”.

Daszak’s certainty is highly problematic on several counts. The closest related known coronaviruses to Sars-CoV-2 are to be found at the WIV so a lot depends on what he means by “related to”. But it is also dishonest in the sense that Daszak must know that culturing in the lab is not the only way that WIV researchers could have caused an outbreak. Third, and this is not Daszak’s fault, the media are asking the right question to the wrong person.

As alluded to above, Daszak is the named principal investigator on multiple US grants that went to the Shi lab at WIV. He is also a co-author on numerous papers with Zheng-Li Shi, including the 2013 Nature paper announcing the isolation of coronavirus WIV-1 through passaging (Ge et al., 2013). One of his co-authorships is on the collecting paper in which his WIV colleagues placed the four fully functional bat coronaviruses into human cells containing the ACE2 receptor (Hu et al. 2017). That is, Daszak and Shi together are collaborators and co-responsible for most of the published high-risk collecting and experimentation at the WIV.

An investigation is needed, but who will do it?

If the Shi lab has anything to hide, it is not only the Chinese Government that will be reluctant to see an impartial investigation proceed. Much of the work was funded by the US taxpayer, channeled there by Peter Daszak and the EcoHealth Alliance. Virtually every credible international organisation that might in principle carry out such an investigation, the WHO, the US CDC, the FAO, the US NIH, including the Gates Foundation, is either an advisor to, or a partner of, the EcoHealth Alliance. If the Sars-CoV-2 outbreak originated from the bat coronavirus work at the WIV then just about every major institution in the global public health community is implicated.

But to solve many of these questions does not necessarily require an expensive investigation. It would probably be enough to inspect the lab notebooks of WIV researchers. All research scientists keep detailed notes, for intellectual property and other reasons, but especially in BSL-4 labs. As Yuan Zhiming told Nature magazine in an article marking the opening of the facility in Wuhan: “We tell them [staff] the most important thing is that they report what they have or haven’t done.”

Meticulous lab records plus staff health records and incident reports of accidents and near-accidents are all essential components (or should be) of BSL work. Their main purpose is to enable the tracking of actual incidents. Much speculation could be ended with the public release of that information. But the WIV has not provided it.

This is puzzling since the Chinese government has a very strong incentive to produce those records. Complete transparency would potentially dispel the gales of blame coming its way; especially on the question of whether Sars-CoV-2 has an engineered or passaged origin. If Zheng-Li Shi and Peter Daszak are correct that nothing similar to Sars-CoV-2 was being studied there, then those notebooks should definitively exonerate the lab from having knowingly made an Actual Pandemic Pathogen.

Given the simplicity and utility of this step this lack of transparency suggests that there is something to hide. If so, it must be important. But then the question is: What?

A thorough investigation of the WIV and its bat coronavirus research is an important first step. But the true questions are not the specific mishaps and dissemblings of Drs Shi or Daszak, nor of the WIV, nor even of the Chinese government.

Rather, the bigger question concerns the current philosophy of pandemic prediction and prevention. Deep enquiries should be made about the overarching wisdom of plucking and counting viruses from the wild and then performing dangerous ‘what if’ recombinant research in high tech but fallible biosafety labs. This is a reductionistic approach, we also note, that has so far failed to predict or protect us from pandemics and may never do so.

Footnote: This article was updated on June 3rd to broaden the estimates of “Swine Flu” deaths, from 3,000 to 3- to 200,000.

July 5, 2020 Posted by | Deception | , , | 2 Comments

Reparations and Other Scams: Israeli Survivors Live in Poverty and Are Starving?

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | July 5, 2020

The issue of reparations and other compensation has been much in the news of late, most particularly in relationship to possible payments to descendants of slaves in the United States to compensate them for their disadvantages brought about by what is claimed to be a persisting racist culture in the country. There is, of course, considerable resistance on the part of millions of non-black citizens who will have to foot the enormous bill even though they were not involved in slavery in any way, having arrived in the U.S. long after 1865, when involuntary servitude was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Reparations have been around for a long time, normally being exacted by the winners in a war against the losers, who automatically are blamed as the aggressors and therefore liable for the damages. Often the compensation comes in the form of territory, witness for example the German acquisition of Alsace-Lorraine from the French after the Franco-Prussian war followed by its return to France after the First World War. The Germans also were made to endure considerable cash and in-kind payments, primarily to France, after losing the First World War. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were so onerous that they were subsequently blamed for perpetuating Franco-German hostility, leading inevitably to the Second World War.

Israel and Jewish groups were major beneficiaries of the reparations and restitution programs that were created as a result of World War Two. The Luxembourg Agreement signed in 1952 committed West Germany to pay Israel a sum of 3 billion Deutsche Marks over the next fourteen years, which was at the time an enormous sum. An additional 450 million marks were paid to the World Jewish Congress. The payments that were made to the State of Israel regarded the government as the de facto heir to war victims who had no surviving family or who could not otherwise be identified. The money was mostly invested in the Israeli infrastructure and was significant in aiding in the initial development of the economy of the new state, but there were also considerable barter arrangements whereby Israel purchasing agents obtained German manufactured goods and raw materials.

The reparations program was modified at various points to expand those eligible for benefits and continued to operate long after the fourteen-year term initially envisioned had expired. As of 2012, when the program was 60 years old, it was still fully operational and Germany had paid the Jewish state an estimated $89 billion.

In the 1990s, Israel and Jewish groups began to go after other property that they claimed had either been sold at below market prices as Jews began to flee Germany or otherwise lost. Money trails in Swiss banks were investigated to chart the movement of funds that had originally been derived from Jewish owned property. Individual companies, mostly in Germany, were pressured by survivor groups to provide reparations to former forced laborers, leading the Berlin government in 1999 to establish a separate fund to assist survivors of the so-called holocaust. The Swiss and Hungarians set up similar funds and The World Jewish Restitution Organization was established to organize these efforts. In America, the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission pressured Germany in 1998-9 to compensate Jewish survivors who had arrived in the United States after the war.

Israel, of course, has a vested interest in continuing the flow of Euros by making Germans and other Europeans continue to feel guilty over the war. In 2007 the Israelis pressured the German government to expand the pension program for Jewish survivors of 1939-1945 who had wound up in Israel. In 2009 Israel demanded compensation of between 450 million and 1 billion Euros ($1,120,000,000 currently) for 30,000 claimed former slave laborer-survivors. And the requirements for eligibility for a payment or pension continue to become more permissive. A Jewish survivor qualifies if he lived in “a ghetto” for 12 months as will anyone who can demonstrate that he “hid from” the Nazis for at least six months. One acceptable “ghetto” is in Shanghai China. And given the destruction of many public records, there has been considerable fraud. In 2010 auditors found evidence of a scheme to use fake identification documents to defraud the German government of more than $42 million.

And new and innovative sources of money are constantly being developed. The United States and Israel are currently pressuring Poland, which was occupied by the Germans, to compensate Jewish property owners. It is particularly difficult to do as much of Warsaw and nearly all its public records were destroyed in 1944. In August 2019, no less than 88 U.S. Senators signed a letter urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “act boldly and with urgency” to compel Poland to resolve the property issue. The Poles have argued that the proceedings would be subject to massive fraud and “frivolous lawsuits” while the demands could bankrupt the country.

Meanwhile the French and Dutch rail systems, also under German control, have been forced to pay compensation to survivors because their trains were used to transport Jewish prisoners to camps.

The story of reparations and compensation is of particular interest, not only because the Second World War ended 75 years ago last month, but also because of attempts by Israel and Jewish groups to squeeze some final payments out of the remaining survivors. Quite astonishing is a “campaign” email currently being circulated by an organization calling itself LATET – Israeli Humanitarian Aid. It promotes itself as a charitable foundation with “All donations…tax-deductible in Israel, the U.S., Canada, Australia, France and the U.K.” It describes its activity as:

“Due to Covid-19, many impoverished Holocaust survivors experience an extended stay in deficient and insecure homes. MORE THAN EVER, SUPPORT URGENT HOME REPAIRS THE SURVIVORS CAN’T AFFORD. 1 in 4 Holocaust survivors in Israel lives in poverty. As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, our elders spend all their time at home, mostly alone, in run-down apartments and they have nobody to turn to. The need to eliminate all safety hazards and obstacles relating to mobility, safety and comfort has grown and dozens of survivors are waiting for urgent assistance. Latet is the only organization in Israel providing Holocaust survivors in need with a complete aid package, including monthly food boxes, social support and an Emergency Fund for crucial needs. Since 2013, Latet has carried out more than 1,200 home repairs to increase the survivors’ quality of life, at no cost to them. Everyday, 40 Holocaust survivors die. Let’s make sure they spend their last days in decent conditions.

“Donate now. Latet was founded in 1996 and is the largest Israeli NGO combating poverty. Acting as an umbrella organization, Latet provides for the basic needs of populations living in poverty and food insecurity, giving ongoing food assistance to over 200,000 people in Israel. The organization operates the leading national food bank and runs impactful aid programs. For the last 10 years it has been the only organization in Israel providing a comprehensive aid package to Holocaust survivors in need, including a monthly food box, emergency fund for medical and paramedical needs, home restorations as well as ongoing social support in the form of personal volunteers and social events throughout the year. For more information about Latet: www.latet.org.il/en/

One should not necessarily doubt the fundamental decency of LATET and what they are seeking to do, but their solicitation raises some serious questions about the Israeli government and Jewish charities that have been the recipients of more than $100 billion obtained as “reparations” from various foreigners, mostly Germans, specifically to address the needs of the so-called “Holocaust survivors.” How can the survivors be living in terrible conditions and even starving in a socialist country with a formidable safety net, one might ask Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, when they have been granted pensions and other compensation since 1952?

The answer would appear to be pretty simple, that the money has gone directly to the Israeli government and to major Jewish private organizations which have engaged in the extortion racket and have proceeded to divert the flow from the “cash cow” for their own purposes. Soon there will be few survivors of the war left and the scam will presumably end, or maybe not, as there have been claims that the terror of the German camps can be passed on genetically and is inheritable?

Unfortunately, compensating for claims of Jewish suffering is a big business. The regular annual scandalous multi-billion dollar cash flow out of the United States Treasury to fill the Israeli coffers will continue seemingly forever. American taxpayers might be delighted to learn that during the past week Congress, beset by plague, civil unrest and a crumbling infrastructure, found time to move to approve an additional $500 million to Israel for its “defense.”

July 5, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | 5 Comments

Dutch MH17 trial: Court to consider report from Russian missile producer that points to Ukraine as culprit

RT | July 4, 2020

A Dutch court investigating the downing of MH17 has agreed to hear from Almaz-Antey, a Russian arms manufacturer, which argues that the prevailing Western narrative – that rebels in eastern Ukraine shot down the plane – is false.

The hearing in Badhoevedorp, Netherlands says it will explore alternative scenarios in the high-profile trial, in which four anti-Kiev fighters stand accused of using a Russian anti-aircraft missile to destroy the civilian plane, killing 283 passengers – mostly Dutch – and 15 crew on board.

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was downed over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. It was crossing airspace which had not been closed despite the Ukrainian civil war raging below.

At the time, self-proclaimed republics in the region were involved in an armed conflict with the new Kiev government following the violent, Western-backed ‘Maidan’ which had brought it to power earlier that year. In the weeks preceding the downing of MH17, the Ukrainian military had lost several of its aircraft to its opponents, who had captured shoulder-launched missiles and anti-aircraft guns from Ukrainian arsenals.

Following the tragedy, Kiev and the republics blamed each other for the incident, while almost immediately the US government claimed – without presenting any evidence – that Russia had provided the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic’s (DPR) militia with the missile used to down the aircraft.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis accepted a defense request to call more witnesses, including a representative of Almaz-Antey, the Russian producer of Buk air defense systems. A Buk missile is alleged to have caused the downing of MH17 in July 2014, but the model and origin of the projectile are in dispute.

The prosecution maintains that the civilian plane was shot down over the Donbas by rebel forces, which at the time were fighting against the Ukrainian military. The crime was pinned on four men, who they assert obtained the missile system from a Russian military unit and transported it to the rebel-controlled territory to be used for defense against Ukrainian warplanes.

In 2015, Almaz-Antey reported on experiments it conducted when investigating the tragedy. It concluded that the plane was downed with an older variant of the missile that can be fired by Buk systems. This outdated model is no longer in use by the Russian Armed Forces, but Ukraine has plenty of them, having inherited the weapons when the Soviet Union collapsed.

The arms producer also believes that, in order to inflict the kind of damage seen on the debris of the downed aircraft, it had to have been launched from territory controlled by forces loyal to Kiev at the time.

During Friday’s hearing, Steenhuis agreed that Almaz-Antey’s conclusions should be considered. The judge also said an expert witness from the manufacturer can be called to give evidence.

The Dutch court also said it was reasonable to seek disclosure of satellite photos of the area, taken by the US military on the day MH17 was shot down. The Americans have refused to declassify them, citing national security considerations, offering investigators a memo instead. A senior Dutch investigator was allowed to inspect the images but has not yet been questioned during the trial.

The proceedings in the Netherlands are being held without the presence of the defendants. Of the four individuals concerned, only one – Russian citizen Oleg Pulatov – has agreed to engage with the defense team, while the other three have no representation whatsoever.

The trial of the rebel fighters comes after a lengthy probe by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which Russia considers politically biased. The JIT excluded Russia but included Ukraine despite the country’s involvement in the armed conflict and its possible role in the downing of MH17.

Kiev is the source of some key evidence, such as alleged intercepts of phone calls by rebel commanders, which are considered important to the trial. Moscow has made numerous offers to assist in the investigation but has been rebuffed.

Other data that could be crucial in establishing the truth about what had happened to the Malaysian plane is notably absent in the case.

This includes primary radar data from Ukraine, which Kiev claims it’s unable to provide because neither civilian nor military stations were operational on the day of the tragedy. “Ukraine has effectively not presented any primary radar data. Ukraine has told the Dutch Safety Board that no primary radar data was registered, as the radar was not operating at that moment,” Dutch prosecutor Thijs Berge said last month.

Russia has also criticized the JIT for relying on so-called ‘open-source evidence’ like videos published on social media, saying that this can be misrepresented or manipulated.

The JIT’s conclusions seem to be closely aligned with those of Bellingcat, a UK-based group of so-called “civilian investigators” with a track record of using open-source materials to pin the blame for various misdeeds on Russia.

Notably, Bellingcat is funded by both the US and Dutch governments. This important point is rarely, if ever, discussed when the outfit’s work on MH17 is reported, or discussed, in the West.

July 4, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Moscow Denies US Allegation of Breach of Underground Nuclear Testing Moratorium

Sputnik – 04.07.2020

US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea on 3 July called Russia’s next-generation Poseidon and Burevestnik, experimental nuclear-powered as well as nuclear-armed submarine and air missile systems, “terrible” and urged for their abolition, while citing allegations of a rise in radiation levels in northern Europe.

Moscow rejects the allegations of non-compliance with the Threshold Test Ban Treaty*, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The ministry went on to explain that the US claims regarding Russia’s alleged non-compliance with the 1974 treaty between the Soviet Union and the United States on limiting underground nuclear tests were built on completely false premises.

“Predictably, the US allegations that Russia has breached the moratorium on nuclear tests by conducting experiments that do not meet the US ‘zero-yield’ standard have not been supported by any evidence. Moreover, the US has admitted that it knows neither the number of such tests in 2019, nor whether they have been conducted at all”, the ministry spokesperson said.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Moscow’s international obligations do not entail compliance with any “US standards” with regard to nuclear tests.

“These insinuations have seemingly been floated to divert attention from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)”, the ministry spokesperson said, adding that “by refusing to ratify the CTBT, the US put it on the brink of complete collapse”.

For several months now, various Russia officials have voiced concerns about the US government’s campaign, aided by the media, to prepare the ground for abandoning the CTBT.

“Claims on Russia’s alleged violation of obligations under the 1974 US-Soviet Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests, which stipulate that parties inform each other on any conducted tests, are built on false ‘premises”, the ministry said.

The multilateral CTBT was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 to halt all nuclear tests, both for civilian and military purposes. The treaty will enter into force once all 44 states listed in Annex 2 of the document ratify it. The United States is among the minority of countries which have not yet ratified the document. All European countries, including Russia, have ratified the treaty.

“We officially confirm that Russia continues to strictly adhere to the declared moratorium on nuclear tests and to comply with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) provisions pertaining to the prohibition of tests, despite the fact that the treaty has not entered into force”, a ministry spokesperson said.

The ministry pointed out that any discussions of alleged non-compliance with the United States are counterproductive as long as Washington has not ratified the treaty.

“Unlike the United States, we ratified it 20 years ago and are successfully implementing it. At the same time, we proceed from the fact that any disagreements regarding the criteria for compliance with relevant obligations can and should be resolved within the framework of the CTBT after its entry into force”, the spokesperson added.

Russia has the impression that the US is preparing to stop observing the voluntary nuclear test moratorium, the ministry said.

Late last month, the US Department of State released its annual Compliance Report pertaining to the implementation of arms control commitments by the US and other countries. Russia, in particular, has been alleged in having conducted “nuclear weapons-related experiments that have created nuclear yield” in violation of the 1974 US-Soviet Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests, also known as the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT). In the very next sentence, the State Department clarified that it “does not know how many, if any” such experiments were conducted by Moscow in 2019.

*The Treaty on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapons Tests, also known as the Threshold Test Ban Treaty (TTBT), was signed in July 1974 by the United States and the Soviet Union. The treaty established a nuclear “threshold” by prohibiting nuclear tests of devices having a yield surpassing 150 kilotons after 31 March 1976.

July 4, 2020 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

US used media agency to covertly aid Hong Kong protesters, but tell us how ‘foreign meddling’ is a threat to ‘our democracy’

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | July 3, 2020

Even as Washington designated the Chinese media as a hostile foreign agent, its own propaganda agency was funneling money to the Hong Kong protesters. In a fitting twist, this was revealed by partisan leakers with an ax to grind.

“US has been exposed for funding last year’s Hong Kong protests,” declared columnist Alex Lo in the South China Morning Post on Thursday. Lo brings up the revelation that one of the subsidiaries of the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) had to freeze an estimated $2 million worth of contracts aimed at helping anti-Beijing activists in the southern Chinese city.

The source for this is a recent Time magazine article, relying mainly on anonymous USAGM officials upset about the overhaul implemented by the agency’s new head, Michael Pack, an appointee of President Donald Trump, confirmed by the Senate in early June.

The contracts in question were run through the Open Technology Fund, officially an NGO that funds “open-source internet freedom projects” such as the encrypted-messaging app Signal. All of its funding comes from Congress, just like the National Endowment for Democracy, which spent around $643,000 to “foster civil society” in Hong Kong last year.

Given that whoever pays the piper calls the tune, Beijing sees this as direct US meddling in the unrest in Hong Kong – a territory ruled by the British for over a century before being handed back to China in 1997. The city erupted in protests last spring, over a law that would allow extraditions to the mainland. When demonstrators began waving US and British flags, meeting with US diplomats and getting aid from ‘NGOs,’ they gave China a perfect excuse to pass a new security law.

Now imagine the US reaction if Chinese ‘nonprofits’ funded entirely by the government were funneling money to ‘human-rights’ programs in the US, or Black Lives Matter, or Antifa, or any of the groups going around smashing monuments and torching shops across America over the past month. You wouldn’t have to try very hard, given the actual US crackdown on Chinese phone companies such as Huawei and ZTE Corporation, or the State Department designation of several Chinese media outlets as “foreign missions,” accused of engaging in “propaganda” and not journalism.

To China, this rightly looks like a double standard. Most Americans, however, don’t think twice about it. Of course, the US is allowed to do anything it pleases anywhere it wants, from ‘helping democracy’ via color revolutions to ‘humanitarian’ bombing. It’s the exceptional nation, the greatest country in the world, and so on. Even the activists who condemn it as irredeemably racist and in need of revolution at home, generally have no beef with Washington’s meddlesome foreign policy abroad. How else can one explain the recent political marriage of Democrats and neoconservatives, aimed against Trump?

As part of the campaign by this axis and its media allies, for the past four years, the US mainstream media has incessantly hyped the narrative of ‘Russian meddling’ in ‘our democracy,’ based on evidence-free conspiracy theories and wishful thinking.

Media outlets such as RT figured prominently in this propaganda, with fully a third of the infamous Intelligence Community Assessment of January 2017 – which kicked off the Russiagate madness – dedicated to RT programming. Never mind that it dated back to 2012 and was therefore both obsolete and irrelevant; that wasn’t allowed to get in the way of a good story.

Yet it’s Washington that’s actually meddling, and in places like Hong Kong. In that light, the narratives about ‘Russian’ and ‘Chinese’ interference in the US certainly appear to be a massive case of psychological projection. Perhaps the groups seeking meaningful change in this country ought to address that first.

Nebojsa Malic is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

July 4, 2020 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite | , | 1 Comment

Israel Conducts Gas-Field Exploration on Lebanon Border: New Negotiations or Attempt to Start a War?

Sputnik – 04.07.2020

The Israeli government has approved gas exploration in the Alon D block, located along block 9 of the Mediterranean shelf – a disputed maritime area. Lebanon and Israel contest that area of the shelf, while both sides consider it a part of their exclusive economic zone.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun previously stated that such actions by Tel Aviv could be very dangerous, and Lebanon will not allow encroachment on its own economic zone in the Mediterranean.

Experts claimed to Sputnik that Israel is trying to get Lebanon back to the negotiating table, especially in light of Beirut’s ongoing economic and domestic political weakness.

Lebanese political science expert Faisal Abdel Sattar sees the Israeli actions as an attempt to escalate relations with an obviously weak side that is experiencing a serious crisis.

“It was precisely at a time of internal chaos and unrest, when US policy was pushing Lebanon, when the lyre was falling unprecedentedly, that Israel announced the start of gas exploration right near the disputed waters. This is clearly an attempt to exacerbate the situation. Let me remind you that Lebanon and Israel have not demarcated their maritime borders”, he said.

The Lebanese expert stressed that Lebanon’s position on the issue remains unchanged.

“Israel seems to be just seeking to further mess things up in the Lebanese crisis. But Lebanon will not allow anyone to take advantage of the situation, and will respond accordingly to Israeli provocations”, he stated.

Attempt to Impose Negotiations

Lebanese political analyst Usamah Wahby sees Tel Aviv’s steps as an attempt to bring Beirut to the negotiating table, although the latter side is the least prepared.

“Israel is trying to galvanize the Lebanese authorities, shake them up and thus bring them into dialogue. This is what the US has wanted for a long time and was even ready to mediate. However, the problem is that Lebanon is now the least willing to negotiate with anyone due to the domestic political and economic crises. It seems that Tel Aviv could not care less about this situation. It is always easier to force a feeble opponent to dialogue on your terms than to conduct dialogue on equal terms”, he said.

Lebanon rejected the US proposal to demarcate its maritime border with Israel, which dates back to 2017.

July 4, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , | Leave a comment

If US attempts to seize Iranian tankers carrying oil to Venezuela now, de-escalation will be more difficult than ever

By Scott Ritter | RT | July 3, 2020

To expand its “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign targeting Iranian oil and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command, the US has a warrant to seize the cargo of four tankers heading to Venezuela. We should expect the worst.

Just weeks ago, in May and June, the world watched with bated breath as Iran dispatched five tankers carrying cargoes of gasoline and chemicals desperately needed by the Venezuelan nation, starved as it was of the ability to refine its own gas, due to the US’ stringent economic sanctions. While protesting the move, Washington did nothing to stop it, beyond sanctioning the ships involved. In what appears to be a replay, the Iranian government has now engaged four ships – the Bella, Bering, Pandi and Luna – to deliver approximately 1,163,000 barrels of gasoline to Venezuela.

In an effort to prevent this, the US government sought, and obtained, a federal forfeiture warrant on the grounds that the sale of the cargo violates the law regarding economic activity conducted by or on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Command (IRGC), previously designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization. The Iranian government has condemned the issuing of this warrant as an act of piracy.

How exactly the warrant will be executed, and what the consequences of such an action will be are scenario dependent. One possible scenario would be for the US to attempt a replay of last year’s gambit to bribe an Iranian ship’s captain to steer his vessel to a country that would then impound the tanker and its contents on behalf of the US.

The Iranian ship in question, a tanker named the Adrian Darya, had been seized by the UK on suspicion of violating EU sanctions regarding the sale of oil to Syria, and held in the port of Gibraltar. Iran, in retaliation, seized a British tanker operating in the Strait of Hormuz. After behind-the-scenes negotiations, a Gibraltan judge ordered the Iranian vessel to be released – but not before the US Justice Department had issued a warrant for the seizure of the ship.

Using the warrant as a stick, the State Department had its Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, contact the Iranian captain by email and offer him several millions of dollars to, in effect, defect with his ship and its cargo. The State Department was using a 1984 program known as ‘Rewards for Justice,’ which had been expanded under the Trump administration to target the IRGC by offering rewards of up to $15 million for information that led to the disruption of illicit Iranian activity.

In the case of the Adrian Darya, the effort failed. However, according to information contained in the complaint filed in support of the warrant, the owner of two of the ships engaged in the transport of gas to Venezuela, the Bella and Bering, both sailing under Liberian registry, indicated that he was concerned over what he called “the American threat.” The Iranian middlemen involved in the transaction had pressured him into undertaking the voyage and had offered to purchase the vessels outright, if needed. The key question for all involved is how the captains of any of the four vessels currently underway would respond if subjected to a similar solicitation of money as was made to the captain of the Adrian Darya.

Even if the US wasn’t able to entice a defection from one or more, possibly all, of the targeted tankers, the threat of seizure alone might suffice to compel the captains to abort their journeys and either return to their ports of origin, or seek to transfer the contents of their respective vessels to other tankers willing to complete the task of delivering the gasoline to Venezuela.

The consequences of a ship’s defection would more than likely be treated by Iran as the equivalent of having the vessels boarded and seized in international waters, as the end result – the confiscation of the ship’s cargo – would be the same.

Given past precedent, it is highly likely that Iran would conduct a tit-for-tat seizure of a vessel of similar capacity that was either sailing under the US flag or carrying a US-destined consignment. This would be a risky move that would probably lead to some sort of confrontation between the Iranian and American navies and might very well escalate into a general regional conflict.

Another option is that the tankers would seek to complete their mission by sailing in international waters with their onboard automatic identification system – a transponder that enables the ship’s movements to be tracked by other vessels using satellites – turned off.

This has been the practice that Iranian and Chinese vessels have engaged in during the delivery of Iranian oil to China in violation of US sanctions. Considered a very risky and dangerous move that could result in a collision with other vessels, it also makes a ship difficult to track and therefore interdict.

The US could respond by placing a screen of US naval vessels just outside Venezuelan territorial waters, creating a de facto blockade that the four tankers would have to run if their respective deliveries were to be made. Whether or not the US would actually attempt a boarding and seizure is another question, as it could be seen as a violation of international law. Moreover, the potential for direct conflict with the Venezuelan navy and air force would be high, given their practice of seeking to escort Iranian tankers once they arrive in Venezuelan waters.

In the past, both Iran and the US have shown restraint in seeking to avoid any major force-on-force confrontation between their respective militaries, knowing that once initiated, de-escalation would be difficult, and the transition to a general regional war all but assured. The social, economic, and political costs to all parties involved would be prohibitively high – a universally accepted reality that usually serves as a deterrent against rash action by either Iran or the US. But the present time finds US President Donald Trump in the political fight of his life, with polls indicating a difficult, uphill fight for re-election in November.

By undertaking this attempted delivery of gasoline to Venezuela, the Iranian government has placed Trump in a dilemma that he’s worsened by seeking, and getting, a warrant for the seizure of the involved tankers. Any inaction on the part of the US will be seized on by Trump’s political opponents as a sign of his impotence as a national leader, while a seizure that results in a war with Iran would destroy any chance of the post-pandemic economic recovery he’s betting on to help carry him to victory this fall.

Once again, the world is forced to watch while its collective future is decided not in terms of what is best for the global collective, but in terms of how an action is best interpreted from an American domestic political perspective.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer. He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector. Follow him on Twitter @RealScottRitter

July 4, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment