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Extraordinary and Deliberate Lies from the Guardian

By Craig Murray | September 23, 2018

I am just back from a family funeral – one of a succession – and a combination of circumstances had left me feeling pretty down lately, and not blogging much. But I have to drag myself to the keyboard to denounce a quite extraordinary set of deliberate lies published in the Guardian about a Russian plot to spring Julian Assange last December.

I was closely involved with Julian and with Fidel Narvaez of the Ecuadorean Embassy at the end of last year in discussing possible future destinations for Julian. It is not only the case that Russia did not figure in those plans, it is a fact that Julian directly ruled out the possibility of going to Russia as undesirable. Fidel Narvaez told the Guardian that there was no truth in their story, but the Guardian has instead chosen to run with “four anonymous sources” – about which sources it tells you no more than that.

I have no idea who the Guardian’s “anonymous sources” are, but I know 100% for certain that the entire story of a Russian plot to extract Julian from the Embassy last Christmas Eve is a complete and utter fabrication. I strongly suspect that, as usual, MI6 tool Luke Harding’s “anonymous sources” are in fact the UK security services, and this piece is entirely black propaganda produced by MI6.

It is very serious indeed when a newspaper like the Guardian prints a tissue of deliberate lies in order to spread fake news on behalf of the security services. I cannot find words eloquent enough to express the depth of my contempt for Harding and Katherine Viner, who have betrayed completely the values of journalism. The aim of the piece is evidently to add a further layer to the fake news of Wikileaks’ (non-existent) relationship to Russia as part of the “Hillary didn’t really lose” narrative. I am, frankly, rather shocked.

September 23, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | 3 Comments

The New York Times as Judge and Jury

By Joe Lauria • Consortium News • September 21, 2018

We’ve seen it before: a newspaper and individual reporters get a story horribly wrong but instead of correcting it they double down to protect their reputations and credibility—which is all journalists have to go on—and the public suffers.

Sometimes this maneuver can contribute to a massive loss of life. The most egregious example was the reporting in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. Like nearly all Establishment media, The New York Times got the story of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction—the major casus belli for the invasion—dead wrong. But the Times, like the others, continued publishing stories without challenging their sources in authority, mostly unnamed, who were pushing for war.

The result was a disastrous intervention that led to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and continued instability in Iraq, including the formation of the Islamic State.

In a massive Timesarticle published on Thursday, entitled, “‘A Plot to Subvert an Election: Unravelling the Russia Story So Far,” it seems that reporters Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti have succumbed to the same thinking that doubled down on Iraq.

They claim to have a “mountain of evidence” but what they offer would be invisible on the Great Plains.

With the mid-terms looming and Special Counsel Robert Mueller unable to so far come up with any proof of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to steal the 2016 election—the central Russia-gate charge—the Times does it for him, regurgitating a Russia-gate Round-Up of every unsubstantiated allegation that has been made—deceptively presented as though it’s all been proven.

This is a reaffirmation of the faith, a recitation of what the Russia-gate faithful want to believe is true. But mere repetition will not make it so.

The Times’ unsteady conviction is summed up in this paragraph, which the paper itself then undermines only a few paragraphs later:

“What we now know with certainty: The Russians carried out a landmark intervention that will be examined for decades to come. Acting on the personal animus of Mr. Putin, public and private instruments of Russian power moved with daring and skill to harness the currents of American politics. Well-connected Russians worked aggressively to recruit or influence people inside the Trump campaign.”

But this schizoid approach leads to the admission that “no public evidence has emerged showing that [Trump’s] campaign conspired with Russia.”

The Times also adds: “There is a plausible case that Mr. Putin succeeded in delivering the presidency to his admirer, Mr. Trump, though it cannot be proved or disproved.”

This is an extraordinary statement. If it cannot be “proved or disproved” what is the point of this entire exercise: of the Mueller probe, the House and Senate investigations and even of this very New York Times article?

Probing to prove this constructed story without proof is the very point of this piece.

A Banner Day

The 10,000-word article opens with a story of a pro-Russian banner that was hung from the Manhattan Bridge on Putin’s birthday, and an anti-Obama banner hung a month later from the Memorial Bridge in Washington just after the 2016 election.

On public property these are constitutionally-protected acts of free speech. But for the Times, “The Kremlin, it appeared, had reached onto United States soil in New York and Washington. The banners may well have been intended as visual victory laps for the most effective foreign interference in an American election in history.”

Why? Because the Times tells us that the “earliest promoters” of images of the banners were from social media accounts linked to a St. Petersburg-based click-bait farm, a company called the Internet Research Agency. The company is not legally connected to the Kremlin and any political coordination is pure speculation. IRA has been explained convincingly as a commercial and not political operation. Its aim is get and sell “eyeballs.”

For instance the company conducted pro and anti-Trump rallies and social media messages, as well as pro and anti-Clinton. But the Times, in classic omission mode, only reports on “the anti-Clinton, pro-Trump messages shared with millions of voters by Russia.” Sharing with “millions” of people on social media does not mean that millions of people have actually seen those messages. And if they had there is little way to determine whether it affected how they voted, especially as the messages attacked and praised both candidates.

The Times reporters take much at face value, which they then themselves undermine. Most prominently, they willfully mistake a an indictment for a conviction, as if they do not know the difference.

This is in the category of Journalism 101. An indictment need not include evidence and under U.S. law an indictment is not evidence. Juries are instructed that an indictment is merely an accusation. That the Times commits this cardinal sin of journalism to purposely confuse allegations with a conviction is not only inexcusable but strikes a fatal blow to credibility of the entire article.

It actually reports that “Today there is no doubt who hacked the D.N.C. and the Clinton campaign. A detailed indictment of 12 officers of Russia’s military intelligence agency, filed in July by Mr. Mueller, documents their every move, including their break-in techniques, their tricks to hide inside the Democrats’ networks and even their Google searches.”

Who needs courts when suspects can be tried and convicted in the press?

What the Times is not taking into account is that Mueller knows his indictment will never be tested in court because the GRU agents will never be arrested, there is no extradition treaty between the U.S. and Russia and even if it were miraculously to see the inside of a courtroom Mueller can invoke states secrets privilege to show the “evidence” to a judge with clearance in his chambers who can then emerge to pronounce “Guilty!” without a jury having seen that evidence.

This is what makes Mueller’s indictment more a political than a legal document, giving him wide leeway to put whatever he wants into it. He knew it would never be tested and that once it was released, a supine press would do the rest to cement it in the public consciousness as a conviction, just as this Times piece tries to do.

Errors of Commission and Omission

There are a series of erroneous assertions and omissions in the Times piece:

–Not mentioning that the FBI was never given access to the DNC server but instead gullibly believing the assertion of the anti-Russian private company CrowdStrike, paid for by the DNC, that the name of the first Soviet intelligence chief found in metadata proves Russia was behind the hack. Only someone wanting to be caught would leave such a clue.

–Incredibly believing that Trump would have launched a covert intelligence operation on live national television by asking Russia to get 30,000 missing emails.

–Ignoring the possible role of the MI6, the CIA and the FBI setting up Trump campaign members George Papadopoulos and Carter Page as “colluders” with Russia.

–Repeating misleading statements about the infamous Trump Tower meeting, in which Trump’s son did not seek dirt on Clinton but was offered it by a music promoter, not the Russian government. None was apparently produced. It’s never been established that a campaign receiving opposition research from foreigners is illegal (though the Times has decided that it is) and only the Clinton campaign was known to have obtained any.

–Making no mention at all of the now discredited opposition research dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC from foreign sources and used by the FBI to get a warrant to spy on Carter Page and potentially other campaign members.

–Dismissing the importance of politicized text messages between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page because the pair were “skewered regularly on Mr. (Sean) Hannity’s show as the ‘Trump-hating F.B.I. lovebirds.’”

–Putting down to “hyped news stories” the legitimate fear of a new McCarthyism against anyone who questions the “official” story being peddled here by the Times.

–Seeking to get inside Putin’s head to portray him as a petulant child seeking personal revenge against Hillary Clinton, a tale long peddled by Clinton and accepted without reservation by the Times.

–Pretending to get into Julian Assange’s head as well, saying he “shared Mr. Putin’s hatred of Mrs. Clinton and had a soft spot for Russia.” And that Assange “also obscured the Russian role by fueling a right-wing conspiracy theory he knew to be false.”

–Ignoring findings backed by the Veteran’s Intelligence Professionals for Sanity that the DNC emails were leaked and not hacked.

–Erroneously linking the timing of WikiLeaks’ Podesta emails to deflect attention from the “Access Hollywood” tape, as debunked in Consortium News by Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, who worked with WikiLeaks on those emails.

Distorts Geo-Politics

The piece swallows whole the Establishment’s geo-strategic Russia narrative, as all corporate media do. It buys without hesitation the story that the U.S. seeks to spread democracy around the world, and not pursue its economic and geo-strategic interests as do all imperial powers.

The Times reports that, “The United States had backed democratic, anti-Russian forces in the so-called color revolutions on Russia’s borders, in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004.” The Times has also spread the erroneous story of a democratic revolution in Ukraine in 2014, omitting crucial evidence of a U.S.-backed coup.

The Times disapprovingly dismisses Trump having said on the campaign trail that “Russia was not an existential threat, but a potential ally in beating back terrorist groups,” when an objective view of the world would come to this very conclusion.

The story also dismisses American voters’ real concerns that led to Trump’s election. For the Times, economic grievances and rejection of perpetual war played no role in the election of Trump. Instead it was Russian influence that led Americans to vote for him, an absurd proposition defied by a Gallup poll in July that showed Americans’ greatest concerns being economic. Their concerns about Russia were statistically insignificant at less than one percent.

Dismissing Americans’ real concerns exposes the class interests of Times staffers and editors who are evidently above Americans’ economic and social suffering.

Establishment reporters insulate themselves from criticism by retreating into the exclusive Establishment club they think they inhabit. It is from there that they vicariously draw their strength from powerful people they cover, which they should instead be scrutinizing. Validated by being close to power, Establishment reporters don’t take seriously anyone outside of the club, such as a website like Consortium News.

But on rare occasions they are forced to take note of what outsiders are saying. Because of the role The New York Times played in the catastrophe of Iraq its editors took the highly unusual move of apologizing to its readers. Will we one day read a similar apology about the paper’s coverage of Russia-gate?


Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Alabama debunks the Times’ story about our warming world

Fabius Maximus website | September 19, 2018

Summary: The NY Times gives a story with bold numbers, confidently stated. Too bad their fact-checkers did not notice that their numbers are grossly misleading. Propaganda pretending to be science. This does not help, even if well-intended. The State Climatologist of Alabama tells the real story.

The Alabama Climate Report, August 2018.

By John R. Christy, Alabama State Climatologist.
Also Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center
at the U of AL in Huntsville. Links added.

Meteorological summer (June, July and August) is over. It is time to check how the summer temperatures compare with other years. For a research project a few years ago we developed a statewide summer temperature index for four 100-mile diameter regions centered on the major cities of the state – Mobile, Montgomery, Birmingham and Huntsville – going back to 1883. This summer will go down in that database and in NOAA’s official records as being slightly cooler than average.

Somewhat related to this, a reader sent me a link to a New York Times interactive website that claims to provide the number of days above 90°F each year for cities across the country: “How Much Hotter Is Your Hometown Than When You Were Born?” The results are produced for the Times by Climate Impact Lab (some might call it an environmental pressure group).

Since I build numerous datasets of this type, I took a look. The website asks you for the town and year in which you were born, then provides a time series purportedly showing the number of 90°F days per year since your birth and how that has increased.

Though a native of California, I have lived in Huntsville more years than any other place, so I put in my birth year and Huntsville as my hometown. Immediately I became suspicious when their dataset started only recently in 1960 (and a few years after my birth). …

For Huntsville and Montgomery, here are their results. Quite scary. It appears that the number of 90°F days has risen to their highest levels ever. It says that in 1960 Huntsville had 45 days above 90°F, but by 2017 it was 57 days and rising.

Huntsville, Alabama.

Huntsville AL - number of 90+ degree days

Montgomery, Alabama.

Montgomery AL - number of 90+ degree days

Then, to make matters even scarier, they use climate model projections to 2090 to tell me that in 2040, when I’m 80, there will be 73 such hot days in Huntsville (as shown below). Yikes!

Huntsville’s future per RCP4.5!

Huntsville AL - projected future temperature

Editor’s note – From the NYT website.

“For each year, the count of days at or above 90 degrees reflects a 21-year rolling average. Temperature observations for your hometown are averaged over an area of approximately 625 km² (240 square miles), and may not match single weather-station records.

“The time series is based on historical data for 1960-2000. The 2001-2020 period relies on a combination of historical data and future projections. After 2020, the data uses a mixed climate model that captures a broad range of extreme temperature responses. The “likely” future range reflects outcomes with 66 percent probability of occurrence in the RCP 4.5 scenario.”

The rest of the story

Before you sell your house and move to Canada, let’s take a look at the real story. Having built many climate datasets of Alabama, some starting as early as 1850, I knew the Times story was designed to create alarm and promote the claim that humans who use carbon-based energy (gasoline, natural gas, coal) to help them live better lives are making our summers ever more miserable. Be aware reader, this webtool is not designed to provide accurate information.

First of all, climate data for Alabama began in the 19th century, not 1960. In 2016 Dr. Richard McNider (Alabama’s former State Climatologist) and I published a carefully constructed time series of summer temperatures for the state starting from 1883. This used numerous station records, including some that the federal government had not archived into its databases (which are the most common source for outfits like the Climate Impacts Lab.)

Time Series Construction of Summer Surface Temperatures for Alabama, 1883–2014, and Comparisons with Tropospheric Temperature and Climate Model Simulations” in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, March 2016.

I’ve updated that work to include summer temperatures through 2018. The result is below. Not only are summer daytime temperatures not rising, they have actually fallen over the last 136 years. After looking at the graph, why do you suppose the Climate Impacts Lab decided to start their charts in 1960?

We went a step further in that paper and demonstrated that climate models failed completely to replicate the downward temperature trend in Alabama over the past 120 years: 76 different models with a 100% failure rate. Would you trust these same models to tell you about the future as the Times does? Why did they not check the models for validity?

Now, what about the number of “hot” (or in Alabama we would say “typical”) 90°F days? For Alabama and the nation, I’ve calculated the average value per station each year since 1895. The results below speak for themselves (there is no increase of days hotter than 90°F) and expose the misinformation provided through the Times.

Alabama - days exceeding 90 degrees

 

Continental 48 US states - days exceeding 90 degrees

Providing accurate information on Alabama’s climate is what we do in our office. In fact, using real data, I can’t even come close to reproducing the images that the Climate Impacts Lab did which show 2010’s as having the most 90°F days in Alabama. I’m guessing they are using some theoretical output rather than sticking with observations. …I’ll check and follow-up as I can, but something is fishy.

This is a great state in which people can enjoy life and in which businesses can operate. Our climate resources are one of the reasons we are doing so well in recruitment. Occasionally though the time comes when I must address claims made by those whose intention is not to inform but to promote false alarm. This usually happens when an environmental pressure group generates a press release whose dramatic statements are published by a willing media (without any fact-checking). This is one of those times, and I’m sure it will not be the last.


Dr. John R. Christy is the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Since November 2000 he has been Alabama’s State Climatologist. See his bio at the U of AL website (from which this bio was taken).

In 1989 Dr. Roy W. Spencer (then a NASA scientist, now a Principle Research Scientist at UAH) and Christy developed a global temperature data set from microwave data observed from satellites beginning in 1979. For this achievement, the Spencer-Christy team was awarded NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement in 1991. In 1996, they received a Special Award by the American Meteorological Societyfor developing a global, precise record of earth’s temperature from operational polar-orbiting satellites, fundamentally advancing our ability to monitor climate.” In January 2002 Christy was inducted as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

Dr. Christy has served as a Contributor (1992, 1994, 1996 and 2007) and Lead Author (2001) for the U.N. reports by the IPCC in which the satellite temperatures were included as a high-quality data set for studying global climate change. He has served on five National Research Council panels or committees, has performed research funded by NASA, NOAA, DOE, DOT and the State of Alabama, and has testified 18 times for congressional committees.

His papers have been published in many journals, including Science, Nature, Journal of Climate, and The Journal of Geophysical Research. See the list here (with links).

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

New York Times’ fraudulent “election plot” dossier escalates anti-Russia hysteria

By Bill Van Auken | WSWS | September 21, 2018

The New York Times published a fraudulent and provocative “special report” Thursday titled “The plot to subvert an election.”

Replete with sinister looking graphics portraying Russian President Vladimir Putin as a villainous cyberage cyclops, the report purports to untangle “the threads of the most effective foreign campaign in history to disrupt and influence an American election.”

The report could serve as a textbook example of CIA-directed misinformation posing as “in-depth” journalism. There is no news, few substantiated facts and no significant analysis presented in the 10,000-word report, which sprawls over 11 ad-free pages of a separate section produced by the Times.

The article begins with an ominous-sounding recounting of two incidents in which banners were hung from bridges in New York City and Washington in October and November of 2016, one bearing the likeness of Putin over a Russian flag with the word “peacemaker,” and the other that of Obama and the slogan “Goodbye Murderer.”

It acknowledges that “police never identified who had hung the banners,” but nonetheless goes on to assert that: “The Kremlin, it appeared, had reached onto United States soil in New York and Washington. The banners may well have been intended as visual victory laps for the most effective foreign interference in an American election in history.”

Why does it “appear” to be the Kremlin? What is the evidence to support this claim? Among the 8.5 million inhabitants of New York City and another 700,000 in Washington, D.C., aren’t there enough people who might despise Obama as much as, if not a good deal more than, Vladimir Putin?

This absurd passage with its “appeared” and “may well have” combined with the speculation about the Kremlin extending its evil grip onto “United States soil” sets the tone for the entire piece, which consists of the regurgitation of unsubstantiated allegations made by the US intelligence agencies, Democratic and Republican capitalist politicians and the Times itself.

The authors, Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti, complain about a lack of “public comprehension” of the “Trump-Russia” story. Indeed, despite the two-year campaign of anti-Russian hysteria whipped up in Washington and among the affluent sections of the upper-middle class that constitute the target audience of the Times, polls have indicated that the charges of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 presidential election have evoked little popular response among the broad masses of the American population.

The “special report” attempts to remedy this problem by ginning up the meddling allegations, claiming that the Kremlin staged a “stealth cyberage Pearl Harbor” against the United States and succeeded in “hijacking” both “American companies like Facebook and Twitter” and “American citizens’ feelings about immigration and race.”

The reporting is all couched in “maybes” and “appears,” with the claim made that “there is a plausible case that Mr. Putin succeeded in delivering the presidency to his admirer, Mr. Trump, though it cannot be proved or disproved.” In other words, the Times reporters cannot substantiate their claims.

Mazzetti and Shane strain to portray the actions of Putin, assuming for the sake of argument that he was the mastermind behind the Facebook postings, as something uniquely horrible in the annals of international relations.

But as is well known, the US spends tens of billions of dollars every year to influence foreign elections, subvert governments viewed as obstacles to US interests and buy politicians, intellectuals and other agents of influence. It has backed coups and waged direct wars to effect regime change. Many of these coups have been supported by the New York Times. Many of its reporters collaborate with US intelligence agencies and dish up the propaganda required to advance the international interests of the United States.

There is not a country in the world whose political system has not been targeted by the United States. This includes Russia and the former Soviet republics, where it has carried out continuous regime-change operations, while extending the NATO military alliance across vast swaths of territory and spheres of influence vacated by the Soviet Union, deploying US-led armed forces right to Russia’s borders, in contravention of agreements reached between Washington and Moscow at the time of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the USSR.

This is passed over lightly by the Times special report, which presents the alleged Russian “meddling” as all a product of Putin’s personal grudges against President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

In the context of US global operations, what the Times article alleges, even if it were all true, amounts to less than a hill of beans.

It claims that Russian “trolls, hackers and agents” assigned to influence the 2016 US election “totaled barely 100.” Their task, it states, was “to steer millions of American voters” and “sabotage an election.”

To that end, the article states, Russians allegedly spent $100,000 on Facebook ads, “a trivial sum compared with the tens of millions spent on Facebook by both the Trump and Clinton campaigns.” Far less than trivial compared to the nearly $7 billion spent on all US federal elections in 2016.

The ads, the Times claims, were directed at “sowing division” in the American body politic, as if the US was not already a country torn by the deepest social inequality of any of the so-called advanced capitalist countries, with a population seething with anger over declining living standards for the masses of the working population, while a financial and corporate oligarchy has registered the biggest income gains in history.

The article refers to a handful of demonstrations allegedly promoted by Russian Facebook ads that attracted a few dozen people as evidence that Moscow’s “trolls” could act as “puppet masters for unsuspecting Americans.” One only need compare this to Washington’s spending of what former State Department official Victoria Nuland acknowledged was $5 billion to promote an armed fascist-led coup that toppled a pro-Russian government in Ukraine in 2014.

The most sinister side of the Times report is its indictment of WikiLeaks and its founder and editor Julian Assange for the leaking of emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The emails laid bare the DNC’s rigging of the primaries in favor of Clinton against Bernie Sanders and made public the texts of slavish and well-paid speeches given by Clinton to Wall Street audiences, guaranteeing she would defend their interests and making clear her readiness to escalate the war in Syria and bomb Iran.

The Times report complains that Clinton’s self-damning words were “taken out of context” and “subjected to the most damaging interpretation.”

The report paints Assange as either a witting or unwitting agent of the Kremlin at a moment in which the WikiLeaks founder is facing imminent threat of losing his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London followed by arrest and extradition to the US to stand trial for treason and espionage.

Also resurrected in the report is the neo-McCarthyite vilification of Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2016. “The Russian operation also boosted” her candidacy, the Times claims, in order “to draw votes from Mrs. Clinton.”

The political thrust of the “special report” is clear. It is aimed at criminalizing domestic dissent, delegitimizing and suppressing any opposition to the political monopoly exercised by the capitalist two-party system and outlawing the use of the internet to report any news or express any opinions that have not first been vetted by “authoritative sources” like the CIA-embedded stenographers of the Times .

Mazzetti and Shane are Times national security correspondents. In an accompanying piece posted on the newspaper’s website, they claim that their “special report” was modelled upon two special issues of the Times magazine section published in July 1973 and the following January detailing the background and development of the Watergate scandal that ultimately brought down the Nixon presidency.

While they may be attempting to signal that their reporting could bring down Trump, the comparison is as ludicrous as it is self-serving. The pieces produced by the Times 45 years ago provided cogent political analysis that served to at least partially expose the crimes and conspiracies of the US government. They came just three years after the newspaper had defied the Nixon administration in publishing the Pentagon Papers—leaked to the paper by Daniel Ellsberg—exposing the lies and crimes associated with the US war in Vietnam.

Mazzetti and Shane have produced a poorly written propaganda potboiler, parroting the unsubstantiated allegations of US intelligence agencies and making the case for the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange for exposing similar crimes.

Mazzetti is notorious for his secretly passing to the CIA in 2011—prior to publication—a piece written by Times columnist Maureen Dowd, along with a note reading, “this didn’t come from me … and please delete after you read.”

Shane was the author of a 2012 article titled “The moral case for drones,” which attempted to justify the assassination program being run out of the White House that claimed the lives of thousands in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere.

The authors are, to put it bluntly, a pair of broken-down hacks, embedded with the US military and intelligence apparatus and held in contempt by serious journalists.

Their “special report” expresses the thoroughgoing repudiation of any democratic principles by the Times and the rest of the major media, which have adopted the role of guarantors of state secrecy and apologists for war and political repression.

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

The Syria Deception, Part 1: Al-Qaeda Goes to Hollywood

Grayzone Project | September 15, 2018

This exclusive Grayzone investigative mini-doc by Dan Cohen exposes the cynical deceptions and faux humanitarianism behind the campaign to sell the dirty war on Syria. It will demonstrate the lengths that the US and its allies have gone to develop new ploys to tug at Western heartstrings and convince even liberal minded skeptics of war that a US intervention was necessary — even if it meant empowering Al Qaeda’s largest franchise since 9/11 and its theocratic allies among the insurgency. Big lies and little children have formed the heart of what is perhaps the most expensive, sophisticated, and shameless propaganda blitz ever conducted. Welcome to the Syria Deception.

Notice
Age-restricted video (based on Community Guidelines)

September 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Narrative Collapse: Mueller Probe Reveals Manafort Was Lobbying Against Russia

By Chris Menahan – InformationLiberation – September 15, 2018

Paul Manafort was lobbying against Russian interests in Ukraine — not for them as Rachel Maddow and others have been claiming for months — according to new documents released from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

According to records produced by Mueller himself, the nature of the work Manafort did in Ukraine (lobbying *against* Russia’s interests) is the polar opposite of how it’s been portrayed in US media. The level of narrative manipulation here is a astounding https://t.co/fxbqQSCvhy

— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) September 14, 2018

The Real News’ Aaron Maté broke it all down Friday on Twitter:

 

 


Maté wrote Friday in The Nation :

It is often speculated that Manafort’s Ukraine stint is relevant to a Trump-Russia conspiracy plot because, the theory goes, he served Kremlin interests during his time there. The opposite is the case, as Manafort’s former partner-turned-prosecution-witness, Rick Gates, reaffirmed during trial. Gates testified that Manafort pushed his client, then–Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, to align with the European Union and away from Russia. According to Gates, Manafort was paid lucratively to craft a policy known as “Engage Ukraine,” which “became the strategy for helping Ukraine enter the European Union.” Given that the tug-of-war between Russia and the EU (with US backing) over Ukraine sparked a full-blown international crisis and a new Cold War, Manafort’s strategy would be an odd one for a supposed Kremlin stooge.

Putting aside Manafort’s record in Ukraine, there have been attempts to tie him to a potential Russia conspiracy via his financial debts to Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska. During the campaign, Manafort wrote to an associate about leveraging his position in the Trump camp in order to “get whole” with Deripaska, even suggesting that he offer “private briefings.” Could this have been, pundits suggest, where a collusion plot was hatched?

Deripaska denies ever having been offered private briefings by Manafort. Another impediment to tying Deripaska to a Trump-Russia collusion plot is that Deripaska has connections to the figure arguably most responsible for the allegations of collusion. Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent whose DNC-funded “dossier” alleged a longstanding Trump-Kremlin conspiracy, has served as an intermediary for contacts between Deripaska and US officials. Deripaska even has a link to Mueller and the federal agency he once headed. In 2009, when Mueller was in charge of the FBI, Deripaska ponied up millions of dollars for a secret effort to rescue a captured CIA operative, Robert Levinson, in Iran. In return, the FBI–with the encouragement of Steele–helped secure a visa for Deripaska, who had been banned from the United States for alleged ties to Russian organized crime. In short, Deripaska’s various contacts make plain that Manafort’s financial ties to him, illicit or not, do not necessarily lead to a Kremlin conspiracy.

Most critically, Mueller has yet to allege one. Prosecutors openly acknowledged before Manafort’s first trial that the case had nothing to do with “evidence or argument concerning collusion with the Russian government,” while the judge in Manafort’s upcoming second trial notes that the collusion investigation is “wholly irrelevant to the charges in this case.”

The same could be said for all of the other charges in the Mueller investigation to date.

No doubt Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes and the rest of the fake news media will be issuing formal retractions any day now!

 


… Any day now, I’m sure!

September 15, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

‘It’s science fiction’: Professor doubts claims of ‘microwave attacks’ on US diplomats in Cuba

RT | September 14, 2018

There’s no conclusive evidence that US diplomats stationed in Cuba were injured by a futuristic weapon, Kenneth R. Foster, a professor of bioengineering, told RT, adding that theories involving microwaves were “science fiction.”

NBC published an explosive report earlier this week claiming that several anonymous US officials suspect that Russia was behind a series of unexplained “attacks” on US diplomatic personnel in Cuba and China, leaving the victims with injuries ranging from hearing loss to “problems with cognition.”

But Foster, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who studied microwave phenomena while working at the Naval Medical Research Center in Bethesda, told RT that the evidence that these purported injuries were caused by some kind of microwave weapon – which the NBC article alleges – is “science fiction.”

“The kind of effect that has been talked about with the embassy is purely a fairy tale,” Foster said. He noted that while non-lethal microwave weapons exist, they require high-power transmissions and are only able to cause “thermal pain” in people. “I can’t conceive of a microwave weapon as it’s being thought about in this case. And it’s not clear that the symptoms are real.”

The professor also raised doubts about the severity of the reported injuries, pointing to “very inconclusive, very iffy” results of a research paper published by a group that had examined some of the alleged victims.

“The evidence doesn’t point in any one direction. And the effects are small and vary from one person to another. So I think it’s an overstatement to say that these persons were injured,” Foster said.

“The alternative explanation is that this may be a psychological effect … But the evidence that these people were harmed is very inconclusive at the present.”

The State Department also appeared uneasy about NBC’s anonymous-sourced report.

“I would caution you all to be very skeptical of those officials’ statements right now as you should be aware the investigation continues,” spokesperson Heather Nauert said at a State Department press briefing on Tuesday. “There is no known cause, no known individual or group believed to be responsible at this time. We have not assigned any blame and we continue to look into it.”

September 14, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Former British Ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, Warns of Pending War Propaganda on Commission of Inquiry Report to UNHRC

In Gaza | September 13, 2018

Peter Ford, former British Ambassador to Syria:

You will be seeing lurid accounts in the Western media of the latest report to the UN Human Rights Council from the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria. This was issued on 12 September.

In particular it is being stated that the report vindicates claims that weaponised chlorine was used in Douma. This is not what the report (text below) actually says.

If you read the actual report – you have to reach section 92 so obviously few hacks will do that – you will see that it is carefully worded.

The inspectors, who unlike OPCW did not actually visit the site, ‘received a vast body of evidence suggesting that..’ (of course they did, from the jihadis and from hostile intelligence services); ‘they received information on [deaths and injuries] (which is not the same as seeing bodies or examining victims); they ‘recall that weaponisation of chlorine is prohibited’ (but do not actually say that Syrian forces used it in Douma).

Besides the text of the relevant part of the report I have added the paragraph on Raqqa and the ‘indiscriminate attacks and serious violations of international law’ by the coalition of which the UK is part, including the bombing of a school and killing of 40 people.

You will note also the acknowlegement that ISIS exploited hospitals in Raqqa (as other jihadi groups have done in every part of Syria). Naturally the media and our government will not want to discuss that paragraph of the report.

**

Excerpt from the text of the report by the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria:

92. Throughout 7 April, numerous aerial attacks were carried out in Douma, striking various residential areas. A vast body of evidence collected by the Commission suggests that, at approximately 7.30 p.m., a gas cylinder containing a chlorine payload delivered by helicopter struck a multi-storey residential apartment building located approximately 100 metres south-west of Shohada square. The Commission received information on the death of at least 49 individuals, and the wounding of up to 650 others.

93. While the Commission cannot make yet any conclusions concerning the exact causes of death, in particular on whether another agent was used in addition to chlorine that may have caused or contributed to deaths and injuries, it recalls that the weaponization of chlorine is prohibited under customary international humanitarian law and under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, ratified by the Syrian Arab Republic in 2013.

95. The Commission also continues to investigate aerial attacks launched against ISIL positions in Raqqah city between June and October 2017, which destroyed much of the city and displaced nearly the entire population. The Commission is concerned that the widespread destruction wrought upon Raqqah city included indiscriminate attacks and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. Significant challenges continue to arise, including with regard to how ISIL prevented civilians from documenting attacks as a matter of policy, how chaos often left victims and witnesses unable to identify whether a given attack was carried out by aerial or ground operations, and how ISIL terrorists embedded themselves and their military installations in numerous civilian infrastructures, including hospitals, thus significantly complicating investigations.

96. The Commission further notes that the coalition led by the United States acknowledged on 28 June that it had killed 40 civilians during its aerial attack against Al-Badiya school in Mansurah, Raqqah on the night of 20 to 21 March 2017

September 13, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment

Butina prosecutors wrote their own James Bond novel with sex allegations – and the media loved it

Jailed Russian “spy” Maria Butina / Facebook
RT | September 10, 2018

US prosecutors who wrongly accused Russian ‘foreign agent’ and gun activist Maria Butina of trading sex for influence peddled their own cheap James Bond fan fiction. No matter how incorrect, the media lapped it up.

Butina’s request to be released until the time of her trial was declined by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan on Monday. Chutkan ruled that the Russian activist is to remain in jail until she’s tried on the charges of acting as an unregistered agent for a foreign government. Butina has pleaded not guilty.

The judge has also slapped both the prosecution and the defense with a media gag order, after berating the defense attorney for giving interviews on his client’s innocence and slamming the prosecution for opening the case with a “salacious” and “notorious” claim that proved to be completely false. Days after Butina was arrested in July, Assistant US Attorney Erik M. Kenerson claimed she was offering an individual “sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.”

In a filing on Friday, prosecutors in the US attorney’s office in Washington, including Kenerson, backtracked on the July allegation, and stressed that it “was based both on a series of text messages between the defendant and another individual.” They admitted that the “government’s understanding of this particular text conversation was mistaken.”

Accusing Butina of trading sex for work was never about building a solid case against her, however. Instead, it was about portraying her as a Russian femme fatale; a pawn of Putin seducing her way through American political circles to sow division and discord in American politics.

“I think it was done to get headlines,” human rights lawyer Dan Kovalik told RT. “I think it was done to injure her reputation… All along, the US officials and even the press have tried to present her as some kind of spy, when in fact there is not even an allegation in that regard.”

Using the term “spy” to describe Butina, even to the untrained eye, is a bit of a reach. Before falling victim to Washington’s anti-Russian crusade, Butina moved to the US on a student visa in 2016. She graduated from American University in Washington DC with a master’s degree in international relations earlier this year. Butina is also the founder of Right to Bear Arms, a pro-gun organization that lobbies to change Russia’s strict gun laws. Right to Bear Arms has developed ties with the National RIfle Association (NRA) in the US. In her time in America, Butina met and socialized with several conservative political figures.

The sex allegations, Kovalik argues, were tacked on to bolster the US government’s already weak case against Butina. The 28-year-old gun activist was arrested for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), an offense that doesn’t immediately scream “spy.”

“Clearly, this is a political case,” Kovalik said. “It is unclear to me what this young woman has done wrong, except maybe not registered under the FARA act. I believe no one has been arrested ever for violating that act which is rarely invoked.”

The smear worked, and the salacious headlines did the rounds in US media. “A simple Google search using the phrase ‘Maria Butina and sex’ yields over 300,000 hits,” her defense lawyer Robert Driscoll said in an interview, after the government backtracked on the allegation.

With their imaginations left to run riot, American journalists pumped out cold-war style spy fiction with impunity. “Sex and schmoozing are common Russian spy tactics. Publicity makes Maria Butina different,” read a headline from USA Today on August 29.

The USA Today writer scratches his head as to why Butina operated so publicly; giving interviews and speeches, publishing articles explaining her political views, and even posing for photos in magazines. After speaking to four anonymous ‘intelligence officials,’ he can only conclude that Butina’s transparency is “evidence the Russians have grown bolder in their spy efforts.”

Throughout much of the mainstream media, journalists parroted the prosecutors’ claims. Butina’s activism, the New York Times wrote in July “appears to be another arm of the Russian government’s attempts to influence or gain information about the American political process.” Butina, Time Magazine wrote at the same time, “lived a double life by using sex and a love of guns to infiltrate American political organizations… in order to advance Moscow’s agenda.”

What ‘Moscow’s agenda’ is here is unclear. Butina’s however, is clear as day. “She was meeting with people to talk about gun rights that she wants loosen in her own country back home in Russia,” Kovalik told RT. After all, if you want to talk gun rights in the USA, who better to talk to than the NRA, the world’s best-known gun rights organization, with more than six million members and a yearly revenue of almost $500 million.

Why then did she find herself the unwilling star of a third-rate spy novel, serialized and dramatized in US newspapers?

“I think this was a political gambit to deal with bigger geopolitical issues to try to ruin the outcome of the summit between Trump and Putin,” Kovalik said. “She is being used as a political pawn by the US.”

As long as the case against Butina is ongoing, the US government has human proof that the specter of ‘Russian meddling’ in US politics is alive and well.Unfortunately for Butina, that means she sits in jail until her case is eventually resolved. The Russian Embassy in Washington DC has accused American authorities of subjecting her to ‘borderline torture’ conditions, including unnecessary strip searches after every visit, sleep deprivation, and denying the 28-year-old medical treatment for a swelling on her leg.

“There are attempts to break her will,” the embassy said.

According to Kovalik, Butina’s outlook is grim. “I am going to bet that this case will drag on and this poor woman will rot in jail, apparently subjected to all sorts of indignities, including a body cavity search she is after every meeting,” the veteran human rights lawyer said. “And ultimately the charges will be dropped for the lack of evidence. But in the meantime her reputation and life will be destroyed. That is how I see this case going, to be perfectly frank.”

While the sex allegations against Butina have been dropped, prosecutors have still clung to the claims that she is, in fact, a spy. They say that her having received multiple visits from Russian officials while in jail is somehow proof of her importance to the Russian government, as is the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained about her detention to his US counterpart Mike Pompeo.

However, a visit from a Russian bureaucrat doesn’t sell newspapers like a juicy, sex-filled headline does. Therefore, this information was relegated to the final paragraphs of the retraction articles on Friday – an ignominious end to a damp squib of a modern spy thriller.

See also:

Accused ‘Russian agent’ Butina didn’t offer sex for job, prosecutors admit

September 10, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

US Says Assad Has Approved Gas Attack In Idlib, Setting Stage For Major Military Conflict

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 09/10/2018

At this point there’s not even so much as feigning surprise or suspense in the now sadly all-too-familiar Syria script out of Washington.

The Wall Street Journal has just published a bombshell on Sunday evening as Russian and Syrian warplanes continue bombing raids over al-Qaeda held Idlib, citing unnamed US officials who claim President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has approved the use of chlorine gas in an offensive against the country’s last major rebel stronghold.”

And perhaps more alarming is that the report details that Trump is undecided over whether new retaliatory strikes could entail expanding the attack to hit Assad allies Russia and Iran this time around.

That’s right, unnamed US officials are now claiming to be in possession of intelligence which they say shows Assad has already given the order in an absolutely unprecedented level of “pre-crime” telegraphing of events on the battlefield.

And supposedly these officials have even identified the type of chemical weapon to be used: chlorine gas.

The anonymous officials told the WSJ of “new U.S. intelligence” in what appears an eerily familiar repeat of precisely how the 2003 invasion of Iraq was sold to the American public (namely, “anonymous officials” and vague assurances of unseen intelligence)  albeit posturing over Idlib is now unfolding at an intensely more rapid pace :

Fears of a massacre have been fueled by new U.S. intelligence indicating Mr. Assad has cleared the way for the military to use chlorine gas in any offensive, U.S. officials said. It wasn’t clear from the latest intelligence if Mr. Assad also had given the military permission to use sarin gas, the deadly nerve agent used several times in previous regime attacks on rebel-held areas. It is banned under international law.

It appears Washington is now saying an American attack on Syrian government forces and locations is all but inevitable.

And according to the report, President Trump may actually give the order to attack even if there’s no claim of a chemical attack, per the WSJ :

In a recent discussion about Syria, people familiar with the exchange said, President Trump threatened to conduct a massive attack against Mr. Assad if he carries out a massacre in Idlib, the northwestern province that has become the last refuge for more than three million people and as many as 70,000 opposition fighters that the regime considers to be terrorists.

And further:

The Pentagon is crafting military options, but Mr. Trump hasn’t decided what exactly would trigger a military response or whether the U.S. would target Russian or Iranian military forces aiding Mr. Assad in Syria, U.S. officials said.

Crucially, this is the first such indication of the possibility that White House and defense officials are mulling over hitting “Russian or Iranian military forces” in what would be a monumental escalation that would take the world to the brink of World War 3.

The WSJ report cites White House discussions of a third strike — in reference to US attacks on Syria during the last two Aprils after chemical allegations were made against Damascus —  while indicating it “likely would be more expansive than the first two” and could include targeting Russia and Iran.

The incredibly alarming report continues:

During the debate this year over how to respond to the second attack, Mr. Trump’s national-security team weighed the idea of hitting Russian or Iranian targets in Syria, people familiar with the discussions said. But the Pentagon pushed for a more measured response, U.S. officials said, and the idea was eventually rejected as too risky.

A third U.S. strike likely would be more expansive than the first two, and Mr. Trump would again have to consider whether or not to hit targets like Russian air defenses in an effort to deliver a more punishing blow to Mr. Assad’s military.

Last week the French ambassador, whose country also vowed to strike Syria if what it deems credible chemical allegations emerge, said during a U.N. Security Council meeting on Idlib: “Syria is once again at the edge of an abyss.”

With Russia and Iran now in the West’s cross hairs over Idlib, indeed the entire world is again at the edge of the abyss.

developing…

September 10, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , | 2 Comments

The New York Times as Iago

Undermining Peace Efforts by Sowing Suspicion

By Diana Johnstone • Unz Review • September 7, 2018

The New York Times continues to outdo itself in the production of fake news. There is no more reliable source of fake news than the intelligence services, which regularly provide their pet outlets (NYT and WaPo ) with sensational stories that are as unverifiable as their sources are anonymous. A prize example was the August 24 report that US intelligence agencies don’t know anything about Russia’s plans to mess up our November elections because “informants close to … Putin and in the Kremlin” aren’t saying anything. Not knowing anything about something for which there is no evidence is a rare scoop.

A story like that is not designed to “inform the public” since there is no information in it. It has other purposes: to keep the “Russia is undermining our democracy” story on front pages, with the extra twist in this case of trying to make Putin distrustful of his entourage. The Russian president is supposed to wonder, who are those informants in my entourage?

But that was nothing compared to the whopper produced by the “newpaper of record” on September 5. (By the way, the “record” is stuck in the same groove: Trump bad, Putin bad – bad bad bad.) This was the sensational oped headlined “I am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration”, signed by nobody.

The letter by Mister or Ms Anonymous is very well written. By someone like, say, Thomas Friedman. That is, someone on the NYT staff. It is very cleverly composed to achieve quite obvious calculated aims. It is a masterpiece of treacherous deception.

The fictional author presents itself as a right-wing conservative shocked by Trump’s “amorality” – a category that outside the Washington swamp might include betraying the trust of one’s superior.

This anonymous enemy of amorality claims to approve of all the most extreme right-wing measures of the Trump administration as “bright spots”: deregulation, tax reform, a more robust military, “and more” – cleverly omitting mention of Trump’s immigration policy which could unduly shock the New York Times’ liberal readers. The late Senator John McCain, the model of bipartisan bellicosity, is cited as the example to follow.

The “resistance” proclaimed is solely against the facets of Trump’s foreign policy which White House insiders are said to be working diligently to undermine: peaceful relations with Russian and North Korea. Trump’s desire to avoid war is transformed into “a preference for autocrats and dictators”. (Trump gets no credit for his warlike rhetoric against Iran and close relations with Netanyahu, even though they must please Anonymous.)

The purpose of this is stunningly obvious. The New York Times has already done yeoman service in rounding up liberal Democrats and left-leaning independents in the anti-Trump lynch mob. But now the ploy is to rally conservative Republicans to the same cause of overthrowing the elected President. The letter amounts to an endorsement of future President Pence. Just get rid of Trump and you’ll have a nice, neat, ultra-right-wing Republican as President.

The Democrats may not like Pence, but they are so demented by hatred of Trump that they are visibly ready to accept the Devil himself to get rid of the sinister clown who dared defeat Hillary Clinton. Down with democracy; the votes of deplorables shouldn’t count.

That is treacherous enough, but even more despicable is the insidious design to destabilize the presidency by sowing distrust. Speaking of Trump, Mr and/or Ms Anonymous declare: “The dilemma – which he does not fully grasp – is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations” (meaning peace with Russia).

This is the Iago ploy. Shakespeare’s villain destroyed Othello by causing him to distrust those closest to him, his wife and closest associates. Like Trump in Washington, Othello, the “Moor” of Venice, was an outsider, that much easier to deceive and betray.

The New York Times is playing Iago, whispering that Putin in the Kremlin is surrounded by secret “informants”, and that Trump in the White House is surrounded by people systematically undermining his presidency. Putin is not likely to be impressed, but the trick might work with Trump, who is truly the target of open and covert enemies and whose position is much more insecure. There is certainly some undermining going on.

Was the New York Times oped written by the paper’s own writers or by the CIA? It hardly matters since they are so closely entwined.

No trick is too low for those who consider Trump an intolerable intruder on THEIR power territory. The New York Times “news” that Trump is surrounded by traitors is taken up by other media who indirectly confirm the story by speculating on “who is it?” The Boston Globe (among others) eagerly rushed in, asking:

“So who’s the author of the op-ed? It’s a question that has many people poking through the text, looking for clues. Meanwhile, the denials have come thick and fast. Here’s a brief look at some of the highest-level officials in the administration who might have a motive to write the letter.”

Isn’t it obvious that all this is designed to make Trump distrust everyone around him? Isn’t that a way to drive him toward that “crazy” where they say he already is, and which is fallback grounds for impeachment when the Mueller investigation fails to come up with anything more serious than the fact that Russian intelligent agents are intelligent agents?

The White House insider (or insiders, or whatever) use terms like “erratic behavior” and “instability” to contribute to the “Trump is insane” narrative. Insanity is the alternative pretext to the Mueller wild goose chase for divesting Trump of the powers of the presidency. If Trump responds by accusing the traitors of being traitors, that will be final proof of his mental instability. The oped claims to provide evidence that Trump is being betrayed, but if he says so, that will be taken as a sign of mental derangement. To save our exemplary democracy from itself, the elected president must be thrown out.

The military-industrial-congressional-deep state-media complex is holding its breath to breathe that great sigh of relief. The intruder is gone. Hurrah! Now we can go right on teaching the public to hate and fear the Russian enemy, so that arms contracts continue to blossom and NATO builds up its aggressive forces around Russia in hopes that this may frighten the Russians into dumping Putin in favor of a new Boris Yeltsin, ready to let the United States pursue the Clintonian plan of breaking up the Russian Federation into pieces, like the former Yugoslavia, in order to take them over one by one, with all their great natural resources.

And when this fails, as it has been failing, and will continue to fail, the United States has all those brand new first strike nuclear weapons being stationed in European NATO countries, aimed at the Kremlin. And the Russian military are not just sitting there with their own nuclear weapons, waiting to be wiped out. When nobody, not even the President of the United States, has the right to meet and talk with Russian leaders, there is only one remaining form of exchange. When dialogue is impossible, all that is left is force and violence. That is what is being promoted by the most influential media in the United States.

September 7, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 4 Comments

Skripal Case: Luke Harding’s latest work of fiction

By Kit | OffGuardian | September 6, 2018

Luke Harding likes writing books about things that he wasn’t really involved in and doesn’t really understand. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, that covers pretty much everything. His book about Snowden, for example, was beautifully taken down by Julian Assange – a person who was actually there.

He’s priming the traumatised public for another of his works, this time about Sergei Skripal. This one will probably be out by Christmas, unless he can find someone else’s work to plagiarise, in which case he might get it done sooner.

It will have a snide and not especially clever title, perhaps a sort of pun – something like the “A Poison by Any Other Name: How Russian assassins contaminated the heart of rural England”. It will relate, in jarring sub-sub-le Carre prose, a story of Russian malfeasance and evil beyond imagining, whilst depicting the whole cast as bumbling caricatures, always held up for ridicule by the author and his smug readership.

There’s an extract in The Guardian today. It’s not listed as one, but trust me, it will be in the book. It’s title, as predicted above, is sort of a pun (and will probably be a chapter heading):

Planes, trains and fake names: the trail left by Skripal suspects

You see? Like that film? I don’t really get it either but until someone else comes up with something clever he can copy, Luke is left to his own rather meagre devices.

It starts off surprisingly strong, waiting three whole sentences before lurching violently into totally unsupported conjecture:

The two men were dressed inconspicuously in jeans, fleece jackets and trainers as they boarded the flight from Moscow to Gatwick. Their names, according to their Russian passports, were Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Both were around 40 years old. Neither looked suspicious.

This is, as far as we know so far, true.

The plane trundled down the icy runway. In Moscow the temperatures had fallen below -10C, not unusual for early March. In Britain it had been snowing.

… and so is this. In fact, in googling “Moscow weather March 2018” Harding has displayed an uncharacteristically thorough approach to research that was rarely (if ever) evidenced in his previous works.

They had also packed a bottle of what appeared to be the Nina Ricci perfume Premier Jour. The box it came in was prettily decorated with flowers, it listed ingredients including alcohol and it bore the words “Made in France”.

This is where truth ends and guesses take over: there is no evidence, at all, that these two men had anything to do with the “perfume bottle” allegedly found by Charlie Rowley on June 27th and allegedly containing a powerful nerve agent. There is (as far as we know) no fingerprint or DNA evidence on the bottle, nobody saw them with the bottle, and there’s no released CCTV footage of them holding or carrying the bottle. Saying “it’s in their backpack” is meaningless without any evidence to back it up.

According to the Metropolitan police, the bottle in fact contained novichok, a lethal nerve agent developed in the late Soviet Union. The bottle had been specially made to be leakproof and had a customised applicator.

Note he doesn’t feel the need to examine, question or even verify the words of the Metropolitan Police [Seemingly, in the UK, bottles are designed to leak]. This is a recurring theme in Harding’s works – there are people who tell the truth (US) and people who lie (RUSSIANS). Evidence is a complication you can live without.

Moscow’s notorious poisons factory run by the KGB made similar devices throughout the cold war.

Did they? Because he doesn’t show any evidence this is true. One thing you can be sure of, if there had ever been even a whisper about a “modified perfume bottle” in any Soviet archive or from any “whistleblower currently living in the United States”, it would be on the front page in big black letters.

Petrov and Boshirov were aliases, detectives believe. Both men are suspected to be career officers with the GRU, Russia’s powerful and highly secretive military intelligence service.

Note use of the word “believe”, it makes regular appearances alongside it’s buddies: “suspect” and “probably”.

And yes, they “believe” they are aliases because IF they were assassins then obviously they used aliases. There’s no evidence taken from their (currently totally theoretical) visa applications that point to forgery, nobody at the time questioned their passports. As of today, we have been given no reason to think they were aliases, except reasoning backwards from assumed guilt… which isn’t how deduction works.

In fact, there’s more than enough reason to assume they aren’t aliases – Firstly, they passed the visa check, secondly their passports were never questioned, thirdly they’ve used them before (see below), and finally… just WHY would a Russian spy-come-assassin use a fake Russian name and a fake Russian passport? That’s ridiculous.

The officers’ assignment was covert. They were coming to Britain not as tourists but as assassins.

[citation needed]

Their target was Sergei Skripal, a former GRU officer who spied for British intelligence, got caught and was freed in a spy exchange in 2010. They were heading for his home in provincial Salisbury.

Luke doesn’t feel the need to dig down into the nitty gritty here – motive is a trifle, to be added in the footnotes or made up on the spur of the moment when asked at a book signing. I’m a bit more fussy than that – I feel the need to ask “Why did they release him in 2010 and then try to kill him in 2018?” If they had wanted to kill him, why not just do it when he was in prison in Russia between 2006 and 2010? If they wanted to kill him… why do it just weeks before the World Cup? What could they possibly have to gain?

Luke doesn’t know, and neither do I.

Their Aeroflot flight SU2588 touched down at 3pm on Friday 2 March. They were recorded on CCTV going through passport control, Boshirov with dark hair and a goatee beard, Petrov unshaven and wearing a blue gingham shirt. Both were carrying satchels slung casually over the shoulder.

This is all true, and completely unnecessary. It’s what we in the industry call “filler” or “padding”. Totally meaningless and useless words that do nothing but take up space. Without it, a lot of Luke’s books would only be about 700 words long.

According to police, the pair had visited the UK before.

Way to bury the lead there, Luke.

This is actually quite important isn’t it? I mean, when did they visit the UK before? Did they visit Salisbury then too? Did they have any contact with Sergei Skripal? Were they travelling under the same names? Were these visits linked with other intelligence work? Were they just holidays? What kind of assassins would use the SAME FAKE IDS ON TWO DIFFERENT OCCASIONS?

These are all very important questions, but Luke doesn’t ask them. Because Luke is a modern journalist, and they don’t interrogate the claims of the state, just report them. To Guardian reporters a question mark is just that funny squiggle next to the shift key.

From Gatwick they caught the train to London Victoria station and then the tube to east London, where they checked in to the City Stay hotel in Bow. It was a low-profile choice of accommodation. The red-brick Victorian building is next to a branch of Barclays bank, a busy train line and a wall daubed with graffiti. Across the road is a car pound and a Texaco garage.

This just more filler. Totally meaningless packaging material. The prose equivalent of All-Bran.

On hostile territory, Boshirov and Petrov operated in the manner of classic intelligence operatives.

In this instance “the manner of classic intelligence operatives” means, flying direct to London from Moscow, using Russian names and Russian passports (which you’ve used before), checking into a hotel with a CCTV camera on the front door, going straight to the hometown of an ex-double agent, leaving a Russian poison his front door even though he’s already gone out, dumping your unused poison in a charity bin on the high street, going back to your hotel, smearing poison around that too even though you already dumped it, and then flying directly back to Moscow without even waiting to see if the plan worked and the target is dead.

This, in Luke’s head, is ace intelligence work.

On the day of the hit, according to detectives, the pair made a similar journey, taking the 8.05am train from Waterloo to Salisbury and arriving at 11.48am.

Yes, they arrived at 11.48, making it absolutely pointless to put poison on the Skripal’s door, as they had already gone out.

The perfume bottle was probably concealed in a light grey backpack carried by Petrov.

It was “probably concealed” in that backpack because, as I said above, there’s no evidence either of those men ever knew the perfume bottle existed. You never see it in their possession.

Oh, and the backpack would have to contain TWO bottles of perfume – because the police aren’t sure the bottle Rowley found 3 months later was the same bottle, and Rowley reported it was unopened and wrapped in cellophane. Perhaps Luke should have read the details of the case instead of trolling IMDB looking for movie titles with “plane” in them or googling “insouciant” to see if he was using it right.

From Salisbury station the two men set off on foot. It was a short walk of about a mile to Skripal’s semi-detached home in Christie Miller Road.

… which doesn’t matter, because the Skripals weren’t there. They left at 9.15 and there is no evidence they ever returned.

At Skripal’s house the Russians smeared or sprayed novichok on to the front door handle, police say.

… which doesn’t matter, because the Skripals weren’t there. They left at 9.15 and there is no evidence they ever returned.

It doesn’t matter if Borishov and Petrov re-tiled the bathroom with novichok grouting or hid novichok in the battery compartment of Sergei’s TV remote or replaced all his lightbulbs with novichok bombs that explode when you use the clapper…. according to everything we’ve been told so far Sergei and Julia were literally never in that house again.

Luke seems to write a lot about this case, considering he is barely acquainted with the most basic facts of it.

The moment went unobserved

True. There is not a single piece of footage, photograph or eyewitness placing these men within a hundred feet of the Skripals, or their house. The “moment went unobserved” is an incredibly dishonest way of phrasing this, “the moment is entirely theoretical” is rather fairer. Or, if you want to be honest “it’s possible none of this happened”.

At some point on their walk back they must have tossed away the bottle, which at this point was too dangerous to try to smuggle back through customs.

It’s all falling into place perfectly isn’t it?

At some point the two men, who we never see holding or carrying the bottle, must have thrown it away because three months later someone else found it.

They took it through customs once but couldn’t a second time, because reasons.

Also one of them was smiling a sort of “I just poisoned somebody” smile:

At 1.05pm the men were recorded in Fisherton Street on their way back to the station. They appeared more relaxed, Petrov grinning even.

Those evil bastards.

By the time Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found collapsed on a park bench in the centre of Salisbury later that afternoon, the poisoners were gone.

No Luke: By the time Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found collapsed on a park bench in the centre of Salisbury later that afternoon, the ALLEGED poisoners were gone.

Alleged is an important word for example, there is a marked difference between being an ALLEGED plagiarist, and being a plagiarist.

The visitors were captured on CCTV one more time, at Heathrow airport. It was 7.28pm and both men were going through security, Petrov first, wheeling a small black case. In his right hand was a shiny red object, his Russian passport. Police believe the passport was genuine, his name not. In other words, that it was a sophisticated espionage operation carried out by a state or state entities.

You see? Nobody thought the passport was fake, which means it was a really good fake. So the Russian state must have been in on it. This is known as an unfalsifiable hypothesis. If the passport did look fake, that would be evidence that the men were spies… and therefore the Russian state was in on it.

Harding has created a narrative where there is literally no development that could ever challenge his conclusions.

Seemingly, the GRU plan – executed two weeks before Russia’s presidential election – had worked perfectly.

This is an example of the cum hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy – two things happen at the same time, therefore they happen for the same reason. It’s a maneuver we at OffG refer to as “the Harding”, where you state two separate assertions or facts one after the other in such a way as to imply a relationship, without ever making a solid statement. I’ll give you an example:

Luke Harding was born in 1968, mere weeks before the brutal assassination of Robert Kennedy.

Harding is suggesting some sort of connection between the election and the poisoning. He can’t STATE it, because then he has to explain his reasoning – and there isn’t any. Putin, and Russia as a whole, had nothing to gain from poisoning an ex-spy they had released nearly a decade earlier, especially on the eve of a Presidential election and mere weeks before the World Cup. There’s no argument to be made, so he doesn’t attempt to make one, he just makes a snide and baseless insinuation.

In his defense, Luke might genuinely believe it, cum hoc ergo propter hoc is a favorite amongst paranoid personalities, of which Luke is definitely a prime example.

Vladimir Putin, the man whom a public inquiry found in 2016 had “probably” signed off on the operation to kill Litvinenko. The UK security services say a “body of evidence” points to the GRU.

“Probably” is also a big word. For example, there’s a marked difference between “probably being a plagiarist” and “being a plagiarist”.

It seems clear that Moscow continues to view Britain as a playground for undercover operations and is relatively insouciant about the consequences, diplomatic and political. The Skripal attack may have misfired. But the message, mingling contempt and arrogance, is there for all to see: we can smite our enemies whenever and wherever we want, and there is nothing you can do about it.

This is the second time Luke has used the word “insouciant” in two days, which means that word of the day calendar was probably a sound investment, but he forgot to flip it over this morning.

Other than that, this final paragraph is nothing but paranoia.

The Russians were TRYING to make it obvious, to send a message. But were also lazy and arrogant. And yet also left no solid evidence because they are experts at espionage. They had no motive except being mean, and couldn’t even be bothered to make sure they did it right. They want us all to know they did it, but will never admit it.

The actual truth of the situation can be summed up in a few bullet points. Currently:

  • There is no evidence these men were using forged documents.
  • There is no evidence these men were travelling under aliases or assumed names.
  • There is no evidence these men ever had any contact with Sergei Skripal’s house.
  • There is no evidence these men ever had any contact with Sergei Skripal or his daughter.
  • There is no evidence these men were Russian intelligence assets or had any military training.
  • There is no evidence these men ever possessed or had any contact with the perfume bottle found by Charlie Rowley on June 27th.
  • They have visited the UK before, not on intelligence business (as far as we know).
  • Their movements don’t align with the timeline of Skripal’s illness.

The entire narrative is created around half a dozen screen caps of two (allegedly) Russian men, not behaving in any way illegally or even suspiciously. All the rest is fiction, created by a hack to service an agenda. This isn’t one of those “You couldn’t make it up” stories, it’s not that incredible. It’s just insulting and stupid.

You could make it up, and he did.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment