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‘US statements are fake, not Libyan money’: Moscow rebuffs accusations of printing counterfeit dinars

RT | May 30, 2020

Moscow printed dinars for Libya in accordance with a government contract, so Washington’s claims of it being fake money have nothing to do with reality, according to Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

The US State Department announced on Friday that $1.1 billion worth of “counterfeit, Russian-printed Libyan currency” was seized in Malta earlier this week.

Moscow confirmed the dinars were indeed printed by Russian state-owned company Goznak, but it was done in accordance with a contract it signed with the Central Bank of Libya in 2015. The order was fully paid for by the Libyan side, it was announced.

Following the NATO-backed removal of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and years of chaos, Libya is now run by two rival governments, which both have their own central banks. Moscow said it sent money to Benghazi, which is controlled by the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar, because the head of the local bank was appointed by the democratically elected parliament. The seized money was essential for stabilizing the troubled Libyan economy, the ministry added. “Therefore, it’s the American statements that are false, but not the Libyan dinars.”

Washington, which backs the UN recognized Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), has labeled the LNA and its bank “an illegal parallel entity.”

Moscow reiterated its stance that the conflict in Libya should only be solved behind the negotiations table, calling upon the sides to lay down arms and start talking.

May 30, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

AFRICOM’s gambit: Why a US military command is waging a ‘media war’ on Americans

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | May 28, 2020

A regional US military command tasked with hunting down terrorists across Africa seems to be far more interested in waging psychological operations targeting the American public, the Pentagon and the White House. How curious.

Most countries in the world divide their own territory in military areas of responsibility. Not so the US, whose combatant commands span the entire globe – and beyond. One of these, the Africa Command (AFRICOM) is responsible for the entire African continent – with the exception of Egypt, which somehow ended up in the realm of the neighboring Central Command (CENTCOM).

AFRICOM is one of the US combatant commands that span the entire planet, as well as space now ©  Wikipedia

Tasked with going after terrorist groups like Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), AFRICOM has recently focused its efforts on using friendly journalists, media leak and bombastic social media statements to bypass its military and civilian superiors and lobby in Washington for more power, influence and money.

“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action,” goes a quote attributed to James Bond author Ian Fleming. So it was definitely noticeable when AFRICOM made a third bid to attract attention in under a month.

On Wednesday, the left-progressive magazine Nation published an exclusive story based on an AFRICOM document showing that the command was worried about President Donald Trump freezing US funding for the World Health Organization and how China might exploit that for expanding its influence in Africa. Journalist Ken Klippenstein says the document, dated April 23, was leaked to him.

The leak came only a day after AFRICOM posted a series of tweets accusing Russia of sending fighter jets to Libya. One of them quoted its commander, General Charles Townsend, saying that they “watched as Russia flew fourth generation jet fighters to Libya – every step of the way.”

Except no proof of this was actually offered, and AFRICOM’s statement qualified the claim with weasel-words such as “assessed” and “likely.” Russian officials have dismissed the claim as ridiculous, especially the part about supposedly camouflaging the fighters’ origins by giving them a fresh paint job in Syria.

AFRICOM has been very sore about Moscow’s alleged military presence in Libya – where its own troops withdrew from in March 2019, per Trump’s orders – claiming that Russia is “destabilizing” Libya and making worse the “migration crisis affecting Europe.” In Tuesday’s statement, it accused Russia of not being “interested in what is best for the Libyan people” but “working to achieve their own strategic goals instead.”

That’s a bit rich, considering that it was the US and its NATO allies that carried out the 2011 regime-change intervention, turning Libya from the most prosperous country in Africa into a hellhole infested with warlords, terrorists and slavers ever since.

While leaking to The Nation appealed to the American left, AFRICOM has previously reached out to the right as well. Back in April, the command used a friendly reporter at the conservative Washington Examiner to claim that the (alleged) Russian presence in Libya is “more dangerous than ISIS,” which actually operated in Libya at one point in time.

“We believe that there will be a need in the future, an opportunity for us to get back into Libya again,” the unnamed official was actually quoted as saying at one point, giving away the endgame.

Between bombastic tweets, anonymous insinuations to friendly conservative reporters and leaks to liberal ones, the picture that emerges is of AFRICOM waging a psychological operation (psyop), a propaganda war on the US public bypassing the Joint Chiefs, the Pentagon and even the commander in chief himself to lobby for a bigger piece of the military pie.

This may seem far-fetched, but it isn’t strictly speaking without precedent. Some might remember General Phillip ‘Bwana’ Breedlove, who headed the European Command until May 2016. Emails from his personal account – published in July 2016, following his retirement from the US military – revealed months of effort to lobby the Pentagon and the White House to give EUCOM more attention, including spinning tall tales about a “Russian invasion” of Ukraine. The emails also revealed how Washington-based lobbyists identified the right way of approaching certain officials and the best channels for influencing the Obama administration when it came to Ukraine – notably, Vice President Joe Biden.

At one point, Breedlove even accused Moscow of “weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve” – just as AFRICOM is doing now.

All of which raises the question: when did combatant commands – an organization system invented during WWII to streamline command, control and communication between various branches of the military – morph into de facto feudal fiefdoms, with their commanders as barons more focused on currying favor in Washington than doing their actual job in the field?

In AFRICOM’s case, that job literally involves hunting down terrorists – or helping locals do so themselves, since the command is headquartered in Germany and has only a few actual bases in Africa. Not that any of that is going well at all. So AFRICOM shifted its focus on the home front instead.

One possible explanation may be money. Back in February, a rumor began spreading around Washington that the Trump administration was considering “zeroing out” AFRICOM’s budget. Both the rumor itself and the reported reactions to it have been hotly denied, but that might just help shed some light on Townsend’s gambit. As with any bureaucracy, survival is the highest priority.

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

May 28, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

Russian Embassy Denounces US Grant Designed to Find External Enemy for Pandemic Failings

Sputnik -May 22, 2020

WASHINGTON – Russia’s Embassy in the United States denounced a US State Department grant that offers $250,000 for manufacturing health disinformation allegations in order to blame a foreign enemy for Washington’s own shortfalls.

“Such grants reveal the true mood, thoughts and way of thinking of partners from the State Department. Even during the most difficult global epidemic, when we, both Russia and the United States, lose thousands of citizens and should stand together, efforts are aimed at finding an external enemy. He is supposed to be blamed – entirely or partially – for own deficiencies,” the Embassy wrote on Facebook on Friday.

It said there are “influential Russophobic forces in Washington” who never stop their destructive activities, ignoring opposite signals that come from US President Donald Trump.

According to the tender, announced by the State Department’s Bureau of Global Public Affairs, the funds will be granted to an organization with relevant experience “to produce a report on Russian and Soviet health-related disinformation campaigns.”

The Embassy said that it’s already possible to predict that the investigation will target RT TV network and Sputnik news agency.

May 22, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

Court rejects OAN suit over MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s claim about ‘Russian propaganda’

‘Rhetorical hyperbole’ and NOT FACT

© Global Look /ZUMA Press /Michael Brochstein
RT | May 23, 2020

A US judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit by One America News Network against MSNBC over Rachel Maddow’s claims that OAN was “literally” Russian propaganda, ruling that her segment was merely “an opinion” and “exaggeration.”

OAN sued the liberal talk show host and MSNBC for defamation, demanding over $10 million in damages, back in September 2019. The lawsuit was based on the July 22 episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, where Maddow launched a scathing broadside against the conservative television network, labeling it “the most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America” and “really literally paid Russian propaganda.”

In the segment, Maddow cited a story by The Daily Beast’s Kevin Poulsen about OAN’s Kristian Rouz, who has previously contributed to Sputnik as a freelance author. Toeing the general US mainstream line on the Russian media, be it Sputnik or RT, Poulsen branded the Russian news agency “the Kremlin’s official propaganda outlet” and said Rouz was once on its “payroll.”

Shortly after MSNBC’s star talent peddled the claim, OAN rejected the allegations as “utterly and completely false.” The outlet, which is owned by the Herring Networks, a small California-based family company, said that it “has never been paid or received a penny from Russia or the Russian government,” with its only funding coming from the Herring family.

In their bid to win the case, Maddow herself, MSNBC, Comcast Corporation and NBCUniversal Media did not address the accusation itself – namely, that her claim about OAN was false – but opted to invoke the First Amendment, insisting that the rant should be protected as free speech.

Siding with Maddow, the California district court defined Maddow’s show as a mix of “news and opinions,” concluding that the manner in which the progressive host blurted out the accusations “makes it more likely that a reasonable viewer would not conclude that the contested statement implies an assertion of objective fact.”

“The statement constitutes opinion and rhetorical hyperbole protected under the First Amendment.”

The court said that while Maddow “truthfully” related the story by the Daily Beast, the statement about OAN being funded by the Kremlin was her “opinion” and “exaggeration” of the said article.

While the legal trick helped Maddow to get off the hook without ever trying to defend her initial statement, conservative commentators on social media wasted no time in pointing out that dodging a payout to OAN literally meant admitting that Maddow was not, in fact, news.

May 22, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

News Stories Avoid Naming Israel

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • May 19, 2020

There are two stories that seem to have been under-reported in the past couple of weeks. The first involves Michael Flynn’s dealings with the Russian United Nations Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. And the second describes yet another bit of espionage conducted by a foreign country directed against the United States. Both stories involve the State of Israel.

The bigger story is, of course, the dismissal by Attorney General William Barr of the criminal charges against former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn based on malfeasance by the FBI investigators. The curious aspect of the story as it is being related by the mainstream media is that it repeatedly refers to Flynn as having unauthorized contacts with the Russian Ambassador and then having lied about it. The implication is that there was something decidedly shady about Flynn talking to the Russians and that the Russians were up to something.

In reality, the part left out of the story is that the phone call to Kislyak on December 22, 2016, was made by Flynn at the direction of Jared Kushner, who in turn had been approached by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu had learned that the Obama Administrating was going to abstain on a United Nations vote condemning the Israeli settlements policy, meaning that for the first time in years a U.N. resolution critical of Israel would pass without drawing a U.S. veto. Kushner, acting for Netanyahu, asked Flynn to contact each delegate from the various countries on the Security Council to delay or kill the resolution. Flynn agreed to do so, which included a call to the Russians. Kislyak took the call but did not agree to veto Security Council Resolution 2334, which passed unanimously on December 23rd.

In taking the phone calls from a soon-to-be senior American official who would within weeks be part of a new administration in Washington, the Russians did nothing wrong, but the media is acting like there was some kind of Kremlin conspiracy seeking to undermine U.S. democracy. It would not be inappropriate to have some conversations with an incoming government team and Kislyak also did nothing that might be regarded as particularly responsive to Team Trump overtures since he voted contrary to Flynn’s request.

The phone call made at the request of Israel was neither benign or ethical as the Barack Administration was still in power and managing the nation’s foreign policy. At the time, son-in-law Jared Kushner was Trump’s point man on the Middle East. He and his family have extensive ties both to Israel and to Netanyahu personally, to include Netanyahu’s staying at the Kushner family home in New York. The Kushner Family Foundation has funded some of Israel’s illegal settlements and also a number of conservative political groups in that country. Jared has served as a director of that foundation and it is reported that he failed to disclose the relationship when he filled out his background investigation sheet for a security clearance. All of which suggests that if you are looking for possible foreign government collusion with the incoming Trumpsters, look no further.

And it should be observed that the Israelis were not exactly shy about their disapproval of Obama and their willingness to express their views to the incoming Trump. Kushner went far beyond merely disagreeing over an aspect of foreign policy as he was actively trying to clandestinely subvert and reverse a decision made by his own legally constituted government. His closeness to Netanyahu made him, in intelligence terms, a quite likely Israeli government agent of influence, even if he didn’t quite see himself that way.

Kushner’s actions, as well as those of Flynn, would most certainly have been covered by the Logan Act of 1799, which bars private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments on behalf of the United States and also could be construed as a “conspiracy against the United States.” But in spite of all that the investigation went after Flynn instead of Kushner. As Kushner is Jewish and certainly could be accused of dual loyalty in extremis, that part of the story obviously makes many in the U.S. Establishment and media uncomfortable, so it was and continues to be both ignored and expunged from the record as quickly as possible.

The second story, which has basically been made to disappear, relates to spying by Israel against critics in the United States. The revelation that Israel was again using its telecommunications skills to spy on foreigners came from an Oakland California federal court lawsuit initiated by Facebook (FB) against the Israeli surveillance technology company NSO Group. FB claimed that NSO has been using servers located in the United States to infect with spyware hundreds of smartphones being used by attorneys, journalists, human rights activists, critics of Israel and even of government officials. NSO allegedly used WhatsApp, a messaging app owned by FB, to hack into the phones and install malware that would enable the company to monitor what was going on with the devices. It did so by employing networks of remote servers located in California to enter the accounts.

NSO has inevitably claimed that they do indeed provide spyware, but that it is sold to clients who themselves operate it with the “advice and technical support to assist customers in setting up” but it also promotes its products as being “used to stop terrorism, curb violent crime, and save lives.” It also asserts that its software cannot be used against U.S. phone numbers.

Facebook, which did its own extensive research into NSO activity, alleges that NSO rented a Los Angeles-based server from a U.S. company called QuadraNet that it then used to launch 720 hacks on smartphones and other devices. It further claims in the court filing that the company reverse-engineering WhatsApp, using an program that it developed to access WhatsApp’s servers and deploy “its spyware against approximately 1,400 targets” before “…covertly transmit[ting] malicious code through WhatsApp servers and inject[ing]” spyware into telephones without the knowledge of the owners.”

The filing goes on to assert that the “Defendants had no authority to access WhatsApp’s servers with an imposter program, manipulate network settings, and commandeer the servers to attack WhatsApp users. That invasion of WhatsApp’s servers and users’ devices constitutes unlawful computer hacking.”

NSO, which is largely staffed by former (sic) Israeli intelligence officers, had previously been in the news for its proprietary spyware known as Pegasus, which “can gather information about a mobile phone’s location, access its camera, microphone and internal hard drive, and covertly record emails, phone calls and text messages.” Pegasus was reportedly used in the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Adnan Kashoggi in Istanbul last year and it has more recently been suggested as a resource for tracking coronavirus distance violators. Outside experts have accused the company of selling its technology and expertise to countries that have used it to spy on dissidents, journalists and other critics.

Israel routinely exploits the access provided by its telecommunications industry to spy on the host countries where those companies operate. The companies themselves report regularly back to Mossad contacts and the technology they provide routinely has a “backdoor” for secretly accessing the information accessible through the software. In fact, Israel conducts espionage and influence operations both directly and through proxies against the United States more aggressively than any other “friendly” country, which once upon a time included being able to tap into the “secure” White House phones used by Bill Clinton to speak with Monica Lewinsky.

Last September, it was revealed that the placement of technical surveillance devices by Israel in Washington D.C. was clearly intended to target cellphone communications to and from the Trump White House. As the president frequently chats with top aides and friends on non-secure phones, the operation sought to pick up conversations involving Trump with the expectation that the security-averse president would say things off the record that might be considered top secret.

A Politico report detailed how “miniature surveillance devices” referred to as “Stingrays” were used to imitate regular cell phone towers to fool phones being used nearby into providing information on their locations and identities. According to the article, the devices are referred to by technicians as “international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use.”

Over one year ago, government security agencies discovered the electronic footprints that indicated the presence of the surveillance devices near the White House. Forensic analysis involved dismantling the devices to let them “tell you a little about their history, where the parts and pieces come from, how old are they, who had access to them, and that will help get you to what the origins are.” One source observed afterwards that “It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible.”

So two significant stories currently making the rounds have been bowdlerized and disappeared to make the Israeli role in manipulating and spying against the United States go away. They are only two of many stories framed by a Zionist dominated media to control the narrative in a way favorable to the Jewish state. One would think that having a president of the United States who is the most pro-Israel ever, which is saying a great deal in and of itself, would be enough, but unfortunately when dealing with folks like Benjamin Netanyahu there can never be any restraint when dealing with the “useful idiots” in Washington.

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

May 19, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Biological Warfare and Covid19

By Gilbert Doctorow | May 17, 2020

In the ‘fake news’ exchanges between China and the USA, the question of whose biological warfare lab may have developed and lost control over the coronavirus has figured prominently, although most intelligence agencies seem to agree that the virus had natural causes and was not manufactured by humans anywhere.

At the same time, it seems to me that no one is talking about how nations having cutting edge experience in biological warfare can apply that knowledge to combatting the virus. In Western media there is one tiny exception that is not properly drawn out and explained: namely the mention that the US Army is contributing to efforts of private pharmaceutical concerns to develop a vaccine.

Meanwhile, the fact that the Russian military is being brought into action on the Covid19 front hardly figures in Western coverage, except as related to the Russian mercy mission to Lombardy, when giant Russian freight aircraft brought in equipment and military medics to assist the vastly overwhelmed Italian medical establishment to cope with the tide of infected, ailing and dying. At that point there were some snide comments to the effect that the Russians were in Italy on an intelligence gathering mission, not truly humanitarian in motivation.

It escaped mention in the media, though surely did not escape notice in our intelligence services that the Russian mission to Italy was a powerful demonstration of what Russia’s military has learned in the domain of biological warfare. Italian journalists expressed their amazement at the specialized motorized equipment that the Russians brought to disinfect the towns, from streets to building by building, often using for interior work not chemicals but oxygen as the sanitizing agent.

If Britain, for example, has any similar insights in combatting biological agents at its Porton Down facility (so well publicized by the Skripal case), then we have heard nothing about these capabilities being harnessed for combatting the ongoing pandemic.

I make the foregoing remarks about Russia’s very special knowledge in the realm of biologicals because it is a possible additional reason why the country so far has an astonishingly low mortality rate compared to most countries in Western Europe and the USA. Perhaps from the same pool of knowledge, it would appear that the Russians are getting much better results with their use of ventilators to treat the worst affected cases of Covid19.

We have heard a lot about ventilators in the past two months everywhere in Europe and the USA. They were said to be in grave shortage in New York as the epidemic approached its peak there. What no one has talked much about is how capable our medical practitioners have been to achieve life-saving results with these devices. If I am not mistaken, there was mention several weeks ago that 88% of those put on ventilators in New York died. Here in Belgium it appears to be more than 50% die.

Does it have to be that way, or is it the lack of know-how in using these sophisticated devices to treat Covid19 that explains these shocking results? A very interesting program on Russian television several weeks ago indicated that they have been experimenting with the gas mixtures used in ventilators, in particular with the volume of helium versus oxygen to find the right balance whereby the oxygen is not blocked by the virus but in turn purges the virus from the lungs and allows the oxygen levels in the blood to return to levels sustaining life. We do not hear a peep about these issues in the Belgian media, for example.

If I may sum up, when the crisis passes and our journalists and civic activists begin their assessment of what has gone wrong in Western Europe to allow the levels of mortality to reach the shocking levels we have seen, let us hope attention will be given to the questions I have raised here, as well as to the issue I discussed yesterday:  why our national governments did not open their checkbooks and order the urgent construction of dedicated state of the art hospitals to treat coronavirus patients well apart from the normal hospital establishments which were overtaken by the virus and ceased to perform their essential services for the non-infected population in oncology, in cardio-vascular medicine and the like. The Russians and the Chinese have done precisely that.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2020

[If you found value in this article, you should be interested to read my latest collection of essays entitled A Belgian Perspective on International Affairs, published in November 2019 and available in e-book, paperback and hardbound formats from amazon, barnes & noble, bol.com, fnac, Waterstones and other online retailers. Use the “View Inside” tab on the book’s webpages to browse.]

May 17, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Russia’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic: a busy week

By Gilbert Doctorow | May 15, 2020

This week started with a major presentation by President Putin of Russia’s plans for gradually lessening the strictures of lockdown, restarting the economy and restoring normal life as the epidemic in the country passes stabilization, which was just reached, and enters the ebb phase of contagion, hospitalization and death. The setting was a virtual conference with major players in the government responsible for managing the health crisis. However, since Putin’s lengthy speech which came to 17 typed pages was televised live by all Russian state channels, it could just as easily be called an address to the nation.  The main focus was on the economy and assistance to citizens and to business.

That speech has received little attention in the West and I will come back to it in a follow-up tomorrow, because it tells us a great deal about the guiding principles of Russian governance and its ‘social economy.’

In this essay I deal with the second major appearance by Putin this week dedicated to the coronavirus which took place this afternoon, Friday, 15 May. It also was carried live by all state television channels. It also was nominally remarks made within a virtual intragovernmental conference. And it also was a major policy statement that merits our greatest attention, not only for what it says about Russia, but more importantly for what it says about us, in the West, and how we are badly handling the challenges of the pandemic because of our stubborn and proud disparagement of China.

I listened closely to two of the reports to Putin from the ‘regions’, meaning territories outside Moscow on what is being done right now to handle the growing case load of coronavirus sufferers, and Putin’s comments which may be characterized as ‘programmatic’ insofar as they seek to use the ongoing experience in combatting the coronavirus to deliver, at long last, a substantial rebuilding of medical infrastructure across the country with the help of the military.

The regions reporting were St Petersburg, which is still relatively healthy compared to Moscow but has seen a growing number of infections and hospitalizations in the past few weeks, and Voronezh, which more typically represents the Russian provinces and till now has had a very low level of infection, but is preparing for the worst. In each case the governor read a report of what is being done to build dedicated hospitals for treatment of coronavirus cases both by the local administration and with the help of the Ministry of Defense, represented by the senior officer standing at their side who is overseeing construction of modular hospitals by military personnel and staffed by military doctors.

In Petersburg, which is Russia’s second largest city with a population of approximately 5 million, there are specialized hospitals for light cases with 1,000 beds being completed and specialized hospitals with Intensive Care Units in the size of 200 to 600 beds also reaching completion.  A similar approach is being implemented in Voronezh.

The involvement of the Armed Forces in building some of these hospitals is very significant, because they have developed modular solutions that can be applied uniformly across the vast continent that is Russia.

In a way, these projects are similar to what Moscow did as first mover when it opened the state of the art hospital at the city’s periphery in a district called Kommunard. The logic is to remove the coronavirus patients from the general hospital system. This leaves the general hospitals free to continue to serve their traditional ‘clientele,’ the community of those with other ailments. It focuses training, equipment, medicines in locations where maximum attention can be given to ensuring sanitary conditions that protect medical staff and encourage application of well-rehearsed solutions to the challenges of each patient.

Now where would the Russians have gotten this idea from? It is not hard to imagine. We need only think back at the response of the Chinese authorities following the recognition that the outbreak in Wuhan posed existential questions for the local population, indeed for the nation as a whole if it were not contained and wiped out. We all were stunned at the construction of the first specialized facility to deal with the epidemic in one week!

The Russians are less “Stakhanovite” these days, and the hospital projects mentioned above are being executed on a 6 week schedule. But they are being implemented at the highest technical level. Putin gave the figure 5 million rubles as the cost of one hospital bed in the new units; that comes to $60,000 and in Russia’s price equivalency to the dollar probably represents a US cost double or triple the nominal ruble cost. So they are not skimping, not planning to put the incoming patients on matrasses on the floor as happened in Bergamo, Italy.

We also know from the day’s press, that the Russians are now entering into mass production of the few medicines which the Chinese told them proved to be effective in treating their coronavirus patients. Which ones Putin did not say.

And now I must ask, how does Russia’s borrowing from the Chinese playbook compare to what we see around us in Western Europe and the United States? Here China comes up in the coronavirus story only as a punching bag, the people who ‘kept us in the dark’ about the dangers of this plague, not as providers of solutions and advice from their own first and successful experience snuffing it out.

The question I must pose is this:  are the Russians being especially clever, or are we being especially stupid?

The segregation of coronavirus patients from the general flows of the ailing contrasts dramatically with what has been going on in Belgium, for example. Here about 100 hospitals around the country have been sharing the aggravated cases of coronavirus requiring hospitalization. This population reached about 5,000 at its peak with nearly one third in Intensive Care, of which to two thirds required ventilators. At the peak a couple of weeks ago, the number of patients in the last category came close to the national inventory of ventilators, a bit more than 1,000. Thankfully, the numbers in the past ten days have come down sharply and there are now half the number of hospital beds taken by virus sufferers.

However, at the peak, all of Belgium’s hospitals resembled war zones with extraterritorial suited medics at the entrances. Normal patients did not have to think twice to shun them. Accordingly, even non-elective surgery was being cancelled; chemotherapy patients were staying at home, etc. This is one element of the mortality brought on by the coronavirus that no one has been recording. Moreover, one has to ask about the quality of medical attention when 100 hospitals, mostly without any experience in epidemics, in virology, were being used to treat Covid19 patients. This had to be a contributor to the body bag count that went into official statistics.

Finally, in closing ,a word about body counts.

In the past several days there have been news reports in Western media accusing Russia of under-reporting deaths in the country due to the coronavirus epidemic. In particular, I can point to articles in The New York Times and in the Financial Times.

With respect to the New York Times the piquant title given to one respective article pointing to a “Coronavirus Mystery” – is fully in line with the daily dose of anti-Russian propaganda that this most widely read American newspaper has been carrying on for years now.  A couple of weeks ago the same paper carried an article by one of its veteran science journalists accusing President Putin of using the coronavirus to undermine American science, and medicine in particular. That article was totally baseless, a collection of slanderous fake news.

With respect to the accusation of intentional underreporting of mortality figures in Russia, the New York Times was actually borrowing from the Financial Times, which stated that Russian deaths from the virus may be 70 per cent higher than the official numbers. In both cases, even if the underreporting were true, and this is very debatable, it obscures the fact that both official and unofficial numbers are miniscule compared to the devastation wrought by the virus elsewhere in Europe (Italy, Spain and the UK) or in the USA, where the numbers continue to spike. Russia has either a couple of thousand deaths or something closer to three thousand. Compare that to the official deaths ten times greater in the worst hit European countries having overall populations less than half or a third of Russia’s. So the accusation of 72% underreporting in Russia is a debating point that can easily be shown to be deceptive if not irrelevant.

However, there is a missing element here: context. The whole issue of underreporting Covid19 deaths has been reported on by the Financial Times for a good number of countries, not just Russia. Indeed, their first concern has been to show that the official numbers posted by the UK government, now in the range of 30,000 are a fraction of the actual deaths in the UK (more than 50,000) if one uses not the death certificates case by case but the overall excess of deaths in a given month in 2020 compared to the norm in the given country over the 3 preceding years. The New York Times in its typical cherry picking approach to find what is worst to say about Russia ignores this background of FT reporting.

Why is there underreporting? There are many possible reasons, the chief one is the varying methodology used by the various countries to allocate a given death to the virus.

By curious coincidence this very issue was addressed in today’s press conference on the pandemic by the Belgian Ministry of Public Health. As is widely reported, Belgium has one of the world’s highest rates of mortality from Covid19, very close to the figures in Spain and Italy. This has been reported in the local press and the Ministry today chose to respond. As they noted, Belgium is one of the few countries to report ALL Covid-19 deaths, meaning both those in hospital and those in care homes (mostly old age homes). In Belgium, as in France, deaths have been equally split between these two sets of institutions. Almost no deaths have occurred at home or, as they say, ‘in the community.’ Moreover, deaths are attributed to Covid-19 if the symptoms were there even if no proper test was carried out to confirm this.

In total, Belgium death count today stands close to 9,000 for a general population of 11.8 million.  High, but still substantially lower than the mortality in New York, for example, whichever way you count. And, to put the picture into a less dire context, it is reported that each winter Belgium experiences about 5,000 deaths attributable to the seasonal flu. Of course, the flu does not lay waste to the medical establishment, and there you have the difference that makes the ongoing Russian approach to Covid19 so relevant.

© Gilbert Doctorow 2020

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 10 Comments

Covid-19: For Western mainstream media, Russia fails even when it succeeds

By Anna Belkina | RT | May 14, 2020

The Russian Foreign Ministry has demanded that two of the most prominent foreign newspapers, the New York Times and the Financial Times, retract their stories stating that Russia is concealing the real Covid-19 death toll.

Even if the NYT and FT were correct in their claims, Russia would still be doing far better than the vast majority of large industrialized nations, including the US and UK.

As of the morning of May 14, Russia’s Covid-19 death toll stands at 2,212 out of 242,271 recorded cases, or 0.9 percent. This number is not disputed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has continuously monitored the situation in the country. To compare, the death rate for the novel coronavirus is six percent in the US, seven percent in Canada, 14 percent in the UK, and 10 percent or more in Italy, Spain, France and Sweden. You know, the so-called civilized countries.

There is not a hint of evidence that the Russian government has covered up the coronavirus toll. Yet, foreign media are skeptical of Russia’s numbers. Perhaps because in their worldview, Russia is not allowed to be anything but a grim and miserable failure at everything. Any fact contradicting this narrative is Kremlin propaganda.

To wit, the UK-based, Japanese-owned Financial Times has analyzed the recent all-cause mortality data coming out of Moscow and Saint Petersburg vis-a-vis the cities’ historical averages. It has concluded that Russia’s actual Covid-19 death toll is around 70 percent higher than the officially reported figures.

Meanwhile, the New York Times – headquartered in the city where nurses had to wear garbage bags for the lack of protective equipment, and where the local government began prospecting parks as possible burial grounds due to the staggering Covid-19 body count of nearly 15,000 – claimed that Russia’s real death toll could be “possibly almost three times higher than the official death toll.”

Here’s what the Times doesn’t tell you: Even if their worst case scenario for Russia were true, the country’s Covid-19 death rate would still be one of the lowest among large industrialized nations. Even having been tripled by the Times’ accounting, the resulting 2.7 percent still would be an impressive healthcare result compared to six percent in the US. It  would still be below Japan’s 4.1 percent and barely above the world’s main coronavirus ‘success story’, South Korea, currently at 2.3 percent. Moscow, a city with 50 percent more residents than NYC, would still have a body count five times lower even if all the extra deaths the Times is writing about were attributed Covid-19.

NB: While there are other large nations with smaller fatality numbers, such as India and Brazil, they are testing their populations at levels lower by a factor of tens, and suffer from weaker healthcare infrastructure overall. Their official recorded Covid-19 deaths therefore are likely not providing an accurate portrayal of the situation on the ground, a concern echoed by the WHO. Russia currently tests at the rate of ~40,000 per 1 million people, or well ahead of the US, UK, Canada, France, Sweden, and other OECD countries, and on par with Germany, Norway, and Switzerland, Europe’s ‘model nations’ in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York Times is not interested in exploring the reasons for Russia’s promising performance, be they grounded in the country’s demographics or familial habitation traditions, legacy healthcare system or innovative scientific approaches, historical experiences with respiratory illnesses or modern infrastructure management.

It buries the lede, brushing aside its own note that “underreporting of fatalities has been observed in many other countries, where subsequent data reveal large upticks in deaths compared to the same period in previous years,” and charts showing Spain and England as countries that display a change in historical mortality trend lines nearly identical to Russia’s.

©  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/11/world/coronavirus-news.html

New York’s own numbers, according to the US Centers for Disease Control “may be thousands of fatalities worse than the tally kept by the city and state.” Moscow’s Department of Health, by the way, has already addressed the questions about the city’s cause-of-death accounting.

Instead, the Times pivots to its favorite bête noire – malevolent Russian propaganda. Their purported 300-percent greater coronavirus death toll in Russia “contrasts sharply with the line peddled by the Kremlin.” The paper does not clarify whether the same historical disparities in Spain and the UK contrast sharply with the line peddled by Madrid or the line peddled by 10 Downing Street. Official information from the naughty countries is always ‘peddled lines’; everyone else gets to plead best intentions and innocent ignorance in perpetuity.

The ‘Kremlin line’ on the coronavirus toll in Russia is supported by international monitoring and discrepancies are accounted for by international practices. The Kremlin’s supposedly concealed ‘massive failure’ would still be kicking the a** of most ‘First World’ nations when it comes to mitigating Covid-19 fatalities. But it would kill the mainstream press to admit as much.

Anna Belkina is RT’s deputy editor in chief and head of communications, marketing and strategic development.

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments

As Another Perjury Trap is Exposed the FBI’s Case Against Trump Collapses

By Scott Ritter – Consortium News – May 14, 2020

It is one of the hottest conversations making the rounds on the internet — Shawn Henry, the retired FBI cyber-sleuth-turned private cyber security consultant, speaking with Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, recorded in transcripts of executive session testimony conducted on December 5, 2017, and only recently released to the public.

Schiff: Do you know the date in which the Russians exfiltrated the data from the DNC?

Henry:  I do. I have to just think about it. I don’t know. I mean, it’s in our report that I think the Committee has.

Schiff:  And, to the best of your recollection, when would that have been?

Henry: Counsel just reminded me that, as it relates to the DNC, we have indicators that data was exfiltrated. We do not have concrete evidence that data was exfiltrated from the DNC, but we have indicators that it was exfiltrated.

Schiff: And the indicators that it was exfiltrated, when does it indicate that would have taken place?

Henry: Again, it’s in the report. I believe — I believe it was April of 2016. I’m confused on the date. I think it was April, but it’s in the report.

Schiff: It provides in the report on 2016, April 22nd, data staged for exfiltration by the Fancy Bear actor. [Note: Fancy Bear is an attribution label used by Henry’s parent firm, CrowdStrike, to identify specific hacking methods and tools which are collectively referred to as an “advanced persistent threat”, or APT. Fancy Bear is also known by other cyber security organizations as APT-28, and is assessed by the U.S. government as being affiliated with Russian Military Intelligence, or GRU.]

Henry:  Yes, sir. So that, again, staged for, which means there’s not — the analogy I used with Mr. Stewart [Congressman Chris Stewart, R-Utah] earlier was we don’t have a video of it happening, but there are indicators that it happened. There are times when we can see data exfiltrated, and we can say conclusively. But in this case, it appears it was set up to be exfiltrated, but we just don’t have the evidence that says it actually left.

Henry’s testimony has been used by many detractors of the “Russia-did-it” narrative promulgated by many congressional Democrats (including Schiff), the U.S. Intelligence Community (including the FBI), and former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller as clear cut evidence that CrowdStrike had no direct evidence that any data or emails had been stolen from the DNC, and as such the entire narrative used to sustain the allegations that Russia was behind the thefts was, in fact, baseless.

Such a sweeping conclusion, however, is not sustained by either Shawn Henry’s testimony, or the available evidence. While there remain serious questions about the efficacy of the official narrative laying the alleged cyber attacks on the DNC at the feet of Russian intelligence, Henry’s testimony in and of itself does not make that case. Indeed, information subsequently released by the FBI suggests that, Henry’s assertions notwithstanding, data transfers did, in fact, occur on April 22.

“On or about April 22,” an indictment charging Russian military intelligence officers with the hacking of the DNC server alleges, “the Conspirators compressed gigabytes of data from DNC computers, including opposition research. The conspirators later moved the compressed DNC data using X-Tunnel to a GRU-leased computer located in Illinois.” Based on an analysis of the Illinois computer and another in Arizona, Mueller likewise asserts, in his report, that “[T]he GRU also stole documents from the DNC network shortly after gaining access. On April 22, 2016, the GRU copied files from the DNC network to GRU-controlled computers.”  

[In a footnote to his report, Mueller uses the qualifier “appear” to say that GRU “officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016.” He was never able to establish how the emails got to GRU headquarters.]

What Henry’s testimony does do, however, is dismantle the official predicate used by the FBI to initiate its counterintelligence investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane, into alleged collusion between persons affiliated with the presidential campaign of Donald Trump and the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election in favor of Trump.

The date of the alleged “staging” of data for “exfiltration” — April 22, 2016 — is highlighted by Schiff, during his questioning of Henry.

Schiff:  In your report, when you stated the data was staged for exfiltration on April 22ndof last year, that would have been the first time that you found evidence that the data was staged for exfiltration?

Henry:  I believe that is correct.

Schiff: Did you have a chance to read the information that was filed in conjunction with the George Papadopolous plea? [Note: George Papadopolous was a one-time foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who pled guilty to lying to FBI agents.]

Henry:  I did not.

Schiff:  In that information, it states that Mr. Papadopolous was informed at the end of April that the Russians were in possession of stolen DNC or Clinton emails. If that information is correct, that would only be days after that data was staged for exfiltration?

Henry:  Yes.

Crossfire Hurricane

Recently declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications submitted by the Department of Justice to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a unique judicial body that approves requests for secret warrants used by law enforcement to conduct covert electronic and physical surveillance of U.S. citizens, reveal that the predicate for the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into alleged Russian collusion by the Trump campaign was triggered by a May 10, 2016, meeting between Papadopolous and an Australian diplomat, Alexander Downer (who at the time was the Australian Ambassador to the United Kingdom) in a London bar.

According to Downer, Papadopolous revealed that, based upon an April 26 conversation with a Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud, “he [Papadopolous] thought that the Russians may release information, might release information, that could be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign at some stage before the election.”

Downer and a fellow Australian diplomat who was also at the meeting and witnessed Papadopolous’ statement, drafted a cable back to the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Canberra recording the gist of the conversation. “There was no suggestion from Papadopoulos nor in the record of the meeting that we sent back to Canberra, there was no suggestion that there was collusion between Donald Trump or Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians,” Downer said. “All we did is report what Papadopoulos said.”

After the release by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, of thousands of emails allegedly sourced from the DNC, Downer, concerned that there might be a link between Papadopolous and the DNC emails, provided a copy of his cable to the U.S. Embassy in London, which forwarded it onto the FBI. This cable was used by the FBI to initiate its Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign; a derivative investigation into Papadopolous was given the codename “Crossfire Typhoon.”

As far as predicates for sensitive counterintelligence investigations of presidential campaigns go, the Papadopolous conversation with Misfud is transparently weak. A cursory examination of the emails released by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, shows that no in-time reference pre-dates May 25, 2016, more than a month after the alleged “data staging” event that Schiff highlighted as the link between the DNC hack and Papadopolous.

In short, regardless of the content of Papadopolous’s conversation with Mifsud, as relayed by Downer, there was no linkage between any emails alleged to be in the possession of Russia at the time of the April 26, 2016, Papadopolous-Misfud meeting and the actual data released by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, that the FBI used to justify the opening of both the Crossfire Hurricane and Crossfire Typhoon investigations. As Mueller notes in his report, the information released by WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, coincides with a separate, alleged cyber attack on the DNC Microsoft Exchange Service between May 25 and June 1, 2016 — an attack that Mifsud could not have known about when he met with Papadopolous in April.

Moreover, the FBI knew before it interviewed Papadopolous on Jan. 27, 2017, that Papadopolous was not involved in any scheme to acquire purloined Russian emails on behalf of the Trump campaign. In September and October of 2016, the FBI made use of two confidential human sources (CHS) to engage Papadopoulos in conversations designed to elicit corroboration into its now-debunked theory.

In a Sept. 15, 2016, meeting between Papadopolous and an FBI-controlled CHS, Papadopolous was asked outright whether or not the Trump campaign could benefit from third-party intervention from the likes of WikiLeaks or Russia. Papadopolous made it clear in his response that no one in the campaign was advocating for this kind of intervention because it was “illegal,” “compromised national security,” and “set a bad precedent.”

“At the end of the day,” Papadopolous said, “it’s an illegal, it’s illegal activity. Espionage is treason. This is a form of treason.” And when asked by a second FBI-controlled CHS on Oct. 29, 2016, about who he thought was behind the hacking of the DNC, Papadopolous responded that it could be “the Chinese,” “the Iranians,” “Bernie supporters,” or “Anonymous” — but not the Russians. “Dude, Russia doesn’t have any interest in it anyways,” Papadopolous said. “They — dude, no one knows how a president is going to govern anyways. I mean… Congress is very hostile to Russia anyways.” It was a prescient, and telling, exchange — one the FBI chose to ignore.

No Connection

In the court filing detailing the facts sustaining Papadopolous’s guilty plea, Mueller declared that “defendant PAPADOPOULOS impeded the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the Campaign and the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”

However, any careful examination of the data used by the FBI to link Papadopolous to the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails on July 22, 2016, clearly shows that there was absolutely no connection. As such, Papadopolous’s conversation with Mifsud had zero material bearing on the FBI’s investigation, a fact known to the FBI prior to its interview of Papadopolous on Jan. 27, 2017.

Indeed, the demonstrative lack of connection between Papadopolous and the hacking of the DNC should have been grounds for shutting down the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. There is only one explanation for the FBI’s actions in continuing to pursue Papadopolous — the interview was a perjury trap, plain and simple, designed to generate a conviction that would politically damage a sitting president and create the impression that the investigation into Russian collusion was more credible than it actually was.

The Papadopolous saga has been overshadowed by the ongoing controversy swirling around the Department of Justice decision to drop its charges against former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn who, like Papadopolous, pled guilty to lying to an FBI agent. The same kind of prosecutorial misconduct, perpetrated by many of the same individuals, that prompted dropping Flynn’s charges infects every aspect of the Papadopolous matter — even more so.

While Papadopolous cannot undo his sentence, or get back the time he served in prison, he can be exonerated by a much-deserved presidential pardon. Anything less would represent a victory by those who have corrupted American justice for political purposes, and a defeat for every American citizen who believes in the foundational principle of impartial justice.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

UK Presents No Proof of Russia’s ‘Cyberattacks’ on COVID-19 Vaccine Developers, Moscow Says

Sputnik – May 15, 2020

MOSCOW – The United Kingdom has not presented any proof of Russia’s alleged cyberattacks on universities working on a vaccine against the coronavirus, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov said in an interview with Sputnik.

“Russia has not received any official request from the UK … Neither have we seen any persuasive proof of cyberattacks on British universities and scientific organisations by our country or from its territory”, Syromolotov said. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing another round of the anti-Russia campaign, in which our country is groundlessly accused of staging cyberattacks”.

He recalled that Georgia and the Czech Republic had filed similar accusations against Russia.

“Each time we see more and more refined attacks on Russia, aimed at discrediting its image on the global media arena”, Syromolotov noted.

According to him, London is trying to find any trace of “Russian meddling” to start yet another baseless campaign against Moscow on “highly likely” grounds.

In early May, reports emerged in the UK media, claiming that “hostile states”, such as Russia and China, were attempting to hack UK universities and steal research related to the vaccine.

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Lavrov Rejects Merkel Allegations on Russian Hacking

Al-Manar | May 15, 2020

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday rejected allegations by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Russian hackers had spied on her.

“Five years have passed. Not a single concrete fact has been provided,” Lavrov said in a live interview with Russia’s RBK media group.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Merkel voiced frustration that Russia was targeting her in hacking attacks as she tried to build a better relationship with Moscow.

She said she had concrete proof of the “outrageous” spying attempts.

Lavrov charged that Berlin had decided Moscow was guilty even though “there are no facts in relation to Russia”.

“They suddenly said in the Bundestag… that all of this is outrageous and it had been done by Russians.”

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | 1 Comment

Merkel cites ‘hard evidence’ she was victim of ‘Russian hackers’, says it doesn’t help mend ties with Moscow

RT | May 13, 2020

Germany’s chancellor has lamented what she claimed was irrefutable proof of a Russian “hacking attack” on her Bundestag office but said she is working day and night to fix relations with Moscow despite the “painful” incident.

Chancellor Angela Merkel accused Russia of carrying out an online intrusion into her Bundestag constituency office back in 2015, as she spoke to MPs on Wednesday.

“I can honestly say that it hurts me,” she said of the alleged hack attack, claiming there is “hard evidence” that some unspecified “Russian forces” were behind the theft of data, based upon the results of a “properly done” investigation.

Still, Merkel said she is working hard to foster diplomatic ties between Moscow and Berlin “every day,” even if the hacking activity doesn’t make it any easier.

Russia denied the allegations when they first emerged back in 2015, and has continued to do so in the years since. However, Moscow is yet to comment on Merkel’s fresh remarks.

When asked about the possible consequences of Moscow’s so-called “hybrid warfare strategy,” the chancellor used unusually harsh language, threatening that “[Germany], of course, will always reserve the right to take measures, including against Russia.”

The chancellor’s words came on the heels of a report by Spiegel magazine linking the 2015 online assault to Russian military intelligence. Culprits, it suggested, were able to get away with over 16 gigabytes of data, which include thousands of inbox messages originating from the chancellor’s Bundestag office.

According to Spiegel, the hackers apparently copied the emails to another computer. It was only in May 2015 that the Bundestag discovered its networks were breached; it was concluded that the hack attacks had been happening since at least the beginning of that year.

While the magazine heavily cited the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) and the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) among their sources, the agencies in question kept silent on the matter. The German government, in turn, didn’t confirm the authenticity of the report, until Merkel herself addressed it in her speech Wednesday.

May 13, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 3 Comments