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Truth a Major Casualty of Impeachment Hearings

By Jeremy Kuzmarov | CounterPunch | January 28, 2020

As in any political battle, truth has been one of the major casualties of the impeachment proceedings against President Donald J. Trump.

While the Democratic impeachment managers have accused Trump repeatedly of dishonesty – often with good reason – they themselves have twisted the truth to serve their own political agenda.

Impeachment manager Adam Schiff, for example, claimed that “more than 15,000 Ukrainians have died fighting Russian forces and their proxies” and that the military aid [which Trump subverted] was for “such essentials as sniper rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers, radar… and other support for the war effort.”

While the military aid may have assisted the war effort, Schiff’s comments are misleading because the majority of those killed have been Eastern Ukrainians who died at the hands of the Ukrainian military that the U.S. has armed – not the Russians.

The UN Monitoring Mission on Human Rights determined that of the approximately 13,000 people killed between April 2014 and December 2018, 3,300 of the victims were civilians, 4,000 were Ukrainian military and 5,500 “Russian-backed armed militants.”

Thus, according to Schiff, Russia is responsible for killing 5,500 of its own men!

Human Rights Watch found that the Ukrainian military actually caused many of the civilian deaths by “us[ing] explosive weapons with wide-area effect in populated areas, including near school buildings, in violation of international humanitarian law.”

But this doesn’t fit with Schiff’s alarmist views about Russia, which are straight out of the 1950s McCarthy era.

At the hearings, Schiff frequently referenced the danger of “Russian expansion” and its efforts to “remake the map of Europe” and quoted a witness who stated that “the U.S. aids Ukraine and her people so that they can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

Sounding like Ronald Reagan or any one of the most hawkish of cold warriors, this assessment has no basis in reality.

Among other things, it ignores that Russia under Putin was the first country to offer sympathy to the U.S. following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and has repeatedly pushed for better diplomatic relations.

Schiff’s misinformation extends to his defense of Joe Biden.

In his opening statement, Schiff claimed that Biden never wanted the “corrupt prosecutor removed in order to stop an investigation into Burisma Holdings, on whose board Biden’s son Hunter sat.”

However, Biden has been filmed in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations bragging about his efforts to blackmail the Ukrainian government by threatening to withhold a $1 billion loan if that prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was not removed.

Shokin had never actually been censured or indicted for corruption, although his successor, Yuriy Lutsenko was.

The latter settled the case with Burisma and its chief executive Mykola Zlochevsky by allowing it to pay a $7 million fine when the company stood accused of evading $40 million in taxes – a clear victory for Burisma.

Lutsenko did not even have a law degree and has been characterized by Ukrainian officials as a crooked political appointee of Ukraine’s former Prime-Minister Petro Poroshenko, whom Biden had cultivated close ties with.

(For more information on this see Olivier Berrayer’s documentary, Ukraine-Gate- Inconvenient Facts.)

Schiff and other Democratic Impeachment Managers such as Sylvia Garcia of Texas claimed that under Shokin the investigation against Burisma had lain “dormant.”

However, Shokin told ABC News in an interview – which was conveniently never aired – that this was not true and that the case was proceeding prior to his removal in February 2016.

The Ukraine-Gate saga has commanded a huge amount of attention and contributed to the rising fame of Schiff who has been praised in some circles for his magnificent performance.

By spreading misleading or outright false information about Russia and Ukraine, and drumming up anti-Russian sentiment, the consequences of the hearings, however, could be even more damaging then the Trump presidency.

Jeremy Kuzmarov is the author of The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (Monthly Review Press, 2018) and Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting for the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2019).

January 29, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Kentucky is in Syria (and other anomalies of MSM geography) – #PropagandaWatch

Corbett • 10/15/2019

Watch this video on BitChute / DTube / Minds.com / YouTube

Did you know that Kentucky is in Syria? Or that Tripoli is in India? Or that Caracas is in Singapore? No? Then you must not be paying enough attention in MSM Geography 101, class. Better hit the books!

SHOW NOTES

ABC Admits To Using Fake Footage Of Kurdish ‘Slaughter’

Stupid Media Lie by BBC – Showing Tripoli’s Green Square with People waving Indian Flag (August 24)

Tibet monks protest againist Chinise rulers

Constructing the Deception of the Anti-Government “Protests” in Venezuela: A Photo Gallery

The Routine Use of Fake Images and Video Footage by the Western Media

October 15, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

US Working With Russia to Handover Patrols Between Turkish and Syrian Armies in Manbij

By Patrick Henningsen | 21st Century Wire | October 15, 2019

This morning, Russian military officials announced they are now patrolling the region surrounding Syria’s northern town of Manbij, specifically in the areas which separate Turkish troops and the Syrian Arab Army soldiers.

According to a Russian Defense Ministry statement issued Tuesday, Russian military police are being positioned as a ‘buffer’ around the area northwest of Manbij, “along the line of contact between the Syrian Arab Republic and Turkey.” Officials also indicated that they are in communication with the Turkish military leadership to ensure that patrols are observing necessary deconfliction protocols.

More interestingly, US reports suggest that the Pentagon has been working together with Moscow in order engineer a seamless handover to Russian military police of positions previously held by US forces.

According to one senior Pentagon official who spoke to Newsweek, some US personnel have stayed to behind to assist Russian forces, noting that US special forces “having been in the area for longer, has been assisting the Russian forces to navigate through previously unsafe areas quickly.”

“It is essentially a handover,” said the official. “However, it’s a quick out, not something that will include walk-throughs, etc., everything is about making out with as much as possible of our things while destroying any sensitive equipment that cannot be moved.”

This latest move by Moscow to install a security buffer should allay any international concerns that Trump’s sudden withdrawal of US forces would create a power vacuum that might lead to some sort of Turkish ‘massacre’ of ethnic Kurds in northern Syria. The sheer volume of alarmist western propaganda promoting that scenario has been incessant over the last week. The UK’s Guardian newspaper even went so far as to promote the idea that a US withdrawal would result in “genocide” of Syrian Kurds.

Also helping to promulgate the idea of an impending Turkish-led massacre was America’s ABC News, who used old footage from a Kentucky gun range – claiming it was Turkey firing on the Kurdish population in Syria.

This latest news comes immediately on the heels of a new deal struck yesterday between Kurdish officials in northeastern Syria and the government in Damascus allowing the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to takeover key strategic positions along Syria’s northern border with Turkey. The new security agreement also includes disbanding and abolishing the previously US-backed SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), and with remaining militias to be incorporated into the Syrian Republic’s Armed Forces including “all the current Kurdish forces and military groups joining the 5th Corps (Assault Legion) under Russian control.”

As a newly unified SAA and Russian military police establish positions around Manbij, the threat still remains of advancing platoons of Turkish-backed former FSA (Free Syrian Army) ‘opposition’ fighters who are now rebranded as ‘Syrian National Army.’  These opposition militants could still cause problems in maintaining peace and stability along proscribed battle lines.

***

Author Patrick Henningsen is an American writer and global affairs analyst and founder of independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire, and is host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR). He has written for a number of international publications and has done extensive on-the-ground reporting in the Middle East including work in Syria and Iraq.

October 15, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fake news fail! ABC claims footage from Kentucky gun range shows Turkish attack on Kurdish civilians

RT | October 14, 2019

In a scarcely believable display of extreme incompetence or bald-faced lying, ABC News has broadcast footage from a Kentucky gun show, claiming it shows a Turkish assault on Kurdish civilians in northern Syria.

The news organization made the humiliating fumble on its World News Tonight show on Sunday and then again on Good Morning America on Monday. It featured in a package that was heavily critical of US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria.

“Slaughter in Syria,” the on-screen graphic screamed as anchor Tom Llamas introduced the footage. “This video, right here, appearing to show Turkey’s military bombing Kurd civilians in a Syrian border town,” Llamas said as the tape rolled.

There’s just one problem, the video wasn’t from northern Syria, it was filmed about 6,200 miles (10,000km) away during a gun show at the Knob Creek Gun Range near West Point, Kentucky.

The open air gun range holds the dramatic shows twice a year and they have been immortalized in numerous YouTube videos. ABC played a video from 2017 in its Sunday snafu.

Viewing the clips clearly shows that it’s the same scene but the video has been edited to crop out the audience watching in the foreground.

After broadcasting the fake footage into homes across the US, ABC also uploaded it to YouTube. The video was subsequently deleted when the massive error came to light.

World News Tonight issued a correction on Monday, saying that ABC News “regrets the error.” “We’ve taken down video that aired on ‘World News Tonight’ Sunday and ‘Good Morning America’ this morning that appeared to be from the Syrian border immediately after questions were raised about its accuracy,” it tweeted.

ABC’s mistake is made even more glaring by the fact that footage from the Kentucky gun show previously went viral in another fake news fail when it was claimed that it showed Kurdish forces destroying Turkish tanks in January 2018. Too bad ABC don’t employ any good fact checkers.

October 14, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

How the Department of Homeland Security Created a Deceptive Tale of Russia Hacking US Voter Sites

By Gareth Porter | Consortium News | August 28, 2018

The narrative of Russian intelligence attacking state and local election boards and threatening the integrity of U.S. elections has achieved near-universal acceptance by media and political elites. And now it has been accepted by the Trump administration’s intelligence chief, Dan Coats, as well.

But the real story behind that narrative, recounted here for the first time, reveals that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created and nurtured an account that was grossly and deliberately deceptive.

DHS compiled an intelligence report suggesting hackers linked to the Russian government could have targeted voter-related websites in many states and then leaked a sensational story of Russian attacks on those sites without the qualifications that would have revealed a different story. When state election officials began asking questions, they discovered that the DHS claims were false and, in at least one case, laughable.

The National Security Agency and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigating team have also claimed evidence that Russian military intelligence was behind election infrastructure hacking, but on closer examination, those claims turn out to be speculative and misleading as well. Mueller’s indictment of 12 GRU military intelligence officers does not cite any violations of U.S. election laws though it claims Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

A Sensational Story 

On Sept. 29, 2016, a few weeks after the hacking of election-related websites in Illinois and Arizona, ABC News carried a sensational headline: “Russian Hackers Targeted Nearly Half of States’ Voter Registration Systems, Successfully Infiltrated 4.” The story itself reported that “more than 20 state election systems” had been hacked, and four states had been “breached” by hackers suspected of working for the Russian government. The story cited only sources “knowledgeable” about the matter, indicating that those who were pushing the story were eager to hide the institutional origins of the information.

Behind that sensational story was a federal agency seeking to establish its leadership within the national security state apparatus on cybersecurity, despite its limited resources for such responsibility. In late summer and fall 2016, the Department of Homeland Security was maneuvering politically to designate state and local voter registration databases and voting systems as “critical infrastructure.” Such a designation would make voter-related networks and websites under the protection a “priority sub-sector” in the DHS “National Infrastructure Protection Plan, which already included 16 such sub-sectors.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and other senior DHS officials consulted with many state election officials in the hope of getting their approval for such a designation. Meanwhile, the DHS was finishing an intelligence report that would both highlight the Russian threat to U.S. election infrastructure and the role DHS could play in protecting it, thus creating political impetus to the designation. But several secretaries of state—the officials in charge of the election infrastructure in their state—strongly opposed the designation that Johnson wanted.

On Jan. 6, 2017—the same day three intelligence agencies released a joint “assessment” on Russian interference in the election—Johnson announced the designation anyway.

Media stories continued to reflect the official assumption that cyber attacks on state election websites were Russian-sponsored. Stunningly, The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2016 that DHS was itself behind hacking attempts of Georgia’s election database.

The facts surrounding the two actual breaches of state websites in Illinois and Arizona, as well as the broader context of cyberattacks on state websites, didn’t support that premise at all.

In July, Illinois discovered an intrusion into its voter registration website and the theft of personal information on as many as 200,000 registered voters. (The 2018 Mueller indictments of GRU officers would unaccountably put the figure at 500,000.) Significantly, however, the hackers only had copied the information and had left it unchanged in the database.

That was a crucial clue to the motive behind the hack. DHS Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications Andy Ozment told a Congressional committee in late September 2016 that the fact hackers hadn’t tampered with the voter data indicated that the aim of the theft was not to influence the electoral process. Instead, it was “possibly for the purpose of selling personal information.” Ozment was contradicting the line that already was being taken on the Illinois and Arizona hacks by the National Protection and Programs Directorate and other senior DHS officials.

In an interview with me last year, Ken Menzel, the legal adviser to the Illinois secretary of state, confirmed what Ozment had testified. “Hackers have been trying constantly to get into it since 2006,” Menzel said, adding that they had been probing every other official Illinois database with such personal data for vulnerabilities as well. “Every governmental database—driver’s licenses, health care, you name it—has people trying to get into it,” said Menzel.

In the other successful cyberattack on an electoral website, hackers had acquired the username and password for the voter database Arizona used during the summer, as Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan learned from the FBI. But the reason that it had become known, according to Reagan in an interview with Mother Jones, was that the login and password had shown up for sale on the dark web—the network of websites used by cyber criminals to sell stolen data and other illicit wares.

Furthermore, the FBI had told her that the effort to penetrate the database was the work of a “known hacker” whom the FBI had monitored “frequently” in the past. Thus, there were reasons to believe that both Illinois and Arizona hacking incidents were linked to criminal hackers seeking information they could sell for profit.

Meanwhile, the FBI was unable to come up with any theory about what Russia might have intended to do with voter registration data such as what was taken in the Illinois hack. When FBI Counterintelligence official Bill Priestap was asked in a June 2017 hearing how Moscow might use such data, his answer revealed that he had no clue: “They took the data to understand what it consisted of,” said the struggling Priestap, “so they can affect better understanding and plan accordingly in regards to possibly impacting future elections by knowing what is there and studying it.”

The inability to think of any plausible way for the Russian government to use such data explains why DHS and the intelligence community adopted the argument, as senior DHS officials Samuel Liles and Jeanette Manfra put it, that the hacks “could be intended or used to undermine public confidence in electoral processes and potentially the outcome.” But such a strategy could not have had any effect without a decision by DHS and the U.S. intelligence community to assert publicly that the intrusions and other scanning and probing were Russian operations, despite the absence of hard evidence. So DHS and other agencies were consciously sowing public doubts about U.S. elections that they were attributing to Russia.

DHS Reveals Its Self-Serving Methodology

In June 2017, Liles and Manfra testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that an October 2016 DHS intelligence report had listed election systems in 21 states that were “potentially targeted by Russian government cyber actors.” They revealed that the sensational story leaked to the press in late September 2016 had been based on a draft of the DHS report. And more importantly, their use of the phrase “potentially targeted” showed that they were arguing only that the cyber incidents it listed were possible indications of a Russian attack on election infrastructure.

Furthermore, Liles and Manfra said the DHS report had “catalogued suspicious activity we observed on state government networks across the country,” which had been “largely based on suspected malicious tactics and infrastructure.” They were referring to a list of eight IP addresses an August 2016 FBI “flash alert” had obtained from the Illinois and Arizona intrusions, which DHS and FBI had not been able to  attribute to the Russian government.

Manfra: No doubt it was the Russians. (C-SPAN)

The DHS officials recalled that the DHS began to “receive reports of cyber-enabled scanning and probing of election-related infrastructure in some states, some of which appeared to originate from servers operated by a Russian company.” Six of the eight IP addresses in the FBI alert were indeed traced to King Servers, owned by a young Russian living in Siberia. But as DHS cyber specialists knew well, the country of ownership of the server doesn’t prove anything about who was responsible for hacking: As cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr pointed out, the Russian hackers who coordinated the Russian attack on Georgian government websites in 2008 used a Texas-based company as the hosting provider.

The cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect noted in 2016 that one of the other two IP addresses had hosted a Russian criminal market for five months in 2015. But that was not a serious indicator, either. Private IP addresses are reassigned frequently by server companies, so there is not a necessary connection between users of the same IP address at different times.

The DHS methodology of selecting reports of cyber incidents involving election-related websites as “potentially targeted” by Russian government-sponsored hackers was based on no objective evidence whatever. The resulting list appears to have included any one of the eight addresses as well as any attack or “scan” on a public website that could be linked in any way to elections.

This methodology conveniently ignored the fact that criminal hackers were constantly trying to get access to every database in those same state, country and municipal systems. Not only for Illinois and Arizona officials, but state electoral officials.

In fact, 14 of the 21 states on the list experienced nothing more than the routine scanning that occurs every day, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Only six involved what was referred to as a “malicious access attempt,” meaning an effort to penetrate the site. One of them was in Ohio, where the attempt to find a weakness lasted less than a second and was considered by DHS’s internet security contractor a “non-event” at the time.

State Officials Force DHS to Tell the Truth

For a year, DHS did not inform the 21 states on its list that their election boards or other election-related sites had been attacked in a presumed Russian-sponsored operation. The excuse DHS officials cited was that it could not reveal such sensitive intelligence to state officials without security clearances. But the reluctance to reveal the details about each case was certainly related to the reasonable expectation that states would publicly challenge their claims, creating a potential serious embarrassment.

On Sept. 22, 2017, DHS notified 21 states about the cyber incidents that had been included in the October 2016 report. The public announcement of the notifications said DHS had notified each chief election officer of “any potential targeting we were aware of in their state leading up to the 2016 election.” The phrase “potential targeting” again telegraphed the broad and vague criterion DHS had adopted, but it was ignored in media stories.

But the notifications, which took the form of phone calls lasting only a few minutes, provided a minimum of information and failed to convey the significant qualification that DHS was only suggesting targeting as a possibility. “It was a couple of guys from DHS reading from a script,” recalled one state election official who asked not to be identified. “They said [our state] was targeted by Russian government cyber actors.”

A number of state election officials recognized that this information conflicted with what they knew. And if they complained, they got a more accurate picture from DHS. After Wisconsin Secretary of State Michael Haas demanded further clarification, he got an email response from a DHS official  with a different account. “[B]ased on our external analysis,” the official wrote, “the WI [Wisconsin] IP address affected belongs to the WI Department of Workforce Development, not the Elections Commission.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said DHS initially had notified his office “that Russian cyber actors ‘scanned’ California’s Internet-facing systems in 2016, including Secretary of State websites.” But under further questioning, DHS admitted to Padilla that what the hackers had targeted was the California Department of Technology’s network.

Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos and Oklahoma Election Board spokesman Byron Dean also denied that any state website with voter- or election-related information had been targeted, and Pablos demanded that DHS “correct its erroneous notification.”

Despite these embarrassing admissions, a statement issued by DHS spokesman Scott McConnell on Sept. 28, 2017 said the DHS “stood by” its assessment that 21 states “were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to U.S. election infrastructure.” The statement retreated from the previous admission that the notifications involved “potential targeting,” but it also revealed for the first time that DHS had defined “targeting” very broadly indeed.

It said the category included “some cases” involving “direct scanning of targeted systems” but also cases in which “malicious actors scanned for vulnerabilities in networks that may be connected to those systems or have similar characteristics in order to gain information about how to later penetrate their target.”

It is true that hackers may scan one website in the hope of learning something that could be useful for penetrating another website, as cybersecurity expert Prof. Herbert S. Lin of Stanford University explained to me in an interview. But including any incident in which that motive was theoretical meant that any state website could be included on the DHS list, without any evidence it was related to a political motive.

Arizona’s further exchanges with DHS revealed just how far DHS had gone in exploiting that escape clause in order to add more states to its “targeted” list. Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan tweeted that DHS had informed her that “the Russian government targeted our voter registration systems in 2016.” After meeting with DHS officials in early October 2017, however, Reagan wrote in a blog post that DHS “could not confirm that any attempted Russian government hack occurred whatsoever to any election-related system in Arizona, much less the statewide voter registration database.”

What the DHS said in that meeting, as Reagan’s spokesman Matt Roberts recounted to me, is even more shocking. “When we pressed DHS on what exactly was actually targeted, they said it was the Phoenix public library’s computers system,” Roberts recalled.

In April 2018, a CBS News “60 Minutes” segment reported that the October 2016 DHS intelligence report had included the Russian government hacking of a “county database in Arizona.” Responding to that CBS report, an unidentified “senior Trump administration official” who was well-briefed on the DHS report told Reuters that “media reports” on the issue had sometimes “conflated criminal hacking with Russian government activity,” and that the cyberattack on the target in Arizona “was not perpetrated by the Russian government.”

NSA Finds a GRU Election Plot

National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. (Wikimedia)

NSA intelligence analysts claimed in a May 2017 analysis to have documented an effort by Russian military intelligence (GRU) to hack into U.S. electoral institutions. In an intelligence analysis obtained by The Intercept and reported in June 2017, NSA analysts wrote that the GRU had sent a spear-phishing email—one with an attachment designed to look exactly like one from a trusted institution but that contains malware design to get control of the computer—to a vendor of voting machine technology in Florida. The hackers then designed a fake web page that looked like that of the vendor. They sent it to a list of 122 email addresses NSA believed to be local government organizations that probably were “involved in the management of voter registration systems.” The objective of the new spear-phishing campaign, the NSA suggested, was to get control of their computers through malware to carry out the exfiltration of voter-related data.

But the authors of The Intercept story failed to notice crucial details in the NSA report that should have tipped them off that the attribution of the spear-phishing campaign to the GRU was based merely on the analysts’ own judgment—and that their judgment was faulty.

The Intercept article included a color-coded chart from the original NSA report that provides crucial information missing from the text of the NSA analysis itself as well as The Intercept’s account. The chart clearly distinguishes between the elements of the NSA’s account of the alleged Russian scheme that were based on “Confirmed Information” (shown in green) and those that were based on “Analyst Judgment” (shown in yellow). The connection between the “operator” of the spear-phishing campaign the report describes and an unidentified entity confirmed to be under the authority of the GRU is shown as a yellow line, meaning that it is based on “Analyst Judgment” and labeled “probably.”

A major criterion for any attribution of a hacking incident is whether there are strong similarities to previous hacks identified with a specific actor. But the chart concedes that “several characteristics” of the campaign depicted in the report distinguish it from “another major GRU spear-phishing program,” the identity of which has been redacted from the report.

The NSA chart refers to evidence that the same operator also had launched spear-phishing campaigns on other web-based mail applications, including the Russian company “Mail.ru.” Those targets suggest that the actors were more likely Russian criminal hackers rather than Russian military intelligence.

Even more damaging to its case, the NSA reports that the same operator who had sent the spear-phishing emails also had sent a test email to the “American Samoa Election Office.” Criminal hackers could have been interested in personal information from the database associated with that office. But the idea that Russian military intelligence was planning to hack the voter rolls in American Samoa, an unincorporated U.S. territory with 56,000 inhabitants who can’t even vote in U.S. presidential elections, is plainly risible.

The Mueller Indictment’s Sleight of Hand

The Mueller indictment of GRU officers released on July 13 appeared at first reading to offer new evidence of Russian government responsibility for the hacking of Illinois and other state voter-related websites. A close analysis of the relevant paragraphs, however, confirms the lack of any real intelligence supporting that claim.

Mueller accused two GRU officers of working with unidentified “co-conspirators” on those hacks. But the only alleged evidence linking the GRU to the operators in the hacking incidents is the claim that a GRU official named Anatoly Kovalev and “co-conspirators” deleted search history related to the preparation for the hack after the FBI issued its alert on the hacking identifying the IP address associated with it in August 2016.

A careful reading of the relevant paragraphs shows that the claim is spurious. The first sentence in Paragraph 71 says that both Kovalev and his “co-conspirators” researched domains used by U.S. state boards of elections and other entities “for website vulnerabilities.” The second says Kovalev and “co-conspirators” had searched for “state political party email addresses, including filtered queries for email addresses listed on state Republican Party websites.”

Mueller: Don’t read the fine print. (The White House/Wikimedia)

Searching for website vulnerabilities would be evidence of intent to hack them, of course, but searching Republican Party websites for email addresses is hardly evidence of any hacking plan. And Paragraph 74 states that Kovalev “deleted his search history”—not the search histories of any “co-conspirator”—thus revealing that there were no joint searches and suggesting that the subject Kovalev had searched was Republican Party emails. So any deletion by Kovalev of his search history after the FBI alert would not be evidence of his involvement in the hacking of the Illinois election board website.

With this rhetorical misdirection unraveled, it becomes clear that the repetition in every paragraph of the section of the phrase “Kovalev and his co-conspirators” was aimed at giving the reader the impression the accusation is based on hard intelligence about possible collusion that doesn’t exist.

The Need for Critical Scrutiny of DHS Cyberattack Claims

The DHS campaign to establish its role as the protector of U.S. electoral institutions is not the only case in which that agency has used a devious means to sow fear of Russian cyberattacks. In December 2016, DHS and the FBI published a long list of IP addresses as indicators of possible Russian cyberattacks. But most of the addresses on the list had no connection with Russian intelligence, as former U.S. government cyber-warfare officer Rob Lee found on close examination.

When someone at the Burlington, Vt., Electric Company spotted one of those IP addresses on one of its computers, the company reported it to DHS. But instead of quietly investigating the address to verify that it was indeed an indicator of Russian intrusion, DHS immediately informed The Washington Post. The result was a sensational story that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. power grid. In fact, the IP address in question was merely Yahoo’s email server, as Rob Lee told me, and the computer had not even been connected to the power grid. The threat to the power grid was a tall tale created by a DHS official, which the Post had to embarrassingly retract.

Since May 2017, DHS, in partnership with the FBI, has begun an even more ambitious campaign to focus public attention on what it says are Russian “targeting” and “intrusions” into “major, high value assets that operate components of our Nation’s critical infrastructure”, including energy, nuclear, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors. Any evidence of such an intrusion must be taken seriously by the U.S. government and reported by news media. But in light of the DHS record on alleged threats to election infrastructure and the Burlington power grid, and its well-known ambition to assume leadership over cyber protection, the public interest demands that the news media examine DHS claims about Russian cyber threats far more critically than they have up to now.


Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. His latest book is Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

August 28, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ATTN’s videos may exceed 1.5 billion monthly views – Progressive except for Palestine?

ATTN’s videos may exceed 1.5 billion monthly views – Progressive except for Palestine?

ATTN: co-founder Jarrett Moreno
By Alison Weir | If Americans Knew | August 8, 2017

Look for an array of of short, snappy, professionally made social media videos to expose injustice, racism, and numerous other issues in the coming months.

But don’t expect them to expose Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, or the role of the Israel lobby in pushing for war.

In fact, if past actions are any indication, the videos may instead extoll the virtues of Israel, despite the country’s ongoing record of human rights abuses, systemic discrimination, and violent militarism.

A new digital media company known as ATTN: is forming partnerships with traditional media companies and others to produce “social issues” videos with a potential reach of well over 1.5 billion video views per month.

ATTN: stands for “attention.” The colon is part of the official name. The company was founded in 2014 with $4 million seed money that quickly grew to $22 million. By 2016 it was reportedly already getting over 400 million monthly video views and receiving more than 2 billion monthly impressions.

The media partnerships are with ABC News and the Tribune Media Company, which are eager to reach younger, Internet-focused audiences, and are expected to increase ATTN:’s already extensive reach.

The videos will be disseminated on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and will especially target younger audiences who rarely watch TV news programs. ATTN: sees its main audience as what it calls “mature millenials” – people in the 25-34 year-old range. While the segments will be designed for social media, they may also appear on ABC News’ TV broadcasts.

This is part of a larger strategy in which ATTN: is working with clients such as HBO, Bloomberg, and REI to produce videos that will drive consumers to their companies.

‘Issues-driven to make a social impact’

ATTN: calls itself “an issues-driven media company. Reuters reports that ATTN: “produces video and news pieces focused on a variety of political and social issues such as abortion and anti-Semitism.” Its commercial angle, as an Ad Week article put it, is to produce “socially-minded branded content.”

The New York Times reports that the company is “targeting progressive-leaning young people,” and its work is reliably leftish. Its website announces: “At our core, ATTN: believes in informing people to make a social impact.” The Los Angeles Business Journal calls it a “politically liberal news and advocacy site,” and its collection of videos largely bear this out.

There is one subject area, however, in which its progressive stance seems to be missing: Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Past actions suggest that the company and its founders may be what are known as “PEPs – Progressive Except Palestine.”

PEPs typically oppose racism and oppression and support indigenous peoples, equal rights, justice, freedom, and the rights of prisoners – except when it comes to Palestinians.*

On that topic, they support Israel’s “right to exist,” (i.e. its right to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population and discriminate against Muslims and Christians) and tend to overlook, minimize, or even justify its periodic slaughters in Gaza; its vast imprisonment of men, women, and children, often without even a semblance of judicial process; its confiscation of farmers’ land; demolition of family homes; its seemingly never-ending military occupation; and its systemic discrimination against Palestinians and other non-Jews.

Invisible Palestinians

ATTN:, despite its record of covering almost every current social justice issue, sometimes multiple times, seems to have ignored Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. In fact, what articles and videos ATTN: has produced on the subject praise Israel and ignore the Palestinians entirely.

An ATTN: video praising Israel describes “an idyllic secluded greenhouse nestled in the mountains of Galilee.” The ‘social issues’ video, which has received over 5.3 million views on Facebook, fails to mention the plight of Palestinians in Galilee.

One example is “The Major Way Israel Is Putting America to Shame on Marijuana,” which states: “The Israeli government’s stance on medical marijuana research and the country’s cultural landscape make it far friendlier to marijuana than the puritanical policies of the U.S. government.” The piece, quite likely, is helpful to Israeli companies marketing marijuana to the U.S.

The article discusses “an idyllic secluded greenhouse nestled in the mountains of Galilee,” but does not mention that the Galilee is notorious for the Israeli governmental policies that discriminate against the Christian population and that are increasingly squeezing Palestinians out.

Salah Sawaid stands on the last area of arable land available to the village of Ramya in the Galilee. An Israeli court ruled that the Palestinian village must be bulldozed. (Photo Jonathan Cook)

The article quotes an Israeli who says: “The Jewish people also feel a responsibility to perform ‘tikkun olam,’ repairing the world and improving the human condition.” The Israeli links Israel’s policies on medical marijuana to “its social and culture valuation of life, as characterized in the Talmud.”

While Israel’s marijuana policies may be as enlightened as the article says, the claim about Israeli culture’s “valuation of life” seems more questionable, given Israeli policies and practices.

In fact, Israel’s numerous aggressive wars and invasions of the Palestinian Territories and surrounding countries, its consistent killing of large numbers of civilians, the fact that Israelis who have killed Palestinians in cold blood are rarely or minimally punished, and the sometimes very explicit statements by some Israeli personages suggest that Israel’s “valuation of life” often only applies to Israeli life.

ATTN:’s mention of the Talmud ignores the uncomfortable fact that like probably all religious texts, the Talmud’s messages are mixed. Among the Talmud’s many benevolent passages are some that are deeply problematic, and these are particularly relevant to extremist portions of the Israeli public and leadership.

Israeli author Israel Shahak, who was endorsed by progressive icons Noam Chomsky and Edward Said, translates some of these passages in his books, and reports that some religious teachings have very different meanings than are commonly portrayed:

“In numerous cases general terms such as “thy fellow,” “stranger,” or even “man” are taken to have an exclusivist chauvinistic meaning. The famous verse “thou shalt love thy fellow as thyself” (Leviticus, 19:18) is understood by classical (and present-day Orthodox) Judaism as an injunction to love one’s fellow Jew, not any fellow human. Similarly, the verse “neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy fellow” (ibid., 16) is supposed to mean that one must not stand idly by when the life (“blood”) of a fellow Jew is in danger; but, as will be seen in Chapter 5, a Jew is in general forbidden to save the life of a Gentile, because “he is not thy fellow.” (Shahak’s book, Jewish History, Jewish Religion,, can be downloaded or read online here.)

Israel’s alleged “valuation of life” is hard to square with the statement by Israel’s former chief rabbi, Mordechai Elyahu, who called for the Israeli army to mass-murder Palestinians: “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill 1000. And if they don’t stop after 1000, then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000. Even a million.”

Some booklets distributed by the Israel Defense Forces rabbinate called for the killing of civilians. The chief rabbi taught that soldiers who “show mercy” toward the enemy in wartime will be “damned.” A book by two Israeli rabbis, The King’s Torah, teaches that killing infants is permissible.

Writer Stephen Lendman reports that some Israeli rabbis teach that “the ten commandments don’t apply to non-Jews. So killing them in defending the homeland is acceptable, and according to the chairman of the Jewish Rabbinic Council: ‘There is no such thing as enemy civilians in war time. The law of our Torah is to have mercy on our soldiers and to save them…. A thousand non-Jewish lives are not worth a Jew’s fingernail.’”

Similar statements by Israeli officials are reported frequently in the Israeli media, even on the filtered English language websites. They are also sometimes taught in the United States. Chabad Rabbi Manis Friedman, “world-renowned author, lecturer and philosopher; and co-founder of Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies,” wrote:

“I don’t believe in western morality, i.e. don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral.

“The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle).

Friedman wrote that “living by Torah values will make us a light unto the nations.”

Again, ATTN: misses the situation for Palestinians

Another ATTN: article and video is How One Country Nailed the Solution to Its Drought, about Israel’s desalinization projects.

The video, which got over 30 million views on Facebook, tells how Israel’s desalinization work is superior to the U.S., while leaving out the fact that the U.S. gives Israel $10 million per day. According to the video Israel now has “a surplus of water.”

The laudatory video repeats some of the founding myths of Israel, while omitting the fact that Israel gets much of its water by taking it from the Palestinian Occupied Territories and its neighbors. Reporter Charlotte Silver writes in her investigative article “Israel’s water miracle that wasn’t“:

Israel credits its use of desalination plants and drip-irrigation with enabling the desert to bloom – the iconic image reinforcing the still-lingering notion that the land of historic Palestine was a dry one, while further impressing Israel’s world audience with the young country’s wizardry with water.

Less attention is given to the Knesset report commissioned in 2002, nearly four decades after Israel’s national water carrier began diverting the Jordan river to Israeli citrus orchards in the Negev region. The report concluded that the region’s ongoing water crisis – a desiccated Jordan river and shrinking Dead Sea – was “primarily man-made”.

In 2014 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with California Governor Jerry Brown and bragged that, unlike California, “Israel doesn’t have a water problem.”

Silver writes: “The visit – and the message it carried – are just the latest in the PR ploys aptly called ‘bluewashing’. Israel doesn’t have a ‘water problem’ because it steals water from Palestinians.”

Camilla Corridin similarly reports in “Israel: Water as a tool to dominate Palestinians:

Since it occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israel has laid hands on Palestinian water resources through discriminatory water-sharing agreements that prevented Palestinians from maintaining or developing their water infrastructure through its illegal planning and permit regime. As a result, thousands of Palestinians are unable to access sufficient water supplies and became water-dependent on Israel.

By building on the myth of a water-scarce region – Ramallah has more rainfall than London – Israel has deliberately denied Palestinians control over their water resources and successfully set the ground for water domination, granting itself a further tool to exercise its hegemony over the occupied population and territory.

ATTN: founders Matthew Segal and Jarrett Moreno

Entrepreneurs Matthew Segal and Jarrett Moreno founded ATTN: in 2014. (Photo from the OurTime.org “Generation Now Inaugural Youth Ball,” January 19, 2013. The two also co-founded Our Time.)

At 32 and 31, ATTN: co-founders Matthew Segal and Jarrett Moreno are part of the generation they’re hoping to influence. Both seem to be Israel partisans.

An ATTN: article by Segal (who will now also be an ABC on-air contributor) criticizes the nonviolent movement known as BDS (boycott, divest, sanction), which is attempting to use financial pressure to  push Israel to end its violations of Palestinian human rights and of international law.

In his article Segal claims that BDS is a “catalyst” for antisemitism. He quotes the pro-Israel Simon Wiesenthal Center’s claim that BDS is a “thinly-disguised effort to coordinate and complement the violent strategy of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim ‘rejectionists’ who have refused to make peace with Israel,” which reverses reality (see also this , this, and this).

Segal quotes Jewish students who oppose BDS, but provides no information from the diverse collection of students who support it, many of whom are also Jewish, and ignores the Israeli violence against and subjugation of Palestinians that elicited the BDS movement.

A featured ATTN: video continues this theme in a video entitled “The Rise of Anti-Semitism in the United States.” Like Segal’s article, the film connects criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism.

The video highlights an unsubstantiated claim by the ADL that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States jumped 86 percent in one year,” superimposing the statement on a photo of Jewish children in Israel.

The video claims that anti-Semitism on the left is due to “anti-Israel sentiment,” and includes a warning by the UK’s Mark Gardner about the alleged prevalence of anti-semitism.

What the scare video doesn’t reveal is that The ADL and Mark Gardner are pro-Israel partisans who conflate criticism of Israel with “anti-Semitism,” and that this conflation is part of an ongoing campaign to change the meaning of the word.

What Jarrett Moreno missed on his visit to Israel

ATTN: co-founder Jarrett Moreno shows a similar pro-Israel bias.

In 2013 he posted a series of Instagram photos during a trip to Israel. As an individual responsible for an organization that claims to be socially concerned and against racism, Moreno shows a surprising lack of awareness about Israel’s past and present oppression of Palestinians.

In one of his posts, Moreno is wearing a hat with an Israeli flag emblem on it and  writes: “An American feeling at home in the ancient city of Tzfat.”

Another name for Tzfat is Sefad or Safad. It’s an ancient, religiously mixed site (some have speculated that it was the location of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, although most today believe this to have been at another nearby location.)

In 1945 Safad’s population of 12,000 was approximately 80 percent Palestinian. In 2003 the Palestinian population was under one percent. Jewish, Muslims and Christians having been forced out by Israel’s founding war and its policies since.

In 2010 an Israeli journalist called it “the most racist city in Israel.” Its 18 senior rabbis had ordered residents not to rent to non-Jews and some Palestinian homes were attacked to chants of “Death to the Arabs.” In 2016 Safed’s chief rabbi posted on Facebook that the Israeli army should stop arresting Palestinians and instead should “execute them and leave no one alive.”

Another Instagram post says: “Iced coffee & goofy smiles in #Israel #KiryatGat”.

Former San Francisco Chronicle journalist Henry Norr gave some background on this city in his 2008 article “The Nakba, Intel, and Kiryat Gat“:

Sixty years ago, there was no Kiryat Gat. The land it now occupies was divided between two Palestinian villages, al-Faluja and ‘Iraq al-Manshiya. While the area is well within the Green Line, Israel’s 1949-67 border, its history is in one way unique: Israeli forces never captured it during the 1948-49 war. Egyptian forces occupied it in late May 1948, and although later Israeli counter-offensives broke up their front and laid siege to the two villages — known at the time as the “Faluja pocket” — the 4,000 Egyptian troops deployed there (including a young officer named Gamal Abdel Nasser, soon to become president of his country) held out until Egypt and Israel agreed to an armistice on 24 February 1949.

That’s when the Nakba befell al-Faluja and ‘Iraq al-Manshiya.*

Stranded and surrounded, the Egyptians were in no position to stay in the area. To their credit, however, they insisted as a condition of their withdrawal that Israel guarantee the safety of the civilians in the area — about 2,000 locals and some 1,100 refugees from other parts of Palestine.

In principle, Israel accepted the Egyptians’ demand. In an exchange of letters that were filed with the United Nations and appended to the main armistice agreement, the two governments agreed that civilians who wished to remain in al-Faluja and ‘Iraq al-Manshiya would be permitted to do so, and that “All of these civilians shall be fully secure in their persons, abodes, property and personal effects.”

Within days, however, it was clear that the agreement wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Under the direction of Yitzhak Rabin (later Prime Minister of Israel), and probably with the direct approval of founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, according to historian Benny Morris, Israeli troops promptly mounted “a short, sharp, well-orchestrated campaign of low-key violence and psychological warfare designed to intimidate the inhabitants into flight.”

Residents of al-Faluja flee in 1949. (Palestine Remembered) Members of an American Quaker relief mission who were in the area at the time kept a diary of the violence they observed, such as the case of a man brought to them with “two bloody eyes, a torn ear, and a face pounded until it was blue.” And UN observers reported not only beatings and robberies, but also cases of attempted rape and “promiscuous firing” on civilians by Israeli soldiers.

What Morris labels “low-key,” however, probably didn’t seem so to the victims. He himself quotes a survivor’s testimony that the Israeli army “created a situation of terror, entered the houses and beat the people with rifle butts.”

Members of an American Quaker relief mission who were in the area at the time kept a diary detailing the violence they observed, such as the case of a man brought to them with “two bloody eyes, a torn ear, and a face pounded until it was blue.” And UN observers reporting to Ralph Bunche, the distinguished African-American diplomat then serving as chief UN mediator in Palestine, noted not only beatings and robberies, but also cases of attempted rape and “promiscuous firing” on civilians by Israeli soldiers.

Israel supporters, of course, are quick to dismiss even such eyewitness accounts as exaggerations if not outright fabrications. But even the most ardent Zionist can’t easily dismiss one other source who documented what happened in the Faluja pocket: Israel’s own foreign minister at the time, Moshe Sharett. Observing the blatant contradiction between the solemn diplomatic commitment his government had just undertaken and the behavior of its forces on the ground, he worried that it might jeopardize Israel’s campaign to gain UN membership. On 6 March 1949, just ten days after the agreement with the Egyptians, he fired off an angry memo to the Israeli army, charging that its actions in al-Faluja and ‘Iraq al-Manshiya were throwing into question “our sincerity as a party to an international agreement.” Noting that Israel was trying to argue at the UN that it was not responsible for the Palestinian refugee problem, he wrote, “From this perspective, the sincerity of our professions is tested by our behavior in these villages. … Every intentional pressure aimed at uprooting [the local population] is tantamount to a planned act of eviction on our part.”

Sharett objected not only to the overt violence, but also to what he said was a “whispering propaganda campaign” conducted covertly by the Israeli army, threatening the civilians with “attacks and acts of vengeance by the army” if they didn’t leave the area. “This whispering propaganda is not being done of itself,” Sharett continued. “There is no doubt that here there is a calculated action aimed at increasing the number of those going to the Hebron Hills [then controlled by Jordan] as if of their own free will, and, if possible, to bring about the evacuation of the whole civilian population” of the Faluja pocket.

… By mid-March all of al-Faluja’s residents had abandoned their homes; the residents of ‘Iraq al-Manshiya held out longer, but after several shootings by Israeli sentries, the last of them — some 1,160 people — left in Red Cross-organized convoys on 21 and 22 April.

Five days later, Rabin ordered the demolition of both villages.

In sum, they fell victim to the same tactics Israeli forces had perfected during the ethnic cleansing of the rest of their new state over the previous year. The only thing unusual about al-Faluja and ‘Iraq al-Manshiya was that Israel had formally promised not to do what it did, that so many Westerners were on hand to document the process, and that even a top Israeli official provided confirmation of their accounts.

Gaza enters the picture, sort of

Jarrett Moreno (right) with Israeli Guy Amir (posted on Instagram July 27, 2014)

In 2014, the year after Moreno’s trip, Israel invaded Gaza, yet again (its previous major invasion had been 2008-9). Moreno, now back in the U.S., responded with a July 27 Instagram photo of himself with an Israeli friend. He comments:

“Thinking of my friend Guy Amir and many thousands of Israelis who dropped school and work to respond to more than a decade of rocket attacks from Hamas.”

In the “decade of rocket attacks” that Moreno mentions, rockets from Gaza had killed 23 Israelis. Moreno doesn’t mention that during the same period, Israeli forces had killed about 4,000 Gazans and injured tens of thousands.

Moreno’s post goes on to say:

Hoping for safety and peace for my friends through the Middle East, the citizens of Gaza + Israel, and Jews who’ve been victims of violent protest around the world.”

A boy sits amid the rubble of his destroyed house in the Gaza Strip, July 2014. Israeli forces damaged or destroyed thousands of homes, displacing an estimated quarter of a million people.

The Red Cross reported in 2010 that the Israeli blockade had caused a steady rise in chronic malnutrition among the 1.5 million people living in Gaza.

While Moreno’s post suggests that Israelis and Gazans were suffering equally, the reality was far from equal.

Gazans were living in what many have described as an open air concentration camp in which food, medicines, building supplies, and the ability to come and go were severely restricted by Israel. Children were suffering malnutrition and some died from treatable conditions.

During Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” invasion of Gaza, the period when Moreno posted, Israelis killed more than 2,100 Palestinians (three-quarters were civilians); Palestinians killed 72 Israelis (six were civilians).

The day before Moreno’s post, Israeli forces had killed a two-and-a-half year old, an 18-month-old, a seven-year-old, a five year-old, two one-year olds, an eleven-year-old, and a four-year-old among the at least 494 Palestinian children killed by Israel during the invasion. No Israeli children were killed.

A few months later Moreno posted a grinning selfie:

The bottom line

So far, ATTN:’s marketing strategy has paid off.

Its Facebook page has 4.7 million followers; one video alone got over 60 million views. A spokesperson says the company is “benefiting from a trust halo.”

Matthew Segal’s net worth is now reportedly $2.1 million. (Jarrett Moreno’s is unknown but is likely similar.)

ATTN: proclaims that it covers ‘important issues and calls to action, breaks down complex issues for its viewers, and starts conversations around issues that matter with hundreds of millions of people every month.’

Its promo video has a clip of Joe Biden noting “the power of social media and the power of communicating a view.”

Given ATTN:’s record so far and the views of its founders, this ‘social issues’ powerhouse that plans to ‘make an impact’ does not bode well for Palestinian men, women, and children – or for the Israelis who oppose their government’s actions and have long called for the U.S. to “stop Israel.”

If ATTN: continues its present course, both may continue to lose out – as well as Americans, whose politicians from both parties, give Israel massive amounts of our tax money, year after year.


Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.  


* Conservatives seem to have a similar phenomenon – where for some people ‘America First’ changes to ‘America Second’ when Israel comes into the picture, and fiscal conservatism turns into massive hand-outs when money to Israel is involved. Politicians from both parties who desire donations from Israel partisans and who desire favorable coverage from pro-Israel media – which includes almost everyone, from Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz – are a mainstay of both groups.

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August 8, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook begins ‘fake news’ crackdown with ‘disputed’ story tag roll out

RT | March 5, 2017

Facebook has begun rolling out its much hyped ‘fake news’ crackdown initiative, launching its ‘disputed’ news tag on stories deemed false by fact checking organisations working with the social media giant.

The tool appears to have been unveiled without fanfare in the US, but some users have shared screenshots of it in action on Twitter.

Facebook has added a question to its help center page entitled “How is news marked as disputed on Facebook?.” The section notes, however, that this feature is not yet available to everyone. It is unclear how many people currently have access to the ‘fake news’ debunking feature.

Facebook introduced their solution to false stories last December amid outcries that so-called fake news influenced the outcome of the US presidential election. These unproven claims have been disputed by a Stanford University/NYU study.

As part of the plan, the tech giant partnered with fact checkers that are signatories of Poynter’s International Fact Checking Code of Principles. These include ABC News, FactCheck.org, the Associated Press, Snopes and Politifact.

Stories flagged by Facebook users as ‘fake news’ are passed on to these fact checkers for verification. If the fact-checkers agree that the story is misleading, it will appear in News Feeds with a “disputed” tag, along with a link to a corresponding article explaining why it might be false.

These posts then appear lower in the news feed and users will receive a warning before sharing the story.

Similar efforts are planned in Europe amid threats from the EU to clamp down on the spread of misinformation. Facebook recently revealed fact checking partnerships in Germany and France ahead of respective elections in each country.

Concerns have been raised, however, over the implications of such practices on freedom of speech.

Project Censored, a non-profit that aims to fight censorship through promoting media literacy, views Facebook’s fake news crackdown as “problematic.”

“What Facebook, and the Washington Post’s ill advised list of fake news sites, has attempted to do is make lists of news outlets that are “fake,” Nolan Higdon, faculty advisor at Project Censored told RT.

“However, this is problematic because some news sites have both journalists doing credible work and those disseminating propaganda. While some consumers may be swayed by the digestible notion of “these sites good, these sites bad” lists; it does not solve the problem of people consuming propaganda, “ he added.

The key is education, Higdon insisted, explaining the importance of teaching individuals to examine a media outlet critically.

“Simply creating an arbitrary list of whose websites can and cannot be viewed on Facebook or considered ‘news’ is normalizing censorship instead of informing individuals.”

READ MORE:

Fake news did not influence 2016 election, study finds

 Facebook’s ‘anti-fake news’ plan looks like effort to curb alternative media

March 5, 2017 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debate Moderator Distorted Syrian Reality

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 11, 2016

How ABC News’ Martha Raddatz framed her question about Syria in the second presidential debate shows why the mainstream U.S. news media, with its deep-seated biases and inability to deal with complexity, has become such a driving force for wider wars and even a threat to the future of the planet.

Raddatz, the network’s chief global affairs correspondent, presented the Syrian conflict as simply a case of barbaric aggression by the Syrian government and its Russian allies against the Syrian people, especially the innocents living in Aleppo.

ABC News' chief global correspondent Martha Raddatz.

ABC News’ correspondent Martha Raddatz

“Just days ago, the State Department called for a war crimes investigation of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and its ally, Russia, for their bombardment of Aleppo,” Raddatz said. “So this next question comes through social media through Facebook. Diane from Pennsylvania asks, if you were president, what would you do about Syria and the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo? Isn’t it a lot like the Holocaust when the U.S. waited too long before we helped?”

The framing of the question assured a response from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about her determination to expand the U.S. military intervention in Syria to include a “no-fly zone,” which U.S. military commanders say would require a massive operation that would kill many Syrians, both soldiers and civilians, to eliminate Syria’s sophisticated air-defense systems and its air force.

But Raddatz’s loaded question was also a way of influencing – or misleading – U.S. public opinion. Consider for a moment how a more honest and balanced question could have elicited a very different response and a more thoughtful discussion:

“The situation in Aleppo presents a heartrending and nettlesome concern. Al Qaeda fighters and their rebel allies, including some who have been armed by the United States, are holed up in some neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo. They’ve been firing rockets into the center and western sections of Aleppo and they have shot civilians seeking to leave east Aleppo through humanitarian corridors.

“These terrorists and their ‘moderate’ rebel allies seem to be using the tens of thousands of civilians still in east Aleppo as ‘human shields’ in order to create sympathy from Western audiences when the Syrian government seeks to root the terrorists and other insurgents from these neighborhoods with airstrikes that have killed both armed fighters and civilians. In such a circumstance, what should the U.S. role be and was it a terrible mistake to supply these fighters with sophisticated rockets and other weapons, given that these weapons have helped Al Qaeda in seizing and holding territory?”

Siding with Al Qaeda

Raddatz also could have noted that a key reason why the recent limited cease-fire failed was that the U.S.-backed “moderate” rebels in east Aleppo had rebuffed Secretary of State John Kerry’s demand that they separate themselves from Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which now calls itself the Syria Conquest Front.

Instead of breaking ties with Al Qaeda, some of these “moderate” rebel groups reaffirmed or expanded their alliances with Al Qaeda. In other words, Official Washington’s distinction between Al Qaeda’s terrorists and the “moderate” rebels was publicly revealed to be largely a myth. But the reality of U.S.-aided rebels collaborating with the terror group that carried out the 9/11 attacks complicates the preferred mainstream narrative of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin “the bad guys” versus the rebels “the good guys.”

If Raddatz had posed her question with the more complex reality (rather than the simplistic, biased form that she chose) and if Clinton still responded with her recipe of a “no-fly zone,” the obvious follow-up would be: “Wouldn’t such a military intervention constitute aggressive war against Syria in violation of the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg principles?

“And wouldn’t such a strategy risk tipping the military balance inside Syria in favor of Al Qaeda and its jihadist allies, possibly even its spinoff terror group, the Islamic State? And what would the United States do then, if its destruction of the Syrian air force led to the black flag of jihadist terror flying over Damascus as well as all of Aleppo? Would a Clinton-45 administration send in U.S. troops to stop the likely massacre of Christians, Alawites, Shiites, secular Sunnis and other ‘heretics’?”

There would be other obvious and important questions that a more objective Martha Raddatz would ask: “Would your no-fly zone include shooting down Russian aircraft that are flying inside Syria at the invitation of the Syrian government? Might such a clash provoke a superpower escalation, possibly even invite nuclear war?”

But no such discussion is allowed inside the mainstream U.S. media’s frame. There is an unstated assumption that the United States has the unquestioned right to invade other countries at will, regardless of international law, and there is a studied silence about this hypocrisy even as the U.S. State Department touts the sanctity of international law.

Whose War Crimes?

Raddatz’s favorable reference to the State Department accusing the Syrian and Russian governments of war crimes further suggests a stunning lack of self-awareness, a blindness to America’s own guilt in that regard. How can any American journalist put on such blinders regarding even recent U.S. war crimes, including the illegal invasion of Iraq that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?

While Raddatz referenced “the heart-breaking video of a 5-year-old Syrian boy named Omran sitting in an ambulance after being pulled from the rubble after an air strike in Aleppo,” she seems to have no similar sympathy for the slaughtered and maimed children of Iraq who suffered under American bombs – or the people of Yemen who have faced a prolonged aerial onslaught from Saudi Arabia using U.S. aircraft and U.S.-supplied ordnance.

Regarding Iraq, there was the case at the start of the U.S.-led war when President George W. Bush mistakenly thought Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein might be eating at a Baghdad restaurant so U.S. warplanes leveled it, killing more than a dozen civilians, including children and a young woman whose headless body was recovered by her mother.

“When the broken body of the 20-year-old woman was brought out torso first, then her head,” the Associated Press reported, “her mother started crying uncontrollably, then collapsed.” The London Independent cited this restaurant attack as one that represented “a clear breach” of the Geneva Conventions ban on bombing civilian targets.

But such civilian deaths were of little interest to the mainstream U.S. media. “American talking heads … never seemed to give the issue any thought,” wrote Eric Boehlert in a report on the U.S. war coverage for Salon.com. “Certainly they did not linger on images of the hellacious human carnage left in the aftermath.”

Thousands of other civilian deaths were equally horrific. Saad Abbas, 34, was wounded in an American bombing raid, but his family sought to shield him from the greater horror. The bombing had killed his three daughters Marwa, 11; Tabarek, 8; and Safia, 5 who had been the center of his life. “It wasn’t just ordinary love,” his wife said. “He was crazy about them. It wasn’t like other fathers.” [NYT, April 14, 2003]

The horror of the war was captured, too, in the fate of 12-year-old Ali Ismaeel Abbas, who lost his two arms when a U.S. missile struck his Baghdad home. Ali’s father, his pregnant mother and his siblings were all killed. As the armless Ali was evacuated to a Kuwaiti hospital, becoming a symbol of U.S. compassion for injured Iraqi civilians, the boy said he would rather die than live without his hands.

Because of the horrors inflicted on Iraq – and the resulting chaos that has now spread across the region and into Europe – Raddatz could have asked Clinton, who as a U.S. senator voted for the illegal war, whether she felt any responsibility for this carnage. Of course, Raddatz would not ask that question because the U.S. mainstream media was almost universally onboard the Iraq War bandwagon, which helps explain why there has been virtually no accountability for those war crimes.

Letting Clinton Off

So, Clinton was not pressed on her war judgments regarding either Iraq or the Libyan “regime change” that she championed in 2011, another war of choice that transformed the once-prosperous North African nation into a failed state. Raddatz’s biased framing also put Republican Donald Trump on the defensive for resisting yet another American “regime change” project in Syria.

Trump was left muttering some right-wing talking points that sought to attack Clinton as soft on Syria, trying to link her to President Barack Obama’s decision not to bomb the Syrian military in August 2013 after a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus, which occurred six months after Clinton had resigned as Secretary of State.

Trump: “She was there as Secretary of State with the so-called line in the sand, which…

Clinton: “No, I wasn’t. I was gone. I hate to interrupt you, but at some point…

Trump: “OK. But you were in contact — excuse me. You were…

Clinton: “At some point, we need to do some fact-checking here.

Trump: “You were in total contact with the White House, and perhaps, sadly, Obama probably still listened to you. I don’t think he would be listening to you very much anymore. Obama draws the line in the sand. It was laughed at all over the world what happened.”

In bashing Obama for not bombing Syria – after U.S. intelligence expressed suspicion that the sarin attack was actually carried out by Al Qaeda or a related group trying to trick the U.S. military into attacking the Syrian government – Trump may have pleased his right-wing base but he was deviating from his generally less war-like stance on the Middle East.

He followed that up with another false right-wing claim that Clinton and Obama had allowed the Russians to surge ahead on nuclear weapons, saying:our nuclear program has fallen way behind, and they’ve gone wild with their nuclear program. Not good.”

Only after attacking Clinton for not being more militaristic did Trump say a few things that made sense, albeit in his incoherent snide-aside style.

Trump: “Now, she talks tough, she talks really tough against Putin and against Assad. She talks in favor of the rebels. She doesn’t even know who the rebels are. You know, every time we take rebels, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else, we’re arming people. And you know what happens? They end up being worse than the people [we overthrow].

“Look at what she did in Libya with [Muammar] Gaddafi. Gaddafi’s out. It’s a mess. And, by the way, ISIS has a good chunk of their oil. I’m sure you probably have heard that.” [Actually, whether one has heard it or not, that point is not true. During the ongoing political and military strife, Libya has been blocked from selling its oil, which is shipped by sea.]

Trump continued: “It was a disaster. Because the fact is, almost everything she’s done in foreign policy has been a mistake and it’s been a disaster.

“But if you look at Russia, just take a look at Russia, and look at what they did this week, where I agree, she wasn’t there, but possibly she’s consulted. We sign a peace treaty. Everyone’s all excited. Well, what Russia did with Assad and, by the way, with Iran, who you made very powerful with the dumbest deal perhaps I’ve ever seen in the history of deal-making, the Iran deal, with the $150 billion, with the $1.7 billion in cash, which is enough to fill up this room.

“But look at that deal. Iran now and Russia are now against us. So she wants to fight. She wants to fight for rebels. There’s only one problem. You don’t even know who the rebels are. So what’s the purpose?”

While one can’t blame Raddatz for Trump’s scattered thinking – or for Clinton’s hawkishness – the moderator’s failure to frame the Syrian issue in a factual and nuanced way contributed to this dangerously misleading “debate” on a grave issue of war and peace.

It is surely not the first time that the mainstream U.S. media has failed the American people in this way, but – given the stakes of a possible nuclear war with Russia – this propagandistic style of “journalism” is fast becoming an existential threat.

October 12, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

2008 ABC News predictions about climate in 2015

wil raps

New York City underwater? Gas over $9 a gallon? A carton of milk costs almost $13? Welcome to June 12, 2015. Or at least that was the wildly-inaccurate version of 2015 predicted by ABC News exactly seven years ago. Appearing on Good Morning America in 2008, Bob Woodruff hyped Earth 2100, a special that pushed apocalyptic predictions of the then-futuristic 2015.The segment included supposedly prophetic videos, such as a teenager declaring, “It’s June 8th, 2015. One carton of milk is $12.99.” (On the actual June 8, 2015, a gallon of milk cost, on average, $3.39.) Another clip featured this prediction for the current year: “Gas reached over $9 a gallon.” (In reality, gas costs an average of $2.75.)

July 11, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Top 10 Bogus ISIS Stories

By Adam Johnson | FAIR | February 20, 2015

… as America debates the possibility of a full-scale ground invasion of ISIS-controlled territory, it’s important to note that much of the ISIS threat — namely that which targets the West — has been habitually overstated by an uncritical media.

In no particular order, here are the ten most bogus ISIS scare stories over the past year:


1. Female genital mutilation edict – July 2014


Genital Mutilation

Who it fooled: Most major media outlets from Time to Reuters to The Atlantic to the BBC (whose story has since been scrubbed online). Above all, the UN itself.

Why it’s bogus: Actual residents of Mosul and regional experts quickly knew it reeked. The story was subsequently discredited by experts and jouranalists and called a hoax soon after.


2. Church-burning in Mosul – July 2014


Mosul Church Burning


Who it fooled: Human Rights Watch, The Atlantic, The Independent, The Times of India

Why it’s bogus: An intrepid archaeologist, Sam Hardy, called BS and thanks to the magic of reverse image Google search and some prodding by yours truly, it was eventually retracted by several outlets and never mentioned again.


3. ISIS in Mexico – October 2014


ISIS in Mexico


Who it fooled: Fox News, Judicial Watch, The Inquisitr.

Why it’s bogus: Absurd on its face, the story was quickly and roundly debunked.

4. ISIS recruiting emo British teen – December 2014


ISIS Emo Teen


Who it fooled: Metro, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph

Why it’s bogus: The person who uploaded the picture admitted on Twitter it was a fake. The media subsequently deemed it a “hoax”.


5. ISIS Caliphate map – July 2014


ISIS Map


Who it fooled: ABC News, International Business Times, Breitbart

Why it’s bogus: The original story from ABC News cited a map that had been floating around the Internet for months. To this day, its one and only source is a tweet from a noted white supremacist website Third Position.

io9.com and others eventually deemed it a hoax.

6. ISIS beheads Christian children – Aug 2014


aj_6


Who it fooled: Originally asserted on CNN by self-proclaimed Iraqi-Christian activist Mark Arabo–a grocery story industry lobbyist whose previous media appearance was on a local San Diego news channel to oppose an increase in minimum wage–this story spread among right-wing and Christian media.

Why it’s bogus: After a fairly thorough inquiry, snopes eventually determined the claim was “inconclusive,” having found no independent evidence it occurred.


7. $425m bank robbery – June 2014


ISIS Robbery


Who it fooled: The Washington Post, International Business Times, Fox News, Mic, Vocativ

Why it’s bogus: The story was based solely on accounts from the former mayor of Mosul and was later found to be uncredible by The Financial Times and, ultimately, US officials themselves.


8. ‘Over 100 Americans have joined ISIS’ – October 2014


100 Americans in ISIS


Who it fooled: NBC News, Washington Post, Al Jazeera


Only 12 Americans Fighting With ISIS


Why it’s bogus: After the FBI admitted there were only “about a dozen” Americans fighting alongside jihadists in Syria in September 2014, several media outlets continued to report “over 100,” despite the government correcting the record several weeks prior.

9. #AllEyesOnISIS “Twitter storm” – June 2014


ISIS Twitter War


Who it fooled: The Daily Mail, McClatchy

Why it’s bogus: Yours truly showed that the “Twitter storm” was simply a reposting of weeks- or months-old tweets by an overzealous ISIS fanboi.

10. ISIS’s ebola terror plot – December 2014


alt


Who it fooled: The Daily Mail, Fox News, Mashable, random right-wing media

Why it’s bogus: “Iraqi media” was the only source for the story, and the Iraqi minister of Health quickly debunked it.

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

George Stephanopoulos Thinks Iran is Enriching Weapons-Grade Uranium

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | September 30, 2013

Iran’s new foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared on ABC‘s “This Week” and addressed a number of the same questions every Iranian official is asked again and again in interviews by the American media.

George Stephanopoulos, who effectively conducted the same interview with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad three years in a row, asked Zarif about possible concessions Iran is willing to make over its nuclear program. By doing so, however, he revealed that he knows very little about Iran’s domestic enrichment program and the consistent findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In response to Zarif’s comment that, for negotiations to be successful, Iran’s inalienable right to enrich uranium be recognized and sanctions begin to be lifted, Stephanopoulos countered, “I understand that’s your demand. But in return, is Iran prepared to stop enriching uranium at the levels they are now enriching it?”

Iran, under strict IAEA safeguards, round-the-clock surveillance and regular intrusive inspection, is currently enriching UF6 (uranium hexafluoride feedstock) to between 3.5% and 5% U-235 for use as fuel in nuclear power plants and to just under 20% U-235 for use in medical research reactors. Both 5% and 20% enriched uranium are considered “low-enriched uranium” (LEU). Neither of these enrichment levels are close to the minimum of 90% U-235, or high-enriched uranium (HEU), needed to produce nuclear bombs.

Not only this, but Iran has been systematically converting its roughly 20% LEU into U3O8 (triuranium octoxide) metallic fuel plates for its research reactor, thus precluding the material’s further enrichment to weapons-grade and decreasing its accumulating stockpile, thus deliberately reducing the potential threat of proliferation. Nuclear physicist Yousaf Butt has explained, “This conversion essentially freezes the enrichment level and subtracts from the ‘enrichable’ gaseous stockpile used in centrifuges. It is not something that a nation hell-bent on weaponization would do.”

The Tehran Research Reactor, where these fuel plates are used, produces radioisotopes required to diagnose and treat more than 850,000 cancer patients across the country.

In short, Iran is not – and has never even been accused or suspected of – enriching weapons-grade uranium.

Yet, as Stephanopoulos’ interview with Zarif continued, it became increasingly clear the ABC host thinks it is.

When Zarif noted that, while “various aspects of Iranian’s enrichment program” are open to negotiation, Iran’s “right to enrich is nonnegotiable,” Stephanopoulos replied, “But you don’t need to enrich above 20 percent, which is only used for military purposes.”

Zarif explained, “We do not need military-grade uranium. That’s a certainty and we will not move in that direction.”

Stephanopoulos, after asking if Iran would ever allow “surprise inspections” of its nuclear facilities – something Iran already does – was told forthrightly by Zarif that Iran has absolutely no interest in producing nuclear weapons.

“We’re not seeking nuclear weapons… We don’t want nuclear weapons,” the Iranian Foreign Minister said, echoing decades of official Iranian policy. “We believe nuclear weapons are detrimental to our security. We believe those who have the illusion that nuclear weapons provide them with security are badly mistaken. We need to have a region and a world free from nuclear weapons.”

What was Stephanopoulos’ response? This:

“But if you don’t want nuclear weapons why enrich uranium to the levels you’re enriching uranium?,” he wondered.

Again, Iran is not enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels, so Stephanopoulos’ question makes no sense. Next time, perhaps, he’ll ask one of the hundreds of thousands of Iranians suffering from cancer why they think their government is enriching uranium to the levels it does.

With media personalities like Stephanopoulos, it is no wonder that the American public remains misinformed and mislead on basic facts about Iran’s nuclear program.

October 1, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Do TV Networks ‘Practice’ for War?

By Peter Hart – FAIR – 02/13/2012

Alexander Cockburn’s latest piece at CounterPunch (2/10/12) included this from a tipster:

I was visiting ABC News the other day to see a friend who works on graphics. When I went to his room, he showed me all the graphics he was making in anticipation of the Israeli attack on Iran; not just maps, but flight patterns, trajectories and 3-D models of U.S. aircraft carrier fleets.

But what was most disturbing–was that ABC, and presumably other networks, have been rehearsing these scenarios for over two weeks, with newscasters and retired generals in front of maps talking about missiles and delivery systems, and at their newsdesks-–the screens are emblazoned with “This Is a Drill” to assure they don’t go out on air (like War of the Worlds).

Then reports of counter-attacks by Hezbollah in Lebanon with rockets on Israeli cities–it was mind-numbing. Very disturbing–when pre-visualization becomes real.

Does that kind of thing actually happen? Well, yeah.

CBS “practiced” covering a U.S. bombing of Iraq back in 1998–and the footage was apparently fed to a satellite (L.A. Times, 2/20/98):

CBS jumped the gun Friday on a possible U.S. attack on Iraq: The network inadvertently transmitted a practice news report via satellite that could be picked up by television stations and viewers with special equipment.

To try out new graphics for combat coverage in the event the U.S. goes forward with the threatened bombing of Iraq, CBS anchor Dan Rather was rehearsing with Pentagon correspondent David Martin over a closed line between CBS‘s New York headquarters and its Washington news bureau. The report was mistakenly sent up to a communications satellite.

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Comments Off on Do TV Networks ‘Practice’ for War?