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Western media coverage of Russia as an exercise in propaganda

By Gilbert Doctorow | January 12, 2020

The notion of “fake news” has entered our vocabulary as a pejorative term for dissemination of bogus information, usually by social media, sometimes by traditional print and electronic channels which happen to hold positions contradicting the tenets of our conventional wisdom, i.e., liberal democracy. The term has been applied to Russian state owned media such as RT to justify denying such outlets normal journalistic credentials and privileges.

In this essay, I will employ the more traditional term propaganda, which I take to mean the manipulation of information which may or may not be factually true in order to achieve objectives of denigrating rivals for influence and power in the world, and in particular for denigrating Russia and the “Putin regime.”

The working tools of such propaganda are

  • tendentious determination of what constitutes news, which build on the inherent predisposition of journalism to feature the negative and omit the positive from daily reporting while they carry this predisposition to preposterous lengths
  • the abandonment of journalism’s traditional “intermediation,” meaning provision of necessary context to make sense of the facts set out in the body of a news report. In this regard, the propagandistic journalist does not deliver the essential element of paid-for journalism which should distinguish it from free “fake news” on social media and on the internet more broadly
  • silence, meaning under-reporting or zero reporting of inconvenient news which contradicts the conventional wisdom or might prompt the reader-viewer to think for himself or herself. As a colleague and comrade in arms, professor Steve Cohen of Princeton and NYU, has said in his latest book War with Russia? : the century old motto of The New York Times “All the news that’s fit to print” has in our day turned into “All the news that fits.”

Demonstrations of the arguments I present here could easily fill a book if not a library shelf.  However, I think for purposes of this essay, it suffices to adduce several examples of the three violations of professional journalism giving us a constant stream of propaganda about Russia and its political leadership by offering a few reports drawn from the very cream of our print and electronic media.  In particular, I have chosen as markers the Financial Times and the BBC.  The use of propaganda methods in their coverage of Russia is all the more telling and damaging, given that in a great many domains these channels otherwise represent some of the highest quality standards to be found in reporting anywhere today and consequently enjoy the respect of their subscribers and visitors, who little suspect they could be so prejudicial in their coverage of select domains like Russia.

* * * *

As 2019 drew to a close, many of our media outlets drew attention to two Russia-related anniversaries: the just celebrated thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with the retreat of Soviet armed forces from Eastern Europe that it touched off; and the soon to be celebrated twentieth year of Vladimir Putin’s hold on power in the Kremlin. Both subjects may be fairly called news worthy and so fully correspond to traditional journalistic values. What has been exceptional and unacceptable has come in the second category of violations listed above – lack of context.

Starting in October 2019, the BBC’s Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg did several programs dedicated to the fall of the Berlin Wall. During the Christmas to New Year’s period, the BBC aired one program which consisted of two parts. In the first half, Rosenberg considered the impact of the withdrawal of Russian forces from East Germany on the Russians themselves and interviewed the former chief of those forces, who explained at length how they “came home” to shocking living conditions in the provinces, how they were abandoned to their fate by their own government. The tone of the reporting was sympathetic to Russians’ hardships and it was good that their side of the story from the ground up was given the microphone. What implied criticism there was of the powers that be came from a patriotic source. However, the second half of the program was turned over to a certain Lydia Shevtsova, a very outspoken Putin-hater, formerly with the Carnegie Center Moscow, till she was finally booted out and moved to a more congenial and supportive think tank, Chatham House, in London, where her anti-Russian vitriol is encouraged and disseminated by her co-author, ex-British ambassador to Moscow Sir Andrew Wood. Among the gem quotations which Shevtsova delivered was the claim that Russia under Putin is a declining power which is capable only of disrupting the world order, a spoiler not capable of any creative or productive contribution. Of course, Shevtsova has a right to her opinions, however the BBC had an obligation to its audience to explain exactly who the lady is and, if they wanted to practice fair play, to offer an alternative interpretation of what Vladimir Putin’s Russia stands for on the global stage today. They did not do either. The result was pure propaganda not news and analysis.

As for violations in the categories one and two above, a very good example arose following the recent publication of a study performed by the Levada Center public opinion polling organization in Moscow during October which showed that “53 per cent of 18-to-24 year-olds wanted to leave the country.” This was written about by many of our news peddlers, including FT. The decision to feature this factoid and use it to support claims that the Putin regime’ is a failure fits well with tendentiousness of our news coverage. Meanwhile, nearly all coverage of that study, including in the Financial Times, offered no contextual information whatsoever, when the context was begging to be told.

The article in FT which carried the Levada Center findings was published on 9 January as “Generation Putin: how young Russians view the only leader they’ve ever known.” The remarks on Levada followed directly on another statement begging for context: “Youth unemployment in Russia is more than three times the rate of the total population, according to 2018 data, compared with just twice the rate in 2000.”

First, as regards those 53% would-be “leavers,” one might ask: and so, why don’t they just leave? Russia today is truly a free country: anyone other than convicted felons who wants a passport can get it, and get it rather quickly. And thanks to the efforts of their remarkably hard-working Ministry of Foreign Affairs, most of the world welcomes Russian travelers without a visa requirement. But for that matter, getting a Schengen visa for the EU is not so complicated either.

However, those 53% are, in fact, not going anywhere. They are just sounding off about their youthful disgruntlement with a world created and run by their parents.

At the same time, as the Financial Times editorial board knows full well, young, middle-aged and even old have been leaving the Baltic States, Bulgaria, Romania and other former Soviet Bloc countries in droves, for the past thirty years up to the present day. That was the subject of an article published in the FT on the next day, 10 January 2020 under a title which speaks for itself: “Shrinking Europe.” The states I mentioned here have seen 25 and 30% loss of their population to citizens voting with their feet and departing the shrinking economies and personal prospects which result directly from deindustrialization and economic colonization by Germany and other founding Member States of the EU since 1991. The issue appears in the news now because, as the FT explains, “Andrej Plenkovic, the Croatian prime minister, has decided to elevate population decline to the top of his agenda as Zagreb assumes the EU’s rotating presidency.” Good for him! Now that the skeleton has finally come out of the EU closet, all the stories about Russia’s demographic crisis can be put in context – by those few who wish to do so.

Second, as regards unemployment in Russia today, I believe that similar ratios of youth unemployment to the general population unemployment can be found most everywhere in Western Europe if not in the world at large. The fact that this ratio has worsened comparatively in Russia since 2000 may be explained by the anomalous situation in Russia prevailing throughout the 1990s in step with the economic collapse that accompanied the transition to a market economy. Precisely the older generations, those over 40, were thrown into the street and their children or grandchildren were the first to be hired by the newly emerging industrial conglomerates, not to mention by Western multinationals settling in. What has happened since 2000 is merely a reversion to more normal distribution of employment and unemployment in the population as the Russian economy stabilizes.

Dear Reader!

For those who find my examples above too subtle to support my argument for egregious propagandistic treatment of Russia in our media, allow me to introduce violation number three, silence, in a way that should sweep away all objections to my thesis.

I draw your attention to an event that occurred in the past week about which you probably know nothing, or perhaps a wee bit from the odd man out reporting in the Wall Street Journal and a few other outlets. I am talking about the visit of Vladimir Putin to Damascus on Tuesday, 7 January. To their credit, the WSJ carried a short article in their 8 January edition, but went no further than to note this was the second visit by Putin since the Russians joined the fight in support of President Bashar Assad back in September 2015, turning the tide in the civil war his way. That is true, but only represents a tiny slice of what all our journalists, including the WSJ’s could have and possibly did learn from watching Russian state television on the 7th. What our media chose not to report was passed over in silence because it shows the complexity of Russia’s policy in the Middle East that includes but goes well outside the domain of pure geopolitics. This is so not least because of the date chosen for the visit, which happens to be Orthodox Christmas.

On the evening of the 6th, that is to say on Christmas eve, by the Russian Orthodox calendar, Russian state television broadcast live coverage of the Christmas service in the Christ the Savior cathedral in Moscow officiated by Patriarch Kirill, with prime minister Medvedev present on behalf of the Government. Then it cut to the service in St Petersburg, where Vladimir Putin sat in the congregation, as is his custom. The commentator mentioned in passing that the Patriarch’s father, a parish priest, just happened to be the one who baptized Vladimir Putin as a child where they all lived, in the Northern Capital.

The next coverage of Putin on state television was from Damascus on the 7th, where he obviously arrived on a night flight from Petersburg. I did not see video coverage [video coverage has now been posted] … But still photos and reports on state television informed us that Putin had not merely held talks with President Assad on the Russian military base outside the capital, but had strolled together with him down the streets of Damascus, had visited the main church in the (still existing) Christian quarter of the city, had presented to the Patriarch of Antioch an icon of the Virgin and had also gone on to visit the city’s oldest and largest mosque.

What you have here is precisely the second line of justification for Russian presence in Syria alongside military/geopolitical reasons: resuming Russia’s 19th century role as protector of the Orthodox population in the Holy Land and the broader Middle East. A similar role was exercised back then by France on behalf of the Catholic populations, but that since has been totally negated by rampant secularism and multiculturalism in Western Europe.

It also has to be said that Putin’s visit to Damascus was back-to-back with other very high visibility political statements: his visit to Istanbul on the 8th for the official opening of the TurkSteam gas pipeline and for lengthy talks with President Erdogan that ended in a joint statement calling for a truce in the Libyan civil war for which Russia and Turkey support opposing sides; and his visit on the 9th to Russian naval exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean that included the launch of Russia’s latest hypersonic missiles, the reality of which U.S. and other Western experts have yet to acknowledge.

With this I rest my case on the unfortunate propagandistic behavior of our media which deprive the broad Western public of any chance to make sense of the most dangerous military and political stand-off of our age.

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2020

January 12, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Chatham House Chief’s 11,000-Word Article Says Globalist Think Tank Network Must Unite—or Lose Neo-Liberal Order

By Mark Anderson | The Truth Hound | January 19, 2019

The head of one of the world’s oldest elite foreign policy institutions in London is calling for the world’s pro-globalist think tanks to unite like never before, lest their neo-liberal world order dissolve in the populist tide that appears to be rising.

Chatham House Director Dr. Robin Niblett wrote an 11,000-word article entitled “Rediscovering a Sense of Purpose: The Challenge for Western Think Tanks” in Vol. 94, Issue 6 of Chatham House’s journal, International Affairs. In it, he declared: “To devise a common work [program], do think-tanks from across the world also need to possess a common sense of purpose? . . . . After something like a hundred years of think-tank experience, the answer is yes.”

Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a member of the original array of gilded private institutes that arose and revolutionized the world of geo-politics in the early 20th century. Other major members include the Carnegie Endowment for International Affairs (shown to have been involved in apparently treasonous activities by the Reece Committee in the 1950s), along with the Brookings Institution, and, of course, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Echoing the grave concerns expressed during early 2018 by CFR President Richard Haass to the International Relations Committee of the UK’s House of Lords, Dr. Niblett noted in his article that he’s apprehensive about the rise of “populist” politics, the implication being that think-tanks must either modify their mission or risk becoming increasingly irrelevant—possibly to the point of losing their grip on influencing government policy largely from “behind the throne,” something they’ve perfected ever since the eldest think tanks’ early but unsuccessful efforts to push the U.S. into the League of Nations—a failed forerunner of the United Nations.

The deeper challenge for Western think tanks is whether they can rediscover a sense of purpose that is as fit for the 21st Century as was that which mobilized their counterparts in the early 20th Century,” Niblett wrote, with noticeable nostalgia regarding the early days of stealthy power-brokering.

He added that, today, the world’s think tanks “need to stand for certain core principles of governance that have been shown by the experience of the last hundred years to offer the best prospects for sustainable security and prosperity.”

Exactly whose “sustainable security and prosperity” is at stake is never made clear, though the gilded investment class that undergirds these think tanks, and assuredly not the average citizen, is a safe bet. However, Niblett confesses that the age of the Internet, whatever its shortcomings, has generally enabled the citizenry to become better informed and therefore more skeptical of elite opinion.

Niblett put it as gingerly as he could: “Policy audiences appear less interested in the outputs of think tanks if they believe that these have no public resonance beyond the expert circles in which they were developed.”

Therefore, he added: “Think tanks have to apply a growing proportion of their resources to trying to mobilize popular engagement with their ideas. One approach has been to raise their public profile by commenting more on current policy developments, rather than analyzing their underlying drivers. The danger is that this blurs the line between think tanks and the media.”

What he’s not saying, however, is these tax-exempt outfits have long collaborated with the news media, even to the point of media personnel speaking at, or moderating, programs produced by these institutions but never reporting objectively on them. In this manner, the think tanks—lavishly funded by uber-wealthy donors, banks, defense contractors and other well-connected entities—help formulate public policy with nearly nothing in the way of general publicity on how their power-centralizing ideas are massaged and implemented as public policy.

Niblett evidently felt compelled to further confess that think tanks, as critics have long contended, really are a bridge between the super-rich and government and supply personnel to government itself, beyond formulating policy.

In the United States, think tanks became holding pens for future appointees to presidential administrations, where they developed and honed their ideas for future policy,” Niblett revealingly wrote.

He added that a 1974 Brookings Institution study resulted in the creation of the Congressional Budget Office, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1986 helped reform the command of the U.S. military.

Ah, such modesty. Authors such as James Perloff have shown—via his highly respected book “The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline”—that these think tanks played a nefarious role in defaming and subduing American “isolationism”—which is actually non-interventionism—and manipulating government policy to assure U.S. entry into World War II and, from there, laid the groundwork for America to police the world, an essential component of building world government.

And while Niblett admits that the world’s think tanks have at times blundered in their pursuit of globalization, and that their worldview has some “inherent weaknesses,”  he remains incorrigibly confident that these think tanks, if they combine forces and arrive at a set of lasting principles with which they can re-invent themselves, can continue to short-circuit national sovereignty and real democratic impulses, which they deride as “populism,” and instead promote a false democracy as a cover for rule by an unelected oligarchy—the very antithesis of democratic government. Such is the nature of their grand deception.

And given the fact that Niblett is echoing and amplifying the core concerns of CFR chief Richard Haass and Chicago Council on Global Affairs President Ivo Daalder (who collaborated with the CFR’s James Lindsay in an article on the same theme of elite think tanks losing power amid a populist groundswell), there is a deep validity to this trend which, precisely because it’s ignored by mainline media, signals that the “shadow government” is genuinely having major difficulties as it tries to be more visible and yet maintain its credibility and control—after decades of unbridled and largely secretive influence behind the scenes.

February 11, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

The Arseniy Yatsenyuk Foundation has disappeared

The Occidental Observer | March 11, 2014

Editor’s Note: This article by Freeman shows that, despite the presence in the new Ukraine government of the Svoboda nationalists, its president, Arseniy Yatsenyuk (who has three ethnically Jewish grandparents)  is firmly affiliated with neocons, Western economic interests, and prominent figures associated with hostility toward Russia.

Second Editor’s Note, 3/12: The website for Open Ukraine (http://openukraine.org/ua) has reappeared but without the list of partners that so clearly show its sympathies with the neocons and Western NGOs and financial institutions.

By Freeman, translated from German by Michael Colhaze

yats

Since the 27th of February 2014 Arseniy Yatsenyuk is “prime minister” of the present and entirely illegal regime of Ukraine. As we have learned from the intercepted Nuland – Pyatt telephone conversation, he is the preferred candidate of Victoria “Fuck the EU” Nuland, which is the reason why the US State Department made him the top echelon of its coup.

Did you know that Mr. Yatsenyuk owns an organization called “Open Ukraine Foundation”? If you do, you might be surprised to learn that all traces of this foundation have been eradicated from the internet. The website of the Arseniy Yatsenyuk Foundation (openukraine.org) and its Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Open-Ukraine-Foundation) have simply disappeared. The Wikipedia entry still exists, but the links lead nowhere.

As we know, the Internet forgets nothing and therefore a screen-shot of the website is still on hand. And what do we see there? A list of the foundation’s partners, and looking at it, you may say with some awe that it is an exceptionally impressive collection of the usual suspects. Which, we strongly suspect, must be the reason why the foundation is now defunct and its tracks have been obliterated.

What follows is an extract from the list of partners:

–   Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation  (A Project of the German Marshall Fund)
–   Chatham House
–   NATO Information and Documentation Centre 
–   State Department of the United States of America
–   NED National Endowment for Democracy
–   Horizon Capital
–   Swedbank

With such partners, and in this present scenario, it is small wonder that the page has been deleted. Because it can be clearly seen who stands right behind Mr. Arseniy Yatsenyuk and the coup.

Let us start with the German Marshall Fund, whose Chairman is Guido Goldman. His father, Nahum Goldman, was co-founder of the World Jewish Congress, Chairman of the Jewish Agency and president of the World Zionist Organization. Guido studied at Harvard and one of his teachers was the former presidential security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Henry Kissinger later supervised Guido’s doctoral thesis. The money for the Fund has been approved by the former German finance minister Alex Möller. Who, on occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, funded the organization with 150 million German marks for the next 15 years,  ostensibly to promote relations between Europe and the U.S.

This context alone is revealing, since it cites some of the most virulent Russia Haters around.

But let us look at Chatham House. The Foundation, established in 1920, known until 2004 as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a private and world-leading British think tank based in London, whose members engage in study programs, working groups, roundtable conferences and seminars current issues and political events on an international level. The expertise and recommendations created there are circulated by the international members worldwide. Some key projects are funded and sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, NATO or the EU. In addition to the corporate members, consisting of 75 large corporations, plus investment banks, energy companies and 263 other companies, Chatham House currently has 2770 prominent personalities from 75 countries as members, all employed in business, diplomacy, science, politics and the media. A patron of Chatham House is Queen Elizabeth II.

This would sound like an absurd joke, were it not so truly awesome. Because now we understand clearly why the upheaval in Ukraine took place: the supreme fat-cats of the so-called World Elite wanted it to happen.

The NATO chiefs wanted the incorporation of Ukraine into this particular war club, so that missiles can be deployed even closer to Russia. In 2008 NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer paid a visit to Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his Foundation.

The U.S. State Department has been instrumental in the coup, as already mentioned with regard to Victoria Nuland and her now famous injunction. Doling out massive funds, it determined which puppets could join the regime and which not. Whereby that goof Vitali Klitschko got the short straw, just as the abominable noodle Nuland wanted it to happen.

The NED or National Endowment for Democracy is an American foundation with the stated objective to promote democracy worldwide. It is a [neocon front group that] was established in 1983 by the U.S. Congress, and receives its annual funding from the U.S. federal budget. Thus money directly milked from the U.S. taxpayer is diverted for the illegal regime change in Ukraine and many other countries.

This backdrop is very revealing. When Hedge Funds and banks such as Horizon Capital and Swedbank are affiliated with Yatsenyuk’s foundation, it is clear that they are the vultures who are waiting to plunder Ukraine.

Saakashvili and Yatsenyuk at an Open Foundation Meeting

Saakashvili and Yatsenyuk at an Open Foundation Meeting

A good friend of Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his Foundation is Mikheil Saakashvili, the puppet installed by Washington [see here and here], who was allowed to play the President of Georgia from 2004 to 2013. The latest news concerning his person seem to prove that he is also a murderer. According to the Georgian newspaper Asawal – Dasawali he has been involved in the death of former Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania of Georgia. The Prosecutor’s Office of Tbilisi has discovered proof of Saakashvili’s direct complicity, the newspaper writes, citing a source within the investigation authority where a secret recording with the audible voice of Saakashvili can be heard ordering: “Get the corpse out of the way and do everything as agreed.”

Yes, such a fine “partner” used to be a guest of honour in the now defunct Arseniy Yatsenyuk Open Ukraine Foundation. Unusual is that even in the Google cache nothing about it can be found anymore.

Now we understand why Arseniy Yatsenyuk has been installed by Merkel and Co, the EU, the NATO and Washington as head of the Ukrainian “government.” He is simply the new puppet intended to implement their interests in Ukraine, but certainly not the interests of the Ukrainian people.

March 13, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Egypt’s Free Economy Excludes the Poor

By Bisan Kassab | Al Akhbar | January 25, 2013

Egypt’s 25 January Revolution produced few economic benefits for the country’s poor even though they were instrumental in overthrowing the old order. The Muslim Brotherhood has other economic priorities, including pushing measures that further economic liberalization in Egypt.

Given the Egyptian media’s focus, it might be difficult to believe that Egypt’s 25 January 2011 Revolution was not one of the educated middle class. On the TV screen, these shiny young faces appear on talk shows, portrayed as the leaders of the revolution.

But 28 January 2011’s “Friday of Anger” belonged to the marginalized who – using the tricks they learned in their daily battles with the state apparatus in the slums – were able to defeat the police forces. Regardless, the media see the revolution differently: “This is the revolution of dignity and not of the hungry,” they say.

This discourse paved the way for state repression of social demands. It even reached a point where the media began depicting Egypt’s working class – those that bolstered the revolution’s ranks with its mass mobilizations – of deliberately aiding the counter-revolution through strikes that hurt the economy. The first law issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) following their rise to power banned strikes.

As time passed, the voices of social justice were replaced by the murmurings of political battles. These politicians, who have the upper hand in the media, wanted a piece of the revolutionary pie after disregarding its true heros.

Post-Revolution, Little Help for the Poor

Even before the revolution, experts close to the ruling National Democratic Party saw signs of unrest rooted in growing poverty. This was clear in the First Investment Report: Towards a Fair Distribution of the Fruits of Growth prepared by the General Investment Authority in 2009, which warned of sharply rising poverty rates.

Despite the steady economic growth in the last decade of Mubarak’s rule, the proportion of the population living below the national poverty line rose from almost 17 percent of the population in 2000 to 22 percent in 2008, according to the latest figures available from the World Bank.

Nevertheless, when SCAF took power after the fall of Mubarak, they ignored these facts and rejected the expansionary budget presented by Minister of Finance and prominent NDP member Samir Radwan. Instead, the first post-revolution budget was austere: workforce training funds were scaled back to 1 billion Egyptian Pounds ($151 million) from an original 2 billion, and funds for low-income housing were never raised by the expected EGP500 million ($75 million).

Furthermore, SCAF sought to protect the rich from any burdens, such as the tax increase proposed by Radwan on the distribution of capital gains by financial institutions.

Although the last days of SCAF’s rule witnessed an open struggle between the military class and Islamist forces, the conflict was not an indication of different economic policies. “The Islamist parties, which between them won a majority in the 2011-12 parliamentary election appear to favor the continuation of a broadly pro-market policy…” explained an April 2012 report from Chatham House titled “‘Bread, Dignity and Social Justice’: The Political Economy of Egypt’s Transition.”

The new Egyptian Constitution is a glaring example of the bias of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) towards market liberalization. It stipulated linking salaries with production for the first time and neglected to set a ceiling for agricultural property.

But the constitution aligns with the Brotherhood’s previous positions: the group had been the primary opponent of agrarian reform during the Nasser era and endorsed a 1992 act liberating the relationship between landlord and tenant on agricultural land. The act had abolished gains won by peasants and was faced with wide-scale opposition in 1997.

The knockout blow to the MB’s popularity might be their attempt to implement a package of reforms for tax laws, which was frozen by President Mohamed Mursi a few hours after being announced. It would’ve raised sales taxes on several cement and communications goods and led to a steep increase on the commercial advertising tax – a move that could have hiked up the sales prices of nearly all goods and services.

It seems the MB has learned a lesson from the bread uprising against President Anwar Sadat in January 1977. At the time, the MB magazine al-Daawa described the protests as a “communist conspiracy.”

While the revolution seems to have resulted – at the very least – in a minimum wage increase to EGP700 ($105), the collapse of the Egyptian Pound against the US dollar this past January has precluded any benefits from such a raise.

January 25, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment