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Internet Free Speech All but Dead

Unelected, unnamed censors are operating across the Internet to suppress “unapproved” content.

Internet All But Dead

By Philip Giraldi | Global Research | June 8, 2019

The Internet was originally promoted as a completely free and uncensored mechanism for people everywhere to exchange views and communicate, but it has been observed by many users that that is not really true anymore. Both governments and the service providers have developed a taste for controlling the product, with President Barack Obama once considering a “kill switch“ that would turn off the Internet completely in the event of a “national emergency.”

President Donald Trump has also had a lot to say about fake news and is reported to be supporting limiting protections relating to the Internet. In May, a “net neutrality” bill that would have prevented service providers from manipulating Internet traffic passed in the House of Representatives, but it is reported to be “dead on arrival” in the Senate, so it will never be enacted.

Social networking sites have voluntarily employed technical fixes that restrict some content and have also hired “reviewers” who look for objectionable material and remove it. Pending European legislation, meanwhile, might require Internet search engines to eliminate access to many unacceptable old posts. YouTube has already been engaged in deleting existing old material and is working with biased “partners” like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to set up guidelines to restrict future content. Many users of Facebook will have already undoubtedly noted that some contacts have been blocked temporarily (or even permanently) and denied access to the site.

Google now automatically disables or limits searches for material that it deems to be undesirable. If Google does not approve of something it will either not appear in search results or it will be very low on the list. And what does come up will likely favor content that derives from those who pay Google to promote their products or services. Information that originates with competitors will either be very low in the search results or even blocked. Google is consequently hardly an unbiased source of information.

In May 2017 Facebook announced that it would be hiring 3,000 new censors, and my own experience of social networking censorship soon followed. I had posted an article entitled “Charlottesville Requiem” that I had written for a website. At the end of the first day, the site managers noticed that, while the article had clearly attracted a substantial Facebook readership, the “likes” for the piece were not showing up on the screen counter, i.e., were not being tabulated. It was also impossible to share the piece on Facebook, as the button to do so had been removed.

The “likes” on sites like Facebook, Yahoo! news comments, YouTube, and Google are important because they automatically determine how the piece is distributed throughout the site. If there are a lot of likes, the piece goes to the top when a search is made or when someone opens the page. Articles similarly can be sent to Coventry if they receive a lot of dislikes or negative marks, so the approvals or disapprovals can be very important in determining what kind of audience is reached or what a search will reveal.

In my case, after one day my page reverted to normal, the “likes” reappeared, and readers were again able to share the article. But it was clear that someone had been managing what I had posted, apparently because there had been disapproval of my content based on what must have been a political judgment.

A couple of days later, I learned of another example of a similar incident. The Ron Paul Institute (RPI) website posts much of its material on YouTube (owned by Google) on a site where there had been advertising that kicked back to RPI a small percentage of the money earned. Suddenly, without explanation, both the ads and rebate were eliminated after a “manual review” determined the content to be “unsuitable for all advertisers.” This was a judgment rendered apparently due to disapproval of what the institute does and says. The ability to comment on and link from the pieces was also turned off.

Dissident British former diplomat Craig Murray also noted in April 2018 the secretive manipulation of his articles that are posted on Facebook, observing that his “site’s visitor numbers [were] currently around one-third normal levels, stuck at around 20,000 unique visitors per day. The cause [was] not hard to find. Normally over half of our visitors arrive via Facebook. These last few days, virtually nothing has come from Facebook. What is especially pernicious is that Facebook deliberately imposes this censorship in a secretive way.

“The primary mechanism when a block is imposed by Facebook is that my posts to Facebook are simply not sent into the timelines of the large majority of people who are friends or who follow. I am left to believe the post has been shared with them, but in fact it has only been shown to a tiny number. Then, if you are one of the few recipients and do see the post and share it, it will show to you on your timeline as shared, but in fact the vast majority of your own friends will also not receive it. Facebook is not doing what it is telling you it is doing—it shows you it is shared—and Facebook is deliberately concealing that fact from you. Twitter has a similar system known as ‘shadow banning.’ Again, it is secretive and the victim is not informed.”

More recently, pressure to censor Internet social networking and information sites has increased, coming both from government and from various interested constituencies. In late May, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss how to eliminate “hate speech” on the Internet.

The two men agreed that the United States Internet model, in spite of already being heavily manipulated, is too laissez faire, and expressed an interest in exploring the French system where it is considered acceptable to ban unacceptable points of view. Zuckerberg suggested that it might serve as a good model for the entire European Union. France is reportedly considering legislation that establishes a regulator with power to fine Internet companies up to 4% of their global revenue, which can in some cases be an enormous sum, if they do not curb hateful expressions.

So unelected, unnamed censors are operating all around the Internet to control the content, which I suppose should surprise no one, and the interference will only get worse as both governments and service providers are willing to do what it takes to eliminate views that they find unacceptable—which, curiously enough, leads one to consider how “Russiagate” came about and the current hysteria being generated in the conventional media and also online against both Venezuela and Iran. How much of the anger is essentially fake, being manipulated or even fabricated by large companies that earn mega billions of dollars by offering under false pretenses a heavily managed product that largely does what the government wants? Banning hate speech will be, unfortunately, only the first step in eliminating any and all criticisms of the status quo.

June 9, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Election? What Election? EU Elite Will Censor Their Way Out of This Mess (or Die Trying)

By Helen Buyniski | Aletho News | June 7, 2019

The neoliberal establishment is wringing its hands in the wake of European elections that proved a resounding victory for populist parties across the continent, casting around for someone to blame but utterly incapable of realizing their own interference has doomed them. Doubling down on the censorship, they are determined to provoke the catastrophe they need to make free speech history.

The NGO-industrial complex was operating at maximum capacity in the weeks leading up to the election, shutting down hundreds of Facebook pages deemed “fake” or “hate speech” in the hope of controlling the messages reaching voters before they made the terrible mistake of voting for a candidate who represents their interests.

Led by Avaaz, which claims to be a “global citizens’ movement monitoring election freedom and disinformation,” this well-heeled fifth column whipped the press into paranoid frenzies with reports like “Fakewatch,” which breathlessly documented 500 “suspicious” pages and groups it claims are “spreading massive disinformation.” The groups have little in common other than their alleged “link[s] to right-wing and anti-EU organizations,” a capital offense for the promoters of “democracy,” which can only be permitted where it doesn’t stray from the center-left path of most #Resistance.

“Far-right and anti-EU groups are weaponizing social media at scale to spread false and hateful content,” the study warns, gloating that after sharing its findings with Facebook, the platform shut down an “unprecedented” number of pages on the eve of the election (77 out of the 500, according to VentureBeat, which has credulously signal-boosted every utterance of Avaaz as if it is divine truth from the Oracle of Delphi). Avaaz’s reports frame the problem as an affliction of the right wing only, even though disinformation is second nature to political operatives at both ends of the spectrum (and, more importantly, in the sanctified center).

The Computational Propaganda Project, an Oxford-based research group, made no secret of its elitist leanings, declaiming, “On Facebook, while many more users interact with mainstream content overall, individual junk news stories can still hugely outperform even the best, most important, professionally produced stories,” as if users have no choice but to consume “professionally-produced” Oxford-approved material or wallow in junk content. And Facebook’s own statistics bear out the hypothesis that coordinated inauthentic behavior has surged – the site removed almost 3.4 billion “fake” accounts from October 2018 to March 2019, more than the number of actual users.

Activist wearing a mask depicting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demonstrates during the EU finance ministers meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

But Facebook is not simply targeting fake accounts for takedown. Last Sunday, as Europeans prepared to head out to the polls, Facebook froze the largest group used by the Yellow Vests to organize protests and share information, silencing its 350,000+ members at a critical moment in French politics. More than one group member, reduced to commenting on existing posts, pointed out that President Emmanuel Macron met with Facebook chief executive android Mark Zuckerberg three weeks earlier to discuss a first-of-its-kind collaboration in which French government officials are being given access to material censored from users’ newsfeeds, essentially permitting them direct control of what the French are allowed to see on social media. Facebook, then, is providing France with the same techno-fascist services it provides the US government: Facebook will take on the burden of actually censoring dissent, thus skirting any pesky free-speech laws that might otherwise trip up a government that attempted to do the same.

Avaaz focused on the Yellow Vests in its coverage of the French elections, complaining RT France was getting huge quantities of views compared to native French media – perhaps because native French media have been doing Macron’s bidding and attempting to minimize the protests. By framing RT as a perpetrator of “information warfare,” the NGO was making a deliberate effort to have it deplatformed under one of Macron’s controversial police-state laws passed in 2018, by which any outlet spreading so-called “false information” can be gagged for three months leading up to an election. Yet Macron’s own interior minister, Christophe Castaner, lied on Twitter when he claimed the Yellow Vests had attacked the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, and RT was the first outlet to publish the truth about the incident. Who is the disinfo agent?

When the election results came in, Avaaz and its political allies in the neoliberal center could only gape in disbelief. Surely they had wiped La Liga and the Front National (now National Rally) from social media, salting the earth in their wake? How had they won? And what happened in Germany, where Angela Merkel’s CDU performed worse than ever in European election history? Merkel could blame YouTube – 70 influential video stars put out a call to their followers to shun her coalition – but the creators also called for shunning the far-right AfD, so the platform couldn’t be demonized as a tool of the ever-present Nazi Threat. That didn’t stop her party from trying, of course – CDU party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer complained about online “propaganda” and promised to “tackle this discussion quite aggressively.”

The populist parties won in large part because of the establishment’s unseemly embrace of fascist tactics, from the UK’s totalitarian information warfare disguised as “protecting citizens” or France’s visceral police violence, maiming protesters as if for sport. Europeans voted out of disgust with an establishment so insecure in its control of the narrative that it has sought to annihilate all signs of dissent, dismissing euroskepticism as Russian astroturfing and xenophobia and plugging its ears to the legitimate grievances of its subjects. The National Rally may have beat Macron’s jackbooted thugs, who in the past two months have hauled half a dozen journalists in for questioning by intelligence agencies for publishing stories that embarrassed the regime, but nearly half of French voters refused to vote for anyone at all, according to an Ipsos poll, and Germany’s Greens mopped the floor with Merkel’s coalition among young voters.

The triumph of Nigel Farage’s Brexit party in the UK is the product of a populace wrestling with cognitive dissonance, forced to realize that the “constitutional monarchy” they believed they lived in isn’t so constitutional after all, having jettisoned its democratic mask to cling to the EU under the guise of good old British pragmatism. Even passionate Remainers are happy to see Theresa Maybe go, though it remains to be seen whether her successor will be any more inclined to honor the result of 2016’s referendum. Meanwhile, the Guardian’s embarrassing attempt to shame Farage over a handful of appearances on the Alex Jones show – the paper claimed any reference to “globalists” and “new world order” were dog-whistles for the dreaded “antisemitic conspiracy theories” – proves the establishment media will never regain narrative primacy as long as alternatives exist. Jones, for all his flaws (and they are legion), has a massive audience; the Guardian, despite being propped up by the UK government’s Operation Mockingbird-esque “Integrity Initiative” (and the award for most ironic name ever goes to…), does not.

With the vast American election-fraud apparatus scrambling to prepare itself for 2020, now enabled by Pentagon-funded, Unit-8200-approved Microsoft “election security” software from the makers of the wrongthink-babysitter browser plugin NewsGuard, the US ruling class seems to be poised to make the same mistake as its global peers. Facebook, working hand in hand with the Atlantic Council, has banned and shadowbanned legions of anti-neoliberal activists over the past year, selectively applying (and inventing) new rules in an effort to keep popular content-creators jumping through hoops instead of influencing the discourse. Facebook has been allowed its place of privilege because as a “private corporation” it is legally permitted to violate users’ free speech rights in ways the US government cannot. But if Facebook can’t deliver a victory for the “right guys” this time around, it will be punished. Indeed, a massive anti-trust probe appears to be in the offing, 14 years of Zuckerberg apologies notwithstanding.

The site learned back when it tried to roll out a “disputed” tag for “wrongthink” stories that people were actually more likely to click on those stories; it learned the lesson again when its hugely expensive Facebook Watch news show featuring Anderson Cooper flopped last year. Zuckerberg is on the record begging for government regulation; will Facebook and Twitter use the outcome of this round of elections as a springboard for further crackdowns?

YouTube already has – thousands of creators found their channels demonetized and riddled with takedown notices this week in what has been dubbed the #VoxAdpocalypse after a pathologically whiny Vox blogger became the face of the mass deplatforming, but the censorship appears to be more of a response to Macron’s Orwellian “Christchurch call” to censor “extremism” – that ill-defined conveniently-variable catch-all whose borders are perpetually expanding to engulf all inconvenient speech – aided and abetted by the ADL than Google taking pity on a thin-skinned professional victim.

A sinister coalition of MEPs, “civil society” groups, and the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity – a who’s who of war criminals, psychopaths, and oligarchs that includes Michael Chertoff, John “death squad” Negroponte, Victor Pinchuk, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen – has already demanded “parliamentary inquiries into the impact of the use and abuse of technology platforms on democracy and elections.” It’s no coincidence that several of these “election integrity” enthusiasts sit on the board of NewsGuard, which is currently trying to weasel into the EU’s internet regulatory framework by playing up the “disinformation” threat. 

The blue-check intelligentsia has been trying for years to convince the hoi polloi that “conspiratorial” thinking is somehow detrimental to democracy. Former Obama labor secretary Robert Reich told Buzzfeed exactly that – “If we become a conspiracy society, we all carry around a degree of paranoia and that’s not healthy for democracy.” But this divorces cause from effect, as if “conspiracy theorists” have formulated their theories out of whole cloth – as if there isn’t evidence for these theories piled knee-deep, as if once-trusted institutions haven’t proven themselves time and again to be as trustworthy as tabloid tales of Elvis risen from the grave. If paranoia is unhealthy for democracy, how is a media incentivized to lie, misdirect and obfuscate any better?

The populist wave has been conflated with an uptick in “hate” in an attempt to delegitimize and demonize it. Outside of groups like the ADL, whose statistics are easily debunked, there is no credible evidence bigotry is on the rise, but as an actual Nazi once said, tell a big enough lie often enough, and it might as well be real. Beginning around 2012, the establishment media began relentlessly flogging the “white privilege” narrative in an effort to fan the flames of interracial conflict. Political science doctoral student Zach Goldberg performed an analysis of several terms using the LexisNexis database and found evidence of heavy narrative manipulation – “whiteness” was mentioned in four times as many news articles in 2017 as in 2012, “white privilege” was mentioned ten times as often in 2017 as in 2012, and “racism” was mentioned ten times as often in the New York Times alone in 2017 as in 2012. Yet even as the media has seemingly talked of nothing else, actual prejudice – by whites against non-whites, at least – has declined since 2008, according to a University of Pennsylvania study published last month, and the FBI’s own statistics show hate crimes against most minority groups are on the decline. Because few European governments separate “hate crimes” from “normal” crime statistics, information on bigotry in Europe often comes solely from NGOs and “civil society” groups that rely for their funding on the perception that Hate is on the march. Populists are capable of prejudice like anyone else, but it is their defining characteristic – a “prejudice” against oligarchy – that motivates the smears churned out by the media.

Protest votes like Trump and Brexit are cries for help from a disenfranchised populace. The European elections boasted the highest turnout in decades, and the ruling class ignores the results at its peril. When the election ritual no longer satisfies a population’s need to feel it is exerting its free will on society, we get public hexings of political figures, people reasoning black magic is more likely to solve their problems than voting. This is the same desperation that leads people like Arnav Gupta to set themselves on fire in front of the White House. Europeans have demonstrated unequivocally that they are sick of unaccountable dictatorship from Brussels, where EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, never one for sympathy with the little guy, sneers at the “populist, nationalists, stupid nationalists” who are “in love with their own countries.” They are sick of being displaced from their homes by a seemingly endless tide of migrants, just as those migrants themselves are displaced from their homes by a seemingly endless tide of American wars. Both groups are victimized by the IMF’s neoliberal austerity policies, epitomized by Juncker, who has done more than perhaps any one person to help Europe’s corporate “citizens” dodge taxes while nickel-and-diming the humans.

Instead of addressing these legitimate grievances, those in power on both sides of the Atlantic tighten the screws on online discourse – out of sight, out of mind. YouTube declares conspiracy theorizing a form of hate speech and plays whack-a-mole with a documentary confirming everyone’s long-standing suspicions that “save-the-migrants” NGOs are cashing in on the desperate human tide. Big Tech promises to work even more closely with Big Brother to crack down on dissident speech, tarring its victims as Nazis while hoping no one will point out such collusion is one of the defining characteristics of fascism.

These measures are guaranteed to further radicalize the discontent. Deleting social media accounts does not delete the people behind them, and France has already proven that starving a protest movement of media attention only makes it angrier. The ruling class may welcome their rage, aiming to use the inevitable outbreak of violence to choke off the last avenues of free expression, but once the guillotines come out, it isn’t the masses’ heads that will be rolling in the streets.

June 7, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

France’s arms sales to Saudis jumped by %50 in 2018: Data

Press TV – June 4, 2019

Newly-released figures show that France increased its weapons sales to Saudi Arabia by 50 percent last year despite growing international concern about the atrocities committed in a Saudi-led war on Yemen.

On Tuesday, an annual report by the French government showed that the country sold 1 billion euros’ worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in 2018, with the main item being patrol boats.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its allies — mainly the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — invaded Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing a former Yemeni client regime back to power. The ongoing war has killed tens of thousands and disrupted the lives of millions by causing widespread famine as well as epidemics.

France, the third-biggest arms exporter in the world, is also among the top weapons exporters to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

The Saudi-led coalition has widely used French boats and at least two ships in placing a tight siege on Yemeni ports, particularly Hudaydah, a lifeline for the war-ravaged country’s crippled economy.

The French government has faced massive criticism for complicity in the war but has so far resisted pressure from rights groups to stop the lucrative arms trade with the two Persian Gulf countries, denying that the weapons are being used against the Yemenis. Paris claims that the arms are being deployed in “self defense.”

This is while in mid-April, a classified note from the French military intelligence service (DRM) estimated that over 430,000 Yemenis lived within the range of French artillery weapons on the Saudi-Yemeni border. It further estimated that French weapons had resulted in civilian casualties.

The revelation about the increased sales last year is expected to deepen mistrust in France’s position on the war.

“With such transfers revealing a geopolitical alliance with these regimes and total violation of international commitments, one can only expect worsening conflicts in Yemen or the Horn of Africa, where the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are beginning to redeploy in partnership with France,” said Tony Fortin, with the Paris-based Observatory for Armament.

The French government report is also likely to draw a sharper contrast between Paris’ public stance versus its actual one.

Late last month, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the war on Yemen as a “dirty war” and said that it “has to be stopped,” even as his country continued to mostly quietly sell weapons to both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi on a large scale.

Last month, Saudi cargo ship the Bahri-Yanbu, sent to France to pick up purchased French arms, triggered a protest rally by humanitarian groups.

Apart from Paris, the United States, Britain, and other Western countries have faced criticism over arms sales to the Saudi regime and its partners over the consequences for a war that has affected 28 million Yemenis and caused what the United Nations (UN) calls “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.”

The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.

The Tuesday report also revealed that France’s total arms sales rose 30 percent to 9.1 billion euros in 2018, driven by a jump in sales to European countries. Its arms exports to the Middle East also rose to four billion euros from 3.9 billion the year before.

June 4, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

French rights group moves to block Saudi arms cargo

RT | May 28, 2019

A French humanitarian group is seeking to block a delivery of munitions to a Saudi ship docked at a port in southern France, arguing the weapons will be used to commit war crimes in Saudi Arabia’s conflict with Yemen.

The rights group, Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), filed its legal challenge Tuesday, following up on a previous effort which successfully blocked a shipment of howitzer cannons to the Saudi Kingdom.

The cargo ship “is to load French weapons bound for Saudi Arabia, one of the main belligerents of the Yemeni conflict,” ACAT said in a statement Tuesday, adding it was “calling on civil society … to prevent these munitions from leaving” the port of Marseille-Fos.

The shipment is to include ammunition for the French-made Caesar howitzer, a truck-mounted artillery system, according to sources cited by investigative outlet Disclose. Though ACAT managed to block a howitzer shipment earlier this month, Saudi Arabia obtained several Caesar batteries in previous sales.

ACAT argues that the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty, ratified by France in 2014, provides a legal basis for a court order to block the cargo.

Under the treaty, “France undertook not to authorize the transfer of arms when it ‘has knowledge, at the time the authorization is requested that such weapons or property could be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity’,” or other violations of humanitarian law, ACAT said, quoting the language of the agreement.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly told lawmakers Tuesday that she had no information on the shipment, but added that France must respect its alliance with the kingdom in any case. Parly has previously stated there was “no proof” that French weapons contributed to rights violations in the Yemen war.

In April, however, French journalists with Disclose published classified military intelligence documents revealing that French weapons likely were involved in strikes on civilians. French authorities have since interrogated the journalists and threatened them with jail time.

Earlier Tuesday Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on Saudi Arabia to end its “dirty war” on Yemen, but stopped short of demanding an end to French weapons sales, adding that France was “extremely vigilant” in its arms transfers.

Activists at Italian and Spanish ports have also attempted to interfere in the Saudi war effort, with Italian dock workers in Genoa refusing to load cargo onto a Saudi vessel earlier this month, and a similar, albeit unsuccessful, protest at the Spanish port of Santander.

The UN says Yemen is suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with millions dependent on humanitarian aid and tens of thousands killed in the fighting. A coalition of states led by Saudi Arabia began military operations in Yemen in March 2015, seeking to oust rebels from power and reinstate Yemeni President Mansour Hadi. Both the coalition and the rebels have violated the laws of armed conflict, according to rights groups, but the bulk of civilian casualties have been inflicted in the Saudi air war.

May 28, 2019 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

France Admits Polynesia Was Forced to Undergo Dangerous Nuclear Tests

Sputnik – 25.05.2019

From 1966 to 1996, some 193 nuclear tests were carried out by France around the islands of French Polynesia, including Bora Bora and Tahiti.

In a historic first, France has officially acknowledged that French Polynesians were forced into accepting almost 200 nuclear tests conducted over a 30-year period, as the French parliament issued the admission in a bill reforming the status of the collectivity of 118 islands in the South Pacific, reports The Telegraph.

The parliamentary bill acknowledges that the islands were “called upon”, or “strong-armed” into accepting the tests for the purposes of “building (its) nuclear deterrent and national defence”.

The legislation also says the French state will “ensure the maintenance and surveillance of the sites concerned” and “support the economic and structural reconversion of French Polynesia following the cessation of nuclear tests”.

According to MPs this move should make it easier for the local population to request compensation for illnesses caused by radioactive fallout, such as cancer and others.

Patrice Bouveret of the Observatoire des armements (Armaments Observatory), an independent organisation tasked with gauging the impacts of nuclear testing carried out by France in Polynesia since 1984, hailed the bill:

“It recognises the fact that local people’s health could have been affected and thus the French state’s responsibility in compensating them for such damage.

“Until now, the entire French discourse was that the tests were ‘clean’ — that was the actual word used — and that they had taken all due precautions for staff and locals.”

The expert also deplored the lengthy 23 years it had taken France to officially recognise its responsibility.

Scepticism was also voiced by Polynesian MP Moetai Brotherson, who claimed there were no specific steps towards financial reparation cited in the bill.

Polynesian MP Maina Sage insisted the reform was “recognition of clear acts of compensation” and “the fact that this should translate into support on a sanitary, ecological and economic level.”

Last year, French Polynesian President Edouard Fritch confessed the population of the islands had been lied to for years by its leaders regarding the dangers of nuclear testing.

“I’m not surprised that I’ve been called a liar for 30 years. We lied to this population that the tests were clean. We lied,” filmed footage showed Fritch as saying.

France carried out 193 nuclear tests from 1966 to 1996 around the paradise islands, including Bora Bora and Tahiti, famously captured on canvass by Paul Gauguin.

Bowing to decades of pressure, in 2010 the French government offered millions of euros in compensation for the government’s 201 nuclear tests in the South Pacific and Algeria.

While this resulted in 1,500 cases of compensation for military and other personnel at the Polynesian nuclear sites, a clause suggesting the tests were of “negligible risk” for the rest of the population made it impossible for them to apply, despite disproportionate rates of thyroid cancer and leukemia among Polynesia’s 280,000 residents.

To date, only a few dozen have received compensation, despite compelling figures, such as cancer rates standing at 30 per cent above average.

Three years earlier, declassified defence ministry papers exposed the tests as more toxic than previously acknowledged amid reports that the whole of French Polynesia had been hit by levels of plutonium due to the testing.

Tahiti, the reports claimed, was exposed to 500 times the maximum accepted levels of radiation.

May 25, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Iran slams as politically-motivated France’s extradition of Iranian engineer to US

Press TV – May 25, 2019

Iran has denounced as politically-motivated a French court’s verdict to extradite an Iranian engineer to the United States over accusations of importing American technology for military purposes.

The condemnation came on Saturday after the court in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, approved the extradition of Jalal Rouhollahnejad to the US to face charges of “attempting to illegally import US technology for military purposes on behalf of an Iranian company.”

The Iranian non-governmental Center for Civilian Drones along with a number of knowledge-based firms working in the field of aerospace said in a joint statement that the French court’s verdict was politically-motivated and against the principles of the Iran nuclear deal as well as other international rules.

Rouhollahnejad was detained on February 2 at Nice airport as he got off a plane coming from Tehran. The US judicial officials claimed that the Iranian engineer might have been seeking to import high-power industrial microwave systems from the US to be later used for military purposes in Iran.

The Iranian aerospace firms said in the statement that high-power industrial microwave systems are modern non-military technologies used for detecting Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) flying in sensitive sites like airports.

“So the technologies have no military use. They are also not under the US sanctions,” the statement said, adding that it is among the basic rights of any country to use such technologies within the regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to protect its airspace and provide security for sensitive sites like civilian airports.

“Such a move will have serious repercussions for the French tradesmen and specialists working in Iran,” the statement warned.

Rouhollahnejad’s lawyer also said the US arrest warrant was politically-motivated and stressed that he would continue to refuse extradition from France.

US judges claim that the 41-year-old engineer acted on behalf of a company linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which was blacklisted by the US President Donald Trump’s administration last month.

A decree by the French prime minister is still necessary for the extradition to go ahead.

May 25, 2019 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , | 1 Comment

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Calls Western Europe ‘Hypocrites’ for China Criticism

teleSUR | May 23, 2019

Hungary’s foreign minister Thursday accused major Western European nations of “hypocrisy” and “hysteria” for criticizing central European countries’ business dealings with China, and defended Hungary’s use of Huawei 5G mobile phone technology.

Sixteen central and eastern European countries, including 11 European Union members, held a summit with China in April during which it pledged to increase trade and provide more support for big cross-border infrastructure projects.

The area is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to link China by sea and land with Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

France and Germany oppose such independent moves, which they fear might make Europe appear disunited at a time when the EU is trying to forge a more defensive strategy towards China.

On Tuesday, speaking to reporters in Paris, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire criticized “negotiations of 16 states from the east with China in parallel to negotiations that the EU is leading with China”.

But Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who is serving in the government of far-right Prime Minister Victor Orban, rejected such criticism, saying Germany and France do far more business with China than the central European states, and often negotiate directly with Beijing.

“There is such a bad hypocrisy in the European Union when it comes to China,” Szijjarto told Reuters on the sidelines of an OECD meeting in Paris. “The 11 central and eastern European member states … represent 9.9 percent of EU trade with China.”

“When the German chancellor and French president meet China’s leadership nobody thinks that’s a problem,” he said. “Nobody raises a question about how it is possible that they sell 300 aircraft to China, which is a bigger deal than the (entire) trade represented by the 11 central European countries.”

He said it was also unfair for Western European states to criticize Hungary for using technology from Chinese firm Huawei in its 5G mobile phone networks, when those networks were being built under license by German and British companies, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone.

Hungary’s government has been at odds with Brussels for the erosion of media and judicial independence, attacks on civil organizations, treatment of migrants, laws against poverty, and the ousting of educational institutions like the progressive Central European University.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | Leave a comment

EU Establishment Set for Popular Rebuke in Elections

Strategic Culture Foundation | May 24, 2019

Over this weekend 28 member states of the European Union go to the polls in an impressive exercise of democracy. Polling takes place over four days, ending on Sunday. The full results won’t be finalized until next week. But already it is widely anticipated that so-called populist parties across the bloc will make significant gains in winning seats in the 751-member chamber of the European Parliament.

One glaring anomaly is that Britain is participating in these elections, even though, in theory, it was supposed to have departed the EU in March. The Brexit wrangling has persisted without a clear result, meaning that the United Kingdom is obliged to hold EU parliamentary elections like the other 27 member states. European parliamentarians elected in Britain may not actually take their seats in Brussels or Strasburg because the Brexit process when complete – whenever that happens – will make their seats redundant.

Another anomaly is that the 2019 elections have been overshadowed with political and media claims in the run-up to the polls that Russia would launch an “interference campaign” to sway voters to vote for political parties opposed to the EU status quo.

Yet on the eve of the ballots being cast, Western news media and various EU security pundits have had to admit that there has been no evidence of the anticipated “Kremlin influence campaign”. Such an alleged Russian meddling campaign in the EU is an echo of the long-running, baseless narrative applied to the US presidential elections in 2016. No evidence has ever been produced to substantiate either scenario.

Russia has consistently and vehemently denied any such notion of “peddling influence” over Western voters. But the great anomaly is that Western media and European security agencies are having to admit that there is no indication that Russia has targeted the EU elections with a campaign of media interference.

The rise of nationalist, anti-immigrant, Eurosceptic, anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-capitalist political movements across Europe is simply due to this: a surge in anti-establishment parties. The surge of protests among European citizens against a neoliberal establishment has nothing to do with alleged “Russian interference” and everything to do with an inherent democratic deficit in the 28-member bloc.

By trying to blame Russia for “malignly influencing” EU citizens and funding “anti-EU parties”, as the government scandal in Austria sought to do this week, is an act of desperate denial politics by the EU establishment as to its own dire political and economic failings. Such official denial and scapegoating of Moscow is only fueling even more popular protest and instability within the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron this week typically blamed “collusion between nationalist parties and foreign interests for threatening the existence of Europe”. Macron’s elitist views are symptomatic of the establishment malaise which is actually at the core of the problem in the EU’s crumbling cohesion and authority.

Britain’s Brexit referendum held in 2016 was a forewarning of the popular dissent across the EU towards an establishment in Brussels perceived as anti-democratic, beholden to big finance and Neo-liberal capitalist austerity, as well as kowtowing to a Washington-led consensus for illegal overseas wars and NATO expansionism.

The EU status quo has led to massive problems of immigration from pandering to America’s illegal warmongering in the Middle East and North Africa. European citizens have become awake to those problems and are opposed to the degeneration of Europe as an adjunct of Washington’s imperialism. That dissent is also manifest in many European citizens being opposed to the EU’s compliance with US-led sanctions and hostility towards Russia. The fact of that does not mean that Russia is somehow influencing opposition movements. It is simply a fact that European citizens are in revolt against an anti-democratic status quo that is all too often servile to a transatlantic axis that is not in their fundamental democratic interests, like so many other policies that the EU status quo slavishly adheres to.

Emmanuel Macron and other EU establishment figures may push the fantasy that the bloc is under threat from “far-right nationalist parties in cahoots with the Kremlin”.

The fact is that the EU is simply perceived by a growing number of its 512 million citizens as a monolith that is unresponsive to democratic needs. That’s why they are rebelling against the status quo by voting for a range of anti-establishment parties. If the EU can’t recognize the democratic impulse from within its own bloc then its future is destined for further disruption as the Brexit movement portends. Blaming “external enemies” like Russia for its own inherent political problems is being proven for the desperate denial that it is.

The people are speaking this weekend. The EU establishment better listen.

May 24, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Israel launches massive recruitment drive for social media warriors

MEMO | May 23, 2019

Israel has embarked on a massive recruitment drive to support the country’s online propaganda campaign one day after its companies were exposed for spreading disinformation and meddling in the elections of several African, Asian and Latin American countries.

The new initiative, which would see the government funding pro-Israel groups overseas, was unveiled by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, a government arm set up to combat the global rise of pro-Palestinian activism and Israel’s poor global image.

Launching the initiative, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, who is also the public security minister, was quoted by the Times of Israel saying: “I’m proud to launch the first [government] program to support pro-Israel organizations and activists around the world.”

The plan will “encourage grassroots events and online initiatives against the BDS [boycott] movement and in support of Israel. I’m certain that this program will give a significant boost to all our supporters around the world who are battling this anti-Semitism and the boycott activists,” added Erdan.

Details of the tendering process for recruiting pro-Israeli activists was published in the Jewish Chronicle on 17 May a day after Israeli firms were kicked out by social media giant, Facebook, for spreading disinformation by posing as local journalists and influencers working in several African, Asian and Latin American countries.

“The Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy has announced the opening of submission process for application for grants in 2019 in relation to the topics listed below,” an ad in the Jewish Chronicle said.

The two areas in which the Israeli government was seeking new recruits were in “support for pro-Israeli activities abroad” and “support for pro-Israeli activities on the internet aimed at target audiences abroad.”

$1.6 million was being offered to successful candidates for creating online campaigns battling BDS and supporting pro-Israel events abroad.

Questions over the legality of such a programme were raised by the Times of Israel. “Many of the advocacy organizations that may be a good fit for support from the initiative are registered nonprofits in the United States and other Western nations, thus facing tight restrictions on receiving funds from foreign states.”

These concerns came to light in the UK last summer at the height of the anti-Semitism row within the Labour party when a pro-Israeli British charity, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA), was found to be leading a fierce campaign against the party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The group was formed during “Operation Protective Edge” in the summer of 2014 when over 2,000 Palestinians, including 551 children were killed by Israeli missile attacks and shelling of civilian areas.

The group’s activities prompted the Charity Commission and police to launch an investigation into its behaviour.

In addition to Britain, advertisements for the program are said to have been placed in a number of other countries, including the United States, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina.

The initiative is likely to fuel concerns over Israel’s nefarious online activities which have caught the attention of Facebook. It will also raise speculations in the UK where “infowar techniques” are said to have been deployed by pro-Israel groups to fuel the anti-Semitism crises.

An investigation by The Electronic Intifada documented 10 fake Twitter profiles posing as Corbyn supporters posting virulent anti-Semitism. The accounts are said to share sufficient similarities to indicate that the same person – or group – is running them.

Read also:

Source of pro-Israel guerrilla warriors on social media exposed

May 23, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

EU’s Russian interference trail goes cold

By Anna Belkina | RT | May 22, 2019

Last-ditch efforts by the European intelligence community, politicians and the mainstream media to find the “Russian trail” ahead of the EU parliamentary elections lead to nowhere.

They tried. They really tried.

For years the European establishment has been sounding the alarm about a seemingly ever-imminent Russian interference campaign in European politics. Accusations against Russian media and, specifically RT, often took center stage. Now, hundreds of conferences, articles and speeches later, and with just a couple of days to go until the European Parliamentary elections; shock horror there is no evidence of interference. Even the final efforts to pre-emptively find a scapegoat for any unsatisfactory result have come up with nothing.

However, it hasn’t stopped attempts to push that narrative.

The most earnest attempt has come from France’s Mediapart, which published an extensive investigation entitled: “The Élysée is worried about Russian interference in the European elections.” The article admits that the President of France is “obsessed with a possible Russian interference.”

This should not come as a surprise. Mr. Macron’s 2017 campaign at times looked like it was running not against its political opponents but against RT, which it repeatedly accused of spreading “fake news” about the then-presidential candidate, despite having failed to produce a single example to date.

Today, the Élysée takes issue with our coverage of the Yellow Vests protests, which have been going on for more than half a year throughout France. It seems protests are only newsworthy when they take place in Russia – then they are covered obsessively by the MSM.

The Mediapart investigation also sees a problem with any person or organization “broadcasting pro-Russian speech.” It is not made clear what makes voicing or hearing such an opinion a subversive act that undermines the EU, unless all European democracy hinges on the unmitigated collective hatred of Russia. A solid platform, no doubt.

BBC’s rude awakening

But the real coup de grace of the “Russian interference” narrative came courtesy of the BBC in its piece entitled: “Is Russia trying to sway the European elections?” I will spoil it for you right away, because the definitive answer to the BBC’s quest is inconspicuously buried in the middle of the report:

“Officials admit that there is currently little evidence of large-scale attempts to spread disinformation directly related to this week’s vote.”

Well, there you have it.

Still, the article is worth looking at in detail, as it – probably inadvertently – carries a comprehensive collection of all the misguided tropes and efforts in the “Russian interference” narrative. For example:

“Officials in Brussels have been taking action against perceived Russian disinformation since at least 2015, when the East Stratcom Task Force was created.”

So, in essence, the EU has a taskforce to assuage their own paranoia – if there have been no attempts – just what have they been doing?

Let’s take another example from the article:

“Attempts have been made […] to denigrate particular politicians, or to misrepresent certain policies.”

This is essentially an admission that some politicians cry “Russian fake news” when they don’t like coverage about them or their policies. That’s the nature of contemporary political life, it seems.

One last example:

“[…] the 2017 elections for the German Parliament, […] right-wing nationalists were allegedly endorsed by Russia. And during French presidential elections in the same year, Kremlin-funded media outlets were accused of “spreading falsehoods” throughout the electoral campaign.”

So, this accusation is simply being “alleged,” aren’t endorsements meant to be cut and dried? Ultimately, it’s an example of the same unquestioning parroting of the Macron campaign, with neither it, nor the BBC producing a single example of the “falsehoods” in question.

Speaking of the 2017 German elections and alleged Russian interference, this September ’17 Washington Post headline speaks for itself: “As Germans prepare to vote, a mystery grows: Where are the Russians?” 

Taking the taskforce to task

The aforementioned EU disinformation taskforce deserves a closer look in and of itself.

It is mentioned by the BBC in passing: “Although the [East Stratcom] task force now focuses solely on Russian media outlets with links to the Kremlin, it came under fire in 2018 for listing articles published by Dutch media outlets as examples of disinformation.”

The taskforce and its flagship project “EU vs Disinfo” did not simply “come under fire.” It was outright sued by the three Dutch outlets in question, with support of the Dutch government. What did they publish, to earn the “fake news” label from the EU’s taskforce? Three separate, factually accurate stories that portrayed Ukrainian politics in a negative light.

Did EU vs Disinfo have a “come to Jesus” moment that caused them to see the value in such factual reporting even when it doesn’t fit their pre-determined narrative? Would they have removed the original “offenders,” had they come from a Russian news outlet, from RT? It is obvious that the answer to both of those questions is a resounding “of course not.”

By redefining its mission to only focus on Russian media after the Dutch fiasco, East Stratcom de facto admits that despite its project’s name, it is not fighting disinformation, it is fighting Russia. It is not about facts, but about politics.

It begs the question: Why reporting the same facts, the same stories is considered journalism for some countries, but labeled “disinformation” for others? This double standard exposes the intellectual and ethical bankruptcy of this project in particular, and the general, self-destructing European establishment trend to label any inconvenient, uncomfortable reporting as “Russian disinformation.” Reality be damned.

BREAKING: News outlet covers news!

The concluding passages of the BBC piece concede that very point and expose just how weak and desperate are the attempts to blame the Russian media and RT for any EU discontent:

“The elections have featured prominently in media outlets funded by the Kremlin, including broadcaster RT and the Sputnik news agency.”

It’s almost like we are an international news outlet, or something, covering an internationally-important story!

The BBC continues: “In their search for signs of Russian disinformation campaigns, experts have spotted evidence of similar attempts to deceive – emerging not from Kremlin-linked outlets, but from partisan groups based inside the EU”. And, “It might be that Russia is tapping into this kind of Eurosceptic agenda and they have been doing that for a very long time.”

In other words, 1) the call is coming from inside the house and 2) RT simply covers the stories that already exist in Europe, but that others ignore. Which is what we have been saying all along, and what we repeated, again, for the BBC:

“It is beyond naive to think that if RT didn’t exist that the issues we cover wouldn’t exist. It is an insult to millions of the EU citizens to broadly paint them as fringe and dismiss their concerns. Overlooking disagreeing voices is what has long undermined the media-political establishment, not RT.”

Remarkably, it seems that the Beeb is finally, begrudgingly waking up to this very reality. Deflated, the piece concludes with the following:

“By focusing on [Russian disinformation], the European Commission is shifting the focus from the more pressing underlying political issues and that’s dangerous,” says Julia Rone, a researcher at Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies. “There are people who are legitimately worried about economic inequality, about youth unemployment, and especially about immigration,” she says. “There’s a lot of mobilisation from the far-right all across Europe and it cannot be attributed simply to foreign agents.”

Can we finally hope for a lesson learned?

May 22, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

France wants more govt regulation of Facebook and Zuckerberg calls it ‘model’ approach

RT | May 10, 2019

The French government is pushing for greater regulation of Facebook and other platforms in order to combat what it calls ‘hate speech’, according to a state-commissioned report published as CEO Mark Zuckerberg visits Paris.

The report, issued by the French Minister for Digital Economy Cedric O, found that social media companies were allowing “abuses” to take place on their platforms, particularly in the area of hateful or bigoted speech, and that the companies had not done enough to address the problems.

“Public intervention to ensure that the major players adopt a more responsible attitude protecting the cohesion of our societies is therefore legitimate,” the report said.

Though the report noted the government would “aim for minimum intervention,” it said that previous attempts at private self-regulation were not sufficient. The regulators added the government should look to strike a balance between “repressive” policies that react to ‘hate speech’ after the fact, and more preventative ones that start with the companies’ policies.

The report said the “lawfulness” of content would be decided in the courts, and specifically requested closer oversight of social media platforms’ algorithms which auto-detect supposedly hateful content.

French President Emmanuel Macron, a major advocate for greater regulation of the web, met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday to discuss some of the issues touched on in the report. Zuckerberg has also called for more government controls over the internet.

After the meeting, Zuckerberg hailed the French government’s approach as a model for other countries to follow.

“If more countries can follow the lead of what your government has done here, that will likely end up being a more positive outcome for the world in my view than some of the alternatives,” he told reporters at Facebook’s Paris office.

In January, the French digital economy minister said he was “one hundred percent in agreement” with Zuckerberg’s previous calls for regulation, but complained that Facebook’s growing size and power was creating a “huge democratic problem.”

“Facebook decides that something online is legal or not legal” and “plays the role of justice,” O told AFP last year.

Facebook took steps on its own in 2018 to censor “misleading” content it said contributed to violence, and more recently announced that ‘white nationalist’ content would be wiped from the site. The company also faced claims of censorship this month when it banned controversial figures including Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and Louis Farrakhan, citing violations of its community standards.

Facebook has seen heavy criticism on a number of other fronts in recent years. Some were outraged when the company struggled to keep videos of the Christchurch massacre off its website, while lawmakers in countries around the world have called for tighter control of the platform over the spread of ‘fake news’

May 10, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

Iran says not doing anything in breach of JCPOA

Press TV – May 7, 2019

Iran says the countermeasures it has vowed to unveil Wednesday are all within the framework of the 2015 nuclear deal, and the country is not leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The remarks were made by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif upon his arrival in the Russian capital Moscow, where he plans to hold talks with his Russian counterpart on the Iran nuclear deal, among others.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday night, he said Iran’s “strategic patience” with the US’ violations of the nuclear accord during the past year is over.

“Unfortunately, the European Union and other members of the international community were not capable of standing up to the US’ pressures,” Zarif said.

Therefore, he added, Iran has decided to stop implementing some of the JCPOA commitments it used to fulfill voluntarily “for now”.

The Iranian top diplomat said the right to stop implementing commitments partially or in full in case of violation by other parties has been preserved for Iran in the JCPOA.

So Iran is not doing anything against JCPOA now; rather, it is acting totally within the framework of Articles 26 and 36 of the deal, Zarif noted.

He described the move as “an opportunity for other parties to the deal to take required measures, and not just issue statements.”

Zarif also noted that the decision has been passed by the Supreme National Security Council, and its details will be announced on Wednesday.

Iran said on Monday it seeks to unveil its countermeasures in response to the US’ 2018 withdraw from the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement signed between Tehran and six major world powers.

The plans will be announced on Wednesday, which marks the first anniversary of the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington in May 2018 from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement, reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries — the US, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany — in July 2015. He also decided to re-impose unilateral sanctions against Tehran.

France threatens to re-impose bans

Sources at the French presidency said on Tuesday international sanctions could be re-imposed on Iran if it reneges on commitments under its nuclear deal.

A French presidential source said the European countries did not yet know precisely what steps Iran was now planning, but they could have to re-impose sanctions on Iran if those steps amount to reneging.

“We do not want Tehran to announce tomorrow actions that would violate the nuclear agreement, because in this case we Europeans would be obliged to re-impose sanctions as per the terms of the agreement,” the source said.

“We sent messages to Tehran to say that we were determined to implement the agreement, that we really wanted them to stay in this agreement even though we took into account the complexity of the situation and passed on the same messages to our American allies.”

A second French official later said that if Tehran failed to comply with the deal, the issue would be treated through a dispute mechanism under the accord itself, which could lead to the re-imposition of UN Security Council sanctions.

Letters to P4+1

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to write letters to the countries still signed up to the deal – Britain, France and Germany as well as Russia and China – on Wednesday to give them details about plans to “diminish its commitments” under the deal, ISNA quoted a source as saying.

The letters would be handed over to the ambassadors of the five countries by Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi. A separate letter would also be written to EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini.

May 7, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment