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Twitter & media know this isn’t about mail-in ballots or fraud, but about who gets to define truth; Trump does too

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | May 27, 2020

Twitter opened a new battlefront in the 2020 US election by ‘fact-checking’ posts by President Donald Trump to say he was wrong about voter fraud. That would normally be the end of the story – except nothing about this is normal.

On Tuesday, Twitter took the unprecedented step of posting a link under the two tweets – made by the president on his personal account – listing a bunch of mainstream media articles to assert that “fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud,” and therefore Trump’s opinion about the matter is factually wrong.

The move followed a campaign by mainstream media and Democrats to censor Trump over other tweets, insinuating that the intern for former congressman and current MSNBC host Joe Scarborough may not have died accidentally, which culminated in a demand for Twitter to “cleanse the Trump stain” in a New York Times op-ed earlier on Tuesday.

Try as they might, Twitter couldn’t find any violation of their ever-shifting rules to pin on Trump, so they did the next best thing and “fact-checked” him. No doubt, whoever came up with this figured it was a really clever way to appease the outrage mob. Sure, the Trump 2020 campaign would protest the bias – and reveal in the process that they pulled advertisements from Twitter months ago – but they can be brushed off, unlike the chorus of his critics.

Then the White House Press Secretary fired off a thread filled with recent stories about mail-in ballot problems – forms being mailed to the dead or people who’d long since moved away, a Philadelphia judge just convicted for stuffing the ballot box, etc. – clearly showing the Twitter “fact checkers” had some explaining to do.

That should not come as a surprise to anyone. After all, these are the same outlets that have peddled the Russiagate conspiracy theory with impunity for the past four years, and even racked up prestigious awards for the blatantly fraudulent coverage. Mainstream media archives are littered with “bombshells” designed to first prevent Trump’s election, then inauguration, then get him impeached or otherwise removed from office. Every single one turned out to be a dud.

“But Trump lies! Constantly!” scream in unison the people used to being not just gatekeepers of “respectable discourse” but the tone police of Washington, the arbiters of the acceptable, the people who believe their pen shapes the very fabric of reality. People who headline their stories with “what you should know” and “how you should think.”

When challenged, they form ranks and scream they are being unjustly attacked and “delegitimized” – but only if it’s one of their mainstream colleagues called out for their excesses. Anyone else, from Julian Assange to alternative outlets, can rot because the precious First Amendment doesn’t apply to them, supposedly.

CNN had to settle a lawsuit after defaming a teenager from Covington, Kentucky. To avoid a similar fate, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow argued that when she says “literally” that’s not news but humorous hyperbole, essentially dismissing her entire show as fake news.

It’s telling that this very phrase – fake news – has become synonymous with Trump’s criticism of the media, even though it was originally used by Hillary Clinton as an excuse for losing the 2016 election. You know, the election the mainstream media gave her 98 percent chances of winning almost to the very end, and openly endorsed her at the same rate?

If you thought Clinton took that loss hard, though, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to the media. Trump’s victory was an existential crisis for them, the moment their power to dictate the shape of reality itself was exposed as a mirage.

This is why they’ve spent the past four years lobbing Russiagate and other ‘bombshells’ at him. This is why they have led the outrage mobs, not just against Trump or the millions of “deplorables” that voted for him, but also against the social media platforms he used to bypass them in 2016, so he wouldn’t be able to do that again this November. Don’t think for a second any of this is about mail-in ballots, which – much like immigration and other issues – Democrats themselves once used to be against.

When they wrote freedom of speech into the Constitution, America’s founders may not have imagined that a president would be an unlikely champion of it, while the “free press” would be clamoring for censorship to preserve its power. Yet here we are.

Nebojsa Malic is a Serbian-American journalist, blogger and translator, who wrote a regular column for Antiwar.com from 2000 to 2015, and is now senior writer at RT. Follow him on Twitter @NebojsaMalic

May 27, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments

The Case of General Michael Flynn: The Use of Law as a Political Weapon

By Paul Craig Roberts | Institute for Political Economy | May 20, 2020

The audacious corruption of the FBI and the US Department of Justice (sic) is demonstrated by their frame-up of the three-star general, former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and National Security Adviser to President Donald Trump.

US Department of Justice (DOJ) documents that the department was forced to turn over to General Michael Flynn’s attorney reveal that the FBI found no wrongdoing by Flynn in its investigation of him and recommended the investigation be closed. Corrupt FBI official Peter Strzok, a leader of the anti-Trump cabal in the FBI, intervened. Strzok convinced the official managing the investigation not to close the case as it was the wishes of the “7th floor” (top FBI officials) to keep the case open. In the absence of evidence against Flynn, released FBI documents prove that the FBI leadership decided to frame General Flynn. The documents reveal that the FBI’s plan is “to get him (Flynn) to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired. . . . we should try to frame them in a way we want.” General Flynn was forced to incriminate himself with a guilty plea. Otherwise, the corrupt DOJ prosecutors threatened to indict Flynn’s son.

When this proof of egregious government misconduct came to light, the DOJ had no choice but to drop the case against General Flynn. Otherwise it would be clear that law in the US is a weapon in the hands of government. This would mean that control of government would be a life and death matter for the two political parties as it is in Ecuador and Bolivia where incoming presidents arrest or attempt to arrest outgoing presidents.

But we didn’t hear a word about the frame-up of General Flynn from the corrupt presstitutes. On May 7 the editorial board of the New York Times published the largest and most egregious collection of lies in the entire history of the disreputable organization. The editorial— “Don’t Forget, Michael Flynn Pleaded Guillty. Twice.” —claimed the lies coerced from Flynn proved Flynn’s guilt, and that Attorney General William Barr is a “personal fixer for the president” and used the Department of Justice to protect friends and to go after political enemies.

The New York Times has it backwards. Going after political enemies is precisely what the Obama Regime’s concocted case against General Flynn (and Trump) was all about. Remember, it was General Flynn who said on television that it was a “willful decision” of the Obama Regime to send the mercenary jihadists to attack Syria, a decision Obama made in the face of contrary advice by General Flynn, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. When Flynn revealed this, it blew up the fake news story spread by the Obama Regime and the presstitutes that the Obama-supported invasion of Syria by CIA mercenaries was an uprising by Syrian moderates fighting for democracy. Flynn’s blood is blood that the corrupt Obama Regime wanted very badly.

Obama’s role in the frame-up of Flynn and the orchestration of the Russiagate hoax is now coming to light, making the former president nervous. On May 10 the Wall Street Journal editorial board asked if Obama’s nerves are getting in the way of his judgment:

“Barack Obama is a lawyer, so it was stunning to read that he ventured into the Michael Flynn case in a way that misstated the supposed crime and ignored the history of his own Administration in targeting Mr. Flynn. Since the former President chose to offer his legal views when he didn’t need to, we wonder what he’s really worried about.”

The Democrats’ frame-up of General Flynn and their two attempted frame-ups of President Trump show an extraordinary audacity and a corruptly compliant FBI and DOJ. They thought that they could get away with it, and, of course, they had all the help possible from the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and the rest of the presstitute scum for whom lies are the currency of their fake news realm. The presstitutes have made clear that the US media is devoid of integrity.

After high officials such as James Clapper, Susan Rice, Samatha Power, and others repeatedly claimed evidence of Trump and Flynn’s guilt, when under oath their story changed 180 degrees. Here is Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:

“I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting/conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election.”

Susan Rice, Obama’s incompetent National Security Adviser, and Samatha Power, Obama’s Russia-baiting ambassador to the UN, along with the rest of the disreputable Obama cabal, have admitted that they saw no specific evidence of any collusion between Trump and Russia. The entire thing was an orchestrated hoax that proves beyond all doubt that the Democrat Party and the US media are corrupt beyond redemption.

When the case against Flynn was dropped as a result of the damning evidence of egregious government misconduct in framing a senior official of the US government, the corrupt prosecutors who had prosecuted the innocent Flynn all resigned in a huff, pretending that it was Barr, not them, who used the Department of Justice for self-interested political purpose.

Two Georgetown University law professors, Kean K. Katyal and Joshua A. Geltzer, totally discredited themselves and the Obama contingent in the DOJ, by alleging in the New York Times that the dropped charge against Flynn has resulted in the “utter demoralization” of “the law enforcement community.” In other words, for these law professors and “the law enforcement community” for which they claim to speak, dropping a case consisting entirely of an orchestrated frame-up, a contrived perjury trap, and threats against family members is demoralizing. The professors are so thoroughly dishonest that they use the lies coerced from Flynn—the price of his “cooperation with the investigation” in order that his son would not also be framed-up—as “evidence” of Flynn’s guilt and proof of the political use of the Justice Department by Trump and Barr in dropping the contrived case.

The frame-up of Flynn is not acknowledged by the law professors as political use of the Justice Department.

Instead the law professors describe the vindication of an innocent man on the basis of undeniable evidence as political use of the Justice Department.

If this is the kind of law Georgetown University teaches, the law school should be promptly shut down.

The question that demands an answer is how do people as corrupt and devoid of integrity as Comey, Mueller, and Strzok get into top FBI positions?

May 20, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

By Gilbert Doctorow | May 15, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, in closing ,a word about body counts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Gilbert Doctorow 2020

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

Covid-19, Russiagate, Iraq – politicians are too happy to defer to convenient ‘experts’

By George Szamuely | RT | May 14, 2020

So-called “experts” are too narrow in their focus and too often wrong in their judgments to be able to decide the sorts of life-and-death issues a nation’s political leaders are asked to decide.

If “War is too important to be left to the generals,” as Georges Clemenceau, (France’s prime minister during World War I) claimed, then foreign policy is too important to be left to the intelligence agencies, and public policy is too important to be left to the scientists.

From the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, politicians and media fell over themselves in their rush to defer to the “experts.” Apparently, it was up to scientists to decide whether a country should shut down its economy and keep its citizens locked up in their homes in perpetuity. It was up to scientists to determine whether a country can, if ever, resume normal life. As for the consequences — economic depression, exploding national debt, lost businesses and means of livelihood, growing alcoholism and drug abuse, rise in suicides, spiraling untreated medical problems — those are things the public would just have to live with, because there could be no second-guessing of the scientists.

Science, a mantra against Trump

President Trump has been one of the few political leaders to attempt, on occasion, to question scientists’ judgments, and to suggest that political leaders shouldn’t cede policymaking to unelected experts.

Such temerity elicited spluttering rage from the media. ‘Trump’s Response to Virus Reflects a Long Disregard for Science,’ ran the headline of a typical New York Times story:

“As the nation confronts one of its worst public health disasters in generations, a moment that demands a leader willing to marshal the full might of the American scientific establishment, the White House is occupied by a president whose administration… has diminished the conclusions of scientists in formulating policy.”

‘Pandemic Brings Trump’s War on Science to the Boil’ was the headline of a recent Guardian article. Trump’s political opponents are also on board with ceding policymaking authority to the scientists. Presumptive Democrat nominee Joe Biden urged Trump to “Listen to the scientists. Listen to the doctors. Listen to what they have to say.” A few days later, in response to Trump’s refusal to wear a mask, Biden declared, “It’s important to follow the science, listen to the experts, do what they tell you.”

No one has championed the cause of “science” as fervently as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Science is our key to unlocking our country. The last thing we need is political interference into science,” she announced in a recent tweet. Next day’s tweet stated, “What we must do — what science tells us we must do — is focus on expanding testing & contact tracing. That is the only way we can safely reopen our economy.” Asked by CNBC’s Jim Cramer when Americans could start going back to work, she resorted to what has become her familiar standby: “So, again, data, data, data, evidence, science. That is the answer to when we can go back.” On Fox News, she dismissed Trump as a “weak leader” because, bizarrely, he hadn’t ceded policymaking to the scientists: “And that might have been OK before, but we cannot continue down a path that is, again I’ll come back to science, science, science, evidence, data on how we should go forward.”

Not an exact science

What’s strange about this worship of the scientists is that their track record during the pandemic has hardly been impressive. The Imperial College model had predicted 2.2 million deaths in the United States and 510,000 in Great Britain. The supposedly anti-science Trump administration had taken the Imperial College model seriously and, as the New York Times admitted, the model “influenced the White House to strengthen its measures to isolate members of the public.” Imperial College’s Neil Ferguson then reversed himself and announced that UK deaths from the disease may not exceed 20,000. Interestingly, Ferguson cited the UK’s lockdown policy to explain his abrupt reversal. As Alex Berenson pointed out, the UK had instituted the lockdown only two days before Ferguson’s announcement, and lockdowns need at least two weeks to take effect. And ultimately, the UK’s death toll has already topped 30,000, so that prediction was wrong, as well.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s model didn’t fare much better. In early April, when the White House was citing predicted numbers of 100,000 and 240,000 deaths, it predicted there would be 147,000 deaths by August. That estimate has since been revised more than twofold – first to 135,000, and now to 147,000. Downward or upward, the point is that while politicians are incessantly telling other politicians to “listen to scientists,” the scientists are all over the place. Until there is at least universal agreement on how to tally the death numbers, namely, whether deaths with the coronavirus are to be counted separately from, or jointly with, deaths from the coronavirus, many of these numbers will remain in the realm of speculation.

The saints of Russiagate

Let’s take a look at another set of experts whose findings have been allowed to shape public policy. There is no group of experts with a worse record than the intelligence agencies. The catastrophic 2003 invasion of Iraq was in large part based on their finding that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Then there was the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment, which flatly claimed:

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

The intelligence agencies to this day have presented no conclusive evidence to support these claims. Yet politicians (even conservative politicians) and media (even conservative media) accept them as true and denounce as unpatriotic any attempt to call them into question. Any policy toward Russia other than total hostility — including repeated sanctions, provocation and preparation for armed conflict — was deemed unacceptable.

What politicians are for

Serious confrontation with a nuclear superpower is fraught with risk, and any US president would be derelict in his duties if he didn’t do everything in his power to avoid it. At a minimum, he should check whether the intelligence he had been fed was as solidly based as its producers claimed.

In Helsinki, during his July 2018 summit with President Putin, President Trump, acting with the responsibility his office requires, decided it was not in the interest of the US to pursue confrontation with Russia. Rather than accuse Russia of election interference, Trump expressed some skepticism as to the definitiveness of the US intelligence agencies’ findings. Media and political operatives rained denunciations on his head.

“Trump’s statements amounted to an unprecedented refusal by a US president to believe his own intelligence agencies over the word of a foreign adversary,” screamed CNN. “Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous and inexplicable behavior is the possibility… that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump,” declared Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “I wonder if the Russians have something” on Trump, mused former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Former CIA Director John Brennan flatly accused Trump of “treason.”

Since then, of course, the intelligence agencies’ claims have unraveled in spectacular fashion. Special Counsel Robert Mueller failed to “establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The US government abandoned its two-year-long prosecution of a Russian company that had supposedly orchestrated a social media campaign to interfere in the 2016 election. Recently released House Intelligence Committee transcripts reveal that intelligence chiefs that had shot their mouths off on television about Trump-Russia admitted under oath that they had never personally seen any evidence of it. Most damagingly, Shawn Henry, president of CrowdStrike, admitted to having no conclusive evidence that it was the Russians who stole the DNC emails.

The Russian interference in the 2016 election story will soon be as discredited as the Iraqi WMDs story. The experts made claims that everyone needed to accept and that policymakers needed to act upon. As with the recommendations of the scientists, political leaders would have been better advised exercising their judgment rather than blindly following the experts. It’s what voters expect their leaders to do.

George Szamuely is a senior research fellow at Global Policy Institute (London) and author of Bombs for Peace: NATO’s Humanitarian War on Yugoslavia. Follow him on Twitter @GeorgeSzamuely

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

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

By Anna Belkina | RT | May 14, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FBI Claims China Targeting US Organizations Engaged in Coronavirus Research

Sputnik – May 13, 2020

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have issued a joint statement in which they accuse malicious Chinese actors of trying to steal US coronavirus vaccine research.

“The FBI is investigating the targeting and compromise of US organizations conducting COVID-19-related research by PRC-affiliated cyber actors and non-traditional collectors. These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research. The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options,” the statement, put out Wednesday, says.

The FBI and CISA urge organizations carrying out research in these fields to “maintain dedicated cybersecurity and insider threat practices” to prevent such thefts, and calls on institutions to watch out for and report any “anomalous” and “unusual” activities and behaviour. The statement also warns that organizations should realize that talking to the press about their COVID-19-related research may result in “increased interest and cyber activity” by possible malicious actors.

The warning comes just days following Sunday’s report by The New York Times citing current and former US security officials indicating that US intelligence was planning to put out an alert about alleged efforts by Chinese spies to access US-based coronavirus research. Officials told the paper that the ‘non-traditional collectors’ involved may include Chinese researchers and students working in the United States who may be interested in ‘infiltrating’ US academic and private laboratories in search of a vaccine. Complementing them are China’s “state-run hacking teams,” the paper claimed.

CISA director Christopher Krebs has alleged that “China’s long history of bad behaviour in cyberspace is well documented, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone they are going after the critical organizations involved in the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Krebs promised that the US would “defend our interests aggressively,” without elaborating.

Strong Claims From ‘Empire of Hackers’

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian commented on the claims made by NYT on Monday, saying China already leads global research and development on coronavirus vaccines and therapies, and that the hacking claims were an “immoral” and baseless attempt to “smear” his country.

Chinese biotech companies reported recently that they have four different coronavirus vaccines already undergoing clinical trials, with three of them entering the second stage, with pilot production of an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine expected to begin in July. US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has previously said he expects the US to have a vaccine available by the end of the year.

An anonymous researcher told the Global Times newspaper Monday that in the US’s core research efforts would be of little value to China, because US efforts are DNA and RNA-based vaccines, while China has chosen to focus on inactivated vaccines (i.e. vaccines made from virulent virus by destroying its infectivity while retaining its immunogenicity). Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine is the most famous example of a major inactivated vaccine.

Earlier this year, China called out the United States for being an “empire of hackers” and “the largest state eavesdropper in international cyberspace” following revelations of the extent of the National Security Agency’s global intelligence-gathering operations going back to the Cold War.

May 13, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

The ‘See-No-Evil’ Phase of Russiagate

By Patrick Lawrence | Consortium News | May 11, 2020

The long, destructive conspiracy theory known as Russiagate, the mother of them all, at last evaporates into thin air. No shred of it remains as of back-to-back disclosures over the past couple of weeks. Where does this leave us? What is to come of this momentous turn of events?

Among those not inclined toward hysteria or copious quaffs of Democratic Party Kool–Aid, it has long been a question how those who concocted and sustained the tales of Russian “meddling,” “collusion,” and mail hackery would manage their embarrassment — not to mention their potential legal liabilities — once their edifice-built-on-sand collapsed, as it was destined from the first to do.

The early signs are as some predicted: They will slither quietly off the stage without comment, they will deny their incessant, ever-vehement accusations, they will profess to weariness, they will insist there are more important things to think about now.

Here is a tweet from one Bob F published Saturday. Our Bob touches nearly all of the above-noted bases. His mentions of Matt Taibbi, Aaron Maté, and Jimmy Dore reference two journalists and a talk-show host who identified the fraud from the first and had the scruples not to surrender to the liberal totalitarianism we have suffered these past three years:

Yes, Bob, lets. This is a brilliant specimen of the flaccid cowardice we’re now to witness many times over. Reassuringly enough, a modest twitter storm followed. Here is a reply from Kathy Woods, a consistently insightful commentator in Twitterland:

For good measure, here is another response to Big Bob, this one addressing his implicit assertion of Democratic Party virtue in the Age of Trump:

There is anger abroad as Russiagate finally unwinds, plainly. This is an excellent thing. And Ms. Woods is right: It is important to make the sun shine on what became, before the end, a scandal of historic proportions. There is a chance of achieving the “complete exposure” Woods asks for, but it remains a question, as of now, whether this will come to pass.

Two weeks ago the Justice Department made public documents showing that when, in January 2017, prosecutors wanted to close the collusion case against Michael Flynn, who briefly served as President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, because they found “no derogatory information” against him, Peter Strzok, the philandering F.B.I. agent later found to be shaping an “insurance policy” against a Trump victory in the 2016 election, cajoled them into keeping it open — absence of evidence be damned.

Two Other Developments

The Strzok revelations turned out to be prelude to the two other developments further demolishing the Russiagate narrative. Last Thursday Justice finally dropped its case against Flynn altogether. We now know he was the victim of a perjury trap when questioned about his contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Moscow’s ambassador to Washington in 2016. “Get him to lie so we can prosecute him,” was the FBI’s directive.

Yet worse, Flynn’s guilty plea was in response to prosecutors’ threats to indict his son if he pled otherwise. Tell me the difference, please, between this kind of stuff and the treatment of the accused in the postwar show trials in Eastern Europe.

On the same day the Justice Department dropped the charges against Flynn, the House Intelligence Committee released documents showing that the FBI had no evidence that Russia pilfered the Democratic National Committee’s email archives by hacking into its servers in mid–2016. The FBI had none because CrowdStrike, the patently corrupt cyber-security firm on which it (inexplicably) relied, never gave it any: It had none, either — contrary to its many claims otherwise.

The taker of cake here is that the documents also show that the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by the inimitable (thank goodness) Adam Schiff, knew there were no grounds to allege Russian involvement in what wasn’t a hack by anyone, but a leak, probably by someone with direct access to the DNC’s servers.

My Consortium News colleague Ray McGovern has just detailed the collapse of the “Russians-hacked-it” ruse.

No evidence anywhere along the line of collusion, none of Russians stealing mail. There is a simpler way to put this: No Russiagate.

In truth, there has been evidence aplenty of the Russiagate fraud for some time, due in part to the researches of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, VIPS, of which McGovern is a principal. The problem has been to secure official acknowledgement of three years’ worth of wrongdoing. We now have it, even if it arrives with no admission whatsoever of responsibility.

Enter Perception Management 

Now come the lies, the dissembling, and the media’s “perception management.”  Tucker Carlson, the Fox News presenter, offered a funny-but-not-funny catalog of the liars who now stand exposed, none more thoroughly than the egregious Schiff, who ought to resign over this, and Evelyn Farkas, another Obama-era holdover with absolutely no regard for the truth. Loretta Lynch, Obama’s A–G, will also have things to answer for, assuming answers for her misconduct are required of her.

Among the press and broadcasters, it has been a spinfest this past week — led, naturally, by The New York Times, given no one in the media dares venture a syllable for which the Times has not signaled prior approval. The paper’s report on the dismissal of the Flynn case marked the judgment down as “the latest example of Attorney General William P. Barr’s efforts to chisel away at the results of the Russia investigation.” I lost count of the mentions of Flynn’s “lying” and “guilty plea” after nine. No reference to the perjury trap set for Flynn, or the threat to indict his son.

The Times ran two further pieces hatcheting Flynn and Barr in Saturday’s editions, here and here, and a straight-out character assassination of Flynn on Sunday, casting him as some kind of pathological split personality. The Gray Lady doth protest too much, in my view.

The press vastly over-invested in the Russiagate narrative from the first, and now appears set to throw yet more money after all the bad. This is not a good sign. It suggests that our troubled republic simply cannot accept its errors, leaving us unable to learn from them. This is why America in its post-democratic phase cannot self-correct. It is why we have no assurance that another Russiagate, in whatever form, will not be visited upon us.

“Attorney General William P. Barr’s efforts to chisel away at the results of the Russia investigation”? Absolutely. We have to hope he gets somewhere. Committed Russiagaters now take to charging that Barr is corrupting an otherwise snow-white Justice Department. Say what? Given all we now know, this starts to tip into the zone of black humor.

Barr and his investigators are fully armed as of last week. They have all they need to get to the bottom of this dark ocean. They have it in their power to bring to justice the three architects of the Russiagate scam when it was in motion — ex–C.I.A. Director John Brennan, ex–Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, ex–F.B.I. Director James Comey — for what amounted to an attempt to depose a president in a bloodless coup. These are the Democratic Party’s answer to former President Richard Nixon’s infamous “plumbers,” if you ask me.

Whether Barr and his investigators get the task done is to a great extent a matter of politics and bureaucratic warfare that will at best be partially visible to us in coming months. It is a question of how far he will be permitted to go.

Succeed or fail, the record is at least and at last straight.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” (Yale).

May 12, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 2 Comments

How a US Government-Sponsored Outlet Sparked Media Hysteria About Kim Jong-un’s ‘Death’

By Ilya Tsukanov – Sputnik – May 3, 2020

After weeks of speculation fueled by a lengthy absence, the North Korean leader suddenly reappeared in public on May 1 at the opening of a new fertilizer plant, dispelling rumours that he was dead or ‘gravely ill’.

Kim Jong-un’s surprise reemergence in public after weeks of speculation regarding his health raise a couple of important questions, specifically: how did the rumours get started, and who was behind them?

Queries regarding the North Korean leader’s whereabouts began swirling in mid-April, after he missed the public celebration of the Day of the Sun, the all-important April 15 anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, founder of North Korea and Kim Jong-un’s grandfather. Before that, Kim also missed the session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, making his last public appearance on April 11 at a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea politburo.

NED-Sponsored Rumours

It was Daily NK, a South Korean-based online newspaper which receives grant funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, a US government-funded non-profit with the stated goal of ‘promoting democracy abroad’, which began the rumour that Kim had undergone a “cardiovascular surgical procedure.” What was the paper’s information based on? An unnamed source inside North Korea.

CNN took the rumour and ran with it, with a US official ‘with direct knowledge’ of the situation telling the network on April 21 that US intelligence was monitoring reports that Kim was “in grave danger” after undergoing surgery.

South Korean officials, meanwhile, maintained at the time that Seoul had “seen no unusual signs with regard to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s health.” Also telling was the fact that US President Donald Trump, who initially ‘wished Kim well’ after hearing the reports, quickly corrected himself, saying he thought CNN’s reporting was “incorrect” and based on “old documents.”

On April 26, a senior advisor to South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke to CNN directly, once again dismissing rumours regarding Kim’s health, and reiterating that as far as Seoul was aware, he was doing just fine.

As for North Korean media, it issued a series of statements about Kim’s regular back-and-forth communications with officials, foreign leaders, and construction workers in Samjiyon, a model city in the country’s north.

Still, the lack of photos or videos meant that speculation would go on, with political talking heads mulling over Kim’s possible successor, possibly his sister Kim Yo-jong, while the Washington Post and the New York Times chalked out various apocalyptic scenarios, from panic buying in Pyongyang stores to fears of a cross-border refugee crisis and even a possible military incursion into North Korea leading to nuclear war.

Kim Reappears

On May 1, following an absence of 20 days, North Korean television broadcast a report featuring Kim attending a ceremony opening a new fertilizer plant in Sunchon, an industrial city north of Pyongyang. Photos shared by Korean Central News Agency showed Kim cutting a ceremonial red ribbon at the factory, flanked by officials. Video footage of the event emerged a day later, showing Kim speaking with officials, seemingly in good health and good spirits.

Undeterred by the photo and video evidence challenging their claims, the rumour mill has continued to churn, with ‘health professionals’ telling NK News, a South-Korean-based online newspaper with alleged links to the CIA, that a mark on Kim’s arm seen in the footage actually “corroborates” earlier reports about his alleged heart surgery.

On Sunday, a senior official from the South Korean President’s office dismissed these claims, telling Yonhap that Seoul has “reasons to believe that there was no surgery, but cannot disclose such details.”

The swirling of rumours regarding Kim’s health led to an explosion of memes after his reemergence in public.

Still, only a handful of observers have called out the mainstream media for this latest bout of “fake news,” with journalist and The Grayzone assistant editor Ben Norton calling it “example number 92,730,274 of how the Western corporate media is a totally useless propaganda machine that prints lie after lie in service of Western governments.”

Meanwhile, in South Korea, the country’s ruling Democratic Party reportedly demanded an apology from two defector parliamentarians on Sunday for their alleged role in circulating the fake news regarding Kim’s health. Before the release of fresh photos and video of Kim, high-profile defector and lawmaker Thae Yong-ho publicly said he was confident that the North Korean leader “cannot stand up by himself or walk properly,” while Ji Seong-ho, another opposition lawmaker, claimed he was “99 percent sure” Kim was dead. Jung Choun-sook, Democratic Party lawmaker and spokesperson, called on the pair of MPs to apologize over their now demonstrably “groundless remarks.”

May 3, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Hopefulness Despite 2.9 Billion Lost Birds

By Jim Steele | Watts Up With That? | May 1, 2020

What’s Natural

In 2019 bird researchers published Rosenberg et al “Decline of the North American Avifauna”, reporting a decline in 57% of the bird species. They estimated a net loss of nearly 2.9 billion birds since 1970, and urged us to remedy the threats, claiming all were “exacerbated by climate change”, and we must stave off the “potential collapse of the continental avifauna.” Months before publication the researchers had organized an extensive media campaign. Typical doomsday media like the New York Times piled on with “Birds Are Vanishing From North America” and Scientific American wrote, “Silent Skies: Billions of North American Birds Have Vanished.”

As I have now been sheltering in place, I finally had ample time to thoroughly peruse Rosenberg’s study. I had a very personal interest in it, having professionally studied bird populations for over 20 years and had worked to restore their habitat. I also had conducted 20 years of surveys which were part of the study’s database. Carefully looking at their data, a far more optimistic perspective is needed. So here I join a chorus of other ecologists, as reported in Slate, that “There Is No Impending Bird Apocalypse”. As one ecologist wrote, it’s “not what’s really happening. I think it hurts the credibility of scientists.”

First consider since 1970 many species previously considered endangered such as pelicans, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, trumpeter swan, and whooping crane have been increasing due to enlightened management. Despite being hunted, ducks and geese increased by 54%. Secondly, just 12 of the 303 declining species account for the loss of 1.4 billion birds, and counterintuitively their decline is not worrisome.

Three introduced species – house sparrows, starlings and pigeons – account for nearly one half billion lost birds. These birds were pre-adapted to human habitat and are considered pests that carry disease and tarnish buildings and cars with their droppings. Across America, companies like Bird-B-Gone are hired to remove these foreign bird pests. Furthermore, starlings compete with native birds like bluebirds and flickers for nesting cavities, contributing to native bird declines. The removal of starlings is not an omen of an “avifauna collapse”, but good news for native birds.

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When European colonists cleared forests to create pastures and farmland or provide wood for heating, open-habitat species “unnaturally” increased. Previously confined to the Great Plains, brown‑headed cowbirds quickly invaded the newly opened habitat. Unfortunately, cowbirds parasitize other species by laying its eggs in their nests. A cowbird hatchling then pushes out all other nestlings, killing the parasitized species’ next generation. The loss of 40 million cowbirds only benefits our “continental avifauna”.

Several bird species had evolved to colonize forest openings naturally produced by fire, or floods or high winds. Those species “unnaturally” boomed when 50% to 80% of northeastern United States became de-forested by 1900. Still, eastern trees will reclaim a forest opening within 20 years, so open habitat species require a constant supply of forest openings. However as marginal farms and pastures were abandoned, fires were suppressed and logging reduced, forests increasingly reclaimed those openings. With a 50% decline in forest openings, their bird species also declined; now approaching pre-colonial numbers. Accordingly, birds of the expanding forest interior like woodpeckers are now increasing.

White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos quickly colonize forest openings but then disappear within a few years as the forest recovers. Those 2 species alone accounted for the loss of another quarter of a billion birds; not because of an ecosystem collapse, but because forests were reclaiming human altered habitat. Nonetheless those species are still 400 million strong, and juncos remain abundant in the open habitat maintained by suburban back yards. If environmentalists want to reclaim the abundance of their boom years, they must manage forest openings with logging or prescribed burns.

Insect outbreaks also create forest openings. For hundreds of years forests across Canada and northeastern US have been decimated every few decades by spruce bud worm eruptions. So, forest managers now spray to limit further outbreaks. Today there are an estimated 111 million living Tennessee Warblers that have specialized to feed on spruce bud worms. But the warbler’s numbers have declined by 80 million because insect outbreaks are more controlled. Still they have never been threatened with extinction. Conservationists must determine what is a reasonable warbler abundance while still protecting forests from devastating insect infestations.

The grassland biome accounted for the greatest declines, about 700 million birds. Indeed, natural grasslands had been greatly reduced by centuries of expanding agriculture and grazing. But in recent times more efficient agriculture has allowed more land to revert to “natural” states. However fossil fuel fears reversed that trend. In 2005 federal fuel policies began instituting subsidies to encourage biofuel production. As a result, 17 million more acres of grassland have been converted to corn fields for ethanol since 2006.

Although still very abundant, just 3 species account for the loss of 400 million grassland birds: Horned Larks, Savannah Sparrows and Grasshopper Sparrows. Horned Larks alone accounted for 182 million fewer birds due to a loss of very short grass habitats with some bare ground. To increase their numbers, studies show more grazing, mowing or burning will increase their preferred habitat.

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It must be emphasized that the reported cumulative loss of 2.9 billion birds since 1970, does not signify ecosystem collapses. But there are some legitimate concerns such as maintaining wetlands. And there are some serious human-caused problems we need to remedy to increase struggling bird populations. It is estimated that cats kill between 1 to 3 billion birds each year. Up to 1 billion birds each year die by crashing into the illusions created by window reflections. Collisions with cars and trucks likely kill 89 to 350 million birds a year. Instead of fearmongering ecosystem collapse, our avifauna would best be served by addressing those problems.

Questioning Bird Models

Population estimates for most land birds are based on data from the US Geological Surveys Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS). I conducted 2 BBS surveys on the Tahoe National Forest for 20 years. Each survey route consists of 50 stops, each a half‑mile apart. At each stop for a period of just 3 minutes, I would record all observed birds, the overwhelming majority of which are heard but not seen. Many birds can be missed in such a short time, but the BBS designers decided a 3-minute observation time allowed the day’s survey to cover more habitat. Each year on about the same date, the BBS survey was repeated.

Each BBS route surveys perhaps 1% the region’s landscape. To estimate each species’ population for the whole region, the survey’s observations are extrapolated and modeled. However, models rely on several assumptions and adjustments, and those assumptions can inflate final estimates. For example, in 2004 researchers estimated there were 6,500,000 Rufous Hummingbirds. By 2017, researchers estimated there were now 21,690,000. But that larger population cannot be deemed a conservation success. That tripling of abundance was mostly due to new adjustments.

Because singing males account for most observations, the number of observed birds is doubled to account for an unobserved female that is most likely nearby. Furthermore, it is assumed different species are more readily detected than others. The models assume that each stop will account for all the birds within a 400‑meter radius. Because a crow is readily detected over that distance, no adjustments are made to the number of observed crows. But hummingbirds are not so easily detected. The earlier surveys assumed a hummingbird could only be detected if it was within an 80‑meter radius. So, to standardize the observations to an area with a 400‑meter radius, observations were multiplied by 25. Recent survey models now assume hummingbirds can only be detected within 50 meters, so their observations are now adjusted by multiplying by 64.

Thus, depending on their detection adjustments, one real observation could generate 50 or 128 virtual hummingbirds. That number is further scaled up to account for the time‑of‑day effects and the likely number of birds in the region’s un-surveyed landscapes.

Setting aside assumptions about the regional homogeneity of birds’ habitat, one very real problem with these adjustments that has yet to be addressed. If one bird is no longer observed at a roadside stop, the model assumes that the other 127 virtual birds also died.

Survey routes are done along roadsides and up to 340 million birds are killed by vehicles each year. Many sparrows and warblers are ground nesters and will fly low to the ground. Many seed eating birds like finches will congregate along a roadside to ingest the small gravel needed to internally grind their seeds. Every year I watched a small flock of Evening Grosbeaks ingesting gravel from the shoulder of a country road, get picked off one by one by passing cars. Roadside vegetation often differs from off-road vegetation. Roads initially create openings that are suitable for one species but are gradually grown over during the lifetime of a survey to become unsuitable habitat. So, it should never be assumed that the loss of roadside observations represents a decline for the whole region.

The larger the models’ detectability adjustments are for a given species, the greater the probability that any declining trend in roadside observations will exaggerate a species population loss for the region. The greatest population losses were modeled for warblers and sparrows and most warbler and sparrow data are adjusted for detectability by multiplying actual observations 4 to 10-fold. It is worth reporting good news from recent studies in National Parks that used a much greater density of observation points and were not confined to roadsides. Their observation points were also much closer together and thus required fewer assumptions and adjustments. Of the 50 species they observed, all but 3 populations were stable.

Pushing a fake crisis, Rosenberg et al argued that declining numbers within a species that is still still very abundant doesn’t mean they are not threatened with a quick collapse. He highlighted the Passenger Pigeon was once one of the most abundant birds in North America and they quickly went extinct by 1914. That doomsday scenario was often repeated by the media. But comparison to the Passenger Pigeon’s demise is a false equivalency. Passenger Pigeons were hunted for food when people were suffering from much greater food insecurity.

Rosenberg et al summarized their study with one sentence: “Cumulative loss of nearly three billion birds since 1970, across most North American biomes, signals a pervasive and ongoing avifaunal crisis.” But it signals no such thing. Wise management will continue. With better accounting of the natural causes of each species declines, plus more accurate modeling, it will be seen that Rosenberg’s “crisis” was just another misleading apocalyptic story that further erodes public trust in us honest environmental scientists.

Jim Steele is director emeritus of the Sierra Nevada Field Campus, SFSU and authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism.

May 1, 2020 Posted by | Environmentalism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | 5 Comments

NY Times Caught Exaggerating Antarctic Ice Loss – If There Is Any Loss at All

By James Taylor | Climate Realism | April 30, 2020

The New York Times is attempting to panic people with an article today claiming alarming ice loss in Antarctica. However, as recently as 2015, NASA reported satellite measurements show Antarctic ice mass has been growing since at least 1992, when satellites began taking measurements. Clearly, either the New York Times story is wrong or the Times is telling an unnecessarily alarmist story about a few years of minor ice loss after many more years of ice gain.

The Times article claims, “Researchers have known for a long time that, while the continent is losing mass over all as the climate changes, the change is uneven.” The assertion is only half true. Given that less than five years ago, NASA satellite instruments reported long-term and continuing growth in Antarctic ice mass, it is factually inaccurate for the Times to state, “Researchers have known for a long time that … the continent is losing mass….”

On the other hand, the Times is correct that any current asserted ice loss is “uneven.” The ice-change map accompanying the Times article shows that a much larger portion of Antarctica is gaining ice than is losing ice. The asserted overall ice-mass loss comes primarily from a relatively few locations along the very edge of the West Antarctic ice shelf. Those locations line up almost perfectly with locations where scientists have recently discovered volcanoes under the ice.

The more accurate overall picture is that scientists have documented long-term growth in the Antarctic ice sheet, even during most of the past 40 years. If there is a recent trend of ice loss, the trend is minor, confined to just a small portion of West Antarctica, has been occurring for less than five years, and is likely due in significant part to undersea volcanoes rather than climate change.

May 1, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | 1 Comment

NYT Blames Maduro for Healthcare Horror, Downplays US Role

By Bryce Greene | FAIR | April 16, 2020

The New York Times (4/10/20) published an article describing the horrendous shape of the Venezuelan healthcare system. The human interest story, written by Julie Turkewitz and Isayen Herrera, followed several women through their nightmarish journey of childbearing in a broken medical system. The piece would be outstanding reporting, had it not fumbled the most important aspect of the story: how and why the system is as bad as it is. In true “manufacturing consent” fashion, the piece downplayed the US role in destabilizing the Venezuelan economy, and instead pointed to President Nicolás Maduro’s “authoritarianism” as the primary cause of the crisis.

The piece appeared on the Times’ front page on Saturday. The section of the piece visible on the front page pointed to Maduro as the cause for Venezuela’s healthcare problem, saying the system had been “crippled by a broken economy overseen by an increasingly authoritarian government.”

The story continued on an inside page, where it finally referenced the US role in creating the desperate conditions. The reporters briefly mentioned that Maduro claimed that US sanctions had some effect, but quickly brushed the claim aside, citing “analysts and critics” who said that Maduro’s charge had “only some weight.”

To back up this dismissal, the authors cited Feliciano Reyna, the founder of a nonprofit known as Action for Solidarity. Reyna blamed the Maduro administration for refusing to accept help from aid organizations. He indicated that despite the sanctions, the country would be able to receive the supplies it needed from those organizations.

However, a few paragraphs later, the piece stated the government had been attempting to receive help through the Red Cross for nearly a year now, throwing Reyes’ criticism into doubt. The contradiction was not addressed by the reporters, and the doublethink was allowed to go unchallenged, even as the piece acknowledged that the Red Cross has been failing to meet Venezuela’s needs, due to a lack of funds, and quoted Venezuela Red Cross leader Louis Farias, who said that their chapter’s call for help “didn’t get the backing [they] had hoped.”

The New York Times omitted other statements from the Red Cross organization that shed more light on the role the US has played. Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of the Red Cross, stated publicly last year that he believed that “political will” was behind the lack of funding for Venezuela. He said that there are some who wanted “to use the civilian population, their desperation, as a tool to destabilize the country.” Rocca pointed out that “it is easier to receive funds for Syria and even for Yemen.”

Later in the piece, the reporters cited economist Asdrúbal Oliveros, who claimed that “Mr. Maduro had simply chosen to prioritize the import of oil and food over medicine.” Oliveros believes the calculus was based on the fact that “pregnant women and sick people don’t protest—but that hungry people do.” No explanation was offered for why it’s Maduro’s fault that his administration has been forced to choose between essential resources for his country.

The piece merely calls Oliveros “one economist,” failing to disclose that he has been part of the Venezuelan opposition backing would-be president Juan Guaidó in an ongoing US-backed coup attempt against Maduro. Oliveros was described by the pro-Guaidó publication Americas Quarterly (4/18) as one of the “10 People Who Will (One Day) Rebuild Venezuela.”

The New York Times and other elite media have played an important role in mobilizing the US public against the Maduro government. They have highlighted the very real hardships on the ground, while casting blame for them almost exclusively on the “authoritarian” Maduro government (which, despite media’s constant implications, won an internationally observed election with more than 4 million more votes over the president’s closest rival (FAIR.org5/10/19). They consistently downplay the role of US sanctions in contributing to the dire economic situation (FAIR.org2/6/196/26/193/25/20).

If the Times were concerned about the fate of the women it profiled, and the state of Venezuelan economy, the paper would direct its readers to the sources of instability for which they bear the most responsibility. US sanctions have decimated the Venezuelan economy, as was predicted by analysts when they were first imposed. One 2019 study from the Center for Economic Policy Research found that the sanctions had indirectly caused the deaths of 40,000. Portraying Maduro as the sole reason for the country’s crisis is factually incorrect and journalistically irresponsible.

April 21, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Corporate Media Cover for US Mob Threats Against Venezuela

By Lucas Koerner and Ricardo Vaz | FAIR | April 15, 2020

The Trump administration unveiled on March 31 a “democratic transition” plan to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from office, in favor of a “council of state” composed of both opposition and ruling party loyalists.

The plan was, however, less an offer to negotiate than a diktat, with the US State Department (3/31/20) vowing that “sanctions will remain in effect, and increase, until the Maduro regime accepts a genuine political transition.”

Despite the obvious mafioso overtones, Washington’s stenographers in the corporate press were quick to present the initiative as “sanctions relief,” once again whitewashing murderous US economic warfare against Venezuela (FAIR.org2/6/196/14/196/26/19).

Western journalists’ callous obfuscation of sanctions’ deadly toll, especially amid a global pandemic (FAIR.org3/25/20), goes hand in hand with their parroting of bogus “narco-terrorism” charges leveled against Maduro and top Venezuelan officials, which butresses Washington’s ever-illicit casus belli.

An Offer They Can’t Refuse

The New York Times (3/31/20) jumped at the opportunity to furnish the Trump administration’s plan with a varnish of reasonability. “The proposal…offers to ease American sanctions intended to pressure President Nicolás Maduro and his loyalists over the past year,” Lara Jakes wrote, misconstruing the unilateral measures destroying Venezuela’s economy as well-intentioned steps to bring about “fair elections.”

At no point did the paper of record mention Washington’s threat to ramp up illegal sanctions if Maduro refuses the “offer” to replace his government with a five-person junta, in flagrant violation of Venezuela’s constitution. Other Western media likewise covered up the US blackmail, praising Donald Trump’s bayonet-hoisted ultimatum as a “roadmap to relief” (Washington Post3/31/20), a “more toned-down approach” (Reuters3/31/20) and a “conciliatory framework” (Economist4/2/20).

Having dutifully whitewashed US sanctions, the Times and its counterparts were free to cast war criminal Elliott Abrams, rehabilitated last year as Trump’s Venezuela envoy (CounterSpin3/1/19), as an honest broker committed to good-faith dialogue:

But Mr. Abrams was careful to say that the plan was an opening offer for talks between the two sides, “not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition,” and that no single issue was a deal breaker—except the demand for Mr. Maduro’s departure.

By contrast, Maduro—reelected in internationally monitored elections with a greater percentage of the electorate than Trump won in 2016, or Barack Obama in 2012—is for the Times “reminiscent of mid-20th century Latin American strongmen,” whose 2018 victory was “self-declared.”

The Times went on to accuse the Venezuelan leader of “creating one of the world’s largest refugee populations,” concealing the role of criminal sanctions in driving migration (FAIR.org2/18/18).

This vilification of Maduro and the Chavista poor people’s movement does not merely reflect reporters’ professional class bias, but is structurally necessary to justify US economic warfare and more overt criminality in the first place.

It is therefore no coincidence that the Trump administration’s gunpoint “proposal” to overturn Venezuela’s constitutional order came on the heels of Department of Justice “narco-terrorism” charges against the Venezuelan head of state and other top officials, which corporate journalists trumpeted enthusiastically.

Most outlets regarded the timing as a symptom of “contradictory” (Washington Post4/14/20) or “erratic” (New York Times4/10/20) US policy, which could “make it harder to remove Maduro” (Economist4/2/20), but the underlying regime change (ir)rationality never comes into question.

Indeed, even liberal imperialist academics like David Smilde and Abraham Lowenthal (Washington Post4/14/20) declined to call for scrapping the indictments, let alone easing sanctions, as a goodwill gesture aimed at securing Chavista support for the US plan, which they hailed as a “step in the right direction.” Rather, they merely recommend that the Trump administration offer “guarantees for indicted officials” against extradition, as if Maduro would be inclined to negotiate while Washington continues its collective punishment and maintains a $15 million bounty on his head.

Smilde and his Washington Office on Latin America colleague Geoff Ramsey’s  (Washington Post3/27/20) refusal to demand the immediate annulment of the drug charges and illegal sanctions is hardly surprising, given both men’s long-running support for US coup efforts (Common Dreams3/5/19).

(Left) The NYT found Maduro’s white suit and being flanked by ministers as “reminiscent of dictators” (Right) The WaPo found an unconstitutional plan to remove an elected president on the basis of threats “a step in the right direction”

Calling the Kettle Black

The DoJ’s indictment of 14 current or former senior Venezuelan officials on “narco-terrorism” charges provided the Western media with fresh grist for its imperial propaganda mill.

This is hardly the first time that the corporate media have reported the Washington’s evidence-free drug allegations against official enemies, which they have frequently done without any pretense of journalistic rigor (Extra!1/909/12FAIR.org,  9/24/195/24/19).

The New York Times (3/26/20) dedicated no less than 12 paragraphs to repeating prosecutors’ claims, which are centered on the outlandish notion that Maduro secretly heads a drug cartel that conspired with Colombia’s FARC guerrillas to “‘flood’ the United States with cocaine.”

Despite marshaling a crack team of three writers and four contributing reporters, the Times proved incapable of citing any contrarian perspectives, let alone basic facts, that cast doubt on the “narco-terrorism” narrative.

The Guardian (3/26/20) and the Washington Post (3/27/20) were virtually the only outlets to mention the US government’s own publicly available data showing that just a small fraction of drug routes pass through Venezuela, with the overwhelming majority of cocaine entering the United States via Mexico and Central America. Furthermore, Colombia remains the world’s largest cocaine producer, right under the nose of large US military and DEA contingents, which have long waged a “war for drugs and of terror” in the country.

The DoJ’s case looks like a reheated version of equally unfounded accusations against former President Hugo Chávez, which corporate journalists eagerly promoted last year (FAIR.org9/24/19).

A map produced by the US Southern Command shows that most drug routes enter the US via the Pacific and then Central America (Business Insider)

As with prior allegations against Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello (Wall Street Journal5/18/15), the indictments hinge on the testimony of defectors, whose claims are echoed in the Western press without scrutiny.

In the most recent case, retired Maj. Gen. Cliver Alcalá and former intelligence chief Hugo “El Pollo” Carvajal were also charged by the DoJ and pledged to cooperate with US authorities. Both had previously broken with the Maduro government and endorsed self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaidó.

Alcalá, who swiftly surrendered to DEA agents and was flown to the US, boasted of plotting a coup in conjunction with Guaidó and “US advisers.”

In an exposé of the coup plot, the Financial Times (4/4/20) cast doubt on the general’s “rambling and contradictory” account, quoting several US officials denying the coup attempt and alleging Alcalá was “acting on the orders of Caracas.”

The outlet conveniently ignored that this would not be the first time Alcalá conspired to invade Venezuela with a paramilitary force.

According to Bloomberg (3/6/19), there was a plan for the general to lead a contingent of 200 Venezuelan exile soldiers to clear the way for the entry of “humanitarian aid” on February 23, 2019, which was vetoed at the last minute by Colombia, suggesting high-level coordination with Washington, Bogotá and Guaidó.

By repeating the US narrative of Alcalá as a Maduro “plant,” corporate journalists paradoxically legitimize the general as a reliable source of current information on Venezuelan “narco-terrorism,” while concealing his embarrassing ties to the US and its opposition proxies.

As we have exposed for FAIR.org (5/24/19), Carvajal has already proved his worth in the past by serving up to credulous reporters highly dubious allegations about Venezuelan leaders’ Hezbollah ties (New York Times2/21/19).

(Left) The NYT (and other outlets) accepted the DoJ’s “narco-terrorism” charges at face value (Right) An AP headline endorsed Trump’s dubious justification for an aggression

Imaginary Cartels, Real Warships

The uncritical coverage of the DoJ charges paved the way for a further US escalation shortly after the “transition” plan was unveiled.

On March 31, the Trump administration announced a military deployment to the Caribbean described by Associated Press (4/1/20) as “one of the largest in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama.”

One might have expected such an obscenely expensive display of force amid a deadly pandemic currently killing thousands of Americans to be met with widespread rebuke across the media spectrum.

In fact, the opposition was largely muted. Newsweek (4/3/20) and Foreign Policy (4/2/20) gave voice to the Pentagon’s concern that the operation was wasteful and politically motivated, while the New York Times (4/10/20) published an op-ed raising polite proceduralist quibbles. Agreeing with the Trump administration that Maduro is a “dictator” who “must go,” Michael Shifter and Michael Camilleri nonetheless placed a vague call for Washington “to reboot sanctions policy, provide aid through accountable channels, and press the country’s leaders to work together.” Evidently, demanding the immediate lifting of (arguably genocidal) sanctions was too unreasonable to ask.

Referring to the Venezuelan military as “deeply involved in corruption and criminality,” Shifter and Camilleri exemplify the decadent imperial intelligentsia’s psychology of displacement.

From social democratic left to neoliberal right, Global North journalists and intellectuals remain invested in the self-serving illusion that besieged Southern nations such as Venezuela and Iran are more “criminal,” “corrupt” and “authoritarian” than the US empire (FAIR.org2/12/20).

For all their polite critiques of illegal US sanctions and military escalation–whose monstrosity has been laid bare by the current pandemic–the cult of Western exceptionalism goes unchallenged.

April 19, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 8 Comments