Monday, October 23, 2017

As Clinton Remembers It: Smears, Tears, and a War on Truth

Clinton, Assange and the War on Truth

by John Pilger - CounterPunch


October 20, 2017

On 16 October, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired an interview with Hillary Clinton: one of many to promote her score-settling book about why she was not elected President of the United States.

Wading through the Clinton book, What Happened, is an unpleasant experience, like a stomach upset. Smears and tears. Threats and enemies. “They” (voters) were brainwashed and herded against her by the odious Donald Trump in cahoots with sinister Slavs sent from the great darkness known as Russia, assisted by an Australian “nihilist”, Julian Assange.
Photo by Kyle Taylor | CC by 2.0 

In The New York Times, there was a striking photograph of a female reporter consoling Clinton, having just interviewed her. The lost leader was, above all, “absolutely a feminist”. The thousands of women’s lives this “feminist” destroyed while in government — Libya, Syria, Honduras — were of no interest.

In New York magazine, Rebecca Traister wrote that Clinton was finally “expressing some righteous anger”. It was even hard for her to smile: “so hard that the muscles in her face ache”. Surely, she concluded, “if we allowed women’s resentments the same bearing we allow men’s grudges, America would be forced to reckon with the fact that all these angry women might just have a point”.

Drivel such as this, trivialising women’s struggles, marks the media hagiographies of Hillary Clinton. Her political extremism and warmongering are of no consequence. Her problem, wrote Traister, was a “damaging infatuation with the email story”. The truth, in other words.

The leaked emails of Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, revealed a direct connection between Clinton and the foundation and funding of organised jihadism in the Middle East and Islamic State (IS). The ultimate source of most Islamic terrorism, Saudi Arabia, was central to her career.

One email, in 2014, sent by Clinton to Podesta soon after she stepped down as US Secretary of State, discloses that Islamic State is funded by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Clinton accepted huge donations from both governments for the Clinton Foundation.

As Secretary of State, she approved the world’s biggest ever arms sale to her benefactors in Saudi Arabia, worth more than $80 billion. Thanks to her, US arms sales to the world – for use in stricken countries like Yemen – doubled.

This was revealed by WikiLeaks and published by The New York Times. No one doubts the emails are authentic. The subsequent campaign to smear WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, as “agents of Russia”, has grown into a spectacular fantasy known as “Russiagate”. The “plot” is said to have been signed off by Vladimir Putin himself. There is not a shred of evidence.

The ABC Australia interview with Clinton is an outstanding example of smear and censorship by omission. I would say it is a model.

“No one,” the interviewer, Sarah Ferguson, says to Clinton, “could fail to be moved by the pain on your face at that moment [of the inauguration of Trump] … Do you remember how visceral it was for you?”

Having established Clinton’s visceral suffering, Ferguson asks about “Russia’s role”.

CLINTON: I think Russia affected the perceptions and views of millions of voters, we now know. I think that their intention coming from the very top with Putin was to hurt me and to help Trump.

FERGUSON: How much of that was a personal vendetta by Vladimir Putin against you?

CLINTON: … I mean he wants to destabilise democracy. He wants to undermine America, he wants to go after the Atlantic Alliance and we consider Australia kind of a … an extension of that …

The opposite is true. It is Western armies that are massing on Russia’s border for the first time since the Russian Revolution 100 years ago.

FERGUSON: How much damage did [Julian Assange] do personally to you?

CLINTON: Well, I had a lot of history with him because I was Secretary of State when ah WikiLeaks published a lot of very sensitive ah information from our State Department and our Defence Department.

What Clinton fails to say – and her interviewer fails to remind her — is that in 2010, WikiLeaks revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had ordered a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the United Nations leadership, including the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and the permanent Security Council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.

A classified directive, signed by Clinton, was issued to US diplomats in July 2009, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks.

This was known as Cablegate. It was lawless spying.

CLINTON: He [Assange] is very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence. And ah, he has done their bidding.

Clinton offered no evidence to back up this serious accusation, nor did Ferguson challenge her.

CLINTON: You don’t see damaging negative information coming out about the Kremlin on WikiLeaks. You didn’t see any of that published.

This was false. WikiLeaks has published a massive number of documents on Russia – more than 800,000, most of them critical, many of them used in books and as evidence in court cases.

CLINTON: So I think Assange has become a kind of nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator.

FERGUSON: Lots of people, including in Australia, think that Assange is a martyr for free speech and freedom of information. How would you describe him? Well, you’ve just described him as a nihilist.

CLINTON: Yeah, well, and a tool. I mean he’s a tool of Russian intelligence. And if he’s such a, you know, martyr of free speech, why doesn’t WikiLeaks ever publish anything coming out of Russia?

Again, Ferguson said nothing to challenge this or correct her.

CLINTON: There was a concerted operation between WikiLeaks and Russia and most likely people in the United States to weaponise that information, to make up stories … to help Trump.

FERGUSON: Now, along with some of those outlandish stories, there was information that was revealed about the Clinton Foundation that at least in some of the voters’ minds seemed to associate you ….

CLINTON: Yeah, but it was false!

FERGUSON: … with the peddling of information …

CLINTON: It was false! It was totally false! …..

FERGUSON: Do you understand how difficult it was for some voters to understand the amounts of money that the [Clinton] Foundation is raising, the confusion with the consultancy that was also raising money, getting gifts and travel and so on for Bill Clinton that even Chelsea had some issues with? …

CLINTON: Well you know, I’m sorry, Sarah, I mean I, I know the facts ….

The ABC interviewer lauded Clinton as “the icon of your generation”. She asked her nothing about the enormous sums she creamed off from Wall Street, such as the $675,000 she received for speaking at Goldman Sachs, one of the banks at the centre of the 2008 crash. Clinton’s greed deeply upset the kind of voters she abused as “deplorables”.

Clearly looking for a cheap headline in the Australian press, Ferguson asked her if Trump was “a clear and present danger to Australia” and got her predictable response.

This high-profile journalist made no mention of Clinton’s own “clear and present danger” to the people of Iran whom she once threatened to “obliterate totally”, and the 40,000 Libyans who died in the attack on Libya in 2011 that Clinton orchestrated. Flushed with excitement, the Secretary of State rejoiced at the gruesome murder of the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi.

“Libya was Hillary Clinton’s war”, Julian Assange said in a filmed interview with me last year. “Barack Obama initially opposed it. Who was the person championing it? Hillary Clinton. That’s documented throughout her emails … there’s more than 1700 emails out of the 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails that we’ve published, just about Libya. It’s not that Libya has cheap oil. She perceived the removal of Gaddafi and the overthrow of the Libyan state — something that she would use in her run-up to the general election for President.

“So in late 2011 there is an internal document called the Libya Tick Tock that was produced for Hillary Clinton, and it’s the chronological description of how she was the central figure in the destruction of the Libyan state, which resulted in around 40,000 deaths within Libya; jihadists moved in, ISIS moved in, leading to the European refugee and migrant crisis.

“Not only did you have people fleeing Libya, people fleeing Syria, the destabilisation of other African countries as a result of arms flows, but the Libyan state itself was no longer able to control the movement of people through it.”

This – not Clinton’s “visceral” pain in losing to Trump nor the rest of the self-serving scuttlebutt in her ABC interview — was the story. Clinton shared responsibility for massively de-stabilising the Middle East, which led to the death, suffering and flight of thousands of women, men and children.

Ferguson raised not a word of it. Clinton repeatedly defamed Assange, who was neither defended nor offered a right of reply on his own country’s state broadcaster.

In a tweet from London, Assange cited the ABC’s own Code of Practice, which states:

“Where allegations are made about a person or organisation, make reasonable efforts in the circumstances to provide a fair opportunity to respond.”

Following the ABC broadcast, Ferguson’s executive producer, Sally Neighbour, re-tweeted the following: “Assange is Putin’s bitch. We all know it!”

The slander, since deleted, was even used as a link to the ABC interview captioned ‘Assange is Putins (sic) b****. We all know it!’

In the years I have known Julian Assange, I have watched a vituperative personal campaign try to stop him and WikiLeaks. It has been a frontal assault on whistleblowing, on free speech and free journalism, all of which are now under sustained attack from governments and corporate internet controllers.

The first serious attacks on Assange came from the Guardian which, like a spurned lover, turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks’ disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. Assange was portrayed as “callous” and a “damaged personality”.

It was as if a rampant jealousy could not accept that his remarkable achievements stood in marked contrast to that of his detractors in the “mainstream” media. It is like watching the guardians of the status quo, regardless of age, struggling to silence real dissent and prevent the emergence of the new and hopeful.

Today, Assange remains a political refugee from the war-making dark state of which Donald Trump is a caricature and Hillary Clinton the embodiment. His resilience and courage are astonishing. Unlike him, his tormentors are cowards.

John Pilger can be reached through his website: www.johnpilger.com
More articles by:John Pilger

Wandering Through the Interior Archipelago of the Colonised

Sex, Rage Displacement, and Ecocide: Wanderings In An Interior Archipelago Of The Colonised

by Phil Rockstroh - Dissident Voice


October 23rd, 2017

Human sexuality mirrors human culture. Mating dances of seduction and refusal, and acts of non- consensual aggression cannot be separated from traits witnessed, practiced, and internalised by the people of a particular society.

It is impossible to close the bedroom door to the culture at large. Eros not only inhabits the genitals and the heart but Anima mundi as well.

Sexuality is not going to go away because its nature, which is sublime in the sense of the beautiful and the monstrous, makes people uncomfortable. The phenomenon brings all things human to the fore of consciousness. Therefore, it is imperative we talk about it all, and without mind-negating shame and heart-freezing hysteria.

The late, archetypal psychologist James Hillman, in his final book, the brilliant but under-recognised, A Terrible Love Of War, noted the consort, the backdoor man, of the Goddess of Love and Beauty is Ares, the God of War. Moments after her practical minded husband Hephaestus would leave for work, Ares and Aphrodite would be ensconced in the lover’s bed, locked in intimate embrace, under the very roof constructed by her craftsman spouse. Withal, libido translates, often, into impractical, irrational, and dangerous phenomenon.

Hillman asks, “where else in human experience, except in the throes of ardor – that strange coupling of love with war – do we find ourselves transported to a mythical condition and the gods most real?” — A Terrible Love of War (p. 9).

When human beings evince the erotic, we are gripped and grappled by primal forces. The ancient Greeks traced the phenomenon to the heights of Olympus while the lurid, Calvinist/Puritan imagination places it in lakes of torment-inflicting hellfire.

Under capitalism, the activity will be commodified. Sexuality is deemed a “human resource.” And, as is the case with the finite resources of all things on planet earth, designated as fodder for exploitation by ruthless profiteers. The genitals of an individual are but another precinct to be colonised. One is advised to be ready with a local insurgency of the heart, mind, and body to retain self-rule.

If only it was that easy. Where are the mountains of the heart from which to stage a guerrilla war? The option is possible. But expect a long struggle, and for your heart to receive all manner of wounds. Yet the pain of struggle provides us with a common tongue that limns the radiance of everyday catastrophe, including catastrophes attendant to the realm of Eros, son of errant and erratic Aphrodite. Thus we blunder into self-knowledge, are privy to our own biography, read by pressing fingertips to the braille of one’s scars.

When sexuality has been degraded by inequitable power, and the powers at large have decreed all the things of the world theirs for exploitation then the system from which the predatory class gains their power over the individual must be challenged and dismantled. Although the setup cannot be changed from within its own self-sustaining, self-defining order. The notion is as risible as a yellow fin tuna joining the crew of a massive, sea life-decimating fishing trawler, claiming it plans to reform the system from within.

Men who callously disregard the autonomy of others are only as powerful as the societal structures in place that not only protect but lavishly reward their hyper-aggressive mode of mind and attendant modus operandi — apropos, the spoils gained by the capitalist class by means of their acts of perpetual plunder perpetrated against all of humanity and the whole of nature.

Speaking of which, the coal and steel processing company town, Birmingham, Alabama, where I was born was a colonised place. The small, southern city, squatting at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, was founded, built and controlled by Northern industrialists. The homes of the city’s affluent management class, known among us economic lessers as the Big Mules, luxuriated in the clear, fresh air upon Red Mountain (on which stands an imposing, iron ore cast statue of Vulcan, the Roman version of the Greek’s Hephaestus) while the White labouring class and city’s Jim Crow shackled African American community were relegated to dwelling in the industrial smog below.

As is the case with colonialist socio-economic structures, worldwide, in which a region’s wealth is generated by a local, under-compensated labor force, it was imperative for the anger and resentment of the colonised masses to be shunted away from the colonisers. The time tested method of racial animus did the trick. In my memory, the air of Birmingham was ridden with a heavy industry generated, sulphuric, rotten egg-smelling reek that was inseparable from the miasmic rage of White working class men such as my father.

The reasons for their fuming resentment included: When my father would ask for a raise, the stock reply from management was, “You know, I can go over to Coloured Town, right now, and hire five n*gg*ers for what I pay your narrow ass.”

Thus the anger of Birmingham’s Jim Crow era working men was always close to the surface, and, at the slightest provocation, would come boiling forth like phalanxes of fire ants from a disturbed bed. Exposing the hateful social milieu of the Jim Crow ruled south to the world at large was a primary factor in the decision of Martin Luther King et al to bring the Civil Rights cause to the city of my birth.

For the maintenance of a colonised order to be maintained, empathy must be denuded, fear and antipathy of the alien other must be perpetuated thereby obstructing any inclination towards mutual respect and incipient feelings of affinity between the tribe granted a favoured, dominant position and the tribes subjugated into positions of low status. Alliances among the exploited would prove dangerous to the elites whose fortunes are dependent on perpetual racial and ethnic division and divisiveness. Then, as now, class consciousness must be suppressed by the fomenting of racial resentments. When one gazes upon the sorehead denizens of the so-called alt. right, one becomes witness to the workings of a colonised — and wounded — psyche.

In my father’s case, the following reveals how he transmigrated the howling abyss of his displaced rage into the precincts of empathy.

My father injured his back in a fall from a freight car while loading a cache of pig iron; as a consequence, he, on a permanent basis, could no longer perform manual labour — the primary type of work available to the working class men of Birmingham. During his convalescence, he taught himself photography, and, by the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, he was freelancing to Black Star Syndicate and became Life Magazine’s primary stringer in the region. I have memories of him arriving home from work, his clothes redolent of tear gas, his adrenal system churning, his mind buffeted, unable to process the brutality he witnessed being perpetrated by both city officials and ordinary citizens on the streets of the city.

On a Sunday, in late summer of 1963, my sister and I were immersed in Blakean innocence playing in the sandbox in the backyard of our family’s apartment when he returned from the site of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. There was a quality about his stare that I found unnerving. His gaze kept returning to my sister and me. Being a father now myself, I know what thoughts were gripping and grappling him…”what if it had been them. My god…what if it had been them.”

Empathetic awareness has its starting point by evincing a sensitivity to the feelings, hopes, and aspirations of those close to one’s heart yet cannot stall out there. The quality must ripple out to distance shores inhabited by the alien other. In this manner, the process of de-colonisation of one’s mind can begin.

Denial of the reality of Climate Change, albeit outside the cynical ranks of obscenely compensated Big Energy Industry lobbyists and shills, is borne of a similar, life-negating dynamic; i.e., an ossified egotism winnows down awareness to manageable bits of casuistry:

“I just shovelled three feet of snow from my driveway. Global Warming…my frozen butt.” “I think too much political hay is made from weather. Our ancestors braved it and it was part of their lives,” arrive the (verbatim) quotes as seen on my Facebook newsfeed.

The declarations reveal an inner colonisation, manifested by a monoculture of the mind. Because the natural world and the human psyche emerged from the same evolutionary schematic, circumscribing down one’s consciousness to ad hoc rationalisations for maintaining a destructive status quo, as is the case with climate denialism, amounts to psychical ecocide thus mirrors the fate of the earth, now in the throes of the sixth great extinction, due to the predation attendant to hyper-industrialisation and consumerist addiction. The exponential loss of biodiversity is mirrored in the collective psyche of the consumerscape, as if a massive fishing trawler has stripped all signs of life from the oceanic heart of humankind.

“I can’t go on…I’ll go on.” — final two sentences of Samuel Beckett’s novel, The Unnamable.

Yet, at times, I’m baffled as to how we, the scant and scattered few, who refuse to close our eyes and block our hearts to the realities of the day, continue to go on. What force restrains one from reeling into the street seized by lamentation?

One foot is placed before the other. One word follows the next on the page. An ineffable understanding draws us into communion with the world and each other, even as the din of disconsolate angels braces the mind and cleaves the heart.

I know I am not alone in this. Nor are you. Even though, it seems so. What is the common prayer for those who cannot close themselves off from the agonised soul of the colonised world — for those of us who are ants who dream we are Atlas, and our visions crush us as if it were the weight of the earth itself upon our shoulders?

We face a vast aloneness together. An affinity of isolation binds us like a prayer of sacred vehemence. Empathy enjoins us thereby bestowing preternatural strength. Otherwise, the immense sadness of the earth would crush us into oblivion.


Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living now in Munich, Germany. He may be contacted:at: philrockstroh.scribe@gmail.com and at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/phil.rockstroh Read other articles by Phil.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Into Africa: America's Lesser Known Theater of Operations

America's Scramble for Africa

by Finian Cunningham - Sputnik News


October 21, 2017

The ugly row over whether President Trump disrespected the young widow of a fallen American soldier has overshadowed a bigger issue. That is, the increasing number of US military operations across the African continent.

Two weeks ago, Sgt La David Johnson (25) was killed along with three other US special forces troops when Islamist militants ambushed their patrol in the West African country of Niger.

Trump got into hot water this week about reported offhand comments he made to the widow of Green Beret Johnson. The president denies he said anything disrespectful. Although the dead soldier's family says otherwise.

In all the media controversy over what Trump said or didn't say, questions about what US troops are doing in Niger are unfortunately overlooked. Not just Niger, but in dozens of other African nations.

It is reckoned from US army data that there are thousands of special forces and other military personnel carrying out up to 100 missions at any given time in some 24 African states. That's nearly half of all the countries comprising the African continent.

US special forces and surveillance drone operations are deployed in Niger, Chad, Mali and Sudan which all run along the southern Sahara desert. Further south in sub-Saharan Africa, US military are operating in Nigeria, Central African Republic, Uganda, Ethiopia and, of course, Somalia, where they are involved in a state of war against Islamist al Shabab militants.

The deployment of US troops in Africa was first stepped up under President GW Bush when his administration formed AFRICOM in 2007, a whole US command dedicated to the continent. Subsequently, under President Barack Obama, the American deployments increased further. Now under President Trump, the US force presence is reckoned to be at its highest level yet. The official explanation is that American soldiers, Navy and air power, as well as CIA clandestine operations, are there to counter terror groups, who could plan and mount strikes on Europe and North America.

True, there are several dangerous terror networks active in various African states, from al Shabaab in Somalia, to Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. The latter has affiliates in Algeria, Mali, Chad and Niger where the US troops were killed recently along with a number of local forces they were supporting.

But there is more than a suspicion that the US is using the cover of combating terrorism to conceal and project its real objective, which is to exert its influence over African nations. One observation for raising doubts is that the problem of these terror groups has actually grown more rapidly after the US troops started to be deployed in larger numbers under President Bush. Echoes of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria here.

When Trump hosted several African leaders last month in New York during the UN annual congress he told them that his American investor friends were hotfooting it to the continent "to make a lot of money". Typical of Trump, everything is reduced to filthy lucre. Now he may have been trying to charm his guests with a little light-hearted banter, but there's much more to the joke. Africa is indeed seen as the continent of the future owing to its prodigious and still largely untapped resources.

The trouble for America and other Western powers is that China has stolen a march on them in terms of cultivating investments and harnessing resources across Africa. Under President Xi Jinping, China has investment projects worth an estimated $60 billion in dozens of African countries. This is way ahead of what the Americans or Europeans have invested. Earlier this year, China opened its first ever overseas military base, in the East African country of Djibouti. That's still small news compared with the reported 46 military bases that the US has across the continent.

Beijing said its new military facilities in Djibouti are to secure vital shipping routes against piracy in the Gulf of Aden. That may be partly true. But there is also the factor of China wanting a security foothold in a continent where it has staked so much of its future economic growth plans.

The big difference between the US and China is that while Beijing has devoted most of its resources to developing trade and industry with African states, Washington's emphasis is on military relations.

China has gained much respect from African nations for its genuine commitment to partnership. It is bringing capital and technology to Africa and gaining access to natural resources of oil and gas, metals and other minerals. Unlike the old European colonialism, China's involvement in Africa is based on partnership and mutual development. For access to raw materials, China has built schools, universities, telecommunications and transport networks, which are all helping the continent reach its huge potential.

The Americans like the Europeans are stuck in an "extractive mentality" when it comes to Africa. But today, American capitalism is broke. It can't even invest in its own nation never mind Africa.

Trump speaks for American capitalism. Knowing the rich resources possessed in Africa's earth and its people, Trump salivates over the prospect of making big bucks. But the Americans aren't prepared to spend the investment money needed to harness the rewards.

That's where the US military muscle comes in. In place of proper economic investment, diplomacy and political partnership, Washington is using its military edge to encroach on Africa — under the guise of "fighting terrorism".

That's not to say that American troops aren't confronting terror groups. They are, as the deadly firefight in Niger shows.

But the real purpose for increasing US military strength in Africa is about securing American strategic economic interests "on the cheap" by using military power as opposed to deploying financial commitment in the way that China has.

The Americans want to have military firepower in place across Africa in the event of a sharp confrontation with China. China is seen as the global rival to failing US economic power. If relations turn really nasty — as they could over any number of issues, from North Korea to territorial disputes in the South China Sea — the US wants to have military ways to cut China off in Africa. Like the Europeans in a previous century, the Americans are in a "scramble for Africa". This time the scramble is all about cornering countries and resources from China's legitimate expanding bilateral interests with African nations.

However, America's militarism in Africa will bring no benefit to the countries. As in other parts of the globe, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, the pattern clearly shows that terrorism burgeons where US military operations occur.

Besides, American capitalism is not motivated by developing Africa for its people. It's about making profits for Wall Street and rich investors like Trump.

The real danger is that this militarism will lead to another point of confrontation with China if the latter's economic interests are threatened, as they were when US and NATO forces bombed Libya in 2011 for regime change.

It's such a crying shame that American widows are having their hearts broken for a mission that is totally fraudulent — and getting no thanks for it from a callous Commander-in-Chief.

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. This article was originally published by - Sputnik 

What an Insect Armageddon Means for Us

Three-quarters of the total insect population lost in protected nature reserves 

by Kroon et al -  Radboud University


18 October 2017

Since 1989, in 63 nature reserves in Germany the total biomass of flying insects has decreased by more than 75 percent. This decrease has long been suspected but has turned out to be more severe than previously thought. 


Ecologists from Radboud University together with German and English colleagues published these findings in the scientific journal PLOS ONE on October 18th.

In recent years, it became clear that the numbers of many types of insects such as butterflies and bees were declining in Western Europe and North America.

"However, the fact that flying insects are decreasing at such a high rate in such a large area is an even more alarming discovery," states Hans de Kroon, project leader at Radboud University.

The average weight of trapped insects per day against the years 1989 until 2016. After 27 years, the total average weight has been declined by more than 75 percent.

Thorough research


Entomologists (insect researchers) in Krefeld, Germany, led by Martin Sorg and Heinz Schwan, collected data over the past 27 years in 63 different places within nature reserves across Germany. Flying insects were trapped in so called malaise traps and the total biomass was then weighed and compared. The researchers from Nijmegen, Germany and England have now been able to analyse this treasure trove of data for the first time.

Decline also recorded in well-protected areas


The researchers discovered an average decline of 76 percent in the total insect mass. In the middle of summer, when insect numbers peak, the decline was even more severe at 82 percent. According to Caspar Hallmann (Radboud University), who performed the statistical analyses,

"All these areas are protected and most of them are managed nature reserves. Yet, this dramatic decline has occurred."

The exact causes of the decline are still unclear. Changes in the weather, landscape and plant variety in these areas are unable to explain this. The weather might explain many of the fluctuations within the season and between the years, but it doesn’t explain the rapid downward trend.


A malaise trap (the white 'tent') in one of the research nature reserves, 
bordered by farmland. (Picture: Entomologischer Verein Krefeld)


A decline in other parts of the world too 


Researchers can only speculate about the possible causes.

"The research areas are mostly small and enclosed by agricultural areas. These surrounding areas inflict flying insects and they cannot survive there. It is possible that these areas act as an ‘ecological trap’ and jeopardize the populations in the nature reserves," explains Hallmann. 

It is likely that the results are representative for large parts of Europe and other parts of the world where nature reserves are enclosed by a mostly intensively used agricultural landscape.

Ecosystems depend on insects


"As entire ecosystems are dependent on insects for food and as pollinators, it places the decline of insect eating birds and mammals in a new context," states Hans de Kroon.
"We can barely imagine what would happen if this downward trend continues unabated."

Because the causes of the decline are not yet known, it is difficult to take any concrete measures. The researchers hope that these findings will be seen as a wake-up call and prompt more research into the causes and support for long-term monitoring.

Measures


De Kroon:

"The only thing we can do right now is to maintain the utmost caution. We need to do less of the things that we know have a negative impact, such as the use of pesticides and prevent the disappearance of farmland borders full of flowers. But we also have to work hard at extending our nature reserves and decreasing the ratio of reserves that border agricultural areas." 



Publication:

"More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas", PLOS ONE https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185809


More information Contact:
Caspar Hallmann, caspar.hallman@sovon.nl
Hans de Kroon, h.dekroon@science.ru.nl
Science Communication Radboud University media@ru.nl
Martin Sorg, Entomological Society Krefeld, sorg@entomologica.de

Friday, October 20, 2017

Revenge of the EPA's Toxics Defender

Mr. Toxicity Zaps America

by Robert Hunziker - CounterPunch


October 20, 2017
 
America’s all-time-leading heartless anti-science zealot EPA Administrator Scott “Mr. Toxicity” Pruitt, as of March 2017, nixed his own agency’s proposal of 2015 to ban the toxic chemical chlorpyrifos, an insecticide that attacks the nervous system of pesky insects, as well as pesky and non-pesky people (the Nazis invented it for germ warfare). It’s sprayed on crops of foodstuff that ends up in grocery stores.

All of which brings to mind, how in the world does the Trump group, from A-to-Z, remain in power one of the great enigmas of all time. By all appearances, so far nobody has the backbone, the guts to throw’em in the gutter, back to their lifeblood.

Chlorpyrifos is no longer patent protected. It is now the active ingredient in dozens of pesticide products made by companies such as Bayer and BASF. More than 80,000 people submitted comments to the EPA urging the agency to ban chlorpyrifos from use on all crops immediately. (Source: EPA Urged to Ban Widely-Used Pesticide Chlorpyrrifos, Environment News-Washington, DC, Jan. 5, 2016)

Here are the results of a major study of chlorpyrifos by researchers at Columbia University: “Seven-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide,” Environ Health Perspective, 119:1196-1201, April 2011,” as follows:

“Conclusions: We report evidence of deficits in Working Memory Index and Full-Scale IQ as a function of prenatal CPF exposure at 7 years of age. These findings are important in light of continued widespread use of CPF in agricultural settings and possible longer-term educational implications of early cognitive deficits.”

Further, that’s just for starters, “Based on the harm that this pesticide causes, the EPA cannot, consistent with the law, allow it in our food,” said Patti Goldman, a lawyer with Earthjustice, citing a number of studies that have demonstrated the harmful effects of the pesticide in humans.” (Source: Dom Galeon and Abby Norman, The EPA Approves the Continued Use of a Harmful Chemical in Pesticides, Futurism, Earth & Energy, March 30, 2017).

“It’s been banned from household use for more than a decade, but it’s still used by farmers on citrus trees, strawberries, broccoli, and cauliflower. The residue may be found on produce in supermarkets,” Ibid.

What! Why is it banned from household use but still okay for foods purchased by households? Can Mr. Toxicity answer since he took it upon himself for approval? Doubtful at best.

“Jim Jones, a former assistant administrator of the EPA who was in-charge of pesticide regulation: ‘But, once we cracked that nut, and you had the risk evaluated and in front of you, it became, in my view, a very straightforward decision, with not a lot of ambiguity in terms of what you would do,’ he told National Public Radio. ‘I just don’t know what basis they would have to deny the petition [to ban chlorpyrifos], given the vast scientific record that the EPA’s got right now,” Ibid.

It is no spoof that the vast scientific record is lodged with an EPA that is mandated to protect American citizens from stupid harmful products. And in truth, Mr. Toxicity nixed a proposed ban by his own agency’s scientists utilizing that “vast scientific record” to recommend prohibition. The operative question therefore can only be: Should Mr. Toxicity be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail… just for starters? That’s how history says society dealt with charlatans.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, exposure to chlorpyrifos can cause a range of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, seizures, and paralysis.

Not only that, according to the EPA’s own studies, expected residues of chlorpyrifos on food crops exceed the safety standard under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Steadfast, Mr. Toxicity and Dow AgroSciences remain confident in the use of the chemical, assuming quantity is well regulated, then safe, even though used specifically to kill living things. Jeepers Creepers! Let’s spray!

Although, according to Scott Faber Sr. VP at Environmental Working Group, Dow AgroSciences itself makes safer alternatives, confirmed by Dow. Still and remarkably, really-really remarkably, considering Dow’s confirmation of safer alternatives, chlorpyrifos is the most widely used insecticide in the country. Registered uses include apples, lettuce, peaches, and potatoes. Go figure!

“There’s simply no way EPA could reach any conclusion other than it should no longer be used on food crops,’ Faber said. ‘What’s outrageous about Scott Pruitt’s decision is that the science is so strong, so overwhelming, that chlorpyrifos causes neurological problems.” (Source: Susan Scutti, CNN, EPA Won’t Ban Pesticide Chlorpyrifos: Is It Safe? CNN, March 30, 2017).

Political malevolence is spreading across the land from shore to shore like dreaded plague ever since the Trump confidence game turned lose on the most naïve voting block in the history of the republic, but fading fast on a pathway to a crazy ugly mélange of mass disembowelment at their own hands.

How it feels to be victimized, bamboozled is rapidly becoming America’s new legacy for the world to chew on.


Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at roberthunziker@icloud.com
More articles by: Robert Hunziker


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Spain Beyond Democratic Legitimacy

Spain is Operating Way Beyond Democratic Legitimacy

by Craig Murray


19 Oct, 2017

In imprisoning Catalan leaders for peaceful campaigning for Independence, and in choosing both in rhetoric and in court to treat support for Independence as “sedition”, the Spanish government is acting way beyond the limits of a democratic society. It is ignoring the basic human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

It is also undertaking massive blocking of communication and censorship of the internet in a manner never seen before in a “Western” state. To move now to suspend the democratically elected Catalan administration, which is explicitly offering dialogue as an alternative to UDI, is to escalate the crisis in an unreasonable fashion, in the true meaning of the word unreasonable.

All of this is truly dreadful, without even mentioning the violence inflicted on voters taking part in the peaceful Independence referendum.

As regular readers know, the EU reaction to the peaceful movement for Catalan independence has caused me to rethink my entire position on that institution. The failure to condemn the violence and human rights abuse has been bad enough, but the EU has gone still further and offered unqualified support to Spain, with the Commission specifically declaring Spain has a right to use violence, and Juncker saying straight out that the EU opposes Catalan Independence.

What has become more clear to me is that the modern state is simply an engine to enable the elite to control and direct its economic resources to their own benefit, those economic resources including the people. Loss of resources to the ruling elite is therefore a catastrophe. A state is not a collaborative construct voluntarily formed for mutual convenience and protection by its people. If it were, then it would be a matter of indifference to the ruling elite which particular state units people choose to form, and how these morph and form.

The idea, endorsed by the EU, that a state is an economic construct of control, in which it is legitimate to constrain entire peoples by force against their will, is surely abhorrent. The EU is become simply a cartel of power, a club to promote the sectional interest of the controlling elites of European states.

Catalonia will have a few days to decide how to react to Spanish imposition of direct rule, as that has to go through legislative bodies in Madrid. Catalonia has very little capacity militarily to defend itself against Spain. But it is difficult to see how it can be serious about Independence if it makes no effort to that purpose. Some effort at physical, if non-lethal, resistance to Spanish takeover must surely be under discussion.

More importantly, however brief the lifespan of Independent Catalonia at this stage, it must during its existence delegitimise Spanish – by which I mean pre-Independence – institutions and specifically the courts. Within Catalonia, all officers of State, and particularly judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers, must be suspended immediately from all duties. They should then be instantly administered an oath of loyalty to the Catalan state and a specific abjuring of loyalty to the Spanish state. Those who do not take the oath would remain suspended, and after a week become dismissed.

The alternative will be an undermining of the legitimacy of the Catalan state by its own courts, and the many corrupt pro-Madrid judges and prosecutors they contain. This will be used to counteract the Independence narrative internationally and domestically.

Spain and the EU are hiding behind “the rule of law”. The violence of the Guardia Civil was validated as enforcing the ruling of Francoist judges. The censorship of the internet, the imprisonment of dissidents, all is in accordance with the “rule of law” in Spain.

I dealt with imprisonment of political prisoners all round the world when I was in the FCO. Very few of them were extra-judicially detained. Uzbekistan’s 8,000 political prisoners have almost all been tried and condemned under Uzbek law. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ken Saro Wiwa, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, all were imprisoned by judges. The “rule of law”, where it ignores human rights, is not enough. That is the line the EU, to its great shame, has crossed.

As a footnote, I am researching my biography of George Murray. In 1710, following the death of George’s eldest brother John with the British army at the Battle of Malplaquet, his next eldest brother William was summoned home from India. The first available vessel was bound for Barcelona. William spent some time there waiting for a ship in the middle of a war. The interesting point is that the family letters refer repeatedly to William being in Catalonia and events in Catalonia. The word Spain does not appear in the correspondence at all.

I mention this purely as illustrative – and one of many thousands of examples that might be given – that the Catalans are a people and have been acknowledged as such in Europe for centuries. The right of self-determination in Article 2 of the UN Charter is given not to geographic regions but exclusively to “Peoples”. The Catalans, like the Scots, undoubtedly qualify as a “People”, something the EU has still failed to address.

Ayatollah Hackola: The Next Narrative on New Cyber-Foes

First Russia, Now Iran: Cyberespionage Accusations Fit A Changing Agenda

by Whitney Webb  - MintPress News


October 19, 2017

No concrete evidence was used to attribute the hack to Russia in June, just as no concrete evidence has been made available to attribute the hack to Iran now. However, the assignment of blame to these nation states coincided with other geopolitical issues pitting Russia and Iran against U.K. or U.S. interests.


On October 13, President Donald Trump – as anticipated – decertified the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear accord, despite the fact that Iran was in full compliance with the agreement. Trump’s unilateral decision to put the survival of the deal in jeopardy was met with strong opposition by European leaders — including Germany, the United Kingdom, and France, whose leaders issued a joint statement condemning the move.

Interestingly, a day later, accusations conveniently emerged blaming the Iranian government for a June cyberattack that had targeted numerous U.K. politicians.

The attackers allegedly sought to gain access to accounts of some members of parliament — all of which were protected by “weak” passwords — and were successful in some instances.

The evidence for blaming Iran was based solely on an “unpublished assessment by British intelligence” that was reported on by The London Times, though they merely disclosed the existence of the report and did not read it. Thus, its contents are unknown, as are its reasons for blaming the Iranian government. Despite that, the Times called the hack “Iran’s first significant act of cyberwarfare on Britain.” It also noted that the Trump administration “is likely to seize on the attack as proof that Mrs. May and other signatories to the deal are being naive in their dealings with Tehran.” 

The cyberattack had previously been blamed on the Russian government. At the time, British intelligence had based this accusation on merely the belief “that responsibility for the attack is more likely to lie with another state rather than a small group of individual hackers,” as well as its assumption that “the number of states who might mount such an attack on the U.K. is limited, and, in addition to Russia, includes North Korea, China and Iran.” British intelligence had also noted that the identity of the hackers could prove impossible to establish with “absolute certainty.”

The decision to blame Russia came on the heels of France blaming Russia for the hack of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign data – which was later proven to not have involved Russia in any respect – and after the U.S. government had claimed that Russia was trying to interfere with the U.K. general election last June, another assertion that failed to hold water.

In other words, no concrete evidence was used to attribute the hack to Russia in June, just as no concrete evidence has been made available to attribute the hack to Iran now. However, the assignment of blame to these nation states coincided with other geopolitical issues pitting Russia and Iran against U.K. or U.S. interests.

As the Guardian noted, the assessment’s release comes as the U.S.’ and the U.K.’s public stances on the fate of the Iran deal could not be more different. However, the timing of this recent accusation looks much less coincidental when viewed in light of a plan of action considered by the Trump administration in dealing with potential diplomatic fallout from a unilateral decision to certify the Iran nuclear accord.

The plan — written by notorious neo-conservative John Bolton, who was very nearly Trump’s pick for Secretary of State — calls for, in part, “a diplomatic and public education effort to explain a decision not to certify and to abrogate the JCPOA.”

It adds that the U.S. government, as a part of this effort, “can bolster the case for abrogation by providing new, declassified information on Iran’s unacceptable behavior around the world.” It further notes that “this effort could well leak to the press.” The so-called “Bolton plan” also called for “early, quiet consultations with key players” in the U.K., among other nations involved in the nuclear accord.

While there is no hard evidence to link the Bolton plan to the emergence of these latest hacker accusations, the roadmap laid out by the Bolton plan and the time of publication suggest that the rise of the “Iranian hacker” in lieu of the “Russian hacker” is part of the U.S.’ broader approach in fomenting support for its decision to call the nuclear deal into question among its European allies.


Fog of cyberspace makes blame narratives easy to spin


This is hardly the first time that an Iranian hacker narrative has been spun and used to call the nuclear accord into the question. Since the deal was reached, stories of Iranian hackers targeting the U.S. have cropped up, which subsequently have been used by opponents of the deal to argue that the Iranian government is seeking to undermine a deal from which it greatly benefits.

For instance, four months after the deal was signed, The New York Times published a piece on a hack of State Department employee social media accounts allegedly perpetrated by the Iranian government. The article asserts that Iran, which was blamed solely on the basis of statements by anonymous government officials, uses cyberespionage as “a tool to seek the kind of influence that some hard-liners in Iran may have hoped its nuclear program would eventually provide” — essentially equating the country’s nuclear program to its alleged and unproven cyberespionage activities.

Less than a year later, Iranian hackers were again accused by the U.S. of having hacked a small dam in New York state. Though the hack was never linked to the Iranian government, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blamed Tehran and called the attacks “malignant” and indicative of a threat that “could be metastasizing.”

Even when the link to the Iranian government failed to emerge, The Washington Post quoted James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert with the neo-conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as saying the following: “There’s no such thing as a freelance hacker in Iran. They’re all connected to the state.” In other words, Lewis asserts that in Iran – a nation of 80 million people – a hacker independent of the state could not exist. Lewis also told the Post that Iran “may be receiving help from Russian hackers affiliated with the Kremlin” — another claim he asserted without evidence.

In addition, the Iranian hacker narrative — much like similar accusations leveled against Russia, North Korea or China — has been based on the assumption that only “rivals” of Western nations are to blame for cyberattacks. As seen with the U.K. cyberattack in June, British intelligence – after admitting that attribution of blame would most likely be impossible – assumed that Russia was responsible due to the “Russian hacker” hysteria evident at that time. However, nation states such as the United States or Israel – which have been shown to hack and spy on their allies on several occasions – are never included in the list of potential culprits.

In fact, these two nations have worked together to produce advanced cyberweapons such as the Stuxnet virus, which was used to sabotage Iran’s civilian nuclear power plants until its discovery in 2010. However, it later emerged that Stuxnet was the tip of the iceberg, as the U.S. had planned to target Iran’s air defenses, communications systems, and key parts of its power grid with cyberweapons in the event that the Iran nuclear accord failed to be agreed upon.

It has become increasingly evident that any nation state can be conveniently assigned blame for a cyberattack by agencies of Western governments — without evidence and in the service of broader geopolitical goals. Such governments have hitherto had no problem having their evidence-free claims amplified by a compliant press.

As the Russia hacker/meddler narrative continues to collapse, Iran seems poised to become the new boogeyman of Western governments. Such a shift will be welcomed by those seeking not only to destroy the Iran nuclear accord but to initiate a full-scale war against the Islamic Republic.



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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Greg Palast, Amy Lubik, Christina Nikolic October 19, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


October 19, 2017

"They saw it coming!" and yet the masters of Puerto Rico's debt allowed the island's infrastructure to deteriorate so far, Hurricane Maria merely provided the coup de grace. Now, a month after that devastating storm, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, "unincorporated territory of the United States," shattered in every sense, is ripe for the vulture's picking.

It's 'disaster capitalism' in its purest form, leveraging catastrophe to privatize and monopolize essential services, while gorging on aid money provided ostensibly to ease the people's suffering. And it's those people, says my first guest, the ones who's needs are most dire, will pay dearest.

Listen. Hear.

Investigator, journalist, author, and filmmaker, Greg Palast has reported from the jagged edge of the news on both sides of the Atlantic for the better part of two decades, breaking stories for BBC flagship news program, Newsnight and The Guardian newspaper in Britain, and filing stories with the Nation Magazine and Rolling Stone stateside.

His books, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, Armed Madhouse, and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy have all resided on the New York Times' bestseller list, while Vultures' Picnic was named Book of the Year by BBC Newsnight Review. His latest documentary film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot Bandits is newly recut, and can be got through his website, Gregpalast.com.

Greg Palast in the first half.

And; the election of a new government in British Columbia hasn't eased fears of expanded Liquid Natural Gas, or LNG, mining in the province. LNG means "fracking", or hydraulic fracturing, the environmentally detrimental method currently used to extract hydrocarbons locked in rock formations beneath the surface; and, the newly ensconced NDP government is curiously quiet about the future of this most fractious industry.

In the dying days of BC's recent elections, a group of health professionals concerned an issue posing such deleterious environmental and human health effects was not getting the media coverage it deserved rallied supporters to make of it an election issue.

Amy Lubik holds a PhD in cancer research, and is a member for the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Public Health Association of BC and Bridge for Health Coop. Amy mobilized along with the BC chapter of CAPE, or the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment last April in an operation hoping to deliver a moratorium on Fracking in BC.

Following up with Dr. Amy Lubik and FRACTURED BC: Fracking, Site C, Health and Human Rights in the second half.

And; Victoria-based horticultural guru and green entrepreneur, Christina Nikolic will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with this week's installment of the Left Coast Events bulletin. But first, Greg Palast and Puerto Rico's vultures.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live Thursdays, 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and streaming at: cfuv.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/ and @Paciffreepress on Twitter.

Puerto Rico's Circling Vultures

Greg Palast - Puerto Rico On the Brink & How Trump Really Lost

by The Big Picture - RT


September 27, 2017 

Big Picture Interview - The devastation in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria is on an apocalyptic scale. Eighty percent of the island's agricultural industry was destroyed - flooding is rampant - and most of the population could be without power for as many as six months. This is the kind of disaster we're only going to see more of as climate change kicks into gear - but for the banksters that already have Puerto Rico in their grasp - it could be just another chance to bleed the island dry.



For more on how the vulture capitalists have ruined Puerto Rico - and how they could use Hurricane Maria as a launching bad for more of their financial piracy - I'm joined by Greg Palast. For more information on the stories we've covered visit our websites at thomhartmann.com - freespeech.org - and RT.com.

Where's Santiago Maldonado! 'Disappeared' Indigenous Activist Stark Reminder of Argentine 'Dirty War'

Fate Of Seized Activist May Point To New Era Of State Violence In Argentina

by Roqayah Chamseddine - MintPress News


September 11th, 2017

It has been a month since Argentinian indigenous activist Santiago Maldonado was bundled into a government van. Amidst government denials, demonstrators–cognizant of the nation’s bleak history of state violence–want answers: evidence of Maldonado’s safety and whereabouts.



The streets of Argentina are boiling over with demonstrations, as thousands of locals demand that the government produce an indigenous activist last seen one month ago when border police forced a group of the indigenous Mapuche off of indigenous land in Patagonia — land unjustly owned by the Italian clothing company Benetton.

According to witnesses, 28-year-old Santiago Maldonado was forced into a van by government officials and disappeared, but so far the Argentinian government has denied any involvement. Argentinian demonstrators, including groups like Mothers of the Plaza De Mayo, are increasingly concerned for the wellbeing of Maldonado in light of the nation’s troubled history of state violence. The US-backed military dictatorship of General Jorge Rafael Videla, which plagued Argentina from 1976 until 1983, killed, kidnapped, and disappeared at least 30,000. Backed by Ronald Reagan, Videla and his security apparatus went on to torture and murder thousands more in a right-wing military hellscape. 

The case of Santiago Maldonado has revived memories of the Argentinian military junta, and suspicion among activists is growing that he has become President Mauricio Macri’s first disappeared victim—nearly 40 years after the end of General Videla’s rule. Despite how long it has been since they have had contact with Maldonado, his family does not believe that he is dead. They are demanding the state give them information on his whereabouts and are asking for his immediate return.

President Donald Trump is cozying up to Argentina’s Macri, so the prospect of the Trump administration changing attitudes in support of the rights of indigenous communities is, it is safe to say, nonexistent. In a joint statement issued by Trump and Macri, the U.S. government made it plain that it wishes to “deepen the close partnership between the United States and Argentina.” Examples of this partnership are U.S. support of Argentina’s role in the wider drug war, cooperation on border security, and a shared interest in targeting of Venezuela for ‘regime change.’

With so much on the line in Argentina, the people have decided that they will not return to the era of the U.S.-backed “Dirty War” — drawing an early line in the sand with their demand that Santiago Maldonado does not become another victim of the state’s military apparatus.


Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy. 



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Losing the Plot on Weinstein Scandal

Harvey Weinstein and the politics of Hollywood 

by Jonathan Cook


18 October 2017

There is something truly exasperating about digesting the steady flow of horror stories relating to Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

In part, of course, it is because the reports that Weinstein allegedly raped and sexually assaulted women over decades are deeply disturbing.

In part, it is because one can be certain that there are still young aspiring actresses desperate for a big break who are being exploited by the Hollywood system – both in “casting” sessions and in the movies they must make to get noticed.

But most of all, these stories are exasperating because the women who are speaking out – and one senses they are still just the tip of the iceberg – and the journalists who are feeding off their revelations are drawing precisely no political conclusions from these incidents.

In fact, the Weinstein story perfectly illustrates how politically disempowering identity politics can be. Certainly, there can be no doubt that Weinstein, who has admitted that he abused his position with many women, while denying many of the actual reports of sexual misconduct, exploited his power. It should hardly surprise us that a rich man who had the ability to give desperate young women a shot at stardom preyed on them. The Hollywood employment system is capitalism in microcosm, at its rawest and most naked.

The Weinstein revelations tell us much less about relations between men and women than they do about the nature of power and the ability of the strong to exploit the weak.

Under capitalism, the weak – the working class – eventually gained the consciousness and discovered the tools to assert their own form of power. As individuals they were vulnerable and exploitable. As a collective, they gained the power to bargain. That led to the trade union movements, and the gradual improvement in wages and conditions.

The capitalist class has been trying to reverse those gains ever since. The new turbo-charged form we call neoliberalism has been atomising western societies since the 1970s to return us to new forms of economic dependency, culminating in zero-hours contracts and an Uber culture.

What does this have to do with Weinstein? This week Reese Witherspoon spoke out about her own sexual assault by a movie director when she was 16. She has joined a list of famous actors like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence and Gwyneth Paltrow who have cited their own experiences. One suspects that most of Hollywood’s A-list could tell similar horror stories from their early years in search of stardom.

So what is the lesson that none of them is drawing? Precisely the one that workers learnt more than a century ago. You must get organised.

One can understand why teenage actresses, as Witherspoon was at the time, are fearful of speaking out in a system dominated by predatory men who can destroy their careers. One can also understand that, at the very bottom of the Hollywood food chain, they are in no position to organise against the Hollywood mogul class. But none of that is true for the now fabulously rich and well-connected Witherspoon, Jolie, Paltrow, Lawrence, and all the others who have yet to speak out – or for the A-list men who would surely want to be seen publicly supporting them.

Why are they not organising? There are many things they can do. Here is one simple idea. They could set up a union, a sort of women’s Equity, that would allow actresses, in private, to register incidents of exploitation and sexual abuse with the union, naming those who committed the abuse and their modus operandi. By creating such a database, the union and its lawyers would be able to identify serial abusers and discover patterns of behaviour. The victims could then be encouraged to come forward in a group action, knowing that they would not be facing the Hollwood elite on their own. The union would redress, at least in part, the power of these male producers and directors. They, in turn, would grow more fearful of exposure.

That would be a political act of organised resistance to the power of Hollywood moguls. It would have much more impact than the trickle of stories from immensely successful actresses bewailing their past abuse. Creating such a union would be loose change for Jolie, Witherspoon, Lawrence, Paltrow and the other A-listers.

And yet in the degraded political culture we live in, they prefer to remain disempowered individuals rather than become part of a much stronger collectivity. They prefer their confessionals in the corporate media that exploited and abused them to independent, organised action to curb the corporate system’s excesses.

As long as these household names nurse their individual pain rather than seek to bring about change through organised action, the next generation of young actresses will face the same exploitation and the same abuse they had to endure in their younger days.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Next Witch Hunt: Hangin' with Steve Bannon and Miles Kwok

China Witch Hunt Warning…Courtesy of Steve Bannon and Miles Kwok

by Peter Lee - China Matters


October 11, 2017

I have an interesting story up at Newsbud concerning Miles Kwok, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and Chinese agents at Voice of America a.k.a. VOA.

As a parallel narrative, I also touched on Steve Bannon's rather sinister interest in the BBG.




Well...

...the stories intersected on October 10 with this tweet from Kwok:




 
半年来班农先生一直与我通过朋友有联系.但始终未能见面!10月5日华盛顿记者会后.我请杨建利先生Billl与我一起在我的房间与班农先生一起午餐!我们都无比激动高兴!今天10月10日班农先生又与团队到纽约我的家一同了3个半小时晚餐!我经他及他的团队同意向我的推友发这个些照片!!



Miles and Steve do lunch!


And maybe discuss some unfinished business i.e. the timidity of the prestige media outlets in amplifying Miles Kwok's rather interesting allegations about the PRC, the CCP, and Chinese spook and influence ops inside the USA.

A few days ago, in an appearance at the National Press Club, Miles Kwok responded to what looked like a planted question in order to “name a name”, rather bluntly giving the name of a manager at Voice of America who is, he alleged, an agent of the Chinese security services.

I didn’t name the name for the simple reason that I don’t do witchhunts. Gimme a crime, a court, and due process, not outrage and innuendo funneled through the media is what I say.

The flock of journos from the national media in attendance (at least moderator Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon, and reporters from the Wall Street Journal and NPR, who identified themselves when asking questions) chose not to lead their reports with this rather juicy allegation, even without naming any names.

Wonder why. I don't think the US media is down on witch hunts of foreign influence in our media and politics.

I’ve been following the witchhunt against Chinese influence down in Australia and consider it a template/trial run/warmup for a similar effort by China journos up here. In Australia they fling mud with a free hand and name names; but so far, in the case of China, the US media hasn’t.

In this instance, one possible reason is that Miles Kwok is so polarizing and, quite frankly, skanky a figure that nobody wants to rely on him as a primary source, at least in public…at the same time every national outlet has been in contact with Kwok, his large, well-funded team, and his lovingly curated dossiers on CCP sleaze, either leaked to him by his allies in China or gathered by his investigators overseas.

Instead, I’m guessing the big outlets are busily engaged in parallel construction, that is taking the name Miles Kwok put out and trying to put together a story based on their own reporting and steno from the security services…and that doesn’t mention Miles Kwok.

The New York Times has apparently taken this route in the past, having run at least one story about Wang Qishan and his allegedly corrupt and arcane financial holdings that parallels what Miles Kwok had been talking about…but didn’t mention Miles Kwok.

Understandable, perhaps, because one PRC strategy to silence Kwok seems to be a firm and convincing promise that anybody and everybody who mentions Kwok’s allegations are going to get sued.

So, better part of valor-wise, it’s smarter to run with Miles Kwok’s allegations without being seen to be running with Miles Kwok. And no cause for the VOA manager with a bulls-eye on his back to breathe easier just because an allegation, with or without a name attached, wasn't in the papers the next day.

In addition, there might be some journalistic omerta going on, since the VOA is a US government-affiliated organization with lots of buddies in the media world.

Maybe the Broadcasting Board of Governors were able to prevail upon journalists not to take the incendiary step of starting a witchhunt inside VOA until the story was absolutely locked down…and/or the BBG had ample time to clean its own house/prep for the public relations fallout.

This genteel, old school crisis management may not prevail because Steve Bannon has his eyes on China, Voice of America, the BBG…and Miles Kwok.

With Steve Bannon involved, I’d say we might be looking at torches and pitchforks instead of a nice, orderly kangaroo court…and something other than the inspiring story of a noble struggle against insidious Chinese influence that China hawks hope to use as a framing device for their political and policy campaign.


Watch the whole episode by joining Newsbud. Or you can watch it simply by renting the Vimeo feed for $1.95.

Quitting UNESCO

The Real Reasons Trump is Quitting Unesco

by Jonathan Cook - Dissident Voice


October 16th, 2017

At first glance, the decision last week by the Trump administration, followed immediately by Israel, to quit the United Nation’s cultural agency seems strange. Why penalise a body that promotes clean water, literacy, heritage preservation and women’s rights?

Washington’s claim that the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) is biased against Israel obscures the real crimes the agency has committed in US eyes.

The first is that in 2011 Unesco became the first UN agency to accept Palestine as a member. That set the Palestinians on the path to upgrading their status at the General Assembly a year later.

It should be recalled that in 1993, as Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn, the watching world assumed the aim was to create a Palestinian state.

But it seems most US politicians never received that memo. Under pressure from Israel’s powerful lobbyists, the US Congress hurriedly passed legislation to pre-empt the peace process. One such law compels the United States to cancel funding to any UN body that admits the Palestinians.

Six years on, the US is $550 million in arrears and without voting rights at Unesco. Its departure is little more than a formality.

The agency’s second crime relates to its role selecting world heritage sites. That power has proved more than an irritant to Israel and the US.

The occupied territories, supposedly the locus of a future Palestinian state, are packed with such sites. Hellenistic, Roman, Jewish, Christian and Muslim relics promise not only the economic rewards of tourism but also the chance to control the historic narrative.

Israeli archaeologists, effectively the occupation’s scientific wing, are chiefly interested in excavating, preserving and highlighting Jewish layers of the Holy Land’s past. Those ties have then been used to justify driving out Palestinians and building Jewish settlements.

Unesco, by contrast, values all of the region’s heritage, and aims to protect the rights of living Palestinians, not just the ruins of long-dead civilisations.

Nowhere has the difference in agendas proved starker than in occupied Hebron, where tens of thousands of Palestinians live under the boot of a few hundred Jewish settlers and the soldiers who watch over them. In July, Unesco enraged Israel and the US by listing Hebron as one of a handful of world heritage sites “in danger”. Israel called the resolution “fake history”.

The third crime is the priority Unesco gives to the Palestinian names of heritage sites under belligerent occupation.

Much hangs on how sites are identified, as Israel understands. Names influence the collective memory, giving meaning and significance to places.

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has coined the term “memoricide” for Israel’s erasure of most traces of the Palestinians’ past after it dispossessed them of four-fifths of their homeland in 1948 – what Palestinians term their Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Israel did more than just raze 500 Palestinian towns and villages. In their place it planted new Jewish communities with Hebracaised names intended to usurp the former Arabic names. Saffuriya became Tzipori; Hittin was supplanted by Hittim; Muyjadil was transformed into Migdal.

A similar process of what Israel calls “Judaisation” is under way in the occupied territories. The settlers of Beitar Ilit threaten the Palestinians of Battir. Nearby, the Palestinians of Sussiya have been dislodged by a Jewish settlement of exactly the same name.

The stakes are highest in Jerusalem. The vast Western Wall plaza below Al Aqsa mosque was created in 1967 after more than 1,000 Palestinians were evicted and their quarter demolished. Millions of visitors each year amble across the plaza, oblivious to this act of ethnic cleansing.

Settlers, aided by the Israeli state, continue to encircle Christian and Muslim sites in the hope of taking them over.

That is the context for recent Unesco reports highlighting the threats to Jerusalem’s Old City, including Israel’s denial for most Palestinians of the right to worship at Al Aqsa.

Israel has lobbied to have Jerusalem removed from the list of endangered heritage sites. Alongside the US, it has whipped up a frenzy of moral outrage, berating Unesco for failing to prioritise the Hebrew names used by the occupation authorities.

Unesco’s responsibility, however, is not to safeguard the occupation or bolster Israel’s efforts at Judaisation. It is there to uphold international law and prevent Palestinians from being disappeared by Israel.

Trump’s decision to quit Unesco is far from his alone. His predecessors have been scuffling with the agency since the 1970s, often over its refusal to cave in to Israeli pressure.

Now, Washington has a pressing additional reason to punish Unesco for allowing Palestine to become a member. It needs to make an example of the cultural body to dissuade other agencies from following suit.

Trump’s confected indignation at Unesco, and his shrugging off of its vital global programmes, serve as a reminder that the US is not an “honest broker” of a Middle East peace. Rather it is the biggest obstacle to its realisation.

• First published in The National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.