Friday, January 15, 2016

Keeping the MH-17 Jetliner Shoot Down Case in the Dark

MH-17’s Unnecessary Mystery

by Robert Parry - Consortium News

January 15, 2016

As the whodunit mystery surrounding the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 nears the 1½-year mark, the Obama administration could open U.S. intelligence files and help bring justice for the 298 people killed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.

Instead, a separate mystery has emerged: why has the U.S. government clammed up since five days after the tragedy?

Secretary of State John Kerry and
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Immediately after the crash, senior Obama administration officials showed no hesitancy in pointing fingers at the ethnic Russian rebels who were then resisting a military offensive by the U.S.-backed Kiev regime. On July, 20, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on TV talk shows claiming there was a strong circumstantial case implicating the rebels and their Russian backers in the shoot-down.

After mentioning some information gleaned from “social media,” Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “But even more importantly, we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”

Two days later, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a “Government Assessment,” also citing “social media” seeming to implicate the rebels. Then, this white paper listed military equipment allegedly supplied by Russia to the rebels. But the list did not include a Buk missile battery or other high-powered anti-aircraft missiles capable of striking MH-17, which had been flying at around 33,000 feet.

The DNI also had U.S. intelligence analysts brief a few select mainstream reporters, but the analysts conveyed much less conviction than their superiors may have wished, indicating that there was still great uncertainty about who was responsible.

The Los Angeles Times article said: “U.S. intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. U.S. officials said it was possible the SA-11 [the designation for a Russian-made anti-aircraft Buk missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.”

That uncertainty meshed somewhat with what I had been told by a source who had been briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts shortly after the shoot-down about what they had seen in high-resolution satellite photos, which they said showed what looked like Ukrainian military personnel manning the battery which was believed to have fired the missile.

There is also an important distinction to make between the traditional “Intelligence Assessment,” which is the U.S. intelligence community’s gold standard for evaluating an issue, complete with any disagreements among the 16 intelligence agencies, and a “Government Assessment,” like the one produced in the MH-17 case.

As former CIA analyst Ray McGovern wrote: “The key difference between the traditional ‘Intelligence Assessment’ and this relatively new creation, a ‘Government Assessment,’ is that the latter genre is put together by senior White House bureaucrats or other political appointees, not senior intelligence analysts. Another significant difference is that an ‘Intelligence Assessment’ often includes alternative views, either in the text or in footnotes, detailing disagreements among intelligence analysts, thus revealing where the case may be weak or in dispute.”

In other words, a “Government Assessment” is an invitation for political hacks to manufacture what was called a “dodgy dossier” when the British government used similar tactics to sell the phony case for war with Iraq in 2002-03.

Demonizing Putin

Yet, despite the flimsiness of the “blame-Russia-for-MH-17” case in July 2014, the Obama administration’s rush to judgment proved critical in whipping up the European press to demonize President Vladimir Putin, who became the Continent’s bete noire accused of killing 298 innocent people. That set the stage for the European Union to accede to U.S. demands for economic sanctions on Russia.

The MH-17 case was deployed like a classic piece of “strategic communication” or “Stratcom,” mixing propaganda with psychological operations to put an adversary at a disadvantage. Apparently satisfied with that result, the Obama administration stopped talking publicly, leaving the impression of Russian guilt to corrode Moscow’s image in the public mind.

But the intelligence source who spoke to me several times after he received additional briefings about advances in the investigation said that as the U.S. analysts gained more insights into the MH-17 shoot-down from technical and other sources, they came to believe the attack was carried out by a rogue element of the Ukrainian military with ties to a hard-line Ukrainian oligarch. [See, for instance,’s “Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts” and “The Danger of an MH-17 Cold Case.”]

But that conclusion – if made public – would have dealt another blow to America’s already shaky credibility, which has never recovered from the false Iraq-WMD claims in 2002-03. A reversal also would embarrass Kerry, other senior U.S. officials and major Western news outlets, which had bought into the Russia-did-it narrative. Plus, the European Union might reconsider its decision to sanction Russia, a key part of U.S. policy in support of the Kiev regime.

Still, as the MH-17 mystery dragged on into 2015, I inquired about the possibility of an update from the DNI’s office. But a spokeswoman told me that no update would be provided because the U.S. government did not want to say anything to prejudice the ongoing investigation. In response, I noted that Kerry and the DNI had already done that by immediately pointing the inquiry in the direction of blaming Russia and the rebels.

But there was another purpose in staying mum. By refusing to say anything to contradict the initial rush to judgment, the Obama administration could let Western mainstream journalists and “citizen investigators” on the Internet keep Russia pinned down with more speculation about its guilt in the MH-17 shoot-down.

So, silence became the better part of candor. After all, pretty much everyone in the West had judged Russia and Putin guilty. So, why shake that up?

The Ukrainian Buks

Yet, what has become clear after the initial splurge of U.S. blame-casting is that U.S. intelligence lacked key evidence to support Kerry’s hasty judgments. Despite intensive overhead surveillance of eastern Ukraine in summer 2014, U.S. and other Western intelligence services could find no evidence that Russia had ever given a Buk system to the rebels or introduced one into the area.

Satellite intelligence – reviewed both before and after the shoot-down – only detected Ukrainian Buk missile systems in the conflict zone. One could infer this finding from the fact that the DNI on July 22, 2014, did not allege that Buks were among the weapons systems that Russia had provided. If Russian-supplied Buks had been spotted – and the batteries of four 16-foot-long missiles hauled around by trucks are hard to miss – their presence surely would have been noted.

But one doesn’t need to infer this lack of evidence. It was spelled out in a little-noticed report by the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) that was made public last October when the Dutch Safety Board issued its findings on the causes of the doomed MH-17 flight. (Since the flight had originated in Amsterdam and carried many Dutch passengers, Netherlands took a lead role in the investigation.)

Dutch intelligence, which as part of NATO would have access to sensitive overhead surveillance and other relevant data, reported that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine – capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet – belonged to the Ukrainian government.

MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country.”

But the intelligence agency added that the rebels lacked that capacity: “Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; MANPADS) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.”

MIVD noted that on June 29, 2014, “the Separatists captured a Ukrainian armed forces military base in Donetsk [where] there were Buk missile systems,” a fact that was reported in the press before the crash and attracted MIVD’s attention.

“During the course of July, several reliable sources indicated that the systems that were at the military base were not operational,” MIVD said. “Therefore, they could not be used by the Separatists.”

In other words, it is fair to say – based on the affirmative comments from MIVD and the omissions from the U.S. DNI’s “Government Assessment” – that the Western powers had no evidence that the ethnic Russian rebels or their Russian allies had operational Buk missiles in eastern Ukraine, but Ukraine did.

It also would have made sense that Ukraine would be moving additional anti-aircraft systems close to the border because of a feared Russian invasion as the Ukrainian military pressed its “anti-terrorism operation” against ethnic Russians fighters. They were resisting the U.S.-backed coup of Feb. 22, 2014, which had ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political base was in the east.

According to the Dutch Safety Board report, issued last October, a Ukrainian warplane had been shot down by a suspected air-to-air missile (presumably from a Russian fighter) on July 16, 2014, meaning that Ukrainian defenses were probably on high alert. The Russian military also claimed that Ukraine had activated a radar system that is used to guide Buk missiles.

Gunning for Putin?

I was told by the intelligence source that U.S. analysts looked seriously at the possibility that the intended target was President Putin’s official plane returning from a state visit to South America. His aircraft and MH-17 had similar red-white-and-blue markings, but Putin took a more northerly route and arrived safely in Moscow.

A side-by-side comparison of the Russian presidential 
jetliner and the Malaysia Airlines plane.

Other possible scenarios were that a poorly trained and undisciplined Ukrainian squad mistook MH-17 for a Russian plane that had penetrated Ukrainian airspace or that the attack was willful provocation designed to be blamed on the Russians.

Whoever the culprits and whatever their motive, one point that should not have remained in doubt was where the missile launch occurred. Remember that just three days after the crash, Secretary Kerry had said U.S. intelligence detected the launch and “We know where it came from.”

But last October, the Dutch Safety Board still hadn’t pinned down anything like a precise location. The report could only place the launch site within a 320-square-kilometer area in eastern Ukraine, covering territory then controlled by both Ukrainian and rebel forces. (The safety board did not seek to identify which side fired the fateful missile).

By contrast, Almaz-Antey, the Russian arms manufacturer of the Buk systems, conducted its own experiments to determine the likely firing location and placed it in a much smaller area near the village of Zaroshchenskoye, about 20 kilometers west of the Dutch Safety Board’s zone and in an area under Ukrainian government control.

So, with the firing location a key point in dispute, why would the U.S. government withhold from a NATO ally (and investigators into a major airline disaster) the launch point for the missile? Presumably, if the Obama administration had solid evidence showing that the launch came from rebel territory, which was Kerry’s insinuation, U.S. officials would have been only too happy to provide the data.

A reasonable conclusion from the failure to share this information with the Dutch investigators is that the data does not support the preferred U.S. government narrative. If there’s a different explanation for the silence, the Obama administration has failed to provide it.

Amid the curious U.S. silence, the most significant public finding by Western intelligence is that the only powerful and operational anti-aircraft-missile systems in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, belonged to the Ukrainian military.

Nevertheless, the mainstream “conventional wisdom” remains that either the ethnic Russian rebels or the Russians themselves shot down MH-17 and have sought to cover up their guilt.

Some of this certainty comes from the simpleminded game of repeating that Buk missiles are “Russian-made,” which is true but irrelevant to the issue of who fired the missiles, since the Ukrainian military possesses Russian-made Buks.

But much of this “group think” can be credited to the speed with which the Obama administration got its narrative out immediately citing dubious “social media” and exploiting the West’s disdain toward Russian President Putin. He was a ready-made villain for the story.

Lying First

A similar case occurred in 1983 when Korean Airlines Flight 007 penetrated deeply into Soviet territory and was pursued by a Soviet fighter that – after issuing warnings that were ignored – shot the plane down believing it was an enemy military aircraft. Though the Soviets quickly realized they had made a terrible mistake, the Reagan administration wanted to use the incident to paint the “evil empire” in the evilest of tones.

So, Reagan’s propagandists edited the ground-control intercepts to make it appear that the Soviets had committed willful murder, a theme that was presented to the United Nations and was gullibly lapped up by the mainstream U.S. news media.

The fuller story only came out in 1995 with a book entitled Warriors of Disinformation by Alvin A. Snyder, who had been director of the U.S. Information Agency’s television and film division. He described how the tapes were edited “to heap as much abuse on the Soviet Union as possible.”

In a boastful but frank description of the successful disinformation campaign, Snyder noted that “the American media swallowed the U.S. government line without reservation. Said the venerable Ted Koppel on the ABC News ‘Nightline’ program: ‘This has been one of those occasions when there is very little difference between what is churned out by the U.S. government propaganda organs and by the commercial broadcasting networks.'”

Snyder concluded, “The moral of the story is that all governments, including our own, lie when it suits their purposes. The key is to lie first.”

In the case of MH-17, however, the falsehoods and deceptions are not simply some spy-vs.-spy propaganda game of gotcha, but rather obstruction of justice in a mass murder investigation. Whatever evidence the Obama administration has, it should have long since been made available to the investigators, but – so far – the official Dutch reports have indicated no such assistance.

While the U.S. government maintains its official silence, the Russian manufacturer has tried to provide details about the functioning of various generations of Buks and challenged the conclusion from the Dutch Safety Board of precisely which model likely brought down MH-17. The Dutch Safety Board cited a 9M38M1 missile using a 9N314M warhead that dispersed “butterfly or bow-tie” fragments that ripped through MH-17’s fuselage.

But Almaz-Antey reported that only older warheads and missiles of the 9M38 type have that signature. “The 9M38M1 missile has no H-shaped striking elements,” Almaz-Antey executive Yan Novikov said. According to the manufacturer, the Russian army had phased 9M38 missiles out years ago, but they remained part of Ukraine’s arsenal.

On Jan. 14, the Russian aviation agency issued its own report critical of the Dutch Safety Board’s understanding of the Buk models, saying that “the strike elements” in the 9N314M warhead did not match the composition of what was recovered from MH-17. Yet, the Dutch-led criminal investigation, which is being partly run by the Ukrainian government, has shown little interest in the Russian information.

‘Citizen Journalists’

The inquiry has been much more welcoming of leads from Bellingcat, a group of “citizen journalists” led by British blogger Eliot Higgins.

Despite having made significant mistakes in an earlier investigation of the Syria-sarin case in 2013 – including misstating the range of suspect missiles – Higgins has been treated as something of a savant on the MH-17 case, basing his analysis on photographs that popped up the Internet purportedly showing a Buk missile system heading eastward from Donetsk shortly before MH-17 was shot down.

Although one of the first lessons anyone learns about the Internet is to be cautious about what you find there, Higgins and Bellingcat relied on the images to conclude that this battery was dispatched from Russia under the command of Russian forces. The bloggers went so far as to send a list of Russian soldiers’ names as suspects to the MH-17 criminal investigators.

There are, of course, problems with this sort of theorizing. First, it assumes that the photos on the Internet are genuine and not cleverly photo-shopped fakes. The Internet can be a devil’s playground for both amateur and professional disinformationists.

But even assuming that the photos are real, there is the question of why – if this cumbersome weapons system was lumbering around eastern Ukraine apparently for weeks – did Western intelligence services not detect it from overhead surveillance either before or after the shoot-down? From Bellingcat’s Internet photos, it appears there was no effort to conceal the Buk system, which curiously was headed eastward toward Russia, not westward from Russia.

Correspondent Michael Unsher of Australia’s “60 Minutes” 
claims to have found the billboard visible in a video of a 
BUK missile launcher after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines 
Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Screen shot from Australia’s “60 Minutes”)

Higgins also directed an Australian TV film crew to the supposed site in Luhansk where the Buk battery, minus one missile, supposedly made its getaway back into Russia. However, the location that the Australian crew filmed clearly was the wrong place. None of the landmarks matched up, but this journalistic fraud did nothing to diminish Bellingcat’s sterling reputation with mainstream Western news outlets which routinely repeat the group’s allegations. [See’s “A Reckless Stand-upper on MH-17.”]

It turns out that it is an excellent business model for “citizen” bloggers to find “evidence” on the Internet to reinforce whatever the U.S. government’s propagandists are claiming. Since the U.S. government’s credibility is shaky at best, young hip Internet readers are more inclined to trust what they hear from bloggers – and when the bloggers echo what Washington claims, the mainstream media and well-funded think tanks will join in the applause.

A screen shot of the roadway where the suspected BUK 
missile battery passes after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines 
Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. (Image from Australian “60 Minutes” program)

Latest Speculation

Earlier this month, Bellingcat’s speculation identifying Russian soldiers as MH-17 suspects based on their assignment to a Buk battery was splashed across the international press, including Dutch television, London’s Telegraph and the British Guardian. The U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty headlined its story, “Russian Soldiers Said Involved in Downing of MH17 Airliner,” complete with photos of Russian soldiers with their eyes blacked out, courtesy of Bellingcat.

“The Britain-based Bellingcat group said it had identified up to 100 Russian soldiers who may have knowledge of the movements of the Buk missile launcher that destroyed the Boeing 777 on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 on board,” RFE/RL reported, citing a quote that Higgins gave to the Telegraph: “We have the names and photos of the soldiers in the June convoy who traveled with the MH17 Buk, their commanders, their commanders’ commanders, etc.”

Higgins told Dutch TV channel NOS that Belligcat believed that at least 20 soldiers in an air-defense unit based in Kursk “probably” either fired the missile or know who fired it.

The Dutch-led prosecution team, which collaborates with the Ukrainian government and nations that suffered large numbers of deaths from the crash including Australia and Malaysia, welcomed the Bellingcat information and promised to “seriously study it.”

Not that the prosecution team has asked or appears interested, but one could also give the sleuths a list of Americans who almost certainly have knowledge about who fired the missile and from exactly where: CIA Director John Brennan, DNI James Clapper, Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama.

Any one of those officials could end the strange silence that has enveloped the U.S. government’s knowledge about the MH-17 shoot-down since five days after the tragedy and – by doing so – perhaps they could finally bring some clarity and justice to this mystery.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Destroying the Official 9/11 Story

British Film Destroys Official 9/11 Story

by Paul Craig Roberts

January 14, 2016 

I don’t suppose that any of you are sufficiently gullible to belive the official 9/11 fairy tale. If some of you are still trapped within the Matrix, here is a two hour British film that should spring you free.

From my standpoint the problem of this film is not its veracity. The problem with the film is that
on occasion film-making technique gets precedence over clarity of explanation.

Another problem is that the film director forgets that he is presenting a false flag event when he criticizes authorities for not arresting the perpetrators prior to the event. If 9/11 was a false flag
event, there are no terrorist perpetrators to have arrested.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts' latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West, How America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

The Tiger and the Mouse: Making Korea a Nuclear Threat

The US Tiger and the North Korean Mouse

by John Laforge  - CounterPunch

January 15, 2016

North Korea’s claim to have conducted a hydrogen bomb test January 5 has been both ridiculed as completely implausible and condemned from all sides as provocative and a violation of UN Security Council Resolutions. Without any hard evidence that North Korea has a single H-bomb, official “concern” needs to be manufactured if our weapons contractors are to stay in business.

We could expect to hear Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chant that he wants the US “to take a more assertive role in addressing North Korea’s provocation.”

But Anna Fifield, the Washington Post Bureau Chief in Tokyo who should be an impartial observer, wrote Jan. 6 that the underground test was a “brazen provocation and a clear defiance of international treaties.” She later told National Public Radio that she wouldn’t want to speculate about what motivated the North’s President Kim Jong Un, because the inside of his head “is a scary place.” The interviewer let this assertion go unchallenged.

North Korea is such a military, economic and political nothing, that it’s astounding to see the national media parrot official Pentagon and State Department fear-mongering about its patently obvious and unquestionably terrible intentions. When was the last time North Korea bombed, invaded, militarily occupied, or installed puppet regimes in other lands? Those provocatively brazen violations of international treaties were committed by … the United States of America.

When has North Korea placed 5,000-man, 60-aircraft “super carriers” (the largest ships in the world) in the Persian Gulf and attacked Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan using Reaper drones and jet fighter-bombers? Oh right; that was the North Americans.

In 1999, US-led NATO air forces bombed Serbia and Kosovo for 78 days. That wasn’t long after US cruise missile attacks on Sudan and Afghanistan — which in turn barely followed Clinton’s 1998 Christmas-time bombing of Iraq. That of course was only an intensification of the ongoing carrier-based campaign of bombing Iraq two or three times every week for 12 years from 1991 to 2003 — when under false pretenses the Bush/Cheney horror went viral with extreme prejudice. At least 370,000 civilian deaths can be blamed on the 1991 (Bush I) and 2003 (Bush II) US wars on Iraq.

In October 2001, the Air Force and Navy returned to bombing and rocketing Afghanistan, eventually toppling the government and occupying the country. Now with the private contractors and hand-picked presidents having turned Iraq into a failed police state, it is easy to see how the global public, when polled, declares the United States the most dangerous country on earth. I haven’t forgotten that in 2003 protesters in nearly every capital city carried posters depicting the US president as a “Most Wanted” fugitive from justice, a war criminal and a danger to world order. What a relief that Barak Obama has a Peace Prize with which to conduct indiscriminate warfare, torturous force-feeding of hunger strikers, and indefinite detention of suspects without charges just like his predecessors.

A danger to the world?

But forget the opinion of the world’s 95 percent, the Mpls. Star Tribune reported without attribution that, “US military planners view [North Korea] as the world’s most dangerous state.” With two-thirds the population of California, no oil, and having endured in the mid-1990s a famine that killed one-tenth of its population, North Korea is certainly more threatening than the US which has military bases in more than 100 countries, 10 aircraft carriers (Russia and China each have 1), and 14 ballistic missile submarines.

According to US intelligence services, North Korea is suspected of having perhaps two nuclear weapons and an annual military budget of $7.5 billion in 2014. The US’s roughly $600 billion Pentagon allotment includes 4,000 nuclear warheads on alert. Any one of the (eight) Trident subs that the US Navy keeps in the Pacific is capable of burning down the entire Korean landmass.

Even if North Korea had a rocket that could aim straight, what could it expect to gain by attacking South Korea or Japan? This central question is never asked, much less answered, by the screamers on FOX, the Senators from Lockheed-Martin, or the Representatives from Northrop-Grumman.

If the illogic sounds familiar, it is. There was never an answer to the question: Why would the USSR attack Western Europe or the United States during the Cold War? What the Soviets would have gained by attacking, and what North Korea could achieve with aggression, is obvious: Absolutely nothing — beyond self-destruction.

With luck, the US tiger will just hold its breath and tremble at the mousey shadow of North Korea, which never stops provoking. A few years ago it had the nerve to ask the White House for a promise that it won’t be preemptively attacked.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.
More articles by:John Laforge

Tell It to the Chart: Life and Death Struggle Between Banks and Market Begun

The Chart That Explains Everything

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

January 15, 2016  

Why is the economy barely growing after seven years of zero rates and easy money? Why are wages and incomes sagging when stock and bond prices have gone through the roof? Why are stocks experiencing such extreme volatility when the Fed increased rates by a mere quarter of a percent?

It’s the policy, stupid. And here’s the chart that explains exactly what the policy is.

(Richard Koo: The ‘struggle between
markets and central banks has only
just begun’, Business Insider)

What the chart shows is that the vast increase in the monetary base didn’t impact lending or trigger the credit expansion the Fed had predicted. In other words, the Fed’s madcap pump-priming experiment (aka– QE) failed to stimulate growth or put the economy back on the path to recovery. For all practical purposes, the policy was a flop.

QE did, however, touch off an unprecedented 6-year bull market rally that pushed stocks into the stratosphere while the real economy continued to languish in a long-term slump. And the numbers are pretty impressive too. For example, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which bottomed at 6,507 on March 9, 2009, soared to an eye-popping 18,312 points by May 19, 2015, an 11,805 point-surge in just five years. And the S&P did even better. From its March 9, 2009 bottom of 676 points, the index skyrocketed to a record-high 2,130 points on May 21, 2015, tripling its value at the fastest pace in history.

What the chart shows is that the Fed knew from 2010-on that stuffing the banks with excess reserves was neither lowering unemployment or revving up the economy. The liquidity was merely driving stocks higher.

It’s worth noting, that the Fed knows that credit does not flow into the economy without a transmission mechanism, that is, unless creditworthy borrowers are willing to to take out loans. Absent additional lending, the liquidity remains stuck in the financial system where it eventually creates asset bubbles. And that’s exactly what’s happened. Instead of trickling down into the economy where it would do some good, the Fed’s monetary stimulus has cleared the way for another catastrophic meltdown.

The chart suggests that the Fed’s primary objective was to reflate stock and bond prices to help the banks grow their way out of insolvency and avoid government takeover. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner alluded to this in an interview with CNBC in 2009 when he said:

“We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we’re going to do our best to preserve that system.” 

Unfortunately, the banking system was insolvent at that point in time, a fact that was confirmed in sworn testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. Here’s what he said:

“As a scholar of the Great Depression, I honestly believe that September and October of 2008 was the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression. If you look at the firms that came under pressure in that period. . . only one . . . was not at serious risk of failure. So out of maybe the 13 of the most important financial institutions in the United States, 12 were at risk of failure within a period of a week or two.”

Think about that for a minute. Not only was the US banking system hopelessly underwater, but also the world’s most lucrative and powerful industry was about to be removed from private hands and “nationalized”. Shareholders would be wiped out, bondholders would take severe haircuts, management would be replaced, and credit production would be returned to the representatives of the American people, US government officials.

Do you think the prospect of nationalization might have scared the hell out of Wall Street? Do you think the banksters might have concocted some crazy plan along with Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to precipitate a crisis by euthanizing Lehman Brothers so they could extort $700 billion from Congress (TARP) before launching round after round of money printing under the deliberately-opaque moniker, Quantitative Easing?

Of course, they would. These are the same guys who had already stolen trillions of dollars from credulous investors in a fraudulent mortgage laundering scam that crashed the economy and brought the financial system to the brink of ruin. Does anyone seriously think that they’d wince at the prospect of dinging the public a second time by shifting their toxic assets onto the Fed’s balance sheet or by accessing free liquidity to fuel their illicit derivatives trades or their other pernicious high-risk activities?

Keep in mind, the Fed never could have carried off this massive looting operation without the help of both the Congress and the president. This simple fact seems to escape even the most vehement critic of the Fed, that is, that the Fed needed policymakers to strangle the economy while it implemented its plan or it would have had to abandon its reflation strategy.


Well, because if the economy was allowed to rebound, then higher employment would push up wages and raw material costs which in turn would boost inflation. Higher inflation would force the Fed to raise short-term interest rates which would put the kibosh on the cheap money Wall Street needed to buy-back its own shares or engage in other risky speculation. So the real economy had to be sacrificed for Wall Street. Hence, “austerity”.

The fact that Obama’s economics team, led by Lawrence Summers, was trying to lift the economy out of recession without creating conditions for a strong recovery was evident from the very beginning. We know now that chief White House economist Christy Romer wanted a much bigger fiscal stimulus package than the $800 bil that was eventually approved. Here’s the story from the New Republic:

“Romer calculated that it would take an eye-popping $1.7-to-$1.8 trillion to fill the entire hole in the economy—the “output gap,” in economist-speak. “An ambitious goal would be to eliminate the output gap by 2011–Q1 [the first quarter of 2011], returning the economy to full employment by that date,” she wrote. “To achieve that magnitude of effective stimulus using a feasible combination of spending, taxes and transfers to states and localities would require package costing about $1.8 trillion over two years.”
(EXCLUSIVE: The Memo that Larry Summers Didn’t Want Obama to See, New Republic)

Regrettably, Romer’s recommendations “never made it into the memo the president saw.” Obama was not given the option of providing the stimulus the economy needed for a strong recovery because Summers didn’t want a strong recovery. Summers wanted the economy to sputter-along at an abysmal 2 percent GDP like it is today. That would keep a lid on inflation and allow the Fed to pump as much money into the financial markets as it pleased.

Obama has played a big role in this austerity fiasco too. For example, did you know that more government workers lost their jobs under Obama than any other president in history?

It’s true. Since Obama took office in 2008, nearly 500,000 public sector workers have gotten their pink slips. According to economist Joseph Stiglitz, if the economy had experienced a normal expansion, “there would have two million more.”

Of course, Obama never made any attempt to rehire these workers because rehiring them would have put more money in the pockets of people who would spend it which would boost GDP. Typically, economists think that’s a good thing. It’s only a bad thing when the Fed is working at cross-purposes and trying to keep a damper on inflation so it can bail out its crooked Wall Street buddies.

For more on Obama’s belt-tightening crusade, just look at his efforts to cut the budget deficits. Here’s a clip from MSNBC:

“Strong growth in individual tax collection drove the U.S. budget deficit to a fresh Obama-era low in fiscal 2015, the Treasury Department said Thursday…. The deficit is the smallest of Barack Obama’s presidency and the lowest since 2007 in both dollar terms and as a percentage of gross domestic product. (During) the Obama era, the deficit has shrunk by $1 trillion. That’s ‘trillion,’ with a ‘t.'” (MSNBC)

Why would Obama want to cut government spending when the economy was already in distress, capital investment was flagging, and households were still trying to pay down their debts?

Basic economic theory suggests that when private sector can’t spend, then the government must spend to offset deflationary pressures and prevent a major slump. Cutting the deficits removes vital fiscal stimulus from the economy. It’s like applying leeches to a patient with flu symptoms thinking that the blood-loss will hasten his recovery. It’s madness, and yet this is what Obama and the Congress have been doing for the last six years. They’ve kept their hands wrapped firmly around the economy’s neck trying to make sure the patient stays in a permanent state of narcosis.

That’s the goal, to suffocate the economy in order to reward the thieving vipers on Wall Street. And Obama and the Congress are every bit as guilty as the Fed.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

More articles by:Mike Whitney

Bitcoin Failed? Here's Who's Walking Away

Bitcoin Has Failed? So Says One Core Developer Who Is Walking Out

by Richard Kastelein - BC News

January 15, 2016

In what has been a major shock for both the Bitcoin and Blockchain communities, Bitcoin core developer Mike Hearn has announced he feels that “Bitcoin has failed”, and has given a number of reasons why he believes so in a fairly detailed blog post on Medium. Not only this, he also said that he will no longer participate in Bitcoin development and has sold all his coins.

Note that Mike Hearn is now lead platform engineer at R3 (consortium of 40+ banks exploring Blockchain) after joining the startup in November 2015.

Hearns writes what was meant to be a new, decentralised form of money that lacked “systemically important institutions” and “too big to fail” has become something even worse: a system completely controlled by just a handful of people.

He added that the Chinese miners are not allowing the block chain to grow and the reasons include:

  • Developers of “Bitcoin Core” have refused to implement necessary changes
  • Miners are terrified of anything that might make the news as a split and cause investor panic
  • The Chinese internet is so broken by their government’s firewall that moving data across the border barely works at all

Imagine an entire country connected to the rest of the world by cheap hotel wifi, and you’ve got the picture. Right now, the Chinese miners are able to — just about — maintain their connection to the global internet and claim the 25 BTC reward ($11,000) that each block they create gives them. But if the Bitcoin network got more popular, they fear taking part would get too difficult and they’d lose their income stream. This gives them a perverse financial incentive to actually try and stop Bitcoin becoming popular.

He further explained how some prominent people in the bitcoin space decided to “kill” the Bitcoin XT proposal, which included deleting posts with the words Bitcoin XT from discussion forums, expulsion of a “massive” number of users from these forums and most importantly, Coinbase  —  the largest and best known Bitcoin startup in the USA  —  was temporarily erased from the official Bitcoin website for picking the “wrong” side.

He also said that within a few days of launching Bitcoin XT around 15 per cent of all network nodes were running it, and at least one mining pool had started offering BIP101 voting to miners. That’s when the denial of service attacks started. The attacks were so large that they disconnected entire regions from the internet.

The fissure in the Bitcoin core development community has led to death threats against developers and hacking attacks that have taken down Internet providers… as well as a flame war, Reddit censorship, and a split in the community that left Hearn and his campe on the losing, censored side.

And rightfully notes why would people invest in a currency:
  • (Where) you couldn’t move your existing money
  • (Which has had) wildly unpredictable fees that were high and rising fast
  • (Which has) allowed buyers to take back payments they’d made after walking out of shops, by simply pressing a button (if you aren’t aware of this “feature” that’s because Bitcoin was only just changed to allow it)
  • (Which) is suffering large backlogs and flaky payments
  • Which is controlled by China
  • And in which the companies and people building it were in open civil war?

“The issue is that it’s now officially impossible to depend upon the bitcoin network anymore to know when or if your payment will be transacted, because the congestion is so bad that even minor spikes in volume create dramatic changes in network conditions.”
“Why has the capacity limit not been raised? Because the block chain is controlled by Chinese miners, just two of whom control more than 50% of the hash power. At a recent conference over 95% of hashing power was controlled by a handful of guys sitting on a single stage. The miners are not allowing the block chain to grow.”

“In the span of only about eight months, Bitcoin has gone from being a transparent and open community to one that is dominated by rampant censorship and attacks on bitcoiners by other bitcoiners. This transformation is by far the most appalling thing I have ever seen, and the result is that I no longer feel comfortable being associated with the Bitcoin community.”

“…In August 2015 it became clear that due to severe mismanagement, the “Bitcoin Core” project that maintains the program that runs the peer-to-peer network wasn’t going to release a version that raised the block size limit. The reasons for this are complicated and discussed below. But obviously, the community needed the ability to keep adding new users. So some long-term developers (including me) got together and developed the necessary code to raise the limit. That code was called BIP 101 and we released it in a modified version of the software that we branded Bitcoin XT. By running XT, miners could cast a vote for changing the limit. Once 75% of blocks were voting for the change the rules would be adjusted and bigger blocks would be allowed.”

Go read more here. There’s lots more to read.

Jeff Garzick noted that the block size debate ultimately boils down to competing economic and system survival theories. One theory has a free market range exists for block size, in absence of a hard limit. Another theory is that a hard limit is required to forcibly constrain the free market. Stalling on core block size changes the former to the latter — uncharted territory for bitcoin.

The NYT’s also covered the brouhaha today. Nathaniel Popper has interviewed Hearn extensively and provides a brilliant backstory.

The current dispute, though, is a reminder that the Bitcoin software — like all computer code — is an evolving product of the human mind, and its deployment is vulnerable to human frailties and divergent ideals.

There may yet be a middle ground on the question that began the fight, but for the moment the sides are deadlocked, and that has left the Bitcoin software — and the virtual currency itself — in a state of limbo. Mr. Hearn is convinced that the stalemate will soon make it hard to complete even simple transactions and will eventually drive away users and lead to a price collapse. Mr. Hearn’s concerns about this impasse have been echoed, often in less strident tones, by a growing number of other developers, as well as by start-ups that buy, sell and hold Bitcoins.

Gavin Andresen, a close collaborator of Mr. Hearn’s and one of the longest-standing contributors to the Bitcoin software, said the dispute was likely to cause disruptions in the short term, but he disagrees with the notion that it will damage Bitcoin’s long-term prospects. Other Bitcoin leaders have expressed a similar sentiment, and investors have been inclined to believe them: The price of a Bitcoin has actually risen in recent months, to about $430 this week.

For a tear down and opposite perspective of Mike Stearn read Bitledger.

Pay to Stay: Switzerland Joins Denmark in Migrant Farming Scheme

Pay as You Go: Refugee Crisis Sparks Return to Traditional European Values  

by Chris Floyd  - Empire Burlesque

15 January 2016

"Switzerland joins Denmark in seizing assets from refugees to cover costs." (Guardian).

This is such a great idea. Confiscate anything that might help refugees support themselves (then demonize them for being "a drain on taxpayers," of course). But why stop at "seizing assets" to make them "pay for their upkeep"?

Why not, say take their gold teeth? Their hair? You know, for stuffing pillows or something. How about using them as forced labor?

So many possibilities -- and plenty of examples from history on what can be done!

Of course, a cheaper alternative to the refugee crisis might be to quit waging wars and supporting wars, extremism, tyranny and corruption in their homelands. But that would make our own Poobahs feel less important (and less flush with profiteering cash).

And we certainly can't have that.

Here is the story:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Colonizer Canada and Boko Haram

Canada’s Role in the Colonization of Nigeria and in the Destruction of Libya

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

January 14th, 2016

Blowback. Karma. Unintended consequences. A corollary to the golden rule. We have many words to describe the concept: Doing harm to others often results in bad things happening to us or people we “care” about, sometimes many years later.

Since the November attacks in Paris Boko Haram has killed nearly twice as many people as Daesh/ISIL/ISIS did in the City of Lights. But the carnage in northern Nigeria has received much less attention and Canada’s connection to it none at all.

Five days after the Paris killings Boko Haram claimed responsibility for suicide attacks in Yola and Kano that killed 50. Ten days later the group killed 22 at a Shia Muslim procession near Kano, another 11 a few days later just over the border in Cameroon and 27 on an island on Nigeria’s border with Chad a week later. Last week they killed 52 in Maiduguri and Madagali. According to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, Boko Haram killed more people in 2014 than Daesh.

Largely ignored in North America, the 2011 Canada/France/Britain/US war in Libya benefited Boko Haram. It destabilized that country and now Daesh is in control of Sirte and other parts of the country. In 2012 the Libyan conflict spilled south into Mali. Last March Boko Haram announced its affiliation with ISIL and the Nigerian group is thought to be receiving fighters and media support from ISIL camps in Libya. The Libyan war also increased the availability of weaponry in the Sahel region. A few months after Gaddafi was killed a Reuters headline explained: “Arms from Libya could reach Boko Haram, al Qaeda: U.N.”

During the Libyan war the African Union predicted as much. In opposing the NATO/Gulf monarchies invasion of Libya, AU Commission Chief Jean Ping said “Africa’s concern is that weapons that are delivered to one side or another … are already in the desert and will arm terrorists and fuel trafficking.” When the Libyan conflict spilled southward in 2012 then Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo voiced similar concerns. “Part of what is happening in Mali is part of the fallout from Libya, and we should not expect that Mali will be the last.”

Canada played a significant role in the 2011 NATO attack in Libya. A Canadian general led the bombing campaign, seven CF-18 fighter jets participated and two Canadian naval vessels patrolled the Libyan coast. Additionally, Canadian special forces were reported to be operating in the country while a Canadian drone maker armed the anti-Gaddafi forces and Montréal private security firm GardaWorld aided them.

Beyond Ottawa’s role in Libya, Canadians long ago contributed to the political and religious tensions that have given rise to a group named (loosely translated) “Western education is a sin”. While in no way justifying Boko Haram’s wonton slaughter of innocents, the violent colonization of northern Nigeria and aggressive evangelizing efforts partly explain Boko Haram’s existence.

A lieutenant in the West African Frontier Force (WAFF) Canadian Gore Munbee Barrow was one of 25 white officers who led a thousand-man expedition in 1903 to conquer the Sokoto Caliphate in northern Nigeria. With four rapid firing Maxim guns and four 75mm cannons, it took a 90-minute battle to capture the capital of Sokoto, which had been West Africa’s largest single state in the nineteenth century. According to Wars of Imperial Conquest in Africa, 1830-1914, “as the WAFF column neared the city, hordes of horsemen and footmen armed with swords, spears, old guns and bows and arrows appeared, charging the square over and over again, only to be mown down by machine gun and carbine fire.” Boko Haram regularly references the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate, Usman dan Fodio.

A number of Canadians played a role in the colonial administration of Northern Nigeria. After taking part in British military campaigns in Sudan and South Africa, Montréal’s Percy Girouard was appointed high commissioner and governor of Northern Nigeria from 1906 – 09 (then a separate colony). The Royal Military College of Canada trained governor allowed compulsory labour to be used on some public and private projects.

Canadian missionaries also played a central role in Christianizing the now fervently religious country split between a mostly Christian south and Muslim north. In 1905, the Ontario Conference of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ sent Toronto’s Alexander Woods Banfield to proselytize among the Nupe of north-western Nigeria. Banfield took it upon himself to learn the language and translated the Bible into Nupe. He also founded the Niger Press, which aimed to secure “in printed form the word of God in Nigerian languages.” Rising to become general secretary for West Africa of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Banfield supported the colonial authorities and his personal writings were not free from outbursts of racism, including an assertion that “people along the banks of the Niger are almost wild… almost entirely untouched by the white man.”

In 1893 Torontonians Walter Gowans and Rowland Victor Bingham established the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM), which became the largest Protestant mission in Nigeria. (At the time “Sudan” generally referred to the area south of the Sahara and North of the equator from the east to west coast of Africa.) Writing about northern Nigerian missionaries, Brad Faught surmises that British Governor Frederick “Lugard and the colonial state were the guarantors of the SIM’s operations.”

On top of supporting colonialism, SIM openly and aggressively criticized Islam. In a 1943 book titled From Cannibalism to Christ: a story of the transforming power of the gospel in darkest Africa, SIM missionary John S. Hall claimed “the 10 or more millions of pagans” in southern Nigeria were “threatened from the north, by Moslem invasion and absorption.”

SIM was boldly fundamentalist. In a book about the organization titled Evangelical Christians in the Muslim Sahel, Barbara M. Cooper notes that to be a SIM missionary one had to accept that “the Bible is the ‘inerrant’ word of God” and that “to be a Christian is to evangelize”. Interestingly, Boko Haram has listed a church SIM built in the 1930s in Kano as a target.

Northern Nigeria’s missionary and colonial history partly explains Boko Haram’s depravity. Canada contributed in a small way to the British colonial project in northern Nigeria and Ottawa played a significant role in the recent military intervention in Libya, which has strengthened Boko Haram’s hand.

Blowback. Karma. Unintended consequences. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you or they might do unto you what you did to them.

Yves Engler is the author of The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy. His Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation will be published in September and he will be speaking across the country in the lead up to the election. For information on speaking engagements go to Read other articles by Yves.

Killing Palestinians: Hamas Decrees Death Penalty to Four

4 Collaborators Sentenced to Death by Hamas Court

by IMEMC News and Agencies 

January 14, 2016
A military court in the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, sentenced four Palestinians to death for collaboration with Israel, Palestinian security sources said.

Security sources told Ma’an News Agency that the Hamas-run military court tried three suspects in absentia, all of whom were sentenced to death, as well as a fourth from the al-Zaytoun neighborhood, in Gaza City, who was sentenced to execution by hanging.

The sources said that the charges of collaboration included spying on fellow Palestinians, handing over vehicle and residence information to Israeli officials, and obtaining arms with the intention of assassinating Palestinian officials.

Under Palestinian law, willful, premeditated murder, and treason, as well as collaboration with the enemy -- usually Israel -- are punishable by death.

All execution orders are supposed to be approved by the president before they can be carried out, but such approval is sidestepped by Hamas, who does not recognize the legitimacy of Fateh leader and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. European Union missions based in the occupied Palestinian territory condemned, in August of 2015, the use of capital punishment by Palestinian leadership.

The EU called on authorities in Gaza -- run by the Hamas movement -- to refrain from enforcing capital punishment on the grounds that the practice is cruel, inhumane, fails to deter criminal behavior, and denies citizens human dignity.

In August 2014, 18 suspected collaborators were killed by Hamas when the group announced a crackdown on Palestinians alleged to be working with Israel.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) at the time reported over 160 death sentences had been issued by Palestinian courts since 1994. Over 80 percent of the sentences were carried out in the Gaza Strip, the remainder taking place in the occupied West Bank in courts run by the Palestinian Authority.

See: Short Film on PCHR’s Efforts to Abolish Death Penalty

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

German Media Kindling Racist Furore

German media incites racist hysteria

by Peter Schwarz - WSWS

12 January 2016

Using the pretext of alleged incidents of sexual harassment in Köln (Cologne), the German media has launched a hysterical, racist campaign against millions of immigrants and Muslims.

On New Year’s Eve, thousands of people gathered in Köln and in other major cities throughout Germany to celebrate the holiday. The next day, police issued a press release stating that there was a “festive mood” at the celebrations and that the atmosphere that evening was “overall peaceful.”

However, one day later, a second statement was issued that referred for the first time to alleged attacks on women. On January 5, Köln’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU)-backed Mayor Henriette Reker said at a press conference that there was “no evidence that people who are residing in Köln as refugees are amongst the perpetrators.”

Suddenly, the media exploded with allegations of mass sexual abuse, setting into motion a hysterical campaign directed against the immigrant population. On January 7, anonymous police officers told the media that “most” of those suspected were migrants. A January 8 report by the Federal Ministry of the Interior announced that out of 31 suspects, 18 were refugees. Among the suspects were two Germans and an American.

It was not until the period between January 8 and January 10 that the number of those alleging sexual harassment rose from 170 to over 400. So far, only two people have been arrested, and they have been released.

What actually occurred in Köln is not yet known. Some reports point to a provocation. Various international media outlets, including CNN, have reported that at least one undercover police agent had infiltrated the crowd and later reported she was assaulted.

It is, of course, possible that there were incidents of hooliganism in which women were harassed. Unfortunately, such behavior is not uncommon in large crowds almost anywhere in the world where liquor is flowing freely as it was on New Year’s Eve. At last year’s Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, for example, over 140 people were arrested, 50 for felonies. At last year’s Oktoberfest in Munich, the number of sexual assault allegations rose to 20.

At any rate, given the absence of factual substantiation of what remain, at this point, no more than allegations, the ferocity of the press response can be explained only in political terms. The political parties and the media have launched a campaign that for many decades would have been considered impossible in Germany.

Some 70 years after the collapse of the Third Reich, the media is making use of the same disgusting types of racial stereotyping, with open appeals to paranoid sexual obsessions, in which the Nazis specialized. Once again, a shameless German media is evoking images of pure Nordic women being preyed upon by dark-skinned untermenschen (sub-humans).

On Saturday, the magazine Focus published on its cover an image of a nude woman covered by black handprints. The weekend edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung carried an image of a white woman’s body with a black hand grasping her genitals. The newspaper also disseminated the image on Facebook.

When a wave of protest erupted, the Süddeutsche apologized. However, Chief Editor of Focus Ulrich Reitz refused to apologise on the grounds that “we are depicting what is unfortunately happening.” Whoever said the cover was racist, he claimed, was “fearful of the truth.”

It is not only degenerate journalists who are purveying this racist filth. Leading German academics are also getting into the act. Professor Jörg Baberowski of Berlin’s Humboldt University has written a column for the far-right Basler Zeitung accusing “Germany’s leading media” of remaining silent when “on New Year’s Eve, hundreds of Arab men sexually harassed, humiliated and robbed women on the Cathedral Square in Köln.”

There is no mass popular base for the racialist campaign. It is being instigated and directed by the political elites.

The new edition of Der Spiegel states: “A year ago, on New Year’s Eve 2014, similar assaults would have been (unfortunately) just an issue for the local press.” Der Spiegel adds, “Any attack could just as well have provided the material for national excitement—a child murder in a city park or any other crime in which primal fears are concentrated, stereotypes combined and foreigners involved in one form or another.”

However, this does not prevent Der Spiegel from legitimizing the media campaign. It declares that the events in Köln show the need for the strengthening of the police to defend “our canon of values.”

The political coordinates in Germany have shifted so far to the right that even the Left Party—a monument to political spinelessness—endorses calls for an authoritarian state. This universal shift to the right in all sections of the political establishment has, in fact, nothing to do with the events in Köln. It is, rather, entirely bound up with the resurgence of German militarism.

It is now two years since President Gauck and officials in the federal government announced the end of foreign policy restraint and stated that Germany was, in the words of Social Democratic Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “too big to comment on foreign policy only from the sidelines.” Since then, the government has supported the right-wing coup in Kiev, participated in NATO’s deployment against Russia, sent troops to Mali and reinforced the military mission in Afghanistan. Recently, German Tornado jets joined the bombing campaign in Syria.

But despite intensive efforts, the ruling elites have thus far failed to break the ingrained resistance of broad social layers to militarism. The vast majority of Germans still oppose foreign missions and war operations by the Bundeswehr (Armed Forces). Now the issue of sexual violence against women is being employed in an attempt to overcome this resistance. The events in Köln are being exaggerated and exploited to this end. The racist smear campaign against refugees and immigrants is a means to prepare the expansion of the military intervention in the Middle East.

The entire tragic and disastrous experience of the 20th century proves that Germany’s ruling class cannot wage war without resorting to racism and erecting an authoritarian regime.

In recent months, the most popular film in Germany has been Er ist wieder da (He’s Back). It is a satirical political fantasy that imagines how a resurrected Hitler, emerging from his World War II bunker, would rebuild his political career with the help of the modern media. During the past week, the filmmaker’s satire has acquired an all too disturbing element of reality.

Bernie: Comic Book Hero, or Villain?

Bernie – The new Comic Book Bio It can cure Stupid

by Greg Palast

January 12, 2016

A personal note from Greg Palast

Love Bernie. Hate Bernie. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I’m violently non-partisan by profession and nature. But, I demand you read Ted Rall’s comic book biography of Bernie Sanders.

It’s not some propaganda crap-ola to promote Sanders’ Presidential campaign. You don’t get a lot of stuff that makes you feel warm and fuzzy about the candidate. Rather, what you get is, “The Making of a Guy Pissed-off with the Way the System is Stacked Against the Average Joe.”

Rall’s Sanders was not the intellectual child of Karl Marx. Rather, he was the child of Eli Sanders, a low-ticket salesman whose commissions barely covered the rent on a one-bedroom flat in Brooklyn – except when they didn’t cover it and Sanders’ parents would fight.

* * * *

Get a signed copy of Ted Rall’s Bernie, the brilliant 200 page full-color comic-book biography by making a tax-deductible donation of at least $100 to the Palast Investigative Fund.

Or order Bernie on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Indiebound.

Rall, a Journalism Fellow of The Palast Investigative Fund, is also the penman-author of Snowden, and, with Greg Palast, the New York Times bestseller Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.

For a tax-deductible donation of $200 you can get the signed Palast & Rall Book Trio.

Bernie is also a quick primer on “Pot-hole Socialism." For example, as Mayor of Burlington, Sanders brought a minor league ball team to town, built affordable housing, balanced the budget and took care of business. Bernie was a government executive even Paul Ryan could love (if Ryan weren’t a sick, duplicitous shill for billionaires.)

Ted Rall is an ornery cuss, so he has lots of gripes about some of Sen. Sanders’ votes and views – and the book is the better for it.

The book’s opening is a particularly enjoyable I-didn’t-know-that history of the Democratic Party’s "moonwalk," sliding right while pretending to defend progressive views. It’s the betrayal that created Bernie’s movement, not just his political moment.

With Bernie, Rall does the job that used to belong to news reporters – illuminate the soul of a candidate. And, most importantly, he puts Progressivism back into the story of American history.

Given that our media covers little more than pollster yammering and Trump’s hairdo versus Hillary’s, Rall’s book comes as a welcome cure for stupid.

* * * * * * *

I am turning The Best Democracy Money Can Buy into a feature length film about the billionaires and ballot bandits and their plans to steal the 2016 election. Watch the Trailer.

Be our mogul angel. Donate at least $1,000 to the Palast Investigative Fund and you’ll get a Producer credit and tickets to our Hollywood opening.

Or donate $500 for a Co-Producer credit. You can save America while getting a tax deduction.

Or support our work by making a tax-deductible No Gift donation.

No matter how small or ginormous, it's all immensely appreciated!

The filming is nearly complete – but editing the good stuff from the secret camera hidden in my hat (no kidding)—and adding the way-cool graphics to illuminate those confidential documents that you’re not supposed to see—that takes some cash. So I’m asking you for your direct support so we can get this exposé on the air in 2016—and bust the vote thieves before they commit the crime.

* * * * * * *

For 15 years, Greg Palast has been uncovering voter suppression tactics in investigative reports for BBC Television, The Guardian, Harper’s and Rolling Stone.

In 2016 Greg Palast will be releasing his new feature film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy—A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits, which includes his award-winning investigation Jim Crow Returns.

Greg Palast is the author of several New York Times bestsellers including The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic.

Make a tax-deductible donation and support our ongoing investigation into voter suppression.

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US Loaded Bioweapons Labs Playing Roulette with Russia

US Encircling Russia with Bioweapons Labs, Covertly Spreads Them

by RT

The US is obstructing international efforts to eradicate biological weapons, seeking to involve other nations covertly in research on weaponized diseases, Moscow charged. America’s record of handling bioweapons is poor.

The accusations of mishandling biological weapons voiced by the Russian Foreign Ministry refer to a recent report that the US military shipped live anthrax by mistake. Last week, the Pentagon admitted sending samples of the highly dangerous disease to at least 51 labs in 17 US states and three foreign countries.

The delivery “posed a high risk of outbreak that threatened not only the US population, but also other countries, including Canada and Australia. Of great concern is the shipment of bacteria to a US military facility in a third country, the Osan Air Base in South Korea,” the Russian ministry said in a statement.

It added that an anthrax outbreak incident occurred in 2001, which also involved a US military lab.

For Russia such incidents are of particular concern, because one of its neighbors, Georgia, hosts a research facility for high-level biohazard agents. The Richard G. Lugar Center for Public and Animal Health Research near Tbilisi is an undercover American bioweapons lab, a branch of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Russia believes.

“American and Georgian authorities are trying to cover up the real nature of this US military unit, which studies highly dangerous infectious diseases. The Pentagon is trying to establish similar covert medico-biological facilities in other countries [in Russia's neighborhood],” the Russian ministry said.

Moscow says the US is de facto derailing international efforts under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), a 1972 international treaty aimed at eradicating bioweapons worldwide.

“The US administration is obviously not interested in strengthening this convention. It's known that in 2001 the US unilaterally torpedoed multilateral talks in Geneva to work on a verification mechanism for the BWTC and have since obstructed their restart. Decades of international effort to strengthen the convention were derailed,” the statement said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's indictment comes amid a wider list of accusations against the US over what Moscow sees as American violations of various international agreements dealing with weapons control, non-proliferation and disarmament.

The statement came in response to a US annual report on the issue, which accused Russia of various wrongdoings. Moscow considers such reports “megaphone diplomacy.”

Such tactics aren’t aimed at resolving any differences, but instead support America's pretense to be the ultimate judge of other nation's behavior, the ministry said.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mumia Abu-Jamal’s legal fight for medical treatment

Mumia’s Fight for Medical Treatment: Mumia Abu-Jamal’s legal fight for medical treatment to stay alive in prison

by Rachel Wolkenstein - Free Mumia

A remarkable and legally historic evidentiary hearing in Mumia Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes took place over three days in late December 2015 in the U.S. federal district court in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The amended lawsuit filed August 3, 2015 by attorneys Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Project and Robert Boyle is an action for damages, injunctive relief and a declaration of the unconstitutional denial of medical treatment to Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The immediate question is whether Judge Robert Mariani will grant Mumia a preliminary injunction and rule that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) has been deliberately indifferent to Mumia Abu-Jamal’s medical condition in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against cruel and unusual punishment and order the DOC to immediately treat Mumia’s active Hepatitis-C with the new antiviral medications.

A brief summary of the legal case

The legal brief filed August 17, 2015 in support of the Motion for Preliminary Injunction succinctly summarizes Mumia’s case:

“Mumia Abu-Jamal is suffering severe and chronic symptoms from untreated, active Hepatitis-C. In the past several months he has experienced diabetic shock, a painful and pruritic [extremely itchy] rash affecting his entire body, edema, skin lesions, anemia, and likely fibrosis of the liver. Scientific advances in the treatment of Hepatitis-C have established a new standard of care that could cure Abu-Jamal of his Hepatitis-C and alleviate the painful symptoms within 8-12 weeks without significant side effects through daily administration of a single pill. DOC defendants, however, are refusing to provide Abu-Jamal with this medically necessary, life-saving treatment.”

In riveting testimony, Mumia’s doctor, Dr. Joseph Harris, fully described how over the past two years these new antiviral drugs (marketed as Salvadi and Harvoni) have “revolutionized” the treatment of Hepatitis-C (HCV) with a 90-95 percent cure rate. Immediate treatment for all those with active Hepatitis-C is now the recommended standard of care by the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) and the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) and is endorsed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The World Health Organization added these new medications to its essential medicines list. In curing HCV, the “extra-hepatic” secondary symptoms including fatigue, itchy rashes, arthritis and muscle pain will also be cured. But the cost in the United States is $1000 per pill, making a course of treatment approximately $90,000.

Medicine for profit in capitalist America means there is no equal access, let alone free access, to this new cure. As for other medical care, insurance coverage depends on the scope and cost of the medical insurance itself. While there is growing public outcry over the high costs, neither Medicare nor Medicaid currently pays for this treatment unless the disease has progressed to severe liver damage.

At the close of the intensive evidentiary hearing on December 23 after the testimony of Dr. Harris, two DOC expert specialists, the DOC’s chief medical officer and the SCI Mahanoy chief medical officer, the following was not in dispute:

· Mumia Abu-Jamal has active chronic Hepatitis-C, stage-two fibrosis with a 63 percent probability of cirrhosis of the liver.

· Mumia has “anemia of chronic disease.”

· Mumia’s severe itchy skin rash is not resolved despite months of intensive treatment.

· Severely itchy skin is often a secondary symptom of HCV.

· There is no medical reason for Mumia not to be treated with the new antivirals for Hepatitis-C.

The dispute is clearly not a medical or scientific one. It is social, one of cost and, in regard to prisoners, one of peneological purpose. This was the proverbial “elephant in the room” that the DOC witnesses would not directly address. Instead, the DOC tried to explain the difference between “correctional and institutional standards” and “community standards.” The DOC maintains that this is simply a case of doctors with differing opinions of treatment. That argument was exploded by the DOC expert witness on Hepatitis-C treatment, Dr. Jay Cowan, who responded to attorney Robert Boyle’s question, that “yes he would recommend the new antivirals to anyone who had Hepatitis-C who could pay the $90,000 cost.”

The DOC’s new “Interim Hepatitis-C Protocol,” secretly issued on November 12, 2015 does not take any account of the new drugs’ potential to cure Hepatitis-C and stop its deadly progression and alleviate painful and debilitating symptoms suffered by a significant portion of the prison population. Rather this is a protocol to deny this new treatment to Pennsylvania prisoners. According to the testimony of the head of DOC medical services, Dr. Peter Noel, only five out of some 6000 prisoners with active HCV are getting treatment.

The DOC protocol does not allow treatment to be considered until the prisoner is close to death, with severe complications from cirrhosis of the liver. The protocol has a tortuous and Kafkaesque stratification of who should be considered for treatment. There are numerous “reasons” for exclusions from treatment, including misconduct and not following medical regimens. The last hurdle before treatment may be considered by the Hepatitis-C Treatment Committee is an endoscopy that shows the prisoner has “esophageal varices.” This is a condition in which the “blood vessels in the esophagus may leak blood or even rupture, causing life-threatening bleeding.” If there are no “esophageal varices,” the prisoner is set for another endoscopy in “two to three years.” And then, depending, treatment will be considered.

The DOC lawyers and doctors, from the medical specialist “experts” to the head of its medical services, laid bare the reality of medicine for profit in capitalist America and the function of prisons as repressive punitive institutions without a modicum of care for the medical well-being of prisoners. The court evidentiary hearing unfolded with rare public display of the DOC’s mendacity and utter contempt for its own laws and rules: the suppression and then attempt to keep its Hepatitis-C Treatment Protocol “confidential;” submission to court of a false declaration from its chief of DOC health services; and its expert witnesses testimony that withheld information from Mumia’s medical records that contradicted their opinions. In cross-examination Mumia’s lawyers successfully discredited the DOC’s presentation of false or misleading evidence.

At the close of the evidentiary hearing Judge Mariani set January 13, 2016 as the date that all parties would get transcripts of the hearing, and that written briefs were due by both Mumia and the DOC by February 3, 2016. The judge said he would decide as quickly as possible, making this case his priority.

The implications and scope of Mumia’s lawsuit

While this lawsuit is based on the “deliberate indifference” of the DOC to treat Mumia Abu-Jamal specifically, focusing on the horrific history of his medical mistreatment, this case presents an historic testing of all prisoners’ right under the Eighth Amendment to medical treatment—in fact a cure—of the deadly Hepatitis-C virus that infects 13-25 percent of prisoners. The DOC is seeking dismissal of a class action lawsuit brought in federal district court in Philadelphia on behalf of some 10,000 Pennsylvania prisoners, Chimenti v. Department of Corrections.

In the United States there is no constitutional right to medical care, except that under the Eighth Amendment prison officials have an “obligation to provide medical care for those whom it is punishing by incarceration.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976). That obligation is determined by a serious medical need and the state’s acts or omissions that indicate a “deliberate indifference” to that need. Case law holds that deprivation of treatment for reason of cost is deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment and therefore unconstitutional.

But if “the law” really was “the law” Mumia would have been immediately granted the Hep-C cure. The DOC would have administered the new antiviral medicine to him without the compulsion of a lawsuit—and done the same for the thousands of other prisoners suffering from Hepatitis-C.

Instead, Mumia has been subjected to over a year of medical mistreatment—the state’s latest attempt to silence and kill him. The DOC has resisted and challenged any diagnosis and medical treatment for Mumia’s skin condition and now refuses to treat his active Hepatitis-C. A fellow prisoner, Major Tillery, confronted prison Superintendent John Kerestes, warning him that Mumia might die unless he was hospitalized immediately. For that act of solidarity, Tillery was transferred to another prison and set-up on a false misconduct charge and spent over four months in the “hole.” An international campaign of protest was launched after Mumia’s near-death from diabetic shock demanding medical treatment and Mumia’s release from prison. Without that campaign, including this legal action to save Mumia’s life, the DOC would have not given him any medical care.

We will see what this court decides and how this case proceeds on appeal. Any court decisions in Mumia’s favor, however small, will be challenged by the DOC, and likely the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police), in the appellate courts and in the public arena. At stake is keeping Mumia alive, striking a blow for medical care for prisoners throughout the country, and expanding the campaign in an international struggle for Mumia’s freedom.

Mumia’s court testimony

On the first day of the court hearing, December 18, Mumia testified via videoconference from SCI Mahanoy; his first court testimony since his 1982 trial. As Mumia’s wife, Wadiya Jamal, stated in her December 18 message, “This rotten-ass system has made many attempts on my husband’s life. Mumia is innocent of the murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner on December 9, 1981 and the cops on the scene all knew that. His Hep-C is from the blood transfusions 34 years ago when he survived a cop’s gunshot to his chest through his lungs to his liver.” Blood transfusions prior to 1992 are a major source of HCV because blood was not thoroughly screened untill then.

In an understated manner Mumia described in court the ravages to his body and mind from this year of pain and near death from diabetic shock. All of Mumia’s medical records from the prison and his hospitalizations were admitted into evidence.

Mumia explained the progression of the severe itchy skin condition that began in August 2014 in small patches and spread over most of his body. In the prison infirmary he was first given topical creams but then treated with steroids and had a catastrophic allergic reaction, a swelling of his whole body such that he could barely breathe. He had rapid extreme weight loss dropping from around 260 pounds down to around 180 in a month’s time. He was fatigued; he couldn’t sleep for all the itching; he was driven to scratch himself bloody at night. Without recognizing it himself he was losing coherence and couldn’t concentrate on his work.

Early morning on March 30, 2015 he collapsed in the prison infirmary, was rushed to a hospital and put into the ICU to treat diabetic shock and a glucose level of close to 600. He testified, “On April 2nd, after being in the ICU near death, and back at SCI Mahanoy I was in the infirmary unable to walk one step. I could not lift my arms, I was too weak to pull myself up off the floor.” Mumia’s prison medical records of blood tests taken on March 6, three weeks earlier showed his glucose level had spiked to deadly dangerous 419. This was ignored by the prison doctors.

In April Mumia’s skin condition worsened, with 70 percent of his body covered in thick scales from head to toe, his skin described alternatively as looking like elephant hide, or reptilian, and also with flaking skin and lesions on his legs too numerous to count. In court Mumia was asked to identify photos taken of him during visits on April 9 and April 26, 2015 with his wife Wadiya Jamal (and myself) showing the scabbing on his arms and the side head shot showing his scaling and peeling skin, a lesion over his ear and folds in his neck. Over the DOC’s objection that these photos were “inflammatory and prejudicial,” Judge Mariani admitted the photos into evidence.

Mumia further described that while taking a shower one morning in early May blisters erupted on his lower legs and he was taken to Geisinger Medical Center for five days of intensive treatment of his skin. He was also given a battery of tests to determine if he had various cancers or other diseases that might be the cause of his skin condition. The doctors and nurses said they had never seen anything like this before. Mumia was wrapped like a mummy every four hours with topical steroid creams and Vaseline for days. This was continued when Mumia returned to the infirmary at SCI Mahanoy.

The tests for cancer were negative. Geisinger doctors recommended in the discharge summary that Mumia should have follow-up gastroenterology consultation for Hepatitis-C treatment. Mumia was found to have an “irregular-appearing liver” and anemia of chronic disease.

Since April Mumia has been housed in the SCI Mahanoy infirmary. Since May he has Vaseline wraps several times a week as well as baths and for the past month phototherapy was added to ameliorate his skin condition. The DOC infectious disease specialist, Dr. Ramon Gadea, examined Mumia and his medical records in September. Mumia specifically asked him if he had reviewed Dr. Harris’ report that Mumia’s skin condition was likely secondary to his Hep-C. Dr. Gadea told Mumia he agreed with that diagnosis and would recommend Mumia be treated for his Hepatitis-C but he thought the prison would refuse because of costs.

On cross-examination DOC counsel Laura Neals tried to establish that Mumia is better now after all the skin treatment. He testified that although his skin condition is better than before, it still itches terribly and he has difficulty sleeping. He was asked by Neals why he had refused a test for Hep-C in 2011, to which he replied, “I never agreed to blood tests while I was on death row, because I didn’t trust the doctors.” It was in January 2012 when Mumia was being transferred from death row into general population that Mumia had an extensive blood work up and he showed positive for the Hep-C virus. On redirect, Mumia’s attorney, Bret Grote asked: “Would you accept Hepatitis-C treatment?” Mumia answered: “Yes, with it I can live; without it I may die.”

Dr. Suzanne Ross, a clinical psychologist and International Representative of International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Prof. Johanna Fernandez, of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, testified for Mumia providing more detail and emotion on Mumia’s drastic changes in physical appearance, energy and concentration over the past months while suffering from the severe skin condition and aftermath of the diabetic shock and hospitalizations.

Mumia’s doctor, Joseph Harris

Dr. Joseph Harris is a Board Certified Diplomate in Internal Medicine licensed in New York State. He has extensively treated Hep-C and HIV patients and spent a year as a Village Physician with Doctors Without Borders in Valle de Cauca Columbia. He also practiced in Rwanda.

Dr. Harris began serving as a consultant for Mumia’s attorneys in May 2015 and began monthly visits with Mumia in July. Because the DOC would not grant Dr. Harris any entry as a physician, not even to bring in a pen and pad to make notes, Dr. Harris visited with Mumia as a regular visitor in the visiting room. Nonetheless Dr. Harris was able to take a medical history and personally observe Mumia’s skin and portions of his lower extremities.

Dr. Harris testified that he had treated 100 people with active Hepatitis-C over a recent two-year period of time and the 31 people (including himself) for whom he was able to obtain the new antivirals were totally cured within the 12 week course of treatment. In depth and with clarity for laymen, Dr. Harris described the impact of the new antiviral Hepatitis-C drugs and how quickly the standard of care has changed. Just a year ago, the AASLD protocols still had a prioritization subset to its “treat everyone” recommendation. Mumia, he testified, even under last years’ protocol is in the category of most priority treatment needed because of the numerous secondary effects of Hepatitis-C that he is suffering, particularly the painful skin rash and the chronic anemia.

Mumia’s unique and severe skin condition was diagnosed by Dr. Harris as Necrolytic Acral Erythema (NAE) a rare condition that “typically involves a Black patient with a pruititic [itchy] and/or painful rash that has a minimal response to usual treatments. It is a cutaneous [skin] marker of Hepatitis-C.” He testified that Mumia’s skin condition was not simply eczema and/or psoriasis. Mumia had been treated with the “big guns” of dermatological treatment and his skin condition continues. So long as Mumia’s HCV continues to advance, his severe skin condition will come and go. The intensive skin treatments provided by the prison doctors have reduced but not resolved Mumia’s skin rash. He made it abundantly clear to all—treat Mumia’s Hepatitis-C and his skin rash will resolve.

Another critical point of Dr. Harris’ testimony was the medicine and science in determining whether a person has active chronic Hepatitis-C. A simple blood test determines whether the virus is present. The determining issue is whether there is a “viral load.” But the number—high or low—of that viral load is totally irrelevant as to how much liver damage the virus has caused.

The DOC Expert Witnesses

The DOC’s hired gun as their expert on Hepatitis-C was Dr. Jay Cowan, a Diplomate Board Certified Gastroenterologist, president of Correctional Medical Associates, a subsidiary of Corizon, a Tennessee company that provides medical services to prisons in many states and counties, including in New York and Pennsylvania. At the time he testified, Dr. Cowan was completing his tenure as Medical Director of Rikers Island prison. Corizon, as of December 31, 2015 was terminated as the medical provider for Rikers Island after investigation by the New York City Council. According to a report in CounterPunch, “Abu-Jamal Gets Federal Court Hearing Seeking Order to Treat His Hepatitis-C Infection,” by David Lindorff, December 19, 2015:

“During New York City Council hearings into Corizon’s contract with Rikers, which ultimately led to termination of the company’s contract, Cowan was accused of being callous towards the prison deaths attributable to his company’s neglect, incompetence and malpractice, and with being ‘evasive’ in responding to questioning by city council members.”

Unfortunately Judge Mariani stopped Mumia’s attorney Robert Boyle’s cross-examination of Dr. Cowan’s medical oversight of Rikers Island jail and work with Corizon.

Dr. Cowan testified he was retained by the Pennsylvania DOC to sit on its Hepatitis-C Treatment Review Committee, the existence of which was first disclosed by the DOC during the hearing. He was part of the group that on December 17 (the day before the hearing) denied Mumia the Hep-C treatment. Dr. Cowan is an “expert witness,” which means he frequently testified in court proceedings and is expert at not directly answering questions.

He spent considerable time testifying on the means to determine how much liver damage a person with HCV has. He simultaneously acknowledged that new American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the CDC Hepatitis-C guidelines established a standard of treatment that “everyone should be treated,” while insisting that the “correctional setting guideline” was the “same” as the “community setting,” with one caveat, “risk stratification.” In other words he supported the view that, in the “correctional setting” a prioritization that precluded treatment until someone is close to dying of liver disease. He was not familiar with all the CT scans and sonograms that showed damage and irregularities in Mumia’s liver.

Dr. Cowan disputed Dr. Harris’ diagnosis of NAE and any correlation between Mumia’s skin rash and his Hepatitis-C based in part on his false understanding that Mumia’s skin condition was “completely resolved.” He testified he had no information that the DOC’s infectious disease expert Dr. Gadea had recommended Hep-C treatment for Mumia on the basis that his skin rash might be secondary to his HCV.

Nonetheless Dr. Jay Cowan, the DOC Hepatitis-C expert was compelled to acknowledge that Mumia has Stage Two liver disease, with “significant probability of fibrosis.”

Dr. Schleicher, the DOC Board Certified Dermatologist, works for an outside medical contractor. He examined Mumia solely via “tele-med,” a form of video conferencing. Questioned by DOC counsel, Dr. Schleicher diagnosed Mumia’s skin condition as a “cross between psoriasis and eczema” with an unlikely connection to Mumia’s Hep-C. But on cross-examination he admitted he knew little about Hep-C, and stated he was unaware that Geisinger Medical Center recommended Hepatitis-C follow-up and treatment for Mumia in May 2015.

Additionally Dr. Schleicher testified that he, like Dr. Cowan, was not aware that the infectious disease specialist hired by the DOC, Dr. Ramon Gadea, stated there might be a correlation between Mumia’s skin rash and his Hep-C.

The DOC had suppressed its new protocol for Hepatitis-C treatment—and then wanted Mumia’s attorneys to agree to confidentiality

John Steinhart, R.N., the SCI Mahanoy Chief Medical Health Administrator, whose job description is to provide the medical oversight of prisoners in that institution, testified that he had no medical responsibility for Mumia’s care. Nonetheless it was Mr. Steinhart who was the DOC witness to first testify that Mumia was being treated and monitored in something called the “Liver Disease Chronic Care Clinic,” an entity previously unknown to Mumia, Mumia’s lawyers or Dr. Harris.

And it was John Steinhart who first testified to the existence of the new DOC Protocol for Hepatitis-C Treatment, issued in November. From the outset of this lawsuit Mumia and his lawyers had been told there was no existing DOC protocol, and hadn’t been for the past two years since the suspension of the prior means of treating Hepatitis-C with interferon. This issue of whether the DOC had treatment guidelines is “only” a core of the entire lawsuit—whether under the DOC’s Protocol Mumia would be treated for his active Hepatitis-C and if not, what was the DOC process for making that determination.

Moreover, the DOC at first argued against this Protocol being introduced into evidence as an open court record. They wanted Mumia and his attorneys to agree to keep the Protocol “confidential.” A specific reason for the secrecy was to prevent the lawyers representing the class action on behalf of all Pennsylvania prisoners with HCV from obtaining a copy,

This was not agreed to and the next day the Protocol was introduced into evidence and became a public document. Prison Radio made a request for the release of the Protocol under the Right to Know Law and that legal office made it clear the Protocol was not a confidential document.
The last act of the DOC—the false sworn declaration of Dr. Peter Noel

The DOC’s position in this lawsuit is medically and morally unconscionable. It is no surprise then that the DOC engaged in repeated misconduct in court beginning with presenting expert medical witnesses who professed lack of knowledge about key parts of Mumia’s medical record—records that contradicted or undermined their “expert opinions.” The withholding, attempting to suppress, and keep secret the new Hepatitis-C Treatment Protocol was yet more evidence of the DOC’s unscrupulousness.

And then came the testimony of Dr. Paul Noel, a Board Certified Family Practice doctor who is the DOC Chief of Clinical Services, the person who is in charge of the DOC medical services. He was the DOC’s last witness for the hearing. His importance to the DOC case cannot be understated.

Among other responsibilities, Dr. Noel coordinated with outside medical providers and generally worked to insure that the prison doctors followed specialists’ instructions. He held forth about Mumia’s extensive medical treatment under DOC care, his knowledge of the new AALDS guidelines to treat chronic Hep-C patients and his work on the new DOC Protocol, taking into account the guidelines developed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons as well as the Veterans Administration.

Dr. Noel estimated that of those Pennsylvania prisoners who are positive for the Hep-C virus, some 6-7000 likely have chronic Hepatitis-C and will be eventually evaluated under the new Protocol. He went through platelet counts and other factors the DOC will use to measure the seriousness of liver disease, using a test called the Halt-C to determine the onset of end stage liver disease.

Dr. Noel testified that Mumia’s Halt-C score is 63 percent, greater than the 60 percent level set by the DOC as the breakpoint of cirrhosis of the liver. However, Dr. Noel testified that the DOC treatment review committee determined that based on other factors, Mumia would not be considered for treatment.

Robert Boyle cross-examined Dr. Noel challenging the basis in which the DOC committee determined whether those with chronic Hep-C in general and Mumia in particular would or would not get the new antiviral medicines. When Boyle asked Dr. Noel to identify his sworn declaration, filed in opposition to Mumia’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, Dr. Noel immediately recoiled and testified that the signature on the document was his signature but it was NOT his statement.

The next minutes in the courtroom were unusual to say the least. DOC counsel, Laura Neal proceeded to “explain,” asserting that the false statement in the declaration submitted in Dr. Noel’s name was not really important and that Dr. Noel had OK’d it after a likely “clerical error” left a false paragraph being included in a sworn document filed in court. Judge Mariani cautioned Laura Neal to stop, advising her that she was at risk of impeaching her own witness.

Under further cross-examination by Robert Boyle, Dr. Noel testified that the declaration as submitted with his signature wrongly claims that a measure of the severity of liver disease is the viral load number. That is not medically or scientifically correct and Dr. Noel testified he had instructed that paragraph of his declaration be changed before submission to court. But it wasn’t. Moreover, as attorney Bret Grote brought forward, Laura Neal cited this misrepresentation of the measure of liver damage in Dr. Noel’s declaration as medical evidence in opposing Mumia’s motion for a preliminary injunction. U.S. Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick then denied the motion citing this falsehood as one of the medical reasons to deny Mumia treatment. The case then went to federal District Court Judge Mariani who proceeded to re-consider the motion and hold this evidentiary hearing.

In further cross-examination, Dr. Noel admitted that there were substantive errors in other parts of his declaration, including that Mumia had a normal ultrasound, which was not correct and falsely stating that the infectious disease specialist, Dr. Ramon Gadea had ruled out Hepatitis-C as a cause of Mumia’s skin rash.
DOC’s position of keeping prisoners from “running to court”

To conclude this legal report it is useful to recall the legal argument that took place before the evidentiary hearing began, which the DOC will likely pursue as an appeal issue. The DOC demanded the judge dismiss the lawsuit claiming that Mumia had not completed the prison grievance and appeals process because he hadn’t specifically asked for Hep-C treatment. In legal parlance this is “exhaustion of administrative remedies.” In response to the judge’s questions about putting “form over substance,” Laura Neal, a lawyer for the DOC insisted this was a “matter of principle”…”discouraging inmates from running into court.”

After an hour of legal argument and a two-hour break in proceedings for the judge to review the case law and facts he returned to court and read his ruling upholding the decision to go forward with the evidentiary hearing. In a legally and factually detailed ruling, Judge Mariani said, “in May of 2015 [the DOC had] all the information at [their] fingertips in terms of his health issues.” Judge Mariani ruled that it would have been impossible for Mumia to cite Hepatitis-C, as he had not yet received a proper diagnosis to determine his Hepatitis-C was the cause of his conditions. Judge Mariani told the DOC, “That’s a tortured view of what is required of an inmate in a grievance.”

We need a full mobilization to fight for Mumia’s life and his freedom

This was a “good day in court.” And Mumia has not had many of these. But just as Mumia wouldn’t have gotten into court on this case without international protest and publicity, medical treatment to keep Mumia alive and for those other thousands suffering from Hepatitis-C won’t be won relying on the courthouse or the state legislatures. While fighting hard in the courts, there can be no illusion in obtaining justice there. The state, its cops, its prisons are intent on silencing Mumia and what we are dealing with now is state execution by medical mistreatment. The state won’t stop; the only way Mumia will survive is if he is freed. It will take a broad international campaign that calls for agitation, publicity and demonstrations building the broadest possible support demanding Mumia’s freedom as a central demand.

In addition to town hall meetings, we need to obtain the concrete support of more organizations and build on the critical and successful work that’s been done so far to get resolutions from trade union organizations, such as the largest union in the UK, UNITE, San Francisco Labor Council, New York Metro Local 10 for the American Postal Workers Union, the United Steelworkers Union Local 8751 in Boston.

A postscript to acknowledge and thank all those who wrote reports on the hearing or whose public statements I have borrowed from. Although I was there in its entirety, writing a report like this is difficult without a transcript or having the use of a tape recorder. Any errors made are of course my own. —Rachel Wolkenstein

—December 30, 2015