Saturday, October 01, 2016

The Twain Unmet: BBC and Journalism

“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain

by Julian Vigo - CounterPunch

September 30, 2016

Earlier this year, it came to light how Hello! fabricated an interview with George Clooney. Hello! Group, owner of the magazine, claims that it bought the Clooney interview from the Famous agency which had been “culled together from a series of interviews that took place over a period of time.”

While the Hello! Group claims shock over the allegedly false representations made to them about this “interview,” this sort of hack journalism is nothing new to UK audiences.

Take this piece of journalism by the BBC entitled, “Woman Leaves Baby in London Cab.” This is an astonishing piece of fiction created by the BBC with the help of a cab driver looking to score some fast cash. Absent from the story is the mother’s voice, the person who allegedly “left” her child in the London cab, with the introductory notes to the story reading: “People leave all sorts of things in taxis – umbrellas, wallets, phones and even laptops. But one London cabbie had the shock of his life when he discovered something altogether more precious on his back seat: a baby girl.” Well that settles it! This must be what parents—especially mothers—do with their children. They just leave their children in taxis and at home scratch their heads wondering if they might not have forgotten something. The reason why I know what happened in the above story is that I am the mother in question whose voice was absent from every single media account.

Two years ago, I traveled to London with my child, who was then one and a half years of age. We stayed with a friend in Shoreditch and the first morning in London, I awoke unable to walk very well for about a half hour due to some sort of knee problem. I would learn later than I had a serious knee injury that suddenly manifested itself years later. As a result of this injury, I cancelled my meetings and took the opportunity to run some much needed errands for clothing for my daughter and myself. At the end of the day, picking up a taxi through Hailo in Covent Garden, I was met by a bulky Mercedes Vito taxi, the van update to the traditional London taxi. The problem with these vans, however, is that they are extremely inconvenient for the elderly, pushchairs, and the disabled, as the step up into the back of the van is extremely high. When the driver brought me to my friend’s flat in Shoreditch, because of this height and a carrying few small bags, I asked him if he could wait as I took out the bags first before my daughter since I did not wish to overdo any stress on my knee. My daughter was in a sling on my body, but when we stopped to leave, I sat her on the back seat for a moment as I paid the driver and said quite clearly, “Please wait while I unload a few bags and then return for my child.” His response: “No problem.”

Anyone who has small children knows that you would never place a year-and-a-half-year-old child on the sidewalk to leave them to stand as you turn around to get bags from a van. That would leave them in danger as they would walk off into traffic. Instead, I quickly put the three bags two metres away on the curb, turned around to get my daughter, and at that moment witnessed the taxi pulling away. I was so upset that I completely forgot about my injured knee and tried to run after the taxi, but physically could not. A woman passing by tried to run as well, but she was in high heels and also unable. I was screaming and quite worried about my child, upset that this driver had not waited, and I was even angrier that he left the curb with the door to his van completely open, only closing very slowly, as it was an automatic door, as he reached the next corner to turn right. A man came seconds later trying to calm me down saying that the cab was now stuck in a one-way system and would need at least ten minutes to get back to me. I tried to call Hailo to have them contact the driver but Hailo does not make it easy to contact them at all. I was stuck in an endless Google loop of looking for information and finding nothing more than a download link and review sites for Hailo and no other option outside of calling the police. After ten minutes passed and the driver did not return, I called the police. I remember very little of the twenty, twenty-five minute wait for my daughter aside from feeling frustrated and quite helpless with a dash of a tiny bit of hope which hinged upon Hailo having registered the cab I had taken. I was also worried this driver would brake and that she would fall forward or even worse.

The police came about ten minutes later and a few minutes after this, the cab arrived. The woman and man who assisted me were wonderful but overall I was quite devastated by the fact that a driver could act so carelessly. I told the police I did not wish to press charges against him as I just wanted to return home. The driver did not apologise and the police took the child from him and we entered my friend’s flat. A few minutes later, I received a phone call from the driver who asked if I was OK. I was concerned that he called me since he saw that I was quite upset. I later realised he was worried that I would file a report against him and he was attempting to discern how upset I was. I asked him to please leave me alone and I spent that afternoon with my child, still somewhat in shock.

A month later, learned that The Sun, more or less the UK’s version of National Enquirer, had run a version of what happened to us that day which more resembled fiction than fact. And from this first publication by The Sun, other media merely piggy-backed the piece, re-reporting what The Sun had reported from this driver’s fantasy of heroism. Articles like this were reprinted: “Mother Forgets Baby in Taxi.” And there were half a dozen more which I chased down one by one. The only difference is that The Daily Mail, ITV, The Sun, and various other media were more than happy to remove the defamatory articles once they learned that there was no factual basis to what this driver had told them. The only partially researched representation of this incident was that of The Daily Mail whose Amanda Williams at least interviewed the two people who were at the scene when this incident happened, one of whom told her that she had heard me ask the driver to wait as I pulled my bags out before taking my daughter. The more troubling question is why did no other media report this? Why was there no reporting done whatsoever, but merely cutting and pasting of a paid piece of yellow journalism?

I later learned that The Sun paid the driver for his story and ran the first article. They would not tell me how much they paid Ertan Rasit for the story, but they did, in the end, remove the piece. I would also learn from another journalist that each time this driver told his story, the details would grew and the story morphed a bit more each telling. She said that apparently he was in invited on a morning talk show and drove his cab onto the sound stage. And the stories about this incident were replete in the media two years ago with titles such as “Unwitting Mother Leaves One-Year-Old in Back of London Cab,” “Baby Left in Back of London Black Cab” where I “forgot” my baby, and even the more theatrically titled, “My Fare Baby!” The sheer level of misogyny about British media culture is as painfully present as are the media ethics of the day. Indeed, reading these pieces one could easily believe I grabbed my l grabbed my clutch and then uttered, “Hmmm, it feels like I am missing something….What could that be?” And then close-up à la Home Alone of me grabbing my face in horror that I had “forgotten” my child. The fact that every single UK media source failed to contact the mother in their story speaks volumes for the value of women—mothers or not—in British society. Apparently any man can do the job!

More troubling, however, is that from the list of media which ran this story, the BBC which featured a slash and burn piece starring the driver who invented the entire story, was the only media body which refused to take down the piece after making a request for removal based upon evidence presented. I told the BBC that none of what they covered their in the Radio 5 broadcast was factually true: from my “leaving” my child on the back seat, to the “fifteen-twenty-thirty people” applauding this taxi driver’s return, lauding him a “hero,” to my being “in hysterics” (I was relieved when he arrived). The hero complex this man clearly manifested in the BBC interview was buttressed by the BBC’s bad journalism as the BBC interlocutor-interviewer, by calling the cab driver a “hero”, did not think to contact me, an act entirely possible given that the police had my contact information. I was not considered relevant to the heart of the story that, paradoxically, involved my child and myself. Since my child could not speak and I could, one must wonder why the BBC chose to run a rather sorted piece of yellow journalism whose sole aim was to make a hero out of the male protagonist while obfuscating the voice of the female who could talk, while conveniently using my child as a prop. One must also wonder why the BBC which collects license fees from its users, is profiting off stories-for-sale without so much as engaging in fact-checking, engaging in secondary and primary source verifications, or doing anything remotely resembling journalism. One would seriously be better off reading UFO stories in the National Enquirer, sifting through financial blogs, or watching pet videos which are, at the very least, completely transparent in their message.

When I took this claim forward with the BBC, the response was as tragic as it was comic. Here is a snippet from their 13 April, 2015 correspondence to me:

The Committee concluded that:

• the reporting of the incident was duly accurate, given audience expectations of the programme, with its remit to cover, among other news, human interest stories.

• it was duly accurate to use the word “left”, when describing how the child came to be in the cab, and that this did not imply the complainant was to blame.

• there was no evidence to suggest that the driver deliberately “took” the child and the story was duly accurate in its description of the taxi driver retracing his steps.

• the reference to a cheering crowd was demonstrably part of the driver’s description of events.

• it agreed with the Editorial Complaints Unit’s Complaints Director that it would have given the audience “more information if other details had been included” but that the omission of such details did not result in a significantly misleading version of events.

• there was no evidence that the BBC had materially misled the audience so as to cause unfairness.

• at the time of broadcast, the BBC did not know the identity of the complainant, or the witness she mentioned in her complaint, and so had been unable to approach them for their version of events.

The BBC’s conclusions basically mean that:

• the BBC can misrepresent any story because the “audience expectations” are so low (as we now know they should be);

• that vocabulary ceases to have any meaning (where the BBC decides it should not) is a rather appalling and cynical exceptionalism to basic grammar and logic (to leave in this case is a transitive verb);

• that there was no evidence that the driver “deliberately ‘took’” my child did not form any part of my complaint about BBC journalistic ethics, but their allowing the one person who put my child in danger to posit himself as a hero does speak to the equal depravity of the BBC (for its lack of any investigation) and this driver, for his money-loving mythomania;

• that the less work a BBC reporter actually engages to investigate—or, in this case, not investigate whatsoever—that this fact alone abdicates the BBC from the responsibility of presenting any counter-information or facts, whereby the driver’s description becomes the only description and thus, not the BBC’s responsibility;

• that by omitting details (because nobody actually did any research towards this story with the BBC just funnelling this story from The Sun) there could only be the vast “omission of…details” which of course results in the omission of facts (this is just a basic tautology!) since the “significantly misleading version of events” began and ended when the BBC “borrowed” a story from a tabloid and then entertained one person retelling a fictionalisation of the original events;

• that by engaging in zero journalism or fact-checking, this is equated to “not materially misleading the audience so as to cause unfairness”; and

• that by doing nothing—quite literally nothing—the BBC will not only not know who the people are in their stories, but if the journalists close their eyes quite tightly, they might as well imagine where they are and hell, why not invent the entire story from the bottom up!

The entire exchange with the BBC went beyond the normal repetitive disregard for common sense and attentive dialogue that British bureaucratic structures largely encourage, thus enabling the robotic person signing off on these pieces of correspondence as largely lacking in empathy of any sort. The bottom line for the misrepresentations which were the entirely of this Radio 5 segment were simply couched in the language of low audience expectations (and after this debacle one can only why the expectations are not at rock bottom) and that the entire segment was basically willingly left un-investigated, allowed to stand as tabloid journalism, such that the BBC literally had no facts gathered (remember, because it interprets the absence of facts as the impossibility of researching them and it reinvents vocabulary to suit its bottom line journalism). Sadly, this organisation would no sooner admit to having committed an error than it would to conceding that my complaint had nothing to do with my being identified (or not). The point of my compliant was purely about the absence of facts— that the BBC had not bothered to do any research whatsoever—to include contacting and interviewing me, to incorporating actual research into locating the witnesses which remarkably The Daily Mail had both found and interviewed, and to not give a platform to a man who had received an undisclosed sum for his tale from a most unscrupulous of publications.

At the end of this traumatic experience for my child and me, I witnessed quite a bit how the news is entirely manufactured even on a simple level of he said/she said. When it comes to the BBC, this agency is more interested, as I wrote the Trust in my followup to them, in creating allegorical scenes of a man “rescuing” a child and “helping out a wayward mother” when precisely the inverse was true. Having muddled, in such an unprofessional manner, simple journalistic practices in search of sensationalist media (was this a filler on a show where someone didn’t show up we must wonder?) the BBC unwittingly reveals the underbelly of its own incompetency masked as “journalistic rigour” and an even greater problem of misogyny within the media in this country.

While Hello! entirely fabricated an entire interview with George Clooney, at least that publication allowed him words, albeit fake words Clooney never enunciated. At the end of the day, the good people at the BBC and Hello! have much more in common than they might have ever dreamed. Meanwhile, the people of the United Kingdom really do need to wonder why they are paying television license fees to an entity that does not respect the most common precepts of journalistic ethics while making the complaints process an ultimate drudgery given the pages and pages of online forms to fill out which serve as a thinly veiled structure to discourage the public from speaking truth to power.
Julian Vigo is a scholar, film-maker and human rights consultant. Her latest book is Earthquake in Haiti: The Pornography of Poverty and the Politics of Development (2015). She can be reached at:
More articles by:Julian Vigo

Friday, September 30, 2016

Donald and Comrade Castro: A Desparate Return to Goldwater Tactics for Clinton Camp

Castroturf: Crude Red-Baiting Hides True Trump Danger  

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

30 September 2016  

For many years, the iron-clad American embargo of Cuba was decried by liberals and progressives as counterproductive and inhumane. People who broke the embargo or tried to get around it -- like Ry Cooder with the wonderful Buena Vista Social Club project -- were hailed as heroes by liberals.


But now it's being treated by those same liberals (and the media) as some kind of sacred principle that should never have been breached in any way -- because Donald Trump once spent some money there, indirectly exploring business opportunities at a time when there was much talk in Washington (among liberal circles & the Clinton Administration) of normalizing relations. (Of course, Trump, huckstering hypocrite that he is, was also publicly denouncing normalization at the same time he was seeing if he could profit from it.)

Now the Clinton camp says Trump was going "against the national interest" by even remotely dealing with Cuba. So the embargo -- long condemned by liberals, and actually lifted by progressive champion Obama -- was in "the national interest" after all, it seems, and anyone who circumvented it in the slightest way is some kind of commie traitor. (Hope Ry is heading for the border; I'll bet he spent a little money while he was in Cuba way back when. Wait till Newsweek gets going on him!)

Trump’s manifest corruption and criminal associations have been plain for years, decades. Whole books — very thorough books with copious amounts of evidence — have been written about it. But the media — and, strangely enough, the Clinton camp — have almost totally ignored all this. Why? Because most of his corruption is bound up too closely with the power structure at large? (He’s a paid-up member of the elite, after all.) Is it the fear that if you pull too hard on some of those threads, you never know who might come out, and who the dirt might stain? Who knows? But instead of a powerful, full-blown focus on Trump’s long, sordid, well-documented corruption, we get this kind of piddly shit — Trump sent a guy to Cuba one time, OMG! — which is blown up into truly ludicrous McCarthyite Red Scare goonery.

This seems to be the main plank of the Clinton campaign. “The Russians are coming! Commies! Castro! And Trump’s one of them! Aiiieee!” None of this hurts Trump with those who are supporting him, or thinking about it. He is running pretty openly as a fascistic authoritarian (which they like, apparently); they know he’s not a “commie” or a Russian agent. In any case, the positions Trump has taken — the racism, the “law and order” calls for unleashing the police on minorities, the obsession that other countries “are laughing at us” and somehow cheating us on trade deals, etc. — are all things he has been talking about for years, long before the arrival of Putin; indeed, even before the fall of the Soviet Union. By focusing on Putin as the dark mastermind of the Trump campaign, Clinton is actually obscuring the very real danger that Trump poses all by himself with his long-held positions. The idea that this 70-year-old public figure who’s been babbling fascist tropes for decades is somehow a puppet of the Russians just makes the Clinton campaign look stupid.

The Clinton campaign’s simplistic, throwback red-baiting is both politically counterproductive — and genuinely dangerous for the future. For one thing, she is undermining her own legitimacy if she wins the election; after all, we’re constantly told that Putin “is putting the integrity of our election” at risk with his unstoppable, all-pervasive hacking. So if she wins, does that mean Putin wanted her to? The defeated Trumpists could easily make that claim, using her campaign’s own cartoonish version of an all-powerful Putin against her.

But more than that, Clinton’s crude, bellicose McCarthyite stance will make it almost impossible to deal with Russia in any kind of thoughtful, productive way. Instead, at every turn, she reinforces Putin’s own narrative: that Russia needs his strong hand because it’s under constant, imminent threat from a Russophobic America. Liberal reforms will have to wait as the country girds to fight for its very existence. And to support this “strong hand,” he turns to the most bellicose and nationalistic forces in the country. If, as the New York Times tells us this week, echoing the Clinton line, that Russia is now “an outlaw state,” then how can there possibly be any kind of productive, effective negotiations with Moscow? There is only one way to deal with nations condemned as “outlaw states” by the Washington power structure: they must be taken down, one way or another, like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Serbia, Syria. How can we ever negotiate in good faith with an outlaw dictator who is subverting our political process and trying to take over the world?

The stark and stupid terms of Clinton’s retro Red-bashing is making open conflict with Russia an ever-increasing possibility. In the long-term, this would be a disaster of unimaginable horror. In the short-term, it only strengthens Putin at home, bolstering repression and authoritarian control, while doing absolutely nothing to help untangle the many thorny issues between Russia and West.

Yet here we are. The Cuban Embargo was once a target of liberal opprobrium; now it’s a “national interest” that should have never been breached or challenged. Four legs good, two legs better.

OPEC Back? Algiers Deal Puts Bottom Limit on Oil Price

OPEC Has Just Put A Floor Under Oil Prices

Inside Opportunities with Martin Tillier - Oil

September 30, 2016

The stunning news of a tentative OPEC agreement out of Algiers caught just about every trader flat-footed.

Speculative short positions in oil had been growing, and oil markets and oil stocks rallied spectacularly on the news to rip the guts out of any trader who’d bet on nothing happening at this meeting, as had been the case the four previous times.
Organization of Petroleum Producing 
Countries (OPEC) Secretary General 
Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo (R)
 There’s a lot to unpack here, but first things first: I wouldn’t be fading this move – OPEC is back.

We haven’t been short names in the energy space, quite the opposite – but we had been looking for a retreat in some U.S. shale names for the opportunity to add to core positions. That opportunity is gone. The OPEC agreement, despite its many, many holes, puts a floor under oil I don’t think will ever again be breached.

Here’s a mistake I will never make again, ever since my first days on the floor trading on the NYMEX: Never doubt the words of the Saudis. Every time in my long career that the Saudi oil minister signaled a price shift, whether up or down, they’ve made it happen. I misread a Saudi signal one time, however, in the fall of 2014, when they indicated their desire to pump freely and fight for market share. I lost $15 dollars a barrel in crude price before I remembered what I never should have forgotten and got to the other side of the trade – and I won’t be fooled ever again.

But first, let’s look. The agreement calls for a modest 750K barrel a day reduction in OPEC output, and does not seem to limit Iran, nor does it mention Russian cooperation. On the face of it, Saudi Arabia could easily cut ¾ million b/d and be done with it, but that wouldn’t make any sense for the Saudis – I can’t believe they’d agree to be entirely alone.

But they might agree to be mostly alone: Their hemorrhage of reserve assets, at an average pace of more than $10b a month since late 2014, has clearly caused a moderate panic:

Yes, the Saudis had the strategy of bleeding the U.S. shale industry white, forcing U.S. producers to go bankrupt and stop producing, and putting the global swing barrel oil threat and responsibility back in the hands of the Saudis.

You’d have to say now that the U.S. shale industry faced this rifle barrel without flinching. With this OPEC announcement, they can declare at least a pyrrhic victory. Through stringent cash control, quick refinancing and secondaries, efficiency gains and concentration on core drilling, the strongest shale producers have continued to survive, if not thrive. It is Saudis that blinked.

The U.S. players that will benefit the most, and are rallying the most strongly off of this news are those with ready acreage that breaks even above $50 a barrel – companies that haven’t taken the foot off the gas pedal much during this downturn, like Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD), Parsley Energy (PE) and Continental Resources (CLR). I won’t chase them here, as they’ve all caught short sellers in the headlights that are scrambling to cover and magnifying their pop, but I will target them as the dust clears. I believe the details of this OPEC agreement, yet to be worked out in November, should give the markets enough pause to lose some interest in these names during October.

And looking at the very few details of the agreement that have been announced, there remain plenty of questions: Who else besides the Saudis will participate? How will the cartel balance the coming production increases from Libya and Iraq? After a long history of disregarding quotas, who’s to believe they can be enforced now? Can the Saudis and Iranians really agree upon anything, considering their overall confrontational stance and real time confrontations in Syria and Yemen?

I say forget all that – I learned something in 1983, my first year on the floor, that I forgot for a moment in 2014. I won’t make the same mistake again.

Mistrust Within OPEC Makes For A Sour Deal

Executive Report with ISA Intel -

Yesterday, after a lot of talk and much speculation the leaders of OPEC emerged from an unofficial meeting at the Algiers energy summit and shocked a lot of people, not least of all your humble correspondent, by announcing a deal. The oil markets reacted as you might expect when conventional wisdom is defied, i.e. sharply. WTI jumped up around 7 percent immediately the news came out. Overnight, though, futures came off the highs and, in volatile markets yesterday, there was little follow through to higher levels. WTI eventually settled less than a dollar higher than yesterday, and is still in a long term downward trend. Traders, it seems, were asking themselves the questions, is this a real deal, and if so what effect will it have?

Call me a cynic, but when OPEC’s Secretary General, Mohammad Barkindo came out with a big smile and his thumbs up it reminded me too much of Howard Macmillan returning from a meeting with Hitler and declaring “Peace in our time!”…just before the Nazis invaded Poland. Barkindo announced that OPEC had reached a great deal, but then as details emerged some began to question that. They have, in principle, come to an agreement to cut overall production by cartel members from 33.2 million barrels a day in August to 32.5 million after November. That represents a roughly 2 percent cut from all time record levels that have produced a huge global glut of crude.

That doesn’t sound like too big a deal, but those bullish on oil from here will no doubt point out that people like me thought there was little chance of any deal, so this at least proves that OPEC still has teeth. Well…not really. You see, what was missing from this agreement was the most important part, who will actually cut and by how much. Of course everybody agreed to a cut in principle, probably all believing that they could get away with forcing others to actually reduce production. The hard part of the agreement will not even get talked about until the scheduled OPEC meeting on November 30th, yet the first shot in that debate has already been fired. Yesterday Iraq started to question the production levels off of which the cuts were based. Given that getting Iran and Saudi Arabia to agree was always going to be the stumbling block here that is not a good sign.

Let us for a moment, though, assume that those two nations, who are currently fighting proxy wars in Yemen and Syria, do reach an agreement, and peace and goodwill breaks out all over the Middle East. That would still not be the end of the story. Back in February, then Saudi Oil Minister, Ali Al-Naimi declared that cuts wouldn’t work, as history showed that nobody stuck to them. That comment may have contributed to Al-Naimi losing his job, but if so that wouldn’t make him the first person ever punished for speaking an uncomfortable, inconvenient truth. The lingering distrust between Iran and Saudi Arabia makes adherence to any agreement fairly unlikely.

The answer to the question of deal or no deal, then, seems to be “no deal”. What Barkindo announced with such joy on Wednesday is essentially an agreement to talk about an agreement. Without basic details, and with mistrust already surfacing two months before the scheduled meeting, the Secretary General’s optimism look, to say the least, somewhat premature.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Reason to Doubt New MH-17 Report

Troubling Gaps in the New MH-17 Report

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

September 28, 2016

The key conclusion of the Dutch-led criminal inquiry implicating Russia in the 2014 shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 relied heavily on cryptic telephone intercepts that were supplied by the Ukrainian intelligence service and were given incriminating meaning not clearly supported by the words.

The investigators also seemed to ignore other intercepts that conflicted with their conclusions, including one conversation that appeared to be referring to a Ukrainian convoy, not one commanded by ethnic Russian rebels, that was closing in on the Luhansk airport, placing Ukrainian troops deep inside rebel territory.

That conversation was among five that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) released in seeking the public’s help in identifying persons of interest in the MH-17 shootdown. The callers seemed to discussing information from Moscow regarding the movement of a convoy, but they describe it as a “Ukrops” or Ukrainian troop convoy.

“B: I am saying about the confirmation of the convoy that is going in the direction of the airport… Moscow/Moskva has confirmed… they see it. Is it err… whatsit… Ukrops convoy?

“A: The convoy that is going in the direction of the airport? Yes.

“B: And how did it go through?

“A: Most likely through Sabovka,” which the JIT interprets to be the town of Sabivka, about five miles west of Luhansk and about 92 miles northeast of Donetsk, the two rebel capitals. The Luhansk airport is about 20 miles south of the city center.

In other words, if this intercept from JIT is correct, the Ukrainian military was operating near the highway routes that the alleged Russian Buk missile battery would have been using. The conversation then picks up, referring to a possible battle for the airport:

“B: So, the convoy was confirmed. Where the convoy can be from?

“C: I don’t know where it is going from. It’s from west, isn’t it?

“B: It’s somehow going from west. From west. Fucking one and a half kilometres from the airdrome.

“C: From the airdrome?

“B: Yes.

“C: It can’t be one and a half kilometres from the airdrome because there is a populated locality there, there are positions there. Probably… I don’t know. Will now try to do something. … I think we will be receiving information soon… our groups have left.

“B: Uh-huh.

“C: Ok. Well, if they come in the airport, will fight at the airport. What else can we do?

“B: Ok. I got you.”

Although it’s difficult to know precisely what these callers are discussing, the conversation seems to refer to a potential battle for an airport, not the deployment of a Buk missile system.

Also, if Ukrainian forces had penetrated that deep into rebel territory, it is difficult to exclude that a Ukrainian Buk battery might have traveled along the southerly route H-21, which skirts Donetsk and then heads east toward the JIT’s claimed firing site in a field near the town of Pervomaiskyi. H-21 then bends north toward Luhansk airport and the city of Luhansk.

The Ukrainian Buks

The JIT video report on the MH-17 case, which was released on Wednesday, also didn’t address questions about the location of several Ukrainian Buk missile batteries that Dutch (i.e. NATO) intelligence placed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, the day that MH-17 was shot down. A finding from the Dutch intelligence service, MIVD, released last October, said the only high-powered anti-aircraft missile systems in eastern Ukraine at that time, capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet and killing all 298 people onboard, belonged to the Ukrainian military, not the rebels.

Although the location of the Ukrainian Buk systems would seem to be crucial to the investigation — at least in eliminating other suspects — JIT operates under an agreement with the Ukrainian government that lets it veto the release of information. Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service, which represented the Kiev government in the JIT, also has among its official responsibilities the protection of secret information that could be damaging to Ukraine.

Regarding JIT’s claim that the Buk missile system crossed over from Russian territory, the video report states: “All telecom data and intercepted telephone calls that have been examined by the investigation team demonstrates that the Buk/TELAR (the self-contained operating system) was brought into Ukraine from the Russian Federation.”

But as evidence the JIT cites one phone intercept, which – according to the JIT’s translation – does not use the word Buk though referencing a piece of equipment that can move on its own or be transported by truck. That could be a Buk system but could apply to many other weapons systems as well.

In the intercepted call, one speaker said, “it crossed, crossed the line.” The narrator of the JIT video report then adds, “The Buk/TELAR crossed the line, in other words, it passed the border.” But there are two assumptions here: that the unidentified weapon is a Buk and that the “line” means border. That could be the case but other interpretations are possible.

Another key point, the disputed location of the so-called “getaway” video of a Buk missile system missing one missile, is simply asserted as fact without an explanation as to how the JIT reached its conclusion placing the location near Luhansk.

While the Western mainstream media has given the JIT great credibility, the JIT itself has acknowledged a dependency on Ukraine’s SBU, which shaped the inquiry by supplying its selection of phone intercepts.

Yet, the SBU is far from a neutral party in the investigation, nor does it have clean hands regarding the Ukrainian civil war that followed a U.S.-backed putsch ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 22, 2014, and sparking an uprising among ethnic Russian Ukrainians who represented Yanukovych’s political base in the east and south.

Since then, the SBU has been on the front lines of crushing the rebellion by using controversial tactics. In late June 2016, the United Nation’s Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic accused the SBU of frustrating U.N. investigations into its alleged role in torture and other war crimes.

Simonovic criticized the SBU for “not always providing access to all places where detainees may be kept. … OHCHR (the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights) also continues to receive accounts about torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary and incommunicado detention by the SBU, especially in the conflict zone.

“Torture and threats to members of the families, including sexual threats, are never justifiable, and perpetrators will be held to account sooner or later. … War crimes, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of human rights cannot be the subject of an amnesty.”

Yet, the SBU strongly influenced the direction of the JIT, which included Ukraine along with the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Malaysia. The JIT agreement gave Ukraine veto power over what would be released – even though Ukrainian military units were among the logical suspects in the MH-17 case,

Relying on Ukrainian Intelligence

Earlier this year, an internal report describing the JIT operation revealed how dependent the investigators had become on information provided by the SBU. According to the report, the SBU helped shape the MH-17 investigation by supplying a selection of phone intercepts and other material that would presumably not include sensitive secrets that would implicate the SBU’s political overseers in Ukraine. But the JIT seemed oblivious to this conflict of interest, saying:

“Since the first week of September 2014, investigating officers from The Netherlands and Australia have worked here [in Kiev]. They work in close cooperation here with the Security and Investigation Service of the Ukraine (SBU). Immediately after the crash, the SBU provided access to large numbers of tapped telephone conversations and other data. …

“At first rather formal, cooperation with the SBU became more and more flexible. ‘In particular because of the data analysis, we were able to prove our added value’, says [Dutch police official Gert] Van Doorn. ‘Since then, we notice in all kinds of ways that they deal with us in an open way. They share their questions with us and think along as much as they can.’”

The internal JIT report continued:

“With the tapped telephone conversations from SBU, there are millions of printed lines with metadata, for example, about the cell tower used, the duration of the call and the corresponding telephone numbers. The investigating officers sort out this data and connect it to validate the reliability of the material. …

“By now, the investigators are certain about the reliability of the material. ‘After intensive investigation, the material seems to be very sound’, says Van Doorn, ‘that also contributed to the mutual trust.’”

Another concern about how the SBU could manipulate the JIT investigation is that the long assignments of investigators in Kiev over a period of more than two years could create compromising situations. Kiev has a reputation as a European hotbed for prostitution and sex tourism, and there’s the possibility of other human relationships developing between Australian and Dutch investigators and Ukrainian intelligence officers.

According to the JIT report, four investigating officers from Australia are stationed in Kiev on three-month rotations while Dutch police rotate in two teams of about five people each for a period of a “fortnight,” or two weeks.

The relative isolation of the Australian investigators further adds to their dependence on their Ukrainian hosts. According to the report, “The Australian investigators find themselves a 26 hour flight away from their home country and have to deal with a large time difference. ‘For us Australians, it is more difficult to get into contact with our home base, which is why our operation is quite isolated in Kiev’, says [Andrew] Donoghoe,” a senior investigating officer from the Australian Federal Police.

The SBU’s assistance, however, did not lead to a rapid resolution of the MH-17 mystery, now more than two years old. The Dutch Safety Board report last October placed the spot of the suspected missile launch within a 320-square-kilometer area, including both government and rebel positions.

According to the Dutch intelligence service finding also released last October, the only anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, capable of hitting a plane flying at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian military.

There’s also the dog-not-barking mystery of the curious silence from the U.S. intelligence community. Although Secretary of State John Kerry claimed to know the firing location immediately after the shootdown, the U.S. government went silent after CIA analysts had time to evaluate U.S. satellite, electronic and other intelligence data.

A source who was briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts told me that they saw the attack as a rogue Ukrainian operation involving a hard-line oligarch with the possible motive of shooting down Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official plane returning from South America that day, with similar markings as MH-17. But I have been unable to determine if that assessment represented a dissident or consensus view inside the U.S. intelligence community.

For its part, the Russian government has denied supplying the eastern Ukrainian rebels with a Buk system although the rebels did possess shorter-range, shoulder-fired MANPADs.

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dutch Joint Investigation Team Announces MH17 Jetliner Downing Findings (Spoiler: Putin Did It!)


by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

September 28, 2016

Moscow - At a press conference of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in The Hague today, police, prosecutors and intelligence agents from The Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine have revealed that they have found evidence from a freshly identified Ukrainian “mobile radar”, from secret Ukrainian air traffic controller tapes, and from secret US satellite imagery on the destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

The conclusion reported by JIT is that a BUK missile caused the destruction of the aircraft; that it was brought into Ukraine from Russia and removed to Russia after launch; that it was fired from a patch of farmland near Snizhne, east of the approaching MH17; and that “one hundred persons can be linked” to the movement and operation of the BUK system.

The JIT also announced that no identifications of these people have been made, and that at present there are no “official suspects” .

“We need a clear impression of the chain of command”, declared Fred Westerbeke, the principal Dutch member of the investigation and JIT spokesman. “We appeal for cooperative witnesses”, he said, adding “I can’t tell you how long this investigation will take.” According to the JIT presentation from Westerbeke and a Dutch police officer, Wilbert Paulissen , further investigation is expected to last until at least January 2018.

Westerbeke claimed his group, currently numbering “nearly one hundred”, is continuing to prepare “legal and convincing evidence meeting a very high standard”.

Lawyers and analysts observing the presentation have expressed doubt that the secret Ukrainian and American government evidence can be admissible in court. On questioning by a sceptical Dutch journalist, Westerbeke acknowledged that all the telephone intercepts and wiretaps reported as evidence of Russian involvement in the reported missile operation originated from the Ukrainian secret service. Evidence of the missile movement, ground launch, and smoke trail from social media, photographs and videotapes, and purported witnesses presented at today’s JIT session have all appeared publicly before; much of it already discredited as fakes.

A text of the JIT presentation can be read here.

The live broadcast tape of the press conference is accessible here.

In an unusual disclosure, the JIT revealed it has confirmed only two pieces of warhead shrapnel from a BUK missile warhead in the MH17, one found in a body in the cockpit, and one in the cockpit frame. Until now, the Dutch Safety Board and the JIT have been claiming there were four pieces of shrapnel to substantiate the alleged BUK missile firing, three of them of a bow-tie or butterfly shape, and one of square shape. For more details, read this.

Left to right at today’s JIT briefing: Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke; 
 Dutch police investigator, Wilbert Paulissen; unnamed Belgian state representative 
at JIT whose identity the JIT and Belgian authorities continue to keep secret.

The JIT acknowledged today that it was aware of additional Russian radar and missile detonation evidence, but that it had not yet had time to receive it or investigate it. According to Paulissen, “the absence of evidence [of the Buk missile system in the Russian material] does not prove it was not there.”

Westerbeke added: “The quantity of the other evidence we have doesn’t lead us to another conclusion.” Westerbeke also claimed that the unreceived and uninvestigated evidence from Moscow proves the JIT’s case that there was no aircraft attack on the MH17. “Even the Russian Federation has concluded,” Westerbeke said, “that no aircraft could have shot down [MH17]”.

He was referring to the public briefing by the Russian Defence Ministry on Monday. The presentation then of what was described as new radar evidence turns out, Russian military sources now say, to have been of a civil radar source, with insufficient technical capacity to match the Russian military radar evidence presented by the Ministry two years ago, at a press briefing on July 21, 2014. For the transcript and video of that presentation, click here. For a comparison of the Russian government briefing, and the US government briefing which followed a day later, read this.

The apparent contradictions between the two Russian radar sources has been marked as a propaganda victory by Russian critics at NATO. The presentation of the civil radar evidence “ was a rather bad variant,” a Russian military source says. “An example of inconsistency, even a mistake.”


Here is the full Russian briefing, with English voice-over translation.

The interpreter failed to identify Air Force General Andrei Koban’s name correctly

Left to right: Maj-Gen Igor Konashenkov, Defence Ministry spokesman; 
Viktor Meshcheryakov, deputy design chief, Lianozovsky Electromechanical Plant; 
Maj-Gen Andrei Koban, head of radio-technical forces of the Russian Air Force

Here is the Google map of the area covered by the radar images and interpretations, with the location of the Utyos-T station at Ust-Donetsk marked in red:


 According to Meshcheryakov’s presentation, there are a series of radar images for about fifteen minutes before MH17 reached the point of attack and began to break up in the air. Taking into account the 10-second delays between successive radar images, this is the Utyos-T map of the last 60 seconds before MH17’s destruction, apparently showing civilian flight #4722, behind MH17 and 600 metres higher at 10,670m, flying at the slightly slower speed of 888 km/h:

– minute 9:10

After the explosive detonation, this is the Utyos-T image of the cockpit and other parts of the MH17 separating from the main fuselage:

– minute 10:07

“These data tell us,” concluded Meshcheryakov, “that the Ust-Donetsk radar station did not see any objects near the Boeing Flight MH17 which could become the reason for its disintegration”. He said — but he didn’t illustrate with radar images — that the area of the MH17’s flight path was monitored for “several minutes” after the aircraft’s destruction.

General Koban repeated the conclusion with data for eight minutes after detonation: “No aerial objects approached the aircraft [MH17] from the east before its disintegration…We need to point out that the equipment of the Russian radar station does not allow us to see whether any aerial projectiles had been launched at Boeing from the south or from the west” (tape minute. 15:26).

The apparent contradiction between the Utyos-T radar evidence, as presented by Meshcheryakov and Koban, and the earlier, two-year old Defence Ministry presentation can be seen from this diagram of the radar images as presented, then interpreted by Colonel-General A.V.Kartapolov. At the time Kartapolov was Deputy Chief of the General Staff and one rank lower. For a US Army assessment that Kartapolov mimics American war-fighting concepts, read page 5 of this.

Kartapolov explained the meaning of this diagram: “At that time there were 3 civilian aircrafts:
Flight from Copenhagen to Singapore at 17.17; Flight from Paris to Taipei at 17.24; Flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur [MH17]. Besides it, Russian system of air control detected the Ukrainian Air Force aircraft, purposed [sic] Su-25, moving upwards toward to the Malaysian Boeing-777. The distance between aircrafts was 3-5 kilometers.”

He went on: “Su-25 can gain an altitude of 10000 meters for a short time. It is armed with air-to-air missile R-60 able to lock-on and destroy target at a distance of 12 kilometers, and destroy it definitely at a distance of 5 kilometers.” Kartapolov did not say the Russians had evidence that the Su-25 had fired either missiles or cannon at MH17. Instead, he asked the question: “What was the mission of the combat aircraft on the airway of civilian aircrafts almost at the same time and same altitude with the civilian craft? We want to have this question answered.”

He added:

“The video of the Rostov Aerial Center of the Joint Air Traffic Management System can corroborate the information. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force Lieutenant-General Igor Makushev will comment the video.”

Makushev did exactly that, again speaking on July 21, 2014. Note that Makushev explained why the military intruder had not been picked up by Russian radars until after it climbed above 5,000 metres. “All the three aircraft have been steadily monitored by the three radar stations of the air traffic control of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Boeing-777 is moving towards the Russian Federation state boundary and is to cross it in the point of «TONAK». An air traffic control officer has been controlling the aircraft flight and keeps on enquiring its flight variables to compare them with the given ones. At 17.20 P.M. at the distance of 51 kilometers from the Russian Federation state boundary and the azimuth of 300 degrees the aircraft started to lose its speed obstructively which is quite distinctively to be seen on the table of the aircraft characteristics.”

“At 17.21 35 seconds P.M. with the aircraft speed of 200 km/h at the point of the Boeing crash there is a new mark of the aircraft to be seen. The aircraft was steadily monitored by radar stations of Ust-Donetsk and Butirinskoe during 4 minutes period. Air control officer having enquired the characteristics of newly appeared aircraft couldn’t possibly get them because it is in all likelihood that the aircraft had no secondary deduction system amounted on it, which is put typically for military aircraft. The early detection of this aircraft appeared to be quite impossible because the air situation control is usually performed by radars working in a standby mode which detection possibilities at the given distance are over 5000 m altitude.”

Let’s repeat: “The aircraft was steadily monitored by radar stations of Ust-Donetsk and Butirinskoe during 4 minutes period.” In retrospect, Makushev implied that the Ust-Donetsk station, where the Utyos-T radar was based, detected the Ukrainian military aircraft.

How was it possible to see on radar screen shots presented on July 21, 2014 when the radar screen shots presented this week were apparently empty of the smoking-gun evidence? Dutch, American and NATO critics of Russian veracity claim the first images were fabrications, and the most recent ones expose the Defence Ministry contradicting itself, and lying.

A Russian propagandist, Alexander Mercouris, claims: “During what was apparently a joint presentation by the Russian missile manufacturer Almaz Antey and the Russian military in Moscow, raw radar data was apparently released which allegedly disproves Ukrainian claims that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile launched from militia controlled territory, and specifically from the town of Snizhnoe from where the Ukrainians claim the BUK missile was launched. The data thereby supposedly confirms that only the Ukrainians could have shot down MH-17… even if it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that the new data is genuine, I doubt that will be enough to convince some people.”

A Dutch propagandist, Robert van de Roer, quoted by an English one, claims:

“Creating contradictions/confusion is part of Russian propaganda, from #mh17 to Aleppo’s food convoy. The diplomatic West has no answer yet.” 

A Swedish propagandist, Carl Bildt, claims:

“Today Russia Defence Ministry acknowledge it lied before about MH17. But doesn’t mean they are coming clean now.”

The JIT briefing in The Netherlands today did not respond to the Utyos-T data. “They have not yet been handed over and not investigated yet”, said the Dutch police presenter Paulissen. He dismissed the Russian Defence Ministry claim that no missile firing had been detected from the Snizhne area. That, said Paulissen, “is incorrect.” According to Westerbeke, “we are not making any statements about Russia as a country or about Russians.”

Reconsidering this week’s Russian Defence Ministry presentation of the Utyos-T evidence, here is a sectioned image of the westward sector, with the radar station at the extreme lower right corner:

– minute 3:00

The three yellow lines from upper left to right are the trajectories of the three civilian aircraft frying west to east; they include MH17, which is marked as #0143.

According to the presentations by Meshcheryakov and Koban, the range of the Utyos-T radar system was between 360 and 400 kms for primary and secondary identification. That meant coverage of Ukraine Army-occupied areas up to 100 kms west of Donetsk city. When MH17 was first detected by the secondary radar locator, Meshcheryakov said it was at a range of 404 kms west of the station at 1304 local time. Then at 1307 it was picked up by the primary radar locator. It was measured as flying at 906km/h. The evidence shows that it continued on course, flying intact for another 15 minutes at that speed. That means it made about 227 kms from west to east. This also means that for that period of time, the Utyos-T data clearly show a range west of the destruction point of at least 227 kms up to 404 kms.

Also shown on the radar map screen are the trajectories of civilian flights #4722 flying north of MH17, and #1775 flying northwest-southeast, crossing the MH17’s flight path. The second is reported by Meshcheryakov to have been 30 kms from MH17 in the last minutes. How was it possible for Utyos-T to detect and map these trajectories west and south before and during the MH17 flight, if the generals now claim that the system lacked range or capability to detect objects west or south in the last minutes? How was it possible for the Utyos-T radar tracking to miss what Gen Kartapolov’s presentation revealed on July 21, 2014? Is it possible that the military intruder, identified as an Su-25, could remain under the Utyos-T radar, and then at detectable height and range be invisible? Even if the July 21, 2014, radar evidence purports to be for minutes after the aircraft detonation, what can explain invisibility for minutes beforehand?

Finally, if all one had for evidence from the Russian side was the Utyos-T radar data, what can have caused the aircraft’s destruction without being visible for 15 minutes before that happened?

Independent Dutch and German analysts who have been investigating the MH17 case since it began do not reply on the record. A German analyst, who does not wish to be identified, comments: “My point of view is: Russia doesn’t answer to Western propaganda. The Bellingcats of the world distorted the MoD press conference from July 21,2014 by saying Moscow suggested that an SU-25 shot down MH17. The official Moscow never claimed it… of course Ukraine military planes were in the air that day. Most probably some of them under 5 km, below the Russian radar (that’s why inhabitants could see them under the layer of clouds). With the exception of this one plane, which rose above 5 km 1.35 minutes after the shooting. At the press conference today [September 26, 2016] they said that they show ‘random’ primary radar reflections of the disintegration of MH17, but not the surveillance after this, which continued for at least 4 minutes. So they held back less valuable material. Less valuable in Moscow’s eyes.”

On July 21, 2014, following the Defence Ministry presentation in Moscow, the US State Department spokesman, Marie Harf (pictured below), refused to respond directly. “I haven’t seen any of that,” she said.

“Our assessment [is] that this was an SA-11 fired from Russian-backed, separatist-controlled territory; that we know – we saw in social media afterwards, we saw videos, we saw photos of the pro-Russian separatists bragging about shooting down an aircraft that then they then – they then – they then – excuse me – took down once it became clear that it may have been a passenger airline. There is a preponderance of evidence at this point both sort of out there in the public domain and also from our information that points to the fact that there was a SA-11 launched from separatist-controlled territory.”

This Monday, US reporters did not ask, and there was no response from the State Department to the new Defence Ministry presentation.

A credible Russian military source explains the discrepancy between the radar imagery and evidence two years apart.

“MinDef have their own radar systems which are more sensitive for spotting high-speed flying objects like missiles or aircraft. Utyos-T is a civil radar system which could have missed such flying objects.” 

Asked if presenting the Utyos-T data this week contradicted the earlier military radar presentation, the source replied:

“Yes, it was a rather bad variant, an example of inconsistency, even a mistake.”

How Trump Won

The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate

by Ted Rall - CounterPunch

September 28, 2016

He won the debate. I know it runs counter to conventional wisdom – that’s so rare for me! – but I award the first 2016 presidential debate to Donald Trump.

This isn’t to say that I disagree with what the mainstream men and women of the pundit class said they witnessed. Like them, I watched a well-prepared Clinton outmaneuver a political amateur who showed up to class after a night of partying following a year of refusing to crack open a book. Trump rambled, repeated himself, interrupted and bullied. He conflated NATO and the EU. He even unleashed a fat joke.

All things being equal, I would agree with the corporate media consensus that Hillary won. But that’s the thing – things are far from equal.

Hillary Clinton is a pro. She should have wiped the floor with Trump. Instead, she delivered a performance on the line between a B+ and an A-. Trump gets closer to a C-. That’s much closer than it ought to have been.

As they say in sports, Trump beat the spread.

It went down the same way during the Democratic primaries. Hillary Clinton had every advantage: domination of the Democratic National Committee, support of a sitting president, massive name recognition, experience and personnel from a previous run, a huge pool of wealthy institutional donors, a marriage to a popular ex-president fondly remembered for presiding over a great economic expansion. Despite all that, she nearly lost to Bernie Sanders – an aging self-identified socialist from a tiny, powerless state, with no name recognition. How, many people asked, could Hillary’s inevitable Goliath of a campaign have come so close to losing to such a David?

The answer was obvious. As we learned in 2008 when she lost to another obscure politician — Obama, with a weird name, who had little experience — Hillary Clinton underperforms. She has no charm. She doesn’t learn from her mistakes. She relies on outdated fundraising methods, like sucking up to big corporate donors. Not only does she lie, she insults our intelligence as when she emerged from her daughter’s Manhattan apartment days after being diagnosed with pneumonia. “I’m fine,” she said. What’s the matter with “pneumonia sucks”?

During the debate, I was struck by how many chances Trump had to nail Hillary. If he were a better debater, she’d be toast.

Hillary tacitly confirmed that the United States was behind the Stuxnet virus that attacked Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, implying that she deserves credit for forcing the Islamic Republic to the negotiating table. Because cyberwarfare is illegal, U.S. officials have always refused to comment on whether or not we helped create Stuxnet – so it remains classified. If Trump had been smarter, he would have said: “Jesus, Hillary! There you go again, revealing America’s secrets to our enemies.”

He also allowed her to weasel out of her on-again, off-again support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership “free trade” agreement. Why didn’t he reference the verbal diarrhea of close Clinton friend Terry McAuliffe, who let slip the all-too-credible assertion that President Hillary would sign TPP shortly after coming to office?

His response to Hillary’s demand that he release his taxes came close to disastrous. If ever there was a time to interrupt, there it was. Instead, he just stood there waiting for her to finish. Clearly Trump has a lot to hide. Then he made a lame gambit: “I will release my tax returns — against my lawyer’s wishes — when she releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted. As soon as she releases them, I will release. I will release my tax returns. And that’s against — my lawyers, they say, ‘Don’t do it.’ I will tell you this. No — in fact, watching shows, they’re reading the papers. Almost every lawyer says, you don’t release your returns until the audit’s complete. When the audit’s complete, I’ll do it. But I would go against them if she releases her e-mails.”

It was incoherent and ridiculous. But once he decided to go that direction, why not mention her secret Goldman Sachs speech transcripts? At least that way, he would have conveyed that she has two types of things to hide (emails, speeches) as opposed to his one (taxes).

Rookie errors. But hey, Trump did great for a guy who has never run for political office before – and didn’t cram for the debate. Hillary has debated at the presidential level so many times she could probably do it half of it in her sleep. If I go into the ring with heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury and manage to survive a round with all but one of my teeth, it’s fair to say that I won.

What’s baffling to me is that she wasn’t able to deliver a knockout blow.

Some of it is her inability to just be real.

Part of coming off as an authentic human being is a self-deprecating sense of humor. We saw that when Trump asked Secretary Clinton how she wanted to be addressed: “Now, in all fairness to Secretary Clinton — yes, is that OK? Good. I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me.” It was deferential. It almost seemed sweet. (Weirdly, she didn’t adjust to the honorific, failing to tack to “Mr. Trump.”)

Hillary seems allergic to humanism. Back to the TPP, for example, she could have countered Trump’s fictional assertion she “heard what I said about [TPP], and all of a sudden you were against it” with something along the lines of: “actually, that was Bernie Sanders.”

Another awkward moment was her apology for using a private email server. This should have been a win for her. It was the first time that she expressed regret in a straightforward manner. But she clearly wanted to keep talking, to make excuses, to mitigate. It was also a missed opportunity to make an email joke.

Maybe the herd is right. Maybe it’s a simple matter of she did better, he did worse. But I keep thinking, debates are graded on a curve. She was supposed to kick his ass. Yet there he is, dead even in the polls with her.
Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower.
More articles by:Ted Rall

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

First Nations Join Forces to Stop Tar Sands Pipelines

First Nations and Tribes Sign New Treaty Joining Forces To Stop All Tar Sands Pipelines


Sept. 22, 2016

Signatories commit to also pushing for a sustainable economy based on renewable energy

MONTREAL and VANCOUVER/CNW Telbec - First Nation and Tribal Chiefs gathered today in Musqueam Territory (Vancouver) and Mohawk Territory (Montreal), to sign a new continent-wide Indigenous Treaty — the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion — that commits already some 50 First Nations and Tribes from all over Canada and the Northern US to working together to stop all proposed tar sands pipeline, tanker and rail projects in their respective territorial lands and waters.

The First Nations and Tribes are committed to stopping all five current tar sands pipeline and tanker project proposals (Kinder Morgan, Energy East, Line 3, Northern Gateway and Keystone XL) as well as tar sands rail projects such as the Chaleur Terminals Inc. export project at the Port of Belledune in New Brunswick.

"What this Treaty means is that from Quebec, we will work with our First Nation allies in BC to make sure that the Kinder Morgan pipeline does not pass and we will also work with our Tribal allies in Minnesota as they take on Enbridge's Line 3 expansion, and we know they'll help us do the same against Energy East." said Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon.

The Treaty states:

"Our Nations hereby join together under the present treaty to officially prohibit and to agree to collectively challenge and resist the use of our respective territories and coasts in connection with the expansion of the production of the Alberta Tar Sands, including for the transport of such expanded production, whether by pipeline, rail or tanker."

"We are in a time of unprecedented unity amongst Indigenous people working together for a better future for everyone," said Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Sacred Trust Initiative.

"The Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal in our territory represents an unacceptable risk to the water, land and people: we are proud to stand together with all of our relatives calling for sensible alternatives to these dangerous projects."

"The Yinka Dene have already shown in the case of Enbridge's Northern Gateway that a pipeline cannot hope to pass through a unified wall of Indigenous opposition," said Carrier Sekani Tribal Chief Terry Teegee.

"You will now see the same thing play out with all other tar sands pipelines, including another failed BC pipeline – Kinder Morgan."

Tar sands development has already poisoned the water of First Nations in Alberta and beyond and these new tar sands pipelines, trains and tankers would threaten the water of many more Nations. Indigenous Peoples are also suffering intense impacts from climate change in the form wildfires and floods and the ongoing climate emergency is now threatening many of the plants and animals that lie at the heart of Indigenous cultures.

"Indigenous people have been standing up together everywhere in the face of new destructive fossil fuel projects, with no better example than at Standing Rock in North Dakota," said Grand Chief Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

"We know that infrastructure that expands the tar sands is both incompatible with reducing Canada's emissions and completely irresponsible."

The Treaty provides that Indigenous Nation signatories also want to be partners in moving society onto a more sustainable path. Already, many Indigenous Nations are leading the way in developing renewable energy projects on their territories.

"We want to work with the Prime Minister and the government to develop a sustainable economy that does not marginalize our people," said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

 "This is a time of great spiritual awakening for our peoples as we reinvigorate our Nations and ensure a better tomorrow for all."

Please go to for more information, including for an always updated list of signatory Nations

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador

For further information: Rueben George, Tsleil-Waututh Sacred Trust Initiative, Cell: 604-720-4630; Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Cell: 250-490-5314; Geraldine Thomas-Flurer, Yinka Dene Alliance Coordinator, Cell: 250-570-1482; Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, Cell: 204-795-2733; Melanie Vincent, Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, Cell: 418-580-4442; Grand Chief Serge 'Otsi' Simon, Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, Cell: 514-269-9152 


Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Ben Isitt, Rick, Sterling, Janine Bandcroft September 28, 2016

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

September 28, 2016

While the election spectacle south sucks most of the political air from the media universe, British Columbia too is poised to begin its own democracy circus, and it's with an eye to the Spring vote here issues from across the province are being aired at the Union of BC Municipalities meetings currently going on at the Victoria Conference Centre.

Yesterday, Victoria Councillor, Ben Isitt joined Metchosin Councillor Andy MacKinnon, Cowichan Valley Regional District Director, Sonia Furstenau, and Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee on the steps of the VCC demonstrating to have MacKinnon's Vancouver Island old-growth logging moratorium proposal included on the UBCM’s resolutions committee agenda.

Listen. Hear.

It's a busy time for Isitt, who presented Monday night with Andy MacKinnon 'The Future of Forests and Communities on Vancouver Island' a draft policy statement at the Public Presentation and Discussion on the Future of Forests and Communities on Vancouver Island at the Victoria Event Centre, presenting the findings of the group he's been working with, Island Forest Futures.

Ben Isitt in the first half.

And; hopes for the tremulous peace agreement in Syria were blown to smithereens last week by a sustained American air attack against Syrian army units protecting the town of Deir ez-Zor from ISIS/Daech. The blitz, which US officials later said was all a case of mistaken identity, killed more than sixty soldiers outright, and was followed by what seemed a coordinated ISIS incursion. The result is an end to the peace deal and ratcheting up of the propaganda battle for the hearts and minds on the home front. To that end, prepare to hear lots more about Syria's famed 'White Helmets' organization. Already recipients of a prestigious Right Livelihood Award, the shadowy group are also being promoted for a Nobel Peace prize.

Rick Sterling is an independent researcher, writer, and member of Syria Solidarity Movement, an organization who has mounted an online campaign to pressure the Right Livelihood Foundation to reverse its award decision. Sterling's articles can be found online at CounterPunch, ConsortiumNews, Dissident Voice, and at Pacific Free Press. Rick's also an active member of the Task Force on the Americas at the Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center.

Rick Sterling and helmets of another colour in the second half.

And, Victoria Street Newz publiser emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us news of good goings on planned for our streets and beyond in the coming week. But first, Ben Isitt and what future the forests of Vancouver Island?

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Propagating Syria War in Western Media

How US Propaganda Plays in Syrian War

by Rick Sterling  - Consortium News

September 23, 2016

Manipulation of public perception has risen to a new level with the emergence of powerful social media. Multibillion-dollar corporate giants, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, influence public perceptions, often via payments for “boosting” Facebook posts, paid promotion of Tweets, and biased results from search engines.

Marketing and advertising companies use social media to promote their clients, but so do U.S. foreign policy managers who hire or enlist these companies to influence public perceptions to support U.S. foreign policy goals.

A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a  “no-fly zone,” 
a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.

For example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described making sure that Twitter was primed for street protests in Iran following the 2009 election, ready to spread and manage news of protests following the election and the killing of a young woman, which was blamed on the Iranian government although the circumstances of her death were murky. [Hard Choices hardback, p 423]

The results of similar media manipulation can be seen in the widespread misunderstanding of the conflict in Syria, amid the demonization of the Syrian government and leadership and the skillful use of social media by anti-government activists. Influenced by both mainstream and this alternative media, most people in the West do not know that Bashar al-Assad remains popular with many Syrians. Nor do they realize that Assad won an election two years ago.

There were three contestants in the Syrian presidential election of June 2014. Turnout was 73 percent of the registered voters, with 88 percent voting for Assad. In Beirut, the streets were clogged with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees marching through the city to vote at the Syrian Embassy. Hundreds of Syrian citizens living in the U.S. and other Western countries flew to Syria to vote because Syrian Embassies in Washington and other Western capitals were shut down.

While Secretary of State John Kerry was condemning the Syrian election as a “farce” before it had even happened, a marketing company known as The Syria Campaign waged a campaign to block knowledge of the Syrian election. Along with demonizing President Assad, the company launched a campaign which led to Facebook censoring information about the Syrian election.

Incubating Propaganda

The Syria Campaign was created by a larger company named “Purpose,” which – according to its website – “incubated” The Syria Campaign. The company’s website says, “Purpose creates new movements, brands and organizations from the ground up to address complex global challenges. We apply this experience as movement creators to our work with progressive companies, nonprofits and philanthropies, helping them to put purpose and participation at the heart of what they do.”

Smoke billows skyward as homes and buildings are shelled in the
city of Homs, Syria. June 9, 2012. (Photo from the United Nations)

The major achievement of The Syria Campaign has been the branding and promotion of the “White Helmets,” also known as “Syria Civil Defense,” which began with a British military contractor, James LeMesurier, giving some rescue training to Syrians in Turkey with funding provided by the U.S. and U.K. The group stole this name from the REAL Syria Civil Defense as documented in this recent report from Aleppo.

The “White Helmets” are marketed in the West as civilian volunteers doing rescue work. On Sept. 22, it was announced that the Right Livelihood Award , the so-called “Alternative Nobel Prize,” is being given to the U.S./U.K.-created White Helmets “for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war.”

But the White Helmets are largely a propaganda tool promoting Western intervention against Syria. Unlike a legitimate rescue organization such as the Red Cross or Red Crescent, the “White Helmets” only work in areas controlled by the armed opposition. As shown in this video, the White Helmets pick up the bodies of individuals executed by the terrorists; they claim to be unarmed but are not; and they falsely claim to be neutral.

Many of the videos from Al Qaeda/terrorist-dominated areas of Syria have the “White Helmets” logo because the White Helmets work in alliance with these extremist groups as primarily a media marketing tool to raise public support for continuing the support to the armed opposition as well as the demonization of the Syrian government.

The Rights Livelihood press release said the White Helmets “remain outspoken in calling for an end to hostilities in the country.” But that is false, too. The White Helmets actively call for U.S./NATO military intervention through a “No Fly Zone,” which would begin with attacks upon and destruction of government anti-aircraft positions and aircraft.

A Major Act of War

Taking over the skies above another country is an act of war that would require a major U.S. military operation, according to senior American generals.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The New York Times reported that in 2012 General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the White House that imposing a no-fly zone in Syria would require up to 70,000 American servicemen to destroy Syria’s antiaircraft system and then impose round-the-clock control over Syrian airspace.

General Carter Ham, former commander of the U.S. Africa Command who oversaw the aerial attacks on Libya in 2011, said on CBS News,

“I worry sometimes that, when people say ‘impose a no-fly zone,’ there is this almost antiseptic view that this is an easily accomplished military task. It’s extraordinarily difficult. …

“It first entails — we should make no bones about it. It first entails killing a lot of people and destroying the Syrian air defenses and those people who are manning those systems. And then it entails destroying the Syrian air force, preferably on the ground, in the air if necessary. This is a violent combat action that results in lots of casualties and increased risk to our own personnel.”

In other words, an appeal for a “no-fly zone” is not a call for a non-violent solution. It is seeking a bloody act of war by the United States against Syria, a nation that poses no threat to America. It also would almost surely be carried out in violation of international law since a United Nations Security Council resolution would face vetoes from Russia and probably China.

Also, the White Helmets have never criticized or called for the end of funding to extremist organizations including Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate. On the contrary, White Helmets are generally embedded with this organization which is defined as “terrorist” by even the U.S., which is likely why the head of the White Helmets, Raed Saleh, was denied entry to the U.S.

The foreign and marketing company origins of the White Helmets were exposed over 1½ years ago – and since then, writer Vanessa Beeley has revealed the organization in more depth in articles such as “Who Are the White Helmets?” and “War by Way of Deception.”

Despite these exposés, understanding of the White Helmets is limited, with many liberal and progressive people uncritically accepting the propaganda and misinformation about Syria. Much of the progressive media has effectively blocked or censored critical examinations amid a flood of propaganda about “barrel bombs” dropped by the “brutal dictator” and his “regime.”

In the last week, Netflix started showing a 40-minute documentary movie about the “White Helmets” that amounts to a promotional video. A substantial portion of it takes place in Turkey where we see trainees in hotel rooms making impassioned phone calls to inquire about their families in Syria.

The “family values” theme is evident throughout, a good marketing angle. The political message of the video is also clear: after a bombing attack, “It’s the Russians …. they say they are fighting ISIS but they are targeting civilians.”

The movie includes video previously promoted by the White Helmets such as the “Miracle Baby” rescue, an incident that may or may not have been staged. The video includes self-promoting proclamations such as “You are real heroes.” While no doubt there are some real rescues in the midst of war, many of the videos purporting to show the heroes at work have an unrealistic and contrived look to them as revealed here.

Tricking Progressives

“Alternative media” in the West has echoed mainstream media regarding the Syria conflict. The result is that many progressive individuals and groups are confused or worse. For example, the activist group CodePink recently issued a media release promoting the Netflix White Helmets propaganda video.


U.S.-backed Syrian “moderate” rebels smile as they prepare to behead a 12-year-old boy (left), whose severed head is held aloft triumphantly in a later part of the video. [Screenshot from the YouTube video]The White Helmets video is produced by Grain Media and Violet Films/Ultra-Violet Consulting, which advertises itself as a marketing corporation specializing in social media management, grant writing, crowd building and campaign implementation. The only question is who paid them to produce this video.

There is growing resistance to this manipulation and deception. In response to a petition to give the Nobel Peace Prize to the White Helmets, there is a counter petition at Following the Right Livelihood Awards’ announcement, there will soon be a petition demanding retraction of the award to the White Helmets.

The story of the White Helmets is principally a “feel good” hoax to manipulate public perception about the conflict in Syria and continue the drive for “regime change.” That’s why big money was paid to “Purpose” to “incubate” The Syria Campaign to brand and promote the White Helmets using Facebook, Twitter, etc. That’s why more big money was paid to create a self-promotional documentary.

The judges at Rights Livelihood were probably influenced by the documentary since critical examination of facts around Syria is so rare. It’s a sad commentary on the media. As veteran war correspondent Stephen Kinzer recently wrote,

“Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press.”

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and member of Syria Solidarity Movement.