i agree that schmidt’s statement has extremely serious implications

Google’s Eric Schmidt admits political censorship of search results
Niles Niemuth, WSWS, Nov 22 2017

Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, confirmed this weekend that the world’s largest Internet company is manipulating search results to censor sites critical of the government, in close coordination with the state. Responding to a question about the “manipulation of information” on the Internet during an appearance at the Halifax International Security Forum, Schmidt announced that Google is working on algorithms that will “de-rank” RT and Sputnik from its Google News services, effectively blocking users’ access to either site. Schmidt’s remarks at the gathering of military and national security officials confirm WSWS’s charges that Google has been deliberately altering its search algorithms and taking other steps to prevent people from accessing certain information through its search engines. WSWS has itself been a principal target of these efforts. The statements expose as lies the company’s previous claim that changes to its search engine were aimed at “improving search results” and that these changes were politically unbiased. Google’s efforts are just one part of a much wider government-corporate drive to assert control over the flow of information over the Internet involving Amazon, Twitter and Facebook as well as Internet service providers such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and AT&T. The FCC announced this week that it will eliminate “net neutrality” regulations, allowing service providers to limit which sites customers can access, either by throttling Internet download speed or charging extra fees. Earlier this month, the DoJ forced RT to register as a “foreign agent” in a move aimed at delegitimizing the site as a news source and intimidating its journalists and guests. Google removed RT from its “preferred” channels on YouTube last month, and Twitter has blocked the news service from advertising. Schmidt’s statements, however, are the most direct to date. He asserted that Google is “trying to engineer the systems to prevent” users from seeing content from RT and Sputnik. Schmidt denied that this would amount to censorship while claiming that Google’s anti-RT algorithm would block information that is “repetitive, exploitative, false, likely to have been weaponized.”

A campaign against “fake news” has now become a campaign against “weaponized news,” meaning true information that is critical of or damaging to the political establishment. Former Sec State Hillary Clinton has claimed that when her emails and Wall Street speeches were leaked by WikiLeaks, they had been “weaponized.” Under Google’s new censorship rubric, any article written about the true information in the Clinton leaks would be a candidate for censorship. As for “repetitive, exploitative, false and weaponized” information, by any objective measure this applies above all to the campaign over claims that Russia is “sowing divisions” in Pindostan. The endless unsubstantiated stories in the media, channeling the intelligence agencies, are being used to prosecute a war against democratic rights. The anti-Russian campaign that began as an effort by the Demagog Party to ensure that the Trump administration maintained a hostile position towards the Kremlin has been transformed into a general clampdown on free expression and the free exchange of information. While RT and Sputnik are the immediate targets of this campaign, the real concern is any website that exposes the lies of the American government and promotes stories critical of the official narrative promoted by the Pindo ruling class. WSWS first reported in July that Google’s new algorithm launched in April under the guise of combatting the spread of “fake news” was blocking access to a broad range of left-wing, progressive, antiwar and democratic rights organizations. Since April, search referrals from Google to the WSWS have fallen by 75%. Just last month, WSWS and other left-wing journals were removed from Google News. In an open letter to Schmidt and other Google executives published in August demanding an end to the censorship, David North, the chairperson of the WSWS International Editorial Board, stated:

The facts prove that Google is rigging search results to blacklist and censor WSWS and other left-wing publications. This raises a very serious question, with far-reaching constitutional implications. Is Google coordinating its censorship program with the government, or sections of its military and intelligence apparatus?

While Google has so far refused to respond to direct inquiries from the WSWS, we now have a definitive answer: Yes. That Schmidt makes such a statement so openly is a warning that the campaign to censor the Internet is entering a new stage. An increasingly open and unrestrained attack on free speech and political expression is being prepared. The crackdown on the Internet comes amid historic and ever-growing levels of social inequality. The Pindo ruling class fears the growth of social opposition and anti-capitalistic and pro-socialist sentiments that are building beneath the surface of official life. Above all, they fear the development of a conscious movement of the working class fighting for the overthrow of the rotten capitalist system. We urge our readers and supporters to take up the fight to defend a free and open Internet. Join the thousands who have already signed the petition demanding that Google cease censoring WSWS and other left-wing websites. Help take the fight against Internet censorship to all sections of workers and youth, in Pindostan and internationally, connecting the fight against the attack on democratic rights with the fight against war, dictatorship and social inequality.

monbiot & khan sheikhun

George Monbiot joins “fake news” campaign
Jean Shaoul, WSWS, Nov 22 2017

Week after week, the world’s media have bombarded their viewers and readers with denunciations and warnings of the dangers of “fake news.” The vast bulk of these articles uncritically regurgitate the unsubstantiated claims emanating from Faschingstein, London and other capitals that Pres Putin has set up an army of internet trolls operating fake accounts to subvert the democratic process in furtherance of Russia’s interests. An article by George Monbiot in the Graun has the unintended benefit of making clear that the ultimate political goal of the anti-Russia campaign is to silence all voices of opposition to the ruling elite’s agenda of stepped-up militarism, war and social reaction. Monbiot focuses on legitimising the intervention of the imperialist powers in Syria. He brands reputable, high-profile journalists and political commentators as the purveyors of fake news. His article is entitled didactically enough:

A lesson from Syria: it’s crucial not to fuel far-right conspiracy theories, or How a chemical weapons attack in Syria spawned a shameful series of conspiracy theories.

Monbiot postures as the defender of democracy and informed choice. It is a thoroughly lazy and dishonest piece. Monbiot accuses veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who comprehensively debunked Washington’s false claims of Syrian government CW attacks in Aug 2013 and again on Apr 4 2017, of fuelling right-wing conspiracy theorists. He levels the same charge at John Pilger and Noam Chomsky for citing a paper by Theodore Postol, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and International Security at MIT, a critic of the government’s analysis of the 2013 Ghouta CW attack, who suggested that the Syrian government could not have carried out the 2017 attack at Khan Sheikhoun because it had got rid of its stock of CW under UN supervision, as the OPCW had confirmed in Jan 2016. Postol said Jihadis had been using sarin for some years, and suggested an explosive device laid on the ground had set fire to a weapons depot belonging to the rebels. Monbiot accuses Pilger, Chomsky and Postol of creating “a toxic atmosphere” around the issue. He makes great play of the fact that several right-wing Pindo politicians including former representative Ron Paul and Representative Thomas Massie, have also questioned why Assad would have launched a chemical attack on his own people that would give him no benefit at all, thus making an amalgam of right and left in order to prevent those sceptical of the traditional news outlets from searching and finding honest, progressive and socialist sources of information. He makes no investigation himself of the incident on which he focuses his readers’ attention.

The explosion in rebel-held Khan Sheikhoun, in Syria’s north-western Idlib province, killed at least 83 people and injured many more. The victims appeared to have suffered from a CW attack, possibly sarin. Pindostan used the attack to justify ratcheting up its war effort against Assad. Before any of the facts had been established, Pindostan launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air base, from which it said the sarin attack was staged, killing five Syrian soldiers and nine civilians. The CW attack had all the hallmarks of a false flag operation designed to justify precisely such an intervention. Monbiot is an environmental and political activist who has made his reputation as an investigative journalist and an advocate of truth and openness. But the methods he uses in his article are a travesty of the honesty and thoroughness one might reasonably expect. He accepts uncritically the official line promoted by Pindostan and its vassals about Syria’s use of CW and the very limited conclusions of the OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), without carefully scrutinising its evidence. Indeed, it seems doubtful whether he even bothered to read it. He says that the OPCW concluded in its report in October “that the atrocity was caused by a bomb filled with sarin, dropped by the government of Syria,” but says nothing about the FFM’s actual investigation. The FFM’s stated brief in its own words was as follows:

To establish the facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals for hostile purposes in the country. It is not mandated to reach conclusions about attributing responsibility for CW use.

The FFM based its report on interviews, bio-medical samples from victims, open-source research, documents and other records, and the characteristics of the samples including those provided by the Syrian government, which it said “engaged constructively” with its investigation. It states explicitly that it did not visit Khan Sheikhoun, because it was and still is held by Islamist rebels including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham and their affiliates, making it too dangerous. No international monitoring groups were able to enter Idlib to access the site of the alleged attack. Jerry Smith, the lead field investigator for the UN-backed operation to remove Syrian CW in 2013, warned that without access to the site it was impossible to collect empirical data with an objective chain of custody. Monbiot cites a journalist from the Guardian who apparently accessed the site and concluded there was no weapons depot near the scene of the contamination that could have caused the sarin gas explosion. The newspaper is “the only news organisation in the world to do so,” Monbiot states. How was this possible, outside of collusion with rebels in control of the area? We are not informed. We are told:

(The FFM concluded that the victims) had been exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance, and that such a release could only be determined to have been the use of sarin as a chemical weapon.

It did not say who it thought was responsible for the dissemination of the substance, but it noted that various hospitals appeared to have begun admitting some 57 casualties of the attack between 0640 and 0645 hours, that is before it happened, with 10 of the patients admitted to a hospital 125 km away from Khan Sheikhoun, and another 42 patients to a hospital 30 km away. The OPCW also reported the use of sarin in a separate “incident” in the village of al-Lataminah, 25 km south of Khan Sheikhoun, five days before the main attack, which the mainstream media has ignored. It did not consider the implications of this for its Khan Sheikhoun investigation. It had previously been thought that the Khan Sheikhoun attack was the first sarin attack since the Aug 2013 attack on Ghouta. Monbiot simply dismisses the possibility of a false flag attack, writing:

I have found no credible evidence that Syrian Jihadis have access to sarin.

Yet even the UN’s own mission stated in its report after the Aug 2013 sarin attack on Ghouta that both sides of the war possessed CW in a quantity capable of producing mass casualties. Furthermore, it noted that in five sites where CW were used up until then, none of the victims were members of the armed rebel opposition, while in three sites the victims were Syrian army soldiers and army personnel and civilians. Thus, it was highly improbable that the attacks had been launched by the Syrian government. The report thus confirmed the suspicions of Carla Del Ponte, a leading member of a UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, who had been one of the first to raise the possibility that rebels had sarin. In May 2013, she said:

(We have) strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof.

As Seymour Hersh explained in the article “Whose sarin?” in the LRB in Dec 2013:

In the months before the attack, Pindo intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order, a planning document that precedes a ground invasion, citing evidence that Jabhat al-Nusra, a Jihadi group affiliated with AQ, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred, Jabhat al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

Only recently, the State Dept issued a warning to travellers to Syria admitting that the core rebel groups in north-west Syria, whom it directs from Turkey, not only possess but had used CW and stating:

Tactics of Daesh, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, IEDs and CW.

The OPCW stated that it had formally received 15 allegations related to rebel groups’ acquisition, possession or transfer of, or intent to use, CW or toxic chemicals, two of which referred to Daesh and seven to Nusra, since last June. If Monbiot “found no credible evidence that Syrian Jihadis have access to sarin,” then it is because he chose to ignore it. To portray the entirely valid criticisms of the official line on the Khan Sheikhoun attack as fuelling far-right conspiracy theories is politically criminal. It is a transparent attempt by the Graun to block any challenge to the military operations, overt and covert, carried out by Pindo and British imperialism and their regional allies in the Middle East under cover of “humanitarian” concerns and the “R2P.” The Graun speaks for the nominally liberal bourgeoisie. While it claims to stand for progressive opinion, its real role is to police public discourse and support the strategic imperatives of imperialism. That is why it has come out and attacked “some of the world’s most famous crusaders against propaganda,” thereby declaring that any criticism of Pindo and British war plans is beyond the pale and cannot be tolerated. The Graun’s role is to help create the necessary political climate to further an agenda of war, censorship and domestic repression.

i think gareth thinks assad wanted israel to think … etc

Israel’s Ploy Selling a Syrian Nuke Strike
Gareth Porter, Consortium News, Nov 18 2017

In Sep 2007, Israeli warplanes bombed a building in eastern Syria that the Israelis claimed held a covert nuclear reactor that had been built with NK assistance. Seven months later, the CIA released an extraordinary 11-minute video (above, part 1; below, part 2 – RB), and mounted press and Congressional briefings that supported that claim. But nothing about that alleged reactor in the Syrian desert turns out to be what it appeared at the time. The evidence now available shows that there was no such nuclear reactor, and that the Israelis had misled the Bush 43 administration into believing that there was one, in order to draw Pindostan into bombing missile storage sites in Syria. Other evidence now suggests, moreover, that the Syrian government had led the Israelis to believe wrongly that it was a key storage site for Hezbollah missiles and rockets (?!?!? – RB). The IAEA’s top specialist on NK reactors, Egyptian national Yousry Abushady, warned top IAEA officials in 2008 that the published CIA claims about the alleged reactor in the Syrian desert could not possibly have been true. In a series of interviews in Vienna, and by phone and e-mail exchanges over several months, Abushady detailed the technical evidence that led him to issue that warning and to be even more confident about that judgment later on. And a retired nuclear engineer and research scientist with many years of experience at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has confirmed a crucial element of that technical evidence. Published revelations by senior Bush 43 admin boxtops show that principal figures in the story all had their own political motives for supporting the Israeli claim of a Syrian reactor being built with NK help. V-P ‘Dick’ Cheney hoped to use the alleged reactor to get Bush to initiate airstrikes on Syria, in the hope of shaking the Syrian-Iranian alliance. DCI ‘Mike’ Hayden also hoped to use the story of a NK-built nuclear reactor in Syria to kill a deal that Sec State Condoleezza Rice was negotiating with NK in 2007/8, on its nuclear weapons program.

In Apr 2007 the chief of the Mossad, Meir Dagan, presented Cheney, Hayden and National Security Adviser Steven Hadley with evidence of what he said was a nuclear reactor being constructed in eastern Syria with the help of NK. Dagan showed them nearly a hundred handheld photographs of the site revealing what he described as the preparation for the installation of a NK reactor and claimed that it was only a few months from being operational. The Israelis made no secret of their desire to have a Pindo airstrike destroy the alleged nuclear facility. PM Olmert called Bush 43 immediately after that briefing and said, according to the account in Bush’s memoirs:

George, I’m asking you to bomb the compound.

Cheney, who was known to be a personal friend of Olmert, wanted to go further. At White House meetings in subsequent weeks, Cheney argued forcefully for a Pindo attack not only on the purported reactor building but on Hezbollah weapons storage depots in Syria. Then-Sec Def Robert Gates, who participated in those meetings, recalled in his own memoirs that Cheney, who was also looking for an opportunity to provoke a war with Iran. He wrote:

Cheney hoped to rattle Assad sufficiently so as to end his close relationship with Iran. He also wanted to send a powerful warning to the Iranians to abandon their nuclear ambitions.

DCI Hayden aligned the agency clearly with Cheney on the issue, not because of Syria or Iran but because of NK. Hayden recalls in a memoir published last year that at a White House meeting to brief Bush the day after Dagan’s visit, he whispered in Cheney’s ear:

You were right, Mr Vice-President!

Hayden was referring to the fierce political struggle within the Bush administration over NK policy that had been underway ever since Condoleezza Rice had become Sec State in early 2005. Rice had argued that diplomacy was the only realistic way to get Pyongyang to retreat from its nuclear weapons program. But Cheney and his administration allies John Bolton and Robert Joseph (who succeeded Bolton as the key State Dept policy-maker on NK after Bolton become UN Ambassador in 2005) were determined to end the diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang. Cheney was still maneuvering to find a way to prevent the successful completion of the negotiations, and he saw the story of a Syrian nuclear reactor built secretly in the desert with help from NK as bolstering his case. Cheney reveals in his own memoirs that in Jan 2008, he sought to sandbag Rice’s NK nuclear deal by getting her to agree:

Failure to admit they’re proliferating to the Syrians would be a deal killer.

Three months later, the CIA released its unprecedented 11-minute video supporting the entire Israeli case for a NK-style nuclear reactor that was nearly completed. Hayden recalls of his decision to release the video in Apr 2008:

My intention was to avoid a NK nuclear deal being sold to a Congress and a public ignorant of this very pertinent and very recent episode.

The video, complete with computer reconstructions of the building and photographs from the Israelis made a big splash in the news media. But one specialist on nuclear reactors who examined the video closely found abundant reason to conclude that the CIA’s case was not based on real evidence. Egyptian national Yousry Abushady was a PhD in nuclear engineering and 23-year veteran of the IAEA who had been promoted to section head for Western Europe in the operations division of agency’s Safeguards Dept, meaning that he was in charge of all inspections of nuclear facilities in the region. He had been a trusted adviser to Bruno Pellaud, Deputy Director for Safeguards from 1993 to 1999, who told this writer in an interview:

I relied on Abushady frequently.

Abushady recalled in an interview that, after spending many hours reviewing the video released by the CIA in Apr 2008 frame by frame, he was certain that the CIA case for a nuclear reactor at al-Kibar in the desert in eastern Syria was not plausible for multiple technical reasons. The Israelis and the CIA claimed that the alleged reactor was modeled on the type of reactor that NK had installed at Yongbyon, which was a gas-cooled graphite-moderated (GCGM) reactor. Abushady knew that kind of reactor better than anyone else at the IAEA. He had designed a GCGM reactor for his doctorate in nuclear engineering, and had begun evaluating the Yongbyon reactor in 1993, and from 1999 to 2003 had headed the Safeguards Dept unit responsible for NK. Abushady had traveled to NK 15 times and conducted extensive technical discussions with the NK nuclear engineers who had designed and operated the Yongbyon reactor. And the evidence he saw in the video convinced him that no such reactor could have been under construction at al-Kibar. On Apr 26 2008, Abushady sent a “preliminary technical assessment” of the video to IAEA Deputy Director for Safeguards Olli Heinonen, with a copy to Dir-Gen ElBaradei. Abushady observed in his memorandum that the person responsible for assembling the CIA video was obviously unfamiliar with either the NK reactor or with GCGM reactors in general. The first thing that struck Abushady about the CIA’s claims was that the building was too short to hold a reactor like the one in Yongbyon. He wrote in his “technical assessment” memo to Heinonen:

It is obvious that the Syrian building with no underground construction cannot hold a reactor similar to NK GCR.

Abushady estimated the height of the NK reactor building in Yongbyon at 50 m, and estimated that the building at al-Kibar at a little more than a third as tall. Abushady also found the observable characteristics of the al-Kibar site inconsistent with the most basic technical requirements for a GCGM reactor. He pointed out that the Yongbyon reactor had no less than 20 supporting buildings on the site, whereas the satellite imagery shows that the Syrian site did not have a single significant supporting structure. The most telling indication of all for Abushady that the building could not have been a GCGM reactor was the absence of a cooling tower to reduce the temperature of the carbon dioxide gas coolant in such a reactor. Abushady asked in an interview:

How can you work a gas-cooled reactor in a desert without a cooling tower?

Heinonen claimed in an IAEA report that the site had sufficient pumping power to get river water from a pump house on the nearby Euphrates River to the site, but Abushady recalls asking Heinonen:

How could this water be transferred for about 1,000m and continue to the heat exchangers for cooling with the same power?

Robert Kelley, a former head of the Pindo Dept of Energy’s Remote Sensing Laboratory and former senior IAEA inspector in Iraq, noticed another fundamental problem with Heinonen’s claim: the site had no facility for treating the river water before it reached the alleged reactor building. Kelley said in an interview:

That river water would have been carrying debris and silt into the reactor heat exchangers, making it highly questionable that a reactor could have operated there.

Yet another critical piece that Abushady found missing from the site was a cooling pond facility for spent fuel. The CIA had theorized that the reactor building itself contained a “spent fuel pond,” based on nothing more than an ambiguous shape in an aerial photograph of the bombed building. But the NK reactor at Yongbyon and all 28 other GCGM reactors that had been built in the world all have the spent fuel pond in a separate building, Abushady said. The reason, he explained, was that the magnox cladding surrounding the fuel rods would react to any contact with moisture to produce hydrogen that could explode. But the definitive and irrefutable proof that no GCGM reactor had been present at al-Kibar came from the environmental samples taken by the IAEA at the site in Jun 2008. Such a reactor would have contained nuclear-grade graphite, Abushady explained, and if the Israelis had actually bombed a GCGM reactor, it would have spread particles of nuclear-grade graphite all over the site. Behrad Nakhai, a nuclear engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for many years, confirmed Abshuady’s observation in an interview, saying:

You would have had hundreds of tons of nuclear-grade graphite scattered around the site, and it would have been impossible to clean it up.

IAEA reports remained silent for more than two years about what the samples showed about nuclear-grade graphite, then claimed in a May 2011 report that the graphite particles were “too small to permit an analysis of the purity compared to that normally required for use in a reactor.” But given the tools available to laboratories, the IAEA claim that they couldn’t determine whether the particles were nuclear grade or not “doesn’t make sense,” Nakhai said. Hayden acknowledged in his 2016 account that “key components” of a nuclear reactor site for nuclear weapons were “still missing.” The CIA had tried to find evidence of a reprocessing facility in Syria that could have been used to obtain the plutonium for a nuclear bomb, but had been unable to find any trace of one. The CIA also had found no evidence of any fuel fabrication facility, without which a reactor could not have gotten the fuel rods to be reprocessed. Syria could not have gotten them from NK, because the fuel fabrication plant at Yongbyon had produced no fuel rods since 1994 and was known to have fallen into serious disrepair after the regime had agreed to scrap its own plutonium reactor program. Hayden’s account shows that he was ready to give the CIA’s stamp of approval to the Israeli photographs even before the agency’s analysts had even begun analyzing them. He admits that when he met Dagan face-to-face, he didn’t ask how and when Mossad had obtained the photographs, citing “espionage protocol” among cooperating intelligence partners. Such a protocol would hardly apply, however, to a government sharing intelligence in order to get Pindostan to carry out an act of war on its behalf. The CIA video relied heavily on the photographs that Mossad had given to Bush administration in making its case. Hayden writes:

The evidence was pretty convincing stuff, if we could be confident that the pictures hadn’t been altered.

But by his own account Hayden knew Mossad had engaged in at least one deception. He writes that when CIA experts reviewed the photographs from Mossad, they found that one of them had been photoshopped to remove the writing on the side of a truck. Hayden professes to have had no concern about that photoshopped picture. But after this writer asked how CIA analysts interpreted Mossad’s photoshopping of the picture, as one of the questions his staff requested in advance of a possible interview with him, Hayden declined the interview. Abushady points out that the main issues with the photographs the CIA released publicly are whether they were actually taken at the al-Kibar site and whether they were consistent with a GCGM reactor. One of the photographs showed what the CIA video called “the steel liner for the reinforced-concrete reactor vessel before it was installed.” Abushady noticed immediately, however, that nothing in the picture links the steel liner to the al-Kibar site. Both the video and CIA’s press briefing explained that the network of small pipes on the outside of the structure was for “cooling water to protect the concrete against the reactor’s intense heat and radiation.” But Abushady, who specializes in such technology, pointed out that the structure in the picture bore no resemblance to a Gas-Cooled Reactor vessel. Abushady explained:

This vessel cannot be for a Gas-Cooled Reactor, based on its dimensions and the thickness (of the) pipes shown on the side of the vessel.

The CIA video’s explanation that the network of pipes was necessary for “cooling water” made no sense, Abushady said, because gas-cooled reactors use only carbon dioxide gas, not water, as a coolant. Any contact between water and the Magnox-cladding used in that type of reactor, Abushady explained, could cause an explosion. A second Mossad photograph showed what the CIA said were the “exit points” for the reactor’s control rods and fuel rods. The CIA juxtaposed that photograph with a photograph of the tops of the control rods and fuel rods of the NK reactor at Yongbyon and claimed a “very close resemblance” between the two. Abushady found major differences between the two pictures, however. The NK reactor had a total of 97 ports, but the picture allegedly taken at al-Kibar shows only 52 ports. Abushady was certain that the reactor shown in the photograph could not have been based on the Yongbyon reactor. He also noted that the picture had a pronounced sepia tone, suggesting that it was taken quite a few years earlier. Abushady warned Heinonen and ElBaradei in his initial assessment that the photo presented as taken from inside the reactor building appeared to an old photo of a small gas-cooled reactor, most likely an early such reactor built in the UK.

Many observers have suggested that Syria’s failure to loudly protest the strike in the desert suggests that it was indeed a reactor. Information provided by a former Syrian air force major who defected to an anti-Assad military command in Aleppo, and by the head of Syria’s atomic energy program, helps unlock the mystery of what was really in the building at al-Kibar. The Syrian major, “Abu Mohammed,” told The Guardian in Feb 2013 that he was serving in the air defense station at Deir ez-Zor, the city nearest to al-Kibar, when he got a phone call from a Brig-Gen at Strategic Air Command in Damascus just after midnight on Sep 6 2007. Enemy planes were approaching his area, the general said, but “you are to do nothing.” The only logical reason for such an order would be that the Syrian government actually wanted the Israelis to attack the building. In the aftermath of the strike, Damascus issued an opaque statement, claiming that the Israeli jets had been driven away, and remaining silent on the airstrike at al-Kibar itself. Abushady told this writer that he learned from meetings with Syrian officials during his final year at the IAEA that the Syrian government had indeed originally built the structure at al-Kibar for the storage of missiles, as well as for a fixed firing position for them, and that Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission, had confirmed that to him in a private meeting in Vienna in Sep 2015. Othman also confirmed Abushady’s suspicion from viewing satellite photographs that the roof over the central room in the building had been made with two movable light plates that could be opened to allow the firing of a missile, and that he had been correct in believing that what had appeared in a satellite image immediately after the bombing to be two semi-circular shapes, was what had remained of the original concrete launching silo for missiles.

In the wake of the Israel’s 2006 invasion of Southern Lebanon, the Israelis were searching intensively for Hezbollah missiles and rockets that could reach Israel, and they believed many of those Hezbollah weapons were being stored in Syria. If the Syrians wished to draw the attention of Israel away from actual missile storage sites, they could have wanted the Israelis to believe this was one. Othman told Abushady that the building had been abandoned in 2002, after the construction had been completed. The Israelis had acquired ground-level pictures from 2001-02, showing the construction of outer walls that would hide the central hall of the building. The Israelis and the CIA both insisted in 2007-08 that this new construction indicated that it had to be a reactor building, but it is equally consistent with a building designed to hide missile storage and a missile-firing position. Although Mossad went to great lengths to convince the Bush administration that the site was a nuclear reactor, what the Israelis really wanted was for the Bush administration to launch airstrikes against Hezbollah and Syrian missile storage sites. Senior Bush administration boxtops didn’t buy the Israeli bid to get Pindostan to do the bombing, but none of them ever raised questions about the Israeli ruse. Both Syria and Israel appear to have succeeded in carrying out their own parts in a double deception in the Syrian desert.

How Syrian-Nuke Evidence Was Faked
Gareth Porter, Consortium News, Nov 19 2017

When Yousry Abushady studied the highly unusual May 2008 CIA video on a Syrian nuclear reactor that was allegedly under construction when Israeli jet destroyed it seven months earlier, the senior specialist on NK nuclear reactors on the IAEA’s staff knew that something was very wrong. Abushady quickly determined that the CIA had been seriously misled by Israeli intelligence and immediately informed the two highest officials of the Vienna-based IAEA, Dir-Gen ElBaradei and Deputy Director for Safeguards Olli Heinonen, that the CIA’s conclusions were not consistent with the most basic technical requirements for such a reactor. But it did not take long for Abushady to realize that the top IAEA officials were not interested in drawing on his expertise in regard to the alleged Syrian reactor. In fact, the IAEA cited nonexistent evidence linking the site to a Syrian nuclear program while covering up real evidence that would have clearly refuted such a claim, according to Abushady and other former senior IAEA officials. When Abushady met with Heinonen to discuss his analysis of the CIA’s case in May 2008 and asked to be included on the team for the anticipated inspection of the al-Kibar site because of his unique knowledge of that type of reactor, but Heinonen refused his request, citing an unwritten IAEA rule that inspectors are not allowed to carry out inspections in their countries of origin. Abushady objected, pointing out that he is Egyptian, not Syrian, to which Heinonen responded, according to Abushady:

But you are an Arab and a Muslim!

In Jun 2008, an IAEA team consisting of Heinonen and two other inspectors took environmental samples at the al-Kibar site. In Nov 2008, the IAEA issued a report saying that laboratory analysis of a number of natural uranium particles collected at the site “indicates that the uranium is anthropogenic,” meaning that it had been processed by humans. The implication was clearly that this was a reason to believe that the site had been connected with a nuclear program. But former IAEA officials have raised serious questions about Heinonen’s handling of the physical evidence gathered from the Syrian site, as well as his characterization of the evidence in that and other IAEA reports. Tariq Rauf, who headed the IAEA’s Verification and Security Policy Coordination Office until 2011, has pointed out:

One of the IAEA protocols applicable to these environmental samples is that the results from all three or four labs to have analyzed the sample must match to give a positive or negative finding on the presence and isotopics or uranium and/or plutonium.

However, in the Syrian case, the laboratories to which the samples had initially been sent had found no evidence of such man-made uranium. ElBaradei himself had announced in late Sep 2008:

So far, we have found no indication of any nuclear material.

So the Nov 2008 IAEA report claiming a positive finding was not consistent with its protocols. But the samples had been sent to yet another laboratory, which had come up with a positive test result for a sample, which was then touted as evidence that the site had held a nuclear reactor. That in itself is an indication that a fundamental IAEA protocol had been violated in the handling of the samples from Syria. Former senior inspector Robert Kelley later revealed in an interview with fellow inspector Orlokh Dorjkhaidav what actually happened in the sample collection there. He recalled that, after the last results of the tests made on the samples taken from the ground in the vicinity of the bombed building had come back from all the laboratories, and all the samples had tested negative for man-made uranium, the only sample that had tested positive had been taken in the toilet of the support building. Dorjkhaidav later left the IAEA and returned to Mongolia, where he died in Dec 2015. A video obituary for Dorjkhaidav confirmed his participation in the inspection in Syria. Kelley revealed the former inspector’s account to this writer only after Dorjkhaidav’s death. In Jan 2013, David Albright, who has co-authored several articles with Heinonen, acknowledged in a commentary on his (so-called) think tank’s website:

(This sample was) found in a changing room in a building associated with the reactor.

Given the dispersal of any nuclear material around the site by the Israeli bombing, if man-made uranium was present at the site, it should not have shown up only inside the support facility, but should have been present in the samples taken from the ground outside. Former IAEA senior inspector Kelley said in an e-mail that a “very likely explanation” for this anomaly is that it was a case of “cross-contamination’ from the inspector’s own clothing, which has occurred in IAEA inspections on a number of occasions, according to both Kelley and Rauf. Kelley, who had been in charge of inspections in Iraq in the early 1990s, recalled that a set of environmental swipes taken from nuclear facilities that Pindostan had bombed in Iraq had appeared to show that that Iraq had enriched uranium to 90%, but it turned out that they had been taken with swipe paper that had been contaminated accidentally by particles from the IAEA laboratory. What bothered Abushady the most was that the IAEA report on Syria had remained silent on the crucial fact that none of the sample results had shown any trace of nuclear-grade graphite. Abushady recalled that when he challenged Heinonen on the absence of any mention of the nuclear graphite issue in the draft report in a Nov 13 2008 meeting, Heinonen said:

We did evidence of graphite, but we haven’t confirmed that it was nuclear-grade.

Abushady retorted:

Do you know what nuclear-grade graphite is? If you found it you would know it immediately!

After learning that the report scheduled to be released in Nov 2008 would be silent on the absence of nuclear graphite, Abushady sent a letter to ElBaradei asking him not to release the report on Syria as currently written. Abushady protested the report’s presentation of the environmental sampling results, especially in regard to nuclear-grade graphite. Abushady wrote:

In my technical view, these results are the basis to confirm the contrary, that the site cannot actually (have been) a nuclear reactor.

But the report was published anyway and a few days later, a Baradei flack named Graham Andrew responded to Abushady’s message by ordering him:

Please stop sending e-mails on this subject. Kindly respect established lines of responsibility, management and communication.

The message was clear: the agency was not interested in his information, despite the fact that he knew more about the issue than anyone else there. At a briefing for Member States on the Syria reactor issue on Feb 26 2009, the Egyptian representative to the IAEA confronted Heinonen on the absence of nuclear-grade graphite in the environmental samples. This time, Heinonen had a different explanation for the failure to find any such graphite. According to the diplomatic cable reporting on the briefing that was later released by WikiLeaks, he responded:

It’s not known whether the graphite was in the building at the time of the destruction.

But that response, too, was disingenuous, according to Abushady, who explained:

Graphite is a structural part of the reactor core in the gas-cooled reactor. It is not something you add at the end.

The IAEA remained silent on the question of graphite in nine more reports issued over more than two years. When the IAEA finally mentioned the issue for the first time officially in a May 2011 report, it claimed:

The graphite particles were too small to permit an analysis of the purity compared to that normally required for use in a reactor.

But Pindo nuclear engineer Behrad Nakhai, who worked at Oak National Laboratories for many years, said an interview that the laboratories definitely have the ability to determine whether the particles were nuclear grade or not, so the claim “doesn’t make sense.” News outlets have never reported on the IAEA’s role in helping to cover up the false CIA claim of a NK-style nuclear reactor in the desert by a misleading portrayal of the physical evidence collected in Syria and suppressing the evidence that would have made that role clear. Heinonen, who was directly responsible for the IAEA’s role in the Syria cover-up, left the IAEA in Aug 2010 and within a month was given a position at Harvard. He has continued to take positions on the Iran nuclear negotiations that were indistinguishable from those of the Netanyahu government, and he is now senior adviser on science and non-proliferation at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, whose positions on the Iran nuclear issues have closely followed those of the Likud governments in Israel.

the EU is whatever they fucking pretend it is

Geoblocking Prevalent For EU’s Online Shoppers
Niall McCarthy, Statista.com, Nov 21 2017

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This week, the EU agreed to end unjustified geoblocking after a late-night session. This relates to geoblocking the online trading of goods and services. The agreement means companies will not be able to prevent customers from visiting and doing business on their website due to being resident in another EU member state. The EC says the new rules will boost e-commerce for the benefit of consumers and businesses who take advantage of the growing European online market. As of last year, 63% of websites in the EU do not let shoppers buy from another EU country. Broken down by sector, 86% of electrical household appliance retailers will not sell to a shopper buying in a different member state. Among electronics and computer hardware retailers, the rate is 79% while in the computer game and software sector, it is 73%.

gareth would have been a very successful journalist, if he’d been jewish…

Translated Doc Debunks Narrative of AQ-Iran “Alliance”
Gareth Porter, AmConMag, Nov 22 2017

For many years, major Pindo institutions ranging from the Pentagon to the 9/11 Commission have been pushing the line that Iran secretly cooperated with AQ both before and after the 9/11 terror attacks. But the evidence for those claims remained either secret or sketchy, and always highly questionable. In early November, however, the mainstream media claimed to have its “smoking gun,” a document written by an unidentified AQ official supposedly found among 47,000 never-before seen documents seized from (the phony) Osama bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad, Pakistan. AP reported that the document “appears to bolster claims that Iran supported AQ leading up to 9/11.” The WSJ said:

It provides new insights into AQ’s relationship with Iran, suggesting a pragmatic alliance that emerged out of shared hatred for Pindostan and the Toads.

NBC News wrote:

At various points in the relationship, Iran offered AQ help in the form of ‘money, arms’ and “training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon in exchange for striking Pindo interests in the Gulf.

They implied that AQ had declined the offer. Former Obama National Security Council spox Ned Price, writing for The Atlantic, went even further,asserting:

(Here is evidence of) a deal with Iranian authorities to host and train Toad AQ members as long as they have agreed to plot against their common enemy, American interests in the Gulf region.

But none of those media reports were based on careful reading of the document. The 19-page Arabic-language document, when translated in full, doesn’t support the media narrative of new evidence of Iran-AQ cooperation at all, either before or after 9/11. It provides no evidence whatsoever of tangible Iranian assistance to AQ. On the contrary, it confirms previous evidence that Iranian authorities quickly rounded up those AQ operatives living in the country when they were able to track them down, and held them in isolation to prevent any further contact with AQ units outside Iran. What it shows is that the AQ operatives were led to believe Iran was friendly to their cause, and were quite taken by surprise when their people were arrested in two waves in late 2002. It suggests that Iran had played them, gaining the fighters’ trust while maximizing intelligence regarding AQ’s presence in Iran. Nevertheless, this account, which appears to have been written by a mid-level AQ cadre in 2007, appears to bolster an internal AQ narrative that they rejected Iranian blandishments and were wary of what they saw as untrustworthiness on the part of the Iranians. The author asserts:

(Iran offered Toad AQ members) money and arms, anything they need, and training with Hezbollah in exchange for hitting Pindo interests in Toad land and the Gulf.

But there is no word about whether any Iranian arms or money were ever actually given to AQ fighters. And the author acknowledges that the Toads in question were among those who had been deported during sweeping arrests, casting doubt over whether there was ever any deal in the offing. The author suggests AQ rejected Iranian assistance on principle, insisiting:

We don’t need them! Thanks to God, we can do without them, and nothing can come from them but evil!

That theme is obviously important to maintaining organizational identity and morale, but later in the document, the author expresses deep bitterness about what they obviously felt was Iranian double-dealing in 2002 to 2003, writing of the Iranians:

They are ready to play-act. Their religion is lies and keeping quiet. And usually they show what is contrary to what is in their mind. It is hereditary with them, deep in their character.

The author recalls that AQ operatives were ordered to move to Iran in Mar 2002, three months after they had left Afghanistan for Waziristan or elsewhere in Pakistan. He says nothing of any activity in Iran before 9/11. He acknowledges that most of his cadres entered Iran illegally, although some of them obtained visas from the Iranian consulate in Karachi. Among the latter was Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, an Islamic scholar who was ordered by the leadership shura in Pakistan to seek Iranian permission for AQ fighters and families to pass through Iran or to stay there for an extended period. He was accompanied by middle and lower-ranking cadres, including some who worked for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The account clearly suggests that Zarqawi himself remained in hiding, after entering Iran illegally. Abu Hafs al-Mauratani did reach an understanding with Iran, according to the AQ account, but it had nothing to do with providing arms or money. It was a deal that allowed them to remain for some period or to pass through the country, on condition they observed very strict security conditions: no meetings, no use of cell phones, no movements that would attract attention. The account attributes those restrictions to Iranian fears of Pindo retribution, which was undoubtedly part of the motivation. But it is clear that Iran viewed AQ as an extreme security threat to itself as well. The anonymous AQ operative’s account is a crucial piece of information in light of the neocons’ insistence that Iran had fully cooperated with AQ. The document reveals that it was more complicated than that. If Iranian authorities had refused to receive the Abu Hafs group traveling with passport on friendly terms, it would have been far more difficult to gather intelligence on the AQ figures who they knew had entered illegally and were hiding. With those legal AQ visitors under surveillance, they have could identify, locate and ultimately round up the hidden AQ, as well as those who came with passports.

Most of the AQ visitors, according to the AQ document, settled in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province, where the majority of the population are Sunnis and speak Baluchi. They generally violated the security restrictions imposed by the Iranians. They established links with the Baluchis, who he notes were also Salafis, and began holding meetings. Some of them even made direct contact by phone with Salafi militants in Chechnya, where a conflict was rapidly spiraling out of control. Saif al-Adel, one of the leading AQ figures in Iran at the time, later revealed that the AQ fighting contingent under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s command immediately began reorganizing to return to Afghanistan. The first Iranian campaign to round up AQ personnel, which the author of the documents says was focused on Zahedan, came in May or Jun 2002, no more than three months after they have had entered Iran. Those arrested were either jailed or deported to their home countries. The Toad FM praised Iran in August for having transferred 16 AQ suspects to the Toads in June. In Feb 2003, Iranian security launched a new wave of arrests. This time they captured three major groups of AQ operatives in Tehran and Mashad, including Zarqawi and other top leaders in the country, according to the document. Saif al-Adel later revealed in a post on a pro-AQ website in 2005, reported in Asharq al-Awsat, that the Iranians had succeeded in capturing 80% of the group associated with Zarqawi, and that it had “caused the failure of 75% of our plan.”

The anonymous author writes that the initial Iran policy was to deport those arrested and that Zarqawi was allowed to go to Iraq, where he plotted attacks on Shia and coalition forces until his death in 2006, but then the policy suddenly changed and the Iranians stopped deportations, instead opting to keep the AQ senior leadership in custody, presumably as bargaining chips. In 2003, Iran had deported 225 AQ suspects to other countries, some of them directly to the Toads, However, the new AQ prisoners were not held as bargaining chips. They were under tight security to prevent them from communicating with AQ networks elsewhere in the region, which Bush administration officials eventually acknowledged. After their arrest and imprisonment, the AQ leadership became increasingly angry at Iran, and in Nov 2008, unknown gunmen abducted an Iran consular official in Peshawar. In Jul 2013, AQ operatives kidnapped an Iranian diplomat in Yemen. In Mar 2015, Iran reportedly released five of the senior AQ in prison, including Said al-Adel, in return for the release of the diplomat in Yemen. In a document taken from the Abbottabad compound and published by West Point CTC in 2012, a senior AQ official wrote:

We believe that our efforts, which included escalating a political and media campaign, the threats we made, the kidnapping of their friend the commercial counselor in the Iranian Consulate in Peshawar, and other reasons that scared them based on what they saw, to be among the reasons that led them to expedite (their own releases).

There was a time when Iran did view AQ as an ally. It was during and immediately after the war of the Mujahedin against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, when the CIA was still backing bin Laden. (AQ fought alongside the IRGC against Milošević, under CIA coordination – RB). But after the Taliban seized power in Kabul in 1996, and especially after Taliban troops killed 11 Iranian diplomats in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, the Iranian view of AQ changed fundamentally. Since then, Iran has clearly regarded it as an extreme sectarian terrorist organization and its sworn enemy. What has not changed is the determination of the Pindo natsec state and the supporters of Israel to maintain the myth of an enduring Iranian support for AQ.

reuters have misquoted state dept lawyers to conceal illegality

(The highlighted phrases are omitted in Reuters’ quote – RB)

Pindo diplomats accuse Tillerson of breaking child soldiers law
Jason Szep, Matt Spetalnick, Reuters, Nov 2017

FASCHINGSTEIN – A group of about a dozen State Dept officials have taken the unusual step of formally accusing Rex Tillerson of violating a federal law designed to stop foreign militaries from enlisting child soldiers, according to internal documents reviewed by Reuters. A confidential State Dept “dissent” memo, which Reuters was first to report on, said Tillerson breached the Child Soldiers Prevention Act when he decided in June to exclude Iraq, Myanmar, and Afghanistan from a Pindo list of offenders in the use of child soldiers. This was despite the department publicly acknowledging that children were being conscripted in those countries. Keeping the countries off the annual list makes it easier to provide them with Pindo military assistance. Iraq and Afghanistan are of course Pindo minions in the supposed GWOT, while Myanmar is an emerging vassal in the proposed war of aggression against China – RB). Documents reviewed by Reuters also show Tillerson’s decision was at odds with a unanimous recommendation by the heads of the State Dept’s regional bureaux overseeing embassies in the Middle East and Asia, its AfPak ‘envoy’, its human rights office and its lawyers. The July 28 memo:

Beyond contravening Pindo law, this decision risks marring the credibility of a broad range of State Dept reports and analyses and has weakened one of the government’s primary diplomatic tools to deter governmental armed forces and government-supported armed groups from recruiting and using children in combat and support roles around the world.

State Dept spox Heather Nauert, questioned at length by reporters on the issue at her daily briefing, strongly defended Tillerson’s decision as valid and in “technical compliance with the law in the way he read it.” She said:

No one in the Pindo government likes the idea of the use of child soldiers. It’s abhorrent.

Asked at a photo op with the visiting FM of the great nation of Cocainiana, Tillerson sidestepped any direct response to the complaint. Reuters reported in June that Tillerson had disregarded internal recommendations on Iraq, Myanmar and Afghanistan. The new documents reveal the scale of the opposition in the State Dept, including the rare use of what is known as the “dissent channel,” which allows officials to object to policies without fear of reprisals. The views expressed illustrate ongoing tensions between career diplomats and the former chief of Exxon Mobil, appointed by Pres Trump to pursue a “Pindostan First” approach to diplomacy. The child soldiers law passed in 2008 states that the government must be satisfied that no children under the age of 18 “are recruited, conscripted or otherwise compelled to serve as child soldiers” for a country to be removed from the list. The statute extends specifically to government militaries and government-supported armed groups like militias. The list currently includes the DRC, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Mali, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (All in Africa except the last two – RB). In a written response to the dissent memo on Sep 1, Tillerson adviser Brian Hook acknowledged that the three countries did use child soldiers. He dismissed the criticism by saying:

The principle shortcoming of this approach is that it fails to distinguish between those governments which are making little or no effort to correct their child soldier violations but which merit a waiver for other reasons (such as combatting a terrorist enemy), and those which are making sincere if as yet incomplete efforts to end child soldiering.

Hook made clear that Tillerson used what he sees as his discretion to interpret the law. In 2016, under the Obama administration, Iraq and Myanmar received waivers. At times, the human rights community chided Pres Obama for being too willing to issue waivers and exemptions, especially for governments that had security ties with Faschingstein, instead of sanctioning more of those countries. Jo Becker, advocacy director for the group’s children’s rights division, wrote in June in a critique of Tillerson’s decision:

HRW frequently criticized Pres Obama for giving too many countries waivers, but the law has made a real difference.

The dissenting boxtops stressed that Tillerson’s decision to exclude Iraq, Afghanistan and Myanmar went a step further than the Obama administration’s waiver policy by contravening the law and effectively easing pressure on the countries to eradicate the use of child soldiers. They acknowledged in the documents reviewed by Reuters that those three countries had made progress, they said that was not enough to be kept off a list that has been used to shame governments into completely eradicating the use of child soldiers. Ben Cardin, ranking Demagog on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to Tillerson on Friday saying:

We have serious concerns that the State Dept may not be complying (with the law. You have) sent a powerful message to these countries that they were receiving a pass on their unconscionable actions.

The memo was among a series of previously unreported documents sent this month to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the State Dept’s independent inspector general’s office that relate to allegations that Tillerson violated the child soldiers law. The signatories to the document were largely senior policy experts with years of involvement in the issues. Reuters saw a copy of the document that did not include the names of those who signed it. Tillerson’s decision to remove Iraq and Myanmar from the list and reject a recommendation to add Afghanistan was announced in the release of the government’s annual human trafficking report on Jun 27. Six days earlier, a previously unreported memo emailed to Tillerson from a range of senior diplomats said the three countries violated the law based on evidence gathered by Pindo boxtops in 2016 and recommended that he approve them for the new list. It noted in relation to Iraq:

(The UN and NGOs) reported that some Sunni tribal forces, recruited and used persons younger than the age of 18, including instances of children taking a direct part in hostilities.

Ali Karim, who heads Iraq’s High Committee for Human Rights, denied the country’s military or state-backed militias use child soldiers, saying:

We can say today with full confidence that we have a clean slate on child recruitment issues.

The memo also said “two confirmed cases of child recruitment” by the Myanmar military “were documented during the reporting period.” Human rights advocates have estimated that dozens of children are still conscripted there. Myanmar govt spox Zaw Htay challenged accusers to provide details of where and how child soldiers are being used. He noted that in the latest State Dept report on human trafficking, “they already recognized (Myanmar) for reducing of child soldiers,” though the report also made clear some children were still conscripted. The memo said further there was “credible evidence” that a government-supported militia in Afghanistan “recruited and used a child,” meeting the minimum threshold of a single confirmed case that the State Dept had previously used as the legal basis for putting a country on the list. The Afghan defense and interior ministries both denied there were any child soldiers in Afghan national security forces, an assertion that contradicts the State Dept’s reports and human rights activists.

as always, hollywood sucks

Blade Runner 2049: A dreary future
Carlos Delgado, WSWS, Nov 20 2017

Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to the 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner, itself based on Philip K Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The film is directed by Denis Villeneuve, with screenplay by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. This is the latest attempt by a Hollywood studio to revitalize and presumably launch a billion-dollar franchise on the basis of one of its long-dormant properties. Like many films of this nature, it suffers from a paucity of ideas, an undue reverence for its source material, and a distinct feeling of creative exhaustion. The original 1982 Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott, starred Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, an ex-police officer turned bounty hunter who tracks down and kills “bioengineered” beings known as “replicants” in a grim, futuristic LA. Though the film performed poorly at the box office in its initial release, it gained something of a following in subsequent years due to its popularity on home video. Scott and his film studio famously feuded over the final cut, and several different versions of the film exist. Until recently, it was an open question whether Deckard was himself intended to be a replicant. The new film opens 30 years after the events of the original. We are told via onscreen text that a series of ecological catastrophes had brought humankind to the brink of ruin, but that of course the day was saved by an “industrialist” named Niander Wallace, who introduced “synthetic farming” techniques that averted famine. The older models of replicants from the original film have been proscribed after a series of “violent rebellions.” Wallace’s corporation has introduced a newer, more docile model, while the surviving older models are tracked down and violently “retired.” K is a “blade runner” (replicant hunter) for the LAPD and himself a newer-model replicant. He somewhat unhappily goes about the business of tracking down and murdering “his own kind.” When he isn’t hunting targets or getting dressed down by his superior, Lt Joshi, he spends his time in his apartment with his holographic girlfriend Joi, an artificial intelligence who appears before him via sophisticated imaging technology.

After killing an older-model replicant who had been living peacefully as a farmer, K discovers a cache of buried remains on the property. Subsequent analysis reveals that the remains belonged to a female replicant who had become pregnant and died in childbirth, something which no one had believed possible. Joshi, fearful that the news of a replicant birth would “break the world” and spark a war between humans and replicants, orders K to hunt down and kill all replicants involved, including the child. Meanwhile, word of the child’s birth reaches Wallace, who wishes to unlock the secrets of replicant reproduction in order to expand his army of replicant “slaves.” He dispatches his assassin Luv to tail K and bring back the child for further study. A series of winding and improbable plot contrivances eventually bring Deckard (Harrison Ford) back into the mix, now unambiguously revealed to be a replicant. A great deal of brooding, violence and pseudo-philosophizing about the nature of “humanity” ensues, culminating in a deadly encounter between K, Deckard and Luv, with the fate of the child and perhaps more hanging in the balance. After showing some initial promise with mid-East thriller Incendies, Villeneuve’s work has taken a turn for the worse. His films have included the “war on drugs” thriller Sicario, the dull science fiction slog Arrival, and now this tedious, preposterous and overly long effort. It’s worth asking whether the original Blade Runner needed a sequel in the first place or whether the various artists’ talents could have been better used elsewhere. Frankly, this reviewer never thought the original film deserved its reputation as a science fiction “classic.” While that film was visually distinguished, with a memorably noirish rendition of neon-lit, rain-soaked LA, it was also narratively cold, meandering and dull. It was more of an accomplishment in production design than in cinema. Unhappily, the sequel retains some of the most irritating aspects of the original film, including its murky, chiaroscuro lighting, its plodding pace and its overall dreary, depressed atmosphere.

The film expends a great deal of energy attempting to convince the viewer of its importance. The sweeping compositions, the lingering close-ups and the blaring synthesizer soundtrack all seem to insist that the various goings-on are of tremendous significance. This is a film that demands or perhaps begs to be taken seriously. But there is little substance here. A more rigorous artist could perhaps have drawn out the social and psychological implications of “synthetic” beings that have become advanced enough to assume human character. At the very least, she or he could have found parallels between the conditions of the replicant “slaves” and the conditions of our present-day laboring class. But aside from a brief scene in a child labor sweatshop, it seems that Villeneuve is uninterested in the conditions of toilers, human or otherwise. A brief subplot reveals that some replicants are plotting “revolution” against Wallace and their human overlords, but this is only mentioned in passing and never amounts to much. This is a film whose method of tackling “big” ideas is to quote from the Bible and muse feebly on the nature of God, Man, Miracles, The Soul etc. The acting is uneven, at best, though this is at least partly attributable to the decision to make the leading character a non-human. Luv, both menacing and oddly vulnerable, is a bright spot. Leto, delivering overwrought monologues in a bizarre, halting monotone with opaque contact lenses covering his eyes, is just ridiculous. There are a number of clever and inventive visual tricks, including the holographic Joi overlaying a “real” body and a digital recreation of the original film’s Sean Young. A handful of images of ruined cityscapes are quite striking. But all in all, the film spends nearly three hours saying nothing of importance. Various real-life crises are hinted at, including vast social inequality, the threat of ecological collapse and even nuclear war. But the film retreats to safer waters just as soon as it raises anything interesting, and it hides behind its robust imagery to mask a lack of artistic or intellectual substance. This is bleakness without understanding, the work of artists who perhaps sense oncoming social catastrophe, but utterly lack the tools necessary to discern its source, much less raise any kind of alarm or protest.

welcome to the close-up view of your own asshole, which is all you’re going to see on google from now on

Google will ‘de-rank’ RT articles to make them harder to find: Eric Schmidt
RT.com, Nov 20 2017

(Schmidt appears at 1:07:00, relevant question at 1:33:00)

Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, says the company will “engineer” specific algorithms for RT and Sputnik to make their articles less prominent on the search engine’s news delivery services. When asked whether Google facilitates Russian propaganda, Schmidt said during a Q & A session at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada on Saturday:

We are well of aware of it, and we are trying to engineer the systems to prevent that. But we don’t want to ban the sites. That’s not how we operate. We are working on detecting and de-ranking those kinds of sites. It’s basically RT and Sputnik.

The discussion focused on the company’s popular Google News service, which clusters the news by stories, then ranks the various media outlets depending on their reach, article length and veracity, and Google Alerts, which proactively informs subscribers of new publications. RT has criticized the proposed move, whose timescale has not been publicized, as arbitrary and a form of censorship. Sputnik and RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan said in a statement:

Good to have Google on record as defying all logic and reason. Facts aren’t allowed if they come from RT, “because Russia,” even if we have Google on congressional record saying they’ve found no manipulation of their platform or policy violations by RT.

During the discussion, Schmidt claimed that he was “very strongly not in favor of censorship,” but said that he has faith in “ranking” without acknowledging this might serve the same function. Schmidt, who joined Google in 2001, said that the company’s algorithm was capable of detecting “repetitive, exploitative, false, and weaponized” info, but did not elaborate on how these qualities were determined. He added that the experience of “the last year” showed that audiences could not be trusted to distinguish fake and real news for themselves, telling the audience:

We started with the default Pindo view that ‘bad’ speech would be replaced with ‘good’ speech, but the problem found in the last year is that this may not be true in certain situations, especially when you have a well-funded opponent who is trying to actively spread this information.

Schmidt advised Obama’s 2012 campaign and Hillary Clinton’s 2015 campaign, according to several emails from John Podesta’s private account published by WikiLeaks last October. On election night 2016, Schmidt was spotted at the Clinton campaign headquarters with a “staff” badge.

Google’s initiative will have a direct impact on freedom of speech and thought in Pindostan, believes Prof Dan Kovalik from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Kovalik told RT:

It is a form of censorship, and the idea is to lead readers away from RT content. And it will have an impact on the discourse in this country. When censoring anyone, they are going to censor everyone, and I think everyone in Pindostan should be appalled by this and very concerned.

Google is dancing to the tune of the Pindo government as part of the broader campaign to demonize Russia, political commentator and TV host Steve Malzberg told RT. Malzberg said:

This is all about the fact that Russia is right now the enemy. Russia has been made the enemy by the left, the Demagogs and by definition the media. The media has been non-stop for a year now about ‘evil Russia.’ Anything associated with the ‘evil Russia’ will incur the wrath of the government. It is because they have been called in before Congress and because of this witch hunt that is going on. They don’t want to risk the wrath of Congress, and that is the problem.

Google announces moves to censor RT and Sputnik
Trévon Austin, WSWS, Nov 21 2017

All but admitting that Google is engaged in censorship, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, announced that Google will create algorithms designed to “de-rank” web sites such as RT and Sputnik on its news delivery services. In a question and answer session at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada over the weekend, Schmidt laid out Google’s intentions. When asked if the internet giant had a role in preventing the “manipulation of information,” Schmidt stated:

We are working on detecting and de-ranking those kinds of sites. It’s basically RT and Sputnik.

In response to a question about “Russian propaganda,” Schmidt replied:

We are well of aware of it, and we are trying to engineer the systems to prevent that. But we don’t want to ban the sites—that’s not how we operate.

Instead, Schmidt said he viewed the “misuse of information” as bugs in a program:

If you’re misusing information, then our programs are not doing a good enough job of properly ranking it.

During the session, Schmidt claimed that he was “very strongly not in favor of censorship,” while at the same time professing faith in the “ranking” process that is used to demote content not deemed authoritative, clearly a form of censorship, since ranking is used to make certain web sites virtually invisible on “Google News” and similar news aggregators. Schmidt added that Google’s algorithm was capable of detecting “repetitive, exploitative, false, and weaponized” information, but did not elaborate how such criteria are defined. WSWS has been engaged in a campaign to expose Google’s efforts to censor left-wing and anti-war sites. Since it discovered that its search traffic originating from Google had dropped by 74% since April of this year, WSWS has provided detailed data showing that Google is effectively banishing WSWS from its lists of articles and news sources. WSWS has published an Open Letter and launched a petition drive to demand that Google end its censorship of WSWS and other left-wing, progressive and anti-war web sites. Google has refused to respond to WSWS’ allegations, even after the NYT published an article based on an interview with the chairman of the WSWS International Editorial Board, David North, describing the systematic and obvious purging of WSWS from its search requests. However, Schmidt’s statements over the weekend amount to an admission that Google is actively censoring sites because of their political views. The blacklisting of media platforms RT and Sputnik is part of a broader campaign of internet censorship, backed by the intelligence agencies and supported politically by the Demagog Party in particular. The platform has been a prime target of the efforts of tech companies including Twitter, Facebook and Google to combat so-called “extremist content,” a term that embraces information and opinions at odds with the policies and propaganda of the government. The report released last January by the intelligence agencies on alleged “Russian meddling” in the 2016 elections makes clear that the government defines social and political dissent as tantamount to foreign subversion, stating for instance:

RT broadcast, hosted and advertised third-party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the Pindo two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a sham.

The popularity of RT and other news platforms critical of the Pindo government reflects the mood of broad layers of the Pindo sheeple. An NBC poll in July reported that 76% of Pindos were worried about war with NK and 59% preferred diplomacy to solve conflicts with that country. A report by the anti-communist Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation revealed that most 21- to 29-year-olds in Pindostan preferred socialism to capitalism. Cunts such as Mark Warner claim that RT is an arm of the Kremlin, intended used to “sow divisions” among Pindos. This month’s congressional hearings on “extremist content” on the internet were replete with demands for social media companies to take decisive action in censoring “harmful content.” At one of the hearings, Dianne Feinstein asked Google’s legal counsel why it took so long for YouTube to remove RT as a “preferred” channel, demanding:

Why did Google give preferred status to Russia Today, a Russian propaganda arm, on YouTube?

Jackie Speier asserted:

Russia Today seeks to influence politics and fuel discontent in Pindostan! Why have you not shut down RT on YouTube? The intelligence community says it’s an arm of one of our adversaries!

The Pindo creeple do not need RT to understand that the political system is corrupt and dominated by Wall Street. The results of the McCarthyite witch-hunt over supposed “Russian interference,” including algorithms to promote “authoritative content,” the demoting of “extremist content,” and the blacklisting of left-wing sites, have set a dangerous precedent. The hysterical campaign against Russia, including RT, has served as a cover for a frontal attack on the First Amendment rights to free speech and political expression.

CBS 60 minutes eat toad shit

60 Minutes Paint Pindostan as Savior in Yemen Carnage
Adam Johnson, FAIR, Nov 20 2017

In one of the most glaring, power-serving omissions in some time, CBS 60 Minutes (11/19/17) took a deep dive into the humanitarian crisis in Yemen without once mentioning the direct role that Pindostan played in creating, perpetuating and prolonging a crisis that’s left over 10,000 civilians dead, 2 million displaced, and an estimated 1 million with cholera. Correspondent Scott Pelley’s segment, “When Food Is Used as a Weapon,” employed excellent on-the-ground reporting to highlight the famine and bombing victims of the Toads’ brutal two-and-a-half year siege of Yemen. But its editors betrayed their viewers by stripping the conflict of any geopolitical context and letting one of their largest backers, the Pindo government, entirely off the hook. As FAIR has previously noted (10/14/16, 2/27/17), Pindo media frequently ignore the Pentagon’s role in the conflict altogether. Pelley did not once note that Pindostan assists the Toads’ bombing campaign with logistical support, refueling and the selling of arms to the tune of $400b. Pindostan also routinely protects the Toads at the UN from condemnation, a shield that may have vastly prolonged the war, given that it signals the support of the most powerful country on Earth.

Meanwhile, Iran’s involvement in the conflict, which even by the most paranoid estimates is far less than that of Pindostan, is placed front and center as one side of the “war.” The conflict is framed in hackneyed Sunni vs Shia terms, with the Toads unironically called the “leader of the Sunni world” and Iran the “leader of the Shia world.” In the real world, Sunnis have fought alongside Houthis, and the fact that Toad bombs also kill the mostly Sunni Muhamashin caste, who are neither “led” by the Toads nor part of the “Shia world.” This cartoon dichotomy is the extent of the context. The Toads are rightly singled out as the primary aggressors, though a dubious comparative bodycount of 3,000 killed by Toads vs 1,000 by Houthis is proffered that is far lower than the UN’s Jany 2017 estimate of 10,000 total civilians killed, but who the Toads’ primary patrons are, Pindostan, Britain and Canada, is simply not mentioned. One would think from watching Pelley’s report that it was a purely regional conflict, not one sanctioned and armed by major Western superpowers to counter “Iranian aggression.” To compound the obfuscation, 60 Minutes doesn’t just omit the Pindo role in the war, it paints Pindostan as a saviour, rescuing its victims. The hero of the piece is Pindo David Beasley, director of the UN’s World Food Programme, the organization coordinating humanitarian aid. Pelly narrates over B-roll hero shots of Beasley overseeing food distribution:
Pindostan is the WFP’s biggest donor, so the director is most often a Pindo. Beasley was once governor of South Carolina.

Beasley bends over backwards to downplay the responsibility of the Toads in his sit-down interview, insisting at every turn that “all parties” are to blame:

You see, it’s chaos, it’s starvation, it’s hunger and it’s unnecessary conflict, strictly man-made! All parties involved in this conflict have their hands guilty! The hands are dirty! All parties!

The spin that the crisis is the fault of “all parties” is understandable from a Pindo-funded de facto diplomat, charged with providing some cover for a major regional vassal, but the premise that “all parties” are causing the famine is never challenged by Pelley, just presupposed as the piece moves on. This is part of a broader trend of erasing Pindo responsibility for the conflict and resulting humanitarian disaster. The WaPo ran an editorial last week (11/8/17) and an explainer piece Saturday (11/19/17) detailing the carnage in Yemen, neither one of which bothered to mention Pindo involvement. Pindo complicity in the war is so broad in scope, it merited a warning last year from the State Dept they could be liable for war crimes—yet it hardly merits a mention in major media accounts. The war just is, a collective moral failing on the part of “all parties,” irrational sectarian Muslims lost in a pat “cycle of violence” caricature. As momentum builds in Congress, animated by grassroots anti-war activists, to push back against the war and hold Pindo congress critturs accountable, how Pindostan contributes to the death and disease in the Arabian peninsula is of urgent political import. By erasing the Pindo role in the war, CBS producers obscure for viewers the most effective way they can end the war: by pressuring their own lawmakers to stop supporting it. Instead, viewers are left with what Adam Curtis calls “O dearism,” the act of feeling distressed but ultimately helpless in the face of mindless cruelty perpetrated conveniently by everyone but us.

it seems like caitlin never stops writing, her fingers never leave the keyboard

People Believe In Russiagate Because They Lack Self-Awareness
Caitlin Johnstone, Nov 21 2017

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I recently watched a former Hillary Clinton aide trying to prove in front of his large social media audience that the Sanders supporter who was arguing with him was actually a Russian bot using an improvised Turing test.

This is the new normal. Remember last year when Adam Schiff accused Tucker Carlson of “carrying water for the Kremlin” for asking questions about the Russian hacking narrative, and we couldn’t believe our ears? This is just standard behavior now. Demagogs have been so deeply saturated in toxic Russia hysteria that you routinely see political discourse stopped dead in its tracks by accusations of someone being a Russian bot or Kremlin agent. They’ve been propagandized into thinking it’s normal, so they don’t think twice about leveling that obnoxious, conversation-ending accusation with no evidence whatsoever in order to shut down anyone who questions their assertions. Daily Show producer recently tried to kick off a smear campaign against Redacted Tonight for being “Russian propaganda” then started accusing everyone who objected to this oafish behavior of being “paid people and bots”. She was so locked into the establishment echo chamber that she could not understand how people could possibly take issue with what she was doing, asking in a (since deleted) post how her McCarthyite smears were even a controversial take.

This stuff happens constantly now, and people lacking any amount of self-awareness think it’s perfectly normal and healthy. For everyone else, it looks like Children of the Corn. Besides the world-threatening new cold war escalations it’s being used to manufacture support for, the most grating thing about all this Russia hysteria has been watching our friends and loved ones succumb to it. How is it not obvious to them that we’re being manipulated into an agenda that neoconservatives have been advancing for decades? How does it not bother them that every single new “bombshell” revelation turns out to be riddled with plot holes and not at all what the media pundits tell us it is? How do they not remember the lead-up to the Iraq invasion 15 years ago? These are not stupid people. Not all of them, anyway. Many of them are very well-read, academically accomplished individuals with sharp intellects and good problem-solving skills. How are they missing this simple, glaring fact that’s so obvious to us? The answer is that their problem isn’t a lack of intelligence, it’s a lack of self-awareness. You can have a PhD and an exceptionally high IQ, but if you haven’t done enough rigorous self-reflection in your life, you often won’t have enough awareness of your own mental processes to be able to tell the difference between agendaless information and ham-fisted attempts to manipulate you. If you haven’t worked to become stringently honest with yourself, you won’t know the difference between an egoically comfortable worldview you’ve been given and an honest perception of what’s really going on.

If you haven’t ever questioned your own narratives about what you are, what life is, and what’s really going on here, you won’t question the narratives you’re being given by confident-sounding pundits with assertive voices. People who’ve taken time to pick apart their own inner bullshit see right through the establishment Russia narrative as clear as day. The manipulations stand out like a black fly on a white sheet of paper. When you get relentlessly real with yourself, you are intimately familiar with the ways your ego tries to manipulate the world around it, pulling people in, pushing them out, trying to control, striving for approval, trying to manipulate people’s perceptions of you, and trying to find comfortable worldviews for oneself. The conceptual self-structure humans tend to develop in early childhood serves the sole function of working to manipulate and control life for its own protection, comfort and security, so if you’ve spent time watching these egoic flailings you know how they tend to behave. If you’ve never gotten real with yourself in this way, it doesn’t matter how much knowledge you’ve amassed or how adept at problem-solving your gray matter is. You will not have enough insight to be able to notice when propagandists are working to manipulate what you think. If you’re surrounded by screens full of talking heads all pumping you full of data about Russia infiltrating the highest levels of your nation’s government and taking over the world, it doesn’t show up on your personal radar as the fumbling attempts of a failing empire trying to manufacture support for escalations with a rival power structure, it just shows up as data. If there’s the appearance of a wide consensus among all that data, it shows up as fact. This is why there’s so much dissonance between the people who see this and the people who don’t. People without any personal insight see a virtual consensus in all the data they’re presented with, so anyone disagreeing with that consensus must have ulterior motives which are opposed to truth. People with some awareness of how thought works and why humans do what they do get as frustrated as somebody trying to point out something red to a friend who is unknowingly color-blind.

I point this out not to get my like-minded readers patting one another on the back for being so woke, but to draw attention to a difficult dynamic we keep encountering when trying to interact with our fellow human beings. The establishment manipulators divide us all up at every opportunity, and the frustrations which flare up between people who see through the bullshit and those who don’t are a perfect way of doing that. With a little more awareness on this dynamic, we can have more compassion and understanding for our intelligent friends and family who can’t see what we’re pointing to through no fault of their own, and not waste energy on strangers on the internet who are literally incapable of getting it. More importantly, I point this out because people who see this clearly are constantly being shouted down and bullied into silence. It’s important to be aware that those who try to silence you on this matter are indeed as blind as they seem, so there’s no need to let it get to you. The escalations between the US and Russia benefit nobody besides possibly a few ruling elites who stand to profit from a complex geopolitical power grab, and they imperil every living organism on earth. Keep screaming about this, and don’t waste your energy pushing back against pure myopic inertia. Trust your inner truth-finder, and keep speaking. There are many whose eyes are just on the cusp of seeing this disgusting psyop for what it is, and they’ll hear you. Bit by bit we’ll nudge people over the edge, and eventually we’ll hit enough of a critical mass for the whole western world to realize how pervasively they’ve been lied to by unelected rulers they didn’t even know they had. In that moment, a new world will become possible.