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Venezuela And Iran Show Solidarity Can Overcome US Empire

Venezuela And Iran Show Solidarity Can Overcome US Empire

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance.

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Venezuela And Iran Show Solidarity Can Overcome US Empire2020-05-24PopularResistance.Orghttps://popularresistance-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/2020/05/iran-and-venezuelan-flags-e1590360438670.png200px200px

Commemorating 100,000 COVID-19 Deaths

The official milestone of 100,000 dead in the United States from COVID-19 is near. This figure is certainly an undercount as thousands of deaths from COVID-19 are not being recorded. Before our weekly news analysis, we pause to commemorate those deaths.

The US, with 4 percent of the world’s population, has 28 percent of the COVID19 deaths, disproportionately impacting black and brown people. Why is the US doing so poorly? President Trump surely deserves a great deal of blame. He continues to make major errors and critical mistakes were made in the first few months when Trump said on January 22: “It’s just one person coming in from China. We have it totally under control” and, on February 26: “When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple of days will be down to zero.” The Trump Death Clock reports 58,614 deaths could have been prevented if the US had acted more quickly. 

But the problems are deeper than Trump. The US healthcare system is the most expensive in the world yet it is out of reach for tens of millions of people. The nation has never adequately invested in public health and does not have a community-based healthcare system that would have allowed immediate tracking of the virus. No state has met the requirements for reopening its economy, yet many are doing so. The nation has not put in place the testing and tracing needed to monitor and eliminate the virus. 

This weekend, images of people at beaches and in malls without taking safety precautions compound the errors. In the next month, the impact of this recklessness will be widespread illness and death. We see nothing in US public policy coming from either party that will prevent that likely reality. Rather than fixing obvious errors in policy, the bipartisans are compounding them. We need to keep pushing for more. Our next General Strike call is May 28 at 7 pm EST. Our speaker is Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson and People’s Strike. Register at bit.ly/MayDayMeeting.

Iranian oil tanker Fortune arrives in Venezuela waters and is escorted by the Venezuelan Navy. From Telesur.

A Victory for Sovereignty, Independence, and Peace

This week, Venezuela and Iran faced up to threats made by the United States and defied the illegal US sanctions by sending five oil tankers from Iran to Venezuela. The US’ longterm unilateral coercive measures have prevented the two countries with the largest oil reserves from selling their oil. This economic terrorism has caused tens of thousands of deaths in each country. Despite this economic warfare and constant threats of military attack, the two nations joined together in solidarity and broke through the US blockade to deliver much-needed oil and supplies to Venezuela.

This was a victory for sovereignty, independence, and peace. It was an act of dignity for both countries to take this successful stand against the United States. They have shown the world that illegal US economic sanctions, which impact 39 countries and one-third of the world’s population, can be defeated. They set an example that other nations can refuse the US’ unlawful demands. Acting together, the world can end the abusive unilateral coercive measures, end dollar domination, and create a multi-polar world where nations large and small have sovereignty and independence from hegemony.

US Navy ships in the Caribbean from Military.com.

US Threats and Show of Force Dissipate

Last week, President Trump told a conservative audience that the US has Venezuela surrounded. Earlier this year, Trump ordered a US armada to the Caribbean to target Venezuela, including destroyers, littoral combat ships, Poseidon maritime planes, AWAC surveillance aircraft, and on-ground special forces units. This is the largest US military presence in the region since the 1989 invasion of Panama.

Anonymous White House officials told Reuters the US has been “looking at measures that can be taken” to stop the “unwelcome”  impending delivery. The Washington Post quoted an unnamed high-level Trump official saying the administration “would not abide” Iran’s support of Maduro and “The president has made clear the United States will not tolerate continued meddling by supporters of an illegitimate regime.”

These threats are occurring just weeks after the failed May 3-4 mercenary invasion of Venezuela organized and led by ex-US special forces troops. The Bay of Pigs-like attempt to enter Venezuela by sea with 80 mercenaries was stopped by the Venezuelan government with the assistance of fishermen in the civilian militia. Two former US special forces and some Venezuelan military defectors are under arrest. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has promised to use all means at the disposal of the United States to free the US citizens.

This week, US courts allowed the seizure of Venezuela’s largest foreign asset, CITGO, worth an estimated $8 billion. A federal judge approved the sale of the  CITGO refineries after the US Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling. Foreign Minister Arreaza denounced the sale as an act of piracy and said, “There are 12 children waiting for a bone marrow transplant” that was going to be paid for by CITGO profits.  On May 14, Venezuela filed suit in a London commercial court that seeks to force the UK Central Bank to return an estimated US $1 billion worth of Venezuelan gold. Venezuela plans to use the gold to buy food, medicines, and healthcare equipment to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic reports Reuters.

The ultimate corporate media source, the Wall Street Journal, urged military action to halt the Iranian tankers, warning of the “risk to U.S. interests in doing nothing.” They claimed “President Trump has the legal power to declare an emergency and interdict the tankers.”  It warned the US needs to be prepared to respond to Iran in the Persian Gulf if they do so.

Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity published a memorandum to the President warning that taking action would result in serious blowback from the world against the US. Further, such an action would be illegal and an act of war that would have unpredictable consequences, not just in Latin America but in the Middle East where there are many US targets. They urged the administration to stop “saber-rattling” as “huffing and puffing hasn’t blown Maduro’s house down.”

The five supertankers – Fortune, Forest, Petunia, Faxon and Clavel – carrying around 1.5 million barrels of fuel have to pass the belligerent US armada. Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said, “They will be escorted by Bolivarian National Armed Forces boats and planes to welcome them in and thank the Iranian people for their solidarity and cooperation.” 

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi accused the US of threatening piracy and vowed a decisive response.”  Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami warned the United States “Iran will not tolerate obstacles [to its oil ships]. Both the United States and other countries know that we will not hesitate. If the obstacles continue or increase, Iran’s response will be forceful.”

Both Iran and Venezuela warned the United Nations that any action by the United States to stop the oil tankers would be illegal. Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif wrote UN Secretary Antonio GuterresVenezuela’s UN ambassador, Samuel Moncada, alerted the agency to the “threat of imminent use of military force by the United States.” The letter warned: “Ships with British, Dutch, French and American flags are bordering the coasts of our country, with a hostile and aggressive attitude . . . threatening the imposition illegal of a naval blockade.” He urged the UN Security Council to take immediate action to end the “warmongering and criminal policies,” of the US, which threaten the peace, security, and stability of the region.

Earlier in the week, the US blocked the Security Council resolution denouncing the attempted mercenary invasion of Venezuela. Ambassador Moncada thanked the countries that stood up for international law in the Security Council. Maduro said, “We have had a great victory in the UN Security Council” by exposing the US to criticism from the world.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro shake hands at Wyndham Concorde hotel in Magarita, Venezeula, on September 16, 2016. Reuters.

The First Iranian Supertanker Enters Venezuelan Waters

While the world waited for military conflict, on Saturday night after 7 pm local time, the first supertanker entered Venezuelan waters and is currently being escorted by the Bolivarian Republics’ military to port. The US did not intercept the tanker. Hopefully, this will continue for the remaining four tankers and the US will end the economic war against Iran, Venezuela, and other countries.

The arrival of these tankers from Iran marks a historic milestone as it is the first time that the Middle Eastern country exported fuel to Latin America. This is one example of many of US sanctions bringing nations together in solidarity against the United States. The US is caught in a paradox — the more it exercises force, the more power it loses as nations unite against US domination. 

Venezuela’s strategic ties to Iran date back almost two decades, when President Hugo Chávez, the founder of its socialist state, struck a flurry of economic and financial deals with the president of Iran. The two nation’s were co-founders of OPEC in 1960. In 2008, Venezuela shipped gasoline to Iran when US sanctions were crippling its industry. Maduro has continued to build bilateral relations with Iran resulting in economic and other trade deals as well as through OPEC and the Non-Aligned Movement.

On Friday night, a group of Venezuelan youths raised the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran in front of the mountain barracks where Commander Hugo Chavez rests as a token of appreciation for the shipment of fuels. People in both Venezuela and Iran celebrated the victory over the US blockade.

Now is the time to build on that success to grow the movement against the US’ illegal coercive measures. The Sanctions Kill coalition is holding a series of webinars to educate and organize toward that goal. The first was on May 9 and featured representatives from six countries. Speakers included Ana Silvia Rodriguez Abascal, Charge des Affaires of the Cuban Mission to the UN, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Francisco O Campbell, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Bashar Ja’afari, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations and Carlos J. Ron Martinez, Venezuelan Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The next webinar will be on Sunday, May 31 at 1:00 pm EST and will feature representatives from Gaza, Venezuela, and other nations. It is taking place during an international week of action against imperialism from May 25 to 31.

The Non-Aligned Movement, a decades-old coalition of 120 nations representing 55 percent of the world’s population, has become reactivated. They met in Azerbaijan in October 2019 and in Venezuela in August 2019.  Both meetings denounced US sanctions and US military threats around the world. Nations are starting to provide assistance to sanctioned countries. In April, Britain, France and Germany used a new trade mechanism that bypasses US sanctions called Instex to send medical aid to Iran. These are positive signs.

While the victory of Iran and Venezuela is significant, it does not end the US economic war against the two countries. The US is persistent in its foreign policy goals and both countries need to be prepared for US escalation as a result of the Iranian supertankers going to Venezuela. Both countries cherish their independence and sovereignty. They will not give in. And they are building international solidarity. We in the US must demand that our government cease its hostilities and become a cooperative member of that global community.



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Empire Files: The Forgotten Wars, Part I

Empire Files: The Forgotten Wars, Part I

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The US war on Afghanistan will soon enter its 20th year. Two decades we’ve seen an endless loop of news stories: progress then setbacks, lies then revelations, a new end, then a new beginning. But, for the most part, it has simply vanished from media and politics–no longer discussed at all.

However, it has not vanished for those impacted–not for the people of Afghanistan, nor the young men and women sent to fight them.

In part one of the Empire Files series on the US empire’s forever war, Marine Corps infantryman turned anti-war activist John Motter tells Abby Martin the hidden reality of the Afghanistan War.

From units committing war crimes to protecting opium crops, John’s experience is a harrowing and sobering reminder of why the US urgently needs to leave.

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The American Empire Is in Decline. Time for a New Economic System- CoinDesk

Lex Sokolin, a CoinDesk columnist, is Global Fintech co-head at ConsenSys, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based blockchain software company. The following is adapted from his Fintech Blueprint newsletter.

The hard thing about abundance is making a choice. We live in a time of the broadest set of economic, social and political thinking, available to all at any time. But when the world’s most important macroeconomic investor, Ray Dalio, publishes a deeply researched description of the money markets and a forward view of the impact on American Empire, all we have to do is listen and learn. It is all available here, for free.

What makes empires according to Ray? And what breaks them?

Dalio’s Bridgewater team looked across time to the East and the West. In Europe, they tracked the British, Dutch and other colonial powers. In Asia, they analyzed the coming and going of Chinese dynasties. While the structure and organizing principles of the political super-organisms (i.e., the beehive) has changed drastically over millennia, human nature and DNA have not.

The data suggests empires last about 200 years. It all starts with education, which leads to innovation and productive competitiveness. Growing military power, funded by growing wealth, protects trade and financial flows that attach to a dominant power. After a rise and time lag of almost 100 years, the incumbent is crowned with the gift of a reserve currency – that financial superpower that allows it to print money. Yet, when that superpower is over-exercised, and investments in education and innovation erode away, debt cycles accumulate and collapse the whole endeavor. The biome is effectively destroyed.

Here is the tracking of empires in Dalio’s study using a smoothed weighted average of the discussed attributes to create an index of power. Pay close attention to America in blue, Britain in black and China in red.

dalio-image
Taken from “The Changing World Order” by Ray Dalio

This is a fantastic amount of work, condensed into a clear visualization. Now, as the U.S. has to contend with the rise of China, it competes with a nation that has improving fundamental attributes (education, innovation) but not yet the reserve currency. The reserve currency allows its bearer to generate economic activity from thin air at the expense of the rest of the world. This brings us back on point to money, which is why you are reading this article.

The empire super-organism emerges as complexity out of the interaction of millions of individual human agents and the other organisms they form such as families, teams, companies and states (for more on what complexity really looks like, see my thoughts on Wolfram’s theory of the universe). I think it is hard to create a deterministic model that describes complex systems without overshooting the truth with convenient narrative. But we do what we must, and it is better to have a rough compass to the truth than none at all.

When looking at the money part of empires, Ray sees two attributes of the “machine.” The first is the regular expansion/contraction business cycle, lasting five to 10 years on average, driven by the extension of credit and its default. Like the human body drawing breath in and out, money flows into our pockets and out like a wave.

Credit is its own animal, and left unchecked unhinges from collateral to become mere imagination.

The second insight is to recognize a 50- to 100-year cycle of sovereign money. This is a cycle that switches between (1) hard money like gold, which has intrinsic redeemable value and is trustless (i.e., can be used for transactions between enemies), (2) paper money built on credit tied to hard money and (3) fiat money issued at will by sovereigns. Another way to describe the same concept is to say that money starts out physically scarce, then becomes digitally or contractually scarce and then loses its scarcity entirely.

The entropy of the system, or alternately human nature, moves us from scarce money to credit because we want growth. I believe this is tied to how our brains are wired for loss aversion and dopamine rewards. We will cheat ourselves from the future for just a hit of pleasure today. Credit is its own animal, and left unchecked unhinges from collateral to become mere imagination. Once that imagination runs wild and is spent for the enrichment of the few (e.g., corporate equity buybacks) rather than the safety of the money (e.g., universal health care), you get some form of revolution or currency devaluation, which then leads to seeking scarcity again. Here’s how Dalio illustrates it:

dalio-2
Taken from “The Changing World Order” by Ray Dalio

If you’re not going berserk looking at the above chart, which shows a peak of the monetary base as a percentage of GDP in the 1930s and then in 2010-2020, then you are not paying attention. The U.S. is massively unmoored from scarcity by design, which puts us on the brink of a systemic paradigm shift. Last month, the government printed 20% of GDP in a single stroke, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The gold and bitcoin bugs feel vindicated in their core philosophical premise, which is that the central banks will always “cheat” and generate more money whenever politically convenient. That has been reflected in the price of gold, if you control for the effects of foreign actors rushing to the dollar as a reserve currency.

If we go back to Dalio’s description of the money super-cycle machine, our economy is in 1930s territory, as is the divided state of our polity and the rising autocratic pressure across the world given wealth and income inequality. But let’s table the latter and focus on the former. President Franklin Roosevelt and the Keynesians drove the largest expansion of the American social welfare system and government employment in response to the Great Depression. The government gave itself new fiscal powers and silenced the judiciary (at the time, a good thing) to spend, spend, spend to avoid unbearable crises.

Two growing ideas are used to justify the current approach of the central banks. One is called Modern Monetary Theory (“MMT”), which goes one step further than the Keynesians, who thought taxation and bond issuance should be the mechanism by which money is tied to government obligations before it is spent by the government. MMT supporters think money, especially when it is the reserve currency and is thereby protected from foreign exchange  pressure, is phantom accounting and simply should be issued by the government to provide social services like universal basic income and health care. The policy target is full employment.

See also: Software Ate the World, Here’s How It Eats Finance

While I am likely distorting the summary with personal bias, to me it seems the core goal here is for the government to use money for maintaining the standard of living inside a late-stage reserve-incumbent empire. Dalio’s take is here, wherein he titles MMT as “Monetary Policy 3” or MP3.

The second idea is called Market Monetarism, advocated by economist Scott Sumner, my friend David Siegel and Eliezer Yudkowsky. If you have an hour to spare and want an eerily prescient imagined conversation between Yudkowsky and a central banker, read this piece from 2017 that predicts the future we live in. The core premise is that central banks should not target interest rates or unemployment, but instead choose a long-term nominal GDP growth target like 5%. If you have real GDP growth of 2%, you need inflation of 3%. If you have real GDP growth of -10%, you need inflation of 15%. Further, the effects of this should persist year over year such that mistakes are corrected to the multi-year average (e.g., if you want to grow 50% over 10 years, you would need to go up 6% if you only did 4% last year, ignoring the actual compounding arithmetic).

Our economy is in 1930s territory, as is the divided state of our polity, and the rising autocratic pressure across the world given wealth and income inequality.

The outcome is that economic actors in this NGDP targeted system can rely on what economic growth looks like, at least on paper. To effect this in practice, the money machine has to print variable rates of inflation or disinflation. Printing 20% of GDP or having negative interest rates is just fine, as long as it leads to that 5% growth expectation coming true. Everything else is just a math plug, since fiat money is just a construct in a database.

The year 2020 will see the above logic tested precisely. Whether it works or not in the long term will be experimentally observed. But I have strong doubts, and think Ray Dalio’s piece provides the necessary bridges between Market Monetarism and Modern Monetary Theory to the long history of humankind.

We can play the confidence game in the late stages of American empire, sure. We can unmoor money from the economy and stimulate employment in order to dampen social unrest, preventing societal collapse and another Constitutional crisis. But there’s a cycle, and it is a cycle of trust.

Physical scarcity and utility is one aspect. You can trust the shiny gold you hold now, and the shiny gold in the shelf of the museum. There are thousands of years of precedent saying it is safe to own.

Digital scarcity and utility is another aspect. Blockchain-based systems have recreated such attributes in Bitcoin, Ethereum and others. While many people are wary of these systems today, it is largely due to the tragedy of scammers and hackers undermining the public perception of sound long-term technology for short term gains. Digital assets traveling on decentralized rails are one of the few alternatives to sovereign currencies and physical bullion. They will benefit not just from the collapse of the business cycle, but the broader ending of the macro super-cycle. 

Through this lens, China’s quick movement to the blockchain-based yuan is a story of battle for global hegemony. It needs to park its reserve currency into the crypto ecosystem. That will compete with over $10 billion of U.S. dollar-denominated stablecoins already in use. What we can also deduce by corollary is that once money truly flows into blockchain-anchored economies, blockchain-native software and businesses will bloom by the thousands. The latter is a reason to get up in the morning.

Now is not an incremental time. Now is not a time for mild cost savings or small improvements in user experience. Now is a time for building the future of the world.

Disclosure Read More

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.



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Pulitzer Committee Favors False US Empire Stories On Hong Kong, Russia And China

Pulitzer Committee Favors False US Empire Stories On Hong Kong, Russia And China

Pulitzer Committee Favors False US Empire Stories On Hong Kong, Russia And China2020-05-18PopularResistance.Orghttps://popularresistance-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/2017/08/Nytimes_hq-300×199-150×99.jpg200px200px

Above photo: New York Times building in New York City. (Photo from Wikipedia)

The New York Times has apparently stolen its Pulitzer Prize-winning stories from Russian journalists – the same liberal anti-Putin reporters its correspondents have lionized.

The New York Times has been accused for the second time of stealing major scoops from Russian journalists. One of those stories won the Times a Pulitzer Prize this May.

The journalists who have accused the Times of taking their work without credit also happen to be the same liberal media crusaders against Vladimir Putin that Western correspondents at the Times and other mainstream outlets have cast as persecuted heroes.

The Pulitzer Prize Board is comprised of a who’s who of media aristocrats and Ivy League bigwigs. Given the elite backgrounds of the judges, it is hardly a surprise that they reward reporting that reinforces the narrative of the new US Cold War against official enemies like Russia and China.

Stephen Kinzer, a former New York Times correspondent who has since become a critic of US foreign policy, noted that the three finalists in the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting “were one story about how evil Russia is and two about how evil China is. These choices encourage reporters to write stories that reinforce rather than question Washington’s foreign-policy narrative.”

The finalists nominated in this category were Reuters and the New York Times for two separate sets of stories.

The US newspaper of record ended up winning the 2020 award in international reporting, for what the Pulitzer jury described as “a set of enthralling stories, reported at great risk, exposing the predations of Vladimir Putin’s regime.”

The Times was nominated again as a finalist for what the jury called its “gripping accounts that disclosed China’s top-secret efforts to repress millions of Muslims through a system of labor camps, brutality and surveillance.”

The staff of Reuters was selected as the third finalist for its reporting in support of anti-China protesters in Hong Kong. (The photography staff of Reuters ended up winning the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news photography for the same coverage.)

Among the five members of the Pulitzer jury who selected these finalists was Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of the neoliberal magazine The Atlantic and a former volunteer in the Israeli army who worked as a guard at a prison camp where Palestinians who rose up in the First Intifada were interned.

Joining Goldberg on the jury was Susan Chira, a former New York Times editor.

While this elite Pulitzer jury praised the New York Times for “at great risk, exposing the predations of Vladimir Putin’s regime,” it is not exactly clear what that “risk” is supposed to entail – because the major US newspaper appears to have stolen at least part of its reporting from Russian journalists.

On May 4, journalist Roman Badanin published a Facebook post accusing the Times of ripping off a story he had released months before without credit.

Badanin is the founder and editor-in-chief of the liberal anti-Putin news website Proekt, known as The Project in English.

“I have no illusions about the real role of Russian journalism in the world, but I have to note: the two The New York Times’s investigations, for which this honored newspaper won the Pulitzer prize yesterday, repeat the findings of The Project’s articles published a few months before,” Badanin wrote on Facebook.

“I would also like to note that the winners did not put a single link to the English version of our article, even when, for example, 8 months after The Project, they told about the activities of Eugene Prigozhin’s emissaries in Madagascar,” he added.

Badanin linked to an article he published, both in Russian and English, back in March 2019 titled “Master and Chef: How Evgeny Prigozhin led the Russian offensive in Africa.” The story details how the businessman Evgenу Prigozhin, who is sanctioned by the US government, has been promoting business opportunities in Africa. The piece focuses specifically on Madagascar, where Russia also has a military agreement.

This report is eerily similar to a report published by the New York Times eight months later, in November, titled “How Russia Meddles Abroad for Profit: Cash, Trolls and a Cult Leader.” This story, which was filed in Madagascar, does not once link to or credit Proekt’s original reporting.

Another anti-Putin Russian news website, Meduza, published an article on May 7 drawing attention to these allegations, titled “‘Fuck the Pulitzer — I just want a hyperlink’: Russian journalists say ‘The New York Times’ should have acknowledged their investigative work in the newspaper’s award-winning reports about the Putin regime’s ‘predations.’”

Meduza interviewed Badanin, who said the New York Times “report about Madagascar from November 2019 repeats all the main and even secondary conclusions from our reporting about Madagascar and Africa generally between March and April last year.”

While Badanin did not outright accuse the Times of plagiarism, he was frustrated that “nowhere in the story did they acknowledge that we’d already reported on this topic,” and said it was either a “professional issue” or an “ethical problem.”

A New York Times spokesperson denied that Proekt’s reporting was used in any way. And the Times reporter who authored this report from Madagascar, Michael Schwirtz, responded dismissively to the accusations in a Twitter thread full of sarcastic quips.

Another anti-Putin Russian activist accuses the New York Times of lifting his reporting

Michael Schwirtz authored another New York Times article in December that was cited by the Pulitzer jury for the 2020 prize. This piece, “How a Poisoning in Bulgaria Exposed Russian Assassins in Europe,” is also suspiciously similar to reporting published before by yet another anti-Putin website, called The Insider.

The Insider is edited by the Western-backed, diehard anti-Putin activist Roman Dobrokhotov. In response to Schwirtz’s Twitter thread, Dobrohotov angrily asked why The Insider’s reports were not credited as well. Schwirtz denied having used information from the previous stories.

Schwirtz’s Twitter thread tagged four Russian accounts: Proekt, The Insider, Dobrokhotov, and Yasha Levine, the last of whom is an occasional contributor to The Grayzone and the author of “Surveillance Valley.”

Levine reflected on the scandal writing, “Time to learn the hard truth: The New York Times — like the Empire it represents — doesn’t give a fuck about you. It’ll take whatever it wants, give nothing in return, and suffer no consequences. And who’ll believe you Russians anyway?”

“The reverence with which liberal Russian journalists have treated the New York Times has always been baffling to me,” Levine continued. “But that’s what you get when you’re a colonial subject like Russia. You fetishize the master. That reverence is starting to wear off, but it’s still there.”

New York Times was also accused of stealing Russian journalists’ reporting back in 2017

This is not even the first time that the US newspaper of record has been accused of stealing reporting from Russian journalists.

Back in 2017, the New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting for its reports on “Vladimir Putin’s efforts to project Russia’s power abroad.”

At the time, journalists from the anti-Putin website Meduza accused the Times of ripping off their reporting. The website Global Voices highlighted the controversy, in an article titled “Russian Journalists Say One of NYT’s Pulitzer-Winning Stories Was Stolen.”

Meduza reported Daniil Turovsky accused New York Times Moscow correspondent Andrew E. Kramer of lifting his reporting. Kramer actually took the time to respond in a Facebook comment, acknowledging that his report was based on the Russian journalist’s.

“Daniil, I spoke with you while preparing this article and explained that I intended to follow in the footsteps of your fine work, that I would credit Meduza, as I did, and thanked you for your help,” Kramer said.

This did not satisfy Meduza, which also reminded readers in its latest 2020 article that the Times had ripped off its 2017 reporting.

The Grayzone has also experienced this kind of shameless journalistic pickpocketing. In March 2019, the New York Times released a report acknowledging that the so-called “humanitarian aid” convoy that the US government tried to ram across the Venezuelan border in a February coup attempt had been set on fire not by government forces, but rather Washington-backed right-wing opposition hooligans.

At the time of this February 23 putsch attempt, the Times had initially joined US politicians like Senator Marco Rubio and the majority of the corporate media in blaming Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. But The Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal, who was reporting in Venezuela, published a report showing that all of the available evidence pointed to the opposition being responsible.

When the Times finally admitted this fact weeks later, it made no mention whatsoever of Blumenthal’s reporting. Glenn Greenwald was the only high-profile journalist to credit Blumenthal and The Grayzone.

New York Times had ironically heroized these Russian journalists before stealing their reporting

Further compounding this staggering hypocrisy is the fact that the New York Times has in fact published numerous articles lionizing these anti-Putin Russian journalists, while simultaneously ripping off their work.

Proekt founder and editor Roman Badanin is not some kind of crypto pro-Kremlin activist – far from it. He has spent years working within mainstream outlets, and was previously the editor-in-chief of the decidedly anti-Putin Russian edition of Forbes magazine

Badanin does friendly interviews with US-based neoconservative think tanks like the Free Russia Foundation, a right-wing anti-Putin lobbying group that appointed regime-changer Michael Weiss as its director for special investigations.

In an interview conducted by Valeria Jegisman, a neoconservative anti-Russian activist who worked as a spokesperson for the government of Estonia and now works at the US government’s propaganda arm Voice of America, group accused the Kremlin of spreading false information, claiming “Russia will continue its disinformation tactics.”

Badanin also called for “the West” to “support independent media projects with non-profit funding,” stating clearly: “I think that what the West can do is to continue to support independent media in the most transparent and clear way, and to stop being afraid of the million tricks that the Russian authorities come up with to force the West to abandon these investments.”

The Russian journalist’s pro-Western perspective has been rewarded. Badanin was honored by the European Press Prize, a program backed by Western governments and the top corporate media outlets in Europe, particularly The Guardian and Reuters.

Badanin was also given a Stanford John S. Knight international fellowship in journalism. Stanford University has established itself as an outpost for Russian pro-Western liberals, and its journalist fellowship program provides institutional support for dissidents in countries targeted by Washington for regime change.

Badanin’s extensive links to Western regime-change institutions should not come as a surprise to the New York Times; it has in fact honored him in numerous articles.

In 2017, the Times published an entire article framed around Badanin. Reporter Jim Rutenberg explained, “I wanted to better understand President Trump’s America… So I went to Russia.”

In Moscow, Rutenberg met with Badanin at the headquarters of the anti-Putin station TV Rain, which he described as a “warehouse complex here, populated by young people with beards, tattoos, piercings and colored hair. (Brooklyn hipster imperialism knows no bounds.)”

While praising Badanin and TV Rain, the Times also noted that the channel published a poll suggesting that the Soviet Union “should have abandoned Leningrad to the Nazis to save lives.”

The Times even featured Badanin prominently in the header image of the story — just two years before the same newspaper would go on to rip off his reporting.

The New York Times also reported on Roman Badanin in 2016 and 2011. It is abundantly clear the newspaper knew who he was.

The Gray Lady’s willingness to snatch Badanin’s reporting shows how little respect newspapers like the New York Times actually have for the anti-Putin journalists they claim to lionize. For the jet-setting correspondents of Western corporate media outlets, liberal Russian reporters are just tools to advance their own ambitions.

Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the assistant editor of The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with editor Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.



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News Veterans Today

Ertugrul (Islam’s ‘Game of Thrones’): Selling the New Ottoman Empire to Pakistan – Veterans Today

One rarely expects the prime minister of a nation to become a cheerleader for a television show. But, in October 2019, that is exactly what Pakistani leader Imran Khan did. And with it, he unleashed a phenomenon that has since gripped his nation and become the talking point among fans and critics alike.

That the drama series in question is Turkish and not Pakistani only adds to the intrigue.

Dirilis: Ertugrul is a big-budget series that depicts the prehistory of the Ottoman Empire. It is based on the life of the 13th-century Muslim Oghuz Turk leader, who was the father of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

The show takes the name of the father and presents his tribe as a band of plucky rebels caught between Christian crusaders, Byzantine warriors, and fearsome Mongols. The scene is set for his tribe to invoke Islam and triumph against all odds. The premise is set, historical facts are manipulated for dramatic effect, and the production values are suitably overblown.

Since the show first launched in Turkey in 2014, it has become a hit and a money-spinner for all involved, also airing on Netflix, with Turkish and English subtitles, since 2018.

Perhaps that should have been the end of it. The very nature of our insatiable appetite for TV drama means fans move on to the next big thing. In this case, they did not.

In praising the show and ordering Pakistan’s national broadcaster to dub it into Urdu, Prime Minister Khan unwittingly became, if not the show’s executive producer, certainly something close.

His move made Ertugrul accessible to a far bigger audience and subsequently helped make it even more of a hit TV show internationally. It was instantly popular when it aired with Urdu translation on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and it only continues to get bigger.

Pakistan’s contradictory identity

It was not money that drove the prime minister’s decision, but concern that Islamic values were being eroded in Pakistan, and the fact that Pakistan has always paid respect to leaders of the Muslim world.

Deference to the ancient leaders of the Islamic world has always been part of Pakistan’s identity and often the root of its contradictory nature.

Is Pakistan South Asian Muslim? Or is it based in Arab roots as some leaders have pushed? Or is it closer to Turkish culture in origin?

Imran Khan blog ertugrul

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, right, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan [Reuters]

Ertugrul in many ways speaks to the identity of Muslim Pakistan, but does it speak to a void in that identity that requires affirmation from something that happened in a faraway land, a long time ago?

“Turkish history and South Asian history are not ‘faraway’ by any stretch of the imagination,” says Mosharraf Zaidi, senior fellow at Pakistani think-tank Tabadlab.

“For decades, modern secular Turkey and modern Pakistan have been extremely close allies. The bonds are historic, military and strategic and since the emergence of AKP under Turkish leader Erdogan, they have increasingly taken on cultural dimensions. Ertugrul’s popularity marks an engagement of Pakistanis with the notion of a glorious Muslim past. It marks neither the affirmation of such a past, nor any crisis of identity. It’s just a popular TV show.”

That it is a popular TV show is beyond doubt. The YouTube channel has millions watching. It is seen as a genuine cultural phenomenon that sparks internet memes, countless social media posts and even Pakistani fans getting upset that the actors in the show are not as Islamic as they would like them to be. Comments on the actors’ Instagram pages have seen Pakistani fans show ire that some of the female stars wear non-conservative dress and that one actor is seen petting his dog.

But perhaps even that is a part and parcel of the phenomenon. On the one hand, Pakistani fans are exposed to Islamic history, on the other they are exposed to the culture of modern-day, urban, secular Turkey.

Ertugrul and male viewers

This is not the first time that Turkish programmes have become popular outside of Turkey.

Turkish soap operas set in modern times and based – as soap operas are – around family drama, betrayal and over-the-top acting have also been incredibly popular. But no one has ever referred to them as a cultural phenomenon, perhaps in part because the target audience for soap operas is overwhelmingly female?

Ertugrul offers an alternative narrative to a country with a majority population of under-35s to connect with a past empire associated with conquest rather than fighting against colonialism.

LAALEEN SUKHERA

Laaleen Sukhera writes extensively on Pakistan and is based in Lahore.

“Turkish period drama has been popular across the region for a while now,” she says.

“Magnificent Century was dubbed in Urdu too with a predominantly female viewership varying in age. Ertugrul marks the first time that young men make up a significant number of viewers of Turkish programming and that’s why it suddenly feels more mainstream and significant in patriarchal Pakistan.

“Ertugrul offers an alternative narrative to a country with a majority population of under-35s to connect with a past empire associated with conquest rather than fighting against colonialism. It’s a soapy period drama but whether it inspires big-budget depictions of subcontinental heroes like Razia Sultan and Chand Bibi remains unclear,” she adds.

Soft power and the Muslim historical narrative

The fact the prime minister has backed the show with words and action may also speak to his own agenda in establishing Pakistan as a pre-eminent player in the Muslim world.

He has not been shy in saying that Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia should establish themselves as leaders. His first front in establishing that goal seems to be cultural and taking control of the Muslim historical narrative. But in doing so, has he played into Turkey’s hands and the soft power it wields? By pushing a TV show based around Turkish Ottoman history, is he doing the Turks’ bidding for them?

Ahmer Naqvi is a freelance cultural writer who sees Ertugrul as part of a wider agenda.

“There is definitely an element of the Pakistani state pushing a certain idea of Islamic history, that focuses on conquest and expansionism and that has a long history of being used as propaganda,” he says.

“This push has come at the expense of even acknowledging the history of what is now settled Pakistan. So you would know about Muslim general Salahuddin but not about Chanakya, who lived in settled Pakistan, so yes, there is valid concern that the state is pushing a wider history and not its own. In general I would love to see the Pakistani state invest in its own cultural industries.”

At its heart, what Ertugrul represents in this scenario is a battle for the soul of the Islamic narrative and for Pakistan’s own self-image.

Does the country have a unique Muslim identity forged via Muslim India, or is it part of the wider history of the Muslim world? The answer to that is what informs its current self-image.



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The Empire Is A Mirror

The Empire Is A Mirror

The Empire Is A Mirror2020-05-09PopularResistance.Orghttps://popularresistance-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/2020/05/eoire-e1589039278475.jpg200px200px

Let us see that the virus allows us to reflect on ourselves, not simply at a national level, but at a civilizational level – at the level of the human species.

In a matter of a few months, our world has undergone profound disruptions and change. In fact, much of this came in just days and weeks. At first, it was a shock: yes, there is a pandemic, a deadly – or potentially deadly – virus that was spreading rapidly, accelerating exponentially, and killing excessively. Initially, it was China, and we did not pay much attention. China has had epidemics before, and they’ll deal with it; that’s just China. Other countries in Asia began experiencing a spike in cases, from South Korea to Iran. But Korea was handling it, and Iran – well, aren’t they kind of a “troubled” spot, anyhow?

Enter Italy

The cases shot up, the crisis erupted, and an emergency was apparent. The numbers read out from our TVs and phone screens showed rising infections and deaths with hospitals overwhelmed. The world’s “trouble spots” were China, South Korea, Iran and Italy. Other nations were putting up travel restrictions and quarantine rules for those arriving from those hot spots. As you read this, you may think, “oh, yeah, I remember when it was just those four.” But it was not so long ago, just early March, two months, eight weeks (as of this writing).

But many other nations had, by that time, reported cases of the virus in their populations, spread by travelers emanating from those four centres. Still, the virus seemed a distant, vague threat. It was worrying, yes, but worrying for China, South Korea, Iran and Italy. “Here,” in whatever country you/we are in (I am in Canada), “we are safe, we are fine.” Our governments had already blocked or quarantined travelers from those countries, so, “we will not have any problems.” The problem is effectively solved, the virus contained; but wow, close call. Poor Italy, though. Poor Italy.

As we all now know, it wasn’t just Italy.

On March 8, the United States had 500 reported cases of the virus; the world had a reported 100,000 cases, and nearly 3,500 deaths, the majority of which were in China. The next day, Italy went into lockdown as Canada and Germany reported their first deaths from the virus. Within days, all 26 European Union nations reported cases of the virus, and many began to shutter their schools. Flights were being suspended, travel grounded, stores were closing, various U.S. states declared emergencies.

On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus outbreak to officially be a pandemic, an epidemic on a global level.

Suddenly, seemingly, it was everywhere. The world economy was battered, and global stock markets took a one-two-three punch of crashes on the 9th, 12th and 16th of March. By the third market crash, the US had over 4,000 confirmed cases of the virus, schools were closing in US states and cities, Spain was shutting down, France was shutting down, Germany closed its borders. Two weeks later, at the beginning of April, the United States had more than 200,000 infections and over 4,000 deaths. Global cases surpassed one million, deaths surpassed 50,000, with roughly 91% of Americans ordered to stay at home. Approximately half the world’s population was living under one form of lockdown in early April.

The Lockdowns

The lockdowns created tens of millions of new unemployed, and many governments had to come to the rescue of their citizens (as indeed they should have). But they also made a priority of bailing out financial institutions and large corporations. The world entered a major recession, with most of the commentary declaring this to be the worst economic event since the Great Depression, the worst global economic event in history. It far surpassed the global financial crisis of 2008, which already tore through the past decade and left us with a deeply unstable global economic and financial system, sick and writhing long before the viral spread. The only thing that spread faster than the virus itself was the economic chaos it unleashed.

Trillions of dollars were pumped into financial markets to keep the financial system afloat. In fact, the very same day that the WHO declared a pandemic, the U.S. Federal Reserve (the country’s central bank) announced that it would pump trillions of dollars into the financial system, and for one week in March it said it would make $1 trillion available every day to markets. In April, the Fed announced it could inject trillions more into the financial system.

What the Fed and other central banks spend in a day in providing support to financial markets, governments of the same countries take weeks of negotiations to provide support for their domestic populations, if they do so at all. Financial markets sit at the centre of our global financial system and economy and represent the richest institutions in the world: banks, asset managers, hedge funds, and other investment vehicles that individually hold trillions in assets. These institutions and this system of finance could not survive day one of the pandemic without trillions in support, yet it took weeks to rally less money to support tens of millions of people struggling with unemployment, loss of wages, rents, mortgages, credit card debt and consumer shortages.

The lockdowns were extended, the virus spread, cases rose, deaths continued, populations became restless, and in some cases, resistant. Starting at the point at which the WHO declared a pandemic (on March 11), to the first week of May, the lockdowns have lasted for up to eight weeks (depending on the country). China’s lockdown started much earlier than those in the rest of the world and was thus able to come to an end sooner. However, it is only opening slowly and with caution.

The Spread

In the first week of May, global cases surpassed 3.5 million and deaths rose above 250,000. In the roughly four weeks since the start of April, global cases increased from 1 to 3.5 million, and deaths from 50,000 to 250,000. In that same four-week span, US numbers went from 270,000 cases and 7,000 deaths to 1.2 million cases and 70,000 deaths.

While we struggle with the fatigue of the lockdowns, and earnestly desire for society to open once again – to see our friends and family and be together and experience all the things we previously took for granted – we still must face the struggle of reality. The reality is that the virus is a part of our world now. The virus – and the subsequent global lockdowns – are undoubtedly one of the most significant global events ever witnessed. Much like the virus itself, the economic, political and social chaos and crises it unleashed are only in their early stages, their first few weeks and months. This does not mean that all that is to come will be like the lockdowns and crashes of mid-March, or akin to the human tragedy unleashed in places like Italy and the United States.

It will not all be like that. But there will (likely) be periods of opening, and then more lockdowns to come. There will likely be places that seem to have everything under control, and then there will be countries that plunge into crisis and its people into pain. The virus is a part of our world now, in the actual scientific sense of the virus having mutated from one species into humans, unleashing a highly contagious and deadly new pathogen for which humans have no antibodies or pharmacological remedies. But the virus is also a part of our world as social, political and economic beings. It has ruptured our lives and upended our societies, some more than others.

The Virus is a Mirror

In its spread, we see the interconnectedness of our world; we see our healthcare systems, our doctors and nurses, our “essential workers.” We see the migrant workers who pick our food, the working class who keep us fed and well-supplied with all our necessities. We see inadequate social systems that offer little support. We see lives being sacrificed for the hopes of reviving the economy. We see greed and petulance, madness and depravity.

But we also see how simple it is to provide for the many, to give the financial support that is necessary for the population to meet its basic needs. We see homeless people given empty homes or hotel rooms. We see some countries saying itis time for guaranteed basic incomes. We see the need for better and more widely accessible healthcare. We see the strength and necessity of our working classes, and the uselessness and greed of the financial superclass.

Medical and scientific professionals have been fighting the virus on the front lines, and as a result have often been falling victim to its endless appetite for expansion. Working class people have kept our grocery stores stocked, our supplies shipped, our (remaining) public spaces clean, our deliveries arriving, our stomachs full and our homes secure. They are lower paid, usually with no benefits, and they work in the midst of a pandemic at greater risk to themselves than we face in the comfort of our homes. They are also a major reason why, in the midst of a pandemic and the lockdowns that ensued, civilization itself has not collapsed. It may sound like an exaggeration, but if the food stops being picked, or shipped, and the stores stop being stocked, or items sold; if maintenance workers stopped maintaining, if transport workers stopped transporting, we would have worse problems on our hands than the virus itself.

Compare this class to the super-rich, particularly the financial sector. Once the pandemic was underway, the state institutions opened the floodgates of cash to pump into the financial sector, to the tune of several trillions (the real numbers will not likely be known for years, just as was the case following the global financial crisis of 2008, which itself saw tens of trillions in support for financial institutions). At a moment’s notice, with the threat of a virus, the financial centre of our global economic system crashed and needed more support than ever before, and more support than any other sector of human society.

The working people who we rely upon for our society to keep functioning are left with low wages, few benefits (if any), and increased personal risk of exposure to the virus itself.

If the virus is a mirror of our society, let us see not only what is bad and wrong and frightening in our reflection, but also what is good and strong. Let us see that the virus allows us to reflect on ourselves, not simply at a national level, but at a civilizational level – at the level of the human species. Let us see that other existential threats – such as climate change or nuclear warfare – must be taken more seriously. Let us see the need for a shift in priorities, from economic growth and profits to environmental sustainability and people. Let us put humanity’s potential to survive the 21st century – and for our civilization to avoid collapse – ahead of the desire for better quarterly returns, equity dividends, and profit incentives.

In the function of the virus we also see our global economy, constantly in search of new hosts, new cells to latch onto and infect, consume, and destroy, and from which it disseminates and propagates. Perpetually in search of growth and expansion, it is perfectly designed to spread, to mutate, to accelerate and to destroy. In the ultimate destruction of the host, the virus triumphs, but if it does not spread further, it dies with the host as well.

Let us see in the virus ourselves, our society, for what it is and what it lacks, but also for what it can be. Let us see.

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