Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Today's Links

1--  Evidence of Google blacklisting of left and progressive sites continues to mount

This is political censorship of the worst sort; it’s just an excuse to suppress political viewpoints,” said Robert Epstein, a former editor in chief of Psychology Today and noted expert on Google.

Eric Maas, a search engine optimization consultant working in the San Francisco Bay area, said his team has surveyed a wide range of alternative news sites affected by changes in Google’s algorithms since April. “These sites, which have had their search traffic fall by up to 67 percent, have a diverse range of content strategies and compliance with best practices advocated by Google and SEO experts.”

2-- The Democrats adopt Trump and Bannon’s economic nationalism

The embrace of economic nationalism by the Democratic Party, as well as sections of the Republican Party represented by Trump and Bannon, should be taken as a stark warning to workers in the US and internationally. Just as the world is more economically unified than ever before, and when workers in the US must unite with their class brothers and sisters in other countries to defend their interests, both big-business parties in the US, along with the unions, are dividing workers along national lines....

“A Better Deal,” as the World Socialist Web Site wrote after its unveiling, “is a transparent exercise in empty sloganeering and threadbare rhetorical populism.” It combines the weakest “reforms” imaginable, such as a $15 hourly minimum wage that is unlikely to be implemented and would still be wholly inadequate, with blatant pro-business measures, including tax credits for businesses to train and hire workers.

3-- Devastating toll of hunger on US school children  

Brian Minter, a spokesman for Share Our Strength’s “No Kid Hungry” campaign, said, “Hunger exists in nearly every community in America today. It’s an urban problem, it’s a rural problem, and it has come to our suburbs. It is also a solvable problem.”

He noted that programs like food stamps, school meals and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) had a major impact in alleviating hunger. But these programs are targeted for severe cuts, if not outright destruction, in the budget proposals of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans.

According to a report published Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the House Republican budget plan, scheduled for a vote in early September, would slash $2.9 trillion from programs for low-income and moderate-income families over the next ten years.

This includes a cut of $150 billion from food stamps alone, a reduction of 40 percent. According to the CBPP, “A funding reduction of this magnitude would end food assistance for millions of low-income families, reduce benefits for tens of millions of such families, or some combination of the two.”...

While the Trump administration and the congressional Republicans propose to deal with the deepening poverty and social misery by deliberately making the conditions worse, the Democratic Party offers no alternative. The Democrats are not demanding hearings over hunger or the impact of the proposed budget cuts....

There are no events spotlighting the dire conditions of life for tens of millions of working people. As for the Democrats’ latest political offering, the so-called “Better Deal” program unveiled last week, it makes no mention of poverty, hunger, homelessness or even unemployment, proposing to use the power of the federal government to boost the interests of “small business and entrepreneurs” and defend “Main Street” against “Wall Street”—i.e., favor one section of business against another.

4-- The guns of August  

The danger of escalation and war is rooted in policies pursued by the NATO powers, above all the United States, over the more than quarter-century since the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. By means of US-led wars in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Syria and beyond, Washington sought to establish its hegemony over the Eurasian landmass. It aimed not only to prevent the emergence of a rival power dominating Eurasia, but also to control the energy supplies and trade routes of its “allies” in Europe and Asia.

The current escalation against Russia is the product of a series of devastating setbacks for the US in these wars. Washington’s Islamist proxy forces face imminent defeat in the civil war that it and NATO incited against the Russian-backed regime in Syria, and the NATO-backed regime in Kiev has failed to seize the entire country, losing effective control of Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine and the key Russian naval base at Sevastopol in Crimea. And amid growing economic rivalries between America and Europe, these setbacks have encouraged the European powers, led by Germany, to pursue an independent, that is, potentially hostile, foreign and military policy.

5-- Which country is the greatest threat to world peace

6--Corporate Leverage Has Never Been Higher

7-- After the Coup, What Then?

But there is a far larger story here, of which this Post piece is but an exhibit. It is the story of a concerted campaign, in which the anti-Trump media publish leaks, even criminal leaks, out of the FBI, CIA, NSA and NSC, to bring down a president whom the Beltway media and their deep-state collaborators both despise and wish to destroy. 

8--The Tale of the Brothers Awan

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz in the middle of a new scandal

And how does a recently bankrupt and unemployed Imran Awan wind up with a high-priced lawyer to defend him who is associated with the Clintons? Would that kind of lawyer even take a relatively minor bank fraud case if that were all that is involved? Finally, there are the lingering concerns about the unfortunately well-established Russiagate narrative. Did the Russians really hack into the DNC or were there other possibilities, to include some kind of inside job, a “leak,” carried out by someone working for the government or DNC for reasons that have yet to be determined, possibly even someone actually employed by DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz? There are certainly many issues that the public needs to know more about and so far, there are not enough answers.....

It is not known if the Awans, who were working for several Intelligence Committee members simultaneously, would have been involved or had access to the computers able to pull up classified material being used by those staffers, but Buzzfeed, in its initial reporting on the investigation of the Awans family, repeated the concerns of a Congressman that the suspects might have “had access to the House of Representatives’ entire computer network.” Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that that was not the case. In office environments, the IT administrators routinely ask for passwords if they are checking out the system. WikiLeaks emails confirm that Imran certainly had passwords relating to Congressman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as well as to others on her staff.....

It was also believed that they had somehow obtained entry to much of the House of Representatives’ computer network as well as to other information in the individual offices’ separate computer systems that they were in theory not allowed to access. The Capitol Hill Police began an investigation and quietly alerted the congressmen involved that there might be a problem. Most stopped employing the Awan family members and associates, but Wasserman-Schultz kept Imran on the payroll until the day after he was actually arrested.....

I for one was appalled to learn that the official who quite likely will oversee the investigation of the Awans is one Steven Wasserman, Assistant Attorney for the District of Columbia, the brother of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. If that should actually occur, it would be a huge conflict of interest and it has to be wondered if Wasserman would have the integrity to recuse himself.

9-- A New Twist in Seth Rich Murder Case

If an FBI report exists indicating that Rich was the source of the DNC emails and the report is made public, it could reduce tensions with Russia that Congress ratcheted up further last week by escalating sanctions – a form of economic warfare – against Russia as punishment for its alleged role in exposing the DNC emails and others belonging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

The DNC emails revealed DNC officials improperly interfering in the Democratic primaries to undercut Clinton’s chief rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Podesta emails included the contents of Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street and other special interests as well as pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

On Jan. 6 – before leaving office – President Obama’s intelligence chiefs oversaw “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and NSA creating an “assessment” blaming Russia for the hacked emails albeit without presenting any hard evidence. Russian officials have denied supplying the emails to WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks has denied receiving them from Russia.

Nevertheless, the unproven allegations of Russian interference in the election have raised tensions between the two nuclear powers to levels not seen since the darkest days of the Cold War and possibly worse. Stephen Cohen, a leading U.S. expert on Russia, said the current showdown may be even more hazardous than the Cuban missile crisis.
“I think this is the most dangerous moment in American-Russian relations, at least since the Cuban missile crisis. And arguably, it’s more dangerous, because it’s more complex,” he told Democracy Now! in April. “Therefore, we … have in Washington these – and, in my judgment, fact-less – accusations that Trump has somehow been compromised by the Kremlin.”

10--More Whoppers (about Iran, of course)

The biggest outright whopper was Tillerson’s assertion that “they [Iran] got the immediate lifting of the sanctions before they ever had to deliver on anything.” Any look at the history of implementation of the JCPOA, according to the carefully negotiated schedule, shows how drastically false that statement is.

In fact, the asymmetry in the implementation of the agreement worked in the opposite direction. Iran had to do nearly all it was going to do to curtail its nuclear program and significantly extend the “breakout” time to a possible nuclear weapon before it got an ounce of new sanctions relief under the JCPOA.
This Iranian work included gutting its heavy water research reactor, disposing of excess heavy water, cutting back its uranium enrichment cascades, taking all excess centrifuges off line, ceasing uranium enrichment at the underground Fordow facility, providing international inspectors a comprehensive inventory of centrifuge equipment, and many other measures.
It was only after the International Atomic Energy Agency certified that Iran had completed all these required steps that the parties moved to “Implementation Day,” which was when the United States and the Europeans began sanctions relief

11--  Congress and trump demand EU buy expensive US gas

According to Schaefer, US shipments are 50 percent more expensive compared with European reference prices.
"Nobody wants to pay such a premium," he said.
Last week, US President Donald Trump signed sanctions targeting Russia's oil and gas sector. The new measure means Washington could now penalize European investors in Russian energy projects.

12-- The End of the CIA's Illegal Program in Syria Is a Major Victory

In a New York Times article on this story we are informed how "once CIA-trained fighters crossed into Syria, CIA officers had difficulty controlling them. The fact that some of their CIA weapons ended up with Nusra Front fighters — and that some of the rebels joined the group — confirmed the fears of many in the Obama administration when the program began. Although the Nusra Front was widely seen as an effective fighting force against Mr. Assad's troops, its Qaeda affiliation made it impossible for the Obama administration to provide direct support for the group."....

Similarly, in Syria, by the time the CIA program began in 2013, the country was being ravaged by an Islamic Khmer Rouge intent on implementing its very own Year Zero, involving the wholesale massacre and extirpation of minority communities that can trace their presence in the Levant back a millennia and more.....

There was no mention made, of course, that the program had been undertaken in violation of international law. No mention either of the fact it was in support of an insurgency largely been made up of non-Syrians, who over the past six years have descended on the country driven not by the desire to establish a democracy in the country, but rather to impose religious and cultural tyranny.

Imagine, just for a moment, if the shoe was on the other foot. Imagine if Russia had announced that the FSB was ending a US$1billion program in support of an armed insurgency dominated by religious extremists with a penchant for torture, enslaving women, chopping off people's heads —  whose objective was the destruction of the secular government of a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state — imagine what the reaction would be in Western capitals. The outrage would be stratospheric — and justifiably so.

As for those who argue that the West has only ever supported moderate head-chopping fanatics in Syria, never the extreme kind, this is a preposterous distinction that the Syrian people have never had the luxury of embracing.

13--Vladimir Putin is still on top in Russia, new poll shows

14--New starvation sanctions implemented by deranged, immoral congress and president

AARON MATE: Looking forward, I'm wondering what you think we should keep an eye on now. I just want to say again on the issue of these sanctions, I was reading a blog called "North Korean Economy Watch," and they pointed out that unlike the previous resolution last year that also imposed sanctions on North Korea, previous UN Security Council resolution, this new measure do not appear to contain any humanitarian exemptions which means the squeeze could be put tighter now on North Korean people.

LARRY WILKERSON: This is a very disturbing happening and it started in the George W. Bush administration and it didn't get too far because of Colin Powell, but it seems to have picked up steam with the Obama administration in places, even though you did have Susan Rice and Samantha Power and other people around who objected to it. It seems to have no end in the Trump administration and that is to say that we'll do anything. We will do anything. We will do things that we wouldn't do in the past for humanitarian reasons. That is to say we will even cut off food. We'll cut off water. We'll cut off life sustainables in order to bring a regime down.

This is a very disturbing development, very disturbing development. As disturbing for example as was torture during the George W. Bush administration. This is not the way America should operate in the world, but it's part and parcel of some of the changes that were happening in our security policy. It's not a good development.

LARRY WILKERSON: North Korea has shown a capacity to do that, and by that I mean they have rational leadership. A lot of people in this country say they don't but those people are idiots. They do have rational leadership, just like Iran has rational leadership. In fact, I would submit most countries in the world do.
The North Koreans however are in a position of extraordinary weakness, if you look at the military situation on the peninsula. There's now way they could win a war. They could fire all their nuclear weapons, and they'd still lose the war because they'd be incinerated after the first weapon detonated. The situation for them is dire. It is regime must be preserved. That's their first objective in North Korea and it is looking at a military instrument deployed against them, the United States and South Korea and for that matter Japan and others too, that is awesome. They have no other choice than to be brinkmanship players. They have to be people who are willing to do almost anything anytime, always drawing back at the last minute so they don't provoke that ultimate existential attack on them.

LARRY WILKERSON: Yes. You can even go back further than that. When Jim Kelly, Assistant Secretary for East Asia/Pacific for Colin Powell and for George W. Bush went to Pyongyang in October 2002 and talked to Kam Sak Ju and Yi Goon and essentially discovered as it were that the South Koreans, or I'm sorry, the North Koreans were actually cheating on a highly enriched uranium program, which I think they were doing to hedge their bets because we were cheating too on the heavy fuel shipments and the money for the nuclear reactors, the light water reactors, to replace the dangerous one.

When all of that happened, we had a deal in our back pocket. We were going to present the North Koreans with all manner of economic assistance. We were going to help with their electrical grid, their power grid and so forth in exchange for their stopping both their programs, their reprocessing program for plutonium in Yongbyon and also the secret uranium enrichment program.

As it turned out, we didn't go anywhere from there, but when we come to the point where you just suggested, we're back again on that same diplomatic track, and I would suggest to you that that is the only solution to this problem outside of war, and we don't want war I guarantee you...

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho. This is what he was quoted as saying, "We will under no circumstances put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table. Neither shall we flinch an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves, unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the US against the DPRK are fundamentally eliminated."

15--Why Venezuela needs our solidarity

Portrayed by the media as a peaceful, democratic movement, it is clear that what Venezuela is experiencing is a right-wing destabilisation campaign that not only seeks to remove Maduro but to roll back the important gains of the country’s Bolivarian Revolution.

Through campaigns of terror, assassinations, the burning alive of government supporters and attacks on government services and food distribution networks, the opposition hopes to topple the government as a first step to destroying Chavismo.

Over the past two decades, Venezuela’s political landscape has been dramatically reshaped by the rise of Chavismo, a political movement of the country’s poor and working classes.

16  The Fed's rigged market stops moving entirely--The Market Has Never Done This Before

Nothing moves

17-- Nick Hanauer Believes Stock Buybacks Are The Root Of American Inequality

what has driven these rampant levels of inequality and income redistribution?Economists have pointed to several possible factors, from the rise of globalization to tax schemes that are favorable to the super-rich. But Nick Hanauer, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, has a simpler answer for one of the major causes of economic inequality: Stock buybacks. “Buybacks are among the most corrosive and corrupt practices in an already pretty corrosive and corrupt economy,” Hanauer says.

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