Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Senate Votes for More Yemen Slaughter (One Gue$$ "Y")

Why 55 U.S. Senators Voted for Genocide in Yemen 

by David Swanson - World Beyond War

March 21, 2018

Tuesday’s debate and vote in the U.S. Senate on whether to end (technically whether or not to vote on whether to end) U.S. participation in the war on Yemen can certainly be presented as a step forward.

While 55 U.S. Senators voted to keep the war rolling along, 44 voted not to table the resolution to end it. Of those 44, some, including “leaders” like Senator Chuck Schumer, said not a word in the debate and only voted the right way once the wrong way had won.

And conceivably some could say they were voting in favor of having a vote, upon which they would have voted for more war. But it’s safe to say that at least most of the 44 were voting to end a war — and many of them explicitly said so.

I use the phrase “end a war,” despite the fact that Saudi Arabia could continue its war without U.S. participation — in part, because it’s easier, and in part because experts have suggested that Saudi Arabia could not do anything like what it is doing without the participation of the U.S. military in identifying targets and refueling planes. It is of course also true that were the United States to go beyond what was under consideration on Tuesday and cease providing Saudi Arabia with planes and bombs, and use its influence as an oil customer and general war partner to pressure Saudi Arabia to end the war and lift the blockade, the war might end entirely. And millions of human lives might be spared.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine has for years been a leading proponent of getting Congress to authorize wars, making clear that he wanted to keep those wars going but with Congressional authorization. This time was different. Kaine pushed publicly for votes to end U.S. participation in the war on Yemen. He and even his colleague from Virginia Mark Warner (!) voted to end the U.S. war. I’m not sure any senator from Virginia had ever done such a thing before. And, in fact, no senator from anywhere had ever voted on a resolution raised under the War Powers Act before, because this was the first time any senator had bothered to try such a thing.

Kaine tweeted:

“Millions in Yemen may starve and 10,000-plus are dead because of a war with no end in sight, that the U.S. has stumbled into. Proud to support this proposal to direct the removal of U.S. armed forces.”

“Stumbled into”? Forget it, he’s rolling.

And Kaine was the least of it. To watch Dianne Feinstein argue for ending a war had a very Twilight Zone aspect to it. Look through the list of who voted “Nay” and re-define them in your mind as people who under just the right conditions (possibly including guaranteed failure to reach a majority) will sometimes vote to end a war. I’d call that progress.

But if you watch the debate via C-Span, the top question in your mind might not be “What incredible activism, information, accident, or luck got 44 people to vote the right way?” but rather “Why did 55 cheerful, well-fed, safe people in suits just vote for mass-murder?” Why did they? Why did they take a break for political party meetings in the middle of the debate, and debate other legislation just before and after this resolution, and walk around and chat with each other exactly as if all were normal, while voting for genocide?

The facts of the matter were presented very clearly in the debate by numerous U.S. senators from both parties. They denounced war lies as “lies.” They pointed out the horrendous damage, the deaths, the injuries, the starvation, the cholera. They cited Saudi Arabia’s explicit and intentional use of starvation as a weapon. They noted the blockade against humanitarian aid imposed by Saudi Arabia. They endlessly discussed the biggest cholera epidemic ever known.

Here’s a tweet from Senator Chris Murphy:

“Gut check moment for the Senate today: we will vote on whether to continue the U.S./Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen which has killed over 10,000 civilians and created the largest cholera outbreak in history.”

Senator Jeff Merkley asked if partnering with a government trying to starve millions of people to death squared with the principles of the United States of America. I tweeted a response: “Should I tell him or wait and let his colleagues do it?” In the end, 55 of his colleagues answered his question as well as any history book could have done.

The ridiculousness of arguments for continuing the war was called out by senators on the floor. Senator Mitch McConnell and others made the claim made to them by Secretary of War (“Defense”) James Mattis, that ending U.S. participation in bombing civilians in Yemen would mean more civilian deaths in Yemen, not fewer. Others trotted out the claim made by Trump’s lawyers, parroting Obama’s lawyer Harold Koh, that bombing a nation flat is neither “war” nor “hostilities” if U.S. troops are not on the ground being shot.

Senator Bernie Sanders put a stop to such nonsense. He recommended trying telling the people of Yemen being bombed with U.S. bombs and U.S. targeting and U.S.-fueled planes that the United States is not really involved.

The idea that the full Senate should leave to a committee a matter the committee had not bother to touch in years was also appropriately laughed out of court.

Senator Mike Lee reassured his colleagues that ending the U.S. war on Yemen on grounds of illegality wouldn’t slow or halt any other illegal US wars. (I’m sure you’re relieved to hear that!)

To their credit, Senators Murphy and Lee and Sanders were very clear that a vote to table, rather than directly vote on, their resolution to end the war, would be a cowardly vote not to have a debate and not to obey the U.S. Constitution. And to their greater credit, they went ahead and had the substantive debate prior to the vote to table. In the past on at least one occasion of the many times that we’ve seen such resolutions brought forward in the House, the war-proponents talked substance while the opponents talked only procedure. This change, too, was progress.

So, why? Why did the Senate vote for genocide? And why is nobody surprised by it?

Well, the arguments made by the Senators on the right side of the debate certainly left something to be desired. Sanders spoke of the dead in the wars on Vietnam and Iraq, and they were all Americans. He said the war on Vietnam almost destroyed an entire generation of Americans. This was a war that killed 6 million people in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, plus 50,000 from the United States. How can people come to think about one-sided slaughters if we pretend they don’t really exist?

Senator Tom Udall said that from WWII until the presidency of Donald Trump the United States was a noble, law-abiding, altruistic leader of spreading democracy, although not quite perfectly. In so saying, Udall bestows on Trump a sort of magical power, as well as rewriting U.S. history. The U.S. public was allowed no vote on Tuesday. Neither was Trump.

The resolution itself was limited, marred by loopholes, and not truly whipped for by many of those who voted against tabling it. Perhaps a stronger resolution would have failed even more badly. Or perhaps a more coherent case against war would have been more persuasive. I do not know. But the notion that you should arm and assist the Saudi dictatorship in bombing people when it’s called anti-ISIS and not when it’s called anti-Houthi seems a trickier case to make than the one that you should stop arming and assisting in the slaughter of human beings, generating more enemies, impoverishing the public, draining funds from human needs, damaging the environment, eroding the rule of law, imperializing the presidency, militarizing your culture and schools and police, and aligning your government with a brutal monarchy.

Perhaps that’s a case that has to be made to the public first and then to the senators, but many senators made clear how they were thinking. Lee was not off in trying to reassure them about the setting of precedents. One of them openly worried that if refueling bombers that were blowing up people’s homes in one country was counted as “hostilities,” then refueling bombers that were blowing up people’s homes in any country could be counted as “hostilities.” And then what kind of a world would we have?!

So, a vote against one war is never just a vote against one war. It’s a vote to challenge, if ever so slightly, the power of the war machine. These Senators are paid not to do that.

Here is a list of Senators and their 2018 bribes (excuse me, campaign contributions) from dealers of death (excuse me, defense companies). 

I’ve indicated how they voted on tabling Tuesday’s resolution with a Y or N. 

 A pro-war vote is a Y:

Nelson, Bill (D-FL) $184,675 Y

Strange, Luther (R-AL) $140,450 not in senate

Kaine, Tim (D-VA) $129,109 N

McSally, Martha (R-AZ) $125,245 not in senate

Heinrich, Martin (D-NM) $109,731 N

Wicker, Roger (R-MS) $109,625 Y

Graham, Lindsey (R-SC) $89,900 Y

Donnelly, Joe (D-IN) $89,156 Y

King, Angus (I-ME) $86,100 N

Fischer, Deb (R-NE) $74,850 Y

Hatch, Orrin G (R-UT) $74,375 Y

McCaskill, Claire (D-MO) $65,518 N

Cardin, Ben (D-MD) $61,905 N

Manchin, Joe (D-WV) $61,050 Y

Cruz, Ted (R-TX) $55,315 Y

Jones, Doug (D-AL) $55,151 Y

Tester, Jon (D-MT) $53,438 N

Hirono, Mazie K (D-HI) $47,100 N

Cramer, Kevin (R-ND) $46,000 not in Senate

Murphy, Christopher S (D-CT) $44,596 N

Sinema, Kyrsten (D-AZ) $44,140 not in Senate

Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH) $41,013 N

Cantwell, Maria (D-WA) $40,010 N

Reed, Jack (D-RI) $37,277 Y

Inhofe, James M (R-OK) $36,500 Y

Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI) $36,140 N

Gillibrand, Kirsten (D-NY) $33,210 N

Rubio, Marco (R-FL) $32,700 Y

McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) $31,500 Y

Flake, Jeff (R-AZ) $29,570 Y

Perdue, David (R-GA) $29,300 Y

Heitkamp, Heidi (D-ND) $28,124 Y

Barrasso, John A (R-WY) $27,500 Y

Corker, Bob (R-TN) $27,125 Y

Warner, Mark (D-VA) $26,178 N

Sullivan, Dan (R-AK) $26,000 Y

Heller, Dean (R-NV) $25,200 Y

Schatz, Brian (D-HI) $23,865 N

Blackburn, Marsha (R-TN) $22,906 not in Senate

Brown, Sherrod (D-OH) $21,373 N

Cochran, Thad (R-MS) $21,050 Y

Baldwin, Tammy (D-WI) $20,580 N

Casey, Bob (D-PA) $19,247 N

Peters, Gary (D-MI) $19,000 N

Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA) $18,350 N

Moore, Roy (R-AL) $18,250 not in Senate

Jenkins, Evan (R-WV) $17,500 not in Senate

Tillis, Thom (R-NC) $17,000 Y

Blunt, Roy (R-MO) $16,500 Y

Moran, Jerry (R-KS) $14,500 N

Collins, Susan M (R-ME) $14,000 N

Hoeven, John (R-ND) $13,000 Y

Durbin, Dick (D-IL) $12,786 N

Whitehouse, Sheldon (D-RI) $12,721 Y

Messer, Luke (R-IN) $12,000 not in Senate

Cornyn, John (R-TX) $11,000 Y

Cotton, Tom (R-AR) $11,000 Y

Murkowski, Lisa (R-AK) $11,000 Y

O’Rourke, Beto (D-TX) $10,564 not in Senate

Rounds, Mike (R-SD) $10,000 Y

Warren, Elizabeth (D-MA) $9,766 N

Rosen, Jacky (D-NV) $9,655 not in Senate

Sasse, Ben (R-NE) $9,350 Y

Portman, Rob (R-OH) $8,500 Y

Nicholson, Kevin (R-WI) $8,350 not in Senate

Rosendale, Matt (R-MT) $8,100 not in Senate

Menendez, Robert (D-NJ) $8,005 Y

Boozman, John (R-AR) $8,000 Y

Toomey, Pat (R-PA) $7,550 Y

Carper, Tom (D-DE) $7,500 N

Crapo, Mike (R-ID) $7,000 Y

Daines, Steven (R-MT) $6,500 N

Ernst, Joni (R-IA) $6,500 Y

Kennedy, John (R-LA) $6,000 Y

Sanders, Bernie (I-VT) $5,989 N

Scott, Tim (R-SC) $5,500 Y

Ward, Kelli (R-AZ) $5,125 not in Senate

Enzi, Mike (R-WY) $5,000 Y

Fincher, Steve (R-TN) $5,000 not in Senate

Isakson, Johnny (R-GA) $5,000 Y

Lankford, James (R-OK) $5,000 Y

Shelby, Richard C (R-AL) $5,000 Y

Duckworth, Tammy (D-IL) $4,535 N

Burr, Richard (R-NC) $4,000 Y

Capito, Shelley Moore (R-WV) $4,000 Y

Gardner, Cory (R-CO) $4,000 Y

Mandel, Josh (R-OH) $3,550 not in Senate

Hassan, Maggie (D-NH) $3,217 N

Hartson, Alison (D-CA) $3,029 not in Senate

Brakey, Eric (R-ME) $3,000 not in Senate

Diehl, Geoff (R-MA) $3,000 not in Senate

Downing, Troy (R-MT) $2,700 not in Senate

Klobuchar, Amy (D-MN) $2,498 N

Blumenthal, Richard (D-CT) $2,090 N

Coons, Chris (D-DE) $2,027 Y

Leahy, Patrick (D-VT) $2,002 N

Alexander, Lamar (R-TN) $2,000 Y

Bennet, Michael F (D-CO) $2,000 N

Johnson, Ron (R-WI) $2,000 Y

Renacci, Jim (R-OH) $2,000 not in Senate

Rokita, Todd (R-IN) $1,500 not in Senate

Masto, Catherine Cortez (D-NV) $1,435 not in Senate

Booker, Cory (D-NJ) $1,380 N

Harris, Kamala D (D-CA) $1,313 N

Van Hollen, Chris (D-MD) $1,036 N

Thune, John (R-SD) $1,035 Y

Lee, Mike (R-UT) $1,000 N

Morrisey, Patrick (R-WV) $1,000 not in Senate

Petersen, Austin (R-MO) $1,000 not in Senate

Stewart, Corey (R-VA) $1,000 not in Senate

Young, Bob (R-MI) $1,000 not in Senate

Young, Todd (R-IN) $1,000 Y

Udall, Tom (D-NM) $707 N

Lindstrom, Beth (R-MA) $700 not in Senate

Murray, Patty (D-WA) $635 N

Mackler, James (D-TN) $625 not in Senate

Merkley, Jeff (D-OR) $555 N

Barletta, Lou (R-PA) $500 not in Senate

Monetti, Tony (R-MO) $500 not in Senate

Olszewski, Al (R-MT) $500 not in Senate

Paul, Rand (R-KY) $500 N

Faddis, Sam (R-MD) $350 not in Senate

Paula Jean Swearengin (D-WV) $263 not in Senate

Vukmir, Leah (R-WI) $250 not in Senate

Wilson, Jenny (D-UT) $250 not in Senate

Ross, Deborah (D-NC) $205 not in Senate

Hildebrand, David (D-CA) $100 not in Senate

Wyden, Ron (D-OR) $75 N

Singer, James (D-UT) $50 not in Senate

Schumer, Charles E (D-NY) $16 N

Sbaih, Jesse (D-NV) $5 not in Senate

Roberts, Pat (R-KS) $-1,000 Y

Franken, Al (D-MN) $-1,064 not in Senate

Kander, Jason (D-MO) $-1,598 not in Senate

Edwards, Donna (D-MD) $-2,700 not in Senate

Obviously one must look at numerous votes and other actions, and at bribes from previous years, and at the relative cost of running in each state, etc., but we do see here 51 of the 55 yes votes receiving weapons profits, and most of them near the top or middle of this list. And we see 42 of 44 no votes receiving weapons profits, and most of them near the middle or bottom of this list. Of the top 70 recipients, 43 voted yes. Of the bottom 20 recipients, 14 voted no.

A bigger factor would seem to be political party, since 45 of the 55 yes votes were Republican (plus 10 Democrats), and 37 of the 44 no votes were Democratic (plus 2 Independents and 5 Republicans). But this can hardly be separated from funding, as the amounts above are dwarfed by the money brought in and distributed to candidates by parties, with the “defense” profiteers giving the Republican party $1.2 million, and the Democratic Party $0.82 million. One can be very confident that neither party’s “leadership” privately asked its members to vote to end the war on Yemen. Publicly, the Republican party leadership urged a vote for continued genocide. If we look at party and money combined, we see that all of the Republicans who voted no are pretty low in the list, while the relevance of bribes is less clear with Democrats who voted yes. But a no vote as part of a majority — had such a thing happened — would have been unlikely to have pleased either party.

Then there’s the media problem. The Democratic Party-promoting MSNBC was silent, while NPR told its listeners that poor innocent Saudi Arabia was surrounded and under attack by the demonic Iran. The New York Times editorial board did better than its reporters. But if any coverage of the U.S. role in Yemen had made it onto television, then I would be able to find people when I travel around the United States who are aware that there is a war in Yemen. As it is, I can find few who can name any current U.S. wars. If Senator Sanders had opposed this war when he was running for president, instead of urging Saudi Arabia to spend more and get its blood-soaked hands dirty, progressives would have heard that — and I would have backed Sanders for president.

Or what if Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, ACLU and other groups claiming to support human rights had helped oppose the war on Yemen? Or what if pundits stopped referring to such groups as human rights groups and called them, instead, Pro-U.S.-War/Human Rights groups? Would that have made a difference?

What about the rest of us? I work for two groups that tried: and World Beyond War. So did many others. Many formed big coalitions to try to have a bigger impact. Could we have done more? Of course. What about people who didn’t sign anything, go to anything, phone or email any Senators? It’s hard to say that any of us have clean hands.

I happened to read a column on Wednesday that proposed that everyone cease honoring any former U.S. president who owned people as slaves. I’m all for it. But the same column proposed as a noble and honorable factor being a decorated and “successful” (German) soldier. This gives me pause in denouncing slave-owners as “monsters.” Of course slavery is monstrous and those who do it are responsible for it. Their statues should all come down and be replaced by worthy ones, including ones of slavery-abolitionists and civil-rights activists, ideally memorials for movements rather than individuals.

But what if we come someday to understand that war is monstrous? Then what should we make of war supporters, including columnists? And what am I to make of things I myself thought a decade or three ago and now no longer think? Isn’t there something a shade monstrous about praising war on the anniversary of the 2003 attack on Iraq and at the same moment that the U.S. Senate is voting to kill the (non-“white”) people of Yemen? And yet, isn’t such behavior found in a column opposing racism, written by an anti-racism activist the work of something other than a monster? Perhaps senators aren’t monsters either. Perhaps we can bring them around yet. We have to try.

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Janine Bandcroft, Christina Nikolic March 22, 2018

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

March 22, 2018

We have a special program for you today for a couple of reasons: I'm joined live and in-studio by a pair of my favourite fellow primates, Victoria-based activist and CFUV Radio broadcaster at-large, Janine Bandcroft is here, as is local greentrepreneur and horticulturalist extraordinaire, Christina Nikolic.

If you listen regularly, you already know, Janine and Christina bring us the Left Coast Events Bulletin, your vital guide to some of the good things to get up to in and around Victoria week in and week out.

Today we three together form the Lean Green Gorilla Radio Funding Drive Money Raising Team - and we've got a beastly hunger for your figurative banana dreams!!!!

See below for more...but suffice to say, you can begin by dialing 250-721-8700 NOW...

CFUV’s ANNUAL Funding Drive is here!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. FUNDING DRIVE is here from March 16th-23rd!

Every year CFUV programs our hearts out to raise money for our beloved little radio station.

For this period of annual fundraising you can be sure to hear captivating radio, live performances, and passionate volunteers over CFUV’s airwaves. During Funding Drive, donations are taken in person or over the phone so we can continue to do what we do best – making innovative radio for Victoria and beyond!


Since 1984, CFUV has been a quintessential aspect to the Victoria community, providing alternative airwaves for everyone on Vancouver Island to connect with. Not only do we make unique radio, we teach people how to program, we advocate for marginalized/unrepresented voices, we provide accessible airwaves to those with disabilities, and we contribute to the Victoria community by sponsoring shows, hosting concerts, and supporting local. Whether it’s becoming a programmer for your own radio show, creating podcasts, or just wanting to discover great Canadian artists, CFUV aims to provide listeners and volunteers with a fresher and alternative form of radio broadcasting.

EB image number 2

Donations received during Funding Drive go towards keeping what makes CFUV so great, and continues to provide a space for students and Victoria residents alike to come together and develop their creative talents. This year’s Funding Drive will run from March 16th to the 23rd, so get PUMPED!

You can donate NOW at !

Liberals Quietly Fixing CETA and the TPP

Industry Committee Report on Intellectual Property: A Case of Policy Laundering for CETA and TPP

 by Michael Geist

March 19, 2018

The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology released its report on the Intellectual Property Regime in Canada yesterday. The report is the result of lengthy hearings that focused on a wide range of IP issues including patent reform, trademarks, counterfeiting, and pharmaceutical protection.

While most the recommendations are fairly innocuous – the committee identifies many issues for further study – there are essentially three main legislative reform recommendations. One involves limiting the scope of official marks, which appears to be the result of comments from Dalhousie law professor Rob Currie (echoed by CIPO’s Sylvain Laporte) expressing concern with governmental abuse of official marks in a way that may stifle innovation.
Standing Committee Chair,
David Sweet, MP

The other two are particularly interesting as they set the stage for the Canada – EU Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. First, the report recommends anti-counterfeiting measures similar to those required by CETA and found in Bill C-56. Should criticism arise over Bill C-56 or CETA, the government will likely point to this report in support.

The second involves a classic case of policy laundering as the government has manufactured support for CETA and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) provisions that were not even raised at committee. The report recommends:

The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada (in order to support Canadian businesses on the global stage and ensure the administration of Canada’s IP regime is internationally compatible and streamlined) ratify the following key international agreements: the Patent Law Treaty, the Madrid Protocol and Singapore Treaty for trade- marks, and the Hague Agreement for Industrial Designs.

But as the NDP minority report notes:

As the Committee heard no testimony on the Patent Law Treaty, the Madrid Protocol and Singapore Treaty for trade-marks, and Hague Agreement for Industrial Designs, New Democrat committee members are surprised by the inclusion of a recommendation regarding these treaties in the majority report. The Committee should seek more information before pronouncing on such treaties.

So why does the report include recommendations to ratify several international treaties that were not discussed by the dozens of witnesses who appeared before committee (with the exception of a brief reference to the existence of the Madrid Protocol)?

The answer likely lies in the Canada – EU Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. According to leaked documents, CETA includes provisions that require Canada to make all reasonable efforts to comply with the Singapore Treaty and the Patent Law Treaty as well as accede to the Madrid Protocol and the Hague Agreement.

The leaked U.S. proposal for the TPP IP chapter contains similar requirements: ratify or accede to the Madrid Protocol and the Singapore Treaty as well as make reasonable efforts to ratify or accede to the Patent Law Treaty and the Hague Agreement.

The committee report represents a case of policy laundering with recommendations to ratify treaties that were not even discussed at committee. Yet should Canada reach agreement on CETA or the TPP, the committee report will presumably be used by the government to short-circuit further review on those treaties or to simply claim support for ratification on the basis on a committee recommendation that was secretly fabricated behind closed doors without any witness raising the issue during the public hearings.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Hollywood-Pentagon Entertainment Nexus

Hollywood, DC – Sean Stone Doc. ft. Oliver Stone, Jay Dyer 

by Jay Dyer - RT (via 21C Wire)

March 18, 2018 

The film and television industries may be America’s go-to source of escapism and entertainment, but the glossy magazine covers documenting celebrity meltdowns and box-office predictions serve as a convenient distraction from some of the lesser known connections tying together Hollywood and the nation’s national security establishment.

In this two-part series, Watching the Hawks’ Sean Stone is joined by a variety of Hollywood insiders in exploring the entertainment industry’s institutional embrace of Washington, DC’s military-industrial complex.

Part 1


Part 2

Jay Dyer is the author of the best selling title, Esoteric Hollywood: Sex, Cults and Symbols in Film from Trine Day. Focusing on film, philosophy, geopolitics and all things esoteric, JaysAnalysis and his podcast, “Esoteric Hollywood,” investigates the deeper meanings between the headlines, exploring the hidden aspects of our sinister synthetic mass media matrix.

READ MORE HOLLYWOOD NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Hollywood Files


Facebook Blusters Against Cambridge Collusion Charges, Threatens Legal Action

Facebook insists that Cambridge Analytica didn't "breach" data, but "misused" it, and they're willing to sue anyone who says otherwise

by Cory Doctorow - Boing Boing

March 20, 2018

Yesterday's bombshell article in the Guardian about the way that Cambridge Analytica was able to extract tens of millions of Facebook users' data without their consent was preceded by plenty of damage control on Facebook's part: they repeatedly threatened to sue news outlets if they reported on the story and fired the whistleblower who came forward with the story.

It's been more than a year since The Intercept reported that Cambridge Analytica paid mechanical turks to take a personality quiz, and then exploited a Facebook loophole to extract the personal information of 30,000,000 users who were Facebook friends with the people who filled in the quiz.

What's new here is that a whistleblower has come forward with the backstory of the hack, and more details, including a revised estimate of the number of user records Cambridge Analytica breached: 50,000,000.

The whistleblower is a young Canadian data-scientist named Christopher Wylie who worked for Canada's Liberal Party and the UK Liberal Democrats before being recruited into Cambridge Analytica; Wylie then went to work for Facebook, who have just suspended him for talking to the press about Cambridge Analytica's abuse of Facebook data and Facebook's complicity in that abuse.

Wylie had been working on a PhD on fashion trend forecasting when he encountered the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, and Steve Bannon, who charmed Wylie with his ability to discourse over ideology; his ability to draw parallels between intersectional feminism and the grievance politics of Trump's white racist base; and his Breitbartian philosophy that "politics is downstream from culture, so to change politics you need to change culture" -- in other words, fashion forecasting as a key component of political campaigning.

Hilariously, Wylie says he helped trick Bannon into hiring the company by opening a fake office in Cambridge, England, which they would relocate London employees to when Bannon came to visit, to convince Bannon that they had the intellectual heft to which Bannon aspires. Wylie said that Bannon especially valued input from queer people because he saw them as cultural leaders (he ascribes Bannon's affinity for Milo Yiannopoulos to this belief).

Wylie refutes many of the claims made about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica about which information they had, when they had it, and how they used it, making them out to be liars -- at a key moment in which the companies and their industries are coming under close political scrutiny and public disrepute (if politics are downstream from culture, they're in serious trouble).

And through it all, Wylie and I, plus a handful of editors and a small, international group of academics and researchers, have known that – at least in 2014 – that certainly wasn’t the case, because Wylie has the paper trail. In our first phone call, he told me he had the receipts, invoices, emails, legal letters – records that showed how, between June and August 2014, the profiles of more than 50 million Facebook users had been harvested. Most damning of all, he had a letter from Facebook’s own lawyers admitting that Cambridge Analytica had acquired the data illegitimately.

Going public involves an enormous amount of risk. Wylie is breaking a non-disclosure agreement and risks being sued. He is breaking the confidence of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer.

It’s taken a rollercoaster of a year to help get Wylie to a place where it’s possible for him to finally come forward. A year in which Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of investigations on both sides of the Atlantic – Robert Mueller’s in the US, and separate inquiries by the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK, both triggered in February 2017, after the Observer’s first article in this investigation.

It has been a year, too, in which Wylie has been trying his best to rewind – to undo events that he set in motion. Earlier this month, he submitted a dossier of evidence to the Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Crime Agency’s cybercrime unit. He is now in a position to go on the record: the data nerd who came in from the cold.

You can find out what data Cambridge Analytica has on you; as you read this, keep in mind that much of the reputed efficacy of Cambridge Analytica comes from their own marketing, and even if it's true, remember that the efficacy of attentional weapons regresses to the mean.

The Cambridge Analytica Files [Carole Cadwalladr/The Guardian]

Facebook suspends former Cambridge Analytica contractor [Donie O'Sullivan and Sherisse Pham/CNN]

Both Facebook And Cambridge Analytica Threatened To Sue Journalists Over Stories On CA's Use Of Facebook Data [Mike Masnick/Techdirt]

Libya's Day Zero: The Other Mideast Anniversary

Libya: The True Face of 'Humanitarian Intervention'

by Daniel Kovalik - RT

March 20, 2018
Seven years ago today, NATO began its “humanitarian bombing” of Libya. While “humanitarian bombing” is an oxymoron, many believe that a country is not truly advancing human rights if it’s not bombing another back to the Stone Age.

As an initial matter, it must be said that while the UN had authorized a NATO fly-zone over Libya to protect civilians – all civilians, by the way – there was never authorization for the full-scale invasion which was carried out and which quickly became aimed at regime change. Therefore, the NATO operation which actually took place was illegal.

What’s more, the Libyan invasion did more to undermine human rights than it did to protect them. According to Amnesty International’s most recent report on Libya, there are now three rival governments vying for power in the country along with various militias, smugglers and other sundry armed groups. As Amnesty International explains, all participants in the armed conflict in Libya “carried out indiscriminate attacks in heavily populated areas leading to deaths of civilians and unlawful killings. Armed groups arrested and indefinitely detained thousands of people. Torture and other ill-treatment was widespread in prisons under the control of armed groups, militias and state officials.” And, to top it all off, slaves are being sold in public markets in Libya – something not seen in the world for over a century.
And this is the aftermath of an intervention which, we were told, was supposed to improve human rights in Libya. Indeed, the intervention was spearheaded by Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and Susan Rice – three self-described warriors for human and women’s rights. Instead, they became three ushers of the Apocalypse. In addition, Italy and France, which also helped lead the charge for invasion, had their own reasons for intervening in Libya. For his part, French President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to be singularly focused on killing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who allegedly gave him €50 million for his presidential campaign – a claim which was just coming to light and to which Gaddafi was the chief witness.

While Gaddafi certainly was no saint, he was a much better leader for his country than many of those the West supports, such as the monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the death squad state of Colombia or the coup government in Honduras. Indeed, Muammar Gaddafi, at the urging of his son, Saif, was attempting to democratize Libya at the time of the invasion, and the pair were willingly accepting the help of the US’s National Democratic Institute to do so!

In addition, Gaddafi had taken Libya from being the least prosperous country in Africa to the being the most prosperous by the time of the NATO operation. Thus, as one commentator explains, before the intervention,

“Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent. Less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands.”

Moreover, one of the main reasons, we were told, that NATO needed to intervene in 2011 was to save Benghazi from imminent harm from the government forces of Gaddafi. However, Hillary Clinton’s own internal emails show that her team recognized that any humanitarian problems confronting Benghazi had passed by the time of the NATO bombing.

For example, Clinton’s assistant, Huma Abedin, in an email dated February 21, 2011 – that is, just a mere four days after the initial anti-government protests broke out in Libya – explains that the Gaddafi forces no longer controlled Benghazi and that the mood in the city was indeed “celebratory” by that time.

Then, on March 2, just over two weeks before the bombing began, Harriet Spanos of USAID sent an email describing “[s]ecurity reports” which “confirm that Benghazi has been calm over the past couple of days.”

Indeed, as explained to me by Khaled Kaim, Gaddafi’s last foreign minister, who I recently met in Venezuela, he personally urged US representatives at the UN Security Council to hold off the planned bombing raid for one hour so that UN observers on the ground could confirm his claim that Benghazi was not under threat.

Of course, his pleas were ignored. Kaim’s warnings that the impending invasion of Libya would only unleash more chaos and terror on the world were also disregarded.

Meanwhile, Benghazi is now the site of a grave humanitarian crisis and a hotbed for terrorists post-intervention. Again, Amnesty International writes that,

“[a] number of mass graves were uncovered in Benghazi between February and October [2017]. On at least four occasions, groups of bodies were found in different parts of the city with their hands bound behind their backs, and in some cases blindfolded with signs of torture and execution-style killing.”

In addition, during the early part of 2017, one armed faction laid siege to an apartment complex in the Ganfouda area of Benghazi, “cutting off all supplies to the area, including food and water, and had trapped civilians and wounded fighters [of another faction] without access to medical care and other basic services.” And, when the same faction broke the siege by launching an armed assault on this area, it engaged in “indiscriminate” killings, with fighters from the faction posing for photos with the dead bodies.

And yet, where are the self-proclaimed defenders of human rights for Libya and Benghazi now? Where are their cries for humanitarian intervention? Of course, all of those responsible for this absolute disaster have moved on and remain silent about the tragedy they have wrought in that country.

Of course, the intervention in Libya was not truly about human rights, just as other similar Western interventions in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have not been about either human rights or even fighting terror. And indeed, these interventions have only undermined human rights and further spread terror. In the case of Libya, the predictable havoc unleashed there has spread to neighboring states such as Niger, Tunisia, Mali, Chad and Cameroon. In addition, the refugee crisis created by the chaos unleashed by the NATO intervention in Libya is undermining the stability of all of Europe.

One can only conclude from this that the West, and especially the United States, is hell-bent on spreading instability throughout the world, despite its pretending to accomplish the very opposite. Indeed, the US continues to bomb Libya periodically in an effort to at least contain the very forces of chaos it helped unleash there.

In chaos, Western countries and their transnational corporations see opportunity for more domination and more profits. As with Little Finger in Game of Thrones, they see chaos not as a pit, but as a ladder. In the case of countries like Libya, the West goes in and bombs it to oblivion and then brings in companies which charge that country to rebuild it. And the West is not shy about this grisly strategy for money-making.

Indeed, as the New York Times explained in an article just after the NATO operation ended with the brutal killing of Gaddafi – an article accompanied by a photo of an oil terminal in Misurata, Libya, on fire and with black smoke billowing out –

“Western security, construction and infrastructure companies that see profit-making opportunities receding in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their sights on Libya… Entrepreneurs are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them, plus the competitive advantage of Libyan gratitude toward the United States and its NATO partners.
"A week before Colonel Qaddafi’s death on Oct. 20, a delegation from 80 French companies arrived in Tripoli to meet officials of the Transitional National Council, the interim government. Last week, the new British defense minister, Philip Hammond, urged British companies to “pack their suitcases” and head to Tripoli.”

But what is good for such corporations is not good for the rest of us. Simply put, the world cannot afford another war which wreaks havoc on entire regions of the globe, ushering in massive human misery and environmental destruction in its wake. As King Pyrrhus might have said, another “victory” like the one in Libya may be the undoing of us.

Daniel Kovalik teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Killing the Caretaker: Who Wants to Assassinate a Man Without Enemies?

Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?

by Ramzy Baroud - Palestine Chronicle

March 20, 2018

On March 13, while on his way to the besieged Gaza Strip, two 33-pounds bombs targeted the convoy of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah.

Hamdallah was visiting Gaza, through the Israeli border checkpoint, Erez, to open a large sewage treatment plant that, if allowed to operate regularly, will make life easier for hundreds of thousands of Gazans, who have endured a perpetual Israeli siege since 2006.

The Prime Minister's visit was also seen as another important step in the reconciliation efforts between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah - led by PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, in the Occupied West Bank - and Hamas, led by former Prime Minister, Ismael Haniyeh, in Gaza.

Although reconciliation efforts have, for years, been half-hearted at best, the latest round of talks between both groups led to a breakthrough in Cairo last October. This time, Palestinians were told that the two factions are keen on establishing unity, ending the siege on Gaza and revamping the largely dormant Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) institutions.

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were to join the PLO at some point in the future, leading to the formulation of a unified Palestinian political program.

And, perhaps, this keenness at ending the rift has led to the attempt on Hamdallah's life.

But who is Rami Hamdallah?

Hamdallah, 60, was chosen by Abbas to serve in the current post in June 2013, despite the fact that he was not a member of Fatah. He took over from Salaam Fayyad who served for six years, focusing mostly on state-building in a region that is still militarily occupied by a foreign power.

Hamdallah, though not a particularity controversial figure, has been a follower of Abbas and committed to his agenda. He is a political moderate by Palestinian standards, and it was through his strong ties with powerful Fatah figures like Tayeb Abdul Rahim and Tawfik Tirawi – who served under late PA leader, Yasser Arafat, and Abbas respectively – that allowed him to claim the post and keep it for nearly five years.

Last October, Hamdallah led a delegation of Fatah PA officials to Gaza to “end the painful impacts of divisions and to rebuild Gaza brick by brick.”

Since Israel destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure and thousands of homes in the summer of 2014, Gaza – already reeling under a hermetic siege and the impact of previous wars - has been in ruins. Hamdallah’s visit rekindled hope among Gazans, and all Palestinians, that respite is on the way.

Hamas’ insistent attempts to break from its isolation seemed to be finally bearing fruit.

Abbas’ party, too, moved forward with the unity arrangements, although for its own reasons. Fatah has been dysfunctional for years, and the imminent exit of Abbas, 83, has opened up intense rivalry among those who want to succeed the aging leader.

Supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, who was shunned by Abbas years ago and is currently based abroad, would like to see him back in a position of power.

The United States and Israel are following these developments closely. They, too, have favorites and are vested in the future of Fatah to sustain the current status quo as long as possible.

Those who want Hamdallah dead are likely not targeting the Prime Minister for his own ideas or policies per se, but for what he represents, as the moderate leader capable of achieving a long term understanding with Hamas.

Killing Hamdallah also means ending or, at least, obstructing the unity efforts, discrediting Hamas, and denying Abbas and his leadership the necessary political capital to secure his legacy.

Hamas’ main enemy in Gaza are the Salafi Jihadist groups who are unhappy with Hamas’ politics and what they see as a too moderate style of Islamic governance.

Of course, there are those in Fatah, including Abbas’ own office, who accused Hamas of trying to kill Hamdallah. Hamas did more than deny the accusations, but, within one day of the apparent assassination attempt, announced that it had apprehended suspects behind the explosion.

It would make no sense for Hamas to kill Hamdallah. The group has worked tirelessly to engage the PA, as life in Gaza has become truly unlivable. Their leadership and reputation has suffered as a result of the failed efforts to end the siege.

Moreover, as Amira Hass noted, Hamas,

“[C]ould not have any interest in attacking senior Palestinian Authority officials on their way to inaugurate a sewage treatment plant that residents of the Gaza Strip have long awaited.”

Hamas, in turn, accused the Israel intelligence of the assassination attempt. The group’s spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, claimed that “same hands” that gunned down Mazen Fakha in March 2017 and Tawfiq Abu Naim in October are behind the attempt on Hamdallah’s life. He was referring to Israel, of course.

The timing of the bombing of Hamdallah’s convoy was quite interesting as well, as it came barely a few hours after a meeting at the White House regarding Gaza. The meeting, chaired by leading pro-Israel officials in Washington, including Jared Kushner, was dubbed as a “brainstorming session” on how to solve the Gaza crisis.

“The Palestinian Authority, furious over the Trump administration’s actions in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv, and cutting aid for Palestinian refugees, refused to attend,” reported the New York Times.

One, however, should not undermine the seriousness of the remaining disagreements between Hamas and Fatah.

Perhaps the main point of conflict is over Hamas’ fighting force. Hamas refuses to compromise on the issue of armed resistance, and Abbas insists on the dismantling of Hamas’ armed group, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

But these disagreements are hardly strong enough reason to kill Hamdallah, the last hope for an end to the rift and easing the blockade on Gaza.

Although Hamdallah survived, the bombing achieved some of its objectives. A senior PA official told AFP that “Abbas decided no members of Hamdallah’s government would travel to Gaza in the short term ‘due to the security problems.’”

While this might not be the end of reconciliation, it could possibly be the beginning of the end.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London, 2018). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is

15 Years After: Remembering Shock and Awe

Remembering Shock and Awe

by Andy Worthington

March 20, 2018

Exactly 15 years ago, the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq began, with huge support from the British government led by Tony Blair, based on lies that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and constituted a direct threat to the West.

It was a day of profound shame and disgrace that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians (at the very minimum) and that has had lasting and horrendous repercussions - the destabilization of Iraq itself, the torture that first surfaced in the Abu Ghraib scandal in April 2004, massacres like those at Fallujah (also in April 2004) and the prisons - Camp Bucca and Camp Cropper, as well as Abu Ghraib, which "had an incendiary effect on the insurgency", as the Guardian explained in 2014 - leading eventually to the creation of Daesh (Islamic State).

Those responsible for this entire debacle, who, as a result of the war's clear illegality, are therefore guilty of war crimes, include George Bush and Tony Blair, and yet both men are still at liberty.

Israeli Minister Tells Truth About Palestine

US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank 

by Jonathan Cook - CounterPunch

March 20, 2018 
Seemingly unrelated events all point to a tectonic shift in which Israel has begun preparing the ground to annex the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last week, during an address to students in New York, Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett publicly disavowed even the notion of a Palestinian state.

“We are done with that,” he said. “They have a Palestinian state in Gaza.”

Later in Washington, Bennett, who heads Israel’s settler movement, said Israel would manage the fallout from annexing the West Bank, just as it had with its annexation of the Syrian Golan in 1980.
| CC BY 2.0

International opposition would dissipate, he said.

“After two months it fades away and 20 years later and 40 years later, [the territory is] still ours.”

Back home, Israel has proven such words are not hollow.

The parliament passed a law last month that brings three academic institutions, including Ariel University, all located in illegal West Bank settlements, under the authority of Israel’s Higher Education Council. Until now, they were overseen by a military body.

The move marks a symbolic and legal sea change. Israel has effectively expanded its civilian sovereignty into the West Bank. It is a covert but tangible first step towards annexation.

In a sign of how the idea of annexation is now entirely mainstream, Israeli university heads mutely accepted the change, even though it exposes them both to intensified action from the growing international boycott (BDS) movement and potentially to European sanctions on scientific co-operation.

Additional bills extending Israeli law to the settlements are in the pipeline. In fact, far-right justice minister Ayelet Shaked has insisted that those drafting new legislation indicate how it can also be applied in the West Bank.

According to Peace Now, she and Israeli law chiefs are devising new pretexts to seize Palestinian territory. She has called the separation between Israel and the occupied territories required by international law “an injustice that has lasted 50 years”.

After the higher education law passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his party Israel would “act intelligently” to extend unnoticed its sovereignty into the West Bank.

“This is a process with historic consequences,” he said.

That accords with a vote by his Likud party’s central committee in December that unanimously backed annexation.

The government is already working on legislation to bring some West Bank settlements under Jerusalem municipal control – annexation via the back door. This month officials gave themselves additional powers to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem for “disloyalty”.

Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, warned that Israel had accelerated its annexation programme from “creeping to running”.

Notably, Netanyahu has said the government’s plans are being co-ordinated with the Trump administration. It was a statement he later retracted under pressure.

But all evidence suggests that Washington is fully on board, so long as annexation is done by stealth.

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a long-time donor to the settlements, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV recently:

“The settlers aren’t going anywhere”.

Settler leader Yaakov Katz, meanwhile, thanked Donald Trump for a dramatic surge in settlement growth over the past year. Figures show one in 10 Israeli Jews is now a settler. He called the White House team “people who really like us, love us”, adding that the settlers were “changing the map”.

The US is preparing to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, not only pre-empting a final-status issue but tearing out the beating heart from a Palestinian state.

The thrust of US strategy is so well-known to Palestinian leaders – and in lockstep with Israel – that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is said to have refused to even look at the peace plan recently submitted to him.

Reports suggest it will award Israel all of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians will be forced to accept outlying villages as their own capital, as well as a land “corridor” to let them pray at Al Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As the stronger side, Israel will be left to determine the fate of the settlements and its borders – a recipe for it to carry on with slow-motion annexation.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has warned that Trump’s “ultimate deal” will limit a Palestinian state to Gaza and scraps of the West Bank – much as Bennett prophesied in New York.

Which explains why last week the White House hosted a meeting of European and Arab states to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

US officials have warned the Palestinian leadership, who stayed away, that a final deal will be settled over their heads if necessary. This time the US peace plan is not up for negotiation; it is primed for implementation.

With a Palestinian “state” effectively restricted to Gaza, the humanitarian catastrophe there – one the United Nations has warned will make the enclave uninhabitable in a few years – needs to be urgently addressed.

But the White House summit also sidelined the UN refugee agency UNRWA, which deals with Gaza’s humanitarian situation. The Israeli right hates UNRWA because its presence complicates annexation of the West Bank. And with Fatah and Hamas still at loggerheads, it alone serves to unify the West Bank and Gaza.

That is why the Trump administration recently cut US funding to UNRWA – the bulk of its budget. The White House’s implicit goal is to find a new means to manage Gaza’s misery.

What is needed now is someone to arm-twist the Palestinians. Mike Pompeo’s move from the CIA to State Department, Trump may hope, will produce the strongman needed to bulldoze the Palestinians into submission.  

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is
More articles by:Jonathan Cook

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.  

After ISIS: Turkish Allies Make a Mess of Afrin

In Afrin the Turks are Looting and Pillaging with Gunfire 


March 20, 2018

ournalist for the Independent, Patrick Cockburn, returning from Northern Syria says, one of the most peaceful places in the region has turned into a swamp of human misery for the Kurds.

Turkey's military and Islamist rebel groups supported by Turkey took over the Syrian city of Afrin on Sunday. Afrin is a largely Kurdish area that had been under the control of the leftist Kurdish armed group the Popular Protection Unit, known as the YPG. The Turkish offensive forced hundreds and thousands of civilians to flee over two months of brutal fighting. After seizing the city center, jihadist rebels embedded in the Turkish army immediately began looting civilian homes and burning down Kurdish properties.

Patrick Cockburn is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent. Among the most experienced commentators on Iraq, he has written four books on the country's recent history. Cockburn's latest book is The Age of Jihad.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Unraveling the Salisbury "Poisoning" Mystery

"No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury" 

by Moon of Alabama

March 19, 2018

There have been some interesting developments in the alleged poisoning case of the British-Russian double-agent Sergej Skripal and his daughter.

The British governments standing on the issue is getting worse as more inconsistencies and doubts on its statements come to light. The international support for its claims is weakening.

On March 4 the Skripals collapsed on a public bench in Salisbury in England after they had visited a pub and a restaurant. They were brought to the local hospital.

A local policemen was probably also affected. (See our previous posts, liked at the end, for many additional details.)

A week later, on March 12, the British government said that a nerve agent was the cause of the incident and accused Russia of being responsible for the act:

Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok—a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia. Based on this capability, combined with Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations—including against former intelligence officers whom it regards as legitimate targets—the UK Government concluded it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for this reckless and despicable act.

Novichok is not a nerve agent but supposedly a group of chemical substances investigated in the Soviet Union for their nerve agent potential. Only recently have some of these substances been synthesized.

Former ambassador Craig Murray reported that the formulation "... a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, ..." was a compromise negotiated between the British government and its chemical weapon specialists in its Porton Down laboratory. Note that the statement does not implicate at all that Russia is involved in the current case.

The British government demanded a Russian response within 24 hours without presenting any evidence of Russian involvement. Russia rightly pointed out that such a demand is in breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) procedures as supervised by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and rejected it.

The U.S, Britain, France and Germany issued a common supporting statement which repeated the British formulation:

This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.
We share the United Kingdom’s assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia’s failure to address the legitimate request by the government of the United Kingdom further underlines Russia’s responsibility. We call on Russia to address all questions related to the attack in Salisbury.

Since then many questions and doubts about the British government's Noviochok drama have been raised. Bit by bit the case is falling apart.

Consider for example this picture which shows Mr. Skripal and his daughter Julia presumably in the pub or the restaurant they visited before they collapsed. Who is the third person, visible in the mirror between them, who took the picture?

Is this third person the former MI6 agent Pablo Miller who once recruited Skripal as British double agent. Pablo Miller who like Sergej Skripal lives in Salisbury and is still his friend? The same Pablo Miller who worked with former MI6 agent Christopher Steele at Orbis to create the 'dirty dossier' about Donald Trump? How much were the Skripals involved in creating the fake stories in the anti-Trump dossier for which the Clinton campaign paid more than $100,000 dollars. Did the Skripals threaten to talk about the issue? Is that why the incident happened?

So far no information about the third person that took the above picture has been coming forward.

On March 16 the British government was still pleased with the success of the drama it constructed from a movie script (video) around the Skripal incident.

The headline and intro of the BBC story are telling: Russian spy: UK government response going to plan so far
Among senior ministers and officials, there's quiet satisfaction that the Russia crisis seems to be going according to plan. Maybe even better.

According to one senior government source, "it's gone at least as well as we'd hoped".

That may end soon.

The London Times reported on March 14th that 40 people in Salisbury needed treatment because of poisoning. A reader's letter to the paper written by "Steven Davies - Consultant in emergency medicine, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust" disputes that report. The letter seems to say that none of the hospital's patients were effected by "nerve agents" at all:

Sir, Further to your report "Poison exposure leaves almost 40 needing treatment", Mar 14), may I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only been ever been three patients with significant poisoning.

The wording of the letter is not 100% clear. Does the "no patients" refer to only the 40 the Times mentioned or to all patents including the Skripals? Are the three patients with "significant poisoning" the Skripals and the affected policeman? Commentator Noirette had suggested here that the Skripal case was about food poisoning or a food allergy, not nerve agents. The Skripals had visited a fish restaurant one hour before they were found. The letter points into a similar direction.

I have yet to see a follow up on the letter by any media. Why is there no interview with the doctor? All medical personal involved are astonishingly silent. Since day one there has been no medical update on the health status of the Skripals. Has the government issued a gag order. Why? By writing the above letter Steven Davies, the Salisbury emergency consultant, probably circumvented it.

The UK has since folded on its unilateral demand outside of the OPCW procedures. It has now, as Russia demanded, involved the OPCW and OPCW specialist are expected to visit the British chemical weapon laboratory in Porton Down, which is near Salisbury, to investigate the case.

But the British Foreign office also raised a new accusation against Russia:

The Foreign Secretary revealed this morning that we have information indicating that within the last decade, Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents likely for assassination. And part of this programme has involved producing and stockpiling quantities of Novichok. This is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson used a less hedged wording:

"We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok," Johnson told the BBC.

 British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson - bigger

Craig Murray took the Johnson statement apart. If the UK really had or has such information why did it not, as the CWC demands, inform the OPCW of Russia's potential breach of its obligations? Why is this coming out only now?

The British allies seem to be unimpressed by Boris Johnson's show.

Today the German Foreign Minister tracked back from the common position issued last week:

Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, has described Russia as a "difficult partner", but said the UK poisoning was a "bilateral" issue, indicating that Britain can count on little support from the EU.

Maas spoke ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (19 March)

A common statement after the EU foreign ministers meeting did not blame Russia. It repeated the carefully negotiated wording of the original British accusation but did not endorse the British position:

The European Union takes extremely seriously the UK Government's assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible.
The European Union is shocked at the offensive use of any military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, for the first time on European soil in over 70 years.
The EU welcomes the commitment of the UK to work closely with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in supporting the investigation into the attack.

The statement is false in that nerve agents have actually been used on European soil over the last 70 years. During the Cold War Britain tested various types of chemical and biological weapons, including nerve agents, on its own population as well as in its colonies and in other countries. Why should we exclude an even more recent use?

The Skripal poisoning case stinks. The British government is obviously not telling the truth about it. It uses the script of a recent spy drama to allege a 'Novichok' attack to implicate Russia and to raise anti-Russian sentiment. Information about the case is evidently held back. The media is mostly complicit.

Foreign countries have noticed that the story stinks and are tracking back on their support.

The people and the British opposition should urgently demand more and better answer from May's failing government. ---

Previous Moon of Alabama pieces on the Skripal case:
March 8 - Poisioned British-Russian Double-Agent Has Links To Clinton Campaign
March 12 - Theresa May's "45 Minutes" Moment
March 14 - Are 'Novichok' Poisons Real? - May's Claims Fall Apart
March 16 - The British Government's 'Novichok' Drama Was Written By Whom?