Saturday, January 06, 2018

Angry Smoke Behind Fire and Fury in Washington

Max Blumenthal on 'Fire and Fury', Clinton Probe, and Russiagate 


January 6, 2018

The book 'Fire and Fury' sparks a rift between Trump and Bannon, the FBI revives scrutiny of the Clinton Foundation, and GOP Senators target the author of the Steele dossier. Best-selling author Max Blumenthal breaks down the growing intra-elite clashes and the key developments that are being overlooked.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post,, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. His most recent book is Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. His other book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller. Max is co-host of the podcast Modern Rebel. 

Friday, January 05, 2018

Following Alice: CounterPunch Chasing Ghosts in the Fake News Machine

Ghosts in the Propaganda Machine

by Jeffrey St. Clair/Joshua Frank - CounterPunch 

January 5, 2018
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass 



Is this what online journalism looks like in the era of Russiagate fever? A fake writer (read Alice Donovan) catfishes CounterPunch and a dozen other online websites. A handful of her articles are published over a two-year period.

The FBI is tracking her and believes this writer, whoever is behind the moniker, has some ties to Russia.

What kind of ties and how deep do they go? We aren’t sure.

No evidence is presented, perhaps because there isn’t much, or perhaps because the NSA and the FBI are also spying on actual journalists and editors right along with the alleged imposters.

S. Mangal’s social media profile and author photo.

The Washington Post calls for a quote on the FBI’s allegation and runs an article a month later on Kremlin operatives “burning across the internet”.

More panic ensues.

But only one troll was named in the Washington Post piece, Alice Donovan — our suspected interloper. Prior to the Post’s article, we found out Donovan likely was not who she claimed to be and was a plagiarist to boot. We apologized for our screw-up and issued a lengthy investigation into the whole Donovan ordeal and the challenges of vetting writers in the fast-paced world of cyber-journalism. The story ends there, or does it?

For the record, what you are about to read isn’t typical fare here at CounterPunch. We aren’t in the business of investigating the legitimacy of other independent media outlets, their editors, their contributors or even their motives. In the muddy trenches of online journalism, we often find sympathy and camaraderie with others trudging the same difficult terrain. We strongly believe in the tenets of a free and unfettered press. We’d much rather save our energy to cover the issues we face day in and day out; environmental degradation, corporate and political corruption, war, abuses of power and all those brave souls fighting back. Even so, for better or worse, we are still journalists, and when a story begins to reveal itself, we have no choice but to dig deeper and follow the trail where it leads us.

In our quest to unravel the identity of the now infamous Alice Donovan, we realized she wasn’t only a fraud, she was also a quack journalist. Many of Donovan’s stories were in part plagiarized, none more flagrantly than an article titled “US-led Coalition Airstrike On Assad’s Forces Was Not Accidental.” It took a few quick searches to uncover the original source of the piece, which was ripped off entirely from a writer named Sophie Mangal, whose article by the same title was published at The International Reporter on the exact same day Donovan submitted the piece to CounterPunch under her own byline.

We were slightly familiar with Mangal, who claimed to be an “investigative correspondent” and editor at an obscure site called Inside Syria Media Center (ISMC), which publishes both in Arabic and English. Mangal occasionally goes by Sophie with an “e”, yet her Medium author page lists her name as “Sophia”, and at ISMC, often simply “S. Mangal”.

Emails from Mangal had arrived two or three times a week over the past twelve months, piling up in our inboxes. Nearly every piece she wrote, it seemed, was submitted to us for publication. We passed on all of them, but many were picked up by Global Research, International Reporter and Veterans Today. The piece Donovan stole, however, was never submitted to CounterPunch by Mangal. No doubt the same article pitched by two different authors on the same day would have raised a red flag.

When we realized Donovan had plagiarized Mangal we immediately reached out to her via email to 1) confirm she indeed wrote the piece in question and 2) apologize for making such a big mistake.

Mangal quickly responded to our query.

“For sure, it’s my article. It was originally published on the website of Inside Syria Media Center. Actually, I don’t know Alice Donovan and who this person is,” asserted Mangal.
“Besides, I wonder why my article was published on CounterPunch by that name though copyrights belong to me. I would be quite grateful if you publish my articles with the reference to me in future instead of others suspicious persons who steal my intellectual property.”

We decided to remove the article entirely from our site and issue an apology to Mangal for the error. By now Alice Donovan had vanished, so all we could do was assume she was a plagiarist, if not something more sinister. Mangal accepted our apology and even continued soliciting her work to us in the weeks to follow.

Even so, we believed something in Mangal’s awkward response to us was fishy. First, the English in most of her submissions was fractured, especially for someone who claims to have attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a “Media and Journalism” major. Second, as noted, Donovan’s pilfered piece was emailed to us around the very same time that Mangal’s story was being posted to the International Reporter site. How had Donovan seen it, cribbed it and sent it to us so quickly? Breaking her normal pattern of submitting her pieces to multiple venues, Donovan sent the plagiarized piece only to us and not to some of her other typical outlets. Why? Had someone screwed up? Hit the wrong send button on the wrong email account? In search of answers, we began looking more closely at Mangal’s blizzard of submissions, dating back to December 22, 2016.

It didn’t take long before we realized why we had passed on them. Most of Mangal’s writings embraced a rigidly narrow view of the war in Syria. The crux of her works read like regime-sponsored press releases. There was no nuance to the writing and few told the story from a war victim’s perspective. Virtually all exalted Russia’s military prowess and the tenacity of the Assad regime, as if she was embedded within the Syrian Army. Embedded reporting has its place, naturally, but were Mangal’s numerous dispatches from inside Syria actually “reported”? And how was it being done? Who were the nameless “Inside Syria Media Center sources,” which were referenced in so many of her pieces? Moreover, Mangal’s prose was unusually brittle and dull. Even if you are open about your bias, why render your war reporting in such boring sentences?

We receive submissions from writers from across the globe, so we are used to awkward sentence structures, but this was something different. Wasn’t Mangal an English-speaking editor? Wasn’t she a reporter who attended a top-tier journalism program in the United States? What was this Inside Syria Media Center all about? We had never heard of it before. The site claims to be an “independent medium that contributes to peace in Syria,” but would a truly independent outlet openly express their admiration for Assad with a #WeLoveYourBashar and #StillMyPresident on its Twitter page? You don’t hear that kind of unbridled sycophancy from Sputnik and RT.

Fortunately, we thought, Mangal wasn’t exactly a ghost, like our friend Donovan. She was an editor at an actual news site, no matter its agenda, and was widely published across the web, with over 55 articles at Global Research alone. She had an active Facebook page. She even interviewed one of our writers via email about the prospects of a Syrian constitution. Most importantly, we thought, she was communicating with us.

As we noted in our piece on Alice Donovan, something else struck us as odd with Mangal. Both writers used a account for their initial emails to us. Out of the past 3,000 submissions to CounterPunch only four writers used accounts, that includes Donovan and Mangal. What this proves isn’t clear, but is notorious for providing a service where one can quickly produce a number of email accounts without any verification on one platform from one location. It is also one of the few email services which masks the IP address of the sender. A hacker’s delight.

By now we suspected something was up with Alice Donovan and we became suspicious of how Donovan had interacted with Mangal. Donovan had plagiarized verbatim an entire piece by Mangal and lifted passages from another. In both instances, Donovan’s submissions to CounterPunch arrived shortly after Mangal’s pieces had appeared on other sites. How did she have access to Mangal’s stories so quickly? Was Syria the key to unlocking the ultimate mystery of Alice Donovan? Couldn’t we just talk to Mangal and figure this all out? Were we just being paranoid?

We repeatedly attempted to schedule a chat with Mangal via Skype. Four times to be exact. Mangal initially emailed to say she couldn’t speak via Skype because she was in the mountains of Syria with a bad internet connection — hey, but thanks for the gesture, she said.

Yet, here she was, emailing us and dispatching her work across the web. She was even sending photos along with her pieces. How poor could her internet connection be? Activist and scholar Dr. Hawzhin Azeez spoke with CounterPunch Radio host Eric Draitser for an hour from war-torn Syria last year and we have writers in Syria who are able to communicate with us when needed.

We weren’t buying Mangal’s evasions. In the midst of the Donovan saga, Mangal had somehow sparked our intrigue.

Snapshot of Mangal’s Facebook page, which was deleted sometime
in mid-December 2017.

Over the course of 2016 to 2017, we published a total of five articles by the intruder Alice Donovan. We aren’t proud we didn’t catch on and realize she wasn’t the living and breathing New Yorker she claimed to be. But despite the Washington Post’s assertion that Kremlin trolls are invading, by all accounts, Alice was a rather insignificant presence. Before the Post and our own exposé dropped, Donovan enjoyed fewer than 50 Twitter followers. Her articles weren’t widely read or shared.

However, Mangal, unlike Donovan, had a much larger online footprint. She had published dozens of more pieces and was an editor of an outlet with nearly 13,000 Twitter followers. In virtually every way she seemed more relevant than Donovan as an online journalist.

While it’s nearly impossible to prove who’s really behind an ambiguous online persona like Mangal’s, it is rather easy to break down one’s text and check for accuracies, influences, patterns and quirks. We couldn’t prove Alice Donovan was or was not a Russian huckster (we didn’t take the FBI’s word for it, see the ordeal of Wen Ho Lee), but we were able to unmask her as a plagiarist, which in journalistic quarters, at least, is a more grievous offense.

Could we accomplish something similar with Mangal?


On various websites, Sophia Mangal has been described as “a woman with a passion for Syria, the Church and justice,” as an “American patriot,” and as “a young University of North Carolina media and journalism grad.” But was she any of these things?

Mangal, much like Alice Donovan, seemed to have appeared out of thin air. There are no tracks of her days as a college student. There are no podcast appearances, radio or video interviews promoting her work as a reporter, almost de rigeuer activities for contemporary journalists. ISMC has posted many videos from Syria, none feature any of their writers, either interviewing anyone or being interviewed. There’s only the one noirish photograph of Mangal, much of her face obscured behind large sunglasses. In her bio, Mangal claims to have “monitored” the European refugee crisis after leaving UNC, where she drew “parallels between the Syrian conflict and the Balkan problem.” If so, there is no evidence of her reporting on these issues, either before or after joining ISMC.

The first online trace of Mangal we could find is from November 2016, when she authored an article titled “Syria ISIS-Daesh Terrorists’ Financing Schemes Unveiled”, which was published at ISMC and Global Research, among others. That’s a pretty eye-popping story to break for your debut as an international correspondent. Even Seymour Hersh started out as a lowly beat reporter for the City News Bureau in Chicago.

CounterPunch did not receive the “terrorist financing” submission, but we were approached by Mangal on December 21, 2016, with a piece that attempted to discredit Bana al-Abed, an eight-year-old Syrian girl, who, with the help of her English speaking mother, became a Twitter sensation during the battle for Aleppo. Assad-friendly writers were quick to push back against al-Abed’s version of events and her growing popularity. Mangal’s piece mimicked these talking points and wasn’t exceptionally groundbreaking, so we passed.

No doubt there were grounds to be suspicious of al-Abed’s overnight rise, but the counter-propaganda campaign was equally as shallow. In retrospect, the fact that Mangal was writing about the alleged fake identity of al-Abed (she had a habit of trying to expose fakers) — who is a very real girl now living in New York — is a bit comical. It seems Mangal has done her best to vanish, while al-Abed is still promoting herself and her family’s plight in Syria.


It’s unclear to us when Mangal became an editor at ISMC. Her first submission to CounterPunch that identified her as co-editor landed in February 2017. She appeared to remain an editor until we attempted to talk to her via Skype. After our last attempt to schedule a conversation on December 15, her name was suddenly removed from ISMC’s contact page, though it remains on the contributors page (see below.) Around this time, Mangal also deleted her Facebook page. Soon after our piece on Alice Donovan was published on Christmas Day, which named Mangal as the victim of Donovan’s cut-and-paste theft, Mangal’s name was scrubbed from the bylines at ISMC for every article she had written. Over the course of 2017, Mangal regularly published one or two pieces a week. Then the submissions and publications on other sites abruptly stopped. Her last published story at Global Research appeared on December 15.

What was going on? Mangal’s pieces weren’t being removed, just reassigned to a simple “ISMC” byline. But wasn’t Mangal the one who had been wronged by Donovan? We were confused. Rare for a “media center,” ISMC lists no physical address or phone number on their contact page. Were ISMC’s offices located in Chapel Hill? London? the Netherlands? Austria? Damascus? There’s no clue. So we were forced to drop an email to the site’s chief-editor, Mariam Al-Hijab. After several attempts and days of waiting, we threw in the towel. No response.

It was certainly strange. First, Mangal wasn’t responding and now her co-editor wasn’t communicating either. So we reached out to ISMC’s other most prolific writer, Anna Jaunger, who is so astoundingly productive that she regularly churns out 3 or 4 stories a day. We noticed her pace of filing dispatches increased after Mangal faded away.

Again, we heard nothing. We sensed a pattern developing.

We decided to analyze a report Mangal had just dropped titled, “New Trends of A Resurgent Syrian Economy”, which claimed to have been written in collaboration with a writer named Anan Tello.

Coincidentally, Tello wrote a similar article with a few of the same paragraphs for Arab News. Tello’s was certainly the better of the two pieces, but whole sections appeared in Mangal’s version as well. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to realize Tello was an actual human being. She’s widely published and has an active, personal online presence. She was willing and eager to talk.

When asked if Tello knew Mangal, or had worked with her on the piece, she was emphatic, “I spent more than a week working on [that piece] for Arab News, and I worked on it all alone.” Tello explained,

“The people I interviewed, as well as my editors, know that I worked on the piece alone … What [Mangal] did is outrageous and unacceptable. How could I have ‘cooperated’ with someone I’ve never spoken to in any way, never heard of and with whom I never had any kind of correspondence?”

Alice Donovan plagiarized Sophie Mangal and now Mangal ripped off Anan Tello? What the hell are we dealing with here? It compelled us to take a closer look at Mangal’s work, even though we had never published it. Sure enough, like Donovan, she had lifted lede grafs from other writers, most recently from a piece in The New Yorker.

Here’s Mangal’s lede in a piece at ISMC on December 12, in “WH Recognized Assad as the Only Power Capable to Restore Syria?” (Mangal’s byline has since changed to ISMC):

“The Trump Administration is now prepared to accept President Bashar al-Assad’s continued rule until Syria’s next scheduled Presidential election, in 2021, according to U.S. and European officials. The decision reverses repeated U.S. statements that Assad must step down as part of a peace process.”

Here’s Robin Wright for The New Yorker one day earlier on December 11, 2017, in “Trump to Let Assad Stay Until 2021, as Putin Declares Victory in Syria” (Mangal’s theft in bold):

“Despite the deaths of as many as half a million people, dozens by chemical weapons, in the Syrian civil war, the Trump Administration is now prepared to accept President Bashar al-Assad’s continued rule until Syria’s next scheduled Presidential election, in 2021, according to U.S. and European officials. The decision reverses repeated U.S. statements that Assad must step down as part of a peace process.”

It was obvious. Mangal, like Donovan, was a journalistic klepto. The plagiarized was herself a plagiarizer.

Mangal also collaborated with journalist Sarah Abed, who writes for Mint Press News and edits The Rabbit Hole. Abed tells CounterPunch she never met Mangal in person and only communicated with her by email during their various collaborations. Mangal and Abed never spoke on the phone or via Skype and Abed says she hasn’t heard from Mangal for at least six months.

We also looked into Anna Jaunger’s work. She is even more prolific than Mangal. Jaunger’s first story for ISMC, “The Strange Logic of US Coalition Mistakes in Syria,” was published on October 27, 2016. Over the next 14 months, Jaunger’s byline appeared on more than 500 hundred stories–or about 1.25 stories every day. The ISMC archive for her articles is 56 pages long, at 8 to 10 articles per page. That’s an impressive clippings file by any standard. While many of the pieces are short rudimentary reports, others are more in depth. Her articles detailed troop movements, battle casualties, weapons shipments to rebel forces and intelligence estimates; they charted secret money networks, exposed covert operations, and analyzed US and European political debates and strategies. Stories that would take seasoned war correspondents days, even weeks, to report, flew off of Jaunger’s keyboard almost daily. How did she keep it up? Where was the information coming from?

On her Twitter page, Jaunger describes herself as an Austrian journalist working (“I love my job!”) for ISMC. Her work has been published by Global Research, Off Guardian, Information Clearinghouse, Dissident Voice and many other media outlets. We discovered she presents something of a façade as well. The profile photo on Jaunger’s Twitter page is actually a photograph of a woman named Anna Buxton from London, which was lifted directly from an employee directory at a company called LaSalle Investment Management. Apparently, Jaunger’s seven lucky followers didn’t question the authenticity of the snappy photo.

Anna Jaunger’s Twitter page.

The real Anna, photo from LaSalle Investment
Management’s staff page.

Of course, it goes without saying that all of this absurdity raises serious questions about the legitimacy of ISMC. Who is behind the project? We aren’t certain, exactly. But it’s been a fruitful endeavor. Altogether, Mangal and Jaunger have published hundreds of articles that have appeared all over the web. How do they pay for the site and ISMC’s three staffers, who supposedly travel frequently to Syria and back from Europe and the States? We couldn’t tell. Unlike most independent media outlets, they don’t ask for donations, don’t list an address or phone number and offer no biographical information about their editors and writers.

Tom Ginsberg, a respected international law professor at the University of Chicago participated in an interview with ISMC last February on the proposed Syrian constitution. We reached out to see what he knew about the site.

“I had not heard of them before,” explains Ginsberg, whose interview with ISMC was conducted via email.

“When the interview came out, a friend from the region told me they had some kind of pro-Assad bias … I never actually spoke to a human being on the phone.”

We attempted to look under the hood of the operation to see if we could find a leak. The url “” was registered to Barna Robert from Noord-Brabant, Netherlands on September 16, 2016. Who is Barna Robert? We couldn’t track him down through the email or phone number listed on the site’s registration page. (Like Donovan and Mangal, Robert used as his email client, which functions the same as MAIL.COM, both of which are owned by United Internet.) It’s an unusual name. There just aren’t that many Barna Roberts in the world. (Or Robert Barna’s for that matter.) We were only able to a locate a handful online, including a Hungarian body-builder who died in 2013, a Romanian soccer player and a Hungarian mathematician.

But a now-deleted Facebook page listed a Barna Robert as being from Aleppo, Syria, currently living in Carolina Beach, North Carolina. If that’s the same Barna Robert who registered the ISMC website, he lives just a two-hour drive from Sophie Mangal’s purported home in Wake County, NC. We searched for phone and property records for Mr. Robert in Carolina Beach and came up empty.


Inside Syria Media Center appears to have initially shown up as a Facebook group called “Syria: Look Inside!”, which is now also called Inside Syria Media Center. It is unclear when the name was changed. The group was created in February 2016, about a month before ISMC was operating online as a media project. Once ISMC went live, it was hosted on WordPress and later transferred to “”, as noted above. One of the first individuals to promote the Facebook group was a journalist named Said Al-Khalaki, who also wrote some of the earliest content for ISMC and is an administrator for the Facebook group. Al-Khalaki did not respond to a request for comment.

Strangely, after we attempted to reach out to Al-Khalaki, his bylines at Inside Syria Media Center were also changed to the generic “ISMC”. (Here’s a piece by Al-Khalaki that appeared at Veteran’s Today and also at ISMC. Note the byline discrepancies.) Al-Khalaki’s online work dates back to at least 2013.


A records inquiry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Mangal’s alleged stomping grounds, could not verify that either a “Sophie” or “Sophia” Mangal had ever graduated from or even attended the university. A search of the UNC alumni association rolls also proved fruitless. We also searched the archives of The Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s school paper, and found no trace of Mangal. As far as we can tell, she’s never written for the paper. Erica Beshears Perel, General Manager of The Daily Tar Heel, says after a quick search she couldn’t find a record of Mangal over the past ten years but cautioned that hundreds of students join her staff every year.

A month ago, we plunged down a rabbit hole in pursuit of Alice and emerged in a house of mirrors, populated by at least one phantom writer (Donovan), vanishing bylines and stolen texts that had proliferated across the web. Why does it matter? From bitter experience, we’ve learned that the price of the deception will be paid by the anti-war media, not the ghostwriters. The architects of COINTELPRO themselves couldn’t have devised a more insidious way to discredit the anti-war movement. This time, however, the wounds will be largely self-inflicted.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. He can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter@brickburner
More articles by:Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank

Victoria/Vancouver Left Coast Events Bulletin for January 4th to 11th

Left Coast Events Bulletin for January 4th to 11th

by Janine Bandcroft

January 5, 2017 

This events bulletin is produced weekly for Gorilla Radio, airing Thursdays 11-noon at CFUV ( and Mondays 9-10 am at CJSF ( You can also listen to the podcasts at

** please forward to friends and allies **


Why take part in Veganuary? Well, why not?

There are so many reasons people decide to try vegan. For most, a love of animals is the catalyst. Some people want to feel better about themselves and the impact they make on the world. Others would like to set themselves a challenge, and many combine Veganuary with their ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ and see trying vegan as the healthiest start to the year. Whatever your reason, we’re here to support you. So try vegan for a month and discover a whole new world of taste and flavour. We guarantee that, by the end of the January, you’ll feel fantastic! Sign up today at Over 100,000 people around the world have signed up this year, it’s not too late to join.


Human Stressors at Maplewood Flats

january 6th

Saturday at 11:00 -15:00

Maplewood Flats
2649 Dollarton Highway, North Vancouver, British Columbia V7H

The Wild Bird Trust caretakes Maplewood Flats on the shores of Burrard Inlet. As we develop a longterm Habitat & Cultural Use Plan for Maplewood Flats, we are conducting members' workshops to assist us in policy development and restoration strategies, as well as to proactively address significant stressors surrounding Maplewood Flats. Everyone welcome!

///Event Photo: Mélinda Mena-Robinson

Phase 4: Human Stressors
Saturday, January 6, 2018
11am - 3pm
Global warming
Maplewood North development (Darwin Construction),
Park Street Marsh,
Public use,
Dominant species
Water quality & litter

Phase 5: Revising Our Management Goals
Saturday, January 20, 2018
11am - 3pm
Examination of the planning work-to-date and revising of restoration and management goals based on initial findings. Information:

Industrial Legacy Workshop (TBD)
Future Restoration Workshop (TBD)


The Antifascists Film & Organizing Discussion

january 6th

Saturday at 17:00-21:00

Spartacus Books
3378 Findlay Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V5N 4E7

An open event for like-minded individuals and groups to watch the 2017 documentary 'The Antifascists', and a chance to analyze what far-right and varying groups exist in our midst.

Following the frustrating attempts to organize against "the right" in the past couple years, we hope that people take this opportunity to voice their opinions, share zines, critique leftist attempts at organizing in Vancouver, and get to know each other.

Film run time: 1hr 15mins. The discussion following will go on until the audience thinks we have broached enough topics and agreed on how to move forward. For those that are interested in getting a few pints at a pub afterwards, please stay until the end. Please note that the attendee list is hidden for security purposes.

This event is hosted on shared, stolen, and occupied coast salish territories.


In Solidarity With Iranian Protestors

january 6th


Saturday at 13:00-15:00

Show map
Vancouver Art Gallery
750 Hornby Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V6Z 2H7

n solidarity with protestors in Iran, the mourning families and the prisoners of the mass movement.
On this day, we only gather and chant for the people. Making political decisions for Iran is a right and obligation for the people in the country and we will respect this matter by putting aside our personal and political ideas.
Details about the event will be posted soon.


Speakeasy | Holiday Special


9 January at 20:00-23:30

Victoria Event Centre
1415 Broad Street, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 2B2

Join us every Tuesday at the VEC for swing jazz and cocktail culture in an old-timey Prohibition era setting.

Live jazz by the city's favourite swing jazz musicians in the form of The Capital City Syncopators and The Flying Saucers.

Cocktails and beverages created by Vincent Vanderheide, Eric Nordal, Keith Williams, and special guest bartenders.

$10 at the door (includes a welcome drink!)


ECouture Film Series


3 dates  9 January  23 January


Powell River Public Library
100-6975 Alberni, Powell River, British Columbia V8A 2B8

Join eCouture Wearable Art Fashion Show team for a series of three films presented in partnership with Vancouver Island University. All are welcome. Entry to each film is by donation.

Tuesday, Jan. 9th 'The True Cost' (back by popular demand)
5:45pm - Doors
6:00pm - Film (92 mins)
7:45-8:30pm - Discussion
Synopsis: The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?

Tuesday, Jan. 16th 'RIVERBLUE'
5:45pm - Doors
6:00pm - Film (95 mins)
7:45-8:30pm - Discussion
Synopsis: Following international river conservationist, Mark Angelo, RIVERBLUE spans the globe to infiltrate one of the world’s most pollutive industries, fashion.

Tuesday, Jan. 23rd 'A New Economy'
5:45pm - Doors
6:00pm - Film (85 mins)
7:35-8:30pm - Discussion
Synopsis: What if working together for the good of all was the most common business model? Watch, as several organizations strive towards building a more cooperative future.


ToF ft. Catherine Garrett


10 January at 20:00-22:00
Next Week
CAFFE FANTASTICO (Quadra Village location)

Season 13, Episode 8

Tongues of Fire is our twice monthly spoken word open mic. You'll hear 5-minute sets from 12 local performers, plus a feature set. Sign-up opens at 7:30 pm (first come first served); show starts at 8 pm. $6-10 sliding scale (cash only).

FEATURING: Catherine Garrett

Catherine Garrett is a spoken word artist, BCIT journalism student and queer as fuuuuuck. She has a passion for hockey, gymnastics, cooking, greasy EDM music, and long talks about intersectional feminism. She has represented Victoria twice at the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word and probably wants to be your friend.


ABOUT CAFFE FANTASTICO (Quadra Village location):

Caffe Fantastico is a beautiful all-ages cafe that serves hot beverages; beer, wine, and cider; and snacks (hummus! chicken skewers! fried chick peas! tacos!). There are two non-gendered, single-stall washrooms, one of which is large enough for a wheelchair/mobility device. There are three stairs between the service area and the main seating area, but both areas can also be accessed from street level. Please enter via the Kings St door.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns about this event and/or our venue. We aim to be inclusive and welcoming.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Making Cash Obsolete: The Companies Coming to Empty Your Wallet

Corporate Coercion and the Drive to Eliminate Buying with Cash

by Ralph Nader -


Sorry we’re not taking cash or checks,” said the clerk at the Fed Ex counter over a decade ago to an intern.

“Only credit cards.”

Since then, the relentless intensification of coercive commercialism has been moving toward a cashless economy, when all consumers are incarcerated within a prison of corporate payment systems from your credit/debit cards to your mobile phone and very soon facial recognition.

“Terrific!” say those consumers for whom convenience and velocity of transactions are irresistible.

“This is nuts!” say a shrinking number of free-thinking consumers who are unwilling to be dragooned down the road to corporate captivity and coercion. These people treasure their privacy. They understand that it’s none of any conglomerate’s business – whether VISA, Facebook, Amazon or Google – what, where, when and how consumers purchase goods and services. Or where and when they travel, receive healthcare, or the most intimate relationships they maintain. Not to mention consumers’ personal information can be sent to or hacked around the globe.

Cash-consumers are not alone in their opposition to a cashless economy. When they are in a cab and ask the driver how they prefer to be paid, the answer is near-unanimous. “Cash, cash, cash,” reply the cab drivers in cities around the country. They get paid immediately and without having to have a company deduct a commission.

Back some 25 years ago, Consumers Union considered backing consumer groups to sign up Main Street, USA merchants who agreed to discount their wares if people paid in cash. For the same reason – merchants get to keep all the money on sales made with cash or check. Unfortunately, the idea never materialized. It is, however, still a good idea. Today, payments systems are much more comprehensively coercive.

Once you’re in the credit card system, lack of privacy and access to your credit are just the tip of the iceberg. That is why companies can impose penalties, surcharges, overcharges and a myriad of other corporate raids on your private treasury. They get immediate payment. If you object, you could see a lowering of your credit score or your credit rating. Besides, you don’t even know you agreed to all of these dictates – banks have over 300 different special charges for their revered customers – in fine print agreements that you never saw, read or even possessed to sign or click on. What’s the likelihood that banks would continue to surcharge you if they had to bill you instead of debit you?

The sheer pace and brazenness of corporations when they have instant access to your credit is stunning. The recent crimes of banking giant Wells Fargo, including selling auto insurance and assigning new credit cards to millions of their customers who had no knowledge and gave no consent for these charges, which resulted in damage to these customers’ credit scores and ratings, can only be committed when consumers are turned into economic prisoners. There are still no criminal prosecutions of the bank or its bosses. Wells Fargo bank stock rose to a year high last month. To their credit, the CFPB imposed a $100 million dollar fine on Wells Fargo, which barred them from deducting the fine as a business expense.

Coercive fine print contracts rob you of your consumer rights by preventing you from going to court, imposing fines as high as $35 for bounced checks (which typically cost the banks less than $2), and decreeing that you agreed in advance to all kinds of unconscionable abuses, so long as you are in a “customer” status with them. Some companies are even charging customers for quitting them.

The rapacity inflicted on cashless purchasers prevails across the economy – insurance, mortgages, telecommunications, healthcare, stock brokerage, online buying and, of course, requirements to use electronic payment systems.

The more consumers become incarcerated by the companies that purportedly serve them, the more lucrative commodity consumers become. This leads to, among other problems, massive computerized billing fraud in the US. In the healthcare industry alone, billing fraud amounts to ten percent of what is spent, according to Harvard applied mathematics professor Malcolm Sparrow, author of License to Steal. This year’s expenditure of ten percent of the $3.5 trillion expected to be spent amounts to $350 billion. A cashless economy further facilitates these larcenous practices.

A computerized economy is one where fraud can easily be committed on a massive scale, according to Frank Abagnale who, after serving his time in prison for identity theft, has become an impassioned educator (serving institutions ranging from the FBI to AARP) on how to detect and avoid such crimes, which he estimates to cost people about one trillion dollars each year.

What it comes down to is whether consumer freedom is worth more than consumer convenience or whether the points earned for future purchases (assuming the costs are not passed on in hidden ways) are worth minimizing impulse buying, avoiding big data profile manipulations, keeping personal matters personal and requiring your affirmative consent to transactions where you decide what you want to buy and how you can pay.

However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pay by cash or check. Try renting a car or occupying a hotel room or buying a snack or drink on an airline without a credit or debit card.

In the latest example of such coercion, new boutique eateries like Two Forks, Dig Inn, Dos Toros or Pokee in New York City operate entirely through payment systems that reject all cash purchases. “But isn’t cash legal tender?” you might ask. How could they reject cash on the barrelhead? Simple, says the Federal Reserve, so long as they notify you in advance. It’s that fine print again.

The New York Times, reported these rejections and noted: “Not surprisingly, the credit card companies, who make a commission on every credit card purchase, applaud the trend. Visa recently offered select merchants a $10,000 reward for depriving customers of their right to pay by the method of their choice.” The nerve!

Cash consumers of America arise, band together and organize a National Association for the Preservation of Cash Purchases. You have nothing to save but your freedom, your desire to push back and your precious, affirmative and personal right to consent or not to consent, before you are forced into contract peonage.

Interested? Let’s hear from you at

Making Jerusalem a Jews-Only City

Israel Step Closer to Making Jerusalem Jewish-Only City

by Ramzy Baroud -

January 4, 2018

The Israeli government is planning a series of measures aimed at fully denying Palestinians their legal rights in Jerusalem and precluding any future peace settlement based on sharing the city between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

One of the most aggressive measures to date is a bill that was approved by the Israeli Knesset on Tuesday, January 2.

The bill, which passed with the support of Israel's ruling rightwing and far-right coalition has several dangerous stipulations.

According to the bill, two thirds of the Knesset majority is required for Israel to relinquish sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem. International law insists that Israel has no sovereignty over East Jerusalem, illegally occupied and annexed in 1967 and 1980 respectively.

An equally disturbing stipulation in the bill is that it removes two Palestinian neighborhoods from the municipal jurisdiction of the city.

The two affected neighborhoods are Kufr Aqab and the Shufat refugee camp.

By doing so, the Israeli government would have achieved another milestone in its demographic war on Palestinians.

It is important to note that the two Palestinian areas are located on the other side of what Israel refers to as the 'Separation Wall'.

This move confirms the assumption that the Wall was built around Palestinians areas that Israel plans to annex in the future.

Now, that the wall construction is at an advanced stage, the process of annexation seems to have begun.

But the latest bill - dubbed by Palestinians as the 'race law' for it aims at vacating Jerusalem from Palestinian Arabs and increasing the number of the city's Jewish settlers - is a rewritten version of an earlier bill.

'The Greater Jerusalem Law', which was poised to win a majority vote at the Knesset was only shelved temporarily.

The delayed bill called for expanding the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include major illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including Ma’aleh Adumim and the Gush Etzion settlement cluster.

Moreover, it endeavored to bring 150,000 Jewish settlers into Jerusalem as eligible voters, who would naturally tip the political scene more to the right.

Concurrently, the law would further demote the status of 100,000 Palestinians, who would find themselves in a politically gray area.

That bill was cast aside only weeks before the United States government agreed to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

While many in the international community were focused on what the American move would mean for the future of the region and the so-called peace process, few paid heed to the fact that the US and Israel had something far more consequential in mind.

News agencies at the time reported that Israel agreed to shelf a popular bill "under US pressure." But that 'pressure' only aimed at giving President Donald Trump the needed time to formulate his own strategy and make the troubling announcement.

Since then, many Palestinians were killed, hundreds wounded and more detained as Palestinians and their allies around the world displayed outrage by the US decision.

A symbolic but telling vote at the United Nations on December 21 showed that the US and Israel stood alone in their fight to deny Palestinians their rights in their unlawfully occupied city.

Wasting no time, Israeli lawmakers are now pushing forward with designs to further isolate Jerusalem and to empty it from its Palestinian inhabitants.

They understand that the unparalleled US support must be exploited to the maximum, and that any delay on these bills would certainly be missed opportunities.

The nature of the US-Israel coordination is indeed unprecedented. Just as the Knesset voted to approve the bill, the US moved quickly to cap any strong Palestinian reactions.

That job was entrusted to US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who has gone further than any other US official in her attempt to intimidate, and even bully Palestinians.

Haley declared that the US will cut off US funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and will only resume funding when the Palestinians agree to return to the negotiations.

UNRWA is the main channel for support for Palestinians refugees. That decision will further tighten the noose on a struggling Palestinian economy and the Palestinian Authority which relies mostly on international aid to survive.

Haley, of course, understands that no Palestinian leadership can engage politically with Israel and the US when the two countries refuse to accept international law as a frame of reference in the negotiations.

Now, the Palestinian leadership has to choose between its existing humiliation or further humiliation.

But Haley's threat is also aimed at changing the conversation, and taking the focus away from the racist Israeli bill that will surely lead to further annexation in Jerusalem itself and throughout the West Bank.

The US and Israel are now actively invested in a system of political Apartheid in Palestine, and are twisting the arm of the PA to facilitate such a dreadful regime.

PA officials have made many threats so far, including the exclusion of the US from the peace process and changing their demand to a one state solution.

But there is nothing concrete so far regarding that coveted Palestinian strategy; one that is predicated on a united Palestinian leadership that truly explores new options, allies and future outlook.

It is that lack of vision that compromises the Palestinian position even further, emboldening Israel to push forward with its racist laws and apartheid walls.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). 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

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Creating Iran's Crisis: US-Israel Deal to Foment Insurgency

Birth of an Insurgency: The US-Israeli “Secret Deal” To Manipulate Protests In Iran

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

January 3rd, 2018

With the Trump and Netanyahu administrations now working in lockstep, U.S.-Israeli hostility towards Iran has now ripened into a plan to repeat what befell Syria over six years ago – the hijacking of minor protests and their transformation into the cover for a foreign-funded insurgency intent on toppling Iran’s elected government.

TEHRAN, IRAN (Analysis) – Using the recent protests as cover, the governments of the United States and Israel are advancing a much larger plan for covert regime change against the Iranian government, one born out of the “secret deal” negotiated and signed between the two countries right before the widely covered but relatively small protests in Iran began in late December.

That deal, negotiated between National Security Adviser and neocon darling H.R. McMaster and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat, secured the full cooperation of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations in targeting Iran’s “threatening activities” through a series of “memorandums of understanding.”

As the Times of Israel reported, such cooperation is ultimately expected to translate into “steps on the ground” — a vague way of implying that aggressive actions will soon target Iran, including potential military action.

Yet, since the agreement was announced in the press, the evidence seems to point to the development of a more covert operation that is set to begin with the assassination of a top Iranian general. 

Reviving a once-thwarted assassination plan

On Monday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that an “American-Israeli agreement” had been forged that determined that Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force active in fighting the Wahhabist insurgency in Syria, is a “threat to the two countries’ interests in the region.” This understanding subsequently resulted in the U.S. government giving Israel the “green light” to assassinate Soleimani, a plan Israel had unsuccessfully attempted to carry out three years earlier. The Obama administration had thwarted that operation, when Israel was allegedly “on the verge” of killing Soleimani near Damascus, by warning the Iranian government of the plan.

However, the U.S.’ failure to enact regime change in Syria – a close ally of Iran – and the Trump administration’s close relationship with Israel have apparently led the U.S. government to openly voice its support for Israel to assassinate a top general of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a move that would likely embroil Iran and Israel – and perhaps the rest of the Middle East – in war.

Indeed, Soleimani’s force in Syria has been instrumental in aiding the Syrian government in eliminating the largely foreign-funded Wahhabist insurgency that was intended to remove Syrian president Bashar al-Assad from power, a key strategic goal of both the U.S. and Israel in the region.

Furthermore — with the disintegration of Daesh (ISIS) in Syria and, along with it, the disintegration of the U.S.-led coalition’s excuse for its illegal presence in Syria — Soleimani delivered a forceful message to the U.S. forces stationed in Northwest Syria. In that message, delivered to the U.S. via the Russian military, Soleimani warned the U.S. military command in Syria that it best remove all U.S. forces currently present in Syria “or the doors of hell will open up,” adding that “I advise you leave by your own will or you will be forced to.”

Russia later echoed Soleimani, albeit less forcefully, by advising that U.S. forces vacate Syria, as the terrorist threat has been largely eliminated and the U.S.’ continued presence in the country would be in violation of the Syrian government’s sovereignty.

However, the U.S. has made it clear that it has no plans to leave Syria anytime soon. Last Friday, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis insisted that the “war is not over” in Syria or Iraq, as much works remain to be done to prevent a potential resurgence of Daesh. Mattis’ words came just days after reports surfaced alleging that U.S. forces in Northwestern Syria are retraining Daesh fighters from areas “liberated” by U.S. proxy forces.

The endgame of this U.S. operation is likely the exportation of insurgents from Northwestern Syria through Iraqi Kurdistan, where U.S. forces are still present, and into eastern Iran where the fomentation of an armed insurgency will be used to destabilize and hijack the protests currently taking place in Iran. Most of the recent growth in reported unrest has been concentrated in eastern Iran.

In order for such a program to achieve its goal, the U.S. must be able to continue illegally occupying northwestern Syria. With Soleimani out of the picture and the Quds Force in Syria thus weakened, that occupation would be significantly easier to prolong.

Building blocks of regime-change insurgency: sanctions, protests, “peaceful” uprising

While a U.S.-Israeli plan to create a terrorist pipeline from Syria to Iran has yet to be definitively established, regime-change plans specifically targeting Iran have included such strategies for toppling the Iranian government. For instance, the Brookings Institution — a prominent, hawkish U.S. think tank — published a manual in 2009 titled “Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran.” The manual, divided into four parts, includes an entire section devoted to enacting regime change. This section includes three chapters, the first two of which focus on “supporting a popular uprising” and “inspiring an insurgency” by “supporting Iranian minority and opposition groups.”

When the protests against the neoliberal economic policies of the Rouhani-led government began just days ago, the U.S. and Israeli political establishments — and their supporters — quickly took advantage of the situation. Though the protests have been small in size, intentional misreporting from the corporate media and on social media has sought to combine these protests with regime-change aspirations while also exaggerating their size.

Both neocons and their liberal counterparts have posted publicly their support for the protests, claiming to support the Iranian people despite their past support for the sanctions that damaged Iran’s economy – the very factor that allegedly inspired the protests in the first place.

Though the plan to support a popular uprising depended on the organic emergence of some unrest, however minimal, within Iran, the plan to inspire an insurgency requires more careful preparation. Given the establishment of a new CIA “mission center” focused on “turning up the heat” in Iran last June — which has sought to make Iran “a higher priority target for American spies” — along with the U.S. operation in Syria, the groundwork for such an insurgency has now been laid.

Of particular concern is the fact that the CIA officer in charge of the center is Michael D’Andrea, a Wahhabist who has overseen the agency’s drone bombing program and was a key player in the CIA’s torture program. According to Moon of Alabama, he is believed to be the mastermind behind U.S. cooperation with extreme Wahhabi groups in Libya, Iraq and Syria.

In addition, Israel has openly worked with terrorist groups active in Iran in the past, namely the Jundallah terrorist group that Israeli Mossad hired to kill nuclear experts in Iran and for other tasks in its covert war against the Islamic Republic.

Arming the uprising

As the protests in Iran have unfolded, the increase in violent incidents suggests that U.S.-Israeli support for both a popular uprising and their support for a budding insurgency have merged and are taking place simultaneously. For instance, there has been a precipitous rise in the number of “armed protesters” since the ostensibly “peaceful” protests began, including a group of armed individuals that attempted to overtake government buildings and military bases.

Others have killed police and participated in the wanton destruction of property. Others still have shot innocent bystanders, who were then threatened into saying that the police had been the shooters. Eyewitness reports have claimed that many of the more violent protesters are “non-native” (i.e., foreign).

However, the most telling evidence has been the emergence of terrorist activity in eastern Iran. As the protests were beginning, a Sunni jihadist group known as Ansar al-Furqan exploded an Iranian oil pipeline in the Khuzestan province. The group — which, according to the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, has ties to al-Nusra Front in Syria — claimed that it carried out the attack in order to “inflict losses on the economy of the criminal Iranian regime.”

Both the U.S. and Israel have close ties to al-Nusra Front in Syria. The U.S., for its part, funneled weapons to al-Nusra by continuing weapons shipments to Syrian opposition groups in Idlib even as they declared allegiance to al-Nusra en masse, and even took al-Nusra Front off the terror watch list after it changed its name. An al-Nusra Front commander also infamously claimed in 2016 that “the Americans are on our side.” Meanwhile, Israel’s long-standing commitment to aiding and funding the terrorist group, while also treating their wounded, has been an open secret for years.

In addition, the terrorist group Mujahideen-e-Khalq, popularly known as MEK in the West, has been active in the current protests as well. Despite its record of killing innocent civilians, Western media has cited MEK spokespeople and members in its reporting on the protests as “proof” that the Iranian people are calling for regime change, while ignoring the massive pro-government rallies that have coincided with the protests. Little mention has been made of the fact the MEK fighters have been trained by the U.S. military in the past and share connections with Israeli Mossad.

Conclusion: with Syria plan in tatters, U.S. and Israel roll it out again for Iran

The hostility of the U.S. and Israel towards Iran is well known. Yet, with the Trump and Netanyahu administrations now working in lockstep, that hostility has now ripened into a plan to repeat what befell Syria over six years ago – the hijacking of minor protests and their transformation into the cover for a foreign-funded insurgency intent on toppling the elected government of Iran.

Whether or not such an effort will be successful is yet to be seen. However, it’s unlikely that either Israel or the United States will be willing to accept another failure like their venture in Syria, lest they be forced to give up on their regional ambitions entirely.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, and 21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License. 

Harvey's Party: Weinstein and the Democrats

Harvey Weinstein and the Democratic Party

by TRNN (Media of the Day) - CounterPunch 

January 3, 2018

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Virginia Tilley, Zarefah Baroud Jan. 4, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

January 4, 2017

Welcome to the first GR of 2018. Or is it 1918? That was the year America was rocked by its first Red Scare. A century later, though media technologies are infinitely more sophisticated, the reptilian appeal to the basest elements of human nature remains as primitive as the limbic brain itself. The secret to the success of this kind of mass deception is provided by Nazi Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels who helpfully said,

"The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous."

Listen. Hear.

That principle was eagerly adopted by the second wave of Red Scare McCarthyites after the Second World War, and may sound uncomfortably familiar today, as a third wave of Red Scarists crest.

Dr. Virginia Tilley is Professor of Political Science at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She's also an essayist and author specializing in the comparative study of ethnic and racial conflict. Tilley's book titles include, 'Seeing Indians: A Study of Race, Nation and Power in El Salvador,' 'The One State Solution: A Breakthrough for Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock,' and co-author and editor of 'Beyond Occupation: Apartheid, Colonialism and International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories'.

Virginia's articles appear at The Nation, Electronic Intifada, and among other places. Her latest piece, 'The New Hysteria on Kremlin Trolls' takes aim at a Pravda-worthy Washington Post rant against internet news rival, CounterPunch.

Virginia Tilley in the first half.

And; 2017, or Year One as U.S. president, Donald Trump may prefer, was by turns a bizarre and watershed year for American politics; and because what happens in the United States doesn't stay just there, reverberations of the Trump Doctrine's inaugural year are still being felt around the World. Nowhere is this more true than in Occupied Palestine, where the announcement of plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and relocate the US Embassy there, has predictably enough spurred a backlash that now threatens a renewed Intifada.

It's ironic, or perhaps karmanic, that the country most keenly affected by US domestic policy, Israel, itself exerts the greatest influence on American life. From the massive transfers of wealth in the form of "aid" and the hugely influential Israel Lobby in Washington, to militarized police training and the construction of president Trump's 'Great Wall' immigration policies, Israel and America are fellow travellers engaged in a true, two-way partnership. It is however, according to my second guest, a toxic relationship bringing hardship and injustice, especially to those, "...already socio-economically disadvantaged and marginalized."

Zarefah Baroud is a freelance social and political commentator whose writing addresses human rights and environmental issues. A Media and Communications student at the University of Washington, her articles can be found at CounterPunch, Scoop, and Foreign Policy Journal among others.

Zarefah Baroud and Reevaluating a Toxic Relationship in the second half. But first, Virginia Tilley and what's old is new again with The New Hysteria on Kremlin Trolls.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Resolutions from Palestine

2018 Resolutions

by Mazin Qumsiyeh -

January 1, 2018

Happy new year 2018 to you, your family, and friends. May this new year bring us all closer to peace, justice, and sustainability.

These were six resolutions for 2017

1. Stay positive and create positive focus amidst the difficulties
2. Do things methodically (also scientifically) and work smart encouraging others to do the same (efficiency)
3. Minimum one MS and one proposal submitted every month
4. Stay focused and never give-up
5. Take care of family and friends and work more with youth
6. Have “joyful participation in the sorrows of this word"

I am glad we managed to achieve most of this consistently; at times it was hard to stay positive when several of our friends were abducted and are now in Israeli jails, we lost dear friends like Qavi and others, we deal with injuries and illnesses etc.

The achievements for 2017 at the Palestine Museum of Natural History and Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability at Bethlehem University were remarkable and help us keep our sanity.

For example, we actually submitted 15 proposals and got several already funded. We served thousands of students and other community members (empowerment, environmental awareness etc). We completed many projects related to research, education and conservation.

None of the achievements could have been done without support of so many people (see below).

Since the 2017 resolutions worked, we will maintain them but add that in 2018, we will:

7. finish and submit two books besides publishing research and other papers at an accelerated pace
8. finish infrastructure and open our botanical garden (also community garden, medicinal and herbal plants, children garden and agricultural experimental station).
9. Get going on the green building for the museum and institute (costing about $1 million of which we have received kind donation of $400,000)

Again none of these (now 9 resolutions) would be possible without team work. We do have a baseline paid staff members (3) which will grow in 2018. But we rely mostly on volunteers and donors. In 2017, we had over 300 donors (donations in money and in-kind like books, tools, seeds etc), over 150 volunteers (from over 20 countries), and countless positive educational interactions through workshops, lectures, seminars etc.

In 2018 we can do much more with YOUR SUPPORT:

Short videos of our work (on education) (on volunteering) (general on what PMNH/PIBS is about)

To donate:
To volunteer:

Stay Human and come visit us

Mazin Qumsiyeh (& the team!)
A Bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Author and activist
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
Join me on facebook

Monday, January 01, 2018

Propaganda, Facts and Fake News: Holberg Debate with Assange, Pilger, Heawood

The Holberg Debate 2017: "Propaganda, Facts and Fake News" with J. Assange, J. Pilger & J. Heawood

by HolbergPrize 

5 Dec 2017

At the 2017 Holberg Debate, Julian Assange, John Pilger and Jonathan Heawood discussed the presence of propaganda in news and social media, and its democratic implications.

Is there an escalating war of information that is threatening our democracy and our ability to make informed decisions?

The event took place at the University of Bergen, Norway, on December 2nd, 2017.

About 00:11:00 Julian Assange 

About 00:56:00 Questions for Julian Assange 

About 01:19:00 Jonathan Heawood 

About 01:43:00 John Pilger 

About 02:17:11 Las Q&A Session 

About the speakers: Julian Assange joins the panel via videolink. Assange is an award-winning journalist and the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. He is also a programmer, cryptographer, author and activist. Founded in 2006, WikiLeaks has published millions of leaked documents and several videos. This includes logs that relate to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the controversial “Collateral Murder” video from Iraq, U.S. diplomatic cables, and election campaign related e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta.

Jonathan Heawood is the CEO and founder of IMPRESS, the only press regulator to be recognised as independent and effective under the Royal Charter in the United Kingdom. He has previously worked as a journalist and human rights campaigner, and he is a former director of English PEN. Heawood has written on free speech and regulation for various publications, including The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Fiction, Critical Quarterly, Journal of Media Law, Ethical Space and Communications Law.

John Pilger is an Australian journalist, author and documentary film-maker. Pilger has covered military, political and cultural conflicts around the world for more than five decades, and his criticism of American, Australian and British foreign policy is strongly reflected his documentaries and writings. He worked at the Daily Mirror from 1963 to 1986 and wrote a regular column for the New Statesman magazine from 1991 to 2014. Pilger has won numerous awards as a journalist and film-maker, and he is one of only two people to win British journalism’s highest award twice. The Holberg Debate 2017 is a collaboration between the Holberg Prize, the Fritt Ord Foundation and Norwegian PEN (Western Norway).

Canada Losing Its Nice with Venezuela

Venezuela declares Craib Kowalik, Canada’s Chargé d’Affaires in Caracas, persona non gratas

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

December 29th, 2017

Lying is so common in diplomacy that it can be hard to tell heads from tails in international disputes.

In the recent tussle between Caracas and Ottawa, for instance, Venezuela says it is trying to protect itself from foreign “interference” while Canada claims it is promoting “democracy and human rights”.

Given the ever-present possibility of a complete disregard for truth on both sides, which government might be more credible in this instance?

Let us consider the background

Last week Venezuela declared Canada’s chargé d’affaires in Caracas persona non grata. In making the announcement the president of the National Constituent Assembly Delcy Rodriguez denounced Craib Kowalik’s “permanent and insistent, rude and vulgar interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.”

Is Rodriguez’s explanation for expelling Kowalik convincing?

In recent months foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has repeatedly criticized Venezuela’s elected government and Canada is part of the so-called Lima Group of foreign ministers opposed to President Nicolás Maduro.

Following Washington’s lead, Ottawa has also imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials and supported opposition groups. In one project, the Canadian embassy distributed $125,212 through the Canadian Funding to Local Initiatives program, which,

provided flexible, modest support for projects with high visibility and impact on human rights and the rule of law, including: enabling Venezuelan citizens to anonymously register and denounce corruption abuses by government officials and police through a mobile phone application in 2014-15.”

In August outgoing Canadian ambassador Ben Rowswell, a specialist in social media and political transition, told the Ottawa Citizen:

“We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.”

(Can you imagine the hue and cry if a Venezuelan ambassador said something similar about Canada?) Rowswell added that Canada would continue to support the domestic opposition after his departure from Caracas since “Freeland has Venezuela way at the top of her priority list.”

So, obviously it’s hard to argue with Rodriguez’ claim that Canada has been “interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela.”

But, what to make of Freeland’s statement — when Ottawa declared Venezuela’s top diplomat persona non grata in response — that “Canadians will not stand by as the government of Venezuela robs its people of their fundamental democratic and human rights”?

A series of decisions Freeland’s government has pursued over the past two weeks make it hard to take seriously Canada’s commitment to democracy and human rights:

  • Canada signed a defence cooperation arrangement with the United Arab Emirates. According to Radio Canada International, the accord with the monarchy “will make it easier for the Canadian defence industry to access one of the world’s most lucrative arms markets and bolster military ties between the two countries.”
  • Canada sided with the US, Israel and some tiny Pacific island states in opposing a UN resolution supporting Palestinian statehood backed by 176 nations.
  • Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen promoted Canadian energy and mining interests during a meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is seeking international legitimacy after winning a controversial election (re-run) boycotted by the opposition.
  • The Liberals added Ukraine to Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which allows Canadian companies to export weapons to that country with little restriction. President Petro Poroshenko, who has a 2% popular approval rating, needs to make gains in the Ukraine’s civil war to shore up his legitimacy.
  • Just before expelling Venezuela’s chargé d’affaires Ottawa officially endorsed an electoral farce in Honduras. Following Washington, Global Affairs tweeted that Canada “acknowledges confirmation of Juan Orlando Hernandez as President of #Honduras.” But, Hernandez defied the country’s constitution in seeking a second term and since the election fraud on November 26 his forces have killed more than 30 pro-democracy demonstrators. Author of Ottawa and Empire: Canada and the Military Coup in Honduras Tyler Shipley responded: “Wow, Canada sinks to new lows with this. The entire world knows that the Honduran dictatorship has stolen an election, even the Organization of American States (an organization which skews right) has demanded that new elections be held because of the level of sketchiness here. And — as it has for over eight years — Canada is at the forefront of protecting and legitimizing this regime built on fraud and violence. Even after all my years of research on this, I’m stunned that Freeland would go this far; I expected Canada to stay quiet until Juan Orlando Hernandez had fully consolidated his power. Instead Canada is doing the heavy lifting of that consolidation.”

During the past two weeks Canadian decision makers have repeatedly undermined or ignored democracy and human rights.

While Caracas’ rationale for expelling Canadian diplomats appears credible, the same cannot be said for Ottawa’s move. In the tit-for-tat between Canada and Venezuela Canadians would do better to trust Caracas.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
Read other articles by Yves.