Showing posts with label global politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label global politics. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Major US Outlets Found Hersh’s Nord Stream Scoop Too Hot to Handle

MARCH 3, 2023

Scores of hits from publications across the globe pop up from an internet search for veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s claim that the US destroyed Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipeline.

Reuters: Seymour Hersh: who is the journalist who claims the US blew up the Nord Stream pipelines?

The British news agency Reuters (2/9/23) ran at least ten stories on Seymour Hersh’s Nord Stream report; the US AP didn’t run one.

But what is most striking about the page after page of results from GoogleBing and DuckDuckGo in the weeks following the February 8 posting of Hersh’s story isn’t what is there, but what is not to be found:

  •  The Times of London (2/8/23) reported Hersh’s story hours after he posted it on his Substack account, but nothing in the New York Times.
  • Britain’s Reuters News Agency moved at least ten stories (2/8/23, 2/9/23, 2/12/2, 2/15/23, among others), the Associated Press not one.
  • Not a word broadcast by the major US broadcast networks—NBCABCCBS—or the publicly funded broadcasters PBS and NPR.
  • No news stories on the nation’s major cable outlets, CNNMSNBC and Fox News.

Is there justification for such self-censorship? True, Hersh’s story is based on a single anonymous source. But anonymous sources are a staple of mainstream reporting on the US government, used by all major outlets. Further, countless stories of lesser national and international import have been published with the caveat that the facts reported have not been independently verified.

Doubts about Hersh’s story aside, by every journalistic standard, the extensive international coverage given the story, as well as the adamant White House and Pentagon denials, should have made it big news in the United States.

More important, if Hersh got it wrong, his story needs to be knocked down. Silence is not acceptable journalism.

News blackout

Newsweek: Did Biden Order an Attack on Russia's Nord Stream Pipelines? What We Know

The online magazine Newsweek (2/8/23) was one of the few notable US outlets to cover Hersh’s report as a news story.

What’s not in doubt is the remarkable breadth of the news blackout surrounding Hersh’s story. The only major US newspaper to cover it as breaking news was the New York Post (2/8/23).

It did appear on the opinion pages—but not the news columns—of two major dailies. The Los Angeles Times (2/11/23) mentioned Hersh’s story in the 11th paragraph of a weekly round-up by the letters editor. On the New York Times  opinion page (2/15/23), Ross Douthat included Hersh in a column headlined “UFOs and Other Unsolved Mysteries of Our Time.”

Fox News firebrands Tucker Carlson (2/8/23) and Laura Ingraham (2/14/23) collectively gave Hersh’s story a few minutes on their cable TV shows, but their network didn’t post a news story. On Fox News Sunday (2/19/23), National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby was asked about Hersh’s claims. But, again, Fox News didn’t do a separate news report.

Newsweek (2/8/23) has covered the story , but focusing mainly on White House denials and Russia’s reaction. Bloomberg News (2/9/23) ran a four-paragraph follow-up that also stressed the Russian response, but provided no details of Hersh’s account of the bombing.

The Washington Post’s first mention of the story (2/22/23) came two weeks after it was posted. Again, Russian reaction was the hook, as seen in the headline: “Russia, Blaming US Sabotage, Calls for UN Probe of Nord Stream.”

‘Discredited journalist’

Business Insider: The claim by a discredited journalist that the US secretly blew up the Nord Stream pipeline is proving a gift to Putin

Focusing on a story’s acceptance by an official enemy (Business Insider2/9/23) is a good tactic for promoting unquestioning rejection of information that challenges official narratives.

Arguably the most influential coverage of Hersh’s story came from Business Insider (2/9/23), which posted what can justly be called a hit piece, given its blatantly loaded headline: “The Claim by a Discredited Journalist That the US Secretly Blew Up the Nord Stream Pipeline Is Proving a Gift to Putin.”

The Business Insider article was picked up by Yahoo! (2/9/23) and MSN (2/9/23). It also was the primary source of an article in Snopes (2/10/23), the only major factchecking site to weigh in on Hersh’s claims. But Snopes, which bills itself as “the definitive Internet reference source for researching urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors and misinformation,” didn’t check any disputed facts. Instead, it starts with an ad hominem attack, asking “Who is Seymour Hersh?”

Snopes answers that rhetorical question by summarizing his body of work—uncovering the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1970, revealing the secret bombing in Cambodia and the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq—but emphasizing that “his later work, however, has been controversial and widely panned by journalists for promoting conspiratorial claims that hinge on dubious anonymous sources or speculation.”

Snopes’ presentation is hardly even-handed. No defenders of Hersh are cited in the four-paragraph overview of his work, which includes seven hyperlinks to sources. That looks impressive. But clicking on the links reveals four are to the same source: the Business Insider hit piece.

Snopes’ failure to acknowledge multiple links to the same source isn’t just sloppy, it’s misleading, because most readers don’t check to see if the same source is cited repeatedly.

It’s likely Snopes used the Business Insider piece a fifth time—the last without attribution. The Snopes article’s final sentence states: “Hersch [sic] was asked by the Russian news agency TASS about the identity of his source. He told them that, ‘It’s a person, who, it seems, knows a lot about what’s going on.’ ”

The Business Insider piece ends with a paragraph with the same misspelling of Hersh’s name, the same TASS link and identical—word for word — translation of his response. (It doesn’t help Snopes’ credibility as a factchecker that Hersh’s name was originally misspelled two other times in the article.)

Much of the remainder of Snopes’ article consists of quotes from Hersh’s story, followed by commentary disparaging Hersh’s reliance on a single, unnamed source. Since that’s something Hersh readily acknowledges, it’s hard to see the informational value of the Snopes article.

Competition, not just critics

While several bloggers have challenged details in Hersh’s account, no news outlet has answered the only question that matters: Who blew up the pipeline?

Waiting for official explanations appears to be a dead end. Sweden, Denmark and Germany have launched investigations, but have not indicated when—or if—results would be released.

The giants of US journalism—the New York TimesWashington Post and the major broadcast networks—have the resources to try and solve the mystery. And it’s certainly possible that one or more of them are working to do just that. But the pipelines were destroyed five months ago. Since then, Seymour Hersh is the only journalist to offer an explanation of who was responsible.

There should be others. Hersh needs competition, not just critics.

Originally published on, February 2nd, 2023. Reprinted with permission.     

Monday, March 7, 2022

Is Latin America shifting to the Left again?

 After the Left’s success in Chile, Honduras and Peru last year, will Brazil and Colombia follow suit in 2022?

Manuella Libardi
4 March 2022, 12.00am

When I first left the confines of my comfortable São Paulo home at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was met with scenes I thought I had said goodbye to in the 1990s.

Whole families living on the streets; children as young as four asking for change at the traffic lights; men lying on the pavements of upmarket neighbourhoods, passed out from hunger or intoxication or a combination of the two.

This was the reality when I was growing up in Brazil on the heels of the country’s hyperinflation crisis in the 1980s and early 1990s. As I grew older and Brazil became more stable, a growing number of Brazilians left the streets. Poverty fell by record numbers between 1992 and 2013, and markedly so after Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva became president in 2003.

Three decades on, Brazil and its Latin American neighbours are experiencing poverty at levels unseen for generations. Amid the economic and social crises aggravated by the pandemic, the region is also seeing a shift in its political preferences: after more than a decade of Right-wing governance, there has been a surge in the election of left-wing leaders.

Recent elections in ChileHondurasPeru and Bolivia have led to claims that Latin America is going through another “pink tide”, the political movement that saw the rise of left-wing leaders across the continent in the early 2000s – including Evo Morales in Bolivia, Lula in Brazil, Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.

The shift to the Left had started before the pandemic, with the election in Argentina of Alberto Fernández (ally of former president Cristina de Fernández Kirchner) in 2019 and of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico a year earlier. Upcoming elections in the region, particularly in Colombia and Brazil, could strengthen that wave.

But is this new shift an actual vote of confidence for Latin America's Left or a vote against those currently in office?

Brazil: the return of Lula?

Candidates have yet to launch their presidential bids in Brazil, but some names seem all but already set in stone. Lula, who has been leading nearly all the polls since the annulment of his criminal convictions in March 2021 opened the doors for his possible candidacy, said he will decide “in February or March” whether his name will be on the 2 October ballot as the Workers’ Pathe Workers’ Party’s candidate.

Related story

The far-Right leader’s status as an international pariah masks some important points of continuity

A poll from mid-January showed that 45% of Brazilian voters intend to support Lula in October, putting him 22 percentage points ahead of the far-Right incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, who placed second with 23%. While Lula has consistently led the polls, his margin over Bolsonaro has never been this wide.

Lula, who led the country between 2003 and 2010, ended his second term with a staggering approval rate of 87%, a record in the 37 years since Brazil’s return to democracy. Lula’s popularity has withstood the hardships of the past decade, but his party hasn’t shared the same luck. The Workers’ Party, a giant on Brazil’s political stage, lost considerable ground in both the 2018 general election and the 2020 municipal elections, amid allegations of corruption.

Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s protegée and successor as president, ended 2015 with a measly approval rating of 9% – just months before her controversial impeachment, which many see as the undemocratic removal of an elected official akin to a coup d’état. Another key figure in the Workers’ Party, Fernando Haddad, who faced Bolsonaro in the second round of the 2018 election, finished his term as São Paulo’s mayor with a low approval rating of 17%.

But while Lula’s party has undeniably lost power, Lula hasn’t. As the main representative of Brazil’s Left, Lula’s popularity seems to transcend political-spectrum preferences and play on the old Latin American cult of personality. A repeat of his previous presidential success could very well put Brazil back on track – though he would inherit a vastly different country compared to when he first took power, in 2003.

Lula’s consistent lead in the polls doesn’t, however, seem to point to a resurgence of a cohesive Left, as indicated by his willingness to make an alliance with the centre-Right.

Colombia: first Leftist leader in modern history?

In Colombia, a five-decade-long civil conflict fought largely in the context of the cold war established a very clear line between the country’s Left and Right. Organised according to Leninist-Marxist ideals of land redistribution, the armed guerrillas of FARC who ravaged rural areas during their fight against the Colombian Army tainted the notion of the Left in the country. When the rest of Latin America was electing Leftists in the early to mid-2000s, Colombia remained solidly within the centre-Right camp.

For almost all of the 21st century, Colombia has been ruled by Álvaro Uribe or his protegés – Juan Manuel Santos and now current president Iván Duque. But the Uribismo crown seems to be slipping. It began when Santos signed the historic, but divisive peace agreement with FARC in 2016, which Uribe himself opposed. Santos was replaced in 2018 by a more fervent Uribista, but Duque, who is approaching the end of his term, is the least popular president in Colombia’s history.

The presidential elections in May could put an end to the Uribismo reign. Gustavo Petro, who was the country’s most successful left-wing candidate in a presidential campaign, in 2018, has consistently led the polls. A mid-January poll of voting intentions shows Petro ahead with 25%. He is followed by the blank vote (an option on ballot papers in Colombia) at 18%, and then independent candidate Rodolfo Hernández on 13%. The Uribista candidate, Sergio Fajardo, came fourth with just 8%.

However, despite his steady lead, Petro has stagnated in the polls. Hernández, a millionaire who claims to be fighting the establishment, is one of the few candidates gaining new supporters.

Petro, current senator, former mayor of Bogotá and, in the 1980s, a member of the M-19 guerrilla group, has risen to prominence hand-in-hand with Colombia’s progressive movements, particularly feminists. But, as with Lula in Brazil, Petro has increasingly sought to make alliances with centrists in a bid to broaden his appeal and chances of winning, a move that many believe has alienated his loyal supporter base.

This could indicate that Colombians are more interested in dethroning the status quo than voting for leftist economic ideals. But the last few years have changed the country’s political and social arenas. The massive, youth-led protests of 2021, which were marred by police brutality and resulted in the deaths of at least 80 demonstrators, came as the country grew increasingly incensed by the neoliberal agenda of recent decades.

Can the old Left meet progressives halfway?

During the mid-2010s, the region shifted to the Right almost in unison after the price of commodities crashed to some of their lowest levels this century. The crash devastated economies across Latin America that had largely depended on the export of raw materials.

Fast-forward to today and a similar movement is now happening under similar circumstances. As in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis that hit left-wing leaders, current governments are struggling to keep their country’s economies afloat while managing their citizens’ discontent amid rampant inflation and poverty across the region. After rising to power with promises to end the corruption that plagued previous governments, current leaders have done little to combat it, with corruption as prevalent today in Latin America as it ever was.

There are differences, however. Latin Americans are growing more aware of the effects the lack of wealth redistribution efforts has had, leaving them in the world’s most unequal region.

In Chile, the true neoliberal experiment is facing a slow death in the country of its birth. Millions of Chileans swept the country’s streets from October 2019, igniting a movement just short of revolution. Following the popular revolt, the country elected a wildly progressive Constitutional Convention to rewrite its constitution and later elected 35-year-old progressive Gabriel Boric as president.

Progressive movements have gained ground in Latin America in recent years. This is evident in not only the powerful student-led events in Chile, but also the strides in women’s rights taken by the region’s increasingly organised feminist movement, especially concerning abortion, which was legalised in Argentina in December 2020, decriminalised in Mexico last September and decriminalised in Colombia just last week.

This Left, though, seems removed from the traditional “pink tide” leaders, such as Lula and Argentina’s vice president Cristina Kirchner, who focused largely on economic growth via extractivism. But some analysts believe the new “green tide” has sprouted from the old “pink” generation and, as such, has the political power to influence its forefathers. Indeed, Lula openly celebrated Boric’s victory in Chile, showing that, despite his recent alliances with centrists, he understands the power of the rising generation on the Left.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Western Media Fall in Lockstep for Neo-Nazi Publicity Stunt in Ukraine

Photo Credit:Spoilt.exile
When the corporate media push for war,  one of their main weapons is  propaganda by omission.

In the case of the recent crisis in  Ukraine, Western journalists have  omitted key context about the  expansion  of NATO since the end of the  Cold War, as well as US support for the  Maidan coup in 2014  (, 1/28/22).

A third and crucial case of propaganda by omission relates to the integration of neo-Nazis into the Ukrainian armed forces (FAIR.org3/7/14, 1/28/22). If the corporate media reported more critically about Western support for the neo-Nazi-infested Ukrainian security services, and how these forces function as a front-line proxy of US foreign policy, public support for war might be reduced and military budgets called into greater question.

As recent coverage demonstrates, one way of resolving this issue is by not mentioning the inconvenient matter of Ukrainian neo-Nazis altogether.

The Azov Battalion

MSNBC: Growing Threat of Ukraine Invasion

The Azov Battalion’s Nazi-inspired logo can be seen in an MSNBC segment (2/14/22).

In 2014, the Azov Battalion was incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine (NGU) to assist with fighting against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

At the time, the militia’s association with neo-Nazism was well documented: The unit used the Nazi-inspired Wolfsangel symbol as its logo, while its soldiers sported Nazi insignia on their combat helmets. In 2010, the Azov Battalion’s founder declared that Ukraine should “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…against Semite-led Untermenschen.”

The Azov Battalion is now an official regiment of the NGU, and operates under the authority of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs.

‘A granny with a gun’

London Times: Leaders in Final Push to Avert Ukraine Invasion

Pointing out that people training the 79-year-old woman to use an assault weapon (London Times,  2/13/22) were members of a fascist force would have spoiled the heart-warming aspect of the image.

In mid-February 2022, as tensions mounted between the US and Russia over Ukraine, the Azov Battalion organized a military training course for Ukrainian civilians in the port city of Mariupol.

Images of Valentyna Konstantynovska, a 79-year-old Ukrainian learning to handle an AK-47, soon featured across the Western broadcast and print media.

The figure of a pensioner lining up to protect her homeland made for an emotive image, collapsing the conflict into a simple good versus evil binary, while adding weight to US and British intelligence assessments forecasting an immediate full-scale Russian invasion.

Such a narrative was not to be ruined by reference to the neo-Nazi group training her. Indeed, mention of the Azov Battalion was largely erased from mainstream coverage of the event.

The BBC (2/13/22), for instance, showed a clip of “civilians lining up for a few hours’ military training with the National Guard,” with International Correspondent Orla Guerin describing Konstantynovska endearingly as “a granny with a gun.” Though Azov Battalion insignia was visible in the report, Guerin made no reference to it, and the report ends perversely with an NGU combatant helping a child to load an ammunition magazine.

BBC depiction of a boy learning how to load ammo

The BBC (2/13/22) depicts a young boy getting a lesson on how to load ammo—without mentioning that the training was sponsored by a far-right paramilitary.

The BBC (12/13/14) has not always been so reluctant to discuss the Azov Battalion’s neo-Nazism. In 2014, the broadcaster noted that its leader “considers Jews and other minorities ‘sub-human’ and calls for a white, Christian crusade against them,” while it “sports three Nazi symbols on its insignia.”

Both MSNBC (2/14/22) and ABC News (2/13/22) also reported from Mariupol, showing similar video footage of an Azov Battalion member teaching Konstantynovska to use a rifle. As with the BBC, no mention was made of the regiment’s far right association.

Sky News updated its initial report (2/13/22) to include mention of the “far right” trainers (2/14/22), while Euronews (2/13/22) made a rare mention of the Azov Battalion in its initial coverage.

‘Glorification of Nazism’

Telegraph: Ukraine Crisis: The Neo-Nazi Brigade Fighting Pro-Russian Separatists

There was a time when Western news outlets (Daily Telegraph8/11/14) recognized the Azov Battalion as a neo-Nazi force rather than a source of photo ops.

The printed press fared little better. On February 13, UK newspapers the London Times and the Daily Telegraph ran front-page spreads showing Konstantynovska preparing her weapon, without any reference to the Azov Battalion running the training course.

Worse still, both the Times and the Daily Telegraph had already reported on the militia’s neo-Nazi associations. In September 2014, the Times described the Azov Battalion as “a group of heavily armed men” with “at least one sporting a Nazi logo…preparing for the defense of Mariupol,” adding that the group had been “formed by a white supremacist.” For its part, the Daily Telegraph described the battalion in 2014 as “the neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists.”

In light of NATO’s recent posturing in defense of Ukraine, the fact of the Azov Battalion’s neo-Nazism seems to have become an inconvenience.

On December 16, 2021, only the US and Ukraine voted against a United Nations resolution condemning the “glorification of Nazism,” while the United Kingdom and Canada abstained. There can be little doubt that this decision was made with the conflict in Ukraine in mind.

In the doctrine of Western militarism, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And if that friend happens to enlist neo-Nazis, Western corporate media can be relied on to look the other way.

Reprinted with permission.  FAIR’s work is sustained by their generous contributors, who allow them to remain independent. Donate today to be a part of this important mission.
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Monday, December 27, 2021

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Defender of Human Rights in South Africa and Beyond, Dies at 90


December 26, 2021

Photo by Peter Williams, WCC

Leaving behind a legacy of fighting for oppressed people in South Africa and around the world, Archbishop Desmond Tutu died Sunday at age 90 in Cape Town, South Africa. The cause was reportedly cancer.

Advocates for human rights, health equity, economic justice, and nonviolence honored Tutu, who helped lead the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was formed afterwards.

The Elders, the independent groudenp of global leaders working for justice and good governance, said his "commitment to peace, love, and the fundamental equality of all human beings will endure to inspire future generations."

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

"The Elders would not be who they are today without his passion, commitment, and keen moral compass," said Mary Robinson, former Irish president and chair of The Elders. "He inspired me to be a 'prisoner of hope,' in his inimitable phrase. [Tutu] was respected around the world for his dedication to justice, equality, and freedom. Today we mourn his death but affirm our determination to keep his beliefs alive."      

Tutu served as The Elders' first chair from 2007 until 2013, after becoming internationally recognized for his work leading Black South Africans in the fight against the apartheid system, which he condemned as "evil" while urging nonviolent methods of protest.

He preached that apartheid threatened the dignity and humanity of both Black and white South Africans and called on international leaders to impose sanctions on the country's government in protest of the apartheid system, a demand which led South African officials to revoke his passport twice.

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor," Tutu famously said during the struggle against apartheid. "If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in 1984. After the fall of the apartheid system in 1994, Tutu chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which aimed to provide a record of the violence and injustice perpetrated by the government under the system. The archbishop sought to provide "restorative justice," offering compensation to survivors and amnesty to perpetrators who cooperated with the inquiry.

Tutu was a fierce critic of economic and racial inequality that persisted in South Africa following the formal end of the apartheid system, accusing President Thabo Mbeki in 2004 of serving a small number of elites while "too many of our people live in grueling, demeaning, dehumanizing poverty."

"Can you explain how a Black person wakes up in a squalid ghetto today, almost 10 years after freedom?" Tutu said in 2003. "Then he goes to work in town, which is still largely White, in palatial homes. And at the end of the day, he goes back home to squalor?"

Beyond his home country, Tutu was an outspoken critic of militarism and imperialism in the Global North, calling for former U.S. President George W. Bush and former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair to face prosecution at the International Criminal Court over their invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Tutu was also a defender of Palestinians' rights and a critic of Israel's violent policies targeting millions of people in Gaza and the West Bank, comparing their treatment to the apartheid system.

In 2014, as the Israeli Defense Forces carried out attacks that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians—the vast majority of whom were civilians—Tutu wrote an exclusive article in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, calling for a global boycott of Israel.

He called on Israelis "to actively disassociate themselves and their profession from the design and construction of infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation barrier, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land."

"Those who continue to do business with Israel, who contribute to a sense of 'normalcy' in Israeli society, are doing the people of Israel and Palestine a disservice," Tutu wrote. "They are contributing to the perpetuation of a profoundly unjust status quo. Those who contribute to Israel's temporary isolation are saying that Israelis and Palestinians are equally entitled to dignity and peace."

That same year, Tutu called for a global divestment from the fossil fuel industry modeled on the international sanctions that he supported against South Africa, which helped to end apartheid.

"As we celebrate Desmond Tutu's legacy, remember his unflagging support for the people of Palestine."

"We live in a world dominated by greed," Tutu wrote in The Guardian. "We have allowed the interests of capital to outweigh the interests of human beings and our Earth. It is clear [the companies] are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money."

"People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change," he added. "We can, for instance, boycott events, sports teams, and media programming sponsored by fossil-fuel energy companies... We can encourage more of our universities and municipalities and cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil-fuel industry."

Tutu was also recognized for his global fight for LGBTQ+ rights, his calls for an end to AIDS denialism in South Africa, and recently, his efforts to combat misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.

"Bishop Tutu meant so much to so many," said Rev. Dr. William Barber II, co-chair of the anti-poverty Poor People's Campaign in the U.S. "Thank God for his life. Let we who believe in freedom and justice be his legacy always."

This article originally appeared at Originally published on December 26th, 2021.It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. 

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