Syrian War Report – July 6, 2018: Syrian Army Retakes Multiple Points On Border With Jordan – By South Front (VT)

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…from SouthFront

The military operation of government forces in southern Syria was once again resumed after the Damascus government and local militants groups had failed to reach any kind of fully-fledged reconciliation agreement that would allow to settle the situation in the area via a peaceful way.

On July 5, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies liberated the town of Saida and the nearby abandoned air defense base in the province of Daraa. Additionally, the SAA advanced along the border with Jordan liberating over 10 villages between the border points of 71 and 79.

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According to pro-government sources, the SAA faced a little resistance during their operation along the border. Russian troops were spotted there.

The operation is also supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces. Nonetheless, the number of airstrikes is limited. Currently, government forces are developing their operation in the direction of the Nassib border crossing.

Clashes between Turkish-backed militants, reportedly members of Ahrar al-Sharqiyah, and government troops have taken place in the village of Tadef in the province of Aleppo. Turkish-backed forces captured some positions, but were forced to withdraw from them later. According to pro-government sources, the withdrawal was ordered by the Turkish military to de-escalated the situation.

Such incidents show the real sentiments among the so-called moderate opposition groups backed by Turkey and limitations of Ankara’s control of these groups.

The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq claimed that on July 4 ISIS fighters had ambushed a convoy of the US-led coalition in the village of Namliyah in the eastern part of Deir Ezzor province. According to Amaq, ISIS employed 18 IEDs against the convoy killing four US troops. Other sources say that only two US servicemen were killed. The US-led coalition has not commented on these reports so far.

Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have captured the villages of Madinah and Qabr Taha from ISIS in the southern part of Hasakah province. The SDF is continuing it operation in the direction of the Tuwaymin area.

‘Rulers need myth that US is a democracy to give Americans illusion of control’ – Lee Camp – By RT

‘Rulers need myth that US is a democracy to give Americans illusion of control’ – Lee Camp
Jeff Bezos has $141 billion, and 63 percent of Americans say they can’t afford a $500 emergency. The system of massive inequality is unsustainable, but it keeps going thanks to the myths we are told, Lee Camp says.

Comedian Lee Camp breaks down the eight great myths of American society in the latest edition of his satirical talk show Redacted Tonight on RT.

In the opening segment, Camp says that the corporatocracy is steadily tightening its grasp, the insanely wealthy get richer every day, and the poor get exploited more and more.

63 percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, the rear end of the spectrum, if you will, and you should, Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. Meanwhile, worldwide 1 in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people at $2 a day to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. And that’s if they only buy single-ply toilet paper. And yet there are riots in the streets for the most part, at least not in the US.

Camp is puzzled why we are okay with this and says the reason is “the myths we are all sold.

Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth when our heads are still soft. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned,” Camp said, adding that he feels it is his job to lay them all out.

Myth #8:  We have a democracy

If you think that we still have a democratic republic, ask yourself this: when was the last time Congress did something that the people of America wanted that was not in the benefit of corporations? You probably can’t do it, right?

Camp claims that Congress doesn’t do “a damn thing without the approval of their sugar daddies.”

He noted that even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed to an oligarchy – a small corrupt elite group controls the country without much input from the people.  

The rulers need the myth that we’re a democracy to give us the illusion of control,” he said.

Check out the other seven myths here:

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Review: The Jesuit Order as a Synagogue of Jews – Part One – By VT Senior Editors


The Jewish Origins of the Jesuits

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Andrew Joyce, Ph.D. and the Occidental Observer with Rights

[ The Original full text book, 316 pages, is free for download and distribution with proper attribution under commons.

As an editorial note from VT, the read itself is a useful dialog on historical studies of the Jesuits and the Inquisition. I have known some of the source authors for years. Gail Evans, now deceased and missed dearly, was our resident expert on this subject.

There are Q and A comment boards at the original site with some value for those with scholarly interest. Suffice it to say, there is controversy. The idea of Jewish origins of the Jesuit order and of the assertion that same maintained a contiguous agenda for centuries is well supported.

In its simplest form, it is asserted that Loyola and his associates began the Society of Jesus and unleashed a holocaust across the Christian world. In ways, I might go much further, tying in not only the tens of thousands murdered as witches, but the ethnic cleansing that, under Jesuit “Catholicism”, accounted for up to 100-million deaths, depending on whose figures you accept, in colonial conquests in the New World.

Consider the full download, it is a good read. g ]


The Jesuit Order as a Synagogue of Jews: Jesuits of Jewish Ancestry and Purity-of-Blood Laws in the Early Society of Jesus

Robert Aleksander Maryks

Brill, 2010.

Free Download

“Those from the circumcision subverted the entire house of the Society. As sons of this world who are shrewd in dealing with their own, and avid of new things, they easily excite disorders and destroy the unity of souls and their bond with the government.”
          Lorenzo Maggio, Jesuit Curia in Rome, 1586.

One of the more interesting aspects of Jewish group behavior is the presence of subversive strategies employing crypsis, often facilitated by a combination of deception and self-deception.

To date, the most forthright and convincing theoretical framework for understanding cryptic forms of Judaism is found in Kevin MacDonald’s groundbreaking Separation and Its Discontents: Toward and Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism. 

A substantial portion of the fourth chapter of the text (1998/2004: 121–132) is devoted to ‘Reactive Racism in the Period of the Iberian Inquisitions.’ Here MacDonald puts forth the view (147) that the blood purity struggles of the Spanish Inquisition during the 15th and 16th centuries should be seen as “an authoritarian, collectivist, and exclusionary movement that resulted from resource and reproductive competition with Jews, and particularly crypto-Jews posing as Christians.”

Convert, or be expelled from Spain

The historical context lies predominantly in the forced conversion of Jews in Spain in 1391, after which these ‘New Christians’ or conversos assumed (or indeed retained) a dominance in the areas of law, finance, diplomacy, public administration, and a wide range of economic activities.

MacDonald argues (148) that despite superficial religious conversions, the New Christians “must be considered a historical Jewish group” that acted in such a way as to continue the advance of its ethnic interests. An integral aspect of this was that Wealthy New Christians purchased and endowed ecclesiastical benefices for their children, with the result that many prelates were of Jewish descent.

Indirectly, and almost certainly unintentionally, MacDonald’s arguments find much in the way of corroboration in The Jesuit Order as a Synagogue of Jews (2010) by Boston College’s Robert Aleksander Maryks. Examining the same geographical area during the same period, Maryks presents an account of the early years of the Society of Jesus, during which a fierce struggle took place for the soul, fate, and control of the Order; a struggle involving a highly influential crypto-Jewish bloc and a competing network of European Christians.

Seal for the Spanish Inquisition Tribunal (Photo credit, WIkipedia)

In this unpolished but interesting book, Maryks illuminates this struggle with reference to previously undiscovered material, in the process shedding light on some of the most important recurring themes of reactive anti-Semitism: Jewish ethnocentrism, nepotism, the tendency to monopoly, and the strategic use of alliances with European elites.

Perhaps most fascinating of all, Maryks makes significant reference to Jewish responses to European efforts to stifle their influence, some of which are remarkable in the close manner in which they parallel modern examples of Jewish apologetic propaganda.

As such, The Jesuit Order as a Synagogue of Jews is highly recommended for anyone seeking to understand, via an easily-digested historical case study, the dynamics of the ethnic conflict between Jews and Europeans.

Maryks divides his text into four well-paced chapters. The first provides readers with ‘The Historical Context of Purity-of-Blood Discrimination (1391–1547),’ a detailed standalone introduction to the nature of the ‘New Christian’ problem in Iberia but which should be read in conjunction with MacDonald’s work on the same theme. The second chapter concerns ‘Early Jesuit Pro-Converso Policy (1540–72),’ which demonstrates the intensive manner in which crypto-Jews infiltrated key positions in the Society of Jesus, adapting its ideological positions in accordance with their interests, and eventually establishing a monopoly on top positions that extended to the Vatican.

The third chapter, ‘Discrimination Against Jesuits of Jewish Lineage (1573–93),’ concerns the establishment of a movement acting against the crypto-Jewish strategy, with an analysis of the key figures and their rationale.

The fourth chapter, ‘Jesuit Opposition to the Purity-of-Blood Discrimination (1576–1608),’ examines the efforts of crypto-Jewish Jesuits to fight back against the European counter-strategy, often involving the employment of tactics and stances that are now familiar to us as the hallmarks of a Jewish intellectual movement.

This sequence parallels the processes that led to the Inquisition—New Christians establishing themselves in top positions in Spanish politics, business, and culture, provoking a reaction by the Old Christians aimed at regaining power, followed by Jewish counter efforts against the Inquisition and the against the Spanish government generally, the latter typically played out on the international scene.

One of the key strengths of this fascinating book is that Maryks can rely on relatively recent genealogical discoveries to prove beyond doubt that many of the individuals once merely “accused” of being crypto-Jews were undeniably of Jewish lineage. Maryks can thus cut through a clouded period in which ancestry was vital and yet fogged with accusations, denials, and counter-accusations, with tremendous clarity. In the author’s words (xxix), “racial tensions played a pivotal role in early Jesuit history.”

Opening his book, Maryks recalls delivering a paper on converso influence in the Jesuits, and afterwards receiving an email from a man with origins in the Iberian peninsula. The email concerned the remarkably long survival of crypto-Jewish behaviors in the sender’s family:

From Friday evening through Saturday evening, his grandfather would hide the image of baby Jesus from a large framed picture of St. Anthony that he kept in his home. It was, in fact, a wind-up music box. On Fridays he would wind up the mechanism and push a button, so that Jesus would disappear out of St. Anthony’s arms, hidden in the upper frame of the picture. On Saturdays he would push the button, so that Jesus would come back out from hiding into St. Anthony’s arms. As eldest son in his family, my correspondent was told this story by his father, who also asked him to eat only kosher food. (xv)

The survival of such eccentric, and in this case apparently trivial, forms of crypto-Judaism into what one assumes to be the early twentieth century, might appear to be little more than a socio-historical curio. In actual fact, however, it is a small but memorable vestige of what was once a very powerful means of continuing the Jewish group evolutionary strategy in the Iberian peninsula after 1391 — an overwhelmingly hostile environment. In a political, religious, and social context devoid of the synagogue and many of the most visible aspects of Judaism, small reminders of group difference, even otherwise trivial ones like hiding images of Jesus or adhering to discreet dietary rules, became vital methods for retaining group cohesion.

For some time, these methods were largely successful in facilitating the continuance of Jewish life ‘under the noses’ of the Christian host society. During this successful period, conversos were able to expand nepotistic monopolies of influence in a wide range of civic and even (Christian) religious spheres. When it failed, however, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Maryks points out (xxii) that from its founding in 1540 to 1593, the Society of Jesus had no discriminatory legislation against individuals of Jewish heritage, and that during this period converso Jesuits “held the highest administrative offices, and defined the Society’s institutional development and spirituality.”

However, significant resistance to this crypto-Jewish monopoly had developed by the latter date, and from 1593 to 1608 a power struggle resulted in the defeat of the crypto-Jewish element and the introduction of laws prohibiting the admittance of members of ‘impure blood.’ From 1608 until 1946 this involved a review of the ancestry of any potential member of the Society of Jesus, up to the fifth generation.

The Jewish Origins of the Jesuits

Ignatius of Loyola

On 15 August 1534, Ignatius of Loyola (born Íñigo López de Loyola), a Spaniard from the Basque city of Loyola, and six others, all students at the University of Paris, met in Montmartre outside Paris, in a crypt beneath the church of Saint Denis, to pronounce the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Ignatius’ six companions were: Francis Xavier from Navarre (modern Spain), Alfonso Salmeron, Diego Laínez, Nicolás Bobadilla from Castile (modern Spain), Pierre Favre from Savoy, and Simão Rodrigues from Portugal.

At this point they called themselves the Compañía de Jesús, and also Amigos en El Señor or “Friends in the Lord.” The Spanish “company” would be translated into Latin as societasderiving from socius, a partner or comrade. This soon evolved into the “Society of Jesus” (SJ), by which they would later be more widely known.  In 1537, the seven traveled to Italy to seek papal approval for their order. Pope Paul III gave them a commendation, and permitted them to be ordained priests. The official founding of the Society of Jesus occurred in 1540.

The presence and influence of conversos in the Society of Jesus was strong from the beginning. Of the seven founding members, Maryks provides categorical evidence that four were of Jewish ancestry — Salmeron, Laínez, Bobadilla, and Rodrigues. In addition, Loyola himself has long been noted for his strong philo-Semitism, and one recent PhD thesis[1] has even advanced a convincing argument that Loyola’s maternal grandparents, (his grandfather, Dr. Martín García de Licona, was a merchant and financial advisor at court), were full-blooded conversos — thus rendering the ‘Basque nobleman’ halachically Jewish.

Jewish scholar of the Inquisition, Henry Kamen, who had earlier argued that the Inquisition was “a weapon of social welfare” used mainly to obliterate the conversos as a distinct class capable of offering social and economic competition to ‘Old Christians,’ once voiced his own personal view that Loyola was “a deep and sincere spiritual Semite.”[2]

Straightforward assessments of the reasons for Loyola’s philo-Semitism are, as Maryks admirably elucidates, complicated by the ubiquitous presence of converso propaganda. More specifically, Loyola’s reputation as an ardent admirer of the Jews rests predominantly on a series of anecdotes and remarks attributed to him — and many of these derive from biographies penned shortly after his death by converso Jesuits aiming to promote and defend their interests.

For example, the only source for the argument that Loyola had an overwhelming desire to be of Jewish origin so that he could “become a relative of Christ and his Mother” is the first official biography of Loyola — penned by the converso Pedro de Ribadeneyra. Ribadeneyra is described by Maryks as “a closet-converso” who distorted many now-established facts about Loyola’s life, including a concealment of the fact that “the Inquisition in Alcalá had accused Loyola of being a crypto-Jew.” (43)

An important aspect of Ribadeneyra’s biography was thus the promotion of the idea that being Jewish was desirable and admirable — Loyola’s philo-Semitism (real or imagined) was intended to be emulated. Meanwhile the sinister aspects of crypto-Judaism, and their suppression by the Inquisition, were excised from the story altogether.

Whether Loyola was in fact a crypto-Jew, or whether he indeed was a European but possessed a strong desire to be a Jew, remains unconfirmed at time of this writing. However, it is certain that Loyola surrounded himself with many conversocolleagues and that he opposed any discrimination against converso candidates within the Society of Jesus. Maryks argues that, issues of crypsis and philo-Semitism aside, Loyola was probably “motivated by the financial support that he had sought from their [converso] network in Spain.”(xx)

In this reading then, Loyola was fully aware of the elite position of the conversos within Spanish society and was prepared to accept their money to establish his organization in exchange for adopting a non-racial stance in its governance.

The question of course remains as to why the crypto-Jewish elite in Spain would back, both financially and in terms of manpower, a Christian religious order. The important thing to keep in mind is that religion and politics in Early Modern Europe were intimately entwined, and that, through spiritual confraternities and their relationships with local elites, even poverty-espousing religious orders like the Franciscans could exert a strong form of socio-political influence.

This was often made even more sharply evident when religious orders engaged in missionary work in foreign lands, often taking pioneering roles in colonial regimes, and even assisting with their economic enterprises. William Caferro notes that in Renaissance Italy “the Florentine political elite was closely tied to the church. Government officials often held high church office and benefice, which aided their local political power.”[3]Involvement in religious orders was thus a necessary aspect and extension of political, social, and cultural influence.

Unsurprisingly then, it can be demonstrated that crypto-Jews straddled the interconnected networks of royal administration, the civic bureaucracy, and the Church. Citing just some examples, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh note in their history of the Inquisition:

In 1390 the rabbi of Burgos converted to Catholicism. He ended his life as Bishop of Burgos, Papal legate and tutor to a prince of the blood. [Burgos’s son would later become an important pro-converso activist and will be discussed below]. He was not alone. In some of the major cities, the administration was dominated by prominent converso families. At the very time the Spanish Inquisition was formed, King Ferdinand’s treasurer was converso in his background. In Aragón, the five highest administrative posts in the kingdom were occupied by conversos. In Castile, there were at least four converso bishops. Three of Queen Isabella’s secretaries were conversos, as was the official court chronicler.[4]

For the crypto-Jewish elite of early modern Spain, the founding of an influential religious order headed by a philo-Semite (if not a fellow crypto-Jew), staffed predominantly by a conversoleadership, and constitutionally tolerant of conversoapplicants, would undoubtedly have been an attractive prospect.

That a bargain of some form existed between Loyola and his crypto-Jewish sponsors is suggested, as noted above, by the nature of the early Jesuit constitution and by early correspondence concerning the admission of candidates of Jewish ancestry. The founding of the Jesuit order had coincided with the rise of a more general Spanish anti-converso atmosphere that reached its peak in 1547, “when the most authoritative expression of the purity-of- blood legislation, El Estatuto de limpieza [de sangre], was issued by the Inquisitor General of Spain and Archbishop of Toledo, Silíceo (xx).”

King Philip II

Pope Paul IV and Silíceo’s former pupil, King Philip II, ratified the archbishop’s statutes in 1555 and 1556, respectively, but Ignatius of Loyola and his converso successor, Diego Laínez (1512–65) vigorously opposed the Inquisitor’s attempts to preclude conversos from joining the Jesuits. In fact, in a letter addressed to the Jesuit Francisco de Villanueva (1509–57), Loyola wrote that “in no way would the Jesuit Constitutions accept the policy of the archbishop (xxi).”

Seeking to quell rising tensions over the issue, in February 1554 Loyola sent his plenipotentiary emissary, Jerónimo Nadal (1507–80), to visit the Inquisitor. Nadal insisted that the Jesuit Constitutions did not discriminate between candidates of the Society on the basis of lineage, and even personally admitted a number of converso candidates during his visit to Iberia.

In a heated debate with the Inquisitor over the admission of one of them, Nadal replied: “We [Jesuits] take pleasure in admitting those of Jewish ancestry.” In what would become a striking pattern, most of the pro-converso arguments were made by crypto-Jews claiming to be native Spaniards. Maryks notes that his historical investigations suggest that Nadal was “most probably a descendant of Majorcan Jews (77).”

Pope Paul IV, born Gian Pietro Carafa, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 23 May 1555 until his death on 18 August 1559

Jewish attempts to alter Christian thinking about Jews from within Christianity, were already well-established by the date of Nadal’s intercession with the Inquisitor. An excellent example is the classic work of Alonso de Santa María de Cartagena (1384–1456) — Defensorium unitatis christianae [In Defense of Christian Unity] (1449–50).

Alonso de Cartagena had been baptized (at the age of five or six) by his father Shlomo ha-Levi, later renamed Pablo de Santa María (c. 1351–1435), who— as chief rabbi of Burgos—converted to Christianity just before the anti-Jewish riots of 1391 and later was elected bishop of Cartagena (1402) and Burgos (1415). The fact that the wife of this Bishop of Burgos remained an unconverted Jewess does not appear to have impeded the latter’s career in the Church is interesting to say the least.

Meanwhile his son, Cartagena, like many other conversos, studied civil and ecclesiastical law at Salamanca and went on to a highly influential career straddling royal, civic, and religious spheres. He served as apostolic nuncio and canon in Burgos. King Juan II appointed Cartagena as his official envoy to the Council of Basel (1434–9), where he contributed to the formulation of a decree on “the regenerative character of baptism without regard for lineage (4).”

Like other examples of pro-converso propaganda, however, Cartagena’s arguments always went beyond mere appeals for ‘tolerance.’ According to Cartagena, “the faith appears to be more splendid in the Israelite flesh,” Jews naturally possess a “civic nobility,” and it was the duty of rough and uncouth native Spaniards to unite with the “tenderness of the Israelite meekness.” (14, 17)

Conversos thus emerge in the works of the earliest crypto-Jewish activists as more special than ordinary Christians, as naturally deserving of an elite status, and, far from being the worthy objects of hostility, were in fact uniquely blameless, ‘tender,’ and ‘meek.’ One is struck by the regular use of similar arguments in our contemporary environment, a similarity that only increases when one considers Cartagena’s attribution of anti-Jewish hostility solely to “the malice of the envious.” (20)

Against this backdrop of crypto-Jewish apologetics, Maryks demonstrates, whether he intends to or not, that the early Jesuits were largely a vehicle for converso power and influence (both political and ideological). Loyola continued to be “surrounded” by conversos throughout his leadership (55). Enrique Enríques, the son of Portuguese Jews, even authored the first Jesuit manual of moral theology, Theologiae moralis summa, in 1591. (65)

Crypto-Jewish grave marker in Southwestern USA

Maryks describes Loyola as having an unlimited “trust” in candidates of Jewish heritage, citing his decision to “admit in 1551 Giovanni Battista Eliano (Romano), the grandson of the famous grammarian and poet Rabbi Elijah Levita (1468–1549) …. He entered the Society at the age of twenty-one, just three months after his baptism (66).”

In explaining Loyola’s lax requirements for converso applicants, and resultant acquiescence in flooding the Society with crypto-Jews, it is strange that Maryks should abandon his own prior suggestion that the founding of the Jesuits may have rested on a quid pro quo with the converso elite in favor of a less convincing theory based on a putative and ill-explained “trust” that Loyola possessed for Jews. Unfortunately this is a common theme throughout Jewish historiography, where the facts and conclusions presented in the same text are often on entirely different trajectories.

In a similar vein, Maryks’s skeletal explanation that crypto-Jews flooded the Jesuits simply because Loyola had “numerous contacts with the converso spiritual and merchant network” before he founded the Society of Jesus, seems woefully inadequate and lacking in context.

Despite the best laid plans of Loyola and his colleagues, and just 32 years after its founding, the Society of Jesus would undergo a revolt from below against a rapidly expanding crypto-Jewish elite.

The features of this revolt represent a fascinating case study in the reactive nature of anti-Semitism. Maryks narrative of how two competing ethnic groups struggled for the future of the Jesuit Order, outlined in his second and third chapters, is certainly the greatest strength of the text. It is to this European counter-strategy that we now turn our attention.

Go to Part 2.


[1] See Kevin Ingram, Secret lives, public lies: The conversos and socio-religious non-conformism in the Spanish Golden Age. Ph.D. Thesis (San Diego: University of California, 2006), pp. 87–8.

[2] Quoted in Maryks, The Jesuit Order as a Synagogue of Jews, p.xx.

[3] W. Caferro, Contesting the Renaissance (Oxford:Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), p.158.

[4] M. Baigent & R. Leigh, The Inquisition (London: Viking Press, 1999), pp.75-6.

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Related video, Crypto Jews of New Mexico, USA

 

The Impact of America’s Wars on Freedoms and Democracy at Home – by Whitney Webb (MINT PRESS)

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence greet military personnel during a visit to the Pentagon, July 20, 2017. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

While America has gone a century and a half without being “war-torn” in the conventional sense, the damage of war is not limited to that inflicted by guns and bombs.

MINNEAPOLIS – Despite concern that the United States will soon find itself in a major war that could have global consequences, many Americans are uninterested in that eventuality as shown by the minimal attention major geopolitical events, like the recent bombing of Syria or the 17-year-long occupation of Afghanistan, receive compared to the President’s alleged sexcapades and rapper Kanye West’s tweets. Though many theories have been put forth as to why so many Americans are uninterested in their government’s military actions abroad that are committed in their name and with their tax dollars, there is one that stands out from the rest.

The United States has been at war for 93 percent of its history. However, a vast majority of those wars took place abroad and did not drastically alter domestic life for most Americans, except in the case of the Civil War. The suffering of wars in which the U.S. has participated has largely eluded the majority of Americans, save for American servicemen and veterans — who are often forced to internalize their suffering in a country disconnected from the consequences of war.

Compare, for instance, the suffering unleashed upon the people of Korea during the Korean War, the people of Vietnam during the Vietnam War and the people of Iraq during the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq to the domestic experience of the average American while those wars were taking place. Even the “just” wars of years past, like World War I and World War II, did not cause the type of destruction that those wars wrought upon Europe. In fact, the U.S. government – beyond the loss of life of its soldiers – benefited greatly from these catastrophes and allowed the country to become a world power.

As a result, there is a prevailing, though likely unconscious, perception that U.S. military adventurism abroad, no matter how brutal or criminal, does not significantly impact the day-to-day activities of American life, allowing a substantial portion of the population to ignore the more sordid consequences of U.S. imperial ambition.

Yet, while America has gone a century and a half without being “war-torn” in the conventional sense, the damage of war is not limited to that inflicted by guns and bombs. With yet another war looming, it is worth revisiting the effects past wars have had on American domestic life as well as the dangerous precedents that past actions of the U.S. government taken during war-time have set. Indeed, were the U.S. to get involved in a major war with a country like Russia or Iran, many of the past actions taken by the government, particularly those aimed at curbing dissent, are highly likely to make a comeback to the great detriment of American domestic life and, most of all, American democracy.

 

The Espionage and Sedition Acts: Protecting Americans from themselves

Reaching back a century ago, the memory of World War I is faint. “The Great War,” as it was called at the time, killed millions and arguably changed the face of war forever. While the war did not take place on U.S. soil, it too brought great change to America, with Orwellian consequences that still persist today.

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson decided that the country needed to be protected from “the insidious methods of internal hostile activities,” and went to great lengths to restrict freedom of speech and criminalize dissent. One of the results of Wilson’s efforts was the Espionage Act of 1917. Though it was similar to past laws dealing with espionage, the Espionage Act was unique in the sense that it deemed anyone a criminal who published information during times of war that the president declared to be “of such character that it is or might be useful to the enemy” or may “attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny or refusal of duty [draft dodging].” The act passed with a wide majority in both houses of Congress. For those found guilty, the legislation imposed a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 20 years in prison.

Another piece of legislation passed a year later went even further in curbing domestic dissent by limiting speech. The Sedition Act, an amendment that extended the Espionage Act, officially forbade the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” that cast the U.S. government, its armed forces, or even the national flag in a negative light or led others to view the U.S. government and its institutions with contempt during times of war — regardless of whether the information expressed was true. It also prohibited speech that interfered with the sale of government bonds designed to fund the war effort.

Though it was repealed in 1920, the Sedition Act ultimately paved the way for similar legislation that would regulate speech during peacetime in the years to come. The acts were also used to entirely dismantle the progressive left in the United States. For instance, Victor Berger, the first socialist elected to Congress, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for “hindering” the war effort, and legendary socialist leader Eugene Debs received 10 years in prison for making a single anti-war speech.

Today, a revised version of the Espionage Act of 1917 continues to be used by the U.S. government to prosecute whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou and Jeffrey Sterling, among others, as well as journalists and publishers like Julian Assange.

However, it is worth remembering that, in times of war, the Espionage Act becomes a much more powerful curb on speech and, given that the U.S. uses the law to target whistleblowers in times of peace, the war powers it bestows on the government are sure to be used if and when the U.S. enters into another major war.

 

The chill of civilian spy networks

In addition to legislative efforts and the use of media to manipulate opinion and squash dissent, American citizens were also encouraged to spy on their countrymen, leading to the formation of citizen vigilante groups likes the Knights of Liberty, the American Defense Society and the National Security League, among others.

A 1917 Chicago Tribune article on the The America Protective League.

The most powerful of these groups was the American Protective League (APL), a semi-official organization that worked with the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation and boasted around 250,000 members in some 600 cities across the U.S. Though ostensibly tasked with identifying war saboteurs, draft dodgers and foreign spies, the APL’s members surveilled, harassed, intimidated and “arrested” Americans whose loyalty to the war effort was called into question.

Declining to buy Liberty Bonds, being an immigrant of “questionable” origin, and even having food stores in your home were enough to raise the suspicion of the APL. They raided factories, union halls and private homes with impunity, seeking out any American who opposed the war effort as well as targeting innocent Americans of German descent, whom they tarred and feathered and attacked with horsewhips in full public view. They also worked to suppress American labor unions, calling unions and socialists “pro-German” and “anti-American” and working with the U.S. government to conduct mass raids on the socialist labor union International Workers of the World (IWW).

Despite the clearly illegal tactics of the APL, it had the support of then-Attorney General Thomas Gregory, who assured a skeptical President Wilson that the APL “should be encouraged and…not subject to any real criticism.” During the course of the war, the APL detained some 40,000 people and claimed to have found more than 3 million cases of “disloyalty.”

Though the APL and organizations like it have become relics of wars past, civilian vigilante groups that collaborate with the government have attempted to make a comeback in post 9/11 America. For instance, under the George W. Bush administration, the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS), was created and sought to create a domestic intelligence-gathering program that would have U.S. citizens report “suspicious” activity. The measure sought to recruit one out of every 24 Americans for the program, mainly those whose work provided access to private homes or businesses, such as mailmen, utility employees and truck drivers. The program, however, was eventually canceled and replaced with Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” initiative.

 

Propaganda: getting everyone on board for war

In addition to intimidating the public and curbing speech in increasingly fascist attempts to limit dissent, World War I also saw the advent of a new government agency aimed at the mass distribution of propaganda in order to drum up support for the war. The Committee on Public Information (CPI), established by Wilson through an executive order, put journalist George Creel – a fervent supporter of Wilson and the war – in charge of the first state propaganda bureau in the country’s history. In addition to Creel, the members of the committee were the Secretaries of State, War and the Navy.

The idea for the CPI was not Wilson’s, it was Creel’s. Creel had heard many military leaders call for strong censorship of criticism of the war and subsequently sought to convince Wilson that “expression, not suppression” of a controlled press could help the war effort. He urged Wilson to create an agency that would disseminate “not propaganda as the Germans defined it, but propaganda in the true sense of the word, meaning the ‘propagation of faith.’”

The CPI brought powerful businessmen, media personalities, scholars, novelists and artists into its fold, creating a propaganda machine that blended marketing techniques with human psychology. It became the primary conduit for information regarding the war, leading Creel to assert that – in any given week – more than 20,000 newspaper columns across the country were filled with information provided by CPI handouts. Towards the latter half of the war, much of the content produced by the CPI was hateful and xenophobic, adopting slogans like “Stop the Hun!” on posters that showed German soldiers terrorizing women and young children. Its film division produced such titles as The Kaiser: The Beast of Berlin and Wolves of Kultur.

The CPI was also remarkably thorough in its control of dissenting narratives. According to historian Michael Sweeney, “every war story [against the government narrative] had been censored somewhere along the line — at the source, in transit, or in the newspaper offices in accordance with ‘voluntary’ rules established by the CPI.” The CPI was also a global operation, with offices in nine countries, and used its propaganda to great effect in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere.

The CPI was dissolved soon after the war and the domestic (but not foreign) distribution of propaganda was made illegal by the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. However, in 2013, then-President Barack Obama signed the 2013 National Defense and Authorization Act (NDAA) into law, which contained a piece of legislation, known as “The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012,” that completely lifted the propaganda ban. The act’s co-authors asserted at the time that removing the domestic propaganda ban was necessary in order to combat “al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among populations.”

Five years later, the result of the lifting of the ban can be seen in the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” in which false narratives have become commonplace and largely normalized, as those who publish demonstrably false claims face minimal, if any, accountability. Meanwhile, alternative media sources that provide dissenting narratives are rapidly being silenced and those journalists and citizens who offer different perspectives on key issues are dismissed as “regime apologists” and “Russian bots.” Were war to break out, surely the current efforts under way to control the narrative would only grow.

 

WWII: Wash, rinse, repeat

World War II, in which propaganda likewise flourished, also resurrected the dangerous “protection” practices set during World War I, namely the mass targeting of those suspected of “disloyalty” to the war effort. The most infamous of these was the internment of Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast on the sole basis of their ethnicity.

In 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066, which put the Secretary of War and his commanders in charge of establishing military zones, or concentration camps, and deciding whom to imprison within their confines. Congress supported the measure, passing Public Law 503, which allowed for the executive order’s implementation. Significantly, the measures did not name a specific ethnic group, but allowed the military to restrict anyone it deemed a “threat.”

Anyone of Japanese ancestry along the U.S. West Coast was considered by the military to present such a threat and, after the laws were passed, many of these individuals were placed under restrictions and curfews before being “evacuated” to internment camps scattered across the country from California to Arkansas. However, it was later shown that the Japanese-Americans were targeted, not out of fear for the national security, but due to the influence of “farmers seeking to eliminate Japanese competition, a public fearing sabotage, politicians hoping to gain by standing against an unpopular group, and military authorities.”

Following evacuation orders, this store was closed.  The owner, a University of California graduate of Japanese descent, placed the "I AM AN AMERICAN" sign on the store front the day after Pearl Harbor.  Oakland, CA, April 1942.  Dorothea Lange.

Around 120,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of them American citizens, were sent to the camps. More than half of those interned were children. They were not given due process and were incarcerated for up to four years, unable to leave the prison camps. Many of the children imprisoned there came to consider the camps “home.”

Strangely and tellingly, Japanese-Americans, despite being considered a domestic security threat, were able to join the U.S. Armed Forces after filling out a short questionnaire.

Not all Japanese-Americans complied with the government orders, however. The most well-known of those who disobeyed the internment order was Fred Korematsu, who later challenged the internment of Japanese-Americans on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court eventually ruled 6-to-3 that the internment of Japanese-Americans was well within the war powers of the President, arguing that in times of war such actions — even if blatantly racist — are justified when there exists a “military necessity.”

It is important to note, however, the vague nature of the law that led to the internment of Japanese-Americans. It stated that the Secretary of War was authorized to “prescribe military areas” and that “the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.” Thus, the legal war-time precedent that resulted from war hysteria gave the U.S. military the ability to place anyone from any group into concentration camps using “national security” and “military necessity” as justification.

It’s not hard to imagine how this could play out in the United States today if and when war breaks out. Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban” and push to make a registry of Muslim immigrants, as well as top U.S. officials calling people of Russian descent “genetically driven” to be untrustworthy, are just a few examples of the xenophobia and related hysteria currently at work in the U.S. As long as those irrational fears are cloaked in the patriotic blanket of “military necessity,” it seems that the internment camps could again make an appearance on American soil.

 

Fascism and racism cloaked in patriotism: an inevitable cycle

Ultimately, what the past shows us is that, in times of war, the United States often embodies the very evils it purports to stand against – fascism and racism chief among them – but does so by wrapping these troubling acts in a veneer of patriotism that falsely seeks to claim that such crimes against the Constitution and American democracy are done out of “necessity” to national security.

Again, the oft-repeated adage that “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it” rings true. Trump’s Muslim ban and the anti-Russian hysteria of the “Resistance” have raised concern among Japanese-Americans that another group could again suffer in American internment camps as they once did. Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” program shows that the APL’s brand of patriotic vigilantism still lives on. The U.S. government’s continued use of the Espionage Act to target whistleblowers and journalists further shows that dissenting narratives are unwelcome here, whether during times of war or times of peace.

Top Photo | President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence greet military personnel during a visit to the Pentagon, July 20, 2017. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

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Gold Leaving US Vaults: Signs of Upcoming Currency War and Armed Conflict – By Peter KORZUN (Strategic Culture Organisation)

The Turkish government has made the decision to repatriate all of its gold reserves that are currently housed in the US Federal Reserve System (FRS). Overall Turkey was storing 220 tonnes, valued at $25.3 billion, in the US, which it repossessed on April 19, 2018.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has toughened his stance against the US dollar (USD), declaring that international loans should be made in gold instead of the American currency. Ankara is seeking to reduce dependence on the US financial system. The gold’s homecoming was partly prompted by the US threats to impose sanctions if Turkey goes through with the signed deal to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems.

This is a dramatic move reflecting an international trend. Venezuela repatriated its gold from the US in 2012. In 2014, the Netherlands also retrieved its 122.5 tonnes of gold that were stored in US vaults. Germany brought home 300 metric tonnes of gold stashed in the United States in 2017. It took Berlin four years to complete the transfers. Austria and Belgium have reviewed the possibility of taking similar measures.

Few people believe the US Treasury’s assurances that the 261 million ounces (roughly 8,100 tonnes) in official gold reserves that are stored in Fort Knox and other places are fully audited and accounted for. The Federal Reserve has never been fully and independently audited. The pressure for a full, independent audit of all US gold reserves has always been resisted by the government and in Congress. Nobody knows if the gold is really there. What if the vaults turn out to be empty? It’s wiser to bring your gold home while you can, rather than to just keep on wondering.

The gold bars that the US claims to hold are of low purity and do not conform to international industry standards. Even if the US has the amount of gold it claims to have, most of it would not be acceptable for trading on the international market. While other countries are pulling their gold out of the FRS banks, Russia and China are boosting their reserves, creating gold-backed currencies for themselves and thus moving the world away from the dominance of the USD.

The US dollar’s status as the global reserve currency has been called into question. It faces some tough competition. The tariffs introduced by the US administration as an instrument of coercion against other countries are failing to bolster the greenback, which may soon face headwinds. An international currency war looms as a possibility. This makes investors look for other options. Indeed, why should other countries rely on a US dollar that is not backed by gold or anything but “the good faith and credit of the American worker,” when America itself is not trusted internationally?

For instance, the Chinese yuan is going strong. Russia, Turkey, and Iran are considering the prospects for making payments in their national currencies. Iran has recently announced it is switching from the dollar to the euro as its official reporting currency. Russia and China have a currency swap agreement that avoids settlements in the USD.

The quest to reduce dependence on the dollar was provoked by the ongoing use of sanctions as a political weapon, a kind of foreign-policy tool of choice. Even America’s closest allies are threatened by these restrictive measures. The recent attack on the Nord Stream 2 gas project is a good example. It’s only natural for other countries to be looking for ways to resist the US policy of twisting arms. Using alternative currencies and bringing gold home are ways to do that.

America has always opposed such efforts. Any methods would do. Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, was toppled and killed after he came up with the idea to introduce a golden dinar to be used as an international currency in the Middle East and Africa. Iran has recently banned the use of the USD in trade. It refuses to sell its oil for the US currency. President Trump is likely to kill the Iran deal in May, provoking Tehran into reviving its nuclear program.

An armed conflict with Iran might be much closer than generally believed. The nuclear deal has been honored, to everyone’s satisfaction but to Washington’s chagrin. Iran undoubtedly has no military capability that would be a threat to the US. It has never been responsible for any terrorist acts committed abroad or things like that. But it has done something unforgivable in the eyes of the US. It has threatened the USD. That’s what Washington cannot accept, because if it does not support the dollar, there will be problems financing the US government’s huge federal debt. A war with Iran would eliminate the largest non-USD oil exporter. One thing leads to another. The gold repatriations are a precursor to a currency war and armed conflict. That’s what drives US foreign policy.

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Syrian Air Defenses Repelled Most Missiles Launched by West – Russian MoD – By Sputnik

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The Russian Defense Ministry has commented on a joint US, British and French missile strike on Syria, which took place on the day, when the OPCW experts are set to start a probe into allegations of a chemical attack in Douma, a claim denounced by Damascus as a provocation.

The Russian Defense Ministry stated that most missiles launched by the Western states on Syria had been downed by the Arab Republic’s air defenses while approaching their targets.

“The Syrian air defense system has been conducting an anti-air fight,” the ministry added.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Syria repelled the Western attack with air defense systems made in the USSR over 30 years ago.

“Syria’s means of air defense: S-125, S-200 air defense systems, [as well as] Buk and Kvadrat units were used in the repelling the missile strike.”

READ MORE: WATCH Syrian Interceptors Take Off Against Incoming Missile Before Loud Boom

Syrian air defense forces have intercepted all 12 cruise missiles, which had been used to attack the Dumeir military airfield, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Russia’s air defenses haven’t been used to repell the missile strike on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, the military said.

“None of the cruise missiles launched by the US and its allies entered the zone of responsibility of the Russian air defenses, covering objects in Tartus [naval facility] and Hmeymim [airbase located in Latakia province],” the Russian Defense Ministry explained.

According to the Russian military, the massive missile strike on military and civilian infrastructure targets was conducted by US warships jointly with the UK and French air forces at 3:42-5:10 Moscow time.A total of 100 cruise and air-to-surface missiles were launched at targets in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry stated, noting that two US warships carried out the attack from the Red Sea, as well as tactical aviation over the Mediterranean Sea and B-1B bombers from al-Tanf area.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has slammed the Western states’ move, saying that the strike “has been launched at the capital of a sovereign state that has been fighting for survival for years amid terrorist aggression.”

Earlier in the day, the United States, the United Kingdom and France launched missile strikes on a number of targets in Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, which has been blamed on Damascus despite the launch of a probe into the incident. On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that it had proof that the “chemical attack” in Douma had been a provocation and had been staged by Western-backed NGOs, including the White Helmets.

READ MORE: We Have Evidence of UK’s Role in Staging Douma Provocation — Russian MoD

While Pentagon chief James Mattis said that US airstrikes on Syria were a “onetime shot,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters that Washington had no more attacks planned at the moment.

According to Dunford, the United States utilized a normal conflict settlement channel with Russia and hadn’t coordinated targets before the airstrikes on Syria. At the same time, he said he was not aware “of any Russian activity,” when asked whether any Russian defenses had engaged US, French or British ships or missiles.When commenting on the possibility of a US missile strike on Syria after allegations accusing Damascus of a chemical attack in Douma, which has yet to be probed by international experts, the Russian Defense Ministry warned that Moscow would respond if its troops in Syria were threatened.

Russia’s military bases in Syria’s Latakia — the Hmeymim airbase and the Tartus naval facility — have been secured by S-400 and S-300 air defense systems, as well as a Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile system. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the S-400 and Pantsir systems provide air cover to the Russian aviation groupat Hmeymim, while the S-300s protect Russia’s naval facility.

The S-400 Triumf Mobile Multiple Anti-Aircraft Missile System (AAMS)
© Sputnik /
The S-400 Triumf Mobile Multiple Anti-Aircraft Missile System (AAMS)

Press review: US pins Douma attack on Russia and Moscow to strike back for Treasury list – By TASS

April 09, 13:00 UTC+3

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday

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© Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP

 

Kommersant: Douma chemical attack escalates already toxic Russian-US tensions

In an unprecedentedly categorical form, the US State Department blamed Russia for the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces in Syria. According to Kommersant, against the backdrop of the deepening crisis in US-Russian relations, Washington is demonstrating its determination to further aggravate the situation, replete with dangers of a direct military clash with Russia in Syria. A source close to the US State Department told the newspaper that this week that the White House would discuss new sanctions against Russia. The main speaker is Trump’s adviser John Bolton, known for being radically hawkish, the newspaper wrote.

“We do not make assumptions, we saw the video. People foaming at the mouth, the way their eyes looked, indicate that a chemical attack has been committed in Douma,” Yahya al-Aridi, representative for the Syrian Negotiations Commision (SNC), an influential arm of the Syrian opposition, told Kommersant. “The United States has previously said that it would take action if Syria uses chemical weapons,” he added. According to him, “Russia holds the most responsibility for the tragedy, who cover for the Syrian regime.”

That being said, Damascus and Moscow categorically deny using chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta, calling the materials about a chemical bomb fake.

 

During the war in Syria, this incident was not the first time when the Syrian opposition and external forces supporting it accused Damascus of using chemical weapons. Kommersant wrote. Meanwhile, the incident in Douma stands out because it occurred against the backdrop of a deepening crisis in Russia’s relations with the United States and the West in general, which exacerbated after the Skripal poisoning episode. According to the newspaper, “it is not by chance that the British Foreign Ministry made one of the first accusations against Russia about its alleged involvement in the attack in in Eastern Ghouta.”

According to a Kommersant military source, there is no clear evidence that the United States is ready for an immediate missile strike on Syria. However, the US does not need a lot of time to prepare for one. The USS Donald Cook, a destroyer with at least 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, is stationed not far from Gibraltar. According to the source, the decision on a missile strike can be made early next week, when US President Trump receives reports from his national security advisers. Given that Russian military advisers are stationed in Eastern Ghouta and several other regions, it is vital to prevent their deaths, the source told Kommersant.

Meanwhile, a source close to the US Department of State told Kommersant that this week the White House is going to discuss new sanctions against Russia, which will be presented by John Bolton, President Trump’s well-known hawkish adviser.

 

Izvestia: Russia’s OSCE envoy says US resisting political solution to Ukrainian crisis

Washington is bucking a political settlement to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich said in an interview with Izvestia. According to the diplomat, powerful resistance to Russia’s approaches for solving the conflict in Ukraine is the main reason for discord, despite the fact the “Russia has a very powerful tool for implementing our solutions through a special OSCE monitoring mission.”

“EU member representatives in the OSCE understand that the implementation of the Minsk package of measures is a direct way to normalize the situation in the country, In addition, they have the tools to get the Ukrainians to follow this path. However, the United States has been putting up strong resistance through the administration and their representatives,” Lukashevich told the newspaper.

The envoy also highly praised the work of the OSCE mission in Ukraine during the presidential elections in Russia on March 18, 2018. “Despite the arranged blockade, we put forward a request to the mission’s leadership, and it ensured round-the-clock surveillance at all points – at the embassy and at three consulates general. Of course, this did not stop the extremists, though the situation did not sink into violence, because the OSCE flag means a great deal. They also issued a very powerful report, detailing everything as it really happened,” he told Izvestia.

Touching upon the bilateral relations with the United Kingdom, Lukashevich noted that they would not want to continue discussing the Skripal case at international venues. “The United Kingdom is trying to spoil the already unhealthy atmosphere not only in the OSCE, but also at other international venues. Of course, the British tried to get this topic on the agenda of the [OSCE] Permanent Council. However, it was very difficult to argue with our statements. An attempt to politicize this topic and put it on the OSCE platform has not been successful. Moreover, right now the developments are taking a completely different turn. I think after a while, London won’t want to spin this topic at international venues,” he said.

The diplomat added that it was a “purely formal gesture from the United Kingdom, although certainly unpleasant.” In the meantime, Lukashevich noted that despite the recent developments, the Ukrainian conflict remains the hottest topic on the OSCE’s site.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia’s UK envoy believes discord in Moscow-London relations can be overcome

Russia’s Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to the United Kingdom Alexander Yakovenko believes that the bilateral relations between Russia and the United Kingdom can still be salvaged and the countries could return to partnership after some time, he said in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He told the newspaper that Russia is hoping that truth about the poisoning incident in Salisbury will come out..

“Relations between our countries are much broader than the Skripal case. Even if the British side has suspended communications with us at the official level and stated that it does not plan to hold high-level meetings, this does not mean that economic cooperation is frozen. We remain open to all opportunities in terms of culture, and what we call communication between people. As for foreign policy, we will exert the necessary pressure on the British side in order to persuade them to cooperate with us. This must be done, using international obligations among other tools, in particular, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 and the Consular Convention of 1968, which Britain must fulfill,” the diplomat said.

Yakovenko added that so far he does not see any changes in Russian energy exports to the UK.

According to the diplomat, at the last meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on April 4, Russia presented its draft decision – according to it, the United Kingdom must cooperate with Russia on the Salisbury incident, and the organization should provide all possible assistance. “Fifteen Western countries, mostly members of the European Union and NATO, spoke out against this decision, while six countries favored this decision, and 17 abstained, which means that they did not associate their position with those who voted against it. Therefore, we are satisfied with the results of this vote. This means that virtually all countries in Latin America, all Asian countries, with the exception of two, and all the countries of Africa, share our position,” he said.

Yakovenko noted that the Russian Embassy in London is facing difficulties after the expulsion of its 23 diplomats. “We were cut by 40%, so the activity in the department that issues visas has declined, and the main activities of the embassy declined. In addition, of course, the representation of the military attache was reduced,” he said.

 

Izvestia: Moscow plans retaliatory measures against latest US Treasury sanctions move

Moscow plans to examine the new sanction package imposed by the US Treasury, and then begin hammering out a response, sources in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia. The Federation Council is confident that a well-considered decision will be taken, believing that the main goal of introducing the new restrictions is to contain Russia.

The new restrictions were slapped on 24 individuals and 14 companies. The list included, heads of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Russia’s National Guard, heads of Gazprom and VTB, as well as several businessmen who are labelled “oligarchs” in the US Treasury document. According to Izvestia, a number of people on the list are not pessimistic about the situation.

Alexander Zharov, head of Russia’s mass media and communications watchdog, shrugged off being included in the sanctions list as a recognition of the effectiveness of his work. “I take it as a recognition of the effectiveness of Roskomnadzor’s work,” he told Izvestia.

Gazprom’s Press Secretary to Chairman of the Management Committee Sergey Kupriyanov, in turn, told Izvestia that the company first plans to study the limitations that Alexey Miller’s inclusion puts on the company before commenting on it. Industrial group Basic Element and carmaker GAZ Group, controlled by Oleg Deripaska, told Izvestia that they regret being put on the list.

Washington’s actions indicate a complete lack of understanding of Russia’s position among the American elite, First Deputy Chairman of the International Committee of the Federation Council Vladimir Dzhabarov told the newspaper. According to him, this is an unfriendly step, to which Russia’s leadership will provide a timely and precise answer. “The US actions speak about their main goal – to restrain Russia politically and economically. Moscow never takes hasty steps. We will think it through and make the appropriate decisions. It is strange that the US does not understand that nothing can be achieved by sanctions against Russia,” he told Izvestia.

Member of the Federation Council Andrei Klimov told Izvestia that he hopes to see a response from Moscow. According to the senator, the new sanctions list demonstrates the low quality of Washington’s political and expert community.

“If you look closely at the document, you can be sure that it contradicts itself. They do not understand Russia. We are expecting new tides of hatred from the United States. They will expand existing lists, making their “partners” in Europe press Moscow. We will respond in a balanced manner, but in a way that our counterparts will put an end to these hysterics,” Klimov told Izvestia.

 

Kommersant: Russia’s smartphone sales see increase in revenue

The number of smartphones sold in Russia in Q1 2018 remained at last year’s levels, and revenue from sales increased by 23%, Kommersant wrote citing the study of the handset retailer Svyaznoy. According to the study, Russians are more actively buying flagship devices, including Chinese brands, thus raising the average price of the devices. The increase in revenue could also be due to the reassessment of smartphones due to depreciation of the ruble, analysts told the newspaper.

In Q1 2018, Russia sold over 6 mln smartphones worth more than 92 bln rubles ($1.58 bln), Svyaznoy told Kommersant. The revenue from sales of smartphones exceeded figures for Q1 2017 by 23%, but the quantity remained at the same level, the company explained. According to electronics retailers Euroset and M.Video, smartphone sales in Russia amounted to 93.6 bln rubles ($1.6 bln) and 95 bln rubles ($1.63 bln), with the sales reaching 6.1 mln and 6.3 mln units, respectively.

The top three brands in the number of smartphones sold, include Samsung, leading with a 25% market share, Huawei with 17% and Honor for the first time, pushing Apple (15%) to third place. As for revenue from sales, Apple and Samsung retained the first and second places with 38% and 27% market shares respectively, and Huawei and Honor (14%) came third, Svyaznoy reported.

Consumers began to choose better and more expensive devices that will last longer than cheaper models, TelcomDaily CEO Denis Kuskov told Kommersant. For example, flagship Huawei phones are on par with Samsung and Apple in terms of quality and performance, however Apple is unlikely to lose its audience in the near future, the expert said.

Analyst at Otkritie, Timur Nigmatullin told the newspaper that the increase in the average smartphone price might have been triggered by currency revaluation – in Q1 2018, the ruble weakened against the main currencies by almost 4% year-on-year.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review

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Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again – By Gilad Atzmon

Cambridge Analytica: How the Royal family became embroiled in a data harvesting scandal – By RT

Cambridge Analytica: How the Royal family became embroiled in a data harvesting scandal
The extended Royal family has become embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica (CA) scandal. As journalists investigate the shady deals of the consultancy firm, it has been exposed that ties to the data company go right to the top.

As the week progressed, more and more links between CA and the establishment have been revealed. Board members for parent company SCL Group include a Lords member, Tory donors, ex-British army officers and defense contractors… there’s even a direct descendant of a queen in there for good measure.

CA is one arm of SCL group, formerly known as Strategic Communication Laboratories. The Observer article, which initially broke the CA scandal, said “for all intents and purposes, SCL/Cambridge Analytica are one and the same.”

SCL’s board is a who’s who of the British establishment, with minor royals rubbing shoulders with Conservative Party donors and the military top brass. 

Board member Roger Gabb is a successful wine merchant well known for his significant donations to the Conservative Party – half a million pounds, to be exact, in 2006. Whilethe Chief Executive of SCL is Nigel Oakes, an Etonian, who was infamously the ex-lover of Lady Helen Windsor. Rumor has it that Lady Helen reportedly smuggled him into her parents’ grace-and-favor home in St James’s Palace. He was at Lady Helen’s 21st birthday (hosted by the Queen) when he was arrested… there had been a warrant in his name for driving without insurance. He was also once rumored to be an MI5 spy.

The company’s upper echelons have links to the military establishment too; another listed director is Rear Admiral John Tolhurst. Tolhurst, as well as being an aide de camp to the Queen, is a former MoD assistant director of naval warfare at the Ministry of Defence.

There are closer links to her majesty, though, in the form of Ivar Mountbatten. He’s the third cousin once removed of Queen Elizabeth II and shares a direct line with none other than Queen Victoria.

Such deep connections to politics and the establishment raise questions over SCA’s winning of contracts with the UK Ministry of Defence, the US State Department and NATO as well as their reported involvement in the Tory Party

The London-based political consultancy has been at the center of a storm this week, after a whistleblower said the company had paid an academic to harvest the data of 50 million Facebook users, to build profiles of American voters before the 2016 U.S. election.

Following this, a Channel 4 News undercover sting revealed that the company’s [now suspended] CEO Alexander Nix offered to use dirty tricks, which included bribery and the hiring of ‘Ukrainian women,’ to entrap politicians and subvert elections.

Nix is the current (but now suspended) CEO of CA and the director of SCL. He’s also recently found himself at the helm of a new venture called Emerdata. Nix’s new company’s board members are Rebekah and Jennifer Mercer, daughters of hedge fund tycoon Robert Mercer, whose father funneled his riches into the Trump election campaign.

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Iran could soon join Russia-led free trade zone – By RT

Iran could soon join Russia-led free trade zone
The Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) could welcome Iran as a new member in May, according to Russia’s Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak.

“The move to enter into a temporary agreement making for a free trade zone to be set up between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, which is currently at an advanced stage, will obviously trigger further development of our bilateral trade and expansion of investment cooperation,” said Novak, who is also co-head of the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission.

Iran’s Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei told TASS earlier that work on a free-trade zone agreement between the sides that started in 2015 was close to completion.

A trade bloc established in 2015, the EEU is based on the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. It was later joined by Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. In 2016, Vietnam officially became the first non-regional country to join the bloc. The union is designed to ensure the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers between member countries.

More than 40 countries and international organizations, including China, Indonesia and Israel, as well as some South American countries, have expressed interest in a free trade deal with the EEU. The trade bloc has also held negotiations with South Korea, Egypt and India.

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Serbia could be also included in the EEU’s free trade zone in the future.

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