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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City beneath city: RT films massive network of militant-built tunnels under Syria’s Douma (VIDEO) – By RT

https://www.rt.com/news/425149-douma-underground-militant-tunnels/video/5ae0c540dda4c8d75f8b45fe

 
 
The Syrian military has been combing through a vast network of tunnels built by jihadists in Douma, not far from Damascus. RT Arabic filmed vehicles easily fitting in the passages and asked locals how the militants treated them.

Located 15 meters deep under the surface, the massive tunnels are supported by metal pillars and are paneled with some sort of liner plates, creating a subway look. They stretch for kilometers under the town, located in the area of eastern Ghouta, forming an entire city beneath the city.

To complete the set, the tunnels are equipped with electricity, parking lots and workshops. They are so big that a minivan could easily move through them, as seen in the footage. The military discovered that the tunnels were specifically used to stockpile machinery and vehicles.

The militants forced the locals to build the tunnels for them by starving the people, who refused to work, Douma residents told RT. “They starved us, they harassed us,” one man said, adding that the extremists also made captives and civilians work on the tunnels. “They [the militants] would not feed those, who refused to work,” he said.

READ MORE: Moscow slams western media ‘disinformation campaign’ about OPCW experts being denied entry to Douma

The Russian military said they found a chemical laboratory operated by militants in central Douma soon after the city’s liberation. The facility, located in the basement of a residential building, had some sophisticated equipment, including an industrial chemical reactor, which the military said was used by the jihadists to create toxic agents. Vast stockpiles of various chemicals were also found in the laboratory.

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US violating intl law by breaking into Russian consulate in Seattle – embassy – By RT

US violating intl law by breaking into Russian consulate in Seattle – embassy
The US government is violating international law with its decision to break into Russia’s locked consulate in Seattle, the Russian embassy in Washington said in a statement.

What we see now is a gross violation of the Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Convention on Consular Relations,” commented Nikolay Pukalov, the head of the embassy’s consular department. “The Russian side did not agree on stripping diplomatic status from our property in Seattle and did not give permission to American officials to enter our territory.”

The spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called the development “a hostile takeover” of the compound by the US.

The diplomatic building was evacuated earlier this week due to an order from Washington, which expelled 60 Russian diplomats and told the embassy to shut down the Seattle consulate in retaliation for the poisoning of a former double agent in Britain.

After the diplomats left on Tuesday, they locked the building. US officials on Wednesday broke into the compound.

The closure of Russia’s Seattle consulate was the latest in a string of diplomatic mission reductions taken by both sides over the past years. The pretext for this particular expulsion was the British accusation that the Russian government ordered an assassination of a former double agent. London failed to provide any public proof of the allegation and instead launched an international campaign to punish Moscow, finding a most eager participant in Washington.

The US claimed that the 60 diplomats it expelled were Russian spies and that the consulate in Seattle was heavily used for espionage purposes. Similar justifications were used when Washington ordered the shutdown of Russian missions in San Francisco and New York in September 2017.

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Is this the face of the assassin Russia sent to kill Sergey Skripal? A British newspaper says so…. – By Alexander Mercouris (The Duran )

Media reports suggest British authorities still in the dark about the Skripal case

Two British newspapers – The Sunday People (which is a tabloid) and the Times of London (which is not) – have published very similar stories about a supposed breakthrough in the Skripal case.

The Times of London as usual is somewhat more measured.

Firstly it reports the interesting fact (based on a report drawn from the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets) that Yulia Skripal’s Russian fiancé is refusing to reply to her calls, causing her deep distress

The fiancé of Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned by a nerve agent in Salisbury, works at an organisation with links to the Russian security services and has gone into hiding.

Stepan Vikeev, 30, has not been seen since Yulia, 33, and her father, Sergei, 66, a former Russian military intelligence officer, were poisoned last month, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper reported.

Mr Vikeev has not answered Ms Skripal’s calls since she was discharged from hospital and deleted all his social media accounts after the attack, for which the government has blamed Russia…..

The newspaper said that Ms Skripal was “hysterical” when Mr Vikeev failed to return her telephone calls.

This is curious since the Russians by their own account have been doing all they can to contact Yulia Skripal only to be prevented from doing so by the British.  Given that this is so one would expect the Russian authorities – if they are involved – to be encouraging Stepan Vikeev to reply to Yulia Skripal’s calls, and not to turn them away.

However far more interesting than this tidbit of information is news about a supposed breakthrough in the case which is discretely tacked on to the end of the article

The reports of Mr Vikeev’s disappearance come as the police and intelligence agencies have reportedly identified key suspects for the Salisbury attack, in part by searching flight passenger lists in and out of the UK, drawing on CCTV footage in Salisbury and using car numberplate recognition cameras.

I will say at this point that in my opinion the whole Times of London article about Stepan Vikeev is a cover for the real information in the article, which is the paragraph which I have just quoted.  Frankly, it looks to me like an attempt by the British to signal to the Russians that they know – or think they know – who were the assassins who tried to kill Sergey Skripal.

For a more colourful account of what the British know or think they know about the case we have to turn to The Sunday People, whose story appeared on 22nd April 2018, the day before the article appeared in The Times of London.  Its article is written in the usual breathless style of contemporary British tabloid journalism

Counter terror police have ­identified a Russian assassin ­believed to be connected to the Salisbury poisonings.

In a sensational new development the Sunday People can disclose that officers suspect he is a 54-year-old former FSB spy – codename Gordon.

The man is thought to use the cover name Mihails Savickis as well as two other aliases.

But police fear he has already flown back to Russia and they may never get the chance to question him.

Detectives believe there was a team of six behind the novichok chemical ­attack on double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33.

Our revelation follows reports that Britain’s intelligence services have ­compiled a list of key suspects involved in last month’s attack in the Wiltshire city.

Gordon’s cover name emerged ­during nearly five hours of questioning by police in London this week of KGB defector Boris Karpichkov, 59.

Boris told the Sunday People how he and Gordon’s paths crossed in the early 1990s.

The two men knew each other when Karpichkov was a major in the FSB, the KGB’s successor, in Latvia.

Gordon was a subordinate of Boris’s.

“He was a very intelligent, educated, ambitious and ruthless person,” Boris said today.

“He was handsome and personable and was quickly able to win a stranger’s trust.”

Boris said Gordon was trained in martial arts and specialised in ju jitsu. He went to university where he gained a law degree.

Our exclusive picture of the man police want to talk to – handed to us by Boris – shows the wanted spy three decades ago.

He is 5ft 9in with no distinguishing marks, fiercely ­intelligent and with a law degree from Latvia’s State University in Riga.

Gordon has used the cover of a ­successful businessman in the security industry. He was a captain in the KGB before joining the FSB after the Cold War ended.

He is on the FSB’s Officers of Active Reserve list, a kind of spy territorial army called out for special operations including “wet jobs” as Russian spooks like to call their assassinations.

And he is known to have ­murdered at least one man when he shot an organised crime boss in Latvia during the 1990s.

Gordon’s cover name was ­revealed during nearly five hours of questioning by police on Monday of Karpichkov, who is on the same FSB hitlist as the Skripals.

The ex-spy believes that if Gordon was involved in the Skripal attack he could have been leader of the ­special ops group carrying it out because of his seniority.

The two men knew each other when Karpichkov was an FSB major in Latvia – then part of the Soviet Union – and Gordon was a subordinate.

The codename Gordon was given to the spy by his FSB bosses.

It is not unusual to choose British names. Notorious double agent Kim Philby was codenamed Stanley.

Our exclusive revelation comes a day after it was reported that police and intelligence agencies have identified key suspects in the attempted assassination of Sergei and his daughter Yulia.

Counter-terrorism police are reportedly trying to build a case against “persons of interest”.

The breakthrough came after a search of flight manifests in and out of the UK yielded specific names in the hunt for the Skripals’ would-be assassins. Police have also drawn on extensive CCTV footage in Salisbury.

But officers know it is unlikely they will ever be able to bring anyone to justice.

The Sunday People article comes complete with an identikit picture of ‘Gordon’ – the reputed Russian master assassin – which is the picture used as a caption for this article.

It is quite clear that the two articles – the one in The Times of London of 23rd April 2018 and the one in The Sunday People of 22nd April 2018 – draw on the same sources, which quite obviously are the British authorities.

What is one to make of all this?

Frankly ‘Gordon’ aka ‘Mihails Savickis’ sounds just a bit too much like a Russian James Bond to be wholly believable.  Note that he is said to be “handsome, personable, very intelligent, educated, ambitious and ruthless” and that he is also an expert in ju-itsu.  The only discordant note is that at 54 he seems a little too old for the part.  The identikit picture of him is however ridiculous.

More to the point the “evidence” upon which these claims of a breakthrough are based seems incredibly tenuous.

It looks as if the British authorities have been spending the last few weeks combing through the names and photos of individuals who have come and gone from Britain and comparing them with photos of people caught on CCTV wandering around Salisbury around the time that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned.  On that basis a number of individuals – or possibly photos of individuals – have been selected as showing possible suspects.

The possibilities of error are obvious, and I would add that this procedure neither directly links the individuals so identified with the crime itself nor does it prove that they were acting on behalf of the Russian authorities.  At best the individuals concerned are – as they are described in The Sunday People article – “persons of interest” whom the police would want to interview rather than actual “suspects”.

As for ‘Gordon’ aka ‘Mihailis Savickis’, the identikit picture suggests that he is was not one of the people allegedly caught on CCTV in Salisbury and his reputed connection to the crime has been largely inferred from the evidence of former defectors like Boris Karpichkov who is named in The Sunday People article.  Probably he is a real person though the James Bond qualities he has been given suggest that a certain amount of fantasy has been at work.

These nebulous claims about possible suspects in the Skripal case come alongside two articles, by Craig Murray and by Ben Macintyre in The Times of London (the latter a writer on intelligence matters) which suggest continuing doubts in Britain about Russian state involvement in the case.

Craig Murray – whose reporting of the Skripal case has been consistently reliable as well as outstanding – sees in the latest statements by British officialdom evidence of doubts about the theory of Russian state involvement in the Skripal case

Well-placed FCO sources tell me it remains the case that senior civil servants in both the FCO and Home Office remain very sceptical of Russian guilt in the Skripal case. It remains the case that Porton Down scientists have identified the chemical as a “novichok-style” nerve agent but still cannot tie its production to Russia – there are many other possibilities. The effort to identify the actual perpetrator is making no headway, with the police having eliminated by alibi the Russian air passenger on the same flight as Julia Skripal identified as suspicious by MI5 purely on grounds of the brevity of their stay.

That senior civil servants do not regard Russian responsibility as a fact is graphically revealed in this minute from head of the civil service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, sent to officials following the attack on Syria. Note the very careful use of language:

Their work was instrumental in ensuring widespread international support for the Government’s position on Russian responsibility for the Salisbury attack

This is very deliberate use of language by Sir Jeremy. Exactly as I explained with the phrase “of a type developed by Russia” about the nerve agent, you have to parse extremely carefully what is written by the senior civil service. They do not write extra phrases for no reason.

Sir Jeremy could have simply written of Russian responsibility as a fact, but he did not. His reference to “the government’s position on Russian responsibility” is very deliberate and an acknowledgement that other positions are possible. He deliberately refrains from asserting Russian responsibility as a fact. This is no accident and is tailored to the known views of responsible civil servants in the relevant departments, to whom he is writing.

(italics added)

As for Ben Macintyre, he has this to say

Russia has so far come up with more than 30 narratives for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. It is a classic demonstration of the Stalinist disinformation technique known as maskirovka, or “little masquerade”, which is designed to sow confusion and uncertainty.

The British narrative, by contrast, remains fairly simple: Russia was behind the attack, which was carried out using high-grade, pure novichok, the Russian-made nerve agent. “Only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and motive for the attack on the Skripals . . . it is highly likely that the Russian state was responsible,” wrote Sir Mark Sedwill, Britain’s national security adviser, in a letter to Nato.

But behind the logical assertion of overall Russian guilt lie a host of possibilities and unanswered questions: who administered the poison, what was the level of Kremlin authorisation, and why now?

On March 12, a week after the poisoning, Theresa May offered just two possibilities: “Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

Between those two poles lie an array of possibilities, in which the assassins were encouraged, facilitated, prompted, armed, nudged or protected, to an as yet undetermined extent, by Russia. There are several reasons why the attempted murder does not look like a typical Russian “wet job”, or mokroe delo, a state-authorised hit. For a start, it didn’t work and was done in a way that seems remarkably sloppy. The poison was easily traceable to Russia. It took out a member of the target’s family, something Russian (and Soviet) assassins have traditionally avoided.

 

Macintyre then goes on to speculate at inordinate length that though the Russian authorities may not have actually ordered the attack they are covering up for whoever did.

That is of course pure speculation which is based on no fact.

Nonetheless it is interesting that a well placed and well informed British writer on intelligence matters like Ben Macintyre is expressing doubts in The Times of London about the theory of Russian state involvement in the Skripal case.

Frankly, it looks to me as if despite all the claims to the contrary the police investigation of the Skripal case has made little actual progress.  The British seem to have little more knowledge of who carried out the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal and why than they did when the investigation began.  Could it possibly be because they are looking in the wrong place?

The Duran

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Silence of the shams: Western media puts Syrian boy’s witness account on hold – By SPUTNIK

Syrianboy

© Sputnik
Hassan Diab

If it doesn’t fit the narrative, there’s no harm in shelving it. It appears that evidence proving the purported chemical weapons attack in Douma was staged has been largely disregarded by the mainstream newsmakers in the West.

The alleged attack and the subsequent airstrikes by the US, UK and France have been dominating the Western news agenda for several weeks now.

On April 7, several media outlets reported that the Syrian army had used chlorine in Douma, killing up to 70 people and injuring hundreds. Footage showing the aftermath of the “attack” appeared on social media, showing men and women shouting, rushing and hosing down adults and children inside a hospital building.

The video has been acquired and shown by most Western news media under the tagline “Children are treated after a suspected chemical attack in rebel-held Douma, Syria” or similar headlines.

Responding to the video and the allegations, the Syrian Defense Ministry said the claims were based on hearsay and testimonies by jihadist militants, and not backed up by hard facts. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said all proofs by the West were “based on media and social networks.”

However, the footage and the “irrefutable evidence” reportedly in possession of French President Emmanuel Macron were evidence enough for the allies – US, UK and France – to conduct cruise missile strikes on a number of targets in Syria.

In his conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Macron refused to reveal what that “irrefutable evidence” was. Nevertheless, the events around the alleged attack received detailed coverage by British, American and international media as essential developments of the situation in Eastern Ghouta.

Staged Participation

Proof that the Douma hospital video was staged was presented to the international media on April 18, when the Russia 24 TV channel released an exclusive interview with the Syrian boy Hassan Diab, who was originally seen in the Douma video. Hassan said he was rushed to the hospital with his mother, and when they entered the hospital, unknown people grabbed and poured water on him, placing him with other patients after that.

“We were in the basement. Mom told me that today we don’t have anything to eat and that we will eat tomorrow. We heard a cry outside, calling “go to the hospital.” We ran to the hospital and as soon as I entered, they grabbed me and started pouring water on me,” Hassan Diab said.

Hassan’s father also spoke about the incident, saying “there were no chemical weapons” and that the “militants gave them dates, cookies and rice for participating in this film.”

Left Out of the Media Picture

The interview, however, went largely unnoticed by mainstream newsmakers. In the rare cases the interview with Hassan got a mention, it was referred to as line pushed by “Russian state media.”

A precursor to the Sun’s news headline “Russian TV claims Syria chemical attack boy, 11, filmed being doused with water was tricked into taking part in return for biscuits” was the phrase: “Fake Views.”

A Times’ headline attributes the fact that Hassan was paid off with food – to Russian TV, not the boy’s father, who made the statement.

In comparison, the Times didn’t attribute mentions of the alleged Douma attack to information presented by the White Helmets, a foreign-sponsored organization operating in Syria. Moreover, if some of the Times’ headlines featured the phrase “gas attack” in quotations, the effort wears out, as seen in other titles.

Throughout the development of the Douma story, most news channels have made the effort of calling the reported event “an alleged attack” – and some still oblige. But as time passed, headlines omitting the crucial qualifier started popping up online and in television discussions.

Syrian medics ‘subjected to extreme intimidation’ after Douma attack” and “Syria attack: Chemical weapons inspectors retrieve samples from Douma” are just a couple of examples – with the latter actually referring to the fact that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) experts haven’t yet established the use of chemical weapons.

The US broadcaster Fox News posted the alleged attack video online under the headline “Disturbing video: Children being treated after chemical attack in Syria” on April 9, which indicated certainty that the attack did happen and that chemical weapons had been used. However, a search for mentions of or statements by Hassan and his father on the Fox News website gives zero results.

CNN’s coverage follows a similar scenario. Even though some of CNN’s headlines on Douma stipulate that it was a “suspected” attack, others simply define it as a “chemical attack in Syria.” There is no information on Hassan and his recollection of events that took place on April 9.

Searches on the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post return no articles telling the story of Hassan and his father.

Due Impartiality

Very little coverage has been dedicated overall to Hassan’s witness statement, in effect disproving the pretext for an international military attack.

As a consequence, international audiences were largely left out of the balanced discussion over a matter so imperative to the public. According to a recent poll, respondents in Britain mostly opposed a missile attack against Syrian military targets.

The principle of section five of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code, under which all media operate in Britain, is “to ensure that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.” Disregarding important developments around the Douma “attack” does not appear to be in compliance with not “favoring one side over another.”

Hassan Diab may be brought to testify to the OPCW, Russia’s Permanent Representative to OPCW, Alexander Shulgin, said in a recent interview.

“At a certain point, I told my Western colleagues: we, probably, will have to use another language, since you don’t understand what we are saying. We will bring here, in The Hague, eyewitnesses who will personally tell you it was a choreographed provocation. I will do my best to have this boy speak here,” Mr. Shulgin said.

He added, however, that “everything is possible” and Hassan might not be allowed to give a statement at the OPCW.

Comment: See also:

 

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Russia capable of providing S-300 to Syria within one month — source – By TASS

April 23, 18:46 UTC+3

According to the source, there are two options of delivering the S-300 to Syria

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© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, April 23. /TASS/. Russia is technically capable of providing its air defense systems S-300 to Syria within one month, a military-diplomatic source has told TASS, adding that for this the launchers already at the Defense Ministry’s disposal might be used after the required reconfiguration, a military-diplomatic source has told TASS.

According to the official, there are two options of delivering the S-300 to Syria. One is Russia may provide to Syria the export configuration of the air defense launchers. In that case Syria will get them in 18 to 24 months from now. The other possibility is the available systems may be retrieved from the Defense Ministry’s reserves. Those replaced by S-400 in the Russian army might be use, too.

“Naturally, the used S-300 systems that may be taken to Syria will have to be reconfigured to suit the standards of the Syrian air defense. This work may take about a month,” the source said.

TASS has no official confirmation of this.

 

Earlier, the daily Kommersant quoted its own sources as saying that Russia in the near future might start the delivery of S-300 Favorit air defense systems to Syria.

 

S-300 for Syria

 

Russia’s General Staff declared it might be possible to raise the question once again of providing S-300 systems to Damascus shortly after the United States, Britain and France on April attacked Syria with cruise missiles. The agreement with Syria on providing S-300 was signed back in 2010 only to be frozen due to objections from the West and Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on April 16 said Russia might be prepared to consider all the necessary steps for enhancing Syria’s defense capabilities, including the supplies of S-300 systems. On April 23 Lavrov said the question of providing S-300 to Syria had not been settled yet, but Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed that possibility with the Defense Ministry “from the standpoint of preventing a situation where Syria might turn out insufficiently prepared for aggressive attacks, like the one that took place on April 14.”

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov refrained from comment when asked if S-300 might be delivered to Syria in the near future.

 
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By Billing Russia ‘Terror Sponsor’ US Wants to Lay Hands on Europe – Think Tank – By Sputnik

The Moon over the Moscow Kremlin's Spasskaya (Savior) Tower

© Sputnik / Vladimir Sergeev

Opinion

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Republican senator Cory Gardner is championing a legislative initiative to determine whether Russia should be billed a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Radio Sputnik discussed this with Manuel Ochsenreiter, director of the German Center for Eurasian Studies and editor-in-chief of the German news magazine “ZUERST!”

Sputnik: In your view, why was this article published now, when relations between Russia and the US are as tense as they were during the Cold War era?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: We witness right now an escalation of the informational warfare; we have already now, well since the war started in Syria, which was escalating even more since the problems and difficulties in Ukraine, with the Maidan uprising, so we are now at a new escalation period and of course, the consequences for Gardner, for the US, or what they would like to see as consequences is to have a safe hand on Europe, on the European allies by labelling Russia as a “terrorist sponsoring” state.

It is not just about the consequences from the US, but they would pressure their European allies into also going into these consequences. One consequence, for sure, would be that Europe would be even closer to the US than Europe already is right now. This is also already the consequence of the Skripal story, the consequence of the so-called “gas attack” in Syria. So, it is about informational warfare meant for having the European allies more safe on the Washington side.

Sputnik: If Russia was indeed declared a state sponsor of terrorism, what kind of diplomatic moves would we see by the European Union, by the US?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: We would see a variety of diplomatic and economic measures. It would mean that sooner or later, the European countries would have to follow Washington’s judgement about Russia as a “terrorism sponsor.”

That would mean that there would be an enormous political pressure on all companies and businesses, and on all politicians who are advertising good and normal relations with Russia, between Europe and the Russian Federation. For the US, it is absolutely important to keep Europe on their side and to make Europe, let’s say, hostile towards Russia. Russia is a sort of natural partner for European states; Russia is a supplier of resources.

Germany, for example, has excellent high tech products and is also very important for the market of Russia, but the US wants to separate these two markets, or these two political spheres, to bind Europe closer to the US. The US knows [that] if Europe gets lost for the US, they are outside of the game.

READ MORE: Situation in Syria Shows ‘Cold War is Back’ — UN Chief

The consequences would include a diplomatic cooldown, maybe even freezing, maybe even more freezing than we were used to during the escalating periods of the “cold war.”

In economic terms, it would mean that companies, even if they do business with Russia, which would be legal, would suffer from moral and public pressure … if the US succeeds in making Europe also label Russia a “terrorism sponsor.” 

Sputnik: What other countries around the world are currently considered by the US and Europe as states sponsors of terrorism?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: If we take a closer look on these countries – we have for instance Iran labelled as a terrorist sponsor – we know also that they label the Lebanese Hezbollah forces as terrorists, as they are on the official terrorist list.

But if we look at the situation in the Middle East, we can precisely see that those entities and those groups labelled as terrorists or terrorist sponsors by the US are in many cases forces that are standing for stability and fighting against terrorism.

For example, Iran is one of the main forces supporting Syria in fighting the Islamic State*. Russia is the only foreign force, besides Iran, which is in Syria legally, which is there on the invitation of the legal Damascus government.

While the Americans, the British, the French and all other forces are there not legally, they were never invited, never asked by the sovereign state of Syria to support them in fighting terrorism.

We can say that one of the main terrorist-sponsoring states on the globe is the United States itself. There would be no Islamic State group existent today, if the US hadn’t meddled in the Middle East. The Islamic State exists precisely due to the meddling of the United States [in the Middle East.]

*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist group banned in Russia.

The views of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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Empire Collapse: Russian Missile Tech Renders America’s Trillion Dollar Navy Obsolete – By Dmitry Orlov /Russia Insider(SOTT)

Dmitry Orlov

kinzhal hypersonic missile

Kinzhal (‘dagger’) hypersonic missile being test-fired by the Russian military

For the past 500 years European nations-Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain, France and, briefly, Germany-were able to plunder much of the planet by projecting their naval power overseas. Since much of the world’s population lives along the coasts, and much of it trades over water, armed ships that arrived suddenly out of nowhere were able to put local populations at their mercy.

The armadas could plunder, impose tribute, punish the disobedient, and then use that plunder and tribute to build more ships, enlarging the scope of their naval empires. This allowed a small region with few natural resources and few native advantages beyond extreme orneriness and a wealth of communicable diseases to dominate the globe for half a millennium.

The ultimate inheritor of this naval imperial project is the United States, which, with the new addition of air power, and with its large aircraft carrier fleet and huge network of military bases throughout the planet, is supposedly able to impose Pax Americana on the entire world. Or, rather, was able to do so-during the brief period between the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of Russia and China as new global powers and their development of new anti-ship and antiaircraft technologies. But now this imperial project is at an end.

Prior to the Soviet collapse, the US military generally did not dare to directly threaten those countries to which the USSR had extended its protection. Nevertheless, by using its naval power to dominate the sea lanes that carried crude oil, and by insisting that oil be traded in US dollars, it was able to live beyond its means by issuing dollar-denominated debt instruments and forcing countries around the world to invest in them. It imported whatever it wanted using borrowed money while exporting inflation, expropriating the savings of people across the world. In the process, the US has accumulated absolutely stunning levels of national debt-beyond anything seen before in either absolute or relative terms. When this debt bomb finally explodes, it will spread economic devastation far beyond US borders. And it will explode, once the petrodollar wealth pump, imposed on the world through American naval and air superiority, stops working.

New missile technology has made a naval empire cheap to defeat. Previously, to fight a naval battle, one had to have ships that outmatched those of the enemy in their speed and artillery power. The Spanish Armada was sunk by the British armada. More recently, this meant that only those countries whose industrial might matched that of the United States could ever dream of opposing it militarily. But this has now changed: Russia’s new missiles can be launched from thousands of kilometers away, are unstoppable, and it takes just one to sink a destroyer and just two to sink an aircraft carrier. The American armada can now be sunk without having an armada of one’s own. The relative sizes of American and Russian economies or defense budgets are irrelevant: the Russians can build more hypersonic missiles much more quickly and cheaply than the Americans would be able to build more aircraft carriers.

Equally significant is the development of new Russian air defense capabilities: the S-300 and S-400 systems, which can essentially seal off a country’s airspace. Wherever these systems are deployed, such as in Syria, US forces are now forced to stay out of their range. With its naval and air superiority rapidly evaporating, all that the US can fall back on militarily is the use of large expeditionary forces – an option that is politically unpalatable and has proven to be ineffective in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is also the nuclear option, and while its nuclear arsenal is not likely to be neutralized any time soon, nuclear weapons are only useful as deterrents. Their special value is in preventing wars from escalating beyond a certain point, but that point lies beyond the elimination of their global naval and air dominance. Nuclear weapons are much worse than useless in augmenting one’s aggressive behavior against a nuclear-armed opponent; invariably, it would be a suicidal move. What the US now faces is essentially a financial problem of unrepayable debt and a failing wealth pump, and it should be a stunningly obvious point that setting off nuclear explosions anywhere in the world would not fix the problems of an empire that is going broke.

Events that signal vast, epochal changes in the world often appear minor when viewed in isolation. Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon was just one river crossing; Soviet and American troops meeting and fraternizing at the Elbe was, relatively speaking, a minor event-nowhere near the scale of the siege of Leningrad, the battle of Stalingrad or the fall of Berlin. Yet they signaled a tectonic shift in the historical landscape. And perhaps we have just witnessed something similar with the recent pathetically tiny Battle of East Gouta in Syria, where the US used a make-believe chemical weapons incident as a pretense to launch an equally make-believe attack on some airfields and buildings in Syria. The US foreign policy establishment wanted to show that it still matters and has a role to play, but what really happened was that US naval and air power were demonstrated to be almost entirely beside the point.

Of course, all of this is terrible news to the US military and foreign policy establishments, as well as to the many US Congressmen in whose districts military contractors operate or military bases are situated. Obviously, this is also bad news for the defense contractors, for personnel at the military bases, and for many others as well. It is also simply awful news economically, since defense spending is about the only effective means of economic stimulus of which the US government is politically capable. Obama’s “shovel-ready jobs,” if you recall, did nothing to forestall the dramatic slide in the labor participation rate, which is a euphemism for the inverse of the real unemployment rate. There is also the wonderful plan to throw lots of money at Elon Musk’s SpaceX (while continuing to buy vitally important rocket engines from the Russians-who are currently discussing blocking their export to the US in retaliation for more US sanctions). In short, take away the defense stimulus, and the US economy will make a loud popping sound followed by a gradually diminishing hissing noise.

Needless to say, all those involved will do their best to deny or hide for as long as possible the fact that the US foreign policy and defense establishments have now been neutralized. My prediction is that America’s naval and air empire will not fail because it will be defeated militarily, nor will it be dismantled once the news sinks in that it is useless; instead, it will be forced to curtail its operations due to lack of funds. There may still be a few loud bangs before it gives up, but mostly what we will hear is a whole lot of whimpering. That’s how the USSR went; that’s how the USA will go too.

About the author

Dmitry Orlov is an engineer and author of several books, including The Five Stages of Collapse. His website is Club Orlov, and his Patreon page is here.

The West’s Trauma of its Dissolution – By Alastair CROOKE – (Strategic Culture Foundation )

The West’s Trauma of its Dissolution

The tangled web of deceit: The Pentagon calls out a perfect mission – all 105 missiles struck target; “Mission Accomplished”, announces the Commander-in-Chief.  Chemical warehouses and research centres destroyed: yet no chemicals have been released into the Syrian atmosphere, in the destructive aftermath of the raid.  Britain insists that it has suffered a deadly nerve agent attack by Russia, but its two victims seem to be recovering nicely from a normally invariably fatal attack. The ‘tares’ in the Syria narrative are opening. There will be political repercussions. But what, and where?

Governments are having to lie brazenly, to hold tight the two chemical weapons narratives, and to hide the disarray resulting from internal discord.  It is clear that Trump was not accurately informed by his staff.  Did he believe the chemical weapons narratives were unquestionably true?  Was he aware of the potential flaws to these stories, before launching a possibly illegal act, and without bothering about evidence?  How is it, that he was taken by surprise to learn that the US had expelled 60 Russian diplomats, when he thought it would only be a matching exercise to the European actions: i.e. about four or five persons?  How is it Nikki Haley announces more sanctions on Russia – and has Trump yelling at his own television that she is wrong?

It is reported that Trump may have been told by General Kelly that ghastly images were emerging on TV of dead children with foam at the mouth.  Trump, from what we know of his character, likely would have reacted instinctively and with visceral anger.  It is reported that his first instinct was to react against the Syrian government forcefully.

But the Russians (General Gerasimov) had already warned the Pentagon (General Dunford) one month earlier of their having received intelligence of a false flag chemical weapon claim being prepared in East Gouta. Why would the jihadists want that? Why – Because a major attack was being planned on Damascus by the 30,000 odd militants gathered at Gouta, with some 4,000 insurgents massing separately, in the south, as reinforcements.  The Russians warned Damascus of the danger. At this point, the Syrian forces were heavily engaged in Idlib province; and had quickly to about-turn, and stage a lightning invasion of Gouta, whose very speed took the insurgents by surprise; and who consequently were quickly overwhelmed. The chemical weapon claim was a blatant attempt to rally overseas support for the Ghouta insurgents, and to keep alive the failing prospect of an attack on Damascus that would bring a paradigm change to Syria (for which the insurgents, and certain supporting states, apparently hoped).

The consequence was ‘war’ within the US Administration: Colonel Pat Lang, a senior and highly respected, former US Defense Intelligence Officer, writes:

“I am told that the old neocon crew argued as hard as possible for a disabling massive air and missile campaign intended to destroy the Syrian government’s ability to fight the mostly jihadi rebels. John Bolton, General (ret.) Jack Keane and many other neocons argued strongly for this campaign as a way to reverse the outcome of the civil war. James Mattis managed to obtain President Trump’s approval for a much more limited and largely symbolic strike but Trump was clearly inclined to the neocon side of the argument. [But] what will happen next time?”

But then comes the discrepancy between the Pentagon’s original claim of eight targets having been selected for attack in Syria; the 105 missiles launched; and Trump’s subsequent assertion of ‘mission accomplished’ – in total contrast with the very different Russian version of events.  In the latter, eight targets were indeed selected by the US, and missiles were fired at the eight. But only four targets were hit.

  • 4 missiles targeted the Damascus International Airport; 12 missiles: the Al-Dumayr airdrome. All missiles were shot down.
  • 18 missiles targeted the Blai airdrome: All the missiles shot down.
  • 12 missiles targeted the Shayrat air base: All missiles shot down. The air bases were not affected by the strikes.
  • 5 out of 9 missiles were shot down targeting the unoccupied Mazzeh airdrome.
  • 13 out of 16 missiles were shot down targeting the Homs airdrome. There was no major damage.
  • In total, 30 missiles targeted research facilities near Barzah and Jaramana. 7 were shot down.

What happened, and why such western incredulity that their operation was not somehow ‘perfect’?  Well, the Russian statistics tell the tale: Pantzir S: 23 hits with 25 engagements; Buk-M2: 24 of 29 – and the old Soviet era, S200 – well, 0 hits, with 8 launched missiles. 

Simply, the Pantzir and Buk M2 are new in Syria, whereas the earlier air defence systems, are old Soviet era systems. The Pantzir and the Buk are effective. That’s all. The Pentagon, to cover the discrepancy of missile losses, suggests that it sent no less than 76 cruise missiles against the non-hardened, non-defended Barzeh research center. This was a small two story building complex, which recently been declared free of chemical weapons, and weapon research, by the OPCW.  In other words, enough missiles to flatten a city (34 tons of warhead explosives) were directed at this small two story conventional building, the Pentagon states. This is not credible (see here for an expert analysis)

This will not be the first time of facts being fitted around the narrative: Former head of the British Navy, Lord West, recalls: “When I was chief of [UK] Defence Intelligence, I had huge pressure put on me politically, to try and say that our bombing campaign in Bosnia was achieving all sorts of things which it wasn’t. I was put under huge pressure, so I know the things that can happen with intelligence.”

But why again the deceit?  Have his aides told Trump that it was not exactly a ‘perfect’ mission accomplished?  Perhaps not.  Have aides told Trump, have aides told Mrs May, have aides told Macron of the possibility that the childrens’ deaths in Douma may well have resulted from asphyxia – and not chemicals? Were they warned by their aides that they were at risk of repeating the error of the Iraq war (wrong intelligence), but compounded on this occasion, by the complete lack of any prior investigation, of any real evidence, or UN resolution?

It may not ignite immediately, but the fuse of subsequent scandal has been lit. It may take some politicians down with it (Mrs May first perhaps).

How to account for it? Colonel Pat Lang suggests that as in Iraq, the neocons have again their foot firmly in the door of policy-making, “and [just as they] drove the United States in the direction of invasion of Iraq and the destruction of the apparatus of the Iraqi state, [they are doing the same in respect to Syria]. They did this through manipulation of the collective mental image Americans had of Iraq and the supposed menace posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Not all the people who participated in this process were neocon in their allegiance, but there were enough of them in the Bush Administration to dominate the process”:

“Such people, then and now, fervently believe in the Manifest Destiny of the United States as mankind’s best hope of a utopian future and concomitantly in the responsibility of the United States to lead mankind toward that future. Neocons believe that inside every Iraqi, Filipino or Syrian there is an American waiting to be freed from the bonds of tradition, local culture and general backwardness. For people with this mindset the explanation for the continuance of old ways lies in the oppressive and exploitative nature of rulers who block the “progress” that is needed. The solution for the imperialists and neocons is simple. Local rulers must be removed as the principal obstacle to popular emulation of Western and especially American culture and political forms.”

Today’s geo-politics is presented in America’s recent Defense Strategy papers, as simply being one of the re-emergence of great power rivalry and competition: America as the upholder of a homogenous, rules-based global ‘order’ – with China and Russia, as the ‘revisionist powers’, threatening the smooth running of that order.  It is true (insofar as it goes), that an axis of China, Russia and Iran are working in concert, to reassert the principle of cultural and political difference and heterodoxy, within the global sphere.  But is great power-competition sufficient explanation for the crisis that we are living today?

The present crisis over Syria has very little to do with chemical weapons (except to satisfy the European and American love of virtue signalling). Trump may, or may not, believe the story.  But that is not very relevant either way.  This new chemical weapons claim – in the long line of such claims, reaching back to the Kuwaiti fraud of ‘babies being thrown out of their incubators by Iraqi soldiers’ – has always had one objective: to provide a pretext for a full court, military ‘something or other’ (i.e. local rulers being removed as the principal obstacle to popular emulation of Western and especially American culture and political forms, in Pat Lang’s formulation).

Professor John Gray, writing in his book, Black Mass, notes that “the world in which we find ourselves … is littered with the debris of utopian projects which, though they were framed in secular terms that denied the truth of religion, were in fact vehicles for religious myth”. The Jacobin revolutionaries launched the Terror as a violent retribution to élite repression – framed in Rousseau’s Enlightenment humanism – as violence justified by the violence of élite repression; the Trotskyite Bolsheviks murdered millions in the name of reforming humanity through Scientific Empiricism; the Nazis did similar, in the name of pursuing ‘Scientific (Darwinian) Racism’. 

All these utopian projects, Gray asserts, represent visions of apocalyptic beliefs in an ‘End Time’, when the evils of the world would pass away in a world-shaking, massacre of the corrupt, and from which only the Elect would be spared. The Jacobins and the Trotskyites may have detested traditional religion, but their conviction that there can be a sudden break in history, after which the flaws of human society would be forever abolished – through human will and technology, rather than by act of God – essentially represents the inversion into secular form, of the Jewish apocalyptic tradition for which Jesus was a protagonist (believing that the world was destined for imminent destruction, so that a new, and perfect one, could come into being), Gray relates.

What has this to do with Syria?  Well, quite a lot: firstly, the parallel of Jacobite impulses of a terror unleashed against the then French ‘repressive state system’; and what is being threatened for Syria, against the ‘tyrant Assad’, are plain enough. 

But also, the contemporary western meta-narrative of a world converging on a single type of government and economic system – universal democracy and liberal market ‘prosperity for all’ – An ‘End to History’ is nothing other, Gray argues, than the most recent version of the Jewish apocalyptic tradition as implanted into Christianity (and influenced by later Manicheanism). In other words, the secular military ‘regime change’ projects of modern times are no more than a mutant version of the violence that was justified originally, by apocalyptic visions of ‘End Time’ – but which now, are justified by the utopian vision of an ‘End to History’ lying with America’s universal project of a humanity converging on a coda of values embedded in an American-led, global ‘order’.

And the nature of our crisis?  Just as the world did not End – nor Redemption occur – for the early Christians, so too History did not End – nor is Utopia arriving – as has been expected by America’s élites.  And now, it is for the latter to manage the crisis of our disillusion. (Historically, the failure of God’s will was attributed to it being resisted by the power of evil, which was personified as Satan – and see here, for an example of Satan’s modern personification as Putin, being distributed widely in British schools).

How else to explain why Lord West in his BBC interview provides an entirely coherent accounting of why President Assad might not be responsible for any chemical attack in Douma, but nonetheless feels obliged to demonise Assad and Russia: President Assad is “nasty, unpleasant, loathsome, horrible” – and the Russians “lie as a matter of policy”. He did not explicitly say it, but the implication was that deceit and lying is in the nature of the Russian, as loathsomeness is in the nature of Assad.

In short, Assad and Russia stand for today’s secular utopianists as the mythical ‘Satanic’ that apocalyptic End Time is supposed to bring to its blood- soaked end.

Ismail Shamir has reported the (understandable) Russian bafflement at the unrelenting western hostility toward Russia:

Now, with the US Navy in place, with the support of England and France, the countdown to a confrontation has apparently started. The Russians are grimly preparing for the battle, whether a local one or the global one, and they expect it to begin any moment.

The road to this High Noon had led through the Scripal Affair, the diplomats’ expulsion and the Syrian battle for Eastern Ghouta, with an important side show provided by Israeli shenanigans.

The diplomats’ expulsion flabbergasted the Russians. For days they went around scratching their heads and looking for an answer: what do they want from us? What is the bottom line? Too many events that make little sense separately. Why did the US administration expel 60 Russian diplomats? Do they want to cut off diplomatic relations, or is it a first step to an attempt to remove Russia from the Security Council, or to cancel its veto rights? Does it mean the US has given up on diplomacy? 

(The answer “it’s war” didn’t come to their minds at that time) …

Let us hope and pray we shall survive the forthcoming cataclysm.

Friday 13 April didn’t lead to cataclysm (it easily might have, but for General Mattis). This is how things are now: a chance agglomeration of people and circumstance, may lead one way – or in another quite different, direction.  This is not to do with reason, but the differing natures of men, and their emotions.

The attack on Syria is not some ‘bump in the road’, easily passed, and after which, we may sigh, and slump back to business as usual.  The trauma generated by secular western utopianism (European Enlightenment) being in dissolution is not something to be passed through quite so easily.  ‘Otherness’ – other cultures – are coalescing and taking us to different outcomes, albeit still in their latency.  We should expect more ‘bumps in the road’.  We should expect surprise.  The next ‘bumps’ might well be more dangerous.  The West’s trauma of its dissolution will not be short or without its violence, particularly as the shock of finding that ‘technology’ is not somehow inherent to western culture, but that the ‘other’ can do it as well, or even better, strikes at the very core of the western ‘myth’ of its own exceptionalism.

Guardian’s Owen Jones accuses mainstream media of ‘groupthink’, ‘intolerance’ and elitism – By RT

Guardian’s Owen Jones accuses mainstream media of ‘groupthink’, ‘intolerance’ and elitism
Guardian columnist Owen Jones has fired an opinion-rocket right into the midst of his own kind – journalists. His claim that the mainstream media is an invite-only club run by public school pals has not gone down well.

It began when the author and columnist tweeted some of the lessons he’s learned working in the British media. Labeling the profession a “cult” in the UK, Jones goes on to say the mainstream media (MSM) is “afflicted by a suffocating groupthink, intolerant of critics, hounds internal dissenters, full of people who made it because of connections and/or personal background rather than merit.”

Hurling such accusations against the British media did not solicit a positive reaction from the club’s members. Jones himself described the onslaught that followed against him as an “inferno” of fury… which in turn, sparked an article detailing exactly what is wrong with the UK press.

Journalists from publications across London (where most mainstream outlets are based) were outraged by the comments. There were anecdotes given to disprove Jones – with one reporter even quipping that “no one tells me what to think.”

Jones goes on to describe what’s known as the ‘huddle’ – to put it simply, that’s when reporters get together after Prime Minister’s Questions (or other media events frequented by lobby journalists) to decide what to say or write about. “[L]obby journalists will often stand together and/or walk back to the press lobby together and agree on ‘what just happened,’ if you like,” Jones writes.

Other ways the huddle – or “groupthink,” as he calls it – manifests in the media is through peer pressure. Jones included a comment from right-wing blogger Paul Staines in explanation: “there is for example peer pressure on new hacks to not rock the boat,” even if that pressure is applied by an “exasperated collective groan [from other reporters] if someone asks a dissonant question.”

Staines’ comments end by adding that it is “not a conspiracy, just peer pressure.”
Times columnist David Aaronovitch‏, ex-BuzzFeed writer James Ball, Financial Times editorial director Robert Shrimsley‏, and freelance journalist Robin Whitlock were some of many to swipe back at Jones. ITV news royal editor Chris Ship simply tweeted back his educational history, as the virtue signaling and defensiveness told their own story.

PoliticsHome editor Kevin Schofield followed suit. “I grew up in a working class household, went to state schools, worked my arse off on local papers for years and finally made it to Fleet St,” he tweeted, nose thoroughly out of joint.

It turns out Jones was referring to the media elite of the national titles and broadcasters; and not the “army of poorly paid and insecure freelancers or local reporters who are deeply undervalued,” as he describes them.

To go with the truth bomb he lobbed into the center of the media scrum, Jones dug up one or two supporting statistics – and it turns out that many in the media had a very privileged start to life.

“Just 7% of the British population are privately educated. But according to the Sutton Trust in 2016, 51% of Britain’s top journalists are privately educated,” Jones writes. Poverty Commission in 2014, 43% of newspaper columnists are privately educated; just 23% went to comprehensives. Two thirds of new entrants to journalism came from managerial and professional backgrounds: more than twice the level of the rest of the population.

“According to another government study, journalists are second only to doctors when it comes to the dominance of those from professional or managerial parental backgrounds. In other words: journalism is one of the most socially exclusive professions in Britain.”

That hasn’t stopped journalists and writers from coming out of the woodwork to slam Jones – or, at least, to enjoy others doing so.

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