TBR News October 8, 2015

Oct 08 2015

The Voice of the White House


Washington, D.C. October 7, 2015: “ Any expert on propaganda must be screaming with laughter over the American (and British) press bellowings about the Russian attacks on Syrian rebels. The press howls about “dead civilians” but when we blow up a hospital, it automatically becomes a “terrorist headquarters.” The US air strikes kill many civilians but our dead civilians are “terrorist gangs” and the Russian-caused casualties are “innocent women and children.” Israel does not  like Assad because he was permitting the Russians to send weapons to Hezbollah via Syria and dragged the US into their war as their proxy poodle. When the evil Saudis, for purely religious reasons, started ISIS, the US helped train and equip them. Now that ISIS has proven to be a mob of murderous, fanatic thugs, we turn a blind eye and when the Russians blast the CIA-run anti-Assad people, the press of both England and American scream with horror. I have had knowledge of a number of intelligence agencies in my career and I have found the American ones to be the most ill-educated and stupid of the lot, The CIA started the recent rebellions in Kiev and what did it get them? An einkreisung of resource-rich Russia?  No, it lost the US the Crimea with its wonderful naval base the US Navy fully expected to take over and, most important, the rich off-shore Crimean oil deposits.  Washington had already apportioned out parts of these fields to friendly, and politically contributing, international oil companies and the rage when these were booted out by the Russians was marvelous to behold. Wherever there are rich oil and gas deposits, there we find the US ever eager to bring liberty, peace and freedom to an oppressed peoples. When our military and CIA gets finished with the sitting governments in these countries, and hangs their leaders, the business communities move in, rubbing their hands. I note that US troops will remain in Afghanistan. “To maintain domestic stability in a newly-liberated country” but in fact, to protect the opium fields there that the CIA makes so much money exploiting. Bob Crowley,  A Deputy Director of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations, told me all about how much money his CIA friends made smuggling raw opium to Columbia to be refined into heroin. ‘Peace and freedom?’ If you believe this, say hello to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.”

US Media World: “Wag the dog” is not a movie, it’s reality

October 4, 2015

by Derek Monroe


On the morning of Oct 3, people in the western hemisphere awoke to news of the US bombing of a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which resulted in the death of 22 people including 12 staff of Medicine Sans Frontiers, a French NGO.

National Public Radio (NPR), America’s premiere radio organization, announced that the US military “may” have bombed the Afghan hospital and the resulting casualties “may” have resulted in collateral damage. This despite the fact that it had already been confirmed on the ground by foreign media. There was also the UN official’s declaration that if the attack was intentional it will be regarded as a war crime.

The careful recitation of Pentagon’s talking points signifies something bigger than it appears at first glance. Suddenly, reports of civilian casualties and confirmed “unconfirmed” reports of Russian airstrikes on US allied “Free Syrian Army” dominated the US airwaves. Strangely enough, missing are the reports coming out Syria and Turkey about the massive wave of dislocation caused by the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda, some of which were equipped courtesy of US taxpayers and facilitated by strategic choices made by the Pentagon.

According to the recent congressional hearings that were buried as quickly as they came out, the $500 million spent on the FSA are as missing as the army it was supposed to train. However, a few weeks back there was a very prescriptive narrative of unfolding events at Palmyra, Syria where the lamentations over the destruction of Roman ruins took precedent over its population and the carnage visited upon them. There was virtually no mention of the concentration of IS forces three days before the attack and the US-backed coalition’s premeditated refusal to bomb it.

Palmyra would have been saved, and the devastation that followed avoided. The striking contrast with Libya’s Benghazi air attack that stopped Gaddafi’s armor a few years earlier was not lost on people who followed the situation as it developed. It appears the West has already decided genocidal and ruthless IS a better alternative than the authoritarian and brutal Assad regime, which happened to be Russia’s ally. However, looking at the US media coverage one enters a world of parallel reality where the perception ruled by misinformation and contextual omission is everything.

Just as Putin listed his intention to fight IS, the storm of critical coverage erupted into blaming Russia for the current situation in Syria. This is the world where the Arab Spring, both Iraq wars, Libya, Afghanistan and even 9/11 never happened. As the mainstream commercial media pontificates on the meaning of the America’s loss of supremacy in the region, the US public, i.e. non-commercial media, including the NPR, went into analyzing the news to arrive at the forgone conclusion that one country’s anti-terrorist action is another one’s aggressive and civilian-casualties-filled intervention.

In this mold, the modus operandi is based on inviting guests from thought farms that include a wide variety of outfits from Brookings to the Orwellian-sounding Foundation for Defense of Democracies (ex-CIA director R. James Woolsey’s project). Add the amazing unity of thought to the mix of preconceived notions and you have a product worth selling. The NPR is especially good at this as the list of its invited guests come from institutions that almost all have at one point received or receive funding from Ford, Gates, Rockefeller foundations, as well as front and interest groups representing in many cases corporations that have business interests in the region.

Naturally, none of that is always disclosed to the listeners. Ironically, more often than not the “experts” are the very people who worked at the administrations of Bill Clinton, George H.W Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama and who in many cases rooted for Afghani and Iraqi adventurism from the beginning. Furthermore, it is even more ironic that these are the same “arbiters of truth” now as they were then. The supposed analysis based on new and improved “curveball” testimonies is next presented in form of a legal-like case before the jury of watchers/listeners as each side is supposed to present its own conclusions while not letting the facts get in a way of good story.

Last week, the NPR-affiliated and Boston-based WBUR’s On Point program featured two experts who more less agreed on Russian culpability in Syria without offering any tangible outcome beyond the tired rhetoric of “Assad must go and the situation will work itself out politically afterwards.” The idea of political settlement, i.e. negotiations with terrorists whose Islamofascist Caliphate precludes existence of civilized order, is not only absurd; it is a slap in the face to the American families who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks. It is also a cynical ploy to deflect any responsibility for genocidal carnage that would result in Assad’s fall as the zero-sum game scenario would undoubtedly unfold due to the wishes of our State Dept. planners and strategists.

When I called the On Point program several times in the past and presented my views contrary to their “expert” presentation, I was always put on long hold and subsequently disconnected. The next time around, however, I was able to call in and present my view under an alias, stating that contrary to the presented narrative the issue in Syria did not start with quelling of the demonstration in Daraa in 2011, as presented, but around 2005 when the US decided on policy for regime change. I quoted several WikiLeaks documents to prove the point. The producer who took the call instructed me to leave out this info as not to challenge the guests and instead pose a question that can be answered within a framework of the program. I went ahead and quoted the documents anyway and as it happens the response was nonsense.

The style of non-confrontation, while keeping the integrity of the presented narrative, is a hallmark of NPR as in the end the brand is more important than the substance it is made of. Ironically, despite many challenges in spinning and manipulating the facts, the methodology of inviting people who discredited themselves in the past (Iraq, Afghanistan, WMDs) and were wrong then and now is alive and well. It is grotesque to the point of being unbelievable.

On Sept 28, WBUR’s “Here and Now” host Robyn Young in outrage and disbelief over Russia’s establishment of an intelligence office in Baghdad. She reacted by announcing on the air that this should not have happened as: “I thought Iraq was ours…” The segment has since been removed and replaced with a different interview, making it sound like something from the Soviet Union’s playbook. And overall this is the organization that asks its listening public for contributions.

According to the last available report by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (F.A.I.R) from 2004, over 80 percent of NPR reporting staff came from news companies such as New York Times, Washington Post and Wall St Journal. This cultural characteristic is reflected in a very narrow expertise based on previous conditioning and it ushered the new era of generalist “excellence”. That means a skill set that is good enough at everything and excellent at nothing. The cultural and organizational bias that was transplanted with migration of the corporate mindset is now permeating the NPR as it has been assimilated into prevailing Washingtonian elitist worldview on economy, society and politics.

Thus listening to the stuff produced by NPR in the Beltway, New York and Boston produces a sensation of complete disconnect to what Americans are feeling and expect in their news, resulting into migration to the internet based platforms. Increasingly they want the unvarnished truth. Instead the revolving door of NPR CEOs that hailed from corporate sector, New York Times, Voice of America (government funded propaganda) and the latest in commercial television is indicative of NPR’s split personality and reduction of its abilities and capabilities to a mere propaganda tool.

The business of propaganda masquerading as news is lucrative, especially when one doing it is on the inside track. According to the last IRS fiscal year disclosure (ending 9/30/2014), NPR’s CEO makes more than the US president with overall compensation listed at $756,575. Other “stars” of the NPR universe are also well paid, including its flagship morning program’s Steve Inskeep at $405,818, Michelle Norris at $349,177, Robert Siegel at $409,689 and Scott Simon, who is able to pull a cool $389,609. All are working the 40-hour week as listed on the IRS disclosure form to which most of contributing listeners can relate to although on quite a different pay scale, to say the least.

The money has been a honey trail of the NPR game since its visibly less well-off listening public is regularly harassed by its affiliated stations for money. In Chicago, begging for money is getting increasingly aggressive and grotesque making, it sound like some type of on the air BINGO game punctuated with pledges and featuring prizes big and small. This forced begging and humiliation of the presenters and reporters “pitching-in” to this sorry spectacle of desperation is truly sad. It resembles a relationship between McDonalds and its franchisees while the dollar menu of ideas is being constantly updated for a higher price bracket that will be picked up by corporate donors. Slogans such as $5 Friday bring carnival idiot-like qualities to the game called listener and increasingly corporate supported radio which is probably not surprising given NPR’s largest donation given by the fortune created by the Happy Meal.

The self-sustained propaganda machine of pyramid proportions has its up and downs as it was caught with its pants down last year in yet another scandal. This raises more than just the question of transparency, but NPR’s real purpose. Why is the web of influencers and influenced not disclosed? Why doesn’t it mention personal relationships of its staff with the establishment it is supposed to cover and not serve?

During the Iraq invasion, for example, its chief reporter in Baghdad was Anne Garrels, who also happened to be a spouse of a CIA operative. In 2007, the NPR came under criticism after Garrels used information that was obtained by torture for her story. During the interview with her interpreter/translator, it was even stated that the Iraqi authorities suspected her to work for the CIA.

However, the most blatant conflict of interest that is tolerated comes in shape of NPR analyst Cokie Roberts. In the 1980s, she covered Guatemala during a period of widespread human rights violations by the US-supported military junta. During an interview with Diana Ortiz, a nun who worked with the poor and was subsequently kidnapped, raped and tortured, Roberts contested the nun’s version of events that took place. Ortiz alleged that an American was among her tormentors and later her version of events prevailed in court in a lawsuit against a Guatemalan general she held responsible for her treatment.

Roberts also came out strongly in favor of the Trans Pacific Partnership, despite the fact that it will hurt many working families in the US. It was later revealed that Patton Boggs, Washington DC based lobbying and law firm run by her brother Tom Boggs, was hired by the Guatemalan government to promote a positive image of the country. Ditto with the TPP, as Patton Boggs was one of the chief lobbying groups pushing for it. Ms Roberts goes on producing her 4-minute weekly segments for the NPR to this day as if nothing ever happened.

The bias in the NPR “reporting” goes beyond dollars and cents as it is infused with ideology as well. In 2012 in the wake of destruction by Hurricane Sandy, the NPR programming featured a “common sense” solution to the shortages of commodities such as gasoline that affected the stricken public. “Make gas $25 a gallon and the lines will automatically disappear” was the ex-cathedra view of its invited economic “experts” whose views resonate with increasingly elitist top NPR echelon.

At the same time radio stations that broadcast the mind numbing pseudo-science as often referred to on NPR’s “Hidden Brain” segment, are increasingly employing unpaid interns for its everyday tasks. As only the rich can afford to be an unpaid intern in New York, Boston or Washington, the culture of elitism lives on and decides what is good for the unwashed listening masses.

On the economic front the NPR’s corporate donor class also has influence on how the issues are covered when it comes to corporate scandals as well. The daily unrelenting push to make Volkswagen a daily pinata pales in comparison with coverage of economic issues that deserve not only a balanced and proportional coverage but basic fairness.

It is amazing that VW gets a bazooka treatment in both time and scope of reporting while the fraud perpetrated by GM – one of the NPR’s biggest donors – in its ignition switch-gate was given very shy coverage regardless of the fact that it cost 124 lives. At the same time, the happy team at NPR’s own “Planet Money” keeps on rolling in a framework of peddling corporate messaging to idiots, while its own questionable past and record doesn’t seem to present any challenges going forward or even backward.

Nothing represents history of manipulation of the US media better than a quote from great American journalist A.J. Liebling stating that: “freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

Americans are increasingly looking for answers and explanations outside of the North American mainstream media mirage that has only served itself to their detriment. As for National Propaganda Radio, as many have derisively come to call the NPR, it needs to look to no further than Norway in 2017 as it ends the FM broadcasting.

Silence is better than the lies.

NPR in Washington declined a request for an interview regarding its programming.

WBUR in Boston did not return repeated requests for an interview about its programming.

The Radically Changing Story of the U.S. Airstrike on Afghan Hospital: From Mistake to Justification

October 5, 2015,

by Glenn Greenwald

The Intercept

When news first broke of the U.S. airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, the response from the U.S. military was predictable and familiar. It was all just a big, terrible mistake, its official statement suggested: an airstrike it carried out in Kunduz “may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.” Oops: our bad. Fog of war, errant bombs, and all that.

This obfuscation tactic is the standard one the U.S. and Israel both use whenever they blow up civilian structures and slaughter large numbers of innocent people with airstrikes. Citizens of both countries are well-trained – like some tough, war-weary, cigar-chomping general – to reflexively spout the phrase “collateral damage,” which lets them forget about the whole thing and sleep soundly, telling themselves that these sorts of innocent little mistakes are inevitable even among the noblest and most well-intentioned war-fighters, such as their own governments. The phrase itself is beautifully technocratic: it requires no awareness of how many lives get extinguished, let alone acceptance of culpability. Just invoke that phrase and throw enough doubt on what happened in the first 48 hours and the media will quickly lose interest.

But there’s something significantly different about this incident that has caused this “mistake” claim to fail. Usually, the only voices protesting or challenging the claims of the U.S. military are the foreign, non-western victims who live in the cities and villages where the bombs fall. Those are easily ignored, or dismissed as either ignorant or dishonest. Those voices barely find their way into U.S. news stories, and when they do, they are stream-rolled by the official and/or anonymous claims of the U.S. military, which are typically treated by U.S. media outlets as unassailable authority.

In this case, though, the U.S. military bombed the hospital of an organization – Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)) – run by western-based physicians and other medical care professionals. They are not so easily ignored. Doctors who travel to dangerous war zones to treat injured human beings are regarded as noble and trustworthy. They’re difficult to marginalize and demonize. They give compelling, articulate interviews in English to U.S. media outlets. They are heard, and listened to.

MSF has used this platform, unapologetically and aggressively. They are clearly infuriated at the attack on their hospital and the deaths of their colleagues and patients. From the start, they have signaled an unwillingness to be shunted away with the usual “collateral damage” banalities and, more important, have refused to let the U.S. military and its allies get away with spouting obvious falsehoods. They want real answers. As the Guardian‘s Spencer Ackerman put it last night: “MSF’s been going incredibly hard, challenging every US/Afgh claim made about hospital bombing.”

In particular, MSF quickly publicized numerous facts that cast serious doubt on the original U.S. claim that the strike on the hospital was just an accident. To begin with, the organization had repeatedly advised the U.S. military of the exact GPS coordinates of the hospital. They did so most recently on September 29, just five days before the strike. Beyond that, MSF personnel at the facility “frantically” called U.S. military officials during the strike to advise them that the hospital was being hit and to plead with them to stop, but the strikes continued in a “sustained” manner for 30 more minutes. Finally, MSF yesterday said this:

The hospital was repeatedly & precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched #Kunduz

— MSF International (@MSF) October 4, 2015

All of these facts make it extremely difficult – even for U.S. media outlets – to sell the “accident” story. At least as likely is that the hospital was deliberately targeted, chosen either by Afghan military officials who fed the coordinates to their U.S. military allies and/or by the U.S. military itself.

Even cynical critics of the U.S. have a hard time believing that the U.S. military would deliberately target a hospital with an airstrike (despite how many times the U.S. has destroyed hospitals with airstrikes). But in this case, there is long-standing tension between the Afghan military and this specific MSF hospital, grounded in the fact that the MSF – true to its name – treats all wounded human beings without first determining on which side they fight. That they provide medical treatment to wounded civilians and Taliban fighters alike has made them a target before.

In July – just 3 months ago – Reuters reported that Afghan special forces “raided” this exact MSF hospital in Kunduz, claiming an Al Qaeda member was a patient. This raid infuriated MSF staff:

The French aid group said its hospital was temporarily closed to new patients after armed soldiers had entered and behaved violently towards staff.

“This incident demonstrates a serious lack of respect for the medical mission, which is safeguarded under international humanitarian law,” MSF said in a statement.

A staff member who works for the aid group said, “The foreign doctors tried to stop the Afghan Special Operations guys, but they went in anyway, searching the hospital.”

The U.S. had previously targeted a hospital in a similar manner: “In 2009, a Swedish aid group accused U.S. forces of violating humanitarian principles by raiding a hospital in Wardak province, west of Kabul.”

News accounts of this weekend’s U.S. airstrike on that same hospital hinted cryptically at the hostility from the Afghan military. The first NYT story on the strike – while obscuring who carried out the strike – noted deep into the article that “the hospital treated the wounded from all sides of the conflict, a policy that has long irked Afghan security forces.” Al Jazeera similarly alluded to this tension, noting that “a caretaker at the hospital, who was severely injured in the air strike, told Al Jazeera that clinic’s medical staff did not favour any side of the conflict. ‘We are here to help and treat civilians,’ Abdul Manar said.”

As a result of all of this, there is now a radical shift in the story being told about this strike. No longer is it being depicted as some terrible accident of a wayward bomb. Instead, the predominant narrative from U.S. sources and their Afghan allies is that this attack was justified because the Taliban were using it as a “base.”

Fox News yesterday cited anonymous “defense officials” that while they “‘regret the loss’ of innocent life, they say the incident could have been avoided if the Taliban had not used the hospital as a base, and the civilians there as human shields.” In its first article on the attack, The Washington Post also previewed this defense, quoting a “spokesman for the Afghan army’s 209th Corps in northern Afghanistan” as saying that “Taliban fighters are now hiding in ‘people’s houses, mosques and hospitals using civilians as human shields.’” AP yesterday actually claimed that it looked at a video and saw weaponry in the hospital’s windows, only to delete that claim with this correction:

The New York Times today – in a story ostensibly about the impact on area residents from the hospital’s destruction – printed paragraphs from anonymous officials justifying this strike: “there was heavy gunfire in the area around the hospital at the time of the airstrike, and that initial reports indicated that the Americans and Afghans on the ground near the hospital could not safely pull back without being dangerously exposed. American forces on the ground then called for air support, senior officials said.” It also claimed that “many residents of Kunduz, as well as people in Kabul, seemed willing to believe the accusations of some Afghan officials that there were Taliban fighters in the hospital shooting at American troops.” And this:

Still, some Afghan officials continued to suggest that the attack was justified. “I know that there were civilian casualties in the hospital, but a lot of senior Taliban were also killed,” said Abdul Wadud Paiman, a member of Parliament from Kunduz.

So now we’re into full-on justification mode: yes, we did it; yes, we did it on purpose; and we’re not sorry because we were right to do so since we think some Taliban fighters were at the hospital, perhaps even shooting at us. In response to the emergence of this justification claim, MSF expressed the exact level of revulsion appropriate (emphasis added):

“MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack on its hospital in Kunduz. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.

“This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimize the attack as ‘collateral damage.’

There can be no justification for this abhorrent attack on our hospital that resulted in the deaths of MSF staff as they worked and patients as they lay in their beds. MSF reiterates its demand for a full transparent and independent international investigation.”

From the start, MSF made clear that none of its staff at the hospital heard or saw Taliban fighters engaging U.S. or Afghan forces:

To be clear; not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside #Kunduz hospital compound prior to US airstrikes Saturday morning

— MSF International (@MSF) October 4, 2015

But even if there were, only the most savage barbarians would decide that it’s justified to raze a hospital filled with doctors, nurses and patients to the ground. Yet mounting evidence suggests that this is exactly what the U.S. military did – either because it chose to do so or because its Afghan allies fed them the coordinates of this hospital which they have long disliked. As a result, we now have U.S. and Afghan officials expressly justifying the consummate war crime: deliberately attacking a hospital filled with doctors, nurses and wounded patients. And whatever else is true, the story of what happened here has been changing rapidly as facts emerge proving the initial claims to be false.

* * * * *

Just as this article was being published, NBC News published a report making clear that even the latest claims from the U.S. and Afghan governments are now falling apart. The Pentagon’s top four-star commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Campbell, now claims that “local Afghans forces asked for air support and U.S. forces were not under direct fire just prior to the U.S. bombardment” of the hospital. As NBC notes, this directly contradicts prior claims: “The Pentagon had previously said U.S. troops were under direct fire.”

See also from today: CNN and the NYT Are Deliberately Obscuring Who Perpetrated the Afghan Hospital Attack

UPDATE: Responding to the above-referenced admission, MSF has issued this statement:

“Today the US government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff. Their description of the attack keeps changing—from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government. The reality is the US dropped those bombs. The US hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the US and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical.”

The U.S. seems to have picked the wrong group this time to attack from the air.

Doctors Without Borders airstrike: US alters story for fourth time in four days

Commander of war in Afghanistan tells Senate panel that US forces had called in airstrike at Afghan request – ‘an admission of a war crime’ says MSF chief

October 6, 2015

by Spencer Ackerman in New York

The Guardian

US special operations forces – not their Afghan allies – called in the deadly airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, the US commander has conceded.

Shortly before General John Campbell, the commander of the US and Nato war in Afghanistan, testified to a Senate panel, the president of Doctors Without Borders – also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – said the US and Afghanistan had made an “admission of a war crime”.

Shifting the US account of the Saturday morning airstrike for the fourth time in as many days, Campbell reiterated that Afghan forces had requested US air cover after being engaged in a “tenacious fight” to retake the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban. But, modifying the account he gave at a press conference on Monday, Campbell said those Afghan forces had not directly communicated with the US pilots of an AC-130 gunship overhead.

Even though the Afghans request that support, it still has to go through a rigorous US procedure to enable fires to go on the ground. We had a special operations unit that was in close vicinity that was talking to the aircraft that delivered those fires,” Campbell told the Senate armed services committee on Tuesday morning.

Afghanistan war that Barack Obama has declared all but over. It killed 12 MSF staff and 10 patients, who had sought medical treatment after the Taliban overran Kunduz last weekend. Three children died in the airstrike that came in multiple waves and burned patients alive in their beds.

On Tuesday, MSF denounced Campbell’s press conference as an attempt to shift blame to the Afghans.

The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition,” said its director general, Christopher Stokes.

Campbell did not explain whether the procedures to launch the airstrike took into account the GPS coordinates of the MSF field hospital, which its president, Joanne Liu, said were “regularly shared” with US, coalition and Afghan military officers and civilian officials, “as recently as Tuesday 29 September”.

AC-130 gunships, which fly low, typically rely on a pilot visually identifying a target.

It is also unclear where the US special operations forces were relative to the fighting, but Campbell has said that US units were “not directly engaged in the fighting”.

Campbell instead said the hospital was “mistakenly struck” by US forces.

We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility,” Campbell told US lawmakers, declaring that he wanted an investigation by his command to “take its course” instead of providing further detail.

Campbell suggested but did not say that the Afghans were taking fire from the Taliban from within the hospital grounds, a claim the Afghan government has explicitly made. MSF unequivocally denies that the hospital was a source of fire. It has also noted the precision of a strike that hit only the main hospital building and not its adjuncts.

Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame, said that according to international humanitarian law, the critical question for determining if US forces committed a war crime was whether they had notified the hospital ahead of the strike if they understood the Taliban to be firing from the hospital.

Any serious violation of the law of armed conflict, such as attacking a hospital that is immune from intentional attack, is a war crime. Hospitals are immune from attack during an armed conflict unless being used by one party to harm the other and then only after a warning that it will be attacked,” O’Connell said.

The US account has now shifted four times in four days. On Saturday, the US military said it did not know for certain that it had struck the hospital but that US forces were taking fire in Kunduz.

On Sunday, it said that the strike took place in the “vicinity” of the hospital and suggested it had been accidentally struck. On Monday, Campbell said that the Afghans requested the strike and said US forces in the area were not “threatened”.

On Tuesday, he clarified that US forces called in the airstrike themselves at Afghan request.

Doctors Without Borders has demanded an independent inquiry, rejecting the three current investigations – by the US, Nato and the Afghans – as compromised by their partiality.

This attack cannot be brushed aside as a mere mistake or an inevitable consequence of war. Statements from the Afghanistan government have claimed that Taliban forces were using the hospital to fire on coalition forces. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital, which amounts to an admission of a war crime,” Liu said on Tuesday.

In the past, the US has upbraided both allies and adversaries over the indiscriminate use of aerial strikes.

On Thursday, defense secretary Ashton Carter said Russia was pouring “gasoline on the fire” of the Syrian civil war after it launched a campaign of airstrikes against opponents of Moscow’s ally Bashar al-Assad.

A day later, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said the White House was “deeply concerned” that its Saudi ally in the Yemen conflict had bombed a wedding party, something the US itself did in Yemen in 2013.

When Israel shelled a UN school in Gaza housing thousands of displaced Palestinians in August 2014, a State Department spokesman said the US was “appalled” by the “disgraceful” attack.

Addressing Tuesday’s committee hearing, Campbell confirmed that he has recommended to Obama that the US retain thousands of troops in Afghanistan beyond Obama’s presidency – reversing a plan to reduce the force to one focused on protecting the US embassy in Kabul.

He argued for “strategic patience” in the longest war in US history, which has now stretched five years longer than the failed Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Blessed Prozac Moments!

Christian group predicts the world will be ‘annihilated’ on Wednesday

Over a week after blood moon doomsday forecasts were proven wrong, eBible Fellowship leader Chris McCann says ‘the world will pass away’ on 7 October

October 6, 2015

by Adam Gabbatt

The Guardian

While our planet may have survived September’s “blood moon”, it will be permanently destroyed on Wednesday, 7 October, a Christian organization has warned.

The eBible Fellowship, an online affiliation headquartered near Philadelphia, has based its prediction of an October obliteration on a previous claim that the world would end on 21 May 2011. While that claim proved to be false, the organization is confident it has the correct date this time.

According to what the Bible is presenting it does appear that 7 October will be the day that God has spoken of: in which, the world will pass away,” said Chris McCann, the leader and founder of the fellowship, an online gathering of Christians headquartered in Philadelphia.

It’ll be gone forever. Annihilated.”

McCann said that, according to his interpretation of the Bible, the world will be obliterated “with fire”.

The blood moon – a lunar eclipse combined with a “super moon” – occurred without event on 27 September. This was despite some predictions that it would herald the beginning of the apocalypse. Certain religious leaders had said the blood moon would trigger a chain of events that could see our planet destroyed in as little as seven years time.

According to this new prediction, however, there will be no stay of execution. On the day of 7 October, the world will end.

God destroyed the first earth with water, by a flood, in the days of Noah. And he says he’ll not do that again, not by water. But he does say in 2nd Peter 3 that he’ll destroy it by fire,” McCann said.

The expectation of the world ending this fall stems from an earlier prediction by Harold Camping, a Christian radio host who was based in California. In 2011 Camping used his radio station, Family Radio, to notify people that the world would end on 21 May of that year. When that turned out to be incorrect, Camping revised his prediction to October 2011. That also turned out to be incorrect, and Camping retired from public life soon after. He died in 2013, at age 93.

McCann believes that Camping’s 21 May 2011 prediction did have some truth, however. That day was declared to be “judgment day” because it was actually the day God stopped the process of selecting which churchgoers will survive Wednesday’s massacre, McCann said.

Following 21 May 2011, God turned his attention to deciding which non-churchgoers to save, according to McCann. The eBible Fellowship believes that God said he would devote 1,600 days to this task – bringing us to 7 October 2015.

There’s a strong likelihood that this will happen,” McCann said, although he did leave some room for error: “Which means there’s an unlikely possibility that it will not.”

The eBible Fellowship, which McCann was at pains to point out is not a church, is a predominantly online organization. The group does hold meetings once a month, however.

Scientists have several theories about when earth will be destroyed, although none of the data points to this Wednesday. The most widely accepted theory is that the sun, which is already gradually increasing in temperature, will expand and swallow up the planet. Some scientists believe this could happen as soon as 7.6bn years time.

Whether the planet is destroyed next week or several thousand million years in the future, McCann’s plans for the coming week will remain the same. He and his wife, a fellow believer in Wednesday’s end date, had three birthdays in the family before then, which they planned to celebrate.

Europe-U.S. data transfer deal used by thousands of firms is ruled invalid

October 6, 2015

by Julia Fioretti and Michele Sinner


BRUSSELS/LUXEMBOURG | A deal that allows thousands of companies to transfer data from Europe to the United States is invalid, the highest EU court said on Tuesday in a landmark ruling that follows revelations of mass U.S. government snooping.

Many companies, particularly tech firms, have said the Safe Harbour agreement helps them get round cumbersome checks to transfer data between offices on both sides of the Atlantic, including payroll and human resources information and also lucrative data used for online advertising.

But the decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) could sound the death knell for the system, set up by the European Commission 15 year ago and used by over 4,000 firms including IBM (IBM.N), Google (GOOGL.O) and Ericsson (ERICb.ST).

The court said Safe Harbour did not sufficiently protect EU citizens’ personal data as American companies were “bound to disregard, without limitation” the privacy safeguards where they come into conflict with the national security, public interest and law enforcement requirements of the United States.

“The Court of Justice declares that the Commission’s U.S. Safe Harbour decision is invalid,” the court said.

The ruling follows revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about the Prism program that allowed U.S. authorities to harvest private information directly from big tech companies such as Apple (AAPL.O), Facebook (FB.O) and Google.

The Commission will give a press conference at 1500 CET (9:00 a.m. EDT) in response to the ruling, but it was unclear if the decision would prompt national data protection authorities to suspend personal data transfers to the United States.

“The EU’s highest court has pulled the rug under the feet of thousands of companies that have been relying on Safe Harbour,” said Monika Kuschewsky, special counsel at law firm Covington. “All these companies are now forced to find an alternative mechanism for their data transfers to the U.S.”

Without Safe Harbour, multinationals could be forced to draw up contracts establishing privacy protections between groups or seek approval from data protection authorities for information transfers to countries the EU deems to have lower privacy standards, including the United States.


The court case stemmed from a complaint by Austrian law student Max Schrems, who challenged Facebook’s transfers of European users’ data to its American servers because of the risk of U.S. snooping.

The Commission separately demanded a review of Safe Harbour to ensure that U.S. authorities’ access to Europeans’ data would be proportionate and limited to what is absolutely necessary.

Washington and Brussels have been in talks for two years to try to come up with a revamped data transfer system that could allay Europe’s privacy concerns, and Tuesday’s judgment heaps pressure on the Commission to come up with a solution.

“The ruling creates uncertainty for the European and international companies that rely on Safe Harbour for their commercial data transfers, most of which are small and medium-sized enterprises,” said Christian Borggreen, director at the Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Google, Facebook and Amazon (AMZN.O).

Schrems filed his complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, as Facebook has its European headquarters in Ireland. The case eventually wound its way up to the Luxembourg-based ECJ, which was asked to rule on whether national data privacy watchdogs could unilaterally suspend the Safe Harbour framework if they had concerns about U.S. privacy safeguards.

“The judgment makes it clear that U.S. businesses cannot simply aid U.S. espionage efforts in violation of European fundamental rights,” said 27-year-old Schrems.

The Irish commissioner said her office would immediately engage with colleagues in other national authorities across Europe to determine how the judgment could be implemented.

(Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin; Editing by Barbara Lewis and Pravin Char)

Accidental Turkish airspace incursion ‘used to involve NATO in info war against Russia over Syria’

October 6, 2015


The incident with the Russian jet, which accidentally violated Turkey’s airspace, has been used to include NATO in the media war against Moscow’s anti-terror op in Syria, said Aleksandr Grushko, Russia’s envoy to the Western military alliance.

“The impression is that the incident in Turkish airspace was used in order to include NATO as an organization into the information campaign unleashed in the West, which perverts and distorts the purposes of the operation conducted by the Russian air forces in Syria,” Grushko said.

According to Grushko, NATO has ignored clarifications from Russia about the plane incident. All attempts to explain the reasons behind the incident fell on deaf ears, however, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg describing the situation as “unacceptable violations of Turkish airspace.”

“Similar incidents are clarified through bilateral or military channels,” Grushko said. “This is common practice.”

The fact that clarifications from the Russian side have been ignored just gives away the true intentions of the initiators of the [NATO] Council meeting.”

On Monday, Russia admitted making a mistake after its warplane violated Turkey’s airspace. The Russian Defense Ministry has explained that bad weather caused the incident.

Ankara has accepted the explanation, saying there is no ill feeling between the two countries. NATO has slammed Moscow for what it deemed “irresponsible behavior,” however.

The incident, which took place on Saturday, saw Turkey scramble two F-16 jets after a Russian military aircraft crossed into Turkish airspace near the Syrian border.

Ankara also claimed that a MiG-29 fighter jet, which is used by both Russia and Syria, harassed two of its F-16s on Sunday by locking radar on to them as they patrolled the Turkish-Syrian border.

The NATO chief refused to confirm the report.

“Whether the Russian planes locked their fire control radars onto the Turkish planes is something I cannot comment on,” Stoltenberg told reporters

A Short History of U.S. Bombing of Civilian Facilities

October 7, 2015

by Jon Schwarz

The Intercept

On October 3, a U.S. AC-130 gunship attacked a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Kunduz, Afghanistan, partially destroying it. Twelve staff members and 10 patients, including three children, were killed, and 37 people were injured. According to MSF, the U.S. had previously been informed of the hospital’s precise location, and the attack continued for 30 minutes after staff members desperately called the U.S. military.

The U.S. first claimed the hospital had been “collateral damage” in an airstrike aimed at “individuals” elsewhere who were “threatening the force.” Since then, various vague and contradictory explanations have been offered by the U.S. and Afghan governments, both of which promise to investigate the bombing. MSF has called the attack a war crime and demanded an independent investigation by a commission set up under the Geneva Conventions.

While the international outcry has been significant, history suggests this is less because of what happened and more because of whom it happened to. The U.S. has repeatedly attacked civilian facilities in the past but the targets have generally not been affiliated with a European, Nobel Peace Prize-winning humanitarian organization such as MSF.

Below is a sampling of such incidents since the 1991 Gulf War. If you believe some significant examples are missing, please send them our way. To be clear, we’re looking for U.S. attacks on specifically civilian facilities, such as hospitals or schools.

Infant Formula Production Plant, Abu Ghraib, Iraq (January 21, 1991)

On the seventh day of Operation Desert Storm, aimed at evicting Iraq military forces from Kuwait, the U.S.-led coalition bombed the Infant Formula Production Plant in the Abu Ghraib suburb of Baghdad. Iraq declared that the factory was exactly what its name said, but the administration of President George H.W. Bush claimed it was “a production facility for biological weapons.” Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chimed in to say, “It is not an infant formula factory. It was a biological weapons facility — of that we are sure.” The U.S. media chortled about Iraq’s clumsy, transparent propaganda, and CNN’s Peter Arnett was attacked by U.S. politicians for touring the damaged factory and reporting that “whatever else it did, it did produce infant formula.”

Iraq was telling the truth. When Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, defected to Jordan in 1995, he had every incentive to undermine Saddam, since he hoped the U.S. would help install him as his father-in-law’s successor — but he told CNN “there is nothing military about that place. … It only produced baby milk.” The CIA’s own investigation later concluded the site had been bombed “in the mistaken belief that it was a key BW [Biological Weapon] facility.” The original U.S. claims have nevertheless proven impossible to stamp out. The George W. Bush administration, making the case for invading Iraq in 2003, portrayed the factory as a symbol of Iraqi deceit. When the Newseum opened in 2008, it included Arnett’s 1991 reporting in a section devoted to — in the New York Times’ description — “examples of distortions that mar the profession.”

Air Raid Shelter, Amiriyah, Iraq (February 13, 1991)

The U.S. purposefully targeted an air raid shelter near the Baghdad airport with two 2,000-pound laser-guided bombs, which punched through 10 feet of concrete and killed at least 408 Iraqi civilians. A BBC journalist reported that “we saw the charred and mutilated remains. … They were piled onto the back of a truck; many were barely recognizable as human.” Meanwhile, Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Kelly of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said: “We are chagrined if [civilian] people were hurt, but the only information we have about people being hurt is coming out of the controlled press in Baghdad.” Another U.S. general claimed the shelter was “an active command-and-control structure,” while anonymous officials said military trucks and limousines for Iraq’s senior leadership had been seen at the building.

In his 1995 CNN interview, Hussein Kamel said, “There was no leadership there. There was a transmission apparatus for the Iraqi intelligence, but the allies had the ability to monitor that apparatus and knew that it was not important.” The Iraqi blogger Riverbend later wrote that several years after the attack, she went to the shelter and met a “small, slight woman” who now lived in the shelter and gave visitors unofficial tours. Eight of her nine children had been killed in the bombing.

Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory, Khartoum, Sudan (August 20, 1998)

After al Qaeda attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the Clinton administration targeted the Al Shifa factory with 13 cruise missiles, killing one person and wounding 11. According to President Bill Clinton, the plant was “associated with the bin Laden network” and was “involved in the production of materials for chemical weapons.”

The Clinton administration never produced any convincing evidence that this was true. By 2005, the best the U.S. could do was say, as the New York Times characterized it, that it had not “ruled out the possibility” that the original claims were right. The long-term damage to Sudan was enormous. Jonathan Belke of the Near East Foundation pointed out a year after the bombing that the plant had produced “90 percent of Sudan’s major pharmaceutical products” and contended that due to its destruction “tens of thousands of people — many of them children — have suffered and died from malaria, tuberculosis, and other treatable diseases.” Sudan has repeatedly requested a U.N. investigation of the bombing, with no success.

Train bombing, Grdelica, Serbia (April 12, 1999)

During the U.S.-led bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo war, an F-15E fighter jet fired two remotely-guided missiles that hit a train crossing a bridge near Grdelica, killing at least 14 civilians. Gen. Wesley Clark, then Supreme Allied Commander Europe, called it “an unfortunate incident we all regret.” While the F-15 crew was able to control the missiles after they were launched, NATO released footage taken from the plane to demonstrate how quickly the train was moving and how little time the jet’s crew had to react. The German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau later reported that the video had been sped up three times. The paper quoted a U.S. Air Force spokesperson who said this was accidental, and they had not noticed this until months later — by which point “we did not deem it useful to go public with this.”

Radio Television Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia (April 23, 1999)

Sixteen employees of Serbia’s state broadcasting system were killed during the Kosovo War when NATO intentionally targeted its headquarters in Belgrade. President Clinton gave an underwhelming defense of the bombing: “Our military leaders at NATO believe … that the Serb television is an essential instrument of Mr. Milosevic’s command and control. … It is not, in a conventional sense, therefore, a media outlet. That was a decision they made, and I did not reverse it.” U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke told the Overseas Press Club immediately after the attack that it was “an enormously important and, I think, positive development.” Amnesty International later stated it was “a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime.”

Chinese Embassy, Belgrade, Serbia (May 7, 1999)

Also during the Kosovo war, the U.S. bombed the Chinese embassy in Serbia’s capital, killing three staff and wounding more than 20. The defense secretary at the time, William Cohen, said it was a terrible mistake: “One of our planes attacked the wrong target because the bombing instructions were based on an outdated map.” The Observer newspaper in the U.K. later reported the U.S. had in fact deliberately targeted the embassy “after discovering it was being used to transmit Yugoslav army communications.” The Observer quoted “a source in the U.S. National Imagery and Mapping Agency” calling Cohen’s version of events “a damned lie.” Prodded by the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the New York Times produced its own investigation finding “no evidence that the bombing of the embassy had been a deliberate act,” but rather that it had been caused by a “bizarre chain of missteps.” The article concluded by quoting Porter Goss, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, as saying he believed the bombing was not deliberate – “unless some people are lying to me.”

Red Cross complex, Kabul, Afghanistan (October 16 and October 26, 2001)

At the beginning of the U.S-led invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. attacked the complex housing the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul. In an attempt to prevent such incidents in the future, the U.S. conducted detailed discussions with the Red Cross about the location of all of its installations in the country. Then the U.S. bombed the same complex again. The second attack destroyed warehouses containing tons of food and supplies for refugees. “Whoever is responsible will have to come to Geneva for a formal explanation,” said a Red Cross spokesperson. “Firing, shooting, bombing, a warehouse clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem is a very serious incident. … Now we’ve got 55,000 people without that food or blankets, with nothing at all.”

Al Jazeera office, Kabul, Afghanistan (November 13, 2001)

Several weeks after the Red Cross attacks, the U.S. bombed the Kabul bureau of Al Jazeera, destroying it and damaging the nearby office of the BBC. Al Jazeera’s managing director said the channel had repeatedly informed the U.S. military of its office’s location.

Al Jazeera office, Baghdad, Iraq (April 8, 2003)

Soon after the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the U.S. bombed the Baghdad office of Al Jazeera, killing reporter Tarek Ayoub and injuring another journalist. David Blunkett, the British home secretary at the time, subsequently revealed that a few weeks before the attack he had urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to bomb Al Jazeera’s transmitter in Baghdad. Blunkett argued, “I don’t think that there are targets in a war that you can rule out because you don’t actually have military personnel inside them if they are attempting to win a propaganda battle on behalf of your enemy.”

In 2005, the British newspaper The Mirror reported on a British government memorandum recording an April 16, 2004, conversation between Blair and President Bush at the height of the U.S. assault on Fallujah in Iraq. The Bush administration was infuriated by Al Jazeera’s coverage of Fallujah, and according to The Mirror, Bush had wanted to bomb the channel at its Qatar headquarters and elsewhere. However, the article says, Blair argued him out of it. Blair subsequently called The Mirror’s claims a “conspiracy theory.” Meanwhile, his attorney general threatened to use the Official Secrets Act to prosecute any news outlet that published further information about the memo, and, in a secret trial, did in fact prosecute and send to jail a civil servant for leaking it.

Palestine Hotel, Baghdad, Iraq (April 8, 2003)

The same day as the 2003 bombing of the Al Jazeera office in Baghdad, a U.S. tank fired a shell at the 15th floor of the Palestine Hotel, where most foreign journalists were then staying. Two reporters were killed: Taras Protsyuk, a cameraman for Reuters, and Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish network Telecinco. An investigation by the Committee to Protect Journalists concluded that the attack, “while not deliberate, was avoidable.”

This story has been updated to include the April 8, 2003, attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad.

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