A non-profit news blog, focused on providing independent journalism.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Israeli violence against Palestinians - New York Times' editorial techniques keep Israel looking good

israeli violence gaza

© Ashraf Amra/Austria Presse Agentur

The massive upsurge of Israeli violence against Palestinians is invisible to The New York Times.

The massive upsurge of Israeli violence against Palestinians is invisible to .

Two recent stories in involve violence against Palestinian and Israeli children. But it is striking how differently the stories are treated based on the identity of the victim.

The first, from today, is headlined "Israeli Girl Severely Wounded in Firebomb Attack in West Bank." The second, from November, is headlined "Palestinian Shot by Israeli Troops at Gaza Border." Both are by Isabel Kershner.

Today's report begins:

JERUSALEM - An 11-year-old Israeli girl was severely wounded on Thursday when a firebomb was thrown at the car in which she was traveling with her father in the West Bank, the Israeli military said.

Troops were searching for the assailants, believed to be Palestinians, in the area of the attack, near the Jewish settlement of El Matan.

The report names the girl - Ayala Shapira - and describes "third-degree burns on her face and upper torso" and says that her wounds were "life-threatening."
NYT propaganda israel

© New York Times

Note how Kershner says the assailants are "believed to be" Palestinians - belief, not evidence. She also names the girl's father and says he suffered light injuries, and quotes her mother.

The report then provides this, presumably as context:

There has been an uptick in Palestinian attacks against Israelis in recent weeks, including deadly assaults in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The violence has been fanned in part by a dispute over a revered holy site in Jerusalem.

Nowhere does the report state that there has been relentless violence by Israeli occupation forces and settlers against Palestinians.

The mention of a "revered holy site" also suggests the violence is religious and irrational in nature. It also erases the fact that Palestinians are subject to systematic Israeli violence, including ongoing home demolitions, forced displacement and land theft.

The tension over the "revered holy site" - Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque - is the consequence of incursions by Israeli extremists, backed by the government, whose ultimate goal is to destroy it.

Huge surge in Israeli violence

In fact, though you wouldn't know it from , there has been a huge surge in violence against Palestinians.

"Palestinian civilians across the [occupied Palestinian territories] continue to be subject to various threats to their life, physical safety and liberty," says the United Nations monitoring group OCHA in a year-end summary.

This year "witnessed the highest Palestinian casualty toll since 1967, primarily due to hostilities in Gaza," OCHA adds.

But in the West Bank, too, there was a huge increase in Israeli violence: this year to date 49 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, almost double the number from last year, OCHA reports.

Ten of those killed in the West Bank were Palestinian children shot with live ammunition by Israeli occupation forces.

A staggering 5,771 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank this year, two thousand more than last year.

According to OCHA, Israel carried out an average of 96 "search and arrest" raids every week during the year, up from 75 per week in 2013. These assaults often take the form of night raids on homes, terrorizing entire families and communities.

This huge "uptick" in Israeli violence is invisible to

Boy shot in face

On Wednesday, a Palestinian boy aged five was shot in the face by Israeli occupation forces with a rubber-coated steel bullet, causing serious injuries.

The shooting occurred when Muhammad Jamal Ubeid and his fourteen-year-old sister were getting off a school bus in the eastern occupied Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiyeh.

This tweet by Russia Today correspondent Paula Slier shows the boy in hospital with his parents, following surgery:

on Twitter

Just as this post was about to be published, Kershner filed a second report, today on an alleged stabbing of two Israeli police by a Palestinian in occupied Jerusalem.

It repeats the assertion that there has been a "recent increase in Palestinian attacks against Israelis."

But Kershner found no room to mention the shooting of Muhammad Jamal Ubeid. (Update: shortly before this post was published, the published an AP report on its website about the stabbing of the Israeli police - the second on the same topic - which does mention the shooting of Ubeid. But it still does not appear in Kershner's reports.)

"Palestinian" shot

Now let's look at the other headline. It dates from 16 November: "Palestinian Shot by Israeli Troops at Gaza Border."

Kershner's report begins:

JERUSALEM - Israeli forces patrolling the border with the Gaza Strip shot and wounded a Palestinian as he approached the border fence on Sunday and took him to an Israeli hospital, according to the military. A spokeswoman for the hospital said the Palestinian was a 10-year-old boy.

Israel's border with Gaza has remained tense but relatively calm since Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that dominates the Palestinian coastal enclave, agreed to an open-ended cease-fire in late August after a 50-day war.

When you read the report, you learn that the "Palestinian" is reported to be a young boy. But the headline doesn't say "Palestinian boy" the way today's headline states "Israeli girl."
NYT propaganda israel

© New York Times

Kershner relays the myth - or lie, if you will - that the situation in Gaza had been "relatively calm" since the 26 August ceasefire. In fact, Israel has been violating the ceasefire and firing on Palestinians there almost every day.

The boy is anonymous and we do not hear from his mother or father. But we learn he was taken to a hospital in Israel. The report continues:

A military spokeswoman, speaking on the condition of anonymity under army rules, said the troops spotted "a suspicious figure" approaching the fence, called on him to stop, and when he ignored the warnings they fired in the air and then at his lower body.

Here's what Kershner provides, again presumably, for context:

A number of Palestinians have been arrested after crossing the border in the months since the cease-fire came into effect, including one in September who was found to have a knife.

In Jerusalem on Sunday, the police said they were searching for the assailant who stabbed a 32-year-old Israeli man with a screwdriver. The Israeli was being treated at a hospital.

Searching in the weekly reports from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, I found this incident on 16 November, which seems to most closely match the report, except that the age of the boy is 15, not ten:

At approximately 14:15, Israeli forces stationed along the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, opened fire at Atiyah Fathi Atiyah al-Nabahin (15) living in the camp when he tried to infiltrate into Israel via the border fence. As a result, he was hit by a bullet to the neck and taken to Soroko Hospital in Beersheba. His injury was described as serious and he is still at the hospital receiving treatment.

Why Palestinians flee Gaza

It's very likely al-Nabahin was trying to get across the fence to find work, or simply escape the dire situation in Gaza.

But The New York Times report places the entry attempt in the context of threats to Israel and attacks on Israelis and not the catastrophic and unprecedented violence that Israel has visited on Palestinians in Gaza.

The massive death and destruction and the economic depression caused by the ongoing siege are forcing Palestinians to risk their lives to flee Gaza in ever larger numbers, as the Israeli daily has reported.

They risk their lives to flee by sea, where hundreds have perished or been deliberately drowned this year.

And increasing numbers risk their lives to flee across the Israeli fortifications - where like other escapees from history's ghettos and internment camps - they risk being shot from watchtowers and patrols.

Indeed, reports state that two more Palestinians were shot trying to escape Gaza today.

None of this context was mentioned in report.

The has to keep telling itself and its readers that Palestinians in general and those in Gaza in particular are the "threat" and Israel is playing defense.

That an entire population is being kept in a ghetto in Gaza, sealed off from the world and subjected to an incremental genocide, just to protect Israel's alleged Jewish character, is, for many, a reality too awful to contemplate.

Those wishing to shield themselves from such truths should continue reading

The Battle for Justice in Palestine,

Air Asia flight from Indonesia to Singapore 'missing'

Air Asia Airbus A320


Air Asia Airbus A320

Air Asia flight number QZ8501, bound from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore, has reportedly lost control with air traffic control. The missing flight is an Airbus A320-200 with 155 people on board, Reuters reports.

The plane lost contact with Jakarta air traffic control on Sunday, Indonesian media said, citing Transport Ministry official Hadi Mustofa.

Mustofa said the contact was lost at 6:17 a.m. local time (23:17 GMT on Saturday), after the crew asked for an "unusual route.

According to an unnamed Indonesian transport official, there are 155 passengers and crew aboard the plane.

The flight was due to land in Singapore at 8:30 a.m. local time (00:30 GMT) and is currently listed as

Police taser and arrest severely autistic man for walking down the street

Tario anderson

© WYFF4.com

Greenville, SC - An innocent 34-year-old autistic man was tasered and arrested by police on Christmas eve because he walking down the street at night.

Greenville City Police were in the area responding to reports of gunshots when they came across Tario Anderson and shined a spotlight in the innocent man's face. Anderson reacted by walking away from this stressful sensory overload.

"When they put their spotlight on him, he immediately put his head down, put his hands in his pockets and began to walk away from him," Officer Johnathan Bragg with Greenville Police said. "They then got out of the vehicle and approached him and ordered him to stop at which point he did flee from the officers and they pursued him."

Anderson had committed no crime but since he did not immediately bow down to the police, he was tasered and cops piled on top of him.

His mother, Carolyn Anderson, said he has severe autism, does not understand much and did not need to be arrested or shocked with a Taser.

"Tario can say yes or no, he might ask for a thing or two, but just verbal, no," Carolyn Anderson said.

According to WYFF, Carolyn Anderson said the family has lived on Sullivan St. her entire life and he often walks most nights to other relatives' homes on the street. When neighbors saw Tario shocked with the Taser, Carolyn Anderson said they called her to come outside, but officers would not let her near her son.

"If you had seen my baby was out there, laying on that sidewalk and every time he reached for me, I reached for him- [they'd say] 'Get back, we gonna Tase you,'" Carolyn Anderson said. "I was trying to make them take me to jail. I curse everything, 'Take me! I'm the one causing trouble! Take me. He's not doing nothing.' No matter what I said, it didn't make no difference to them."

Bragg callously stated that Tario Anderson deserved the force he received from officers. He said the officers were not aware that Anderson has a mental handicap, and because he broke the law by running and resisting arrest, they arrested him.

"From what he did, he did break the law so in any case like that, we do go ahead and arrest them and make the charges and we're not deemed certified to declare anyone as mentally ill or with a disease or anything like that so we don't technically know if he is," Bragg said.

After the arrest, Anderson was treated on scene by paramedics and then he was taken to jail. He was charged with interfering with police work and resisting arrest.

Tario Anderson was simply walking down the street. Because of that he was assaulted, kidnapped, and charged with a crime and the Greenville police department doesn't see anything wrong with it.

This is the first time Anderson has been arrested and his poor mother has no idea why he is being charged.

"Interfering? Resisting? It's against the law to take off running? I still don't understand. I really don't," she said."I say if you hear gunshots, are you going to stand there and wait to see if the bullet hit you or are you getting out the way?"

Instead of admitting they made a mistake and used excessive force on a mentally disabled man, the Greenville police department released the following statement reminding the citizens of Greenville to obey their rulers.

"Officers used a Taser to secure Anderson. We are conducting an investigation into the claim of excessive force by Anderson's mother, and it would not be appropriate to address all of her claims at this time. I also think that we should reinforce the need for members of the public to be cooperative with police when stopped and ask to see or speak with a supervisor if they feel mistreated in any way. It is our goal to effectively police our city with the full cooperation of the public we serve and we regret all incidents where force must be used to faithfully perform our duties."

Below is the local report from WYFF.

[embedded content]

Portrait of a patsy for the 'war on terror' narrative: Man Haron Monis and the Sydney siege


Man Haron Monis was no stranger to the Australian media and general public prior to the events at Martin Place. Was the public being primed to accept Monis as some kind of terrorist by virtue of his well known rantings and high-profile court appearances?

From the outset of the police siege in central Sydney on December 15 - 16, the response of the federal and state governments was based on a lie: that hostage-taking by a lone gunman in the Lindt café constituted a national "terrorism" crisis justifying the activation of the entire counterterrorism apparatus and the deployment of thousands of police, not only in Sydney, but other major cities around Australia.

The lie serves a definite political purpose. On December 17, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced a joint review with the state government of New South Wales (NSW), not to investigate what had taken place, but to focus entirely on the hostage-taker Man Haron Monis as the pretext for deeper inroads into basic democratic and social rights. The incident is also being exploited to justify Australian involvement in Washington's predatory new "war on terror" in the Middle East against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militias.

However, the official story of the Sydney siege is riddled with discrepancies and contradictions and has provoked widespread suspicion and questioning. In response, Abbott sought to maintain the atmosphere of fear and hysteria, declaring on Tuesday that there had been "a heightened level of terrorist chatter." The tragic death of two innocent hostages has been mercilessly exploited to construct an image of a nation under siege coming together and thereby to render any criticism of the police and government illegitimate.

A massive cover-up is underway to whitewash the actions of the governments, the police and intelligence agencies. The extraordinary regime of censorship imposed during the 16-hour standoff at the Lindt café has continued. There is no official account, even in outline, of what took place during the siege or its tragic denouement. In the early hours of December 16, heavily-armed paramilitary police stormed the café, leaving Monis and two hostages - Katrina Dawson, a barrister and mother of three, and café manager Tori Johnson - dead.

Nor is there likely to be for weeks, if not months. No date has been set for the coronial inquiry which has been tasked with examining the events. Staff at the NSW State Coroners Court told the World Socialist Web Site they had been instructed to say nothing to the media and to refer all inquiries to the Department of Justice where the media officer declared that no information would be released until the inquest. Likewise, the police media unit refused to answer any detailed questions, confirming only that a Critical Incident Investigation was underway, for which no time frame had been set.

A mentally unstable individual, not a terrorist

The first glaring hole in the claims that Australia was under siege from a terrorist attack is the character of the hostage taker, Monis, who had no connection to ISIS, Al Qaeda or any other Islamist organisation. The 50-year-old unemployed Iranian refugee was well-known to police and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and had a long history of erratic behaviour, mental instability and stunts aimed at gaining publicity for his grievances.

Monis immediately came to the attention of ASIO when he arrived in Australia in 1996 claiming to have worked in the Ministry of Intelligence and Security in Tehran and that his life was endangered. Iranian authorities, however, alleged that he was the manager of a travel agency wanted for fraud and sought his extradition. They were turned down and he was granted political asylum in Australia in 2000.

Monis styled himself as a Shiite cleric dressing in the garb of an ayatollah. He was clearly distressed and angered by the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and Australia's military involvement, but responded in his own eccentric manner, firing off letters appealing to prime ministers, the Pope, the US president and anyone else he thought might listen.

He came to national attention over letters that he wrote between 2007 and 2009 to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, protesting the war but also insensitively blaming the soldiers for the crimes of the US and Australian governments. Monis was charged in 2009 with sending "offensive" material through the post, but challenged the validity of the law. The case went all the way to the High Court where a three-three split in February 2013 in effect upheld the law. In September 2013, he agreed to a deal in which he pled guilty in the charge in return for a penalty of 300 hours of community service.

Monis was quickly the focus of further police action. In October 2013, he and his partner Anastasia Droudis were charged over the murder of his ex-wife who had been killed in April. He was denied bail and jailed for six weeks during which time he alleges he was tortured.

His lawyer Manny Conditsis told BBC Radio 4: "What he said happened is that he was placed into a cell which had a concrete bed, they removed the mattress, there was excrement thrown around the walls and the floor - not by inmates, according to him, but by prison guards. He was then forced to stand in and about the excrement and every time he tried to sit down over a period of 24 hours he would be bashed."

Asked if he believed his client, Conditsis replied: "Yes I did." Monis and Droudis were finally granted bail in December 2013 on the basis that the evidence against them was "weak" and "circumstantial."

Four months later, in April this year, Monis was charged with the first of a series of sexual assault offenses dating back more than a decade to the days when he had gone into business in Sydney as a spiritual healer. In October he was charged with additional offences, including 22 counts of aggravated sexual assault and 14 counts of aggravated indecent assault related to six other women.

These charges will not now be tested in court. Their timing, however, does suggest that Monis was being targeted by police. In his comments, Conditsis said: "The person that did what he did in relation to this siege is not the person that I knew about a year ago. Something has happened to cause him to be unhinged." Faced with the prospect of being jailed, the lawyer said, "he may well have thought that his back was against the wall and he had nothing to lose."

Monis " not on ASIO's watch list "

In the immediate aftermath of the café siege, Prime Minister Abbott told the media that Monis had been on ASIO's watch list between 2007 and 2009 but had dropped off. The claim lacks any credibility. Over the past decade as part of the "war on terror," successive governments - Liberal and Labor - have vastly expanded the security apparatus and extended their powers. Counter-terrorism expert Greg Barton told the Sydney Morning Herald there was no such thing as a single watch list but rather "concentric circles" of monitoring and surveillance, depending on priorities.

Abbott's statement that there had in effect been "an intelligence failure" set the stage for his announcement of the review that will further strengthen ASIO. The claim is also aimed at diverting attention from questions about relations between Monis and the police and intelligence agencies, which have a long record of entrapping unstable individuals to act as informers or provocateurs.

Monis had extensive contact with police and intelligence agencies through letters and as a result of police interviews related to the charges against him. He was on bail and had to report regularly to police. Among the posts on his own web site is correspondence in 2007 with ASIO director-general Paul O'Sullivan in which Monis reported that he had been "a witness for indirectly instructing terrorists" and confirmed that O'Sullivan had replied.

What use ASIO made of the information and the informer is not known, but the evidence will certainly be buried in the official review. Monis's death ensures that he will never provide his account of his relations with ASIO and police. Nor will Monis be able to explain what drove him to Martin Place on December 15 or what his plans were.

Two facts further undermine Abbott's claim that Monis was not being closely watched by ASIO and police. On November 17, he publicly announced on his web site that he had made a conversion from Shiite to Sunni Islam and pledged his allegiance to the "Caliph" - a reference to the various Sunni extremist groups, including ISIS whose goal is to restore the caliphate.

Two days before the siege an anonymous caller rang the national security hotline urging the security services to "take a look at this man's website." According to Abbott, the tip was "really followed up" but "didn't expose any threats of direct violence by the Martin Place murderer." Following the siege, the material from his web site has all been seized on as "proof" that Monis was a terrorist acting on behalf of ISIS, yet by Abbott's account he posed no threat of direct violence. It was far more likely that ASIO and the police were well aware of the warning signs, were monitoring Monis's activities, and may even have had a hand in manipulating him for their own purposes.

The Martin Place "terrorist" plot

On the afternoon of December 15, Murdoch's tabloid, the Daily Telegraph, published a special edition with the screaming front-page headline "Death Cult CBD attack." The only indication of any "terrorist" involvement was a black flag with an Arabic inscription in white held up against the window of the Lindt café. It was not the ISIS flag, but was a common profession of Islamic faith, which is found on the Saudi flag among many other places.

Despite all the details about Monis that have emerged to the contrary, the Murdoch media in Australia and around the world has continued a relentless campaign to insist that Monis was a terrorist acting on behalf of ISIS. In countless comments and editorials, Murdoch's hired hacks refer back to lurid allegations stemming from the largest-ever "anti-terror" raids in September that an ISIS sympathiser had been instructed by phone to seize and "behead" a random individual in Martin Place. Every aspect of the claim was highly suspect - the word "behead" was not used in the phone call, a much-publicised sword was found to be plastic and just one person was charged with a vague, terrorism-related offence.

If there was any element of truth in the September allegations, Monis certainly did not match the stereotype of a hardened ISIS recruit prepared to butcher people in public. He had no known ties to ISIS or any other Sunni extremist organisation. Prior to his bizarre conversion, he paraded around as a Shiite cleric and thus would have been regarded by ISIS as a heretic. Monis had never been accused of a terrorist related offence. He was a troubled and erratic individual with a long record of extravagant protest gestures aimed at seeking publicity for his grievances.

Martin Place is in the heart of Sydney's central business district, the location of bank headquarters, including the Reserve Bank of Australia, the US Consulate, major legal firms and the Channel Seven television network. It is one of the most monitored places in Australia and where supposedly ISIS had ordered a beheading, yet Monis was able to stroll into the area carrying a sports bag with shotgun.

Monis had previously carried out protests outside the Channel Seven studios against the network's 2009 program vilifying the "fake sheik" over his letters to the families of Australian soldiers. Channel Seven beefed up its security measures and one of its surveillance cameras caught Monis pacing outside its building at 8.30 a.m. on December 15. A government source told the Daily Telegraph that Monis "may have initially set his sights on Channel Seven during their live morning broadcast."

For the next hour and a quarter, Monis appears to have been a man with a shotgun and a flag but no worked out plan of action. No explanation has been given as to why the many surveillance cameras did not identify him, particularly given his past protests. He was not approached by police. Contrary to some newspaper accounts, Monis did not "storm" the Lindt café - a popular haunt for lawyers. Reportedly he even chatted to one of his own lawyers. At 9.45 a.m., Monis took out the shotgun, locked the doors and warned off a woman seeking entry, who alerted police. He ordered several of those present to display his flag in the window.

Counter-terrorism operation initiated

As early as 10 a.m., the cabinet national security committee had met and, in conjunction with the NSW state government and police, set in motion a massive counter-terrorism operation. Key governments around the world were briefed. Central Sydney was flooded with police and emergency services. The blocks surrounding the café were cleared and sealed off. Snipers were placed overlooking the café. Heavily armed paramilitary police were stationed immediately outside the café.

Buildings were evacuated or sealed off, including some several kilometres from Martin Place. The Opera House was evacuated and surrounded by barricades on the basis of a false report about a suspicious package. The police presence was heightened in Sydney suburbs and other major Australian cities. The Queensland police commissioner in Brisbane, a thousand kilometres to the north, ordered all available police onto the streets. As far away as New York, police ramped up security around key landmarks, including the Australian consulate.

No explanation has been given for this extraordinary mobilisation. When Abbott gave his first press conference at about 11.30 a.m., he did not say that a terrorist incident was underway. Rather he explained that NSW police and Australian Federal Police were "responding to a reported hostage-taking incident in Martin Place." The response, and indeed the fact that Abbott was making a statement, was out of all proportion to "a hostage taking incident," such as an armed robbery gone wrong.

By contrast, the reaction to a siege on Christmas Day, in which an armed man barricaded himself in a unit on the Gold Coast in southern Queensland, was very low key. He eventually surrendered to police. Inspector Bruce Kuhn praised police negotiators for the peaceful outcome, adding that the man had "a few personal matters that have exacerbated his behaviour, and we'd like to think that he'll get all the assistance he can." Needless to say Abbott made no comment and the media treated the incident as a standard police matter.

Abbott's comment on the morning of December 15 set the pattern for subsequent official statements. No information was provided about the hostage-taker or the hostages. The very lack of information fed uncertainty and fear that was magnified by the media which quickly turned their entire focus to the Sydney siege. By saying nothing, Abbott ensured an atmosphere of wartime emergency - of a nation under attack. If at any time over the next 16 hours, Abbott had announced that, awful though it was, the incident involved just one disturbed gunman in a Sydney café, the sense of crisis would have been immediately punctured. That was not what the government wanted.

What happened inside the café is still the subject of official censorship. On December 15, the police and government authorities went to extraordinary lengths to ensure complete control of media coverage. Reporters and TV cameras were forced behind barriers out of the line of sight of the café. Police instructed Channel Seven, whose studio overlooked the café, to turn off a live feed from their cameras. Media outlets that received messages containing Monis's demands were asked not to publish them - all complied. The families of the hostages were gathered together supposedly for support, but told nothing and instructed to inform police of any contact with their loved ones.

No negotiations

In a press conference at about 6.30 p.m., NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn confirmed that "we have been in contact [with the gunman] throughout the day in various forms" but insisted that she would not "talk about some of the tactics and information." Burn, who is in charge of special operations, gave the first confirmation that counter-terrorism protocols, coded-named Task Force Pioneer, had been initiated in response to the siege. She stressed that authorities wanted to "resolve this peacefully" and that the "priority" was the safety of the hostages. Burn assured the media that the police were using "a very, very well tested system of negotiation" that was "world class."

None of these statements was true. A decision had been made at the highest levels very early in the siege that there would be no serious negotiation with Monis. How quickly he was identified as the hostage taker is not known. But by 1.30 p.m. at the very latest, NSW police, assisted by Muslim leaders, had ascertained his identity. His demands were also known but suppressed: he wanted an ISIS flag, recognition that his siege was an ISIS "terrorist" attack, and an on-air conversation with Abbott.

Significantly, in his two media conferences, Abbott, who has relentlessly traded on the "war on terror" in the past, deliberately avoided any reference to terrorism or to ISIS. Speaking a 1 p.m., he referred to the "disturbing incident" and noted there were some indications that it could be "politically motivated." Having helped generated an atmosphere of national crisis, he absurdly urged "all Australians today to go about their business as usual."

© Unknown

Australian PM Tony "I'll shirtfront Putin" Abbott probably not in on the ASIO stage that was being set. But oh does he take advantage of it later.

Abbott's behaviour on the day underscores what he later confirmed - there was no intention of making any concessions to Monis's demands. In announcing the review on December 17, Abbott revealed that he had been aware that Monis wanted to speak to him but had not done so on "the advice that we got from police." However, the comment, if true, raises more questions than it answers. Why did the police advise against any attempt to reach a deal on Monis's limited demands to end the standoff peacefully? He had injured no one and the siege had more the character of a publicity stunt for which he was notorious. And why did the prime minister simply accept the advice?

Other options were also ruled out. In the wake of the siege, spokesman for the Islamic Friendship Association Keysar Trad told the media that he and other Muslim leaders had offered to negotiate with the gunman, but were rebuffed. Trad, who knew Monis, told the WSWS that police had withheld his name until after he was killed. "If I had known who he was, I could have talked him down into surrendering," Trad said.

The decision not to negotiate with Monis and to black out his demands ensured that the situation inside the café became extremely tense. In effect, given that other avenues to defuse the standoff had been ruled out, it had been decided at the top levels of government and the state that at some point the café would have to be stormed.

The desperation of the hostages was evident in a call made by Selina Win Pe to the Daily Telegraph, reported after the siege was over: "He [Abbott] clearly doesn't give a shit because he hasn't called us since 9.45 this morning ... Help us. Help to get Tony Abbott to call this gentleman ... to send the fricking Islamic flag."

At 3.35 p.m., three hostages fled from the café, were corralled by police and taken away. At 5 p.m., two more hostages managed to escape. This was the prelude to the media conference by NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Burn reassuring the world that everything was being done to ensure a peaceful resolution to the siege. "It may take a bit of time," she said, "but that is our approach."

Police storm the Lindt café

At 1 a.m., on December 16, the police embargo on naming Monis was lifted. After other media began publishing, the Guardian contacted NSW police for advice and was informed that "there are no longer any operational reasons not to report his name." No reason was given for the about face - in the middle of the night - but it was a sign of what was to come. The suppression of Monis's name, supposedly for the safety of the hostages, no longer applied.

An hour later, paramilitary police stormed the café in circumstances that have not been officially explained. Every aspect of the media accounts of this operation should be treated with suspicion as virtually all of them rely on unnamed hostages or police sources. In line with police requests, those hostages who have spoken publicly have said nothing about the events inside the Lindt café.

© Unknown

Armed police who probably had 'shoot to kill orders'. Can't leave any any loose ends now can we?

The comments of the father of one of the hostages, Joel Herat, to the Sydney Morning Herald are an exception. According to that account, shortly after 2 p.m. Joel and another hostage Jarrod Hoffman decided to break down a door after Monis appeared to be increasingly agitated. As he ran out with four other hostages, Joel Herat heard what he thought was a shot - logged by outside reporters at 2.03 a.m. Seven minutes later at 2.10 a.m., another bang was heard and police stormed the café, throwing flash bang grenades and firing.

The siege was over in minutes and paramedics rushed inside. Monis and two hostages - Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson - were dying or dead. Three of the six other hostages had sustained gunshot wounds. Who fired the fatal shots remains a closely guarded secret. The media officer for the Department of Justice told the WSWS that the three autopsies had been carried out, but that the results would not be released until the inquest. Unsubstantiated media reports claim Monis shot Johnson as he tried to seize the shotgun and that Dawson died protecting her pregnant friend and colleague, Julie Taylor.

It is not surprising that Monis did not survive. The last thing that the upper echelons of government, the police and security services wanted was a high-profile trial that Monis would use to vent his grievances, give his account of what happened, and possibly reveal embarrassing details of his relations with ASIO and the police.

The massive counter-terrorism operation exposed the extent of the police state measures that have been systematically built up since 9/11 under the pretext of the "war on terror." While the military were undoubtedly placed on alert, soldiers were not called in because they were not needed. The militarisation of the police forces was evident in the presence of heavily-armed, black-clad paramilitary police fitted with night-vision goggles, who resemble and function in every way as army special forces troops.

Particular note should be taken of the role of the media, which throughout the 16 hours functioned in lockstep with the security forces. Just as independent reporting of US-led wars ended with the embedding of journalists with the military, so those covering the Sydney siege took their orders from the police on what could or could not be published. In the aftermath of the siege, there has been no serious criticism or questioning of the actions of the police and governments. The establishment media has all lined up with the agenda now being advanced of more police powers and a greater commitment to the US war drive in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.

The sharpest of warnings should be drawn. State and federal governments, with the full backing of the opposition Labor Party and the Greens, exploited the Sydney siege as a giant dress rehearsal for the type of police-state measures that will be imposed in the future, in time of war or social upheaval. Above all, such operations will be directed against the working class.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.

Out in the cold: How one of the wealthiest cities in America treats its homeless

© Shutterstock

Hayes Mansion, San Jose.

When San Jose dismantled the "Jungle," the nation's largest homeless encampment, many of its residents with nowhere to go scattered. They found hiding places in the scores of small, less visible encampments within the city, where more than 5,000 people sleep unsheltered on a given night.

But one group of about three dozen evictees gathered what they could salvage in backpacks and trash bags, and crossed a bridge to a spot about a mile away. They found a clean patch of grass near Coyote Creek, the same creek that the Jungle abutted. There, they pitched tents donated by some concerned citizens, assigned themselves chores and hoped for the best.

Instead, they got marching orders. After weathering the hardest rains to fall in these parts in a decade, the campers found 72-hour eviction notices on their tents. Once again, a little more than a week after their forced flight from the Jungle, they had no idea where they might live.

"This is some sort of hell," said Raul, 57 (who didn't want his last name used), a life-long resident of San Jose who had lived in the Jungle for nearly eight years. He had nothing left of the home he had created, just a knapsack, his chihuahua Pepe, and a new pup tent. He was so depressed, he could barely lift his head.

To an outside observer, the eviction was predictable. The state's threat to sue Santa Clara County over the pollution in Coyote Creek caused by camping spurred the closing of the Jungle, a winding, 68-acre shantytown under an overpass with upwards of 300 people. With the state's environmental agencies - and the public - watching, San Jose could not allow another Jungle to spring up.

But the city could offer no viable alternative to the people it was expelling for the second time in a week. San Jose, the self-described capital of Silicon Valley, the largest wealth generator in the United States, lacked the resources.

The Jungle had become a symbol of the growing divide between the nation's rich and poor. But its December 4 dismantling - a spectacle of crying residents struggling with shopping carts, Hazmat-suited cleanup crews tossing furniture into dump trucks and hordes of police and reporters standing watch - only underscored the problem, since so many Jungle residents were literally left out in the cold.

Residents of the neighborhood in Central San Jose that abutted the Jungle were glad to see the encampment go. But dismantling the Jungle is already creating new problems. Just days after the Jungle was torn apart, San Jose police and other city departments began fielding calls from people in different neighborhoods complaining of former Jungle residents setting up camps near them. Some ended up in a Walmart parking lot before being booted. Others were congregating near the airport, also under threat of eviction. At least one hospital reported an upsurge of emergency room visits from former residents of the Jungle, sick from weathering the elements, having misplaced medications in the eviction.

"What the city is saying is that it refuses to provide affordable housing, but it does not tolerate people living outside," said Sandy Perry, an organizer at the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, who has worked with San Jose's homeless population since 1991. "This is a willful, wholesale violation of human rights."

San Jose, by all accounts, is experiencing a crisis in homelessness. Even with dedicated non-profits working to stem the tide, the city's homeless problem, like that of other booming cities - New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, to name a few - has grown markedly worse in recent years. San Jose is the nation's 10th largest city (with one million residents) but the San Jose/Santa Clara County area, home to 34 billionaires, has the nation's fifth largest homeless population, after New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Diego.

San Jose/Santa Clara County also has the nation's highest percentage of homeless people living on the streets. More than 75 percent, upwards of 7,600, are unsheltered, according to the 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, compared to five percent of the homeless people in New York City.

Ray Bramson, San Jose's homeless response team manager, said the city did all it could for the Jungle. It earmarked $4 million and spent 18 months, with contracted non-profit organizations, to find housing for 144 Jungle residents, using housing vouchers that expire in two years. But another 60 residents, vouchers in hand, could not find apartments, even with social workers working on their behalf. By the end, just weeks before the dismantling, the population of the Jungle was still between 200 and 300 people, according to housing advocates and volunteers who worked with jungle residents. That's because every time a resident of the Jungle moved out, another person, or more, took their place.

Critics of the way the city dismantled the Jungle, both professional advocates for the homeless and citizens registering their opinions on social media, have decried the city for creating a two-year voucher program that inadequately served the population.

"When a city decides to built a park, it doesn't build until it has the funding to finish it," said Anthony King, a volunteer outreach worker who was homeless for more than 10 years. "So why did the city decide to undergo a program that addressed the needs of only some of the people in the Jungle?"

The city said it was forced to close the camp for its environmental risks and hazardous conditions. But Bramson himself has said that there are many other homeless camps along the waterways. In fact, the Jungle was part of a string of 247 tent cities along Santa Clara County's waterways that contain 1,230 people, according to a recent county census.

Chris Herring, a Ph.D candidate in sociology at the University of California at Berkeley who has extensively researched homeless encampments on the west coast, said the eviction "will not mitigate the ongoing environmental damage to Coyote Creek by homeless habitation - only move it around."

In an essay in Beyond Chron.org, Herring also said the eviction "will exacerbate rather than improve unsanitary conditions faced by the evicted, pushing them further from clean water, recycling centers and toilets."

Residents of the Jungle, well aware of the growing trash and sanitary problems caused by so many incoming residents, had appealed to the city for help. In November, they waged a protest for better sanitary services. The city had provided three port-a-potties, eight hours a day, for the Jungle's 300 residents, and handed out portable sanitary bags for them to use the rest of the time - bags of human waste that competed with all the other trash in the Jungle for a spot in the few trash bins on site.

In the few days that former residents of the Jungle spent in their second location before receiving eviction notices, they began organizing.

"We're creating a community," one woman said. People were assigned to clean up trash, run errands and the like. The group wanted to stay together, monitor activities so the site could stay clean and not generate complaints.

"I just know that if we keep a place clean, have the bags for the trash, and stay away from the public, they won't bother us," said Raul, the former Jungle resident. Living in the Jungle was a hard life, he said, but it was stable. He had his shack, he knew everyone, had friends and support. Like most homeless people, Raul said he preferred to be with other people he knew, rather than fend for himself.

His sister, who had a housing voucher but couldn't find an apartment, was staying with her three dogs in a tent next to Raul's. Almost everyone at the encampment had at least one small dog, often several.

The city came at the crack of dawn the day the new camp was evicted. Workers began taking their possessions before residents had even woken up, according to a report by ABC7 news. It quoted Bramson, who did not return requests for an interview for this story, saying, "There are services available. There is support available."

But the only support was a limited number of shelter beds the residents could try to get into - if they gave up their dogs.

A day after their expulsion, most of the group had moved en masse to a new location, far from the public eye. But it was still near Coyote Creek. It wouldn't take long, they said, for the city to find them again.

Foreign Minister of China: "We will provide necessary assistance to Russia"

© AFP Photo/How Hwee Young

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping

China's foreign minister has pledged support to Russia as it faces an economic downturn due to sanctions and a drop in oil prices. Boosting trade in yuan is a solution proposed by Beijing's commerce minister.

"Russia has the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation," Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists, China Daily reported Monday. "If the Russian side needs it, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity."

The offer of help comes as Russians are still recovering from the shock of the ruble's worst crash in years last Tuesday, when it lost over 20 percent against the US dollar and the euro. The Russian currency bounced back the next day, but it still has lost almost half of its value since March.

At his annual end-of-year press conference on Thursday, Vladimir Putin acknowledged the ruble has been tumbling along with the price of oil, and estimated that Western sanctions account for 25-30 percent of the Russian economic crisis. However, the president's economic forecast is that the slump will not be a lasting one.

© Reuters/Carlos Barria

Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng proposed on Saturday to expand the use of the yuan in trade with Russia. He said the use of the Chinese currency has been increasing for several years but western sanctions on Russia had made the trend more prominent, Reuters cited Hong Kong's Phoenix TV as saying.

Gao said this year's trade between China and Russia could reach $100 billion, approximately 10 percent growth compared to last year.

The minister said he did not expect cooperation on energy and manufacturing projects with Russia to be greatly affected by the current crisis.

"Many Chinese people still view Russia as the big brother, and the two countries are strategically important to each other," Jin Canrong, Associate Dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing, told Bloomberg. "For the sake of national interests, China should deepen cooperation with Russia when such cooperation is in need."

© RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi

Gazprom’s Power of Siberia pipeline – to deliver 4 trillion cubic meters of gas to China over 30 years – construction commencing September 2014

China has been increasingly seeking deals in its own currency to challenge the US dollar's dominance on the international market.

And Beijing is not alone in attempts to counter the influence of Western-based lending institutions and the US currency.

BRICS, the group of emerging economies that comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, accounting for one-fifth of global economic output, has been pursuing the same goal. The five nations agreed in July to increase mutual trade in local currencies, and also to create a BRICS Development Bank with investment equivalent to $100 billion as an alternative to the Western-controlled World Bank.

U.S. supplying Al Qaeda in Syria with TOW missiles via 'moderate' terrorists

tow missile

US supplied TOW anti-tank missiles have ended up in the hands of Jabhat Al Nusra, Syria's branch of Al Qaeda. The US provided the missiles to CIA vetted Syrian rebel faction Harakat Hazm in May. A video posted by Al Nusra shows the weapons being used to take over Syrian military bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh in Idlib province.

A story that should have been headline news of Obama's arming of Al Qaeda across all US media, largely went unnoticed. The only evidence of the story in the mainstream media can be found in the and the . However both articles try to cast doubt on the claims that Al Nusra has TOW missiles, choosing to quote the Syrian Opposition Council spokesman Oubai Shahbandar who downplayed the incident, calling it an "Al Nusra psyop". did not headline the story and instead buried the information in an article headlined "2 Military bases in Syria Fall to Rebels". However, claimed the TOW missiles may have plaid a central role in Jabhat AL Nusra's takeover of the bases.

Contrary to Shahbandar's and the mainstream media's insinuation that the evidence is an 'Al Nusra pysop', it is known that the US armed and trained Harakat Hazm group had signed a ceasefire agreement with Jabhat AL Nusra in November in the same region of Idlib Province. At that time Al Nusra had claimed TOW and Grad missiles were now in their hands.

It is questionable whether or not Al Nusra had 'seized' the arms as the suggests, or if it had simply been given the arms by Harakat al Hazm. Rather than fighting Al Nusra, Harakat Hazm has had no problem uniting with them. Currently Harakat al Hazm are united with Jabhat al Nusra, in Handarat Aleppo, and are jointly fighting the Syrian Army. The militant employing the TOW missile in the video, shows clear proficiency in its use, indicating that he has directly or indirectly benefited from US training.

In spite of this revelation, there is evidence to suggest the US is still arming the FSA with TOW missiles. Videos continue to emerge of Harakat al Hazm employing Tow Missiles. The US government has not made a statement on whether or not they have stopped providing the rebels with TOW missiles and munitions.

FSA and Al Qaeda collaboration

The alliance between FSA faction Harakat Hazm and Al Nusra in Aleppo, is not a new or isolated occurrence. US vetted rebels have in fact have been allied with Al Qaeda for much of the Syrian War, with localised clashes over control being rare. The leader of the "Syrian Revolutionary Front," Jamal Ma'arouf, touted as a moderate by the West, admitted to that he has openly fought battles alongside Jabhat Al Nusra and refuses to fight against them. In 2012 the Free Syrian Army (FSA), referred to as the 'moderate rebels' by the US State Department, fought along side Islamist State In AlSham (ISIS) in Aleppo against the Syrian military for control over Menagh Airbase. The FSA head of Aleppo Military Council Abdul Jabbar Al Oqaidi, who has met with US Ambassador Robert Ford, was filmed with ISIS Emir Abu Jandal praising ISIS for helping take the base using a suicide car bomb. As late as September 2014, FSA commander Bassel Idriss said that they had joined forces with ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra in Qalamoun Mountain.

Quote :

"Let's face it: The Nusra Front is the biggest power present right now in Qalamoun and we as FSA would collaborate on any mission they launch as long as it coincides with our values," the [FSA] commander concluded.

As well as fighting alongside Al Qaeda the US vetted rebels have also defected to, and sold weapons and hostages to Al Qaeda groups. The line between the FSA and Al Qaeda groups is often blurred with entire FSA factions and individual fighters defecting to Jabhat Al Nusra or ISIS on multiple occasions [1][2][3][4], taking along with them the training and weapons paid for by US taxes in the process.

An ISIS commander, Abu Atheer, told Al Jazeera that his group bought weapons from the FSA.

"Anyhow we are buying weapons from the FSA. We bought 200 anti-aircraft missiles and Koncourse anti tank weapons. We have good relations with our brothers in the FSA."

The spokesman for the family of Steven Sotloff, an American journalist beheaded by ISIS, told CNN that US backed FSA rebels had sold Sotloff to ISIS for 25,00 to 50,000 USD. The White House denied the claim. However the claim was corroborated by Theo Padnos, another journalist held hostage in Syria, who said he was returned to his Jabhat Al Nusra captures by the FSA every time he tried to escape.

Plausible deniability

Given the Syrian rebels' history of openly working along side or defecting to Al Qaeda groups, it is highly doubtful the US government did not predict the TOW missiles would end up in Al Qaeda's hands.

It is more likely the US provided the rebels with the TOW missiles whilst knowing it would end up in the hands of Al Qaeda. Indeed it has been widely accepted, that Jabhat Al Nusra, ISIS and Ahrar al Sham, another Al Qaeda linked group, are the most powerful groups opposing the Syrian army. The CFR wrote:

The Syrian rebels would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks.

Whilst in future these weapons may be used against American personnel, for now the US is desperate for a victory against the Syrian government. The US might find reports of arms ending up with Al Qaeda embarrassing, but such embarrassment can be mitigated by controlling the amount of attention it gets from the US run media.

Therefore the purpose of advertising a 'moderate rebel force' is to maintain plausible deniability whilst still supporting what is largely an Al Qaeda rebellion against the Syrian government. In fact there is evidence to suggest the US would prefer Al Qaeda to other rebel groups. They are far cheaper to run given that they are funded by Gulf States and they may fit better with the US long term objective of balkanise Syria along sectarian lines.

Shameless propaganda from NPR: Russian aggression, Putin fascist


Deject Crimeans lamenting their hostile takeover by Russia.

On Friday, December 26th, National Public Radio aired two superbly done pieces of anti-Russia propaganda, which could as well have been written by the U.S. CIA, or by , it was so skillfully deceiving.

One of these propaganda-pieces, on "Morning Edition," presented Eleanor Beardsley alleging that the anti-immigrant political parties in Britain and France are anti-U.S. and pro-Russian because they are supposedly all "far right"; and the other piece, on "All Things Considered," presented Corey Flintoff alleging that Russia's President Vladimir Putin "seized Crimea" (as if he hadn't actually rescued it) and thereby caused U.S. President Barack Obama and the EU to respond with economic sanctions as punishment for the 'seizure' (actually, as we'll show, rescue).

Here, the two 'news reports' will be exposed:

First, Beardsley's propaganda-piece: it was titled "Europe's Far Right And Putin Get Cozy, With Benefits For Both." She noted that, in France, "Marine Le Pen, head of the National Front, has made no secret of her admiration for Putin," while, across the English Channel, "Nigel Farage, the head of UKIP, Britain's far-right party, called Putin one of the world leaders he admires most." Beardsley was trying to suggest that Vladimir Putin is a fascist, and she argued on this false basis that "Europe's Far Right And Putin Get Cozy" because they're all "far right."

What she was trying to get across is more like the opposite of the truth than the truth, because what Putin and Europe's anti-immigrant parties actually share is not extreme conservatism (which they don't share at all; Putin isn't that) but is instead more like the very opposite of that: they share a rejection of U.S. global supremacy or "hegemony": they reject the U.S. as having a right to control their country's policies and destinies - in other words: they reject U.S. imperialism, and this is a rejection that all of them share also with progressives in America, hardly with America's champions of imperialism, such as are, for example, in the U.S., Bill Kristol's and Robert Kagan's Project for a New American Century, which was the actually far-right, Rupert-Murdoch-funded, movement that George W. Bush adhered to, that beat the drums incessantly for his "regime change in Iraq," and for invading Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

To put this matter clearly, here's what they all reject, and what President Obama asserted at West Point on May 28th:

Russia's aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China's economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us. ... So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed [properly spelled 'past,' but this is his text] and it will be true for the century to come.

Obama was saying there that any nation, such as Russia, which challenges the right of the U.S. Government to determine the appropriate parameters for all other nations' policies, must be crushed, because the U.S. is superior. By contrast, anti-imperialists argue that - as Obama claims for America. None: not the U.S., not Russia, none at all.

This is an extremely different reality from the lie, the PR hoax, that Eleanor Beardsley was selling to listeners on NPR.

That's hers; and here's the other:

Corey Flintoff's propaganda-piece was titled, "For Russia's President, A Year Of Costly Triumphs," and it repeatedly said that the cause of the economic sanctions against Russia is "Russia's seizure of Crimea." Parroting the White House's line that the transfer of Crimea back to Russia - after the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had donated it to Ukraine in 1954 against the wishes of Crimea's residents, which Flintoff conveniently failed even to mention - had instead been "Russia's aggression," Flintoff's account made no mention at all of the key relevant facts, necessary to understand the event, including also the following three:

(1) The March 16th, 2014, referendum of the voters in Crimea, produced a 96% vote to secede.

(2) Gallup polled 500 Crimeans during May 16-30 in 2013, and found that only 15% considered themselves "Ukrainian." 24% considered themselves "Crimean." But 40% considered themselves "Russian." Even before Obama's February 2014 coup which overthrew the Ukrainian President whom 80% of Crimeans had voted for, the Crimean people overwhelmingly wanted to secede from Ukraine - and, especially now they did, right after the President for whom they had overwhelmingly voted, Viktor Yanukovych, had been overthrown in this extremely bloody coup. Furthermore, in April 2014, Gallup again polled Crimea, and they found that 71.3% of Crimeans viewed as "Mostly positive" the role of Russia there, and 4.0% viewed it as "Mostly negative"; by contrast, only 2.8% viewed the role of the United States there as "Mostly positive," and a whopping 76.2% viewed it as "Mostly negative." During the intervening year, Crimeans' favorability toward America had plunged down to 2.8%, from its year-earlier 6%. Clearly, what Obama had done in Ukraine (his violent coup in Kiev) had antagonized the Crimeans. And, as if that weren't enough, the 2014 poll provided yet more evidence: "The 500 people that were sampled in Crimea were asked [and this is crucial] 'Please tell me if you agree or disagree: The results of the referendum on Crimea's status [whether to rejoin Russia] reflect the views of most people here.' 82.8% said 'Agree.' 6.7% said 'Disagree.'" In the hearts of the local residents, Crimea was still Russian territory, after an involuntary hiatus of 60 years; and so the Russian Government accepted them back again, into Russia - this was not as Corey Flintoff droned, "Russia's seizure of Crimea." It was Russia's protection of them from the invasion of Ukraine by the United States in a bloody coup.

(3) Ever since 1783, Russia's core national security asset, its Black Sea Fleet, was stationed in Crimea, but Obama's Ukrainian coup-Government wanted to kick them out (and this is one of the reasons why Obama perpetrated his coup). The aggression here was entirely on the American side. Russia wasn't responding only in order to protect Crimeans; Russia was especially responding in order to protect its core naval base.

The Obama regime overthrew Ukraine's democratically elected leader in February 2014 in a brazen act of military aggression against Russia; and National Public Radio (like so many 'news' media) is trying to fool the American public into thinking what the Administration wants them to think: that the aggression is instead by Russia, and is against the rest of the world, so that the already bloated U.S. military should get involved in yet another war, this one that's now building, against Russia.

In closing, the key fact should be mentioned that it is Obama and not Putin who is following in the footsteps of Adolf Hitler. The extreme-conservative, at least in foreign policy, is Obama , not Putin. So, Eleanor Beardsley's falsehood was just about as egregious as can possibly be imagined.

Holiday goodwill: Putin to provide coal to Ukraine without prepayment



Russian supplies of coal and electricity to Ukraine without prepayment prove Russian President Vladimir Putin's goodwill to provide real support to the Ukrainian people, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Saturday.

He confirmed Ukraine's reports on starting such supplies.

"Against all the odds as President Putin said earlier in the hard times he had never given up the consistent policy towards supporting the Ukrainian people and providing real and not eventual support, due to the critical energy situation Putin took a decision on such supplies regardless the absence of prepayment, which is the condition of making them," Peskov said.

"This proves President Putin's political goodwill to provide support for Ukrainians, particularly before New Year," he said.

Russian Vice-Premier Dmitry Kozak said Russia had taken a decision to supply 500,000 tonnes of coal to Ukraine per month for solving its energy problems.

"If an additional corresponding agreement may be reached, we're ready to supply another 500,000 tonnes, totally one million tonnes of coal, to Ukraine in order to help it solve energy problems," Kozak told Rossiya24 TV Channel.

The decision to this effect was made at Ukraine's request. Energy carriers will be supplied to Ukraine on easy terms, he said.

Kozak expressed hope that this would help ensure reliable energy supplies to Crimea.

Earlier, anonymous hackers attacked the website of the Ukrainian Regional Development Ministry to have posted a hoax saying Russia was prepared to supply energy to Ukraine without prepayment, the ministry's spokeswoman, Nadezhda Petruniak, said.

"Apparently, the website was attacked by anonymous hackers. The ministry's press-service has not published any information of this sort either on its own behalf, or on behalf of other press-services or officials," she said.

Petruniak said the Regional Development Ministry did not have any information about energy supplies from third countries at its disposal and surely was not in the position to publish it, because it was a competence of a different ministry.

Meanwhile, the Regional Development Ministry's Internet site said Russia had agreed to supply fuels to Ukraine without prepayment. The hoax has now been eliminated.

Comment: The West destroys Ukraine; Russia picks up the pieces and provides cheap coal, not to mention humanitarian aid to the regions being starved by Kiev. Once more, Putin shows himself to be perhaps the only leader on this planet with a real conscience. Sure, he'll play hard-ball with the corrupt oligarchs ruling Ukraine -- demanding the money owed for gas -- but when it comes down to it, he is more than willing to give real support to the of Ukraine. Something that not even its own inept leaders can do. Russia has also agreed to provide ready-made electricity, since Kiev has been unable to meet the country's energy needs. (Due to their historical reliance on Russia for such needs -- e.g., fuel for their nuclear reactors -- which put in jeopardy due their needless and idiotic antagonizing of Russia.)

Horrific 'cures' for mental illness through the ages

© Shutterstock

If it wasn't already clear to the public at large, the recent suicide of comedian Robin Williams drove home the point: mental illness can be devastating. It is hardly limited to people we sometimes see on the street railing against apparent voices in their heads, or obsessive-compulsive television characters like "Monk." It is widespread and debilitating and it can kill. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 17 Americans, including children, are dealing with serious mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. That's 6% of the population, almost 2 million people.

In any given year 1 in 4 American adults experience some kind of mental health issue. The U.S. Surgeon General reported that 1 in 10 children suffer some form of mental illness, disrupting home and school lives around them. Mental illness is responsible for 4 out of every 10 cases of disability in the country. It often affects adolescents and young adults, and the cost to society is enormous, over $100 billion a year in the U.S. alone, from disability, unemployment, drug abuse, suicide, homelessness, and prison incarceration.

And yet, in truth, as bad as things are, we live in the best of times for mental illness. The medical community is beginning to understand the root cause of mental disorders, often brain chemistry imbalances, and is fast developing pharmacological treatments to address them. In combination with interpersonal, behavioral, and peer group therapy, along with early identification of problems, up to to 90% of mental illness sufferers can be significantly helped. The stigma of mental illness is slowing eroding away, as we recognize that it is an illness, just like diabetes, cancer, and other illnesses, and is not a result of character weakness or lack of will power.

Historically, mental illness was treated much differently. People looked upon mental illness as something other than illness, and attempted to eliminate the problem in horrific manners. Here are eight treatments for mental illness that not only did not cure or help the sufferers, but likely traumatized them even more.

1. Trepanation

Trepanation is boring a hole in your skull. As far back as the Neolithic era, some 7000 years ago, and as recently as today for a small number of strange and misguided folks, the practice of trepanation has been used to "cure" mental illness. Thousands of years ago, having no knowledge of things like brain chemistry, ancient doctors (a loose definition, for lack of a better term) believed that the mentally ill were possessed by demons hanging around in our heads. What better way to rid us of the demons than by giving them a way out? And so, holes were drilled into the skulls of the patients so that the spirits could escape. Did I mention there were no anesthetics back then? Archaeologists have found a plethora of ancient skulls with carefully cut holes in them.

2. Hydrotherapy

No, we are not talking about a relaxing swim to calm the nerves. In the early 20th century, psychiatrists used a variety of water treatments to treat patients with mental disorders. Some were harmless enough, like warm baths or an invigorating shower. Some treatments, however, bordered on Cheney-esque waterboarding. One treatment had patients wrapped like mummies in towels soaked in ice water. Another "cure" took the relaxing bath to scary extremes, strapping and restraining patients in the tub for sometimes days at a time, allowing escape only for bathroom breaks. High-pressure water jets were also used, and in at least one instance a patient was bound in a crucifix position and a fire hose was turned on him. One hopes it turned out better than traditional crucifixions.

3. Chemically induced seizures

Here's one that actually worked! Sort of. A pathologist named Ladislas von Meduna observed that, following seizures, epileptics appeared calm and even happy. From this he deduced that by inducing seizures in schizophrenics he could calm their symptoms and even perhaps cure them. After experimenting with drugs like strychnine and absinthe, he settled on a drug called metrazol, which stimulated the circulatory and respiratory systems and caused seizures. It seemed to work. The majority of Meduna's patients seemed to improve, at least according to Meduna. It is possible that the seizures released chemicals that were absent from the schizophrenic brain, triggering improvements. Then again, the side effects like memory loss and fractured bones were not exactly minor, and the treatment was eventually abandoned.

4. Hysteria therapy

The ancient Greeks may have established Western culture, but they had an odd way of treating mental illness. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine (doctors today still recite the Hippocratic Oath) popularized the term "hysteria" to describe any sort of mental illness suffered by women. Hysteria was diagnosed for anything from nervousness to fainting to simply not talking enough. The cause, according to Hippocrates, was a "wandering womb." The philosopher Plato claimed that when the uterus, "remains unfruitful long beyond its proper time, it gets discontented and angry and wanders in every direction through the body, closes up the passages of the breath, and, by obstructing respiration, drives women to extremity."

In order to calm down the wayward uterus, patients were required to inhale foul-smelling substances that would drive away the uterus from wherever it was kicking up a storm in the body. Of course, the real cure for female mental illness was to get the uterus settled in doing what it was there for. Women needed to get married and start having babies.

5. Mesmerism

Franz Mesmer was an Austrian physician back in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Perhaps best known as the father of hypnotism, Mesmer also had an interesting theory about mental illness: blame it on the moon. Mesmer was convinced that the moon's gravitational pull, much as it affected the Earth's tides, also affected the body's fluids. Intermittent episodes of depression and schizophrenia rose and fell like the oceans tides, as the bodily fluids were being acted on by the moon's gravity. The solution was to counteract the gravity with another force: magnets. By placing magnets on various parts of the body, Mesmer felt the bodily fluids were redistributed and mental equilibrium was restored. Although many of Mesmer's patients claimed the therapy cured them, medical authorities dismissed mesmerism as ineffective, and positive outcomes were chalked up to the placebo effect.

6. Rotational therapy

Charles Darwin has his unshakable place in intellectual history. Darwin's grandfather too has a place, although he was perhaps not the giant of science Charles was. Erasmus Darwin was a physician, a scientist and a philosopher. By many accounts he was bad at all of them. His claim to fame was rotational therapy. He believed that disease could be cured by sleep. And he believed that spinning the patient around very fast induced sleep. Needless to say, Erasmus' therapy was dismissed, but not before Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of America's Founding Fathers and signatory to the Declaration of Independence, adopted his rotational therapy for the purposes of curing mental illness. Rush believed that mental illness was caused by brain congestion, and that spinning would reduce the congestion and cure the mental disorder. We can safely assume that dizziness was the main result of his therapy, not cure.

7. Insulin-coma therapy

Viennese doctor Manfred Sakel developed insulin-coma therapy in 1927. Apparently not a particularly careful doctor, he accidently gave one of his patients an insulin overdose, resulting in her falling into a coma. The patient, who was a morphine addict, awoke from her coma and discovered that her addiction had disappeared. Sakel, being the bad doctor he was, made the same mistake with another patient who also awoke addiction-free. Sensing a trend, Sakel began intentionally inducing insulin comas to schizophrenics and other patients, and 90% of them reportedly were cured. It is unknown why or even if these claims were true, but thankfully the insulin-coma therapy eventually faded away by the 1960s. A good thing, since it was a dangerous therapy and 2% of the patients weren't cured, they died.

8. Lobotomy

And finally, we have everybody's favorite mental illness cure, the lobotomy. The lobotomy was developed by a Portuguese neurosurgeon named Egas Moniz. He had heard that when the frontal lobe of a violent, feces-throwing monkey was cut away, the monkey became docile and quit slinging the shit. From this, he theorized that the frontal lobe was the hotbed of mental illness and by cutting it he could cure mental illness. And so he tried it on his human patients. By his own standards, the surgeries were a success, and lobotomies caught on. In 1949, Moniz even received the Nobel Prize for his efforts.

In America, one Dr. Walter Freeman took to the road in his "lobotomobile" and actually provided onsite lobotomies to anyone who seemed willing, from schizophrenics to bored housewives. His technique was to insert an ice pick into the eye socket and swirl it around a bit to "disable" the frontal lobe. Unsterile equipment and imprecise surgical technique aside, there was a problem that soon became apparent as the number of lobotomies multiplied. Quite a number of the patients weren't cured; in fact, they became virtual zombies, unresponsive and brain-damaged for life. This making for fairly bad testimonial, the lobotomy faded into medical obscurity.

About the author