The WHO report into the origin of the coronavirus

Here’s what happens next, says the Australian doctor who went to China

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its report into the origins of the coronavirus, a report I contributed to as a member of the recent mission to Wuhan, China.

The report outlines our now well-publicised findings: SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, most likely arose in bats, and then spread to humans via an as-yet unidentified intermediary animal. The evidence we have so far indicates the virus was possibly circulating in China in mid-to-late November 2019. We considered viral escape from a laboratory extremely unlikely.

However, the release of the report prompted governments, including in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, to share their concerns over whether investigators had access to all the data. The joint statement also called for greater transparency when investigating pandemics, now and in the future.

So what happens next?

Our report also recommended what research is needed for a more complete picture of the origins of the coronavirus.

The key focus of this next stage of investigations is looking at what happened before people realised there was a clinical problem in December 2019. Not just in China but in other countries with early cases. Such as Italy and Iran. This would give us a more complete picture of whether SARS-CoV-2 was circulating earlier than December 2019.

For instance, if we just focus on China for now, we know there were influenza-like respiratory illnesses in Wuhan in late 2019. In fact, we looked at data from more than 76,000 cases for the WHO report, to see whether these could have been what we now call COVID-19. But work is already under way to re-analyse those data using different techniques, to see if we’ve missed any earlier cases.

Talks are also under way to see whether blood donations in China in 2019 can be analysed to see if they contain antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. This would tell us whether the people who donated those samples had been infected by the virus. These types of investigations take time.

Then there’s what we can learn from molecular epidemiology (the genetic makeup of the virus and its spread). For instance, if we find a lot of variation in the genetic sequence of early samples of SARS-CoV-2, this tells us there had already been transmission for some time. That’s because the virus doesn’t mutate unless it infects and transmits. We can use modelling to say what might have happened up to three or more weeks beforehand.

Although the WHO report has looked at the role of markets in China in the spread of SARS-CoV-2, we need to re-analyse data and look further afield. Roman Pilipey/EPA/AAP

Linking the data

We also need to link those molecular epidemiology data to actual clinical data. Until now those data have largely been separate. Molecular data held in research or university laboratories and the patient data held elsewhere. We need to make those connections to tell us which infections were related. And how far back in time they go.

There are also many biological samples sitting in laboratories around the world that we need to analyse, and not just in Wuhan. So we have to do a bit of detective work to locate them and analyse them to understand the pattern of disease and to help sort out the origin. There is no central database of samples and what antibodies or genetic material they might contain.

For instance, there are SARS-CoV-2 positive blood donations in the US and France, and cases in Italy, and there’s sewage testing in Spain. These are places with early outbreaks of respiratory illnesses that may help us find out if SARS-CoV-2 was circulating earlier than we first thought.

We also need more studies into the role of frozen food products in transmitting the virus. Although we considered the “cold chain” a possible pathway to transmission, we still don’t know how big a factor this was, if at all.

Finally, there’s ongoing sampling of animals and the environment for signs of SARS-CoV-2 or related viruses. Can we find the parent virus (the one that eventually mutated into SARS-CoV-2) in a bat in a cave somewhere? Where do we look? At bats across Southeast Asia, Central Asia, into Europe? We need to look at the range of these bats and where they live. These types of investigations can take ages.

Cooperation needed

Can we find the virus in an intermediary animal, and if so, what type of animal and where? Again, these are difficult studies to set up.

The key here is to keep trying to work together and avoid the over-politicisation of the whole exercise.

Rather than blaming governments, we need to foster cooperation and trust between investigators, between and within countries. This not only helps us during this pandemic; it’s the key to managing future pandemics. The more cooperative we are, the more likely we are to get the best results. We have to make sure politics doesn’t muck that up.


This article was originally published by The Conversation


Comment by Eurasia News Online

The author is calling for avoiding over-politicisation. However, let’s have a look at the list of countries that are “concerned”:

Governments of Australia, Canada, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, United Kingdom, and United States.

What we can see is that four out of the “five eyes” members are on the list. Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States.

Nine of these countries are members of NATO.

Japan and Republic of Korea are effectively occupied territories pretending to have independent foreign policies.

There is no one country from Africa or from South America.

With all respect towards Australian doctor who was part of the investigation, I find it hard not to compare this with the WMD investigation in Iraq. It all sounds like – we will “investigate” till we create certain public perception.

What do you think? Let us know in your comments.

Former OPCW Chief Says His Office Was Bugged While USA Pushed Iraq War

Caitlin Johnstone

In an important new interview with The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté, the first Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has revealed new insights into the way the US exerted control over the Organisation in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion and the suspicious way pro-US narratives appear to be dominating controversies in the supposedly impartial OPCW to this day.

The most significant piece of new information revealed in this interview with the acclaimed former OPCW chief José Bustani is his assertion that while the US was orchestrating his 2002 ouster due to the risk he posed of derailing the Iraq war agenda with successful negotiations, his office was packed with hidden surveillance equipment and that his American head of security vanished immediately after this was discovered.

After noticing suspicious phenomena and leaks coming out of his office, Bustani reports that he sent for a trusted security expert from outside the Organisation to investigate over the weekend.

“The fact was that the wall behind my desk, the wall behind the desk of the Director-General was full of equipment, listening equipment,” Bustani reported. “He broke the whole wall and removed everything, and there were bugs in the drawer, my desk, phone. I was shocked I must say. But he did it immediately. It took him the whole of Saturday, half of the Sunday, he took it [away], he removed everything and nobody realized except me and my wife. On Monday when people came to my office, they were shocked with the way the wall was. It was a big hole.”

“And interesting thing is — and I never said this before — is that I had then a person that was the head of the security of the Organization,” Bustani said. “He used to be an American. He had a large office full of equipment. I called him, the Monday after that happened, I called his office to check with him how come he didn’t know, he was in charge of security of the building, how come he didn’t know that there was such bugging equipment behind me. And he wasn’t there. And I was told that he was traveling to Germany, and I asked then, ‘Who allowed him to go to Germany? I am his direct boss. He was my subordinate, he was directly subordinate to me.’ Nobody could say anything. So I said ‘As soon as he returns tell him I want to have a word with him.’ This was the Monday. You will not believe it Aaron, but on Tuesday as I got to the OPCW I am told that I should go up to the head of security office and when I got there the office was empty, and this person disappeared and never showed up again. Never showed up again.”

This is a major revelation. When you’ve got an American infiltrator covertly surveilling a foreign official to advance US foreign policy agendas, what you have is a US spy. We don’t know what agency that spy would have worked for, but what Bustani is describing is US espionage targeting an international watchdog organisation.

Bustani gave additional insights into the ongoing OPCW scandal surrounding the extremely suspicious practices that were implemented in the investigation of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria in 2018 which preceded airstrikes against the Assad government by the US, UK and France. He stated emphatically that as Director-General he would “never” have allowed the Douma investigation team to be replaced with a “core team” who never went there or permitted a team of inspectors to meet with US officials during an active investigation, as reportedly happened after the Douma incident.

“This would have never happened if I were Director-General,” Bustani said when asked if he’d have allowed a US delegation to lobby them to come to a specified conclusion in their investigation. “The Inspectors know themselves that they cannot. They cannot. They are not supposed to meet with delegations on issues like inspections in particular. I don’t know how it happened, maybe they were forced to or they were led to by… I don’t know how it in practice happened because if I were Director-General this would never happen.”

“Absolutely not,” Bustani said when asked if he’d have permitted a team of investigators to be replaced mid-investigation with another team who never visited the crime scene. “It would have never happened to me, unless there was a serious violation of the code of conduct on the part of the inspectors. Which fortunately never, never happened.”
Bustani said he knew the whistleblowers who sparked the OPCW scandal from his time at the Organisation, and decried the way they are being smeared, silenced and their anonymity removed for simply voicing objections to an investigation’s methodology in the interest of protecting the OPCW’s legitimacy. He voiced a great fondness for the Organisation and a grave concern for the suspicious abnormalities in its investigative practices involving the United States, and he expressed shock at the way the US, UK and France recently blocked him from offering comments to the UN about those concerns.
Maté pointed out that one highly suspect common denominator in both the current OPCW scandal and Bustani’s 2002 ouster is John Bolton. As US ambassador Bolton is known to have been actively involved in arranging Bustani’s removal as Director-General to such an aggressive extent that he reportedly threatened Bustani’s children, and Bolton’s stint as Trump’s National Security Advisor began immediately before the 2018 airstrikes on Syria after the Douma incident. Bolton claims to have played a role in planning those airstrikes and was active at the highest levels of the US government’s executive branch throughout the entirety of the OPCW Douma investigation.

The mountains of evidence that the US has been meddling in an investigation of an incident which led to an act of war by the United States and its allies keeps stacking higher. The way the US power alliance has been actively suppressing and avoiding that evidence is appalling, and the way the mass media have refused to report on this fact is even more so.


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Originally Published by Caitlin Johnstone

Yellow Vests: No Coincidence Macron, Merkel and May are in Dire Straits

Ekaterina Blinova10240

The ‘yellow vest’ upheaval has exposed longstanding problems in France’s economy, Christine Bierre, French journalist and chief editor of Nouvelle Solidarité, has told Sputnik, adding that to heal these wounds, the French need to get rid of Brussels’ diktat and take back control of their financial system.

The ‘yellow vests’ protests are continuing to gain momentum in France, with about two thirds of the French supporting the unrest, according to the latest OpinionWay poll.

Speaking to Sputnik, Christine Bierre, French journalist and chief editor of Nouvelle Solidarité, shed the light on the nation-wide upheaval.

‘Over a year, diesel prices have increased by 23 per cent and those of gasoline, by 15 per cent. These hikes [in prices] hit those who live in rural areas and who need energy not only for their cars, but for tractors if they are farmers, boats if they are fishermen, trucks for transporters, fuel for construction workers and for heating’, the journalist said.

She noted that those who cannot afford living in big cities and who live in small towns and in the peripheries had also found themselves between a rock and a hard place, since they have to use their cars to get to megalopolises.

‘Concretely, expenses for energy have gone from 12 per cent per household in the 1960’s, to 30 per cent in 2018’, Bierre stressed. ‘For a couple with two kids using a diesel car and fuel to heat, taxes increased last year by 600 euros; the price of diesel for tractors went from 50 cents a litre to 87 cents, so a farmer using 20,000 litres per year, will pay 7,400 euros more in taxes on energy’.

She pointed out that in general, ‘the middle and the lower middle class and also part of what one calls the “working poor”‘ had fallen prey to the Macron cabinet’s measure.

According to the journalist, the rapid growth of the ‘yellow vests’ movement, which mobilized 300,000 people, ‘revealed, however, that energy prices were just the last straw that provoked the social explosion.’

TICPE and Its Consequences

However, President Emmanuel Macron and his policies are not the only reason for the impoverishment of the French middle class and the current crisis, ‘even though his favouring the richer against the poor has been the most indecent’, the journalist opined.

‘Along with the energy price increases on international spot markets, the real culprit behind the huge rise in energy prices is the tax on energy products, TICPE (Taxe Intérieure de Consommation sur les Produits Energétiques), created in 2000, and used by the state to heavily improve its tax revenues’, she elaborated.

Bierre explained that today this tax ‘represents 57 per cent of the price of diesel and more than 60 per cent of the price of gasoline, mainly because since 2014, the TICPE includes a tax to finance the costs of the energy transition.’

‘This is a progressive tax that grows every year according to a supposed price of carbon per ton of CO2, which is to reach 100 euros in 2030!’ the journalist remarked. ‘In 2015 it was at 14.5 euros, in 2017 — 22 euros in 2017, in 2018 — 44.6 euros and so on.’

She stressed that Macron’s predecessors relied heavily on the taxation of their population to finance their programmes and lately the energy transition, but the incumbent French president ‘is, no doubt, the most outrageous.’

‘Since his coming to power he “granted” 5 billion euros in tax cuts to rich financiers, transforming the tax on large fortunes into a real estate tax only, and reducing the tax on financial profits to a 30 per cent flat tax’, Bierre outlined. ‘At the same time, he reduced state aid to the poor by the equivalent of 4 billion euros (cuts in aids to housing, public jobs and increase of general taxes).’

Yellow Vests: Neither Far-Right nor Far-Left

The question then arises as to what political forces have jumped on the bandwagon of the ‘yellow vests’ movement. According to Bierre, many politicians would like to capitalize on the upheaval, from the far right to the far left camp.

‘The “yellow vests”… have rejected the participation of all political forces as such, and kicked out far right and far left elements attempting to infiltrate them’, she highlighted, adding that the movement had emerged spontaneously protesting against the austerity policies which originate from the 2008 financial crisis and earlier economic strategy.

The journalist has drawn attention to the fact that Macron has refused to hear the plight of the French population so far.

‘[Prime Minister] Edouard Philippe even repeated [on 28 November] that he won’t eliminate the planned increases of energy costs for 2019 and won’t increase the minimum wage’, she remarked. ‘Will Philippe, a close aide to Alain Juppé, end up like his master in 1995, ousted following the strikes, because he was too rigid to change?  Anything is possible.’

According to Bierre, these protests ‘have the potential of a revolutionary movement.’

‘Will the government resist all the pressure, due to the lack of organizational structures and experience [of the protesters]? Perhaps; but it has definitely become the first serious call to bring an end to the arrogance of the Paris elites of the post-De Gaulle era’, she said.

The Lesson of the 2008 Financial Crisis is Still Unlearned

The journalist believes that it is no coincidence that the leaders of major European powers — Germany, France and the UK — are currently facing economic and political difficulties triggering speculations about their possible resignations or early departures.

‘In fact Europe is suffering from the refusal of the Western world to deal with the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, and with the inequalities created by the financial globalization of the last 30 years’, she opined. ‘Like in the US, in Europe, the middle classes became impoverished during this process, and the poor became even poorer.’

The situation is complicated by the diktat of Brussels, she underscored, adding that EU member-states’ financial systems are being controlled by the European Central Bank, which exerts its supranational authority on the nations.

‘The situation in Europe is worsened by the fact that by adopting the EU supranational treaty, all nations gave up their sovereignty in all matters and today are like bodies with no heads!  As we see in the case of Italy, a non-elected EU Commission is trying to rule over a duly elected Italian government, to forbid them from carrying a policy of investment to create jobs’, Bierre said.

Seeking a Cure

So, what steps should be taken by the government to fix the current situation?

‘Dealing with the European question is not sufficient however, because to create jobs and rebuild our economies, we must take back control of our financial system’, the journalist responded.

She noted that the looming financial crisis that is being predicted by most financial media at this point ‘sets the obvious context for the financial reforms needed to rebuild our nations in response to the current revolts.’

According to Bierre, first, Europeans need ‘a real Glass-Steagall Act which separates speculative banking completely from commercial banking’; second, ‘the reestablishment of sovereign national banks in every country emitting “public credit” for reconstruction of industrial capacities of the devastated European economies based on the policies of the “30 glorious” [post-war boom] years in France’; third, Europe needs to adopt a ‘policy of cooperation with the great powers of this world, Russia, China, India and the United States, to expand and contribute to initiatives like China’s New Silk Road, the Russian Eurasian Economic Union, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.’

Source: https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201811301070254065-macron-merkel-may-eu/

Why the documentary must not be allowed to die

Journalist, film-maker and author, John Pilger is one of two to win British journalism’s highest award twice. For his documentary films, he has won an Emmy and a British Academy Award, a BAFTA. Among numerous other awards, he has won a Royal Television Society Best Documentary Award. His epic 1979 Cambodia Year Zero is ranked by the British Film Institute as one of the ten most important documentaries of the 20th century.

I first understood the power of the documentary during the editing of my first film, The Quiet Mutiny.

In the commentary, I make reference to a chicken, which my crew and I encountered while on patrol with American soldiers in Vietnam. “It must be a Vietcong chicken – a communist chicken,” said the sergeant. He wrote in his report: “enemy sighted.”

The chicken moment seemed to underline the farce of the war – so I included it in the film. That may have been unwise.

The regulator of commercial television in Britain – then the Independent Television Authority or ITA – had demanded to see my script.

What was my source for the political affiliation of the chicken? I was asked. Was it really a communist chicken, or could it have been a pro-American chicken?

Of course, this nonsense had a serious purpose; when The Quiet Mutiny was broadcast by ITV in 1970, the US ambassador to Britain, Walter Annenberg, a personal friend of President Richard Nixon, complained to the ITA. He complained not about the chicken, but about the whole film.

I intend to inform the White House,” the ambassador wrote. Gosh.

The Quiet Mutiny had revealed the US army in Vietnam was tearing itself apart. There was open rebellion: drafted men were refusing orders and shooting their officers in the back or “fragging” them with grenades as they slept.

None of this had been news. What it meant was that the war was lost, and the messenger was not appreciated.

The Director-General of the ITA was Sir Robert Fraser. He summoned Denis Forman, then Director of Programs at Granada TV, and went into a state of apoplexy. Spraying expletives, Sir Robert described me as a “dangerous subversive.

What concerned the regulator and the ambassador was the power of a single documentary film: the power of its facts and witnesses: especially young soldiers speaking the truth and treated sympathetically by the filmmaker.

I was a newspaper journalist. I had never made a film before, and I was indebted to Charles Denton, a renegade producer from the BBC, who taught me that facts and evidence told straight to the camera and to the audience could indeed be subversive.

This subversion of official lies is the power of documentary. I have now made 60 films, and I believe there is nothing like this power in any other medium.

In the 1960s, a brilliant young filmmaker, Peter Watkins, made The War Game for the BBC. Watkins reconstructed the aftermath of a nuclear attack on London.

The War Game was banned. “The effect of this film,” said the BBC, “has been judged to be too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting.

The then chairman of the BBC’s Board of Governors was Lord Normanbrook, who had been Secretary to the Cabinet. He wrote to his successor in the Cabinet, Sir Burke Trend: “The War Game is not designed as propaganda: it is intended as a purely factual statement and is based on careful research into official material … but the subject is alarming, and the showing of the film on television might have a significant effect on public attitudes toward the policy of the nuclear deterrent.

In other words, the power of this documentary was such that it might alert people to the true horrors of nuclear war and cause them to question the very existence of nuclear weapons.

The Cabinet papers show that the BBC secretly colluded with the government to ban Watkins’ film. The cover story was that the BBC had a responsibility to protect “the elderly living alone and people of limited mental intelligence.”

Most of the press swallowed this. The ban on The War Game ended the career of Peter Watkins in British television at the age of 30. This remarkable filmmaker left the BBC and Britain, and angrily launched a worldwide campaign against censorship.

Telling the truth, and dissenting from the official truth, can be hazardous for a documentary filmmaker.

In 1988, Thames Television broadcast Death on the Rock, a documentary about the war in Northern Ireland. It was a risky and courageous venture. Censorship of the reporting of the so-called Irish Troubles was rife, and many of us in documentaries were actively discouraged from making films north of the border. If we tried, we were drawn into a quagmire of compliance.

The journalist Liz Curtis calculated that the BBC had banned, doctored or delayed some 50 major TV programs on Ireland. There were, of course, honorable exceptions, such as John Ware.

Roger Bolton, the producer of Death on the Rock, was another. Death on the Rock revealed the British government deployed SAS death squads overseas against the IRA, murdering four unarmed people in Gibraltar.

A vicious smear campaign was mounted against the film, led by the government of Margaret Thatcher and the Murdoch press, notably the Sunday Times, edited by Andrew Neil.

It was the first documentary ever subjected to an official inquiry – and its facts were vindicated. Murdoch had to pay up for the defamation of one of the film’s principal witnesses.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Thames Television, one of the most innovative broadcasters in the world, was eventually stripped of its franchise in the United Kingdom.

Did the prime minister exact her revenge on ITV and the filmmakers, as she had done to the miners? We don’t know. What we do know is that the power of this one documentary stood by the truth and, like The War Game, marked a high point in filmed journalism.

I believe great documentaries exude an artistic heresy. They are difficult to categorize. They are not like great fiction. They are not like great feature movies. Yet, they can combine the sheer power of both.

The Battle of Chile: the fight of an unarmed people, is an epic documentary by Patricio Guzman. It is an extraordinary film: actually a trilogy of films.

When it was released in the 1970s, the New Yorker asked: “How could a team of five people, some with no previous film experience, working with one Éclair camera, one Nagra sound-recorder, and a package of black and white film, produce a work of this magnitude?

Guzman’s documentary is about the overthrow of democracy in Chile in 1973 by fascists led by General Pinochet and directed by the CIA.

Almost everything is filmed hand-held, on the shoulder. And remember this is a film camera, not video. You have to change the magazine every ten minutes, or the camera stops; and the slightest movement and change of light affects the image.

In the Battle of Chile, there is a scene at the funeral of a naval officer, loyal to President Salvador Allende, who was murdered by those plotting to destroy Allende’s reformist government.

The camera moves among the military faces: human totems with their medals and ribbons, their coiffed hair and opaque eyes. The sheer menace of the faces says you are watching the funeral of a whole society: of democracy itself.

There is a price to pay for filming so bravely. The cameraman, Jorge Muller, was arrested and taken to a torture camp, where he “disappeared” until his grave was found many years later. He was 27. I salute his memory.

In Britain, the pioneering work of John Grierson, Denis Mitchell, Norman Swallow, Richard Cawston and other filmmakers in the early 20th century crossed the great divide of class and presented another country.

They dared put cameras and microphones in front of ordinary Britons and allowed them to talk in their own language.

John Grierson is said by some to have coined the term “documentary.” “The drama is on your doorstep,” he said in the 1920s, “wherever the slums are, wherever there is malnutrition, wherever there is exploitation and cruelty.”

These early British filmmakers believed that the documentary should speak from below, not from above: it should be the medium of people, not authority. In other words, it was the blood, sweat, and tears of ordinary people that gave us the documentary.

Denis Mitchell was famous for his portraits of a working-class street. “Throughout my career,” he said, “I have been absolutely astonished at the quality of people’s strength and dignity.”

When I read those words, I think of the survivors of Grenfell Tower, most of them still waiting to be re-housed, all of them still waiting for justice, as the cameras move on to the repetitive circus of a royal wedding.

The late David Munro and I made Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia in 1979.

This film broke a silence about a country subjected to more than a decade of bombing and genocide, and its power involved millions of ordinary men, women, and children in the rescue of a society on the other side of the world.

Even now, Year Zero puts the lie to the myth that the public doesn’t care, or that those who do care eventually fall victim to something called “compassion fatigue.”

Year Zero was watched by an audience greater than the audience of the current, immensely popular British “reality” program Bake Off. It was shown on mainstream TV in more than 30 countries, but not in the United States, where PBS rejected it outright, fearful, according to an executive, of the reaction of the new Reagan administration.

In Britain and Australia, it was broadcast without advertising – the only time, to my knowledge, this has happened on commercial television.

Following the British broadcast, more than 40 sacks of post arrived at ATV’s offices in Birmingham, 26,000 first-class letters in the first post alone. Remember this was a time before email and Facebook.

In the letters was £1 million – most of it in small amounts from those who could least afford to give. “This is for Cambodia,” wrote a bus driver, enclosing his week’s wages. Pensioners sent their pension. A single mother sent her savings of £50.

People came to my home with toys and cash, and petitions for Thatcher and poems of indignation for Pol Pot and for his collaborator, President Richard Nixon, whose bombs had accelerated the fanatic’s rise.

For the first time, the BBC supported an ITV film. The Blue Peter program asked children to “bring and buy” toys at Oxfam shops throughout the country. By Christmas, the children had raised the astonishing amount of £3,500,000.

Across the world, Year Zero raised more than $55 million, mostly unsolicited, and which brought help directly to Cambodia: medicines, vaccines and the installation of an entire clothing factory that allowed people to throw away the black uniforms they had been forced to wear by Pol Pot. It was as if the audience had ceased to be onlookers and had become participants.

Something similar happened in the United States when CBS Television broadcast Edward R. Murrow’s film, Harvest of Shame, in 1960. This was the first time that many middle-class Americans glimpsed the scale of poverty in their midst.

Harvest of Shame is the story of migrant agricultural workers who were treated little better than slaves. Today, their struggle has such resonance as migrants and refugees fight for work and safety in foreign places. What seems extraordinary is that the children and grandchildren of some of the people in this film will be bearing the brunt of the abuse and strictures of President Trump.

In the United States today, there is no equivalent of Edward R. Murrow. His eloquent, unflinching kind of American journalism has been abolished in the so-called mainstream and has taken refuge in the internet.

Britain remains one of the few countries where documentaries are still shown on mainstream television in the hours when most people are still awake. But documentaries that go against the received wisdom are becoming an endangered species, at the very time we need them perhaps more than ever.

In survey after survey, when people are asked what they would like more of on television, they say documentaries.

I don’t believe they mean a type of current affairs program that is a platform for politicians and “experts” who affect a specious balance between great power and its victims.

Observational documentaries are popular; but films about airports and motorway police do not make sense of the world. They entertain.

David Attenborough’s brilliant programs on the natural world are making sense of climate change – belatedly.

The BBC’s Panorama is making sense of Britain’s secret support of jihadism in Syria – belatedly.

But why is Trump setting fire to the Middle East? Why is the West edging closer to war with Russia and China?

Mark the words of the narrator in Peter Watkins’ The War Game: “On almost the entire subject of nuclear weapons, there is now practically total silence in the press, and on TV. There is hope in any unresolved or unpredictable situation. But is there real hope to be found in this silence?”

In 2017, that silence has returned.

It is not news that the safeguards on nuclear weapons have been quietly removed and that the United States is now spending $4.6 million per hour on nuclear weapons: that’s $4.6 million every hour, 24 hours a day, every day. Who knows that?

The Coming War on China, which I completed last year, has been broadcast in the UK, but not in the United States – where 90 percent of the population cannot name or locate the capital of North Korea or explain why Trump wants to destroy it. China is next door to North Korea.

According to one “progressive” film distributor in the US, the American people are interested only in what she calls “character-driven” documentaries.

This is code for a “look at me” consumerist cult that now consumes and intimidates and exploits so much of our popular culture while turning away filmmakers from a subject as urgent as any in modern times.

When the truth is replaced by silence,” wrote the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.

Whenever young documentary filmmakers ask me how they can “make a difference,” I reply that it is really quite simple. They need to break the silence.

This is an edited version of an address John Pilger gave at the British Library on 9 December as part of a retrospective festival, ‘The Power of the Documentary’, held to mark the Library’s acquisition of Pilger’s written archive.

http://www.johnpilger.com/

Hague Tribunal Exonerates Slobodan Milosevic Again

by Andy Wilcoxson, via Strategic Culture

More than eleven years after his death, a second trial chamber at the UN War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague has concluded that former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was not responsible for war crimes committed in Bosnia where the worst atrocities associated with the break-up of Yugoslavia took place.

Buried in a footnote deep in the fourth volume of the judgment against Bosnian-Serb General Ratko Mladic the judges unanimously conclude that “The evidence received by the trial chamber did not show that Slobodan Milosevic, Jovica Stanisic, Franko Simatovic, Zeljko Raznatovic, or Vojislav Seselj participated in the realization of the common criminal objective” to establish an ethnically-homogenous Bosnian-Serb entity through the commission of crimes alleged in the indictment.[1]

This is an important admission because practically the entire Western press corps and virtually every political leader in every Western country has spent the last 25 years telling us that Slobodan Milosevic was a genocidal monster cut from the same cloth as Adolf Hitler. We were told that he was the “Butcher of the Balkans,” but there was never any evidence to support those accusations. We were lied to in order to justify economic sanctions and NATO military aggression against the people of Serbia – just like they lied to us to justify the Iraq war.

This is the second successive trial chamber at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to conclude that Slobodan Milosevic was not guilty of the most serious crimes he was accused of.

Last year, the Radovan Karadzic trial chamber also concluded that “the Chamber is not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milosevic agreed with the common plan” to permanently remove Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from Bosnian Serb claimed territory.[2]

The Tribunal has done nothing to publicize these findings despite the fact that Slobodan Milosevic was accused of 66 counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the Tribunal.

Milosevic died in the Tribunal’s custody before the conclusion of his own trial. He was found dead in his cell after suffering a heart attack in the UN Detention Unit two weeks after the Tribunal denied his request for provisional release so that he could have heart surgery that would have saved his life.[3]

Dr. Leo Bokeria, the coronary specialist who would have overseen Milosevic’s treatment at the Bakulev Medical Center, said: “If Milosevic was taken to any specialized Russian hospital, the more so to such a stationary medical institution as ours, he would have been subjected to coronographic examination, two stents would be made, and he would have lived for many long years to come. A person has died in our contemporary epoch, when all the methods to treat him were available and the proposals of our country and the reputation of our medicine were ignored. As a result, they did what they wanted to do.”[4]

Less than 72 hours before his death, Milosevic’s lawyer delivered a letter to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which Milosevic expressed fear that he was being poisoned.[5]

The Tribunal’s inquiry into Milosevic’s death confirmed that Rifampicin (an unprescribed drug that would have compromised the efficacy of his high blood pressure medication) was found in one of his blood tests, but that that he was not informed of the results until months later “because of the difficult legal position in which Dr. Falke (the Tribunal’s chief medical officer) found himself by virtue of the Dutch legal provisions concerning medical confidentiality.”[6]

There are no Dutch legal provisions that prohibit a doctor from telling a patient the result of their own blood test, and U.S. diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks show that the Tribunal had zero regard for medical confidentiality laws when they gave detailed information about Slobodan Milosevic’s health and medical records to personnel at the US embassy in The Hague without his consent.[7]

Milosevic’s trial had been going badly for the prosecution. It was glaringly obvious to any fair-minded observer that he was innocent of the crimes he was accused of. James Bissett, Canada’s former ambassador to Yugoslavia, said Milosevic’s trial “had taken on all the characteristics of a Stalinist show trial.” George Kenny, who manned the U.S. State Department’s Yugoslavia desk, also denounced the Milosevic trial proceedings as “inherently unfair, amounting to little more than a political show trial”.[8]

The trial was a public relations disaster for the Tribunal. Midway through the Prosecution’s case, the London Times published an article smearing Slobodan Milosevic’s wife and lamenting the fact that “One of the ironies of Slobodan’s trial is that it has bolstered his popularity. Hours of airtime, courtesy of the televised trial, have made many Serbs fall in love with him again.”[9]

While the trial enhanced Milosevic’s favorability, it destroyed the Tribunal’s credibility with the Serbian public. The Serbian public had been watching the trial on television, and when the Serbian Human Rights Ministry conducted a public opinion poll three years into the trial it found that “three quarters of Serbian citizens believe that The Hague Tribunal is a political rather than a legal institution.”[10]

Tim Judah, a well-known anti-Milosevic journalist and author, was dismayed as he watched the trial unfold. He wrote that “the trial of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague is going horribly wrong, turning him in the eyes of the public from a villain charged with war crimes into a Serbian hero.”[11]

By late 2005, Milosevic’s detractors wanted the live broadcasts of the trial yanked off the air because it was not having the political effect that they had hoped it would. Political analyst Daniel Cveticanin wrote, “It seems that the coverage benefits more those it was supposed to expose than the Serbian public. [The] freedom-loving and democratic intentions of the live coverage have not produced [the] planned effects.”[12]

Milosevic’s supporters, on the other hand, were emphatic. They wanted the live broadcasts to continue because they knew he was innocent and they wanted the public to see that for themselves.[13]

Slobodan Milosevic’s exoneration, by the same Tribunal that killed him eleven years ago, is cold comfort for the people of Serbia. The Serbian people endured years of economic sanctions and a NATO bombing campaign against their country because of the unfounded allegations against their president.

Although the Tribunal eventually admitted that it didn’t have evidence against Slobodan Milosevic, its disreputable behavior should make you think twice before accepting any of its other findings.

NOTES:
[1] ICTY, Mladic Judgment, Vol. IV, 22 November 2017, Pg. 2090, Footnote 15357
http://www.icty.org/x/cases/mladic/tjug/en/171122-4of5_1.pdf%5B2%5D ICTY, Karadzic Judgment, 24 March 2016, Para. 3460
http://www.icty.org/x/cases/karadzic/tjug/en/160324_judgement.pdf
[3] ICTY Case No. IT-02-54 Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milosevic, Decision on Assigned Counsel Request for Provisional Release, February 23, 2006
[4] “Milosevic Could Be Saved if He Was Treated in Russia – Bokeria,” Itar-Tass (Russia), March 15, 2006
[5] Text of Slobodan Milosevic’s Letter to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
http://www.slobodan-milosevic.org/news/sm030806.htm
[6] Judge Kevin Parker (Vice-President of the ICTY), Report to the President of the ICTY: Death of Slobodan Milosevic, May 2006; ¶ 31, 76
http://www.icty.org/x/cases/slobodan_milosevic/custom2/en/parkerreport.pdf
[7] U.S. State Dept. Cable #03THEHAGUE2835_a, “ICTY: An Inside Look Into Milosevic’s Health and Support Network”
https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/03THEHAGUE2835_a.html
[8] “Milosevic trial delayed as witnesses refuse to testify,” The Irish Times, September 18, 2004
[9] “Listening to Lady Macbeth,” Sunday Times (London), January 5, 2003
[10] “Public Opinion Firmly Against Hague,” B92 News (Belgrade), August 2, 2004
[11] Tim Judah, “Serbia Backs Milosevic in Trial by TV – Alarm as Former President Gains the Upper Hand in War Crimes Tribunal,” The Observer (London), March 3, 2002
[12] “Debate Opens in Serbia Over Live Coverage of Milosevic War Crimes Trial,” Associated Press Worldstream, September 22, 2005
[13] “Serbian NGO Opposes Decision to Drop Live Broadcast of Milosevic Trial,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, October 8, 2003; Source: FoNet news agency, Belgrade, in Serbian 1300 gmt 8 Oct 03; See Also: “Serbia: Milosevic Sympathisers Protest Inadequate Coverage of Trial,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, June 10, 2002; Source: RTS TV, Belgrade, in Serbo-Croat 1730 gmt 10 Jun 02

Two Years of “Wrong” Votes: The Media Take Aim at Democracy

Jeremy Corbyn has won two leadership contests, and gained the largest vote share for Labour in decades. Hillary Clinton had to cheat to get past Bernie Sanders, and was then humiliated by Donald Trump. The UK voted to leave the EU. After two years of getting the “wrong” results thanks to voters refusing to do as they’re told, some areas of the media and intelligentsia are finally asking the tough question: Is voting bad for democracy?

by Kit

In the wake of the Brexit vote (and, to a lesser extent, the Dutch rejection of Ukraine-EU links) no word was dirtier to the MSM than “referendum”. The conclusion seeming to be that resorting to plebiscitary democracy was bad for the country, and bad for democracy itself.

David Mitchell wrote that parliament was meant to make hard decisions for us. Natalie Nougayrède argued that “the mob” undermined our “elite institutions”. The New York times featured an article headlined:

Why Referendums (sic) Aren’t as Democratic as They Seem

The article argues that voters will vote to undermine their own best interests, and so they shouldn’t be allowed to. Also it disempowers voters because:

Voters must make their decisions with relatively little information, forcing them to rely on political messaging — which puts power in the hands of political elites rather than those of voters.

This fallacy was repeated over and over and over and over and over again.

The general message was – Referenda are bad. They cheapen our democracy. Voting can go wrong. People aren’t informed enough. When you take a plebiscite, all you get is the opinion of plebs. Ban them completely.

Bloomberg even had a Justin Fox article headlined:

Voters Are Making a Mess of Democracy

That was a year ago, and things have only got worse since then. Now not only direct democracy, but all kinds of democracy, are being attacked.

The New York Times deserves special mention here. Neo-con Pulitzer prize winner Bret Stephens bemoans the “Year of Voting Recklessly”. His article demonstrates total ignorance of the world at large, history, British politics and morality. The article is a cesspool of ill-informed bigotry and bias, declaring anybody to the left of Ronald Reagan a “Marxist”, and gently undermining the idea of democracy because “voters are idiots”.

His childish ad hom assaults on Corbyn demonstrate everything wrong with the political establishment on the far side of the pond (and increasingly in Britain too), concerned only with labels and point scoring. There is not one word about policy in the article, just an all-out adolescent tirade against everybody on either side who disagrees with him. That this kind of author can win a Pulitzer prize shames American society.

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times has an Op-ed titled:

The British election is a reminder of the perils of too much democracy

In which James Kirchick dismisses, with a perfectly straight face and absolutely no sense of the absurd, the idea of “The People”:

“The people” — that expression beloved of Third World tyrants and increasingly adopted by leaders in advanced industrial democracies — got their say.

It seems the author either never knew, or has forgotten, that “We, the people” are the first words of his country’s constitution. Perhaps he thinks it’s in sarcastic quotes there, too.

I’m not sure which of Washington, Jefferson or Adams, Mr Kirchick considers a “third world tyrant”. I’m not even completely sure he knows who they are.

Meanwhile, on June 1st Vox published a story headlined:

The problem with democracy: it relies on voters

And then followed that up with this, on June 9th:

What if “more public participation” can’t save American democracy?

These articles are based on this paper from the Brookings institute, titled:

More professionalism, less populism: How voting makes us stupid, and what to do about it

An argument against democracy based on the assumption that…

Populism cannot solve our problems…because its core premises and reforms are self-defeating. Research has shown that voters are “irrationally biased and rationally ignorant,” and do not possess the specialized knowledge necessary to make complex policy judgments.

Brookings have form in this area, having previously published articles and papers with titles such as: Democracy does not cause growth and Is too much democracy responsible for the rise of Trump?.

The agenda is clear – they are trying to encourage those that fancy themselves “informed” to take up an academic position that disdains the idea of the great unwashed having a say on important matters. Persuading real “useful idiots” how smart it would be to disempower themselves in service to the state.

Maybe you’re not familiar with the Brookings Institute. Here’s their about page blurb:

The Brookings Institution is a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission is to conduct in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems facing society at the local, national and global level.

Which is delightfully vague. A glimpse at their sources of funding clarifies things rather:

As of 2016 the Brookings Institution had assets of $473.8 million. Its largest contributors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Hutchins Family Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, the LEGO Foundation, David Rubenstein, State of Qatar, and John L. Thornton.

In 2014, it received $250,000 from the United States Central Command of the United States Department of Defense.

I don’t know how much money you can accept from the USDoD and still claim to be “non-partisan”, but apparently it’s more than $250,000.

Interestingly, if we re-visit the above Vox articles, we can focus on this little green box just under the title:

It seems these articles were published under Polyarchy, a new section devoted entirely to publishing releases from the New America think-tank, an NGO whose about page contains an incredibly predictable, and very familiar list of financial supporters. Including JP Morgan Chase, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the US State Department.

Exactly the same people supporting the Brookings Institute.

Voices are popping up all over the media, telling us democracy doesn’t work, that the system is failing and that voting gives too much power to idiots. We’re being slowly introduced to the idea that the educated and sophisticated opinion is that democracy just doesn’t work, and if we ever really want to sort out the world’s problems, we might have to let go of this antiquated institution.

Strangely, all these media voices seem to be getting paid by the same handful of billionaires, banks and businesses.

Apparently Bill Gates and George Soros really don’t like us being able to vote.

 


Original Source:

Two Years of "Wrong" Votes: The Media Take Aim at Democracy

Soros Exposed

WAYNE MADSEN

 

Although multi-billionaire hedge fund tycoon and international political pot-stirrer George Soros lost big with the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States and the victory of the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, he stands to lose further ground, politically and financially, as the winds of political change sweep across the globe.

Soros, who fancies himself as the master of placing short put options on stocks, often cleaning up to the tune of billions of dollars in the process when the stock values collapse, has been dealt a few financial body blows. Recently, the Dutch securities market regulator AFM «accidentally» revealed on line all of Soros’s short trades since 2012. Soros’s trades were revealed on AFM’s website and were removed after the regulator realized the «error». However, the Soros data had already been captured by automatic data capturing software programs operated by intelligence agencies and brokerage firms that routinely scour the Internet looking for such «mistakes».

Among the bank shares targeted by Soros was the Ing Groep NV, a major institution and important element of the Dutch economy. After campaigning against Brexit, Soros bet against the stock of Deutsche Bank AG, which he believed would fall in value after Britain voted to leave the EU. Deutsche Bank stock fell 14 percent and Soros cleaned up. But Soros’s celebration was temporary. With Trump’s election, Soros lost a whopping $1 billion in stock speculation. Surrounded by his fellow financial manipulators, Soros explained his recent losses while attending the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Soros’s mega-wealthy cronies placed their own bets against smaller Dutch firms. Those firms included Ordina, an information technology firm; Advanced Metallurgical Group; and the real estate group Wereldhave N.V.

Beware the Ides of March

The Soros data release comes at a particularly sensitive time in Dutch politics. The center-right government led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte is on the political ropes as it tries to fend off, in an election scheduled for March 15, a serious challenge by the right-nationalist Party for Freedom (PVV) of anti-migrant and anti-European Union leader Geert Wilders. An ally of Donald Trump, Wilders is likely to make political hay out of the fact that Soros, the champion of European open borders and mass migration, bet against Dutch banks. The Ides of March looks favorably upon a Wilders victory, an event that will drive another nail into the coffin of the European Union and Soros’s mass migration and open borders dream.

The Netherlands has not been particularly friendly to Soros and his goals. In November 2016, Soros’s Open Society Foundations, and two groups funded by Soros – the European Network Against Racism and Gender Concerns International – advertised job openings for Dutch youth «between the ages 17-26» who are Muslim immigrants and the children or grandchildren of Muslim immigrants to campaign against parties like those of Wilders and Rutte.

Prime Minister Rutte recently issued a warning to migrants who refuse to assimilate into Dutch society. Of course, Rutte was not referring to the thousands of migrants from former Dutch colonies in the Dutch East and West Indies who had no problem adopting Dutch culture, religion, and social manners. Rutte, who faces a 9-point lead by Wilders’s PVV, had some pointed words for the Muslim migrants in the Netherlands. In an interview with «Algemeen Dagblad», Rutte, in what could have been a speech by Wilders, said:

«I tell everyone. If you don’t like it here in this country, get out, get out! That’s the choice you have. If you live in a country where the ways of dealing with others annoys you, you have a choice, go away. You do not need to be here.» Rutte had particular disdain for those who «don’t want to adapt… who attack gay people, shout at women in short skirts, or call ordinary Dutch people racist». Rutte left very little doubt about to whom he was referring, the recently-arrived Muslim migrants, «There have always been people who exhibited deviant behavior. But something has come to pass in the last year where we, as a society, should have an answer. With the arrival of large groups of refugees, the question arises: will the Netherlands still be the Netherlands?»

Coming from a one-time committed Euroatlanticist supporter of NATO, the EU, and the World Bank, Rutte’s words about migrants must have come as a complete shock to Soros and his minions.

The exposure of Soros’s financial manipulation of the Dutch economy is sure to enrage Dutch citizens already weary of migrants and diktats by the European Union. In April 2016, Dutch citizens overwhelmingly rejected the EU-Ukraine treaty that called for closer ties between the EU and the Kiev regime. The outcome enraged Soros, who is one of the Kiev regime’s principal puppet masters.

NGO «Santa Claus» now faces many closed doors

Europe once praised Soros as some sort of benevolent «Santa Claus,» who handed out millions for «good deeds» to one-world government proponents and other starry-eyed utopians. However, the veneer of Soros is wearing thin.

Russia was the first to call out Soros for his interference in Russian politics. The Soros plan to destabilize Russia, dubbed the «Russia Project» by Soros’s Open Society Institute and Foundation, foresaw the outbreak of Ukrainian-style «Maidan Square» uprisings in cities across Russia. In November 2015, the Russian Prosecutor-General’s office announced the proscription of activities of the Open Society Institute and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation for endangering Russia’s constitutional order and national security.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban now leads the anti-Soros groundswell in Europe. The optics of Orban becoming the first European Union leader to go after the Hungarian-born Soros and his destabilization operations has not been lost on other EU leaders, including those in Poland and the Czech Republic. Orban has accused Soros of masterminding the migrant invasion of Europe. In retaliation for these and other moves by Soros, Orban has warned that the various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) backed by Soros risk being expelled from Europe altogether.

Orban has been joined in venting his anger about Soros by former Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski, who was forced from office and an early election after Soros-inspired demonstrations in his country took place amid a massive influx of Muslim migrants from Greece.

Referring to Soros’s global political operations, the former Macedonian prime minister said in a recent interview, «He is not doing that just in Macedonia, but in the Balkans, across Eastern Europe, and now, most recently, in the United States. Secondly, from what I’ve read about him, in some countries he does it for material and financial reasons, to earn a lot of money, while in others for ideological reasons».

In Poland, where Soros has been very influential, a Member of Parliament for the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), Krystyna Pawłowicz, recently demanded that Soros be stripped of Poland’s highest honor for foreigners, the Commander with Star of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. Pawłowicz considers Soros’s operations in Poland to be illegal. She also believes that Soros’s organizations are «financing the anti-democratic and anti-Polish element with a view to fight Polish sovereignty and indigenous Christian culture».

Czech President Milos said, in a 2016 interview, «some of his [Soros’s] activities are at least suspicious and they strikingly remind of interferences in [countries’] internal affairs. The organizing of what is known as color revolutions in individual countries is an interesting hobby, but it brings more harm than benefit to the countries concerned». Zeman claimed Soros was planning a color revolution for the Czech Republic.

Read more……

Source:

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/01/29/soros-on-ropes.html