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Alan MacLeod

A 'Brazen Giveaway' GOP HEALS Act is a $30 Billion Bonanza for the Pentagon

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On Monday the Senate GOP released their outline for a new $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus package. A successor to March’s CARES Act, the 177-page document, named the HEALS Act, includes no funding for hazard pay, the Postal Service, state and local governments, nutrition assistance, or help for uninsured or underinsured Americans, but incorporates a $29.4 billion bonanza for the Pentagon.

The package is presented as a necessary measure to help the country fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far caused the deaths of nearly 153,000 Americans. But it appears that the GOP had a very different enemy in mind when writing some parts of it. “To prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically and internationally,” the bill (pp. 35-38) allocates $686 million for the purchase of extra Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets, $650 million for A-10 Warthog fighter-bombers, $720 million for C-130J transport planes, $283 million for AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and $1.068 billion for P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine aircraft.

It is not just the Air Force that will benefit from the new bill; it also includes $41.4 million for Raytheon missiles, $260 million for a new Navy fast transport ship, $250 million for amphibious shipbuilding programs and $375 million for armored combat vehicles. Most of these military spending requests are ones that had previously been subject to cuts in February as the Trump administration moved Pentagon money around to fund construction of the border wall. The plan also allocates (p. 11) $1.75 billion to the FBI for the design and construction of a huge new facility in Washington, D.C.
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Coronavirus Aid for Regime Change: Washington’s 13 Point Plan for Venezuela

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The State Department released what it called its “democratic transition framework for Venezuela” this week; a 13-point plan for the removal of Nicolas Maduro and a radical overhaul of the country’s political system. The principal and most fundamental change Washington proposes is to “restore all powers to the National Assembly,” the one branch of government the right-wing pro-US opposition coalition currently holds. This would place the entire country under the control of political groups that have not won a general election in Venezuela since 1993.

In point number three, the US also demands that “all foreign security forces depart immediately.” Here, they are presumably not speaking about the US-linked far-right Colombian death squads that have been known to penetrate the countries’ long and porous border, but about Cuban security advisors and medical personnel. The United States is currently waging a silent war against the Caribbean island, pressuring countries to refuse its medical aid during the coronavirus pandemic. US-backed regimes in Brazil and Bolivia both expelled Cuban doctors from their countries upon coming to power, with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro claiming that they were “costumed doctors” who were there to “create guerilla cells and indoctrinate people.” Brazil’s Health Ministry is now asking them to return even as its president continues to deny COVID-19 is a serious problem.

According to the State Department’s transition plan, all political offices in Venezuela will be liquidated and their positions filled with people chosen by the National Assembly – i.e. the Venezuelan opposition. This includes the National Electoral Council, the Supreme Court, the Council of State and the presidency. The National Assembly has been in limbo ever since 2017 when the Supreme Court ruled it was in contempt of court. During the previous elections, a few new members of the National Assembly were tried for vote buying, but the institution refused to recognize the Supreme Court, instead demanding all power be given to it, hence the three-year-long constitutional crisis.
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A New US Air Force Video Game Lets You Drone Bomb Iraqis and Afghans

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The United States Air Force has a new recruitment tool: a realistic drone operator video game you can play on its website. Called the Airman Challenge, it features 16 missions to complete, interspersed with facts and recruitment information about how to become a drone operator yourself. In its latest attempts to market active service to young people, players move through missions escorting US vehicles through countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, serving up death from above to all those designated “insurgents” by the game. Players earn medals and achievements for most effectively destroying moving targets. All the while there is a prominent “apply now” button on screen if players would like to enlist and conduct real drone strikes all over the Middle East.

The game has failed to win over David Swanson, director of the anti-war movement World Beyond War, and the author of War is a Lie.

“It is truly disgusting, immoral, and arguably illegal in that it is recruitment or pre-recruitment of underage children to participate in murder. It is part of the normalization of murder that we have been living through,” he told MintPress News.

Tom Secker, a journalist and researcher into the influence of the military on popular culture was similarly unimpressed by the latest USA.F. recruitment strategy, telling us...
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Keeping with its Crackdown on Alternative Voices, Google Deletes Press TV from YouTube

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Without warning, tech giant Google “permanently removed” Iranian government-owned media channel Press TV UK’s YouTube channel Monday night amid increasing American hostility to Iran.

“This attack on the freedom of speech of Press TV’s journalists seems to be part of an anti-Iran purge as the West sets its sights on regime change in Iran,” Press TV said. Its content, in its own words, focuses on “anti-imperialism, anti-racism, and covers aspects of the news which the mainstream corporate media in the United Kingdom have refused to air.”

The London-based outlet had over 28,000 subscribers on its YouTube account at the time of its deletion.

British-Sudanese journalist Ahmed Kaballo accused Google of acting like the “judge jury and executioner” for his employer’s channel, expressing his great disappointment that his journalistic output is now gone and his worry at “what this really represents” for alternative media that “show a different perspective and holds a critical lens” on war and empire.
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After 18 Years of US Occupation, Poll Finds Zero Percent of Afghans Thriving, 85 Percent 'Suffering'

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American polling firm Gallup has found that Afghans are the saddest people on earth, finding that nearly nine in ten respondents are “suffering,” in their own words, with zero percent claiming that they are currently “thriving.” When asked to rate their life out of a score of ten, Afghans gave an average answer of 2.7, a record low for any country studied. Worse still, when asked to predict the quality of their life in five years, the average answer was even lower: 2.3.

As the study mentioned, “the unprecedented finding highlights Afghans’ near-universal lack of optimism.” In more than a decade of data collection around the world on the topic, this is the first time that any population predicted that their future lives would be worse than their current ones. This, to Gallup, was “all the more notable” due to Afghanistan’s very young population; two-thirds of those interviewed were aged 35 or under. Less than half of the country said they experienced enjoyment or were treated with respect in the previous day, while 52 percent admitted to worrying for much of the day, up 10 percentage points from 2016.

Remarkably, the study does not mention the 18-year US-led invasion and occupation of the country as a potential explanatory factor for their suffering. In fact, it explicitly warns against an American withdrawal, arguing that it would “strengthen the Taliban’s grip” over the country, thus, tacitly endorsing the US government and presenting the military as a force for good in the region.
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‘Sexy Tricks’: How Journalists Demonize Venezuela’s Socialist Government, in Their Own Words

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It is clear that mainstream US media correspondents are no fans of the Venezuelan government. But rarely do you hear them speak so openly about their biases.

One Caracas-based correspondent now working for the New York Times told me on the record that he employs “sexy tricks” to “hook” readers on dubious articles demonizing the socialist government of Venezuela.

Anatoly Kurmanaev made this revealing comment and many more to during an interview I conducted with him for my PhD and book on the media coverage of Latin America.

At the time, he was a correspondent for Bloomberg, and had just published a very dubious story on how condoms supposedly cost $750 per pack in Venezuela. The misleading article was picked up and repeated across the media.

Describing himself and his colleagues as “mercenaries,” Kurmanaev was unabashed, boasting on tape that he essentially grossly exaggerates stories in the media.
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The New York Times’ Long History of Endorsing US-Backed Coups

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Bolivian President Evo Morales was overthrown in a US-backed military coup d’état earlier this month after Bolivian army generals appeared on television demanding his resignation. As Morales fled to Mexico, the army appointed right-wing Senator Jeanine Añez as his successor. Añez, a Christian conservative who has described Bolivia’s indigenous majority as “satanic”, arrived at the presidential palace holding an oversized Bible, declaring that Christianity was re-entering the government. She immediately announced she would “take all measures necessary” to “pacify” the indigenous resistance to her takeover. 

This included pre-exonerating the country’s notorious security services of all future crimes in their “re-establishment of order,” leading to massacres of dozens of mostly indigenous people.

The New York Times, the United States’ most influential newspaper, immediately applauded the events, its editorial board refusing to use the word “coup” to describe the overthrow, claiming instead that Morales had “resigned,” leaving a “vacuum of power” into which Añez was forced to move. The Times presented the deposed president as an “arrogant” and “increasingly autocratic” populist tyrant “brazenly abusing” power, “stuffing” the Supreme Court with his loyalists, “crushing any institution” standing in his way, and presiding over a “highly fishy” vote.
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Bolivia’s Coup Gov’t Targets Alternative Media as Crackdown Turns Increasingly Violent

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Facing increased resistance to its rule, the new “transition” government of Jeanine Añez in Bolivia has begun to purge and censor potential threats to its authority, including in the media. TeleSUR, an international media network that began as a collaboration between left-wing Latin American nations, including deposed President Evo Morales’ Bolivia and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, and which espouses an openly leftist and anti-imperialist outlook, received confirmation that it would be taken off the airwaves as part of what the government calls a “reorganization” of the airwaves. TeleSUR openly opposed the US-backed military coup d’état that installed Añez as head of state earlier this month. 

New Communications Minister Roxana Lizárraga announced that this was part of the “dismantling of the propaganda apparatus of the dictatorial regime of Evo Morales,” claiming that Morales’ “militants who misused the state media system” are being “withdrawn.”

TeleSUR was originally conceived as a counterweight to Western-dominated media system and attempted to bring the voices of working-class Latin Americans to the fore. It also offers an alternative to local mainstream media, overwhelmingly owned and controlled by Latin American elites who have been particularly hostile to progressive governments such as Morales.’
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Everyone Washington Supports, by Definition, Is a Moderate Centrist

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The Trump administration seems to have found their man in National Assembly leader and self-appointed president of Venezuela Juan Guaidó. Guaidó has been extremely attentive to US interests, promising to allow US oil companies to increase their activity in Venezuela. He has also pledged mass privatizations and harsh rounds of austerity, as FAIR contributor Ben Norton reported (Mint Press News, 1/24/19). Having met with and secured the support of the Trump administration before he acted, the previously unknown 35-year-old emerged as a prominent opponent of the leftist government, championed by right-wing nations in the region keen to see the end of President Nicolás Maduro’s administration.

Despite this, or rather precisely because of it, the media are presenting Guaidó not as a conservative (or further still to the right), but as a centrist social democrat who can unite a fractured nation. CBC (1/23/19) and Forbes (1/24/19) both described him as a “centrist social democrat,” the former adding that he is also an activist and a “salsa-loving baseball fan.” Others went further, claiming that he and his party are “center left” (Reuters, 1/24/19) or even “socialist” (London Independent, 1/24/19). The New York Times (3/4/19) claimed, more broadly, that Gauidó had “captured the heart of the nation” and that “a vast majority of Venezuelans support him.”

In reality, Guiadó’s Popular Will party has always represented the most radical right-wing elements of the Venezuelan opposition, perhaps the reason that Fox Business’ Trish Reagan (1/29/19) eagerly endorsed him as a “freedom fighter leading his country to democracy” amid “massive cheers from the people.” Popular Will has consistently favored confrontation and violence over negotiation; a recent opposition plan to amass an army of 200 soldiers to shoot their way across the border to bring Guaidó back into Venezuela after an overseas tour was only stopped by a panicked Colombian government, according to Bloomberg (3/6/19).
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The Fake News about Humanitarian Aid and Venezuela

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In recent times the international media, including many who promised to “resist” the dangerous commander-in-chief Donald Trump, have been awash with stories about Nicolas Maduro blocking US “humanitarian aid” reaching Venezuela. Maduro is said to have even blocked a bridge in his desperation to starve his own people (see, for example, CNNCBCAssociated PressBBCNPRABCBloombergThe Guardian). A constant flow of stories such as this have served to establish a narrative of a dictator blocking a benevolent US government from helping its desperate people. Something must be done!
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