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Expect Even Less Freedom of Internet in 2018

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Users of social media have been increasingly reporting that their accounts have been either censored, blocked or suspended during the past year. Initially, some believed that the incidents might be technical in nature, with overloaded servers struggling to keep up with the large and growing number of accounts, but it eventually emerged that the interference was deliberate and was focused on individuals and groups that were involved in political or social activities considered to be controversial.

At the end of last year a number of Russian accounts on Facebook and elsewhere were suspended over the allegations that social media had been used to spread so-called false news that had possibly materially affected the 2016 presidential election in the United States. Even though it proved impossible to demonstrate that the relatively innocuous Russian efforts had any impact in comparison to the huge investment in advertising and propaganda engaged in by the two major parties, social media quickly responded to the negative publicity.

Now it has been learned that major social media and internet service providers have, throughout the past year, been meeting secretly with the United States and Israeli governments to remove content as well as ban account holders from their sites. The United States and Israel have no legal right to tell private companies what to do but it is clearly understood that the two governments can make things very difficult for those service providers that do not fall in line. Israel has threatened to limit access to sites like Facebook or to ban it altogether while the U.S. Justice Department can use terrorist legislation, even if implausible, to force compliance. Washington recently forced Facebook to cancel the account of the Chechen Republic’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin loyalist that the White House has recently “sanctioned.”
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Koreans Agree To Talk To Koreans...Nikki Haley Furious!

In the last several days, North and South Korea have agreed to hold high-level talks, to re-establish a direct communication link, and to participate in the coming winter Olympic games. Taken together it appears a significant step toward reducing tensions on the peninsula and reducing the risk of catastrophic war. You would think the US would be pleased at the developments and hopeful that diplomacy might take over from saber-rattling. But you would be wrong. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has poured cold water on the developments, screeching that North Korea must first give up its nuclear program before talks can even take place. For more, tune in to today's Liberty Report...
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Iraq War 3.0, the War to End All Wars, is Over

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America’s serial wars in Iraq are ending with a whimper, not a bang. And in the oddest of ironies, it may be President Donald Trump, feared as a war monger, the fifth president to make war in Iraq, who has more or less accidentally ended up presiding over the end.

Here’s how we ended up where we are, and how a quarter century of American conflict in Iraq created the post-Vietnam template for forever war we’ll be using in the next fight.

Iraq War 1.0+ The Good War

The end of the Soviet Union transitioned the Middle East from a Cold War battleground to an exclusive American sphere of influence. George H. W. Bush exploited the new status in 1991 by launching Iraq War 1.0, Desert Storm, reversing decades of U.S. support for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
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Iran Protests...CIA Fingerprints?

What a coincidence that just when news leaks out of a coordinated US, Saudi, and Israeli plan to undermine the Iranian government we see the largest protests in Iran since 2009! We are told that thousands of people carefully coordinated protests in multiple cities throughout the country over a hike in the price of eggs and that there were absolutely no foreign fingerprints on the unrest. Do you believe it? Tune in to today's Liberty Report...
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Despite Setbacks, Liberty Will Prevail in 2018

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Happy New Year! We always approach a new year with anticipation, hope, and also some worries. Last year was one of the strangest political years I have seen in some time. A new Republican president spent his first year pursuing more or less the same foreign policy as his Democratic predecessor and the Democratic Party spent the year looking under every rock in the US for a “Russian connection” or any other reason to see him impeached over it.
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US Empire Is Running The Same Script With Iran That It Ran With Libya, Syria

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Two weeks ago a memo was leaked from inside the Trump administration showing how Secretary of State and DC neophyte Rex Tillerson was coached on how the US empire uses human rights as a pretense on which to attack and undermine noncompliant governments. Politico reports:
The May 17 memo reads like a crash course for a businessman-turned-diplomat, and its conclusion offers a starkly realist vision: that the US should use human rights as a club against its adversaries, like Iran, China and North Korea, while giving a pass to repressive allies like the Philippines, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

'Allies should be treated differently — and better — than adversaries. Otherwise, we end up with more adversaries, and fewer allies,' argued the memo, written by Tillerson’s influential policy aide, Brian Hook.
With what would be perfect comedic timing if it weren’t so frightening, Iran erupted in protests which have been ongoing for the last four days, and the western empire is suddenly expressing deep, bipartisan concern about the human rights of those protesters.

So we all know what this song and dance is code for. Any evil can be justified in the name of “human rights.”
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The Charge of the Invisible Army of Kremlin Trolls

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There is no holiday truce in the propaganda war. On this Christmas day, The Washington Post offered its readers a scare story entitled “Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options.”

The article is long – nearly 4000 words. The only part that is sure to be read in these busy times of short attention spans is the headline, whose two themes are rich in subliminal messages.

First, a slash and burn operation by an army of Kremlin trolls is laying waste to the Internet. Second, official Washington in its benevolent innocence is having trouble facing up to this nefarious threat.

Let’s take these two themes one at a time.

Invasion of the Troll Army

The journalistic peg for this story is a phantom freelance journalist named Alice Donovan whose “first email arrived in the inbox of CounterPunch, a left-leaning American news and opinion website, at 3:26 a.m. – the middle of the day in Moscow.” 

Aha!

Drawing on its abundant intelligence community sources, the WaPo article continues: “The FBI was tracking Donovan as part of a months-long counterintelligence operation code-named ‘NorthernNight’. Internal bureau reports described her as a pseudonymous foot soldier in an army of Kremlin-led trolls seeking to undermine America’s democratic institutions.”
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Ten Years Ago The Real Tea Party Was Born...And It Continues Today!

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Recently an article on Lew Rockwell's blog reminded us of that fateful day, ten years ago this month, when the real Tea Party was launched. It signaled the Ron Paul rebellion in the Republican Party ranks but it also demonstrated the massive appeal of the peace candidate. The GOP stalwarts were not about to give up power to a movement driven by so many young and energetic new voices so by hook or by crook they put forth the warmongering neocon, Sen. John McCain, who ran on a platform of more wars.
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Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the US and Israeli Governments

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In September of last year, we noted that Facebook representatives were meeting with the Israeli government to determine which Facebook accounts of Palestinians should be deleted on the ground that they constituted “incitement.” The meetings — called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.

The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders:
Shortly after news broke earlier this month of the agreement between the Israeli government and Facebook, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Tel Aviv had submitted 158 requests to the social media giant over the previous four months asking it to remove content it deemed 'incitement.' She said Facebook had granted 95 percent of the requests.
She’s right. The submission to Israeli dictates is hard to overstate: As the New York Times put it in December of last year, “Israeli security agencies monitor Facebook and send the company posts they consider incitement. Facebook has responded by removing most of them.”
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All Is Not Quiet on the Syrian Front: US to Launch Another War

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This is a classic example of flip-flop policy. In November, the US promised Turkey to stop arming Kurdish militias in Syria after the Islamic State was routed. Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat Islamic State, explained that after the urban fighting in Raqqa was over "adjustments in the level of military support" would be made. "We had to give some equipment – and it's limited, extremely limited – all of which was very transparent to our NATO ally, Turkey," he said during a special briefing on December 21. In June, the US told Turkey it would take back weapons supplied to the Kurdish the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in northern Syria after the defeat of Islamic State.

But sophisticated weapons will continue to be sent to Syria in 2018, including thousands of anti-tank rocket launchers, heat seeking missiles and rocket launchers. The list of weaponry and equipment was prepared by US Department of Defense as part of the 2018 defense budget and signed by Trump of Dec. 12. It includes more than 300 non-tactical vehicles, 60 nonstandard vehicles, and 30 earth-moving vehicles to assist with the construction of outposts or operations staging areas. The US defense spending bill for 2018 ("Justification for FY 2018 Overseas Contingency Operations / Counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Train and Equip Fund") includes providing weapons worth $393 million to US partners in Syria. Overall, $500 million, roughly $70 million more than last year, are to be spent on Syria Train and Equip requirements. The partners are the Kurds-dominated Syria Democratic Forces (SDF). The YPG – the group that is a major concern of Turkey – is the backbone of this force.

The budget does not refer to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but instead says “Vetted Syrian Opposition”. According to the budget list, there are 25,000 opposition forces supported as a part of the train and equip program in Syria. That number is planned to be increased to 30,000 in 2018. The arming of Kurdish militants with anti-tank rockets is a sensitive topic because of Turkey’s reliance on its armored Leopard tanks in northern Syria.
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