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The Real Meaning of the 1914 Christmas Truce

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One hundred years ago last week, on Christmas Eve, 1914, German and British soldiers emerged from the horrors of World War One trench warfare to greet each other, exchange food and gifts, and to wish each other a Merry Christmas. What we remember now as the “Christmas Truce” began with soldiers singing Christmas carols together from in the trenches. Eventually the two sides climbed out of the trenches and met in person. In the course of this two day truce, which lasted until December 26, 1914, the two sides also exchanged prisoners, buried their dead, and even played soccer with each other.
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‘The Interview’ Flops, FBI ‘North Korean Hack’ Story Also Debunked

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Official FBI claims that North Korea was behind the "Sony hack" were debunked today by two leading cyber security firms. More on that later, but first, let’s look at the failure of film itself…

To anyone in media or politics who said this week that it was our “patriotic duty as Americans” to go and see this movie, I hereby banish you to the outer realm of the consensus reality Bardo (in other words, you should be working for the North Korean government, not ruining America). 

Despite being hyped and spun with unprecedented faux patriotic fervor, and getting a ton of free publicity from President Obama, Sony Entertainment’s The Interview is officially a flop.

The film was released in 331 independently owned cinemas on Christmas Day, pulling a paltry $1 million in gate receipts, as well as an equally poor showing on the download charts too. The film was a big hit on the "illegal" download front though. According to the blog TorrentFreak, the film was downloaded around 750,000 times as of yesterday (we use the term "illegal" loosely here, because it would a real crime to charge money to see this turkey).
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2014: The Year Propaganda Came Of Age

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From just about as early in my life as I can remember, growing up as a child in Holland, there were stories about World War II, and not just about Anne Frank and the huge amounts of people who, like her, had been dragged off to camps in eastern Europe never to come back, but also about the thousands who had risked their lives to hide Jewish and other refugees, and the scores who had been executed for doing so, often betrayed by their own neighbors.

And then there were those who had risked their lives in equally courageous ways to get news out to people, putting out newspapers and radio broadcasts just so there would be a version of events out there that was real, and not just what the Germans wanted one to believe. This happened in all Nazi — and Nazi friendly — occupied European nations. 

The courage of these people is hard to gauge for us today, and I’m convinced there’s no way to say whom amongst us would show that kind of bravery if we were put to the test. I certainly wouldn’t be sure about myself.
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Why Obama Won’t Reach an Agreement With Iran

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Everyone following the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program and the lifting of economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic agrees that the Obama administration would like to have an agreement with Iran.

It would be in line with the real interests of the United States to be able to cooperate openly with Iran against the common enemy of Sunni terrorists of ISIL. And it would be the one major accomplishment in foreign affairs that Obama could cite in his two terms in office.

But the evidence suggests that the administration won’t make the compromises with Iran necessary to get a comprehensive agreement. On one hand, the political and legal system of the United States has been so thoroughly reshaped over more than two decades by Israeli interests that the hoops Obama would have to jump through to lift sanctions against Iran would be far more politically demanding than what he had to do to lift sanctions against Cuba.
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US Looks to Israel to Justify Torture

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Footnotes in government reports are often the place where disgruntled bureaucrats leave clues. It is where bits of information that lead elsewhere are suggestively placed. Senior officials might not allow potentially controversial information into the body of a report. 

In the Senate report on CIA torture there is such a footnote. Early in the report’s more than five hundred pages, footnote 51 concerns the November 26, 2001 Draft of Legal Appendix, Hostile Interrogations: Legal Consideration for CIA Officers. 

This draft memorandum, according to the Senate report, “cited the ‘Israeli example’ as a possible basis for arguing that ‘torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.’”

US law is fairly clear: torture is illegal in all cases. There is no “ticking-time bomb” scenario that allows for the cruel and inhuman treatment of prisoners. If it has no basis in US law, the CIA suggests, then its officers could use Israeli practice as a precedent. The Israeli judiciary has been kinder on torture.

In 2007, the CIA was worried: could they be held accountable for the torture their officers had been conducting at the so-called “black sites”?
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Should You Condemn the CIA for Torture If You Don't Condemn the Iraq War?

For Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, an RPI academic board member, the CIA has botched its mission, post 9/11, and has reached what he called "the pinnacle of incompetence," to where it has become a detriment to the United States. In a recent interview on the Real News Network, Wilkerson advised that this incompetence was not only about the recent Senate torture report. The Senate report, according to Wilkerson, gives us only a very limited view of how the CIA botched its mission, but even that glimpse is a good start if the mistakes are to be corrected.
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Why Millions of Christians Will Mourn This Christmas

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It will be a miserable Christmas for the overseas victims of US interventions this year. Though "regime change" proponents talk of bringing freedom and democracy to the countries they target, the end result is quite the opposite: the rise of extremism, famine, ethnic cleansing, and economic destruction are what the US government has left behind in places like Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine.

The neoconservatives who pushed for war in Iraq are incapable of self-reflection, but the numbers do not lie. For the first time in more than 1,000 years, reports the Washington Post today, "the plains of Nineveh and its provincial capital of Mosul have been virtually emptied of Christians." Where there had been religious and cultural diversity for centuries, the destruction of Iraqi society brought about by US intervention has left only the most hardened of extremists to terrorize what is left of the population. Already six in ten Christians have fled Iraq, leaving churches empty and a way of life that dates to the time of Christ a distant memory.

Father Miyassir al-Mokhlasee of Baghdad's St. George’s Chaldean Catholic Church is struggling to keep his flock, as every Christian who is able is fleeing. “We believe that God wants us here for diversity in the region," Fr. Mokhlasee said. “We are becoming fewer in number... We ask God that we can keep our churches, keep our country," he added in an Advent sermon.
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Janet Yellen's Christmas Gift to Wall Street

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Last week we learned that the key to a strong economy is not increased production, lower unemployment, or a sound monetary unit. Rather, economic prosperity depends on the type of language used by the central bank in its monetary policy statements. All it took was one word in the Federal Reserve Bank's press release -- that the Fed would be “patient” in raising interest rates to normal levels -- and stock markets went wild. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average had their best gains in years, with the Dow gaining nearly 800 points from Wednesday to Friday and the S&P gaining almost 100 points to close within a few points of its all-time high. 
 
Just think of how many trillions of dollars of financial activity occurred solely because of that one new phrase in the Fed's statement. That so much in our economy hangs on one word uttered by one institution demonstrates not only that far too much power is given to the Federal Reserve, but also how unbalanced the American economy really is.
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Cold War Spy Games Show the Moral Bankruptcy of the US National Security State

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Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, the Cuban government official who was released from prison as part of a spy trade between the US government and Cuba, is being hailed by US officials as a hero. Of course, that’s not the view of the Cuban government, which considers Sarraff a traitor.

At the same time, former US officials Walter Kendall Myers and his spouse Gwendolyn Myers, who spied for Cuba, are considered bad people by the US government. US officials say that by sending classified information to Cuba, they betrayed their country and that that’s why they’re now jailed in a federal penitentiary.

In its story yesterday about Sarraff, the New York Times referred to the “spy vs. spy drama between the United States that played on long after the end of the Cold War and years after Cuba ceased to be a serious threat to the United States.”
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Regime Change in Cuba

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Normalization of relations with Cuba is not the result of a diplomatic breakthrough or a change of heart on the part of Washington. Normalization is a result of US corporations seeking profit opportunities in Cuba, such as developing broadband Internet markets in Cuba.

Before the American left and the Cuban government find happiness in the normalization, they should consider that with normalization comes American money and a US Embassy. The American money will take over the Cuban economy. The embassy will be a home for CIA operatives to subvert the Cuban government. The embassy will provide a base from which the US can establish NGOs whose gullible members can be called to street protest at the right time, as in Kiev, and the embassy will make it possible for Washington to groom a new set of political leaders.

In short, normalization of relations means regime change in Cuba. Soon Cuba will be another of Washington’s vassal states
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