Sources Go Quiet in Moscow

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A quite astonishing article recently appeared in the New York Times, astonishing even by the standards of that newspaper, which featured Judith Miller and Michael Gordon in the Pentagon-sponsored lie machine that led up to the catastrophic war against Iraq. The article, entitled “Kremlin Sources Go Quiet, Leaving CIA in the Dark about Putin’s Plans for Midterms,” claims that the United States has had a number of spies close to the Russian president “who have provided crucial details” that have now stopped reporting at a critical time with midterm elections coming up. The reporting is sourced to “…American officials familiar with the intelligence” who “…spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal classified information.”

After reading the piece, my first reaction was that Judith Miller was back but the byline clearly read Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg. Noms de plume, perhaps? The article is so astonishingly bad on so many levels that it could have been featured in Marvel Comics instead of the Gray Lady. First of all, if American intelligence truly has in the Kremlin high level human agents, referred to as humint, it would not be publicizing the fact for fear that Moscow would intensify its search for the traitors and discover who they were. No intelligence officer speaking either openly or anonymously would make that kind of fatal mistake by leaking such information to a journalist.

If indeed the source of the leak was a genuine intelligence officer it suggests a different, more plausible interpretation. The CIA might, in fact, have no high-level agents at all at the Kremlin level and is intent on having the Russians waste time and energy looking for the moles. There is additional evidence in the article that the agent story might be a fabrication. The authors assert that the CIA agents in Moscow provided critical information relating to the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. The nature of that information, if it existed at all, is something less than transparent and the piece cites no less an authority on Moscow’s subversion than ex-Agency Director John Brennan, who connived at electing Hillary when he was at CIA and has had an axe to grind ever since. Having Brennan as a source is an indication that the two journalists were desperate and were willing to cite anyone.

And then there are the narratives that the journalists accept to make their whole story credible. As the title of the article suggests, they believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin has a “plan” for America’s midterm elections. To support that conjecture they cite recent assertions from both corporate and government leaders that there has been meddling in cyber systems and on social media over the past few months, though it is interesting to note that no evidence has been provided to link such activity to Russia.

So, does Putin have a plan? The New York Times apparently believes he does. And what would that plan involve? The Times thinks it is no less than “a broad chaos campaign to undermine faith in American democracy.” It also cites Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats as affirming that Putin is “intent on undermining American democratic systems.” Think about that for a moment. Why would Russia want to damage an already oftentimes dysfunctional system of government? To replace it with what? A dictatorship might be more effective and even warlike, contrary to Russia’s own interests. Why mess with something that is already messy all by itself?

The article also hurls out other lies and half-truths. It assumes that Russia was trying to change the outcome of the 2016 US election, for which there is no evidence at all, and it also claims that Putin is killing off spies, citing the Skripal case in Britain, for which proof of an actual Russian connection has never been presented.

And finally, then there is an odd whine from a former CIA Russia expert John Sipher blaming the intelligence failure on the likelihood that the Agency Station in Moscow is tiny and ineffective because “The Russians kicked out a whole bunch of our people” in their expulsion of sixty American diplomats/spies in March. Sipher is inter alia confirming to Moscow that many of those expelled were, in fact, CIA. He also needs to recall that the persona non grata (PNG) move was in response to the US expelling sixty Russians and closing two diplomatic facilities over Skripal, which means the United States deliberately took self-inflicted steps that it should have known would cripple its ability to spy in Moscow. And now it is complaining because it doesn’t know what is going on.

Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.

How the Department of Homeland Security Created a Deceptive Tale of Russia Hacking US Voter Sites

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The narrative of Russian intelligence attacking state and local election boards and threatening the integrity of US elections has achieved near-universal acceptance by media and political elites. And now it has been accepted by the Trump administration’s intelligence chief, Dan Coats, as well.

But the real story behind that narrative, recounted here for the first time, reveals that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created and nurtured an account that was grossly and deliberately deceptive.

DHS compiled an intelligence report suggesting hackers linked to the Russian government could have targeted voter-related websites in many states and then leaked a sensational story of Russian attacks on those sites without the qualifications that would have revealed a different story. When state election officials began asking questions, they discovered that the DHS claims were false and, in at least one case, laughable.

The National Security Agency and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigating team have also claimed evidence that Russian military intelligence was behind election infrastructure hacking, but on closer examination, those claims turn out to be speculative and misleading as well. Mueller’s indictment of 12 GRU military intelligence officers does not cite any violations of US election laws though it claims Russia interfered with the 2016 election.

A Sensational Story

On Sept. 29, 2016, a few weeks after the hacking of election-related websites in Illinois and Arizona, ABC News carried a sensational headline: “Russian Hackers Targeted Nearly Half of States’ Voter Registration Systems, Successfully Infiltrated 4.” The story itself reported that “more than 20 state election systems” had been hacked, and four states had been “breached” by hackers suspected of working for the Russian government. The story cited only sources “knowledgeable” about the matter, indicating that those who were pushing the story were eager to hide the institutional origins of the information.

Behind that sensational story was a federal agency seeking to establish its leadership within the national security state apparatus on cybersecurity, despite its limited resources for such responsibility. In late summer and fall 2016, the Department of Homeland Security was maneuvering politically to designate state and local voter registration databases and voting systems as “critical infrastructure.” Such a designation would make voter-related networks and websites under the protection a “priority sub-sector” in the DHS “National Infrastructure Protection Plan, which already included 16 such sub-sectors.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and other senior DHS officials consulted with many state election officials in the hope of getting their approval for such a designation. Meanwhile, the DHS was finishing an intelligence report that would both highlight the Russian threat to US election infrastructure and the role DHS could play in protecting it, thus creating political impetus to the designation. But several secretaries of state—the officials in charge of the election infrastructure in their state—strongly opposed the designation that Johnson wanted.

On Jan. 6, 2017—the same day three intelligence agencies released a joint “assessment” on Russian interference in the election—Johnson announced the designation anyway.

Media stories continued to reflect the official assumption that cyber attacks on state election websites were Russian-sponsored. Stunningly, The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2016 that DHS was itself behind hacking attempts of Georgia’s election database.

The facts surrounding the two actual breaches of state websites in Illinois and Arizona, as well as the broader context of cyberattacks on state websites, didn’t support that premise at all.

In July, Illinois discovered an intrusion into its voter registration website and the theft of personal information on as many as 200,000 registered voters. (The 2018 Mueller indictments of GRU officers would unaccountably put the figure at 500,000.) Significantly, however, the hackers only had copied the information and had left it unchanged in the database.

That was a crucial clue to the motive behind the hack. DHS Assistant Secretary for Cyber Security and Communications Andy Ozment told a Congressional committee in late September 2016 that the fact hackers hadn’t tampered with the voter data indicated that the aim of the theft was not to influence the electoral process. Instead, it was “possibly for the purpose of selling personal information.” Ozment was contradicting the line that already was being taken on the Illinois and Arizona hacks by the National Protection and Programs Directorate and other senior DHS officials.

In an interview with me last year, Ken Menzel, the legal adviser to the Illinois secretary of state, confirmed what Ozment had testified. “Hackers have been trying constantly to get into it since 2006,” Menzel said, adding that they had been probing every other official Illinois database with such personal data for vulnerabilities as well. “Every governmental database—driver’s licenses, health care, you name it—has people trying to get into it,” said Menzel.

In the other successful cyberattack on an electoral website, hackers had acquired the username and password for the voter database Arizona used during the summer, as Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan learned from the FBI. But the reason that it had become known, according to Reagan in an interview with Mother Jones, was that the login and password had shown up for sale on the dark web—the network of websites used by cyber criminals to sell stolen data and other illicit wares.

Furthermore, the FBI had told her that the effort to penetrate the database was the work of a “known hacker” whom the FBI had monitored “frequently” in the past. Thus, there were reasons to believe that both Illinois and Arizona hacking incidents were linked to criminal hackers seeking information they could sell for profit.

Meanwhile, the FBI was unable to come up with any theory about what Russia might have intended to do with voter registration data such as what was taken in the Illinois hack. When FBI Counterintelligence official Bill Priestap was asked in a June 2017 hearing how Moscow might use such data, his answer revealed that he had no clue: “They took the data to understand what it consisted of,” said the struggling Priestap, “so they can affect better understanding and plan accordingly in regards to possibly impacting future elections by knowing what is there and studying it.”

The inability to think of any plausible way for the Russian government to use such data explains why DHS and the intelligence community adopted the argument, as senior DHS officials Samuel Liles and Jeanette Manfra put it, that the hacks “could be intended or used to undermine public confidence in electoral processes and potentially the outcome.” But such a strategy could not have had any effect without a decision by DHS and the US intelligence community to assert publicly that the intrusions and other scanning and probing were Russian operations, despite the absence of hard evidence. So DHS and other agencies were consciously sowing public doubts about US elections that they were attributing to Russia.

DHS Reveals Its Self-Serving Methodology

In June 2017, Liles and Manfra testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that an October 2016 DHS intelligence report had listed election systems in 21 states that were “potentially targeted by Russian government cyber actors.” They revealed that the sensational story leaked to the press in late September 2016 had been based on a draft of the DHS report. And more importantly, their use of the phrase “potentially targeted” showed that they were arguing only that the cyber incidents it listed were possible indications of a Russian attack on election infrastructure.

Furthermore, Liles and Manfra said the DHS report had “catalogued suspicious activity we observed on state government networks across the country,” which had been “largely based on suspected malicious tactics and infrastructure.” They were referring to a list of eight IP addresses an August 2016 FBI “flash alert” had obtained from the Illinois and Arizona intrusions, which DHS and FBI had not been able to attribute to the Russian government.

The DHS officials recalled that the DHS began to “receive reports of cyber-enabled scanning and probing of election-related infrastructure in some states, some of which appeared to originate from servers operated by a Russian company.” Six of the eight IP addresses in the FBI alert were indeed traced to King Servers, owned by a young Russian living in Siberia. But as DHS cyber specialists knew well, the country of ownership of the server doesn’t prove anything about who was responsible for hacking: As cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr pointed out, the Russian hackers who coordinated the Russian attack on Georgian government websites in 2008 used a Texas-based company as the hosting provider.

The cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect noted in 2016 that one of the other two IP addresses had hosted a Russian criminal market for five months in 2015. But that was not a serious indicator, either. Private IP addresses are reassigned frequently by server companies, so there is not a necessary connection between users of the same IP address at different times.

The DHS methodology of selecting reports of cyber incidents involving election-related websites as “potentially targeted” by Russian government-sponsored hackers was based on no objective evidence whatever. The resulting list appears to have included any one of the eight addresses as well as any attack or “scan” on a public website that could be linked in any way to elections.

This methodology conveniently ignored the fact that criminal hackers were constantly trying to get access to every database in those same state, country and municipal systems. Not only for Illinois and Arizona officials, but state electoral officials.

In fact, 14 of the 21 states on the list experienced nothing more than the routine scanning that occurs every day, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Only six involved what was referred to as a “malicious access attempt,” meaning an effort to penetrate the site. One of them was in Ohio, where the attempt to find a weakness lasted less than a second and was considered by DHS’s internet security contractor a “non-event” at the time.

State Officials Force DHS to Tell the Truth

For a year, DHS did not inform the 21 states on its list that their election boards or other election-related sites had been attacked in a presumed Russian-sponsored operation. The excuse DHS officials cited was that it could not reveal such sensitive intelligence to state officials without security clearances. But the reluctance to reveal the details about each case was certainly related to the reasonable expectation that states would publicly challenge their claims, creating a potential serious embarrassment.

On Sept. 22, 2017, DHS notified 21 states about the cyber incidents that had been included in the October 2016 report. The public announcement of the notifications said DHS had notified each chief election officer of “any potential targeting we were aware of in their state leading up to the 2016 election.” The phrase “potential targeting” again telegraphed the broad and vague criterion DHS had adopted, but it was ignored in media stories.

But the notifications, which took the form of phone calls lasting only a few minutes, provided a minimum of information and failed to convey the significant qualification that DHS was only suggesting targeting as a possibility. “It was a couple of guys from DHS reading from a script,” recalled one state election official who asked not to be identified. “They said [our state] was targeted by Russian government cyber actors.”

A number of state election officials recognized that this information conflicted with what they knew. And if they complained, they got a more accurate picture from DHS. After Wisconsin Secretary of State Michael Haas demanded further clarification, he got an email response from a DHS official with a different account. “[B]ased on our external analysis,” the official wrote, “the WI [Wisconsin] IP address affected belongs to the WI Department of Workforce Development, not the Elections Commission.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said DHS initially had notified his office “that Russian cyber actors ‘scanned’ California’s Internet-facing systems in 2016, including Secretary of State websites.” But under further questioning, DHS admitted to Padilla that what the hackers had targeted was the California Department of Technology’s network.

Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos and Oklahoma Election Board spokesman Byron Dean also denied that any state website with voter- or election-related information had been targeted, and Pablos demanded that DHS “correct its erroneous notification.”

Despite these embarrassing admissions, a statement issued by DHS spokesman Scott McConnell on Sept. 28, 2017 said the DHS “stood by” its assessment that 21 states “were the target of Russian government cyber actors seeking vulnerabilities and access to US election infrastructure.” The statement retreated from the previous admission that the notifications involved “potential targeting,” but it also revealed for the first time that DHS had defined “targeting” very broadly indeed.

It said the category included “some cases” involving “direct scanning of targeted systems” but also cases in which “malicious actors scanned for vulnerabilities in networks that may be connected to those systems or have similar characteristics in order to gain information about how to later penetrate their target.”

It is true that hackers may scan one website in the hope of learning something that could be useful for penetrating another website, as cybersecurity expert Prof. Herbert S. Lin of Stanford University explained to me in an interview. But including any incident in which that motive was theoretical meant that any state website could be included on the DHS list, without any evidence it was related to a political motive.

Arizona’s further exchanges with DHS revealed just how far DHS had gone in exploiting that escape clause in order to add more states to its “targeted” list. Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan tweeted that DHS had informed her that “the Russian government targeted our voter registration systems in 2016.” After meeting with DHS officials in early October 2017, however, Reagan wrote in a blog post that DHS “could not confirm that any attempted Russian government hack occurred whatsoever to any election-related system in Arizona, much less the statewide voter registration database.”

What the DHS said in that meeting, as Reagan’s spokesman Matt Roberts recounted to me, is even more shocking. “When we pressed DHS on what exactly was actually targeted, they said it was the Phoenix public library’s computers system,” Roberts recalled.

In April 2018, a CBS News “60 Minutes” segment reported that the October 2016 DHS intelligence report had included the Russian government hacking of a “county database in Arizona.” Responding to that CBS report, an unidentified “senior Trump administration official” who was well-briefed on the DHS report told Reuters that “media reports” on the issue had sometimes “conflated criminal hacking with Russian government activity,” and that the cyberattack on the target in Arizona “was not perpetrated by the Russian government.”

NSA Finds a GRU Election Plot

NSA intelligence analysts claimed in a May 2017 analysis to have documented an effort by Russian military intelligence (GRU) to hack into US electoral institutions. In an intelligence analysis obtained by The Intercept and reported in June 2017, NSA analysts wrote that the GRU had sent a spear-phishing email—one with an attachment designed to look exactly like one from a trusted institution but that contains malware design to get control of the computer—to a vendor of voting machine technology in Florida. The hackers then designed a fake web page that looked like that of the vendor. They sent it to a list of 122 email addresses NSA believed to be local government organizations that probably were “involved in the management of voter registration systems.” The objective of the new spear-phishing campaign, the NSA suggested, was to get control of their computers through malware to carry out the exfiltration of voter-related data.

But the authors of The Intercept story failed to notice crucial details in the NSA report that should have tipped them off that the attribution of the spear-phishing campaign to the GRU was based merely on the analysts’ own judgment—and that their judgment was faulty.

The Intercept article included a color-coded chart from the original NSA report that provides crucial information missing from the text of the NSA analysis itself as well as The Intercept’s account. The chart clearly distinguishes between the elements of the NSA’s account of the alleged Russian scheme that were based on “Confirmed Information” (shown in green) and those that were based on “Analyst Judgment” (shown in yellow). The connection between the “operator” of the spear-phishing campaign the report describes and an unidentified entity confirmed to be under the authority of the GRU is shown as a yellow line, meaning that it is based on “Analyst Judgment” and labeled “probably.”

A major criterion for any attribution of a hacking incident is whether there are strong similarities to previous hacks identified with a specific actor. But the chart concedes that “several characteristics” of the campaign depicted in the report distinguish it from “another major GRU spear-phishing program,” the identity of which has been redacted from the report.

The NSA chart refers to evidence that the same operator also had launched spear-phishing campaigns on other web-based mail applications, including the Russian company “Mail.ru.” Those targets suggest that the actors were more likely Russian criminal hackers rather than Russian military intelligence.

Even more damaging to its case, the NSA reports that the same operator who had sent the spear-phishing emails also had sent a test email to the “American Samoa Election Office.” Criminal hackers could have been interested in personal information from the database associated with that office. But the idea that Russian military intelligence was planning to hack the voter rolls in American Samoa, an unincorporated US territory with 56,000 inhabitants who can’t even vote in US presidential elections, is plainly risible.

The Mueller Indictment’s Sleight of Hand

The Mueller indictment of GRU officers released on July 13 appeared at first reading to offer new evidence of Russian government responsibility for the hacking of Illinois and other state voter-related websites. A close analysis of the relevant paragraphs, however, confirms the lack of any real intelligence supporting that claim.

Mueller accused two GRU officers of working with unidentified “co-conspirators” on those hacks. But the only alleged evidence linking the GRU to the operators in the hacking incidents is the claim that a GRU official named Anatoly Kovalev and “co-conspirators” deleted search history related to the preparation for the hack after the FBI issued its alert on the hacking identifying the IP address associated with it in August 2016.

A careful reading of the relevant paragraphs shows that the claim is spurious. The first sentence in Paragraph 71 says that both Kovalev and his “co-conspirators” researched domains used by US state boards of elections and other entities “for website vulnerabilities.” The second says Kovalev and “co-conspirators” had searched for “state political party email addresses, including filtered queries for email addresses listed on state Republican Party websites.”

Searching for website vulnerabilities would be evidence of intent to hack them, of course, but searching Republican Party websites for email addresses is hardly evidence of any hacking plan. And Paragraph 74 states that Kovalev “deleted his search history”—not the search histories of any “co-conspirator”—thus revealing that there were no joint searches and suggesting that the subject Kovalev had searched was Republican Party emails. So any deletion by Kovalev of his search history after the FBI alert would not be evidence of his involvement in the hacking of the Illinois election board website.

With this rhetorical misdirection unraveled, it becomes clear that the repetition in every paragraph of the section of the phrase “Kovalev and his co-conspirators” was aimed at giving the reader the impression the accusation is based on hard intelligence about possible collusion that doesn’t exist.

The Need for Critical Scrutiny of DHS Cyberattack Claims

The DHS campaign to establish its role as the protector of US electoral institutions is not the only case in which that agency has used a devious means to sow fear of Russian cyberattacks. In December 2016, DHS and the FBI published a long list of IP addresses as indicators of possible Russian cyberattacks. But most of the addresses on the list had no connection with Russian intelligence, as former US government cyber-warfare officer Rob Lee found on close examination.

When someone at the Burlington, Vt., Electric Company spotted one of those IP addresses on one of its computers, the company reported it to DHS. But instead of quietly investigating the address to verify that it was indeed an indicator of Russian intrusion, DHS immediately informed The Washington Post. The result was a sensational story that Russian hackers had penetrated the US power grid. In fact, the IP address in question was merely Yahoo’s email server, as Rob Lee told me, and the computer had not even been connected to the power grid. The threat to the power grid was a tall tale created by a DHS official, which the Post had to embarrassingly retract.

Since May 2017, DHS, in partnership with the FBI, has begun an even more ambitious campaign to focus public attention on what it says are Russian “targeting” and “intrusions” into “major, high value assets that operate components of our Nation’s critical infrastructure”, including energy, nuclear, water, aviation and critical manufacturing sectors. Any evidence of such an intrusion must be taken seriously by the US government and reported by news media. But in light of the DHS record on alleged threats to election infrastructure and the Burlington power grid, and its well-known ambition to assume leadership over cyber protection, the public interest demands that the news media examine DHS claims about Russian cyber threats far more critically than they have up to now.

Reprinted with permission from ConsortiumNews.com.

Energy: Missing from the Nuclear Story

One of my first memories of watching TV during the early 1950s was ads promoting leaded gasoline for reducing engine knock.  Little did I suspect the strange history of that gas.  By the beginning of World War I, it became clear that the internal combustion automobile was edging out its rival steam cars and electric cars.  Shortly afterwards, Thomas Midgley began researching how to remove the knocking “ping” sound from gasoline-powered cars.

Midgley devoted no fewer than six years of his life searching for a fuel additive that would have a “no-knock” effect.  He found that corn alcohol would be too expensive.  Benzene would also be effective, but it would be impossible to manufacture enough.  Both oxygen and chlorine increased knock.  Aniline, selenium oxychloride and tellerium worked, but produced an awful smell.  Examining one element after another in a periodic table of the time, he finally found a gasoline additive: tetraethyl lead. Since poisonous effects of lead were well known, the product was labeled “ethyl gasoline.”

Multiple states banned sale of ethyl gasoline, prompting a retort from Midgley that car exhaust contained far too little lead to cause concern.  A vice-president of a new gas company proclaimed that leaded motor fuel was a “gift of God” as Midgley told his partner that they could make 3¢ from each gallon of leaded gasoline in the 20% of the market they could corner.  During the next few decades, leaded gasoline caused immeasurable damage to human organ systems as well as causing violent behavior from neurological impairment.

This is the most dramatic story from Richard Rhodes’ (2018) Energy: A Human History.  Much of Energy is a hodgepodge of personality sketches of those having a role in scientific discoveries. Some of the anecdotes are fascinating.  When the power of steam was being harnessed to move people and things, a contest determined that a steam locomotive attached to the object it was pulling was more efficient than the then popular method of having a stationary engine pull freight uphill with a rope.

Other accounts illustrate how technological changes affected workers.  James Watt used nitrous oxide to rid natural gas of its smoke and smell so it could be employed for night-time lighting.  Mill owners then lengthened the working day to 14 hours.

The shock of the book comes after the author completes 18 of his 20 chapters. As Rhodes delves into the most recent of technologies, nuclear power, the reader finds Rachel Carson, Ralph Nader, and Helen Caldicott being compared to misanthropes such as Thomas Malthus, Paul Ehrlich and followers of Adolf Hitler. This bizarre connection is based on the writings of one obscure author who predated Carson with a description of destruction caused by the over-reproduction of “undesirable people.”

Rhodes claims that the environmental movement unknowingly brought “anti-humanist” ideology into its visions of a simpler world.  By advocating a society less dependent on complex technology, environmentalists are ostensibly condemning untold millions of impoverished humans to disease and starvation.

The author insists that only nuclear power can save humanity from energy poverty and, thus, rejection of nuclear power is elitist.  What about nuclear radiation poisoning, which is critical to nuclear dangers?  Rhodes presents a case which may well become the next generation of pro-nuclear apologies.  Reviewing theories of 1926, he accuses Herman Muller of committing the original sin of radiation theory after his discovery that low doses of radiation caused genetic mutation in fruit flies. Muller developed the critically important “linear no-threshold” (LNT) model which postulates a “linear” relationship between the quantity of radiation received and the likelihood of cell damage, or, that there is no dose of radiation so small that it is without negative effects.

Rhodes’ attempts to discredit Muller have three disturbing characteristics. First, he bases his arguments on character attacks against scientists and environmentalists. Next, he minimizes or ignores large bodies of data.

Third, his arguments lack internal consistency as he repeatedly contradicts information from different parts of the book.  For example, on p. 324 he claims nuclear power is “carbon-free energy” but on p. 332 says nuclear power creates greenhouse gases during “construction, mining, fuel-processing, maintenance, and decommissioning.”

Rhodes borrows his denunciations of Muller from an article by Edward Calabrese, who brags to have unearthed evidence that Muller suppressed research in 1946.  During his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Muller did not acknowledge that he had received a paper that Calabrese thinks contradicted the LNT theory.  Calabrese’ charge, repeated by Rhodes, is absurd, both because it is ridiculous to think that a Nobel Prize speech would be changed due to one unreplicated finding and because Muller was later instrumental in ensuring the publication of that paper.

It is currently Calabrese, rather than Muller, who is discredited, largely due to his increasingly weird assertions that acceptance of the LNT theory was due to “falsifying and fabricating the research record.”  Calabrese’s objectivity is also called into question by his funding from the nuclear industry and companies such as ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical, and General Electric.

Calabrese’s hostility could also be due to the near-universal rejection of his “hormesis” theory that small levels of radiation benefit human health.  In 2006, Calabrese made arguments for hormesis to the international Committee on Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation which rejected them in favor of the LNT model. The LNT model is accepted by a long list of agencies and health organizations.

Many researchers have documented effects of low level radiation (LLR) from the various stages of nuclear power production, background radiation, X-rays and CT scans.  Since Muller’s first experiments on fruit flies, other studies show these insects being susceptible to radiation levels 50 times lower than found then.  As fruit fly research faded away, by the 1970s it was replicated with mice.

Recent research on over 110,000 workers cleaning up after the Chernobyl disaster found significant leukemia increases, even at low doses.  Another study of 300,000 nuclear workers in the US, UK and France also showed leukemia increases with extremely low radiation exposure.  Parallel investigations in the UK, France, Switzerland and Germany demonstrated 30% to 40% increases of childhood leukemia for those living close to nuclear power plants.  An estimated 20% of childhood leukemia in Great Britain is due to background radiation.

Children are particularly susceptible to radiation damage because their tissue is growing rapidly.  Chronic exposure to radiation is also linked to multiple myeloma, lung cancer, thyroid cancer, skin cancer and cancer of the breast and stomach.

The many agencies and scientific societies scrutinizing these and vastly more studies are well aware that accepting Rhodes’ belief that LLR causes no harm or Calabrese’s belief that it is good for you could be very bad for humanity and particularly disastrous for children and nuclear industry workers.  It could lead to the elimination of regulations that many argue are already too weak and irregularly enforced.  One point rarely addressed is that each study tends to focus on a single source of radiation.  Relaxing rules could result in increased poisoning from multiple sources.

This brings up the “Precautionary Principle.”  It says that if there is doubt about the safety of a substance, the burden of proof that it is safe lies with those who advocate it, rather than burdening those who question it with the responsibility to prove its harm.  In other words, “Better safe than sorry.”  The phrase “Precautionary Principle” is not even included in the index of Energy, much less discussed.  Rhodes’ approach suggests a “Throw-caution-to-the-wind Principle.”

Rhodes glibly dismisses Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima as accidents that need not have happened had people been more careful.  In other words, if humans did not behave as humans, there would be no nuclear disasters.

The author is either ignorant of the Price-Anderson Act of 1957 or deliberately chose to sidestep it.  That legislation was passed to encourage private companies to build nuclear power plants by limiting total liability.  Many currently worry that a plant near them might melt down, causing damage far into the billions, with the company not having to fully compensate its victims.  If Rhodes truly believed his own claims regarding the safety of nuclear plants, he would advocate the repeal of Price-Anderson as unnecessary.  “Price-Anderson” also does not appear in the book’s index.

Rhodes belittles concerns regarding nuclear waste, proposing to bury it for 1000 years and let our descendants cope with it.  Rational people do not want to encumber their grandchildren with the legacy of leukemia. Again, the author forgets what he wrote in a previous chapter, that the half life of U238 is 4.5 billion years.  Most people who made it through middle school realize that this time period exceeds 1000 years.

Rhodes seems unaware that some types of radwaste can actually become more radioactive with the passage of time, due to the production of daughter atoms with short half lives.  Radioactivity can initially increase for thousands of years before activity declines – the dangerous interval can persist much longer than the lapse between the building of Egypt’s pyramids and today.

Nor does he seem aware that every nuclear plant must discharge enormous quantities of hot water into an adjacent river or ocean, whose aquatic life is seriously harmed.  Nor does he recognize that earth itself is unstable, subject to earthquakes, floods and other calamities, which is a problematic issue for St. Louis dumps that house some of the original wastes from the Manhattan Project.  That waste, and waste from a conventional dump which is now smoldering, are inching their way towards each other, which is a burning issue for those living nearby.

Many, many people for many different reasons and living in different times (including the future) do and will take issue with the irresponsible claim that nuclear waste is not dangerous.

It never occurs to Rhodes to contrast the potential horror from someone dropping a bomb on a nuclear power plant to bombing a solar panel or wind installation.  Worse, he advocates global proliferation of nuclear power to states vastly less capable of protecting themselves than are the current nuclear powers.  Rhodes seems to forget what he wrote in earlier chapters directly linking the Atoms for Peace program of the Eisenhower era to the expansion of nuclear weapons.  Nor does he remember his earlier discussion of the need to use a form of uranium fuel at that time which would “reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation.”

The difference between Rhodes’ early warning against nuclear proliferation and his ringing endorsement of the same in the last two chapters is just one of the ways he contradicts himself.  More serious is the contrast in tone, style and conceptualization in the two portions of the book.  In the major portion of his work, Rhodes repeatedly describes government agencies’ covering up evidence that threatens corporate profits.  But in the final portions of the book, government agencies are recast as an interlocking conspiracy to block the nuclear industry from completing its humanitarian goal of providing cheap, clean energy to the world’s poor.

More subtle is the way Rhodes hints at energy conservation before ditching the idea in his conclusion.  He describes the way that James Watt improved the steam engine by moving the condensation process in order to save energy.  Later, he seems about to expand the idea of conserving energy when he notes that many “began to question if growth was good.”

This question would challenge the corporate assumption that a quality life comes from possessing an increasing number of objects and propose that energy abundance best be resolved by using energy more efficiently to produce goods (including housing) that endure.  Rhodes never follows this dream and, instead, concludes his book by swallowing the “Happiness = More Stuff” model hook, line and sinker.

Failing to explore the potential of conserving energy, Rhodes accepts that increasing energy can only be provided with nuclear power and follows in the footsteps, not only of Edward Calabrese but also of those he criticizes.  Like Thomas Midgley’s portrayal of “fanatical health cranks,” he describes icons of the environmental movement as “extremists.”  Mimicking Calabrese’ characterization of consensus on the LNT radiation theory as “not real but faked,” he describes the “disingenuousness” of antinuclear activists.  Rather than pointing to a solution for climate change, his radiation denial mirrors Donald Trump’s climate denial in its derogation of scientific research and its personality attacks.

The great environmental challenge of our time it to understand that the many sources of biodestruction are all interconnected and must be confronted simultaneously, rather than disparaging one danger to focus on another.  Addressing species extinction could not move forward by ridiculing concern with toxic pollution.  The extreme threat of climate change will not move closer to resolution by trivializing the menace of nuclear power.  Rhodes’ book on Energy epitomizes what environmentalists should avoid – it does not chart the path that humanity should tread.

Canada’s NDP and the World’s Downtrodden

The NDP hierarchy’s response to noted war hawk John McCain’s death is shameful. Even worse, it reflects a general hostility towards the victims of Western imperialism.

After the U.S. Senator died over the weekend federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted:

John McCain had the courage not to stoop to divisive politics. He showed us that we can disagree in a way that creates dialogue and discussion, not fear and division. Rest In peace.

Rachel Notley also praised a US politician who never met a war he didn’t like. “As @BarackObama wrote today”, the leader of Alberta’s NDP Government noted, “all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means.” In a follow-up tweet Notley called McCain “a true public servant.”

Even purportedly progressive Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili praised McCain on Twitter, saying “sad to hear of the passing of Sen. John McCain – a principled man who served his country with honour in difficult times.” (Meili at least had the sense to delete his tweet.)

Anyone who has any doubt about celebrating McCain should watch Rania Khalek’s video and, as Ben Saucier noted in a succinct rejoinder to Singh:

McCain heavily promoted the lies that led to the Iraq war. He championed the NATO bombing of Libya. He supported and armed the jihadists destroying Syria. He played a role in bringing neo-Nazis to power in Ukraine and backed Saudi Arabia’s genocide in Yemen. He was no hero.

But, praising a man who rose to public attention by dropping bombs on civilian targets (a war crime) in North Vietnam is only part of the leadership’s whitewash of Western militarism. At the end of last month Singh published a statement on Korean War Veterans Day “honouring the brave veterans of the Canadian army who fought valiantly during the Korean War, so that today, South Koreans can live in peace and prosperity.”

It’s absurd to imply the 1950–53 Korean War was designed to secure “peace and prosperity” for South Koreans. About 27,000 Canadian troops and numerous warships expanded and internationalized a civil war that left as many as four million dead. They fought in support of Syngman Rhee’s brutal regime, which had killed tens of thousands in what Canadian diplomats in Washington described, in an internal cable to External Affairs at the time, as “a fair amount of repression by the Military Government of left-wing groups.” The understated diplomats added, “liberal social legislation had been definitely resisted.”

At the end of World War II the Soviets occupied the northern part of Korea, which borders Russia. US troops controlled the southern part of the country. According to Noam Chomsky:

When US forces entered Korea in 1945, they dispersed the local popular government, consisting primarily of antifascists who resisted the Japanese, and inaugurated a brutal repression, using Japanese fascist police and Koreans who had collaborated with them during the Japanese occupation. About 100,000 people were murdered in South Korea prior to what we call the Korean War, including 30-40,000 killed during the suppression of a peasant revolt in one small region, Cheju Island.

Singh’s Korean War Veterans Day statement concluded with a flourish of martial patriotism.

On this Korean War Veterans Day, let us also remember our current military personnel, and their families, who continue to fight every day to ensure that the values of peace, freedom, and democracy are defended around the world.

Were 385 Canadians sent to Sudan in 1884 to defend “peace, freedom, and democracy” or to beat back indigenous forces seeking to wrest control of Khartoum from famed English General Charles Gordon? Or how about the 7,000 Canadians who fought in southern Africa between 1899 and 1902? Was that war about advancing Cecil Rhodes’ mining interests and strengthening Britain’s position in the region or “peace, freedom and democracy”?

World War I had no clear and compelling purpose other than rivalry between up-and-coming Germany and the lead imperial powers of the day, Britain and France. And 20,000 Iraqi troops and tens of thousands of civilians were killed during the 1990–91 Gulf War to deepen the US foothold in the region.

The 18 Canadian fighter jets that participated in NATO’s illegal bombing of Serbia in 1999 didn’t bring “peace, freedom, and democracy” there. Nor did the 40,000 Canadians who fought in Afghanistan, which remains wracked by violence. Seven years after Canada participated in NATO’s war in Libya that country remains divided into various warring factions and hundreds of militias operate in the country of six million. (Canadian “peacekeepers” also helped overthrow Jean Bertrand Aristide’s elected government in Haiti and Congolese independence leader Patricia Lumumba.)

Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: World War II. But, the historical record shows that Nazi expansionism’s threat to British interests, not opposition to fascism or anti-Semitism, led Ottawa to join WWII. (Only two years before the war Prime Minister Mackenzie King visited Hitler and in his diary King repeatedly expressed sympathy towards the Nazis.) As Jack Granatstein and Desmond Morton explain, “Canada went to war in September 1939 for the same reason as in 1914: because Britain went to war.”

Somebody should buy Jagmeet Singh a T-shirt that says: “I pissed on the world’s downtrodden to ingratiate myself with the mainstream establishment but all I got was this lousy shirt.”

Credit Suisse Freezes $5 billion of Russian Money due to U.S. Sanctions

A few days ago, Reuter reported that Switzerland’s second largest bank, Crédit Suisse, has ‘frozen‘ about 5 billion Swiss francs of Russian money, or about the same in US-dollars, for fear of falling out of favors with Washington – and being ‘sanctioned’ in one way or another. Crédit Suisse, like her bigger sister, UBS, have been amply punished already by Washington for facilitating in the US as well as in Switzerland tax evasion for US oligarchs. They want to be good boys now with Washington.

Switzerland’s banking watchdog, FINMA, does not require Swiss banks to enforce foreign sanctions, but has said they have a responsibility to minimize legal and reputational risks. Crédit Suisse is cautious. In 2009, it reached a $500 million settlement with U.S. authorities over dealings with sanctions-hit Iran. And most every major bank remembers the 2014 settlement of France’s BNP Paribas for a record $8.9 billion fine for violating U.S. sanctions against Sudan, Cuba and Iran.

When asked, two other Swiss banks, UBS and Julius Baer, who are known to deal with Russian clients, declined a straight forward answer whether they too will resort to sanctioning their Russian customers. An UBS spokesman said evasively, they were “implementing worldwide at least the sanctions currently imposed by Switzerland, the U.N., the EU and the U.S.”

What doesn’t stop amazing me is how the western world just accepts such horrendous US fraud, or better called, outright theft of other countries resources, be it monetary or natural resources. And all that is possible only because the entire western world and all those African and lately again, Latin American countries – many of them developing countries, including some of the major oil producers – are still tied to the US dollar. All international money transactions, regardless whether they concern the United States, or simply two completely independent countries, have to transit through a US bank either in London or New York. This is what makes it possible for the US to implement financial and economic sanctions in the first place.

A few days ago, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, dared proposing that the EU detach itself from the international, totally privately run, Belgium registered SWIFT transfer system, as it is fully controlled by the US banking oligarchy, is operating in more than 200 countries and territories. He suggested that the EU create an independent transfer system, much like Russia and China have done, to free themselves from the financial slavehood to Washington. The reaction of one of his right wing German countryman and parliamentarian was swift – it was not the right time to even think of de-coupling the EU from Washington, now where Russia is in dire straits and Germany and the rest of Europe needs the US more than ever.  Can you imagine!

In this pathetic, gutless Europe, it is highly questionable whether Mr. Mass’s excellent idea will survive and actually gain support. Hardly at this stage.

Irrespective of the spineless behavior of the EU and the Swiss Government, the latter unable even to stand up to its own neutrality – let them rot in their submissiveness to empire and its EU vassals – gutlessness, which by the way they, the Swiss Government, has also demonstrated vis-à-vis Venezuela – more important, much more important is, what does this all mean for Russia?

To begin with, the Crédit Suisse ‘frozen’ 5 billion dollars, you may as well call it what it is in reality: Totally illegally “confiscated” Russian assets. It is rare, if ever, that the US government returns so called ‘frozen’ assets of any sanctioned country. And under the current scenario, Trump and his masters and the pressure of the corrupt Hillary swamp, will not let go of demonizing and ‘sanctioning’ Russia, regardless of the real impact of these sanctions, and regardless of the total lawlessness of these actions, regardless of the manufactured and lie-based reason for these sanctions, regardless of the fact that everybody with a half-brain knows about the manipulated and false pretexts for sanctions, and regardless of another fact, namely, that these actions are contributing to an ever accelerating suicide of the empire and its corrupt system that eventually will drown in its own Washington swamp. Good riddens!  The sooner the better.

And the impact of these sanctions is hardly what they pretend to be. They are foremost a call on the Atlantists – or call them Fifth Columnists, of which there are still too many embedded in the Russian financial sector – to counteract the internal measures Russia is taking to escape the dollar slavehood. They will not succeed. The vessel is turning and turning ever faster; turning from west to east.

Despite the constant demonization of the ruble, how it lost 50% of its value because of the sanctions, the Russian currency is worth way more than all the western fiat currencies together. The western dollar-dependent moneys are based on hot air, or not even – on zilch, nada, zero; they are literally produced by private banks like casino money. The ruble is doubly-backed by gold and by Russia’s well-recovered economy and so is the Chinese Yuan.

So, what does a 50% loss of the ruble mean? Loss against what? Loss against the US dollar and the currencies of Washington’s vassal allies? With a de-linked Russian economy from the western economy, the western concept of ‘devaluation’ is totally meaningless. The ruble doesn’t need to compare itself anymore to the western dollar-enslaved currencies.

So, the urgent call by the nature of things for Russia to delink from the western economy, from the western fraudulent dollar-based monetary system, is being heeded by Russia.  I cannot but repeat and repeat again that the dollar economy and the enslaving monetary system it produced is an absolute fraud. It is a crime that would be punishable by any international court that deserves the name of a court of law, that is not bought and whose judges are not threatened if they don’t fold to the dictate of Washington. But upholding the laws of ethics and moral, the laws that our more honest and humble forefathers not too long ago crafted, is a thing of the past. The corruption in everything accompanied by intimidations and coercions, have been accepted by just about everybody as the new normal. This, in itself, is not normal. It creates a pressure cooker that eventually will simply explode.

To move away from this ever-increasing stench of cultural decay, a de-dollarization is a must, is a recipe for survival. And survive, Russia will. Russia is buying massively gold, shedding US treasury bonds from its reserves, replacing them with gold and Chinese Yuan, an IMF-accepted official reserve currency. In July 2018 Russia purchased a record 26 tons of gold, leading up to gold reserves of close to a total of 2000 tons, quadrupling her gold inventory since 2008. This makes Russia the world’s fifth largest gold holder.

As Mr. Putin said already a few years ago, the sanctions are the best thing that happened to Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It forced us to rehabilitate and boost our agricultural production for food self-sufficiency and to rebuild and modernize our industrial park. Today Russia has a cutting-edge industrial arsenal and is no longer dependent on “sanctioned” imports. Russia is not only food-autonomous but has become the world’s largest wheat exporter. And take this – according to Mr. Putin, Russia will supply the world with only organic food, no GMOs, no toxic fertilizers and pesticides.

Russia has clearly and unstoppably embarked on an “Economy of Resistance”: Local production for local markets with local money based on and for the development of the local economy; trading with friendly nations who share similar cultural and moral values.  It’s called regaining economic sovereignty. That’s key. That’s what most countries in the west under the yoke of the US empire and its puppets, enforced by NATO, have lost in the steadily increasing stranglehold of globalization. Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, Pakistan, soon Mexico, and others are breaking loose from the fangs of the Washington Consensus that brought the world almost three decades of pure misery, exploitation and monetary enslavement.

Russia is strengthening her ties with China, with whom she has already for years a ruble-yuan swap agreement between the respective central banks, indicating a strong economic and trading relation. Both are members of the SCO – Shanghai Cooperation Organization. And Russia is also an integral part and link in President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative – BRI – a multi-trillion-yuan economic development scheme for the next at least hundred years, that will span the world with several transport routes, including shipping lines, ports and industrial expansion, as well as cultural exchange, education and research centers on the way. Members of the SCO encompass half the world’s population and account today already for about a third of the globe’s GDP and growing fast, both in members as well as economic output.

Russia as part of this block of sovereign nations doesn’t need the west anymore, doesn’t need the Crédit Suisse confiscated 5 billion dollars anymore. Freedom is priceless. Sanctions are like the fiat currency they are based on; not more than rotten smelling hot air, and dissipating fast into oblivion.

Planned Chemical Weapon Provocation in Idlib aimed to Prevent Removal of Terrorists: Lavrov

Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in Syria (Ammar Abdullah/Reuters

The planned chemical weapon provocation in the Syrian province of Idlib is aimed at maintaining the presence of terrorists in the area, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

The Russian FM, who met his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir in Moscow on Wednesday, compared the terrorist presence in the province with an “abscess” that should be swiftly removed.

“Idlib is now the last remaining hotbed of the terrorists, who try to speculate on the area’s status of de-escalation zone; try using the population as a human shield and try repressing the armed groups that are ready for talks with the government,” he said.

The Minister also noted that the overall goal in Washington with regard to war-ravaged Syria, was not really helping the country, but to push for regime change.

US chose ‘neocolonial course’ in Syria to gain control over its resources – Russian envoy to UN

“It’s not the first time the US – no matter the administration – has prioritized the task of changing dissident regimes above the common goals of eradicating terrorism and extremism. It happened in Iraq and Libya. Now they’re trying to do the same in Syria. To phrase it more correctly – they tried to do it in Syria, but failed,” Lavrov said.

The chemical attack issue and “the threats that are put forward against the Syrian government, are used with the sole purpose of preventing the expulsion of the terrorists from the de-escalation zone in Idlib,” Lavrov said.

In this case, the Trump administration is simply following the policies of Barack Obama, under whom “the Americans tried to use all means possible to shelter Jabhat al-Nusra, with hope of using it in the fight against, what they call, the regime,” he added.

Earlier, Moscow warned that a provocation, involving chemical weapons, was being prepared in Idlib by the US, with the aim of blaming the Syrian authorities and justifying further air strikes.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that sources on the ground informed them that the chemicals to be used in the fake attack have been already delivered to terrorists in the area with the assistance of the infamous White Helmets group.

Washington cautioned that it would respond to a chemical weapons attack by Syrian authorities with retaliatory strikes, which would be a lot larger in scale than those conducted against the country by the US, the UK and France in April.

Those strikes were carried out based on an unconfirmed reports of a chemical attack, which also came from the White Helmets. The Western-backed group has been caught red-handed working with militants and producing fake evidence to smear the Syrian government and its allies.

Crucifying Corbyn: Former Chief Rabbi joins in

The nasty slur campaign against Jeremy Corbyn has just plumbed new depths with a hark-back to 1968 and the “Rivers of Blood” speech by Enoch Powell. It seems to have been prompted by a remark Corbyn made in 2013 that British Zionists had two problems: “One is they don’t want to study history and, secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony.”

In anti-Semitism terms that’s a flogging offence, even when it might be true. The former Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, immediately took umbrage saying that Corbyn’s criticism of British Zionists was the most offensive statement made by a senior politician since Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech. Sacks told the New Statesman: “It was divisive, hateful and, like Powell’s speech, it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.”

He said Corbyn had implied “Jews are not fully British” and that he was “using the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism”, adding that Corbyn was an anti-Semite who “defiles our politics and demeans the country we love”. He had “given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate who want to kill Jews and remove Israel from the map”.

Sacks’ words could equally be taken to mean those who align themselves with Israeli hate and the wish to kill Palestinians and wipe Palestine from the map – which they have already done quite literally. And if Corbyn defiles our politics so does the Israel lobby. But the irony must have escaped him.

Just how righteous is the moralising Lord Sacks? In a House of Lords debate in 2014 on the Middle East in general and the question of formal recognition of Palestine by the UK in particular, the former Chief Rabbi got up and made a speech that was more like a pro-Israel rant. After a long winded spiel about the history of Israel and Jerusalem – from the Jewish angle, of course – he went on to demonise Hamas and Hezbollah in the manner recommended by Israel’s ‘hasbara’ handbook and all the more absurd when Israel’s hands are so unclean. Everyone knows that Hamas has agreed to a long-term truce with Israel provided it ends the illegal occupation, gets back behind its 1967 borders and accepts the refugees’ right of return – all as per UN resolutions and subject to a Palestinian referendum. And Hezbollah, as Sacks knows perfectly well, was formed to resist the Israeli occupation of Lebanon after the 1982 war.

Israel, said Sacks, is the place where his people were born almost 4,000 years ago. As an ardent promoter of the Jewish religion, the Jewish state and the idea that God gave Jews exclusive title to Jerusalem, he seemed oblivious to the irony of his speech especially where he said: “When ancient theologies are used for modern political ends, they speak a very dangerous language indeed. So, for example, Hamas and Hezbollah, both self-defined as religious movements, refuse to recognise the legitimacy of the state of Israel within any boundaries whatever and seek only its complete destruction.”

Where does he get his information? Israel won’t define its boundaries, leaving them fluid for endless expansion, and does a first-class job of de-legitimising itself by its defiance of international law and utter contempt for norms of human decency and obligations under UN Charter and other agreements.

Zionists distort the scriptures to claim Jerusalem is theirs by Divine right, but it was already 2000 years old and an established, fortified city when King David captured it.  The Jews lost Jerusalem to the Babylonians, recaptured it, then lost it again to the Roman Empire in 63BC. When they rebelled Hadrian threw them out in 135. Until the present illegal occupation the Jews had only controlled Jerusalem for some 500 years, small beer compared to the 1,277 years it was subsequently ruled by Muslims and the 2000 years, or thereabouts, it originally belonged to the Canaanites.

Jerusalem was also a Christian city. The 4th century saw the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Persians came and went. Then, after the Islamic conquest in 690, two major shrines were constructed over the ruins of the earlier temples — the Dome of the Rock from which Muhammed is said to have ascended to Heaven, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Crusaders re-took Jerusalem in 1099 and The Temple Mount became the headquarters of the Knights Templar. In 1187 Saladin ended the Crusader Kingdom and restored the city to Islam while allowing Jews and Christians to remain if they wished.

As the saying goes, “None has claim. All have claim!”

Nowhere in his speech did Lord Sacks address the main question of British recognition of Palestinian statehood. Nowhere did he recommend the jackboot of oppression be immediately lifted and the Palestinians granted their human rights and their freedom. That would surely have been the Christian position and, I imagine, the true Jewish one.

It is what the Rabbi failed to say on this important occasion that makes me wonder whether he’s an instrument of God or just another preacher of Israeli ‘hasbara’. I read somewhere that Lord Sacks is of Polish/Lithuanian extraction. Most Palestinians can demonstrate ancestral ties to the ancient Holy Land. Can he?

Jeremy Corbyn moved the rock and the antisemites crawled out”

Corbyn is also in trouble over a remark he made in 2010 at a meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign suggesting that MPs who took part in a parliamentary debate on the Middle East had their comments prepared for them by the Israeli ambassador. I’d say that was fair comment although the scriptwriters were more likely to have been Mark Regev’s propaganda team in Tel Aviv. Regev, a propaganda expert from the dark side, is now Israel’s ambassador in London. Oh, the irony (again).

And a few days ago we heard that Jews are preparing to quit Britain because they fear Jeremy Corbyn taking power, according to former chairman of the Conservative Party Lord Feldman. So says The Times.

Feldman wrote an open letter to Mr Corbyn telling him that Jewish people were making contingency plans to emigrate because Labour had become a hotbed of anti-Jewish feeling. “Many Jewish people in the United Kingdom are seriously contemplating their future here in the event of you becoming prime minister. Quietly, discreetly and extremely reluctantly, they are making contingency plans.”

One of these is Mark Lewis, a prominent solicitor and a former director of lawfare firm UK Lawyers for Israel, who is emigrating to Israel with his partner, Mandy Blumenthal. It is believed she is the National Director of Likud-Herut UK, an affiliate of the Zionist Federation and whose website is full of preposterous ideas such as: “We believe that terms like ‘illegal occupation’ should never go unchallenged….” and “Such criticism as we may have [of Israel] should never be expressed publicly….”

Lewis, who describes himself as an ‘unapologetic Zionist’, said: “Jeremy Corbyn moved the rock and the antisemites crawled out from underneath.” And he told the Evening Standard: “I don’t feel welcome in this country any more.” So he’s off to that hotbed of racism and apartheid, Israel.

Being unwelcome is not a happy feeling. I know this from my trips to Israel, what with their rudeness, threatening behaviour, intrusive searches, hostile questioning and unforgivably vile treatment of our Palestinian friends. It’s not as if we want to be in Israel – we are forced to divert there on account of Israel’s illegal military occupation. And when we eventually reach Palestine we have to put up with the presence of arrogant Israeli gunslingers strutting the streets, setting up hundreds of roadblocks, using obstructive tactics with brutish behaviour, creating endless queues and interfering with Palestinian life at every level.

And if we try traveling to Palestine direct, like the humanitarian aid boats Al-Awda and Freedom last month, we get violently and unlawfully assaulted on the high seas, beaten up, thrown in a stinking Israeli jail and have our belongings and money stolen by the Israeli military desperate to maintain their illegal blockade of Gaza.

So, if Messrs Feldman, Lewis and Blumenthal feel more comfortable with those criminals, they’d better join them.

In answer to the babble put out by Zio-propagandists, church leaders in the Holy Land issued their 2006 Jerusalem Declaration saying:

We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.

We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine… We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation.

This still stands. And as the Declaration also points out:

Discriminative actions [by the Occupation] are turning Palestine into impoverished ghettos surrounded by exclusive Israeli settlements. The establishment of the illegal settlements and the construction of the Separation Wall on confiscated Palestinian land undermines the viability of a Palestinian state as well as peace and security in the entire region.

That comes from genuine churchmen working in the front line against armed Zio-thugs whose vicious day-to-day persecution of the Christian and Muslim communities in the Holy Land makes a nonsense of accusations of anti-semitism in the UK.

I think we can deduce from all this that Zionism is a menace. Nothing has changed for the better; it has got steadily worse.

‘We want our Jerusalem back, and our state’

In 2010 Fr Manuel Musallam, a gritty Catholic priest with long experience of Israel’s cruel and illegal occupation, told members of the Irish Government:

Christianity in the region has been destroyed not by Muslims but by Israel. Israel destroyed the church of Palestine and the church of Jerusalem beginning in 1948. It, not Muslims, has sent Christians in the region into a diaspora…  We have spoken to Israel for more than 18 years and the result has been zero. We have signed agreements here and there at various times and then when there is a change in the Government of Israel we have to start again from the beginning. We ask for our life and to be given back our Jerusalem, to be given our state and for enough water to drink…  I have not seen Jerusalem since 1990.

Archbishop Theodosius Hanna (Greek Orthodox Church) told them:

Palestine is the place from where Christianity comes…. Everything that has happened to the Palestinians between 1948 and today has happened to all Palestinians, including Christian Palestinians.

What we are after is freedom and dignity just as freedom and dignity have been bestowed on so many nations in the world. We want that too. When we speak about peace, we also speak about justice because it is impossible to have peace without justice. Peace is part of justice. Unfortunately, in the Holy Land there is no such thing as justice.

Corbyn should remind his tormentors of all this and take no lectures from those who support Zionism and adore the racist state it spawned.

Repudiating the Global Commons: Trump’s Militarisation of Space

In international law, a category regarded by certain legal philosophers as non-existent (there being no overarching sovereign to police it), aspirations reign like obstinate fantasies. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty is one such example, decorated by such expressions as outer space being the “province of all mankind” (Art. 1), with the “common interest of all mankind in the progress of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes” being its animating principle.

Mightily presumptuous: the whole realm of the celestial heavens a province for all mankind; that it be explored and be exploited, garnished by such utopian hopes as “peaceful purposes”.  But humankind was still bloodied from the savages of a world conflict that had taken the lives of tens of millions. It was popular, even in the shadow of the mushroom cloud, to dream.

Space was envisaged as a world where humans could play out various imaginaries.  Unconquered as such, it supplied cultural, political and social rationales to human existence even as it promised a vicious competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.  “It is believed,” opined the space author Vladimir Kopal in January 1967, “that the Treaty will contribute, at least to a certain degree, to diminishing the danger of a major armed conflict which would be waged in and through outer space.”

It is such fantasies that govern the workings of citizen-astronaut Namira Salim, whose work at United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs is focused on efforts to have the first Peace Summit in outer space by 2030. Delightfully optimistic, the attention seeking Salim anticipates peace before conflict, a pre-emption that might prove premature.  Nonetheless, she is all booked up as a future space tourist on Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson’s own contribution to the celestial cause.

Legal documents such as the Outer Space Treaty tend to intrigue far more than they should.  Such a term as “peaceful purposes” should hold no mysteries, but manipulated readings were bound to happen.  Legal eagles soared to find new meanings, with Edward R. Finch, Jr. suggesting that such purposes, while decidedly pointing in the direction of “nonaggressive”, might involve “the use of military personnel for outer space exploration”.

Such deductions were natural, but suggestive of an imminent tendency: that any civilian space program, while chest thumpingly noble, could just as easily creep over into the language of conflict and the military.  Space, suggested Ashton B. Carter, as associate director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, “should be regarded merely as another medium for national security activities.”

It could hardly have creased any brow to hear of US President Donald Trump’s desire for his country to steal a lead in the space stakes with promises of a space force that would constitute the sixth branch of the US military.  Human exploration is characterised by conquest and rivalries.  Notions of space as the “global commons” are sweetly noble, but fall flat before national security obsessives.

The previous year, the intention of US legislators towards outer space was made clear with the introduction of the draft bill entitled the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act, an instrument written to regulate the newly emerging space mining industry.  In April, the House approved the bill on a voice vote, with Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee delighted that space exploration had been given a “booster rocket”.

The Act overturns the utopian sentiment of much space law, effectively repudiating the global commons and returning the discussion back to conventional modes of appropriation.  The instrument does nothing to encourage companies to show they are compliant with international law. What matters is an adherence to the treaty obligations of the United States, thereby giving commercial companies, in Loren Grush’s words, “a lot of wiggle room to do what they want in space.”

Abiding by this new zeitgeist of exploitation, Trump expressed his wish on June 18 that a suitable military force be created to “ensure American dominance in space.”  In August, he supplied a date: such a force would be created by 2020.  His re-election campaign duly emailed supporters inviting votes as to which Space Force logo they would prefer.  On planet earth, Trump the businessman, senses a promotion, a line of merchandise.

The announcement was greeted with enthusiasm by US Vice-President Mike Pence, who was decidedly bellicose: “The next generation of Americans to confront the emerging threats in the boundless expanse of space will be wearing the uniform of the United States of America.”  Where there are US commercial interests, the military is usually not far behind, the willing insurers of imperial power and US business.  The “next great chapter in the history of our armed forces,” claimed Pence, was to be written; the US had to prepare for “the next battlefield”.

The enemies of Freedomland might have been extra-terrestrial, but Pence had his eyes closer to home, focusing on aggressive Russia and inscrutable China, both having used “weapons to jam, blind and disable our navigation and communication satellites via electronic attacks from the ground.”  Such “adversaries have transformed space into a war fighting domain already, and the United States will not shrink from this challenge.”

Trump’s announcement sent shivers through those associated with the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, but the logic was relentless and irresistible to agents of the National Security State: the imperative of state power is finally coming out of the closet in characteristically odious form, and space will not be spared.

Catholic Support for War: Another Child Abuse Scandal

On August 14, 2018 a report from a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania identified 300 Catholic priests across the state who had sexually abused more than 1,000 children. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades,” the grand jury wrote in one of the broadest inquiries into church sex abuse in U.S. history. Five days earlier, on August 9, in northern Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a school bus with a missile made by Lockheed Martin and supplied to the Saudis by the U.S. government, and 44 children were killed. Just as the horror of abuse of children by priests goes beyond the scope of the report from Pennsylvania, the children traumatized and killed by the U.S. military and its proxies globally number far more than those 44. Only one of these events sparked a crisis and soul-searching both in and out of the Catholic Church, but they both should have.

Some Catholic activists for peace and justice have long lived in a state of crisis with our church and have recognized the scandal of “men of God” who bless and cover for the abuse and murder of innocents through war, economic injustice and institutional racism.

“Over and over again in history the Church has become so corrupt it just cries out to heaven for vengeance,” Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement said in a 1970 interview. “The crisis is something terrific,” she said then, before the problem of sexual abuse of the young was well known. This crisis, she said, was “a result of the corruption in the institutional Church, through money and through their acceptance of the lousy, rotten system.”

A radical even before she became a Catholic in 1927 (“I have said, sometimes flippantly, that the mass of bourgeois smug Christians who denied Christ in His poor made me turn to the Communists, and it was the Communists and working with them that made me turn to God…”) Dorothy never had the “honeymoon” of blind love enjoyed by many new converts and was always conscious of the Church’s flaws and failings. “I was just as much against capitalism and imperialism as ever, and here I was going over to the opposition, because of course the Church was lined up with property, with the wealthy, with the state, with capitalism, with all the forces of reaction,” she wrote in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. “This I had been taught to think and this I still think to a great extent.”

Even as a new convert, Dorothy deplored “the scandal of businesslike priests, of collective wealth, the lack of a sense of responsibility for the poor, the worker, the Negro, the Mexican, the Filipino, and even the oppression of these, and the consenting to the oppression of them by our industrialist-capitalist order – these made me feel often that priests were more like Cain than Abel.  ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ they seemed to say in respect to the social order…  There was plenty of charity but too little justice. ‘The worst enemies would be those of our own household,’ Christ had warned us.”

While the use of the word “scandal” to describe the Catholic Church is new and painful for many contemporary Catholics, it was constituent to Dorothy Day’s vocabulary: “I loved the Church for Christ made visible, not for itself, because it was so often a scandal to me,” she said. More than once she applied Jesus’ caution that our enemies are “of our own household” to priests and bishops. She confessed that it was these “enemies,” not the Viet Cong, not even the industrial war profiteers and generals, that she found the hardest to love and to forgive as Jesus bade her.

In a 1967 column entitled “In Peace Is My Bitterness Most Bitter” Dorothy wrote about Cardinal Spellman and his support for the war in Vietnam: “But what words are those he spoke — going against even the Pope, calling for victory, total victory? Words are as strong and powerful as bombs, as napalm.” “I can sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and wrestle for that peace in the bitterness of my soul, a bitterness which many Catholics throughout the world feel, and I can find many things in Scripture to console me, to change my heart from hatred to love of enemy.”

In 2002, after growing awareness of clerical abuse of children and twenty two years after Dorothy Day’s death, the priest/activist Father John Dear decried the scandal of the Church’s support of the war in Afghanistan: “Last November, nearly all the U.S. Catholic bishops voted to bless and support the bombing and mass murder of the people of Afghanistan. We know that some 4000 civilians were killed during the first two months of that U.S. war. Hundreds of children were killed by the United States, and the Catholic bishops condoned their murder.” John Dear stated what should be obvious: “Talk about child abuse! The Church cannot condemn child abuse by pedophiles and yet bless the government’s murder of children in its wars, if it wants to be consistent and faithful to Christ.”

Many Catholics are now struggling with the question, “how can I remain in this abusive Church?” In her meditation on Cardinal Spellman, Dorothy Day asked “as to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother.” Dorothy often quoted theologian Romano Guardini, who said “the Church is the Cross on which Christ is always crucified. One cannot separate Christ from his bloody, painful Church. One must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the Church.”

Long time peacemaker and resister, Father Daniel Berrigan once said “I don’t know a more irreligious attitude, one more utterly bankrupt of any human content, than one which permits children to be destroyed.” In a situation like the present, satisfaction with the Church and its institutions is unnatural, sinful, even, and to view the suffering of children without scandal is inhuman. For too long, the Church has abetted the abuse, exploitation and murder of children. I pray that the rising outrage in the Church over the exploitation of children, and the resolve to protect them, will encompass also the children who are victims of war.

Ernesto Che Guevara Medical-Cultural Brigade: In Santos Lugares… looking for Haiti

V Ernesto Che Guevara Brigade Signs Off from Santos Lugares

The fifth Ernesto Che Guevara Medical-Cultural Brigade took place on August 18 and 19, in the village of Santos Lugares, in the province of Santiago del Estero, Argentina. Having been present in the brigade, in this article we report on the activities that took place, both in terms of healthcare and education. During two very intense days, Che’s footprint was present in Northern Argentina.

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Santos Lugares is a remote village, with a population of 300 according to the last official census, and the current estimate is of around 7000 people in a 100 km radius. With no telephone lines, the radio is the main source for communication and information, and that was how people were informed about the arrival of this brigade.

The climate is dry and the land is not fertile for agriculture. Locals mostly dedicate themselves to raising cattle (cows, sheep, pigs, chickens) which, in the absence of grazing land, roams around freely looking for food. Another sustenance activity is the production of vegetable charcoal, which has caused a severe deforestation of the area. Nevertheless, the main struggle in this corner is the defense of the land against the expanding agro-business interests. This struggle, which is decades old, has seen the emergence of movements such as the MOCASE (Campesino Movement of Santiago del Estero), with whom the coordination was made to organize this brigade.

The 128-strong brigade arrived on two buses, which made the journey of more than 11 hours from the city of Córdoba. These were joined by other people coming from other places in the province of Santiago del Estero, or from neighboring provinces such as Tucumán. With a large contingent of doctors who studied at Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine, the ELAM, the brigade also brought other healthcare professionals such as dentists, opticians, ophthalmologists, as well as educators from the literacy program Yo Sí Puedo (“Yes I can”), students, culture, recreation and sports professionals, communicators and journalists, and others.

The accommodation was offered by Colegio San Benito, a religious school for boys and girls, in a place where, to no surprise, the church is the main cultural influence. For an outside observer it was an extraordinary sight to see religious images hanging on the walls and then an army of green scarves walk past them.1 But for now the goals were different: to bring medical attention, and more, to these people. It is fair to point out as well that the local pastor has always been very committed to the peasant struggle.

Dry landscape of Santos Lugares (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

The two main axes of the brigade were the literacy program Yo Sí Puedo and healthcare, especially ophthalmology. Most of these operations were set up in Santos Lugares, but 8 small groups, 4 on Saturday and 4 on Sunday, also went to isolated places around Santos Lugares.

Around these two activities there was also room for organizing children’s activities, with sports, educational games and a mobile library. On Sunday everyone participated in the local children’s day activities, and there was also a discussion group concerning gender and women’s rights. It is worth mentioning that Brazilian comrades from the Movement of the Landless Rural Workers, the MST, participated in all of these activities, which allowed for an interesting exchange of experiences.

Rooting out illiteracy from the remotest corners

The members of the Yo Sí Puedo literacy program2, including Cuban advisors and volunteers that coordinate the program in different parts of Argentina, split up in small groups to go door to door in Santos Lugares and in nearby places. In total 148 visits were made, in which 60 potential students for the program were found. On Sunday there were training sessions for 32 facilitators, which will remain in touch with the program coordinators as they move forward.

We had the chance to go along with one of these groups that went door to door. In one case we were warmly welcomed, with mate [note: traditional Argentinian drink] and cookies, by the Juárez Faría family. The mother, Margarita, told us that she has two teenage kids with disabilities, who never learned how to read and write in school. She currently lives with them during the week in Santiago (capital of the province), so that they can attend a special school, and brings them back to Santos Lugares on the weekends. Learning how to read and write will make them much more independent, and Margarita herself will play the role of facilitator.

Beyond the pedagogical method, which is truly revolutionary, the main trump of this program is perhaps its flexibility. Oel Hernández, program coordinator in Argentina, reiterated that the program will only work if it adapts to the needs of the people. The possibility of holding the classes in a nearby place, or in someone’s home, the closeness of the facilitator which comes from the community, is what allows everyone to learn and advance at their own pace. In the end, the feeling of being able to finally write a letter to a grandson is something that no words can describe. No words except those in the letter, of course.

Small team from Yo Sí Puedo going door to door (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

Filling a hospital with doctors

The doctors in the brigade mostly set up in the recently built hospital of Santos Lugares. However, while the infrastructure is new, there are no doctors. Currently only a nun, who is a doctor and is stationed in Santos Lugares, comes to the hospital once a week. With the arrival of the brigade the hospital was suddenly full of doctors and, especially, patients. In total more than 450 consultations took place, between general clinic, pediatrics, neurology, cardiology, gynecology, and others. The brigade also brought a large amount of donated medicines, which were prescribed to some patients and also stocked the hospital’s pharmacy.

Norma Vega, one of the people in the hospital we spoke to, was bringing her granddaughter for a check-up. Besides that, she wanted to talk to a neurologist about her disabled daughter, to get a second a opinion, since the doctors in the capital city of Santiago del Estero want her to have surgery. This is common issue to most medical specialties, like cardiology or neurology, namely, the need for patients to travel 4 or 5 hours to Santiago (capital) to find specialized medical attention. This without mentioning, like Norma explained, the ordeal and costs required to access the necessary drugs.

Hospital of Santos Lugares (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

A second unit, mainly dedicated to ophthalmology, set up in the Casa del Santo Padre. There they did 330 ophthalmological consultations, which included prescribing eyeglasses for 83 patients. There were also 30 patients identified with cataracts or pterygium, and with those the task now is to coordinate so they can come and have surgery at the Ophthalmological Center in Córdoba, where Operación Milagro is based.3 The first patients are due to travel as soon as September.

One of the most noteworthy events took place in the early hours of Sunday, when people came from the town asking for help, as a pregnant woman had gone into labor. Even though the previous night had been, let us put it mildly, of intense conviviality, two ELAM-trained doctors quickly responded and helped with the successful delivery of little Inés.

We could ask ourselves: what is it that drives a doctor to go out of some place in Argentina, get all the way to Córdoba to then embark on an endless bus journey, stay in less than comfortable accommodation, in order to see hundreds of patients in a forsaken village, for free, on a weekend? There will not be any explanations in any Ted Talk, nor in Andrés Oppenheimer’s latest book. Some will point towards an (irrational) sense of duty, which is surely there, but behind all of this are the great feelings of love and commitment that guide true revolutionaries, like Che used to say.

Finally, we need to say a word about Aleida Guevara. If her arrival was announced everywhere, the truth is that Aleida truly came at the head of the brigade. Beyond everything that is demanded of her, in terms of speeches and interviews, she was in the hospital both days, from beginning to end, seeing patients like all the other pediatricians. And while among the people one could hear rumors that “Che’s daughter” was in town, the truth is that most mothers and kids will have left her office simply thinking that a very kind Cuban doctor had just seen them.

Ophthalmological exam (Photo: Ricardo Vaz)

Looking for our Haiti

Claudia Camba, president of the UMMEP foundation, which coordinates the Cuban missions and organizes these brigades, told us that, after an outbreak of cholera that followed the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Fidel Castro insisted that the ELAM graduates should be brought to Haiti. Not just because they were sorely needed at the time, but also because contact with these “wretched of the Earth” was also a school, so that doctors never forgot what their mission was. But in the specific case of the Argentinian ELAM graduates, it was not possible to find the funds to send them to Haiti. Nevertheless, a few months later, an idea emerged – “let us look for Haiti in Argentina”.

That is how these brigades were born, and Aleida joined them. On five occasions they have gone to the most remote locations in Argentina4 to bring not only healthcare but also education, culture and sports. It is important to stress, as we said before, that this is not just about bringing an oasis that leaves as quickly as it came. By bringing medical attention to a place where there is none, besides solving any immediate issues people might have, the goal is to orient patients so they can seek the medical care they need. The same holds true for the literacy mission, which, through the door to door research and the training of local facilitators, plants the seeds that will allow the program to develop in the future.

But looking for Haiti can be more than this. Haiti was the stage for the first and only successful slave rebellion. During a few truly revolutionary years, the army of slaves, hell-bent on breaking free of their chains once and for all, managed to militarily defeat the armies of the French, Spanish and British empires. All this took place under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture, a former slave that proved too cunning, militarily and diplomatically, for his European enemies.

Therefore looking for Haiti also has this connotation, of fighting for liberation. Fighting for the liberation of peoples who, while no longer under slavery5, are still yearning for their dignity under this system that is not only responsible for their misery and exclusion, but actually feeds off of them. While only for two days, the brigade brought small revolutionary seeds of healthcare and education that will help these people break free of their chains. And their liberation will also be ours, and that of all those who struggle.

• First published in Investig’Action

The Che Guevara brigades, as well as the internationalist education and healthcare missions (Yo Sí Puedo and Operación Milagro), are coordinated in Argentina by the Un Mundo Mejor Es Posible Foundation (UMMEP, “A Better World is Possible”). The missions are sustained by the generosity of the Cuban government and the solidarity of people around the world. Donations can be made following this link.

• Special thanks to Luciana Daffra for her corrections and suggestions.

  1. The green scarf has become the symbol of the struggle for the legalization of abortion in Argentina.
  2. The Yo Sí Puedo (“Yes I Can”) program, designed by Cuban pedagogue Leonela Relys, has allowed over 10 million people, in 130 countries, to learn how to read and write. It is based on 65 lessons, in audiovisual format, and on the presence of a facilitator, who ensures that the students are learning, and works as a liaison with the Cuban advisors of the program.
  3. Operación Milagro is an eye healthcare program to fight preventable blindness, mostly due to cataracts. The mission has gone through several stages before finally opening, in 2015, the Dr. Ernesto Che Guevara Ophthalmological Center in the city of Córdoba.
  4. The four previous brigades went to the provinces of Chubut (in Patagonia), Jujuy, Córdoba and Misiones.
  5. There is a clarification to be made here, which is that, unlike what bourgeois historiography would have us believe, the abolition of slavery, wherever it took place, was not a magnanimous act by whoever was in charge at the time. Simply put, due to the evolution of capitalism and the growing resistance from slaves, from an economic standpoint it made more sense to have serfs/laborers than to have slaves.