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Blackout: US military spent $60 million on Afghanistan power lines to nowhere

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The US military spent $60 million on a new section of power grid in Afghanistan’s northeast. It doesn’t work and may even put residents at risk, according to a report from the US government’s reconstruction watchdog.

While the power lines have been built, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that mismanagement by the Army Corps of Engineers led to the grid remaining at best useless and at worst, dangerous.

In 2013, the US Army awarded a $116 million contract to an Afghan company to build a power grid for part of northeastern Afghanistan in several phases. The mismanaged third phase of the project cost $60 million.

Before construction was due to begin, the Afghan government agreed to purchase privately held land to clear a path for power lines. This never happened, and the Afghan contractors built the lines regardless, over the heads of Afghan farmers still living on land that should have been cleared.

The contract required the company to “provide power” but did not include any provisions for actually connecting the lines to the nearest substation, rendering them useless.

Because the lines cannot be hooked up to the substation, and because residents still live under them, they cannot be properly tested, and could be potentially lethal. Furthermore, SIGAR inspectors found that many pylons along the lines are built on unsound soil and with poor quality concrete, which has begun to crumble in places.

Mismanagement along these northeastern power lines is just one of a litany of reconstruction problems identified by SIGAR. These include cases of bribery and theft of government equipment by US Army personnel, shoddily built infrastructure, and lack of maintenance at schools and hospitals.

The US Agency For International Development (USAID) twice failed to implement an electronic payments system for tax collection in Afghanistan, at a cost of $160 million. Connection and software problems between Afghan banks, as well as a lack of political support for an e-payments system, are blamed for its failure.

Another heavily redacted SIGAR report found that the Pentagon funded Afghan security forces, despite knowing that they were engaged in numerous human rights violations, including rampant child abuse. While composing the document, the watchdog interviewed 37 individuals, 24 of whom stated they knew about children being sexually exploited by the Afghan forces.

In yet another report, SIGAR found that US military personnel studied the TV shows NCIS and Cops to train the Afghan National Police (ANP) on law enforcement techniques. The watchdog found that the soldiers assigned to train the ANP often knew nothing about law enforcement.

Since 2001, the war in Afghanistan has cost the US an estimated $1.07 trillion.

Reprinted with permission from RT.

Lew Rockwell: ‘It’s About Time the US Realized it Needs to Get Out of Afghanistan’

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The US has no business in Afghanistan but it loves war and could be there for another 17 years, killing hundreds of thousands more people, according to Lew Rockwell, chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

The US State Department confirmed Tuesday that several Americans were among the victims in Saturday's attack on a hotel in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where 22 people died in the overnight siege by Taliban militants, local officials said. On Wednesday, a suicide attacker detonated a car bomb next to the office of the humanitarian group Save the Children in Jalalabad.

RT spoke to Rockwell, a political consultant who believes the US military presence is aggravating the situation in Afghanistan.

RT: The US is now ramping up the fight against the Taliban by sending new aircraft for close-air support. Do you believe that's connected to the attack?

Lew Rockwell: No, I think Trump has already talked about sending in more troops and more planes and other weapons. This is a further unfortunate back down from the campaign promises he made. He said some very good things about getting out of Afghanistan, that the US had no business there. And then of course as soon as he was elected, he has switched and he is now stepping up the war in Afghanistan. It is terrible these people were killed. I don’t think we have an idea how many Afghan civilians have been killed in the 17 years of this war, how many soldiers on both sides. It is a terrible thing. The US has no business in Afghanistan, any more than Russia did, any more than Alexander the Great did. The US has got to get out, let the Afghans run their own county.

The Taliban is, we call them the Taliban, which means “the students”. That is just the name for Pashtun people, the majority of people in Afghanistan and in Pakistan as well. I think we need to get out, let people run their own lives, stop killing, stop all the weapons, stop all the terrible things the US empire does: stir up trouble in order to make itself seem needed. [It’s] very bad.  

RT:Is the Afghan government capable of handling security without US support?

LR: No, they can’t. The Afghan government itself said that it would only last a few months if the US pulled out. There is a hint that the Afghan government, maybe they are to go with the US troops and have new people come in. Why is the US killing all these people, spending trillions of dollars on Afghanistan to have a very unpopular government in power? What is that? It’s just typical imperialism; it’s like ancient Rome, Babylon, the British or many others. The only answer is – to get the heck out.

RT:The hotel siege is the latest reminder of the continuing toll paid by Washington in the Afghan War. Why aren't there any tangible signs of resolution?

LR: I think the US likes the war. The US likes being at war all over the place, all over the Middle East, all over other areas in the Far East. They love being at war. They love spending the money; they love the military industrial complex; they love all the trouble they cause. And they say, “That just shows American needs to be there because there is so much trouble and so many people being killed.” But actually it shows the opposite – the US needs to get out of Afghanistan, get out of Syria, get out of every other single foreign country it’s in and do what Trump promised – put America first. How about taking care of America, a lot that needs to be done here at home, leave other peoples alone, leave other countries alone, stop killing people all over the world and expecting to be loved for it.

RT: The Intercontinental Hotel is one of the most protected areas in Kabul. How much of a setback is this for the Afghan government? 

LR: It is probably is a setback, it is where CIA people stay, for example. We are not going to hear that mentioned. They just talk about the Afghan ally. A lot of very important civilian US officials stay there. This is a real setback and no matter how much they promise they are going “to change anything,” “it is going to be better,” “it is going to be safer,” of course, it’s not. And the people of Afghanistan don’t like being occupied. A lot of Americans have a tough time understanding that they don’t like foreigners occupying them, installing a government they hate and running their lives, they don’t like it. We need to have a peace talks with the Taliban, I have no question that they would like to have peace talks with us that we could get out and let the Afghans handle their own lives in their own country. That is the only solution. The US can be there another 17 or 18 years, kill hundreds of thousands more people, mostly civilians, of course. They can do many terrible, horrible things. It is about time we stop that stuff.

Reprinted with permission from RT.

‘US Govt Undermines Democracy’ Seeking More Control Over Social Media

It’s preposterous that the US government purports to tell Americans what they are allowed to read on social media, says Daniel McAdams, executive director of Ron Paul Institute. He adds that it undermines US democracy.

Technology and social media giants Facebook, Twitter, and Google have been in the hot seat before US Congress intelligence committees. They were grilled on day two of hearings into alleged Russian interference in the presidential election in 2016. Lawyers for Twitter, Google, and Facebook testified that the amount of Russian-linked content on their platforms was relatively small. But was that what the Senators wanted to hear?

RT asked Daniel McAdams, executive director of Ron Paul Institute whether Senators are pushing the firms to get in line with US foreign policy.

“It’s preposterous that the US government purports to tell the American people what they are allowed to read, what they are allowed to consume on social media,” he said.

McAdams cited Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) who said during the grilling “How do we know that isn’t going to undermine our democracy?” McAdams argues: “Our democracy is based on us having the widest range of information possible with zero government involvement. They are the ones that are acting like totalitarians; they are the ones acting like anti-American; they are the ones that are undermining our democracy.”

In his view, the US government wants to gain more control over social media, which still remains “very democratized” while they “don’t like people thinking outside the lines and coloring outside the lines.”

As to whether the tech companies will bow to the pressure coming from the Senators, in McAdam’s view they ultimately will.
But the reason the Senators are so angry is that there is no 'there' there. Senator (Mark) Warner, who’s gone to California, Silicon Valley, how many times they twisted arms, browbeat, smacked these people around: 'You better find evidence of Russian collusion in our elections.' He can’t find it. So instead of coming back and saying: 'You know, I am barking up the wrong tree.' He yells at the companies: 'Why don’t you find the stuff,' so that they have the conclusion first and then they look for the evidence afterward. It just shows how desperate they are getting that they can’t find anything. Even the accounts they claim are 'Russia-linked,' what does that mean? Does that mean that is associated with the Russian government or just Russian people? I am an American – I am not an 'American-linked,' when I go on the internet. I am an individual.
Watch full interview here:



Ron Paul: Anti-Russia Campaign Stems From Bias and Desire to Limit Free Speech

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The investigation into the alleged Russian meddling in the US elections and the supposed use of social media by Moscow to sway public opinion is just a “witch hunt,” former US Congressman Ron Paul told RT.

“The people who promote this witch hunt do not care about what [the former US presidential candidate] Hillary [Clinton] was doing and they are very biased against the Trump campaign,” Paul said, adding that he believes that the “real problem” lies precisely in this bias.

He also said that the Washington lawmakers involved in Russia-bashing close their eyes to repeated meddling by the US in the internal affairs and electoral processes in many other countries.

“I would like our government to talk about our involvement in campaigns, most recently in Ukraine, [where] we participated in a coup,” the former Congressman said.

“So far, they have not shown me the ad that was pro-Trump and was paid for by the Russian government,” the politician said, referring to the fact that, after 10 months of investigating, the US authorities still failed to find any solid evidence of collusion with Moscow by Donald Trump or his campaign team.

The anti-Russian hysteria was stirred up in the US to draw people’s attention away from real problems, Paul said, adding that he is more concerned about a crisis in US relations with Russia as well as US actions in Syria.

He also denounced the anti-Russian campaign as “fearmongering.”

The former politician said the “hundreds of thousands of dollars” that Russia allegedly spent on social media ads to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election are just “a small amount of money in comparison to the billions that are usually spent on the campaigns."He added that control over the media eventually plays a more important role than money.

Trump infuriated US media outlets because he switched to Twitter, breaking their information monopoly in the process as well as the ability to portray anyone, who does not play into the hands of the establishment, as someone who has to be stopped, Paul said.

Turning to the accusations leveled against RT by some US officials, Paul said “CNN [also] has access to other countries and they do things similar to [what RT does], and they are involved in other countries [public life].”

“That is what happens when the empires feel that they are challenged,” the politician pointed out, adding that the authorities in the US are “very determined to control the information.”

Paul (R-Texas) served in the US House of Representatives for over 20 years, and ran three times for the GOP's presidential nomination, most recently in 2012.

Reprinted with permission from RT America.

‘US in Grip of Anti-Russia Hysteria, Worse Than Days of Salem Witch Trials’

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The whole "Russia thing" is due to the neocons who are looking for another Cold War because it is very profitable for them, Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute, told RT.

Twitter has published a report on how the company battled against alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election and also mentioned RT.

In the report, Twitter revealed confidential information to the US Senate on RT's advertising outlay.

The company claims over a thousand tweets, "definitely - or potentially - targeted the US market."

RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan, however, pointed out that all media outlets spend money on promoting themselves.

“Somehow it did not cross our mind that in a developed democracy, regular media advertising can be considered suspicious or detrimental activity,” Simonyan said.

RT:  How credible do you think these allegations are, given the US media isn't naming its sources?

Daniel McAdams: I think the whole story has already fallen apart for the most part. At first, it was the Russian government spent a $100,000 on Facebook ads to support President Trump. Well, that completely fell apart. So they started saying that this troll army somewhere in St. Petersburg spent this money. That’s never been shown to anyone, that’s never been proven, that’s speculation. We’ve never seen any of the ads. Some of them we are told are pro-Hillary, some are anti-Hillary; some are pro-Trump, some are anti-Trump.

I don’t even know what they are trying to say. But we do know one thing; we do know that Senator (Mark) Warner from Virginia went out to Facebook three times … demanding they find some evidence of Russian meddling in the elections. Three times he went out there and threw his weight around. They finally came up with something that’s probably the most cockamamie thing I’ve ever heard in my life; it’s not passing the laugh test. People like Robert Parry have already debunked it in Consortiumnews. Frankly, without any evidence, it is just a laughable story.

RT:  Why do you think Russia is the first to blame here?

DM: The US is now in the grips of the kind of mass hysteria that we’ve certainly not seen since the height of the Cold War, maybe even going back to the Salem Witch Trials, where complete irrationality has taken over. If it is a cloudy day – it must be the Russians involved. It is absolutely hysterical. Let’s not forget, Media Matters is a news organization founded by David Brock, a radical "Hillaryite," which is itself a prime creator of fake news in support of Hillary.

The whole Russia thing is the neocons who are dying for another Cold War because it is very profitable for them to have a Cold War. The neocons have made an unholy alliance, an unholy marriage with the dead-ender Hillaryites to blame everything on the Russians to gin up a Cold War, to make the neocons even richer and to make the Hillaryites feel less bad that their candidate was a lousy candidate who lost. That is why we see everything blamed on the Russians. If there was some evidence, perhaps we could have a conversation, but right now it’s just hysteria.

RT:  It’s said in the statement that Twitter revealed confidential information on RT's advert expenses to the US Senate. Could you comment on that?

DM: I don’t see why the information is confidential. If it is something as grave and as serious as the Russians actively purchasing Facebook ads of all things to change the election around, why shouldn’t we be able to see what they did? What do they have to hide? Why wouldn’t you simply show the evidence? My guess is because they haven’t seen it themselves; they can’t understand it; they are not tech people; and possibly that there really isn’t any evidence there… They don’t want the American people to scrutinize it. When they actually did come out with a report around the turn of the year – the report on Russian meddling – the evidence was so absolutely absurd. Things like "RT was covering Occupy Wall Street (OWS)." Well, everybody was covering OWS. They had stories about how the elections might not be fair – everyone has those stories…

RT:  Do you think these adverts, supposedly used by trolls, could have really turned the tide of the US election?

DM: We’re supposed to believe with this $100,000 on Facebook… We need to look at the states where President Trump won that he was not expected to win. That is the margin of difference. It is not the overall popular vote. It is specific states – like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - where the president did better than expected, and it put him over the edge in the electoral college vote. We’re expected to think that a blue color worker in Pennsylvania was frustrated at the stagnating economy, is sitting there at his computer, and all of the sudden logs into Facebook and sees an ad that makes him jump up and say: “You know what, I’m gonna go vote for Donald Trump.” We’re supposed to accept that that happened millions and millions of times – to get enough people to make the changes that had Trump elected president. It is astronomical stupidity to suggest. This is a billion dollar election. Anyway, even if everything was true, and some Russian wasted $100,000 on Facebook ads – it would not be enough to have a significant effect on the guys sitting in there in Pennsylvania, sitting there in Wisconsin, who made up their minds to go with the economic nationalism of Donald Trump, promising to bring jobs back, versus Hillary Clinton…

RT:  In your opinion, is Russian intelligence generally capable of meddling in the election in such a way that it could make a real U-turn in US presidential elections?

DM: Let’s just assume that Russian intelligence is behind this. The Russian intelligence not only would have to know the electoral system better than Americans, but they would also have to know what’s in the hearts and minds of the American people who voted for Trump or for Hillary. This must be the most incredible intelligence service, incredible bureaucracy in the history of the world, that they are inside the minds of these Americans and able to somehow turn a switch and have them do this or that. If that is the case – then we’re all doomed, because they have the superpowers.

Reprinted with permission of RT.

Hysteria in America: Congress Filled With ‘Totalitarians’ Who Oppose ‘Free Market of Ideas’

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There are members of Congress who don’t want anyone on TV saying America’s foreign policy is a disaster and it costs a fortune, Daniel McAdams, executive director, Ron Paul Institute, told RT. 

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2018, which passed the US Senate earlier this week, carries some added provisions that have little in common with the military.

Indeed, American legislators have published a bill that could potentially block Russian broadcasters from being shown in the US. It could allow US content providers to break their contracts, leaving Russian channels without any legal recourse.

The plan is buried inside a tiny amendment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The part about Russia is summarized in just a few lines, between details on funding of the US military.

Amendment No 1096, which aims to“prohibit multichannel video programming distributors from being required to carry certain video content that is owned or controlled by the Government of the Russian Federation”.

RT:  Why the focus on Russia, in what's supposed to be an annual defense spending bill?

Daniel McAdams: There is an obsession on Capitol Hill and within the mainstream media with RT because RT is effective and RT is watched. But also, and this is very important because RT carries perspectives that are not available in the mainstream media. Commentators on RT that I know would say the same thing that they say on RT if they were invited by any of the mainstream media, but they won’t. The matter of fact is that John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the people who were behind this amendment, the Atlantic Council and the others are trying to silence RT. They are the totalitarians, they are the enemies of free speech; they're the enemies of the First Amendment; they don’t want anyone coming on television saying that America’s foreign policy is a disaster; it is broken; it is making us more vulnerable to attack, and it’s costing a fortune. It cannot stand competition in the area of ideas.

RT:  As we mentioned, various foreign governments fund TV channels in America, but only Russia gets a mention in this bill. Is that a case of double-standards? Should the attention just solely be on Russia?

DM: The attention should be on none of these stations. It should be viewer beware. If you’re watching RT and you know that it is funded, or its funding comes from the Russian government, you take that into consideration just as any intelligent person would do. When I watch France 24, when I watch the BBC, I know that that takes the perspectives of the British government into consideration, because it is funded by that.

This is a free market of ideas; this is what this is all about. But the people on Capitol Hill are again totalitarians – they don’t want a free market in ideas. They want to control the debate. They don’t want Americans to wake up and see that the foreign policy that they are pushing is resulting in a charred Earth and a disaster that is coming home to roost.

RT:  Does it look like this measure has been deliberately buried in a huge defense bill to avoid scrutiny? Or do you expect debate on this?

DM: This is how it’s done, absolutely. I have read a million defense spending bills in my 15 years on the Hill. This is called planting a seed – you plant this kernel, and it starts to grow. If someone objects, later on, you can say – this is already passed in the defense bill; you’ve already voted on this; this is already part of the law; this is just suggesting, clarifying, or going further. This is how they do things: you bury it in a huge bill like this; you plant a seed and you watch it grow.

I don’t know the exact language in the bill; I am sure Russia is not only the flavor of the month, it is the flavor of the year. There is the ‘Investigate Russia’committee, where a bunch of Hollywood liberals got together with a bunch of neocons and are finding reds under our beds. There is a hysteria going on in America. I still would like to believe that the average American thinks it’s absolutely nuts; I hope it stays that way. Hopefully, this will blow over at some point, and not blow up….

Hollywood was once on the receiving end of McCarthyism in the 50s, and now it looks like they want to dish out McCarthyism on everyone else.

Reprinted with permission from RT.

Hysteria in America: Congress Filled With ‘Totalitarians’ Who Oppose ‘Free Market of Ideas’

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There are members of Congress who don’t want anyone on TV saying America’s foreign policy is a disaster and it costs a fortune, Daniel McAdams, executive director, Ron Paul Institute, told RT. 

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the fiscal year 2018, which passed the US Senate earlier this week, carries some added provisions that have little in common with the military.

Indeed, American legislators have published a bill that could potentially block Russian broadcasters from being shown in the US. It could allow US content providers to break their contracts, leaving Russian channels without any legal recourse.

The plan is buried inside a tiny amendment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The part about Russia is summarized in just a few lines, between details on funding of the US military.

Amendment No 1096, which aims to“prohibit multichannel video programming distributors from being required to carry certain video content that is owned or controlled by the Government of the Russian Federation”.

RT:  Why the focus on Russia, in what's supposed to be an annual defense spending bill?

Daniel McAdams: There is an obsession on Capitol Hill and within the mainstream media with RT because RT is effective and RT is watched. But also, and this is very important because RT carries perspectives that are not available in the mainstream media. Commentators on RT that I know would say the same thing that they say on RT if they were invited by any of the mainstream media, but they won’t. The matter of fact is that John McCain and Lindsey Graham, the people who were behind this amendment, the Atlantic Council and the others are trying to silence RT. They are the totalitarians, they are the enemies of free speech; they're the enemies of the First Amendment; they don’t want anyone coming on television saying that America’s foreign policy is a disaster; it is broken; it is making us more vulnerable to attack, and it’s costing a fortune. It cannot stand competition in the area of ideas.

RT:  As we mentioned, various foreign governments fund TV channels in America, but only Russia gets a mention in this bill. Is that a case of double-standards? Should the attention just solely be on Russia?

DM: The attention should be on none of these stations. It should be viewer beware. If you’re watching RT and you know that it is funded, or its funding comes from the Russian government, you take that into consideration just as any intelligent person would do. When I watch France 24, when I watch the BBC, I know that that takes the perspectives of the British government into consideration, because it is funded by that.

This is a free market of ideas; this is what this is all about. But the people on Capitol Hill are again totalitarians – they don’t want a free market in ideas. They want to control the debate. They don’t want Americans to wake up and see that the foreign policy that they are pushing is resulting in a charred Earth and a disaster that is coming home to roost.

RT:  Does it look like this measure has been deliberately buried in a huge defense bill to avoid scrutiny? Or do you expect debate on this?

DM: This is how it’s done, absolutely. I have read a million defense spending bills in my 15 years on the Hill. This is called planting a seed – you plant this kernel, and it starts to grow. If someone objects, later on, you can say – this is already passed in the defense bill; you’ve already voted on this; this is already part of the law; this is just suggesting, clarifying, or going further. This is how they do things: you bury it in a huge bill like this; you plant a seed and you watch it grow.

I don’t know the exact language in the bill; I am sure Russia is not only the flavor of the month, it is the flavor of the year. There is the ‘Investigate Russia’committee, where a bunch of Hollywood liberals got together with a bunch of neocons and are finding reds under our beds. There is a hysteria going on in America. I still would like to believe that the average American thinks it’s absolutely nuts; I hope it stays that way. Hopefully, this will blow over at some point, and not blow up….

Hollywood was once on the receiving end of McCarthyism in the 50s, and now it looks like they want to dish out McCarthyism on everyone else.

Reprinted with permission from RT.